Thursday, November 8, 2012

Deepening Our Friendship With God, Part I


The Voices of Silence

This weekend I attended a retreat at Loyola Retreat Center in Faulkner, MD.  It was a good time of renewal and refocusing for me.  Loyola is a Jesuit retreat house, so I spent the weekend with about sixty Roman Catholics most of whom came as part of groups from parishes all over.  To my knowledge, I was the only Protestant there!  I was a little out of my comfort zone, but God was there and all went well.

I had the opportunity to participate in Catholic Mass—even taking communion.  While I wouldn’t necessarily choose to worship this way every week, I try to practice a generous orthodoxy, and I appreciated the rich sense of entering into the mystery and reverence of God. The Mass is structured so that all of ones senses are engaged and directed toward God; the structured liturgy definitely further hones ones focus on God.  Although it was certainly a different worship experience from what I typically do on a Sunday at Good Shepherd, it was certainly not completely foreign to me.  There was enough similarity with our United Methodist liturgy (particularly the Great Thanksgiving and the communion ritual) that I could feel pretty much at home and I “faked” my way through the parts I wasn’t as familiar with.  By the end of the weekend I figured most of it out—I think…

The Icon of Christ and his friend, Abba Menas
was a focus for our weekend.  The original of this 5th c
Egyptian icon hangs in 
the Louvre in Paris.
The theme of the retreat was Speaking as One Friend to Another.  We looked at developing our friendship with God.  The Ignatian (Jesuit) Way is one that emphasizes listening to God in prayer—as opposed to us doing all the talking.  To help facilitate that, the retreat took place in an attitude of silence.   That meant that after our first meal together on Friday evening, all participants were encouraged to keep silent to the extent possible until the retreat was done. 

God is always with us and is constantly speaking, but too often we cover over God’s still small voice with the constant clamor of our own.  It is important that we learn to silence ourselves and listen for those other voices in our lives.

With the exception of dinner on Friday, we ate all our meals in silence; that was an interesting experience!  That’s one place where the natural tendency is for us to chat with the persons sitting around us.  I admit, I missed not being able to get to know people more—something I am used to doing at other retreats I have attended.  On the other hand, something interesting happened as the weekend progressed. I found that I became increasingly aware of so many of the other voices (sounds) around me—e.g., the clamor of silverware, the soft music playing in the background, and the many voices in my head—and even of other ways I could “communicate” with others. 

As an introvert, not talking much for 36 hours wasn’t too hard, but I became keenly aware that I think a whole lot of things I never say!  The real challenge for me was to silence that internal conversation in my head and start listening for those other voices that God wants to use to develop our friendship.


Next: Wrestling With Jesus' Questions.