For three weeks in Advent, beginning tonight, All Saints is offering the opportunity to pause in the midst of this hectic season, to settle down and center in, to simply be still in the presence of God, through the practice of Centering Prayer.
Centering prayer is also known as Christian meditation. It is the kind of prayer Jesus meant when he said, "Enter your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret, and the Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:6) It was practiced by the Desert Fathers and Mothers in the fourth century and was continued by the Hesychasts of Eastern Orthodox tradition, through the Middle Ages and the author of The Cloud of Unknowing, also practiced by Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross and most recently, Thomas Merton.
It is simply a way to be still in God's presence and be available. One says a sacred word, like "Jesus" "Maranatha" "Spirit", silently to one's self like a mantra. When thoughts arise in the mind, one says the word again, and simply returns to the word whenever the mind gets busy. Prayer sessions last for about 20 minutes. They are not supposed to be mystical or weird experiences, but to be a designated space and time to make room inside for the Spirit of God that dwells in all of us.
This evening is our first session, in the chapel from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. We'll begin with some reflective reading of scripture. Then, I will have some instructional materials on how to do centering prayer and we'll have some conversation and guidance before entering a 20-minute period of silence and contemplation.
Slow down. Quiet. It's Advent. Enjoy this brief time to be still and open to the Holy One who made us and who loves us and walks the way with us.