Today is my 49thbirthday and tomorrow is John's. We are entering our 50th year of life and eager for this sabbatical time of spaciousness to listen and discern the shape of our work going forward and to have more time for the writing we so love to do.
I returned a week ago from teaching in Chartres, France. (The photo above was received one of my first nights there). The program was hosted by Lauren Artress and the wonderful folks at Veriditas who help promote the labyrinth worldwide. It was a powerful week of diving deeply into poetry as sacred practice, encountering the Cathedral as threshold space and keeper of the sacred feminine through the face of Mary, a very potent private labyrinth walk for our group beginning with a candlelight walk in the crypt, along with our amazing participants made for a very special time.
There were many gifts from this week away, some of which I'll still be unpacking for some time to come. It is always a gift to be held in a ritual space where you walk between worlds for a period of time. While I provided the poetry content and process each morning, there was a team who helped facilitate the other aspects of the program so I got to dive in and have my own pilgrimage experience at Chartres myself.
One of the moments that most touched me was encountering Mary of the Pillar in the cathedral itself and to be told by the guide that she is made of pear wood and under the dress she is wearing she is actually holding a pear in her hand. Some of you might remember my encounter with Mary and the pears when we first moved to Vienna. The pear has become a significant symbol in my life, what John calls my "spirit fruit." It felt like a reminder that I have now been living in Europe seven years and this time ahead is a coming full circle in some ways, and a new beginning in others. The sacred feminine continues to beckon to me to slow down, to release striving, to yield to this moment, to surrender to the divine embrace. What a beautiful reminder as I begin a sabbatical.
At the end of our Chartres retreat one of the team members, the lovely and gifted Catherine Anderson, facilitated us in a SoulCollage session and Our Lady of Delight revealed herself to me through the card-making. The blessing she offered me is: "May you be lavished with the gifts of joy, ease, pleasure, and play. May you trust deeply in the fruitfulness of rest."
I wish this for you as well, my dear monks and pilgrims. I realize that not everyone is able to take time off from work to allow for more spaciousness, rest, and healing in their lives. It is a privilege I do not take lightly. It is a gift I plan to savor every day. And I am eager to see what new gifts emerge in the space that I can offer back to this community.
We are taking a break from the daily and weekly emails for the next month. Look for our return to these on July 28th. We will be exploring the principles of becoming a monk in the world for our weekly reflections this coming year.
If you'd like to help support the continuation of our website and email newsletters during this time please click here for details. You can make a one-time contribution to keeping the Abbey going, or a monthly commitment for the year ahead. We also welcome your prayers and blessings.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Photo © Christine Valters Paintner