It's an ecumenical thing...
This morning I began a Wednesday morning fixture at the Catholic church which will pepper my diary I hope and regularly. I went to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and joined in with Christian Meditation. It is run by an American lady and is based on the work of John Main, which advertises itself with the following motto:
Mission of the World Community for Christian Meditation
“To communicate and nurture meditation as passed on through the teaching of John Main in the Christian tradition, in the spirit of serving the unity of all”.
...so this morning with a kind of boldness that is yours on moving to a new area, where there is little to hinder you and little to lose because you can always claim newness and not knowing any better as an excuse, I knocked on the door of the Catholic parochial house and was invited inside to take part in meditative prayer. I had met the Catholic priest at a meeting the evening before. He had invited the attendees of that ecumenical meeting to the weekly meditative prayer slot at his Catholic Church.
As a charismatic evangelical, I have not been schooled too well in sitting down and shutting up and now that most of my parish work involves some giddy busyness, which I love, I hasten to add, I feel the need for a period of silence in my week. It is a gift. My weekly pattern of college used to involve an hour of silence between 10 and 11 on a Wednesday and lo and behold this new venture for me is exactly at this very time and so in some ways, I sank more rather naturally into it, perhaps as a result of this, as if each part of me was recovering the memory of doing this.
On first encountering the silence, there are areas of your body that you realise you are not fully relaxing and you almost have to let go of each part or at least offer it up in some way, almost as a quite obvious mental exercise. I was then faced with a tickle in my throat which I convinced myself I could pray away. This worked for a while, but a cough was more effective. I then dealt with a load of random and annoying interruptive thoughts about what I was doing, a conversation with myself about why I was doing this, a short reflection on my boldness that had a lot to do with my ego, some fantasizing about ecumenism and how God must be so pleased, another trapping of the ego, a sudden consciousness of all the sounds outside and then eventually a settling into a repetition inside my head of the word Ma-ra-na-tha, which is what we had been asked to do.
I then travelled to this place, I go to sometimes, which is neither sleep nor waking, where there is a clarity and some meaning but it often needs interpreting and there is something very visual and yet not seen. I saw a bride, dressed in white, but unhappy, tense and complaining, un-ready, ill-prepared, nervous. And then she was gone. I wondered if it was us, the Church, in preparation for the groom: Christ, but so un-ready, not yet perfected, aware of all our inadequacies and nervous. I thanked God and settled again and on being lifted out of the meditation by the tinkling of a small bell about twenty minutes later, I captured sensations of safe times. I felt as though I had been dipped into a deep and soapy, warm bath, where the bubbles cover your ears so that you are enveloped in muffled sound and can travel inwards more easily into the warmth. I always had very happy bath-times as a child, so this is triggered somewhere. I felt as though I had perhaps slept for a long time but there I was with these people I had never met before but already felt profoundly connected to and I think I am beginning to unpack something of the individualism of charismatic evangelical worship and the contrasting communitas of this new way of being with Jesus in fellowship with others.
I have perhaps been searching for this ... we will see...there's always fresh manna...
You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity, or carry report.
You are here to kneel, where prayer has been valid.
And prayer is more than an order of words,
the conscious occupation of the praying mind,
or the sound of the voice praying. (T S Eliot)