Reflections from a Retreat

Reflections by participants on the theme ‘Where have you Hidden, Beloved?’

From Gill Greenwood, three reflections:

1. I’d like to offer the following poem, one amongst the many poems in our room and on the walls of the retreat house:

“Our first task in approaching
Another people
Another culture
Another religion
Is to take off our shoes
For the place
We are approaching
Is holy

Else we may find ourselves
Treading on
Another’s dream

More serious still
We may forget
That God
Was there
Before our arrival”

It speaks of the respect which Contemplative Fire shows to other faith traditions – one of the many attractive aspects which drew me to Contemplative Fire. And it made me feel immediately at home in the retreat house.

2. “ ‘Gazing’ is probably the best word to touch the core of Eastern spirituality. Whereas St Benedict, who has set the tone for the spirituality of the West, calls us first of all to listen”, Praying With Icons by Henri Nouwen, p13.

We were invited to choose an image/picture/icon to gaze on. I chose the attached image. The word “gazing” triggered a very different way of looking.

3. I valued the time spent in the ‘Three’. Even though it was with strangers, it felt safe and permitted vulnerability, giving, receiving, recognition.

From Sharon Roberts:

I would like to offer one of the catalysts from Day 3 – “Waiting on the Beloved”. It’s an extract from Sara Maitland’s “A Book of Silence” and it is, for me, a bang-on definition of silence: “Silence may be outside, or beyond the limits of descriptive or narrative language but that does not necessarily mean that silence is lacking anything. Perhaps it is a real, separate, actual thing, an ontological category of its own: not a lack of language but other than, different from, language; not an absence of sound but the presence of something which is not sound…..”

The St Non’s retreat was, for me, a thin place which was thick with silence (if that isn’t too paradoxical).

From Richard Craig:

Two consecutive entries from my retreat journal:

11th July (St. Non’s)

Strolling on the terrace in the declining sun after supper I am faced with the fact of suffering among my ageing friends. There has been much about the suffering involved in seeking God this week but nothing about the world’s suffering when one has found God. I guess that’s not what retreats are for.

12th July (St Non’s)

And here this morning in Tessa’s presentation is the response to the fact of suffering. She asks, ‘what is longing to be breathed and sung into being in you?’ She answers, ‘we are called to be a song-breath just as we are, hidden in silence: a song of lament, compassion and hope. We are called to share both in the cry, ‘Where have you hidden, Beloved?’ and in the song’. The imagery, from St. John of the Cross, reminds me of The Magician’s Nephew in which Aslan sings Narnia into existence and of Hildegaard of Bingen, ‘I am a feather on the breath of God’.

These reflections were recorded by participants at the Retreat, 7-13 July 2012 at St Non’s.