Sunday, 12 July 2009

Deep and Wide: the Poustinia and the Labyrinth

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My 2 themes for this year have been:  DEEP and WIDE. They were the themes I took up for our recent sacred:space (4th July) as part of a search for a spirituality for mission. 

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.                                                                                               (Eph. 3:14- 19)


Deep is about going deeper -  spiritually, mentally, personally, faith-fully   'being rooted and established in love'    
I personally have found a 'Poustinia' helpful ( I have built one in the garden) And the following quotes are all from Catherine Doherty's book   Poustinia - Encountering God in Silence Solitude and Prayer 


POSUTINIA means 'desert'  but usually represent a hut in the woods, where in the Russian Tradtion, a Poustinik would go to pray.   It is ‘a quiet, lonely place that people wish to enter to find the God who dwells within them’ 

An entry into the desert, a lonely place, a silent place where one can lift the two arms of prayer and penance to God in atonement, intercession, reparation for ones sins and those of ones brothers 

         The Poustinik enters his Poustinia and takes humanity with him. He lifts that humanity before God, with all its pains and sorrows, joys everything 


         He would arise and go into the place ‘where heaven meets earth’ departing without any earthly goods, usually dressed in the normal dress of a pilgrim…. A simple handwoven shirt of linen, down to his ankles.....He took along a linen bag, a loaf of bread, some salt, a gourd of water & a staff
Let your Poustinia be a quiet secret garden enclosed, for it is a hallowed place, a holy place where the soul enters to meet God. It is not a show place to be discussed and shown off’. 

‘But the essence of the Poustinia is that it is a place within oneself’


Wide is about impacting society more widely -  I have found the concept of the Labyrinth very helpful. It is about wandering into the complexity of the world, on a 'journey to the centre of the earth'  into God and back into the world. ('There and Back again') 

The Labyrinth is also a metaphor of a spiritual journey - a pilgrimage 

"A beautiful spiritual tool -- a pattern, an emblem, a walkway -- has captured my attention and my heart.  The labyrinth is its name."-   Jill K. H. Geoffrion

"Why does the Labyrinth attract people?  Because it is a tool to guide healing, deepen self-knowledge, and empower creativity.  Walking the labyrinth clears the mind and gives insight into the spiritual journey.  It urges action.  It calms people in the throes of life transitions.  It helps them see their lives in the context of a path, a pilgrimage.  They realize that they are not human beings on a spiritual path but spiritual beings on a human path.  To those of us who fell we have untapped gifts to offer, it stirs the creative fires within us.  To others who are in deep sorrow, the walk gives solace and peace.  The experience is different for everyone because each of us brings different raw material to the labyrinth.  We bring our unique hopes, dreams, history, and longings of the soul."
-   Dr. Lauren Artress, Walking a Sacred Path, p. 21

"Walking a Labyrinth is a personal meditative activity and can be understood as a path of contemplation or prayer for people in seeking the Divine or seeking peace without regard to any particular religious tradition."—The Hingham Journal, 9/04

Some see these mysterious traditions as 'esoteric' 'occultic', 'new-age', 'deceptions'   The folowing quote is from  lighthouse trails research  'exposing the dangers of new spirituality' 

"Programs and practices rife with occult methodologies and techniques have been in the works at churches and youth ministries around the country:Taize, Lectio Divina, The Labyrinth (prayer walk), Renovare, guided imagery, Walk to Emmaus, Cursillo, Centering Prayer, Ignatian Awareness Examen, The Jesus Prayer, and The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, to name but a handful." Tom McMahon - The Berean Call

But I think there is so much that is good and helpful in these practices. Hence the whole experimental nature of sacred:space 
"Stand by the roads and look And ask for ancient paths, Where the good way is, And walk it it, and find rest  For your souls."  -   Jeremiah, 6:16

I believe it is possble to be orthodox and generous ( see Brian McLaren:  Generous Orthodoxy)
to be 'deeply rooted and profoundly open' . 

Deep AND wide  

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Eph.3:20- 21)

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