Above are photos taken last week while at the Abbey of Gethsemani. Since I began making an annual silent retreat in 1992 I’ve taken hundreds of photos. I always feel so blest by this opportunity. I’m always surprised in what God reveals here on this prayerfully hallowed ground that has been prayed on 7-times-a-day by the Trappist monks since 1848. My time is often marked by nameless healings and a profound sense of well-being. Perhaps taking pictures is a way to capture all of that or even an attempt to take it home with me.
Intellectually we all know that it isn’t possible. We can’t capture grace or healing or blessing. They’re more elusive and more powerful than that. The Psalmist tells us: “God’s mercies are new every morning.” We know we needn’t be afraid. And yet…
It’s soulful work to trust God alone and to surrender our ideas, our plans, our will and our way, to His. When in the course of a day, a week, a lifetime my ego continues to set the agenda making sure I take care of myself or that I watch out for #1–my plans swirl like a springtime tornado sucking up whatever is in its way, leaving not much more than a splintered path in its wake. Hay, straw and stubble Scripture calls it. Then in enlightened moments (that may not last any longer than just a moment) we stand back and look at the debris field of our lives, wondering just how everything got so littered and twisted or in some cases, how so much went so very wrong.
Of course the image of a twister is dramatic. Perhaps in your life and mine there is instead just this dull angst. It’s not that everything is wrong, but it’s also not true that everything is right. We catch ourselves in unguarded moments taking in a deep telling sigh. Is this all there is, we wonder. Is this life I'm living really my purpose?
Deep silence only attainable in big chunks of time allows us to stop, to breathe, to fall backwards in a trust-fall into the arms of God. In deep silence we listen, rare, holy listening, without our agenda/phone/emails or instant messaging tangling Divine communication. Now after these 23 years, of my trek to this place with its silence, the moment I see the monastery wall as I approach from the winding road to the north, I experience a release of any anxiety or any other malady my body may be unconsciously holding. It’s the feeling of coming home.
Do you have extended, intentional silent space in your life? Where and how do you listen for and receive God’s mercies that are new to you every morning? How do you experience deep healing in your life? Or even how do you discern whether the path you’re on is guided by the One who created you—who knit you together in your mother’s womb? Are you travelling your path—or is that too scary a question to ask?
The momentum of our culture will carry us to places we were never intended to go if we let it. That’s something to be mindful of for ourselves and with our children and grandchildren… We live in a time that too often rewards us for being someone we were never intended to be. Before we know it our life can be expended filling a particular hole that indeed needed filling—but was never ours to fill.
Let me encourage you to silence as you ponder these things. And allow me to offer you an exercise of Lectio Divina, without words. Use the photos I provided at the top, or Google search and download some beautiful images of your own. Then take the silent path with them for twenty minutes one morning and again that same evening. Let God alone speak as you look and listen without distraction. Allow Holy Spirit to touch any tightness or rough edges within. Then, rest for a while in Divine mercy, grace and love…allowing God do the healing work you need and that Christ made yours in the resurrection.
In the peace and joy of Eastertide,
Kathleen Bronagh Weller, firstname.lastname@example.org
P.S. If this exercise is meaningful to you, I would be pleased to hear from you. Thanks!