On Tuesday evening I led a number of people gathered around the organ as we meditated, chanted, and gently pondered a passage from the “Gospel of Thomas.” Later, as I led the group on a contemplative walk around the semi-darkness of the church, the mindfulness of the exercise heightened my awareness of the sacredness of our beautiful sanctuary.
St. John’s is part of the North Shore Contemplative Circle, which means that every month people from Beverly and Manchester gather to draw closer to God through emptying their minds and entering into silence. Every three months St. John’s hosts one of these contemplative evenings. If you have never tried this before, this “resting in God,” I encourage you to try. It can sound daunting, emptying your mind of thoughts is a foreign concept to us, but if adopted as a regular practice, it can reap unexpected spiritual rewards.
There is a story about the famous Trappist monk and mystic Thomas Keating. Apparently, a nun, after her first try at contemplative prayer during a workshop led by Fr. Keating, came up to him in great frustration. ‘I’m such a failure at this prayer,’ she said. ‘In twenty minutes of sitting I’ve had ten thousand thoughts.’ ‘How lovely,’ Fr. Keating responded, without so much as batting an eye. ‘Ten thousand opportunities to return to God!’
The Episcopal Priest and mystic the Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault says of contemplative prayer, “It’s very, very simple. You sit, either in a chair or on a prayer stool or mat, and allow your heart to open toward that invisible but always present Origin of all that exists.” This sort of self-emptying prayer is especially fruitful when done in a group.
The next meeting of the North Shore Contemplative Circle will be at St. Peter’s in Beverly on February 21 at 7pm. You can find out more about the group and its activities at northshorecontemplativecircle.com.
You are very dear to me and to God in Christ.