|Rediscovering Christian contemplative practice: day 3|
|Wednesday, 08 August 2012 11:26|
A series on Christian contemplative practice with Shaun Lambert.
Day 3: Lectio Divina and spiritual awareness
I have spent a number of three-day retreats at Worth Abbey in Sussex, where BBC TV's The Monastery series was filmed. My introduction to the series that was watched by three million viewers was the book Finding Sanctuary, written by Abbott Christopher Jamison in response to the interest generated by the programme.
The book inspired me to get copies of The Monastery programmes to watch in our men's house group. The impact on the group was profound.
For those who haven't seen the series, The Monastery involved five very modern men living the Benedictine monastic life for 40 days and 40 nights.
We watched with open mouths as these five men struggled to live in community and as the monks supported them
But the monks also had deep insight into the issues pulling each of the participants down, and were able to challenge the men in a way that got below their defences.
The other thing that impressed us was the Christlikeness of the monks, and the power of the monastic way of life, with its emphasis on silence, solitude and regular patterns of prayer, as well as living in community.
The men in our group were deeply challenged by the shallowness of their own spiritual lives and expressed a desire to go on some sort of retreat, where this pattern of living and praying could be experienced. My own prayer life has blown hot and cold and got stuck on many occasions, and so I found myself immersed in the monastic life for three days.
I remember being very struck by peace activist Norman Kember's comments when he returned from captivity in Iraq, that his spirituality hadn't prepared him for captivity.
I talk to many folk who say their spirituality hasn't prepared them for old age.
So what is this spirituality we need to work on? In many cases it has become about activity - doing things, being busy.
The two Benedictine monks who guided the Finding Sanctuary retreat - Father Rod and Father Patrick - were Catholic priests, immersed in Word and Spirit. There is a family resemblance which means in Christ I was able to trust them and learn from them.
We arrived on the Friday night and spent the Saturday following their offices of prayer, singing at least 15 psalms as well as other passages of Scripture. In a four-week cycle the monks sing most of the psalms.
If our spirituality is about being people of the Book, we need to learn from this tradition where Scripture is simply allowed to speak for itself - a communion with the Word rather than just dryly extracting a message.
This communion with the Word is further enhanced by the monks through the spiritual discipline of Lectio Divina - a slow, contemplative reading of Scripture.
One of the reasons I went to Worth Abbey was to help develop that discipline for myself, a discipline I first came across in Michael Quicke's excellent book 360-Degree Preaching.
Another aspect of this spirituality I want to develop is a passion - a warm heart, not just an intellectual faith. One of the attested fruits of the Jesus Prayer developed by the Desert Fathers, forerunners of the monastic movements, is its power to set hearts on fire, through the repetition in a reverential way of the name of Jesus.
Both the Benedictine rhythm of praying five times a day and the Jesus Prayer are responses to the biblical command to pray continually (1
Yet another fundamental aspect of the spirituality I would like to develop is the desire to witness and evangelise. Are we too busy to develop Christlikeness? And yet Christlikeness has a contagious beauty which draws people to us.
I want to emphasise the power of these contemplative disciplines to change anybody's life. Once again at Worth Abbey I was helped by being in relationship with others.
These are people of difference, from a different denomination, but people with wisdom and love. These disciplines develop the spiritual awareness that Jesus commends, and also influence our ability to relate well in all our relationships.
Taken from A Book of Sparks Click here for more on A Book of Sparks, including how to purchase
The Revd Shaun Lambert is a Baptist minister based in Stanmore, North West London. He is part of the New Wine leader's network, and PREMIER Mind and Soul network.
For the last ten years he has studied integrative and relational counselling at Roehampton University and has written regularly for The Baptist Times.
He believes that all truth is God's truth and that Christians need to be learners and thinkers who help critique and transform culture.
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