Monday, March 7, 2011


[Note: this mini-essay will also be on the upcoming parish bulletin front.]

A book I am currently reading is Encountering the Mystery by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (seen left). It has a lengthy introduction by Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia (a former tutor of mine at Oxford). But beyond that, it is a delightful introduction to the theology and (far more importantly) the spirituality of the Orthodox East. This is a book that I could easily recommend to others for their Lenten journey. But I want to focus on one brief excerpt from the book:

Each evening, as I shut the door to my office, I do not leave behind the people and the issues I have faced during that day. I bring them with me and within my heart to the small Patriarchal Chapel, where they are all offered in prayer during the Compline service that closes the day. The chapel is a small refuge from the daily deluge of problems, a splendid occasion to meditate on the wonders of God, who loves us as we are. What more could I ever ask for? What more could I ever do?

I am only personally acquainted with the residences of two bishops (here in Mobile, and one in England), but they both have private chapels where prayer can be offered and Eucharist celebrated. I expect virtually all episcopal residences also have these chapels. Most of us do not have such 24/7 access, but we can make a special space in our own homes for this kind of daily “mini-retreat” to encounter the Lord and bring to Him all the issues of our day just past, and the expectations & anxieties of the day to come.

For myself, of course I am blessed with having the key to the church, and getting up early enough to spend some quality time in front of the Blessed Sacrament before the day gets to chaotic. But I also have a “prayer-spot” in the rectory where I can also lift up daily worries, concerns, failures, joys, needs—mine, and those of parishioners I have encountered during this day. This is the goal for my Lenten prayer—to spend more time in this space with the Lord and with those whose paths have intersected with mine during the day—by phone, by e-mail, by appointment, by ‘chance’ encounter (though really, there is no such thing).

I encourage you all, I challenge us all, to use your/our special space (or create one, at least for Lent) to do the same: to encounter the Lord and lift up those whom we love and who have asked for our prayers—perhaps even, for those we do not love and who have not asked for our spiritual help…

Lent is our special season of increased and intensified prayer, fasting and almsgiving; it is a joyous opportunity to step aside and focus on the journey within, to meet the One who waits within to embrace us. What are we waiting for? He is waiting for us; He loves us; He is calling us. But He will never force us—otherwise, love would not be love.

St Paul once wrote that he longed to “know fully even as I am known” (I Cor 13:12). This Lent, let’s long to want to love, even as we are loved.

1 comment:

  1. Sister Wendy in her book "Sister Wendy on Prayer" clarifies love or reverence, which is vital when one approaches God. Where pride seeks to manipulate, reverence seeks to set free. It wants only the good of the other; if we love, we will never take advantage. She says it is simple to talk about love or reverence, but this virtue is difficult to practice. The outward action is no guarantee of inner love. Sister Wendy expresses that in prayer we are illuminated by God's wisdom. Jesus told us he would send us the Holy Spirit. This can provide some enlightenment so that we might respond to circumstances with what, to quote Saint Paul, is the 'mind of Christ.' Thereby, the holy and unselfish wisdom that puts others first, wanting only their good, is the key to genuine love and reverence, but we must ask for it.