Dearest Monks, artists, and pilgrims,
Today the season of Advent begins and I offer you a brief excerpt from our online retreat Signs in the Sun, Moon, and Stars:
In the Celtic tradition, one of the central teachings is the idea that there are two books of revelation – one is the written scriptures and the other is the book of Creation. Both reveal the face of the divine to us, both have profound gifts to offer.
The gospel reading for today talks about looking for the "signs in the sun, moon, and stars" which forms the title of this Advent retreat. Advent is a time for slowing down, even while the rest of the world around us is rushing toward Christmas with endless shopping and preparations, Advent invites us into a different way of being. One that makes time to notice the sun's journey across the sky each day, one that steps outside in the evening to gaze at the stars and the moon in wonder. To imagine what life was like for the ancient peoples, when sun, moon, and stars were guiding lights and navigational tools.
I invite you for this season ahead to give yourself the gift of time and slowness. To ask yourself if you really need to buy one more gift or attend one more party. To nourish yourself with time spent in nature and savouring moments of silence. To awaken to the possibility of unexpected gifts awaiting you.
What is your intention for this time? What is your heart's deep desire as we prepare for the holy birthing in our midst?
The Practices of Wonder, Mutuality, and Presence
The ancient monks used to practice a kind of inner and outer watchfulness. The desert mothers and fathers write about this frequently, a central part of their spiritual discipline was to show up for life and pay attention. This kind of presence can be challenging in our modern world when our attention is pulled in so many different directions. Presence is a gift we offer to another.
Cultivating contemplative presence to the natural world means growing in intimacy with creation into a way of mutuality, where we recognize that nature is not just there for our benefit but has existence and intrinsic value apart from us and our needs. Mutuality means that we listen to what nature has to say to us, we allow our hearts to be opened by our encounters there.
Walking the path of wonder is a radical act in a world numbed by cynicism and despair. Trusting that holy surprises await us each moment if we only pay attention is a practice worth cultivating. In the coming days, notice when your thoughts start to tell a story of predictability, of knowing how things will turn out, or of trying to control the outcome. Practice wonder and presence to the world, listen deeply to her whispers.
Please join us for a contemplative journey with creation through Advent (we start today!)>>
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Photo © Christine Valters Paintner