Nurturing/ Teaching Courses
Gethsemane Retreat Centre
25-27 October 2008
An Invitation to a Retreat
There must be times in your life that you yearn for more of God than your schedule will allow. We all have. We are tired, stressed by our jobs, crowded by friends and burdened by obligations. We have abundant life but are too busy for it! Even good obligations and commitments can turn toxic to our soul. Christian author, Madeleine L’Engle resonates within us when she writes in A Circle of Quiet that “(e)very so often I need a OUT; something will throw me into total disproportion, and I have to get away from everyone- away from all those people I love most in the world-in order to regain a sense of proportion.” However this is more than just a need to get away. There is also a need to get to (somewhere). And in our case, the need is to get to the presence of God. In other words, we need to go to a spiritual retreat.
“Spiritual retreat,” explains Emilie Griffin in Wilderness Time, “is simply a matter of going into a separate place to seek Christian growth in a disciplined way. Retreat offers us the grace to be ourselves in God’s presence without self-consciousness, without masquerade. Retreat provides the chance to spend time generously in the presence of God. In such time, God helps us to empty ourselves of cares and anxieties, to be filled with wisdom that restores us.”
Jesus himself sought times of quiet and solitude. The evangelist Mark tells us in middle of a busy schedule, “(v)ery early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!"” (Mark 1:35-37). This is not an isolated incident for Jesus. After his miraculous feeding of the five thousand, “(i)mmediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray” (Mark 6:56-46).
The evangelist Matthew too made a similar observation of Jesus: “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” (Matthew 14:23). Luke too remarks on this peculiar characteristic of Jesus: “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:15-16). It appears that the more his fame spreads, the more he is in demand as a teacher and healer, the more Jesus looks for a quiet place, to be away from the crowd that he serves. And what does he do when he is alone? He prays. He commune with his Father. As soldiers in battle in the frontline need to be rotated back to the rear to rest or team sportspersons have time out, Jesus after every spiritual battle needs a retreat; a retreat, not in the sense of a setback but in the concept of a timeout. It is in his Father that Jesus finds rest.
It is more than rest that Jesus receives in his retreats. He also gets wisdom. “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles…”(Luke 6:12-13). These twelve men will transform the world and brings God’s plan of redemption to another level. The wisdom comes from being in the presence of God. To achieve this type of wisdom needs trust.
For us, a spiritual retreat requires trust in the Holy Spirit. A retreat is not like a church camp, a conference or a vacation- where activities may be planned in advance and we know the agenda (mostly to have a good time, hopefully to learn something). In a retreat, we do not know what God has in store for us, but we are willing to take the risk to find out. We participate in confidence that the Holy Spirit is entirely trustworthy and will never lead us to harm.
There is a need for us to persist in Scripture reading, journal and prayer even though the silence and solitude frightens us. In a group retreat, there is a strong temptation to flee the presence of God into the company of friends where it is safe and comfortable. To engage in idle group gossip takes our attention from having to be silent before the Lord, and the discomfort of the work of the Holy Spirit on our souls. However it is to our good that we persist. The Psalmist says,
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust."
Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. (Psalm 91:1-4)
It is in a spiritual retreat that you have the time and opportunity to discover who you are, and to whom do you belong to. That is wisdom indeed.
1. List of participants
2. Getting there. Car Pooling.
We will be car pooling and going in three cars:
I suggest that we make our way independently and reach the retreat site Reconre House/Gethsemanne Retreat Centre by 1.30pm. .
Bedsheet, pillow and blankets will be provided. Bring your own teddy bears (if needed). Bring your own towers, soap and other toiletries. Accommodation will be spartan but should be livable. The rooms are air-conditioned.
4. Food and Refreshment
I have arranged for lunch and dinner on Saturday and Sunday. There will be rice, a meat and two vegetables. Simple fare.
The bungalow has a kitchen with fridge, microwave and oven. I will bring along a peanut butter, margarine, bread and a tin of biscuit for breakfast and refreshment. I will also bring coffee (3 in1) packages and tea bags. You are free to bring other food (be prepared to share). We shall try not to have to leave the premises for supplies or for supper.
They have cutleries, plates and cups for us to use.
5. Holy Communion
We shall have Holy Communion on Sunday morning.
6. Retreat Program
Theme: Be Still and Know
7. Spiritual Direction
I will be available to offer spiritual direction. This is by request only. Spiritual direction is not counselling. I am not here to solve your problems but to help you discern the working of the Holy Spirit on your life. Refer to Pastor Gan for your counselling problems.
8. Lectio Divina
(1) The history of Lectio Divina
The early monks and nuns approached the Bible by means of lectio divina. In the daily routine of the monasteries and convent, there is specific time set aside for study, prayer and work. One of the leaders to commend lectio divina as a spiritual exercise was Benedict, an Italian monk who lived in the fifth and sixth centuries (about 480-550).
During the time set aside for study, a monk (or a nun) would go to a quiet place and begin to repeat aloud a passage from the Bible. Often this is taken from the Psalms or Gospels. The monk would speak the passage out loud until a particular word or phrase strikes him. Then he would stop and ponder this word or phrase, understanding it to be a word from God for him. In lectio divina, the practitioner looks for direct message from God. This meditation (which is what he is doing) will lead naturally into prayer as the monk seeks to communicate with the Lord. As he moved further and further into prayer, he will come to a place where he rested in the presence of the Lord. This is the state of contemplation.
(2) The process of Lectio Divina
In the twelfth century, Guigo II. A French Carthusian monk developed lectio into a four step exercise:
Read out a short passage of Scripture. When we read aloud, we become both proclaimer and hearer of the Word of God. As you read, listen for the word or phrase that speaks to you. What is the Spirit drawing your attention to?
Repeat aloud the word or phrase that attracts you. Make connections between it and your life. What is God saying to you by means of this word or phrase?
Now, take these thoughts and offer them back to God in prayer, giving thanks, asking for guidance, asking for forgiveness, and resting in God’s love. What is God leading you to pray?
Move from the activity of prayer to the stillness of contemplation. Simply rest in God’s presence. Stay open to God. Listen to God. Remain in peace and silence before God. How is God revealing Himself to you?
(3) Entering into Lectio Divina
3.1 Select a passage, which you have read and perhaps studied previously so that text and context are familiar to you.
3.2 As you come to the text you need to slow down. You are coming to wait before God, a waiting upon Him.
3.3 Posture – are you sitting well? Kneel if you desire. Sit if you need to. Be comfortable. Create space – secure and peaceful. The environment –flowers, music, special place, outdoor etc. Mark of block of time – 10-30 minutes a day. Make it regular.
3.4 Centring(Centering) – integrating yourself – mind, body and spirit. Breathing exercise – palms up (to give up to God); palms down (to receive from God). Recall a gift; sing hymn; recite a creed, etc.
3.5 Initial prayer – invoke God’s presence. Announcing that you are ‘waiting upon God’. You are seeking His presence.
3.6 Turn to the passage – this is the passage for me; savor the words; appreciate its inner and hidden meaning for me; carefully and tenderly hold the words.
3.7 Read it aloud, slowly and softly. Notice the punctuation. Slow down and breathe more slowly. Watch for the commas and periods. Taste the flavor of the Word; hear the gracious Word of God; see the content of the Word.
3.8 Read it again ( or a third time). Gently dwell on each word, each phrase, each sentence. Read slower.
3.9 If distractions come, recognize them and tell them that you will come back to them later.
3.10 Attitude – patiently abiding in God’s presence and care of listening and looking in humble expectancy.
3.11 You can intersperse the reading with prayer, praise, petition, confession, or whatever comes into your heart.
3.12 Times of barrenness and darkness are also times of spiritual transformation. Do not depend on our feedings.
3.13 Stay with your impressions that come. Concentrate on one or two. Ask God to show you what they mean. Connect them with your present life issue/ problem/ circumstance, etc. Do you need assurance? Does it reveal your present situation? Are you in some need? Is it some issue you do not want to face at present?
3.14 At the end of the meditation, write down your impressions in your journal. Speak to your mentor or your close Christian friends or your spouse about them. Connect them to your life. This is important because some other person can help you make sense of what has been given to you. You can also check on God’s message to you.
‘For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”
Hebrews 4:12 KJV
9. A Retreat Prayer
Lord, here we are in Your presence. We have left behind our families, our jobs, our responsibilities and obligations, our friends and community to be with You in this retreat. Let us place the care and protection of our families, our jobs, our responsibilities and obligations, our friends and community in Your care and protection. Give us the peace and confidence that You will take good care of them in our absence.
Father, we approach You with great expectations and fear. We have high expectations in this encounter with you. Yet we are fearful because in Your light and holiness, we may discover things about ourselves that we are not comfortable with. Help us to discover and face the truth about ourselves. May the Holy Spirit works powerfully within our hearts, minds, and souls. May we rediscover ourselves in new ways and give us the strength to be transformed to the likeness of Your Son. Give us more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Father, we ask for a more intense revelation of Yourself to us in this retreat. We want to know You, know more of You and to love You. Help us to break the many false concepts of You that we have developed over the years, some of which we have made into idols. Help us to know You as revealed in Your Son, Jesus Christ.
Give us the grace to follow you. The road ahead is hard and rugged. We are afraid, O Lord. We are afraid of pain and suffering. We are afraid of things that you may ask us to give up. We are afraid of illness, loneliness, dryness, despair and constant stress. Know our weaknesses and be gentle with us. Forgive us in our failures when You test us. As you make a saint of St. Peter, make a saint of us, we pray.
Most of all, Lord. We ask that you will show us the splendour of what you have given us: our life in You; a life lived here on earth with Christ. We ask that you show us and lead us into simplicity of life and of heart. Lord, help us to know you in our daily life, to know you in the breaking of bread, in song, in fellowship, and in the cleansing of our hearts by penitence and prayer.
In the Name of Your Son we pray.
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