Last weekend my parish made its annual retreat at The Bishop's Ranch. It was a wonderful, restful, and spiritually renewing time. We even had a break in the torrential Northern California rain on Saturday so that many could enjoy hiking in the afternoon (I must confess that I took a long nap:).
Sarah Lewis, an experienced lay spiritual director and teacher, was our retreat leader. She led us through a series of exercises exploring lectio divina and apophatic prayer, as well as some creative takes on traditional practices. Sarah introduced us to "interactive scripture meditation," a kind of modified Ignatian exercise in which we imagined ourselves in a biblical story and talked with Jesus about the experience.
What I found most interesting was our experimentation with a combination of Buddhist vipassana meditation and Carmelite Trinitarian mysticism that Sarah has developed; "Fusian Prayer" as she calls it. It was essentially a form of meditation in which we bring full awareness of our human being (thoughts, feelings, perceptions, sensations) before God as a self-offering in love, while opening ourselves to receive God's self-giving love in return. It was a very powerful experience of meditation in community.
I was also struck by how orthodox Sarah is in the best sense of the word: she fully embraces the revealed truth of the dogmas of the Trinitarian Godhead and Incarnation. Yet, like so many mystics in the Church's history, her orthodoxy leads to an orthopraxy of inclusive love that threatens the Church's hierarchy. Mystics are hard to control, because they are no longer DEPENDENT upon the hierarchy for the mediation of grace, however much they may honor that mediation.
As a priest, I hope to encourage the freedom of authentic religious experience rooted in the Paschal Mystery. I'm encouraged by the spiritual hunger of my congregation and the desire of people to press deeper into love with God. I want Christian people to grow into the fulness of Christ; to grow into maturity rather than dependency.