Tuesday, January 29, 2008

a day with CMS - latest from Kenya

Yesterday I led 'a day of contemplation and reflection' for the directors of CMS. We took as our starting point the story from John's Gospel of the calling of the first disciples by Jesus, and began [as Jesus did] by asking the question "what are you looking for?" All the staff at CMS got together for news and prayers in the morning. One of those with news was Dennis Tongoi, CMS Africa director, who is from Kenya. He spoke about the anarchic situation there, and the necessity for the Church to be involved in bringing healing and reconciliation. You can can get latest updates on the Kenyan situation from his team on the CMS website.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

mayBe people pictures

I've been asking people in mayBe community to send me recent pictures they've taken so that we can put them on the mayBe website and into our resources. Some great pics are coming in. Here are some taken by Becky Kiddle earlier this month at a peace festival in NZ. The musician is Apirana Taylor, and it will be seen tomorrow at our Eucharist at the convent.

Friday, January 18, 2008

the full emptiness of the desert

Just watched the final part of Extreme Pilgrim [see my earlier post]. Fascinating, powerful, demanding stuff. I was reading some of the Desert Fathers' sayings this morning. I'm still thinking through why the Fathers major so much on sin, temptation, and overcoming the dark side - and what their emphasis could mean for us now. Perhaps it has something to do with what we find within ourselves [good and not so good] when everything else is stripped away. Fr Richard Rohr writes about this in 'Letting Go: A Spirituality of Subtraction':

'Sin and grace are related. In a certain sense the only way we really understand salvation, grace, and freedom, is by understanding their opposites. That's why the great saints are, invariably, converted sinners. When you finally have to eat and taste your own hard-heartedness, your own emptiness, selfishness and all the rest, then you open up to grace.... I think all of us have to confront ourselves as poor people in that way'.

The desert, any kind of desert, is a tough place, but perhaps there is grace to be found there. And that would be why the hermit Fr Lazarus could speak of finding the 'full emptiness of the desert'.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

seeing St Anthony

It's St Anthony's day today, remembered as the one of the key figures in the development of desert monasticism. Revered as 'Anthony the Great', and called 'the Father of monks', he has always been held in high esteem by monastic communities. Here's an affectionate story from 'The Sayings of the Desert Fathers':

'Three Fathers used to go and visit blessed Anthony every year and two of them used to discuss their thoughts and the salvation of their souls with him, but the third always remained silent and did not ask him anything. After a long time, Abba Anthony said to him 'You often come here to see me, but you never ask me anything,' and the other replied 'It is enough for me to see you, Father.'

flood warning again

We are on flood warning again. After lots of heavy rain the River Thames is poised to share itself more widely. You can read the latest local news on the Oxford Mail website. Please remember our buddies Matt Pippa and Lily-Anna [Matt looks after hOME] who were flooded last time and are still not able to move back into their house.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

extreme pilgrim

If you possibly can check out the BBC's Extreme Pilgrim series. I had my haircut yesterday and my barber Pete was raving to me about about the first episode [1 of 3] in which Peter Owen-Jones spent time with martial arts-practising Bhuddist monks in China. This week, in the episode I saw, he goes to India to join the Mela, the huge Hindu pilgrimage to the Ganges, and hooks up with some Sadhus - holy men. "This is God in colour" he says, and suggests that Jesus of Nazareth and his followers may have lived in similar ways. Great TV - moving, real and provocative. Peter is a vicar in the C of E and says that "The Church of England in particular is incredibly intellectual. You know, huge libraries full of books and theological bookshops. But we don't do anything physical. It's going to be very challenging indeed." You can see the latest episode of Extreme Pilgrim on BBC iPlayer.

Friday, January 11, 2008

beyond the wilderness: with Moot

Our buddies at Moot have got some cool plans for February - sounds very good:

Moot Community Arts in association with the SW1 Gallery, Victoria bring BEYOND THE WILDERNESS. Identify your hidden desires, your soul's yearnings and your long held hopes and dreams in the heart of the city. Join us for BEYOND THE WILDERNESS - LENTEN JOURNEYS - end edgy collection of visual and performance arts taking you on a Lenten voyage of discovery. AND IF YOU WANT TO BE THE ARTIST - it's your chance to unleash the poet within, the artist inside and explore your spiritual hunger with others on a similar path. BEYOND THE WILDERNESS comes from Moot Community Arts and contains:

* A two-week Lent spirituality course, Tues 12th Weds 20th Feb 08
* An Art Show, 14th to 21st Feb 08
* A performance Cabaret, thurs 21st Feb 08
* A Poetry Workshop day, Sat 16th Feb 08

For more details and to book places, see Moot Community Arts

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

3 kinds of Sacred Mystery

I'm listening a lot at the moment to Steven Isserlis's recording of J S Bach's Cello Suites [Hyperion 2006]. With the single cello it has a minimalist, repetitive feel. Interestingly in the sleeve notes Isserlis suggests that Bach may have been inspired in its composition by the life of Christ, and sees the suites as representing the three kinds of 'Sacred Mystery': the joyful, the sorrowful and the glorious. I am not an expert in this field but the recording sounds amazing to me. It feels like a piece of music that will accompany me for years to come.

Monday, January 07, 2008

John O'Donohue: like a river flows

Very sad to hear today that the poet, writer and mystic John O'Donohue died last week. Gail and I heard him at Greenbelt last summer and loved what we heard. I've been working with John's collection of poems 'Conamara Blues' since then. This is a favourite of mine, the short poem 'Fluent':

I would love to live / Like a river flows / Carried by the surprise / Of its own unfolding.

I remember John telling a story about a dying man at whose bedside he had been. The man said, to John's delight, that he had taken a great big bite out of life. No doubt John O'Donohue did the same. Here's a link to Gareth Higgins piece about him on the Greenbelt website. And here's a blessing from John's poem 'A Burren Prayer'. May this be yours John...

Go maire na mairbh argus a mbriongloidi / I bhfoscadh chaoin dilis na Trinoide [May the departed and their dreams ever dwell / In the kind and faithful shelter of the Trinity]