A few weeks ago, I gathered with friends for our monthly silent retreat. It was my turn to lead, and this is the outline I used. If you’d like to try one yourself, here’s how we do it.
A BASKET OF FRESH BREAD
The mystery of spiritual emptiness
may be living in a pilgrim’s heart, and yet
the knowing of it may not be his . . .
Wait for the illuminating openness,
as though your chest were filling with Light.
Don’t look for it outside yourself.
You are the source of milk. Don’t milk others!
There is a milk-fountain inside you. . .
There is a basket of fresh bread on your head,
and yet you go door to door asking for crusts.
Knock on your inner door. No other.
I have learnt to love You late,
beauty at once so ancient and so new!
I have learnt to love You late!
You were within me,
and I was in the world outside myself.
Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
—1 Corinthians 3:16
To them [the saints], God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. —2 Timothy 1:14
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the LORD has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shield with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. —Psalm 46: 1-11
Questions for reflection:
- What words or images were you drawn to in the poems and scriptures above? What do they tell you about yourself and God?
- Knock on your inner door. Peek inside at your own inner landscape? What do you see? Mountains, desert, city, shoreline, countryside, slum? What feelings emerge? What message do those feelings bring? What invitation does God have for you as you welcome and listen to them?
- Consider that your inner landscape is the holy place where the Most High Dwells. Imagine Jesus showing you around his abode. What would he like you to notice? What does he say or do? What does he feel?
- Rest a while inside yourself with God. What has been discovered, treasured, or redeemed?
In Scetis, a brother went to see Abba Moses and begged him for a word. The old man said, “Go and sit in your cell and your cell will teach you everything.” —A saying from the Desert Fathers