In the grand tradition of St. Paul, who was fond of writing to his faith community when he was away (usually in prison!), I am writing to you, beloved of St. Clement’s. May God’s grace be with you.
I know that some people may think of a silent retreat as imprisonment but I assure you it is anything but. I am sitting at my little desk as I write. Out of my window and through the treetops I catch a glimpse of the Salish Sea and Coastal mountain ranges. The sun is just breaking in the east with colours so vibrant it knocks the breath right out of me.
My spiritual pilgrimage started when I boarded the Bowen ferry: as we chugged across the sea to Snug Cove, I had a sense of leaving behind the worries and agendas of life in Lynn Valley and an opening up of the as yet unknown awaiting me. I was already “on The Way”.
Rivendell’s doors stood wide open on a sunny afternoon to welcome the dozen or so retreatants. After our 5 pm gathering we went into silence and will only come out of it in 10 days time. I know for some of you it must be a stretch (“What?! Wilna in silence for 10 days"?!) but I am so grateful for this sacred time of journeying inwards. I highly recommend setting aside time. Time dedicated exclusively to God.
Let me paint for you a day on retreat: around 7 am I wake to the raven’s hoarse call, no doubt shaking out his feathers in a huff about sluggards still abed when there are currents to ride, tree tops to sit in. Centering Prayer is at 8 am when we gather in the Sanctuary for 20 min. The sun is just rising. In the words of a Celtic Prayer, my soul cries: “O sun behind all suns I give you greeting this new day. Let all Creation praise you. Let the daylight and the shadows praise you ……And I shall praise you. O God of all life I give you greeting this day”.
Throughout the day people snuggle into the many comfortable corners at the lodge to journal, to gaze out at nature, to sleep, to walk the labyrinth, or explore further afield. Senses sharpen when one is still: the sun (“best preacher that ever was ..”) bathing the cross on top of Cates Hill in the early morning; the mirrored surface of the lake, the deep grooves on the bark of the ancient hemlocks, clear little streams chattering and tumbling down mossy hillsides. The swan, floating like a handful of blossoms on the still waters of the cove. The full moon falls right into my room, and lays down a silver ribbon of blessing.
Surprising gifts are bestowed in stillnes, silence, attentive listening for the still quiet voice. Parker Palmer says this:“The soul is like a wild animal - tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is to go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek”.
I believe the silence, the beautiful gifts of creation and an inner opening up to the Spirit enabled my neglected, shy, tough, unkempt and dishevelled little soul to emerge. I saw her little smudged face crowned by wild hair, peeking from behind the trees, ducking low under ferns, her skinny legs scraped and bruised, little dress in tatters. It is clear she had been on her own for a while, taking care of herself. I sat quietly until finally she trusted enough to come and nestle onto my lap and I could put my arms around her. "Oh, there you are. I’ve missed you. You are home, you are safe, you are known and loved." And all the while being embraced by Christ with infinite tenderness, compassion and love.
Let Your God love you
Empty.Before your God
Let your God
Look upon you.
That is all.
God loves you
With an enormous love,
And only wants
To look upon you
With that love.
Let your God-