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Showing posts from March, 2015


At the end of ten days of silence we all sat in a circle and shared something of what the retreat had meant to us. When my turn came I did a simple powhiri, greeting the house and the land and the mountain; thanking those who had fed us and guided us so well. A powhiri is used when two groups of people meet on a marae as a way of blending the groups together to perform whatever task has caused the manuhiri to turn up in the first place. This was my way of beginning a similar blend: what had happened to me at Snowmass and what I was returning to on the other side of the globe. Centering prayer is about two things: awareness and consent. As we sit in silence we use some symbol: a word or an inward glimpse, or perhaps simple awareness of the breath to signal our consent to whatever it is that God wishes to do with us. We notice the many and ingenious subterfuges we use to keep knowledge of God at bay, and rather than fighting them, are simply aware of them, and watch them as they dri

Snowmass Notes

1. At 4.15 the sunrise is still a couple of hours away. The sky is black and the familiar constellations are scattered across it in unfamiliar patterns. The moon is half gone but its light still shines off the snow, stretching to the mountains in every direction around me, with such brightness I could read by it. My breath freezes. The frozen snow crunches under my boots as I walk this most beautiful quarter hour of the day along the dirt road to the monastery chapel. The coyotes call to each other from valley to valley. Is it really only half a dozen times I have done this? 2. The only illumination comes from the moonlight in the tall stained glass window depicting the Madonna and child. How can a space so simple and bare be so holy, so beautiful? The monks gather on the steps. The old one, whose name I do not know, begins the plainsong, his face aglow with the seriousness of these words he has repeated every morning for, what? Decades? "Whoever drinks the water that I g


The flight from Auckland to LA was perhaps the bumpiest I've ever experienced. There were no hot drinks served for the duration, but they did get the meals to us on time. I had a good seat - right at the back of the plane where the fuselage narrows there are 2 seats instead of 3 in the side bays and I got one of them, on the aisle with a wide space beside me and extra legroom in front. I managed some sleep. Then it was LAX, with the terminal looking all modern and clean and neat, and a large staff of uniformed people keeping the swarms of us moving through their system. It was surprisingly and pleasantly efficient, quick and friendly. Then I had about 20 minutes of walking from terminal 4 to terminal 7, a couple of hours in a lounge and a couple more in a Canadair regional jet. We flew over that vast swathe of California and Nevada that seems devoid of trees and full of canyons. I saw Las Vegas below me, then the dusty grey brown landscape became speckled with snow as it

Come To The Quiet

The view from our deck about a week ago, 7 am Tomorrow I fly to Aspen Colorado, and, after a few days wait will go just out of town to Snowmass, and St. Benedict's Monsastery where I'm taking part in a ten day post intensive Centering Prayer retreat. It's silent, not even any eye contact, and involves many hours a day in concentrated meditation. Am I looking forward to it? Well, actually, no. There will be no escape, nothing that must urgently need attending to, no knock at the door or phone call to save me from facing myself. But I know that's where I need to be. And I know I will be in good hands. There's no internet and no cellphone coverage, so I'll be out of touch. Clemency and Debbie will have a phone number where I can be reached but I'm not expecting either of them to use it.

I Know Your Face

There is a scene in The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King in which Peter Jackson improves on Tolkien. At the battle of Pelennor Fields, King Theoden leads the Riders of Rohan to assist in the defence of Gondor. His niece, Eowyn whom he loves more dearly than a daughter is forbidden, because of her gender, to fight. She disguises herself as a man and rides to battle where, by a mighty deed of arms she guarantees victory for the men of the West. Her uncle, King Theoden, redeems himself from the cowardice and corruption by which he has been enslaved  but in the process he is mortally wounded. As he lies dying, Eowyn finds him. He opens his eyes and sees her and looks at her with joy. "I know your face....Eowyn...." he whispers. I know your face . In that tiny phrase is contained all the love between them; all the long years of connection they have. It is a scene which despite my having seen it a dozen times still moves me deeply. I know your face . To know a