2018 Lenten Journey and Holy Week
Every year, on Good Friday, we say the Stations of the Cross. Click here for The Way of the Cross readings (guide to the 14 stations). We use paintings representing the stations by Chris Gollon, Church of St. John on Bethnal Green, London.
2018 Lenten Reflections from Strength For The Journey, A Guide to Spiritual Practice by Renee Miller.
Week 4- Music as Prayer
Paula King, Music Director, led the group in a sensory prayer journey through music. Understanding music as a meditative tool, that can be used as a way to connect closer to God or as a prayer was discussed.
Renee Miller spoke in her chapter of Music as Prayer- Music practice, like Centering prayer, attempts to bring us to a point of deep awareness, a place where thoughts are set aside so that we may rest in the divine presence. In music practice, it is a note that calls us back to our intent...we are letting the notes be the means for leading us down, down, down into ourselves and God.
Music can be meditative, praising or reflective. The earliest songs recorded in the Bible were the Psalms- praises, sung with a variety of instruments, including percussion and horns. We read a Psalm each Sunday and they are a meditative part of the Daily Office. All 150 Psalms are read in a week by monastic communities within the Divine Hours. Eight times a the day, prayers are offered through spoken voice, plainchant or sung. For more information, click here to read about how music is integrated within the Divine office.
Taizé and Praise songs are other ways of connecting with God. Taizé songs are rooted in Biblical passages, and are used for a meditative component of worship. Taizé songs come from an ecumenical Christian monastic community in Taizé, Saône-et-Loire, Burgundy, France. We often sing Taizé songs in church, one of them being Laudate Dominum.
Praise songs can also be a modern way to connect with God. Uplifting messages, modern music and arrangements can bring you into the beauty of prayer. Communicating with God through praise music can help you integrate the body and spirit into a sung prayer. Paula King let the group in a variety of praise songs, and we listened to a soothing praise song by David Haas. Watch You are Mine, with subtitles, and turn your volume up!
Even modern musicians appreciate the ancient appeal of the Psalms. Bono, from the rock band, U2 met with Eugene Peterson to discuss the Psalms and worship through reading and contemplating Psalms.
This is an excerpt from the FULLER Studios YouTube post; This short film documents the friendship between Bono (of the band U2) and Eugene Peterson (author of contemporary-language Bible translation The Message) revolving around their common interest in the Psalms. Based on interviews conducted by Fuller Seminary faculty member David Taylor and produced in association with Fourth Line Films, the film highlights in particular a conversation on the Psalms that took place between Bono, Peterson, and Taylor at Peterson’s Montana home.
Week 3- Prayer in Movement
Prayer through Body Movement- many of us associate this with walking. For example, taking a nature walk and seeing God in all living things, and being grateful for what you see is a simple form of prayer. Click here to learn more about Meditating in Nature.
This week we learned about the spiritual elements of Tai Chi, as demonstrated by Eddie Gosselin. Tai Chi can be turned into a Christian practice, as demonstrated by a School Sister of Notre Dame in this video, The Body at Prayer with Tai Chi & Shibashi.
Another movement that was demonstrated in our Lent Retreat, was Chi Walking by Bishop Scruton. Chi Walking aligns your body for meditative movement, and enables you to breathe, move and focus on God. To Chi Walk prayerfully, you can practice the basic movements, and then enter into centering prayer (see week 1). During this centering prayer, you focus on your body movements and breathing. How does the air feel as you move? Do your feet feel grounded? Are your shoulders relaxed? Are you breathing from your belly? If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to centering by using a word you have chosen, or even just refocusing on your breathing. Learn more about Chi Walking and proper body alignment through this Chi Walking Video.
Week 2- Discursive Prayer
"Do not expect that because you sit in silence, heaven will come down. Instead, chew on the words of heaven until your tongue speaks to God as you are speaking to me. Heaven will see your effort and grant you grace." Rene Miller speaking of the Desert Fathers
Discursive prayer is speaking to God in conversation, just as you would with a friend over a cup of coffee. Talking to God throughout the day, while driving in your car or before you fall asleep engages your mind, and opens your heart to God. Two forms of discursive prayer are Lectio Divina and Ignation Prayer.
Lectio Divina was established by Saint Benedict to help illiterate monks learn to read and reflect on scripture. There are four movements of lectio divina- reading, meditation, prayer and contemplation. This form of prayer enables you to find a passage that speaks to you in the moment, and further reflect on how the text affects your life. This instructional video will walk you through the practice.
Ignation Prayer is a different mediation perspective that invites you to sit in the story and become part of the message. After reading a scripture passage, you mentally place yourself into the scene by trying to imagine all of the details that are present- just like you were in a movie. Where is the light, is the air temperature hot or cold, what do you smell? Who is standing next to you, what are they wearing? What would you say to them? Where are you located in the scene, are you participating or watching? What is the crowd doing?
In this video, Fr. James Martin explains how to dive into Ignation prayer- inviting you to reflect on the five senses by asking questions to help guide you through an Ignatian prayer reading of scripture.
St. Ignatious offered various forms of prayer to become closer to God. He also provided a guideline to evaluate your day, through the Daily Examen. The Ignation smart phone app can help you "examine" your day, and provide a greater recognition to where God intersected in your daily interactions with others. This app provides peaceful background music (or silence) and contemplative questions to lead your through your day, and the encounters with God you may have missed. In addition, it provides helpful questions to reflect on where you are going and what you will be doing tomorrow, and how you can invite God into your day. For more information, visit the Ignation Spirituality smart phone app page.
Looking for more on Ignation prayer? You can take an online retreat that explores how to use your five senses to connect more deeply with god. Each segment of Taste and See: Experiencing God with Our Senses will begin with a reflection on one of the senses- sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste, and then lead you through an Examen-style prayer. The retreat concludes with a suggestion for action to practice the ideas. Click here to take the Taste and See retreat.
Week 1 - Centering Prayer
According to the Contemplative Outreach Website, Centering Prayer is a receptive method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God's presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship.
Centering Prayer is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer. Rather, it adds depth of meaning to all prayer and facilitates the movement from more active modes of prayer - verbal, mental or affective prayer - into a receptive prayer of resting in God. Centering Prayer emphasizes prayer as a personal relationship with God and as a movement beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Christ. For more information, visit- ContemplativeOutreach.org
Deeply understanding centering prayer is important to the practice. It isn't perfection we are striving for, it is a "gently jolly" moving back to center when thoughts creep in. For a deep understanding and explanation of centering prayer, Fr. Thomas Keating explain how to practice and be gentle with yourself as you develop a relationship with God.
Need more help with Centering Prayer? Try the free centering prayer app available for both Android (Google Play Store) and iPhone (App Store).
Here is an excerpt from the Google Play Store;
The Centering Prayer application will support your daily prayer practice commitment. Beautiful and peaceful, the app includes an adjustable timer, as well as opening and closing prayer options that you may read before and after your silent prayer time. An assortment of sounds and backgrounds allow you to choose the type of environment you want to create for your prayer time. Brief instructions for learning Centering Prayer are also included.