Dearest dancing monks,
John and I had the great pleasure of attending the Brigid's Eve festival procession last Saturday night in Kildare. Over a hundred and fifty people processed with candlelight and lanterns under the waxing moon and a scattering of stars, while singing in chants in both English and Irish. It was quite awe-inspiring.
Then we spent three days in Glendalough (photo above), preparing for a pilgrimage we are leading in March. Such a thin place, full of the beauty of forests, lakes, waterfalls, rivers, holy wells, and ancient stones holding the prayers of thousands.We walked miles and miles tending to the invitation of this turning point of the year as we enter the very earliest signs of spring in Ireland. (If you want to move more intentionally with the seasons, consider joining us for our brand new program called Sacred Seasons 2015: A Yearlong Journey through the Celtic Wheel of the Year. You can read more details at the link, and sample the first mini-retreat for Imbolc for free!)
A special treat for today, a love note from your online Prior:
My Dear Fellow Monks-in-the-World,
With the holy season of Lent almost upon us, Christine and I are hard at work preparing the annual Abbey of the Arts online Lenten retreat. This year’s theme is “The Soul’s Slow Ripening: A Lenten Retreat – Monastic Wisdom for Discernment” and part of the course will include reflections written by me on the weekly Old Testament readings. We’ve chosen to take the readings from the Revised Common Lectionary for the sake of consistency and a better fit with the weekly themes.
I am excited to once again be able to share my passion for the Hebrew Scriptures with the Abbey of the Arts community. I first began truly studying Scripture in college when I joined a non-denominational Bible study group. Later, sacred text was part of my studies, but my master in theological studies is not a Biblical degree. I only really delved deeply into the Bible when my job called upon me to teach it. I knew enough to get by the first year, but knew I had to strengthen my only knowledge and understanding if I were to keep up with my students’ questions. (Not to mention my own.)
Through my study and teaching of the Bible I have found that it is a beautifully textured collection of sacred writings with many different voices and perspectives. And while it is an integral part of our society, I find the Bible is more often misunderstood and misused than it is truly embraced. As some have pointed out, the Bible is a bit like online use of service agreements: very few of the people who click the “agree” button have actually read it.
I hope to bring both a contextual overview, as well as an in-depth reflection of specific texts. To repurpose an old metaphor, it’s important to be able to simultaneously see both the forest and the individual trees at once. We won’t be able to get fully into the grand arch of the Bible’s Sacred History in this Lenten course, but I do hope to be able to give a wider perspective on each of the week’s readings. I also hope to bring each of the readings to life, in their own context. Many of you know, perhaps quite well, the texts covered in the course. However, as familiar as one might be with a passage already read, we are always growing and each text (new or renewed) can offer us new insights. I look forward to sharing my thoughts and reflections with you.
But it isn’t just about what I have to contribute. I love the communal nature of the Abbey’s online retreats. I always appreciate the wisdom of my fellow monks-in-the-world. With each treat, with each day’s lesson, I learn new insights about what is being presented. I hope and pray that you all have the chance to join us and be part of the conversation.
Thank you & God bless!
John Valters Paintner (Prior at the Abbey of the Arts)
If you want an intentional way of moving into the Lenten season, the online retreat is a wonderful way to do this, with materials to reflect on, contemplative practices, opportunities for creative expression, and a lively, warm community, you can choose how much or how little to participate. We have all new material on some of my favorite themes, weaving them together in new ways, and new stories of desert and Celtic monks. Imagine yourself stepping across the threshold in the photo above and entering a world of rich wisdom and practices to guide you on your way.
Lots of wonderful things in this week's newsletter including a report from one of our Earth Monastery Project grant recipients. Read more below and other project reports coming these next two weeks.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Photo top: St. Savior's Church at Glendalough, Ireland (photo by Christine)