Retreat at Home Week 4 - Autumn

Autumn, from The Seasons’ Benedictions. 
Taken from After Prayer, Malcolm Guite
Now for the harvest! All is rich and full;
The swelling grape is ripe upon the vine,
So may his blessing sanctify your fall,
And old love be remembered in new wine.
Now may your ears be open to his call,
You stand on holy ground, look up and see:
His love burns red and gold in every tree.

A Reading

2 Corinthians 9: 6-15
The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written,
‘He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever.’
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

A Story

I (Rona) have been a Christian most of my life, and it was a conscious decision from the age of 13. Like many Christians I have gone through seasons – sometimes faithful and regular, at other times so sporadic you would hardly know. Yet God has never let me go, neither when things were difficult nor when I have been distracted because they were good. Faith has been the metronome of my life. 
 
It hasn’t been this way for my sisters. Despite our parents bringing us up in a faithful worshiping family they have not been a part of a Church as adults. When my Mother died it was appallingly sad, and we three girls suffered profoundly. Yet I remember my youngest sister saying to me “I wish I had your faith”. At the time I felt shamed, because I had not been going to Church regularly in that season. However, looking back, this comment had a lasting effect on me as it was a time when our hearts were in Autumn, and my sister lamented the paucity of her preparation for the harvest.  

A Reflection

Autumn as a season is a time when it can be easy to find an element of self-care; we start to hunker down, prepare some good nutritious warming food, blankets might emerge to ward off the heating coming on and we find ourselves pondering what it is that we are grateful for. Autumn brings in the harvest – whatever that might look like. Growing up in a farming community you will hear the predictions from very early summer. Some will always be pessimistic, others forever hold onto the hope that the Harvest will get better, we just need the right weather! The truth is that regardless of those predictions the Harvest will be what it will be. No amount of hard work in Autumn will change the outcome – you have to accept that harvest time is harvest time and reap what you have sown earlier in the year. And so it is with the spirit; Autumn is a chance for us to take stock and reflect, a chance for self-reflection and nurture. What may be negatively impacting on your life? How can we work on that for next year? How can we make next year’s harvest better? What has gone well? What are we grateful for?  
 
What never fails to move me in Autumn is how well those two themes sit beside each other. The leaves in all their colour show us how beautiful it can be to let go and Harvest, for better or worse, shows us that there is always something to be grateful for. 
 
And as we navigate this time of self-reflection, let us see ourselves as God sees us, let us hear his perspective, let him show us the things to let go and the things to be grateful for. Let’s allow him speak to us. It may be that we need to attend to our relationship with God for that to happen. It doesn’t have to be complicated: speak to Him like he is your friend, tell Him everything, speak to Him regularly, listen to Him often (Bible reading and quiet prayer). Allow Him to feed you, forgive you, and nurture you in the Eucharist. That’s it. It really is that simple. 

Two Spiritual Exercises

First: Very Simple
Repetition of a phrase
Sit quietly with your hands in your lap facing upwards. Close your eyes and repeat one of these phrases:
Speak Lord, for your servant (your name) is listening or 
For God alone, my soul in stillness waits.
 
Second: Richer and requires a little more work.
 
A Method of Centering Prayer by Thomas Keating
 
Background
Sacred reading, or Lectio Divina is a traditional way of praying with the Scriptures. This prayer style involves reading a Bible passage a few times (for example “See Jesus Seeing You” Mark 1:14-20 Or “Peace! Be Still” Mark 4:35-41: With Christ, we can be at peace — even before he calms the storm with a word!) and pausing in between each reading to reflect on a word or phrase which strikes you. 
 
Centering prayer is similar, but only uses one word – the sacred word – which you choose at the beginning, and then stay with. 
 
We are encouraged to pray briefly about which word fits our circumstances that day. Examples will be – Lord, Jesus, God, Father, peace, Kyrie, Love, Faith, Amen or Shalom. Once you have chosen your word, remain with it that day.
 
Guidelines
1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
2. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly, and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.
3. When you become aware of thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.
4. At the end of the prayer time, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.
 
Practical Points: 
Thomas Keating suggests 2 x 20 minutes (min) each day. Why not set a timer to help you to know when to finish? There is a superb app called ‘Centering Prayer’ which will do this for you.
 
If you notice yourself losing focus, feeling twitches or itches, just keep returning to the sacred word. If you fall asleep – I would say that you have given yourself to God, and he has given you sleep therefore that was what you needed!
 

Prayer By Saint Ignatius of Loyola)

Teach us, good Lord,
to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do your will. Amen.
 

Hymns

Listen to, or even sing one of these hymns as you reflect.
 
Joyful, joyful we adore thee 
Blessed assurance
Make me a Channel of your peace