Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Easter Island

After Easter last year, we had a strong sense that the time was now right for Benedictus to celebrate all the Easter services from Maundy Thursday through to Easter Day. Up till this year, in 'real' Easter time, we've observed Holy Saturday as a liturgy of waiting, and then entered the season of Easter from the following week.

I've been very much anticipating the prospect of celebrating all the services as a community, and it's affected how Lent felt - knowing that we were going to complete the journey to Easter Day together. There were also some logistical questions to address - most significantly, the question of where we would do this, since we still only have the use of a building on Saturday evenings.

The place that was 'given' to us was the island at the shore of Lake Ginninderra - off John Knight Park. I say 'given' because it seemed suddenly to show itself as the place where we could gather, and offered three settings which were extraordinarily apt for Maundy Thursday's liturgy in the garden, Good Friday's liturgy at the foot of the cross, and Sunday's holy communion by the lake shore.

On my Wednesday Retreat during Holy Week, I went to the island. It was like a Day of Preparation, a chance to be and pray where we would be gathering over the next four days.

You get onto the island over a small footbridge, which has a large rock in front of it. The bridge with its guardian rock effects the transition from the shore to the island, and speaks of the transition we need to make to enter the 'space' of the Easter liturgies.

On Wednesday, I spent time in the 'garden' - the grove of paperbark trees near the small fort, among which we would stand as evening fell on Maundy Thursday.

I sat among the casuarinas against which the cross rested on Good Friday.

And I looked towards the East across the water, where we'd face to celebrate the resurrection.

Having the services outside, in this setting, felt very powerful. The landscape held and helped create our liturgies. It was a space that enabled the 'work' that each day asked of us, as if the different parts of the island led us into the next part of our paschal journey. In me, there was a deep fullness by Easter Day. I am so grateful for the gift of this space, and the gift of a community to share it with.

It appears that most of my 'flock' are behind me, but there were some people there too!

St Francis, eat your heart out!

And then time to celebrate - a festal procession, and breakfast by the shore.

Happy Easter!!

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Beginning Again

'Always we begin again', say the spiritual teachers.

It's taken a while for me to 'begin again' my Wednesday retreats this year. Two weeks ago, I spent part of the morning at The Pinnacle on the edge of Weetangera/Hawker, but found it difficult really to sink into the time. I hadn't quite given myself permission.

This week, the possibility of a Wednesday retreat was looking unlikely for various reasons, but then came the opportunity to 'displace' the feast. So this beautiful Tuesday morning, I began at home with meditation and a quiet sit over a cuppa, and then - because the day was already pretty warm - I was drawn to the cool and damp of the Rainforest Gully in the Botanic Gardens.

Something mysterious happens in the gift of this time. I think it might be to do with the deliberateness of it - the intentional opening up of two, three, four hours where nothing is scheduled except to be, to enjoy, to pay attention to what's given.

What happens? I feel myself relax, let go. The time seems luxuriant. I start to notice and pay attention, and the more I look the more I see. This morning, the words of Mary Oliver came to me strongly: 'To pay attention is our endless and proper work'.

I experience such delight, such wonder and thankfulness. To think that this richness is here, around me, all the time - and now, at last, to let myself enjoy it.

This little fellow caught my eye, as I rested on a bench with my thermos of coffee, the sound of parrots, currawongs and sprinklers in the rainforest all around.

And then the leaves, shining in the sun, different shapes, different greens, moving with the wind.

After a while on my bench, I wandered into the garden beyond the rainforest.

Last weekend, I led a retreat and spoke in my final talk about the real source of our lives being the abundant life of God. The gift of contemplative practice is that it keeps re-sourcing us in our awareness of this reality.

In the garden this morning, it struck me how life is being given all the time, all around us, poured out. We are immersed in a vastness we can never be fully present to, never fully receive. And I wonder if the essential work of the spiritual path is about deepening our receptivity ... daring to be open to this overwhelming gift as it dances and shimmers around us.

Shalom, Sarah