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Preparing for Advent + Prayer Cycle Day 7

Dear monks, artists, and pilgrims, 

Today we share the final two audio podcasts of our 7-day prayer cycle on the theme of The Love of Thousands. The theme for morning is on ancestral earth and deep time, honoring that our ancestors are not just our human kin, but the mountains whose minerals form our bones and the seas that swim in our blood. We are connected to all of life. The evening theme is the love of thousands, bringing the whole journey through honoring angels, saints, and ancestors together. 

Advent begins in a week! Every year before Christmas since 2008 we have posted an invitation on our Abbey of the Arts website, inviting people to listen for a word to guide them in the year ahead. I shared a few simple practices for listening and then ask them to share their word with the community. This has become a popular offering each year, something people look forward to and hundreds of people participate. 

This year we have also decided to expand this experience into a 5-week online retreat for the Advent and Christmas seasons. For each of the 35 days from the first Sunday of Advent through to Epiphany we will be inviting you into a specific practice or reflection to support you to listen for your word, let your word ripen, and carry your word into the year ahead. I will be joined by several guest teachers.

The practices are not about resolutions or goal setting, they are not about achieving more in the new year or accomplishing tasks or goals. They are about listening for what is calling to you in a particular season of life. They ask us to trust a greater wisdom at work in the world.

The word might be a single word or a phrase or image and comes from the wisdom of the desert fathers and mothers, those elders who, in the second and third centuries, went to the deserts of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine to cultivate a life of radical simplicity and ongoing devotion to the presence of the divine in their lives. 

A key phrase, repeated often in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, is “Give me a word.”   When a novice approaches one of the ammas or abbas and says “Give me a word,” they are not asking for a solution to life’s problems, but something that inspires more whole-hearted living.

A brother questioned Abba Hierax saying, “Give me a word.  How can I be saved?” The old man said to him, “Sit in your cell, and if you are hungry, eat, if you are thirsty, drink; only do not speak evil of anyone, and you will be saved. (Hierax 1)

This tradition of asking for a word was a way of seeking something on which to ponder for many days, weeks, months, sometimes a whole lifetime.  The “word” was often a short phrase to nourish and challenge the receiver.  A word was meant to be wrestled with and slowly grown into over time.

Join us for this rich online retreat experience to help you deepen into the seasons of Advent and Christmas as a time of holy birthing in your own soul. We will begin with a live gathering online on Monday, December 5thand close with an online retreat on the feast of Epiphany, Saturday, January 6th. Both these sessions will be recorded and available for viewing following the events. 

For those of you in the northern hemisphere looking for some creative inspiration during the winter season, I will be offering an online retreat (hosted by St. Placid Priory) on Writing into Winter next Saturday. This is a generative retreat where I will guide you in a series of contemplative and creative practices to spark the muse within. 

On Thursday, November 30th Betsey Beckman will lead us in a free, joy-filled gathering to celebrate the release of the Birthing the Holy Prayer~Dance~Video digital collection. Many of these dances are featured in our Birthing the Holy prayer cycle. Join us!

With great and growing love,


Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE

Image © Christine Valters Paintner

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