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Supplication: “God is Enough” – by Naomi Wenger

Posted by on Jun 19, 2019 in News | 0 comments

Supplication: “God is Enough” – by Naomi Wenger

The Hermitage Way is a group of folks who commit to keep ten practices for a year at a time. This article is one of a series of articles on these practices. 

Practice 1: Those who choose to keep the Way commit to engage in a daily prayer practice. This practice will include silence, meditation on scripture, intercession and affirmation. Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer liturgies from The Hermitage or other sources may be used. 

Supplication: “God is Enough”

There are many words used for prayer: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication, intercession, pleading, etc. Some of our prayer, perhaps the greater part, should be simply acknowledging God. These kinds of prayers are adoration and thanksgiving; wonder-filled expressions of our awareness of God at work in the world. But, we often think of prayer as asking. That is understandable since the original meaning of the root of the word “prayer” (precarius is Latin meaning to obtain by entreaty or earnest asking) is to beg, to ask. So, it is appropriate that we pray for others or ourselves. We ask God to act in some way to benefit those we love and serve. This is called intercession or supplication. 

Supplication is a prayer of deep trust and awareness. The stories of Elijah in I Kings help us when we think on this deep kind of prayer. Elijah the prophet of the Lord, lives during a particularly troubled time in Israel’s history. King Ahab is a bad king, rebelling against God’s rule in his own life and leading the people astray. He is married to an equally bad queen, Jezebel, who opposes the worship of God and promotes the worship of the local god, Baal. God sends a warning to his people in the form of a drought, the ensuing famine and, probably most galling to Jezebel, a prophet who is listening to God.

During the famine, God sends Elijah to live with a widow in Zarephath, and to eat at her table. God supplies her with a never-ending oil jug and a bottomless flour jar so that they will not starve. However, during the famine, the widow’s son falls ill and dies. Elijah, never one to mince words with God says, “O lord my God have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?” A rather direct question and accusation! Nevertheless, Elijah presents the facts to God, concluding his prayer with, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again” (17:20-21) thereby acknowledging that only God can change the circum-stance of death. This is a humility born of experience. And God restores the boy’s life.

A few weeks later, Elijah is sent back to Ahab with the news that it would rain again after three years of drought. Ahab agrees to a challenge between God and the prophets of the Baal. The prophets fail but God is revealed in a show of firepower. Elijah’s simple prayer of supplication is of interest, here, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O Lord are God and that you have turned their hearts back.” (18:36-37)

The motivation behind Elijah’s prayer, “so that this people may know that you are God,” gives us the clue to Elijah’s target. He was not praying that the people would follow him, that they would give him a raise, or that they would make his life easier. No, he wanted them to acknowledge God; be aware of God’s powerful presence, worship God. God and God alone was Elijah’s target. It is important to not overlook the obvious point that suppliants trust that God will provide for their desires.

But what, you may ask, if God had not restored the boy’s life or burned up the sacrifice and the altar? This is a very important question because it brings us to the significant realization that the outcomes or the “answers” to the prayer are not the measure of God’s action. In our Elijah stories, God is acting through Elijah, through the widow, through fire, through weather formation, and Elijah is listening. Elijah is aware of God’s action. He recognizes God’s power.  He looks to God to do what God is already doing and will continue to do. He is part of the plan because he says, “yes” to whatever God does.

The ancient Chinese poet, Chuang Tzu, wrote:

  When an archer is shooting for nothing
  He has all his skill
  If he shoots for a brass buckle
  He is already nervous.
  If he shoots for a prize of gold
  He goes blind
  Or he sees two targets – 
  He is out of his mind!
  His skill has not changed. But the prize
  Divides him. He cares.
  He thinks more of winning 
  Than of shooting – 
  And the need to win
  Drains him of power.

Our aim in prayer is always God. Not knowing about God or getting something from God but God, God’s self. We may think our target is what we want, but in all true prayer, what we aim for is God. What we want is the motivation for shooting out a prayer, but focusing only on what we want can skew our aim at God dreadfully. To adapt the words of the poet, the need to receive drains our prayer of power. But to be open and even vulnerable to receive what is being provided, we need to fall for God again and again. If our prayer brings us to God, that is sufficient. God is enough.

“Fascination is the oldest form of healing” – by Naomi Wenger

Posted by on May 10, 2019 in News | Comments Off on “Fascination is the oldest form of healing” – by Naomi Wenger

“Fascination is the oldest form of healing” – by Naomi Wenger

              A few years ago, I was hiking in the Columbia River Gorge area of Oregon/Washington. After a two-day hike, I drove to many of the waterfalls along the gorge. I was tired from hiking with my pack on, my feet were probably sore, so at the last of at least a dozen roadside stops to see a waterfall, I stayed well back from the falls, choosing to look on from half-way there. Down the trail, where the falls were soaking onlookers, I noticed a flash of red. It kept darting into my field of vision and retreating. I focused my camera on the spot and saw the pure delight of a young boy in a red jacket daring the falling water to get him wet. He charged and challenged, roaring at the thundering fall, and then ran away with a sylph-like quickness to the shelter of a protruding rock. He got very wet. His joy at provoking the huge waterfall lifted my spirits. I can’t say it healed my aching feet, but I revel in the memory of his obvious delight.

              The old tales tell of a couple who left their homeland to find out where God would take them – “to the land that I will show you.” A shepherd stopped along a rocky path to watch a bush that was aflame but not consumed by the fire. “I Am” spoke to him out of that bush—a sound he may have missed if he was not fascinated by what he saw. A beloved woman watched as her friend was assassinated, then stood by as other friends lovingly laid his body in a tomb and rolled a stone in front of the entrance. She waited, wondering what would become of her loved one; what would become of her? On the third day, she was the first observer of that empty tomb at the resurrection of Jesus. Fascination.

              Carl Jung author of the title statement of this article, continued that thought elsewhere with, “the world is the oldest form of fascination.” When have you last been fascinated by the world? Daily rituals and sightings bring joy to our hearts. How many beautiful sunsets have we photographed only to forget exactly when they occurred? We “ooh” and “aah” over a delicious cake, asking for the recipe. We watch hawks soar, grin at young rabbits as they flop instead of hop, gawk at tiny birds who open gigantic mouths to be fed, and coax darting hummingbirds to our back yard feeders.  When we travel, the beauty in others’ faces or the colorful jumbles of market stalls invite our attention. It is no surprise that the things of the earth delight us. We are made for this planet home and we should find it interesting.

              But we can become so inured to its charms that we begin to think that the insects, the weather, the unwanted plants (eg. weeds), the animals that invade “our” space are “other” and despicable, and then disposable. When this happens, we have failed the exam. Our work is to live well in the home we have, at peace with all of the other creatures we live among. We are not commanded to be destroyers but to “tend and keep” the earth. The ready antidote to this failed attitude is fascination.

              I used to be extremely bothered when the spring invasion of ants began in my house. First at the back door, then in the dog dish and finally on the countertop. It was a regular routine and I squished and squashed ants until they outnumbered the minutes in the day I had to spare for them. I considered poisoning them by placing deadly granules around the foundation of the house. Then, I got curious. These ants were not all from the same colony—they were different sizes and colors. Some were uninterested in human food. Others were attracted to the fat in the dog food or the oily fork left on the counter. Cheese crumbs were giant treasures to the fat-loving ants. Other ants would apparently do anything for sugar. Some of the ants entered next to the back door. Some came in through the garage. Others have mysterious entry points. They only “talked” to the ants in their own families, completely ignoring ants that did not belong to their tribe. I did a little research and found out that most insects, birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles and animals eat ants. Ants are a food staple of my environment. They are also one of the necessary decomposers in the soil, helping to keep the soil fertile and garbage-free. Ants are great sources of protein and a food delicacy in parts of the world. With a little bit of fascination, I found that I was captive to a mistaken idea that every ant is a “bad” bug. In fact, ants are generally “good” and only destructive when there is already something damaging a structure, like excess moisture.

              I have found ways of protecting the dog’s food (put it in a shallow pan of water), discouraging the fat ants (never leave unwashed dishes on the counter) and the honey jar is now permanently on the counter away from the outside wall of the house. Ants come and go, preening their sleek bodies with their antennae, greeting one another with an examining embrace, and trekking far distances across the floor, looking for food. These helpful creatures are no longer my enemies but sources of entertainment. Sometimes, I still get frustrated by the sheer number of ants that can enter my house in a day. Other times, I can be still enough to let them delight me.

              Delight, attentiveness, fascination – these are doorways to healing rather than harming the world.

That There Would Be Harmony – by David Wenger

Posted by on May 4, 2019 in News | Comments Off on That There Would Be Harmony – by David Wenger

That There Would Be Harmony – by David Wenger

Years ago we were blessed by the presence of a lovely Swiss woman who came to the Hermitage as a working retreatant several times a year. She had a beautiful, warm smile and exuded a reverence and love of life that was infectious. We welcomed her back with enthusiasm each time she passed this way.

During one of her sojourns with us we had an unusually full Saturday. I was feeling overwhelmed and conflicted about all that I had said yes to for this particular day. St. Joseph’s Barn was full with weekend retreatants, Gathering Room in Hanby Center was being used by a day group and there was a group of volunteers coming to work in the woods. Was it possible to “create an environment of attentiveness to God” with all of this going on?

After Morning Prayer our friend came to me and asked for her marching orders for the day. I told her about the various groups that were coming and what each required. I said I was feeling anxious about all that the day held for everyone. She paused, thinking deeply about what was needed, and then said, “That there would be harmony.” As soon as she spoke those words I was overcome with a sense of calm. Yes, that there would be harmony. Above all, this was the work of our day, holding the intention of harmony for each person and purpose that we were expecting.

That there would be harmony has become my prayer in similar times of unsettledness, whether that be internal or external. And I am always comforted by the beautiful spirit of God within our friend who first uttered the prayer into being.

Learning to become silent – by June Mears Driedger

Posted by on Apr 22, 2019 in News | Comments Off on Learning to become silent – by June Mears Driedger

Learning to become silent – by June Mears Driedger

Centering prayer is a way of quieting down one’s mind—one’s interior. On Saturday mornings at the Hermitage we practice Centering prayer.

One Saturday, Kevin lead morning prayer, offering us these words: centering prayer is a simple prayer of focusing our attention toward God. But it is also a difficult prayer as our minds are not accustomed to being quiet or silent.  When our thoughts wander (as mine often does) we return to our original intention of focusing our minds on God. We can do this by focusing on our breath or having a sacred word in which we return to when our thoughts wander.

My sacred word is “Love” because Love is the essence of God.

My brain often sounds like squawking blue-jays, demanding attention, squawking louder and louder until I turn my attention on whatever is clamoring for my attention. Sometimes the demand is very quotidian such as, don’t forget milk at the grocery store.

I return to the word Love, mentally repeating it until my thoughts settle down and clear.

On this Saturday, I am more challenged than usual to move into an interior silence. I slept just a few hours the previous night as I was brooding over some harsh words that had been said during a meeting. While their words weren’t directly pointed toward me I was part of the situation that upset them. My spirit was crushed and I was hurt and angry.

The scenes from the meeting kept resurfacing with all my feelings I attached to the words. I kept returning to Love. I was struggling to focus on God.

            Breathe in—breathe out. Love

            Breathe in—breathe out. Love

            Breathe in—breathe out. Love

As I calmed down and returned to my intention of focusing on God these words came: invite this person to tea.

With those words—which I believe came from Love—my inner turmoil dissipated. My brooding lifted and I was able to experience inner silence.

Later I did contact the individual to schedule a time for tea. The tension between us eased and I was grateful. Mind you, this does not happen every time I prayer but that Saturday morning it happened.I am learning, from my experience and listening to others—that silence can open us. When we become silent, if we can move through our resistance to silence, we can hear God whisper. We gain clarity and discernment arrives. We hear God.

Rhythm Wisdom – by Kevin Driedger

Posted by on Apr 11, 2019 in News | 1 comment

Rhythm Wisdom – by Kevin Driedger

And again, the grass turns green.
And again, the daffodils bloom.
And again, the seeds are sown.

And again, the sun rises.
And again, the sun sets.
And again, the darkness comes.

And again, we gather for prayer.
And again, we gather to eat.
And again, we enter solitude.

And again, we hear a whisper from God.
And again, we taste God’s love made edible.
And again, we see the beauty of God.

Life at the Hermitage, as all life everywhere, is filled with rhythms: from the quickened rhythms of the heartbeats of each beloved guest to the long, slow, cosmic rhythms of expansion and contraction.

A key part of the work of the Hermitage, both for staff and for guests, is to recognize these rhythms, feel them, learn from them, and enter into them. These rhythms have much to teach us.

The wisdom literature of the Hebrew scripture extols the importance of being attentive to these rhythms and to recognize the wisdom of God held within. Some rhythms are simple steady beats that are easily recognized, while others are vastly more complex and may take many generations to understand.

These wisdom texts were central in shaping early monastic life and play a central role in the Rule of St. Benedict which guides many monastic communities even today. These traditions established ways of living for people, whether in community or in solitude, that are filled with rhythms of prayer and work, the rhythms of the church year, and the rhythms of life.

Let us all be attentive to those rhythms that shape and nurture our lives. Rhythms of work, of play, of retreat, of breath, and of prayer. There is wisdom in these rhythms, if we just open ourselves to hear God within.

Freeing Hospitality – by Naomi Wenger

Posted by on Mar 29, 2019 in News | Comments Off on Freeing Hospitality – by Naomi Wenger

Freeing Hospitality – by Naomi Wenger

 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.” Galatians 5:6

In the letter to the Galatians, Paul chastises the church for so easily falling away from the teaching they received that, in Christ, all have been made free of keeping the Jewish religious law. For, the Galatian gentiles have apparently embraced the practice of circumcision to prove that they “belong” to this new Jewish sect (that has not yet been named “Christianity”). Circumcision was the sign of inclusion for law-abiding Jews. Paul is eager to point out that there is a new way of living that does not require adherence to the law nor any external sign of inclusion. He calls it living “in the Spirit.” He criticizes the Galatians for starting with the Spirit (of Christ) and ending with the (Jewish) law, a backward movement. He reminds them that what “counts is faith working through love.” Neither faith nor love is concretely measurable. This leaves all judgment in God’s hands and frees followers of Christ to be open-hearted and open-handed toward all people, no matter their ethnic origin, their religious practice, or their gender. In Christ, he says, all are free.

Keeping Jewish law, particularly the religious practice of circumcision, is no longer much of an issue for Christians in the West. What issue or issues divide us? How would we write this admonition today so it would be an equivalent warning to us to avoid the same kind of misplaced energy the Galatians were giving to “keeping the law?” 

Each one of us will probably have to examine our consciences to find the “law” we are “keeping” that creates for us a container of inclusion or a wall of exclusion. For it is this sin, of excluding (or preferentially including) another on the basis of some “law,” that is at the heart of the message to the Galatians. This issue also resonates with our current experience in North America. There are folks excluded because of their immigrant status, gender, relative power status, socio-economic state, religion, and even their “fit” into what is expected as “normal.” Of course, we all want others to be “like us” because that is more immediately comfortable than the stew of differences we find in this heavily populated globe where we rub shoulders with the “other” more than we might like.

But, is it possible that we exclude the very folks we should be welcoming because they don’t live life as we do? What if they practice a different religion? Does that make them excludable? As I read the Bible, I see that the better practice is to welcome and include rather than to exclude. Jesus admonishes in the gospels not to fear what others can do to us (Matthew 10:26-33 and Luke 12:2-7). But we are to major in “love for others” (John 15:9-17).  We are more likely to be guilty of pushing someone out of God’s welcome than we would be “tainted” by their presence or practice when we welcome them in love. In another place, Jesus teaches,“Whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40).

When fear runs amok among us, we shout down demons and decry other practices as antithetical to our faith. But it really has nothing to do with faith. Faith is not visible nor measurable; it is not what we do, but how we are. Rather, as faith is worked out in loving others, it is recognized as fruitful. We can be haters, fearing others’ practices, or we can be lovers, welcoming differences and growing stronger in loving as God loves in the process.  Protectionism breeds exclusion and expands the field of outsiders. Welcome invites inclusion and opens new avenues or new ways of apprehending the ultimately unknowable Mystery of God.

What I’m talking about is a radical hospitality that refuses self-protection or even the protection of some valued tradition, in favor of extending an open welcome. This is a hospitality that does not have rules but that allows each person to find the rule for their own life, trusting that God continues to work in the world and affirming that ultimately God is in charge of how the world is constituted.

Henri Nowuen, in his masterful meditation on transformation, Reaching Out, writes about this kind of hospitality.

“Hospitality means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend … Hospitality is not to change people but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. . . . The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free; free to sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances; free also to leave and follow their own vocations. Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adore the lifestyle of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own.” — Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out, 51

I wonder if we have enough courage to weave this kind of hospitality into our daily lives? It is quite risky. It might even cost us friendships, the respect of family members, or our jobs to live this way. It will certainly be misunderstood or misconstrued. Jesus was maligned for healing, caring for the outcast, and loving everyone without exclusion. As we move toward Good Friday, we remember that this kind of hospitality could also have ultimate consequences. May we all aspire to give our lives to, and even for, loving as God loves, extending unlimited and freeing hospitality.

Naomi Wenger, March 2019

Holding On, Letting Go – by June Mears Driedger

Posted by on Mar 25, 2019 in News | Comments Off on Holding On, Letting Go – by June Mears Driedger

Holding On, Letting Go – by June Mears Driedger

The Hermitage Lent retreat theme was “Holding On, Letting Go” which invites us to ask: “What am I holding on to? What do I need to let go?”  As I mulled over these questions, I unconsciously switched the questions to, “What I do I need to let go of in order to hold on to God?” I turned to the Psalms to explore my switched question as they remind me of the Israelite story of holding on and letting go and returning to God’s trustworthiness when they—and me—hold on to God.

Lent 1: Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

This is a wisdom psalm addressed to the one who enters the sanctuary—the place of refuge and shelter.  The psalmist uses many images to highlight that God’s protection from harm and danger is reliable and truthful, including the word “shadow” (v. 1) to suggest an image of God protecting its young. 

However, vss. 14-16 reminds me that God’s protection does not mean I am promised complete immunity from danger or evil or even tragedy. Instead, I am promised God’s presence when I am in the midst of trouble as God promises to not abandon me and I will survive.  By vs. 15, I am encouraged to call to God in times of trouble for calling upon God is to let release my stubborn self-reliance and admit that I need God’s protection as I hold on to God’s comforting presence through challenging times.

Lent 2: Psalm 27

This is a psalm of trust in the first six verses which turns into a prayer for help against false accusation in vss. 7-14.

In the first 6 verses, the psalmist confesses who God is—”my light, my salvation, my stronghold.” In the following verses the psalmist admits he is a man under duress who pleads with God to be his light and salvation.

The verses 7-13 become prayers for delivery from distress and oppression because someone has brought false charges against the psalmist. Nevertheless, the psalmist proclaims his confidence that God will ultimately deliver the psalmist from the false accusations. The psalmist releases his need to justify himself to his slanderers and holds instead onto God as his deliverer.

Lent 3:  Psalm 63:1-8

The psalmist expresses my deepest longings for God’s presence in my life and my desire to hold on to God in vss. 1-2: “…my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you … I behold your power and glory.”

The entire passage is a moving description of holding on to God. The psalmist describes how to hold on to God and the result of my clinging to God.  While the NRSV begins verse 8 “My soul clings to you …” the King James Version reads, “Following hard after God,” which is a beautiful expression of holding onto God.

Lent 4: Psalm 32

A celebration of forgiveness is described by the psalmist: “Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered,” vs. 1. This is a psalm of joy but with a little confession and exhortation for the listeners.

In vss. 3-5, the psalmist confesses how he held tightly onto sine and fear until he acknowledged the sin to God. In vss. 6-7, the psalmist exhorts others to pray to God when they too are in distress. It is as if the psalmist tells the listeners to let go of their distress over their sins and hold on to God’s forgiveness. He continues his instruction in vss. 8-9, pointing toward wisdom as God’s desire for his life and all of our lives. By the end of the psalm, he proclaims that the forgiven, trusting soul finds only steadfast love!

Lent 5: Psalm 126

This psalm reminds me to not only to let go of fears and sin, but in good times I am invited to laugh and delight in God. I am encouraged to remember that in challenging times—even in calamities and natural disasters—God is good and is present to me. I am to release my despair and hold on to the memories of God’s past goodness.

What do you need to let go of in order to hold onto God?

Listening for God – by Kevin Driedger

Posted by on Mar 15, 2019 in News | Comments Off on Listening for God – by Kevin Driedger

Listening for God – by Kevin Driedger

Lately, when June and I arrive at the Hermitage each morning as we walk from our car to the chapel we often find ourselves stopping along the way. We stop, and we listen. The chorus of morning sounds: of bird calls and critter noises is growing in variety and volume as the days grow warmer. We love to take a moment to bathe in these beautiful sounds before heading inside for prayer.

Once inside, as we sit quietly, beginning morning prayer the leader rings the singing bowl to begin the service. The prayer leader then ends the great silence of the night and utters the first words spoken each morning “Oh God, come to my assistance.” We continue the service with words spoken, sung, and chanted. In most services, after the reading of the gospel, we sit in silence with the instructions to “Listen for God’s word to us today.”

Listening is one of the most important activities at the Hermitage. The deep silence that characterizes the Hermitage is there to help us all be attentive and listen. We listen for God’s voice which can come in a myriad of ways, but we don’t notice it, if we don’t listen for it. We may hear God in the call of the crow. We may hear God in the words spoken affirming us as the bearer of God’s infinite life. We may hear God in the affirmations and questions of our spiritual director. We may hear God in the stirrings of our hearts, or the aching of our souls. We may hear God as we deeply engage with a scripture text and hear Jesus ask us “What do you need from me?”

The Rule of St. Benedict begins with the word “Listen” and the admonition to “incline the ear of your heart” to the teacher. Inclining the ear of one’s heart to God is the first, and final task for the person on retreat, as it is for everyone else.

(It is one of my favorite quirks of the English language that Silent and Listen are anagrams – the same letters rearranged.)

How ARE You? Centering Prayer and Contemplative Practice – by Naomi Wenger

Posted by on Mar 8, 2019 in News | Comments Off on How ARE You? Centering Prayer and Contemplative Practice – by Naomi Wenger

How ARE You? Centering Prayer and Contemplative Practice – by Naomi Wenger

“How areyou?” That simple question can open us deeply to the ground of our being. For the question is driven by the innocent verb “to be,”which isthe ground of existence. It is also the most we can know of God — God’s essence. God IS. All of our other descriptions of God are just that, labels that help to identify God in one way or another. In Moses’ initial encounter with God in the bush that was burning but not consumed, God self-identifies with this notion. God identifies as “I Am.” God is Being. 

When we pray, we usually think of addressing God in some fashion and approaching one of the aspects of God that we can understand: God the peace-giver, God the provider, God the powerful one, God the fixer of all things awry, God creator, God redeemer, God the comforter. Yet, none of these roles is in itself the essence of God. So another way to pray is to come to God as Being and simply present our own being to be aware with/of that One Being. We call this kind of prayer Contemplative Prayer. It is prayer as alignment rather than answers, of agreement not argument, of yieldedness instead of resistance or insistence. 

While there is a place for the conversant kind of prayer where we plead for special mercy from God, there is also a deep need for the kind of prayer where we are not in control but rather we practice giving ourselves over to God—not for a particular result like spiritual growth, but simply to practice giving ourselves over to God. The wonderful thing about this kind of prayer is that it always results in spiritual growth and the awareness of God’s constant Presence throughout our days.

One of the methods of contemplative prayer that has been used through the centuries comes from TheCloud of Unknowing, an anonymous 14th century English treatise on contemplation. In the 20th century, William Menninger, Basil Pennington, and Thomas Keating co-labored on interpreting this work for non-Middle-English speakers and called the method Centering Prayer. The Cloudhas now been translated into contemporary languages. Commentaries on both the book and the method of Centering Prayer have been written and are readily available.

Centering Prayer is easy to learn and effective for aligning our will with God’s will. It is not a set of rules to follow but a way of releasing what is not ours to hold and holding onto God instead. George MacDonald, in the the novel David Elginbrodhas that eponymous character say, “The kingdom of heaven is not come, when God’s will is our law: it is come when God’s will is our will. While God’s will is our law, we are but a kind of noble slave; when his will is our will, we are free children. Nothing in nature is free enough to be a symbol for the state of those who act immediately from the essence of their hidden life, and the recognition of God’s will as that essence.” Acting immediately from the essence of a life hidden in God is both the goal and result of the practice of Centering Prayer. 

I encourage you to read The Cloud of Unknowing ora book on Centering Prayer and give it a try. Brief information on the method is available on the Contemplative Outreach website. We also practice Centering Prayer together at The Hermitage each Saturday morning. You are welcome to join us.

Naomi  Wenger, March 2019

Being Still – by David Wenger

Posted by on Mar 1, 2019 in News | Comments Off on Being Still – by David Wenger

Being Still – by David Wenger

Years ago I went on a personal retreat with the intention of simply being still. My days and weeks had been full of being on the move from the moment I got up in the morning until I laid down at night. I longed for time to sit and do nothing. I decided to use Thoreau cabin for my stillness retreat as it’s the smallest of the three hermit cabins at The Hermitage; there’s not much room to move around in there. I figured it would help with my resolve to be still. 

I went out the back door on my way to Thoreau and saw the trash bins that had been left there by my son. It was our weekly routine; I took the trash bins out to the roadside on the morning of trash collection day and in the afternoon when my son got off the school bus he carried the bins to the back of the house. From there I would carry them to The Hermitage on my next trip down the lane.  

Within only a few steps of embarking upon my stillness retreat I picked up both trash bins to carry down the lane and place behind St. Joseph’s Barn. Seconds later I heard my son, who was watching as I left for my retreat, chiding me from the back door, “Dad, you’re not supposed to find anything to do.” I chuckled and went on my way, a trash bin in each hand.  

When I got to Thoreau, I realized that I forgot a pen. I had planned to journal about all the profound things I would discover on my stillness retreat. Certainly there will be a pen in the cabin I thought. I searched but found none. I decided to walk back to St. Joseph’s Barn to get a pen; it wasn’t too far and I needed a pen to do the reflective writing I wanted to do with all the time before me. My writing might even be worthy of publishing in the Hermitage newsletter I thought. Then I heard my son’s admonition in my mind, “You’re not supposed to find anything to do.” OK. This time I will listen. I settled into the small cabin, no pen for writing, nothing to do but be still. 

At times I felt restless and considered walking about, just to look at things. I wondered if the path to St. Gregory’s Abbey was cleared and which of the Hermitage trails needed attention. I thought about walking the labyrinth at GilChrist. But with each thought I heard my son calling after me, “You’re not supposed to find anything to do.” And so I sat in the sun, I watched a turkey pass by, I heard the squirrels scampering in the woods and deer snorting as they discovered my presence. I laid on my back and looked up at the sky, the trees were blowing in the wind. I slept often. I was still. In recounting my retreat to a friend he told me about his own stillness retreat. He said, “By doing nothing, I get things done. To go forward, I must be very still.”