Judy Joseph Mc Sween shares her perspective of the World Community for Christian Meditation’s John Main Seminar 2019.
One hundred and eighty Christian Meditators from around the world gathered in Squamish, Vancouver, Canada in August. Participants came from Mexico, USA, Singapore, Russia, Australia, Trinidad and Tobago and the host country.
The T&T contingent comprised five members of our WCCM Caribbean Leadership Team, a Trinidadian who had been resident in Canada for over 50 years and another Trinidadian now resident in St Vincent.
We began with a four-day Silent Retreat themed Sources of Wisdom and led by Director of WCCM International, Fr Laurence Freeman OSB; then the keynote presentation—’A Contemplative Christianity for Our Time’, by theologian, author, Anglican priest and whom I would describe as a modern-day mystic, Rev Dr Sarah Bachelard.
The Squamish sea-to-sky landscape and history provided the ideal environment for contemplation.
As we engaged in daily Contemplative Walks and Christian Meditation, we reflected as Fr Laurence explored spirit, failure, suffering and silence as sources of wisdom.
There seemed a common message—a goal of transformation to a better self. This transformation appeared characterised by recovery of the wisdom found in rituals and a shift from self-centeredness to other centeredness, brought about through silence and the surrendering of what we know.
He quoted from John Main’s Fully Alive: “It is this openness to the consciousness of Jesus that leads each of us to the full realisation of our potential”. His words “no question is foolish if you are prepared to accept an answer that will change your understanding” stuck with me.
The Holy Spirit must have been at work, for it took three “support presentations” to ground and link for me the contemplative silence and Rev Bachelard’s presentation. They were:
These all stood amidst an external backdrop of: fires in the Amazon and other major environmental issues, technological advancements disrupting traditional business models and human interaction, refugee crises, political conflicts, and fear of uncertainty and the unknown.
Our modern-day mystic caused us to pause and question, “If neuroscientific findings validate that meditation provides the extensive listing of physiological and emotional benefits, why do we need Christ in meditation? Why not simply buy in to one of the numerous Mindful Meditation programmes available?”
Rev Dr Bachelard described a Contemplative Church as where: we express the contemplative dimension in ALL aspects of our life; we respond to the gift that we have received, making “real contact” with God through our own experiences; we awaken our capacity for God to transform us; we respond to all situations in a life-giving way; we are comfortable with silence; we demonstrate radical hospitality; we listen beyond our initial reactivity; we live in harmony with everything, conscious of the ecosystem; we shift from duality and self-focus to unity and service of others.
I emerged with a sense that I had found some of the missing dimensions of my Christian practice and willing to reflect and explore further:
That sense of being one with nature, what is the ritual that grounds me in this dimension of God’s creation?
If I had such a ritual, would this impact my relationships with others?
Is it possible to see God in and to respect fellow man, when we do not recognise God’s presence in nor respect the flora and fauna?
Can we be passionate and wise about sustainability, if we remain self-centered versus other-centered
Does the answer lie in our recognition of the critical importance of having Christ at the centre of a contemplative practice?
May we, as Rev Bachelard suggests, develop a faith that allows us to be suspended from Heaven, beyond our capabilities and be willing to trust and be receptive to what we are given.
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WHO WAS JOHN MAIN?
Fr John Douglas Main OSB was a Catholic priest and Benedictine monk who presented a way of Christian meditation which used a prayer-phrase or mantra.