Category Archives: Regarding the Present Moment
This is the fourth and final post about the one-day retreat I recently attended here in Phoenix with Abbot Meletios Webber from the Monastery of St. John. The retreat was titled “Being Present in the Presence.”
Fr. Meletios spoke primarily about praying in secret as opposed to being together in church for the services. Praying in church is pretty well laid down. Prayer in private is in addition to the community prayer in Church. The different activities for which the monks are free to choose for their own private prayer:
- Jesus prayer
- Reading of scripture – not Bible Study but Bible Listening, what, in Latin is called, Lectio Divina
- Reading patristics
We go to our room and we shut the door and we experience solitude. We are in church to be one with others but in our room we are to experience solitude. We need to be grateful for what we are able to do and not resentful for what we are unable to do. The little we do is enough spiritual medicine. It is important that you are not interrupted during this process. Turn off the phone, get away from the kids, etc. Set a timer for 5 or 20 minutes and then give the time to God. We should set aside a little prayer time in the morning and a little in the evening. This time in prayer, he said, should be understood to be a luxury rather than a duty or work.
We ended the day with 20 minutes of silent prayer of the heart. Fr. Meletios set the timer on his phone to vibrate after 20 minutes. The luxury for me was knowing that I was not going to be interrupted for a while and that I only had to calm down and pray.
Again, like his talk on gratitude, it was very practical. I commend it to you. Get in a room where you will not be interrupted, set a timer and pray until the timer goes off. Don’t worry about the time. Don’t worry about anything.
This is the third of four posts about the one-day retreat I recently attended here in Phoenix with Abbot Meletios Webber from the Monastery of St. John. The retreat was titled “Being Present in the Presence.”
This one, on gratitude, and the next one, on prayer, were the most practical.
A lot of us have negative feelings a lot of the time. We carry around grumpy. If you want to feel sad you can think about something that happen to you. Thinking about a funeral, etc. Some times we get stuck thinking about how we have been wronged, etc. and we basically think our way into anger, frustration, and sadness. Gratitude is an attitude, a state of awareness, we can make happen. Gratitude will not allow itself to share a space with any other negative feeling. – Fr. Meletios
The very first thing in the morning Abbot Meletios has his monks write 5 things for which they are grateful. This must have a very positive effect on the community. I know it has a positive effect on family life.
Gratitude has good back up in the gospel. Giving thanks is the highest attributes. Let us give thanks unto the Lord. We are who we are when we are giving thanks. Eucharist means thank you. Gratitude puts us in touch with God. – Fr. Meletios
I have been practicing and recommending this practice to people in my church and I commend it to you. Write down 5 things for which you are grateful. It has a way of getting us in the right position of thanksgiving. Why not go around the table and ask, “What are you grateful for?”
This is the second of four posts about the one-day retreat I recently attended here in Phoenix with Abbot Meletios Webber from the Monastery of St. John. The retreat was titled “Being Present in the Presence.”
The part of the second talk that really stood out to me was…
We do not need to get God’s attention. His attention is immediate and unavoidable. God is not there to punish us. He loves us so much that He cannot bear to take His eyes off of us. Intensity.
We do not need to get God’s attention. But we do need to get our attention. We must quiet our minds and pray. Prayer functions to sweep away the garbage.
Thinking and feeling are both from the head, which is broken. Heart and mind were one until the fall. The head took over and said, “I am the person.” Emotions are physical reaction to thought. Joy, light, life, peace are like feelings but come from the heart. These things do not have opposites in the kingdom. There is no death or darkness in the kingdom. Getting in touch with your feelings is not what we need. Scripture says that the heart is the place of the struggle. The patristic writers use the heart to mean the place of God’s presence in us.
I recently attended a one-day retreat here in Phoenix with Abbot Meletios Webber from the Monastery of St. John. The retreat was titled “Being Present in the Presence.”
Much of what he shared was so powerful and yet so simple.
He spoke on prayer saying that we need to get out of our heads and into our hearts. He said that we mostly spend our prayer time in our head. We think. We analyze.
As long as you are in your head you will never master your thoughts. Thoughts are like mosquitoes in summer. When thoughts invade, you will need to enter / descend into your heart. Fr. Meletios
He argued that the stream of thoughts emerging without any effort (the Greek word for these thoughts is logismoi) is a sign of how broken we are, how disconnected our head is from our hearts. His directive is that we need to live in silence. We need to ignore the streams of thoughts in our head.
Where do these stream of thoughts come from? In Genesis we know the story. At the fall something had broken. The Orthodox Church is amazing here. In the west, Adam and Eve is a story about punishment. They disobeyed God and God punished them is not the same main thrust of story as understood in the Eastern Christian experience. The Orthodox Church tells the story as primarily regarding the division between God and Man… The intimacy is gone, the innocence is gone. Because of the fall there is now a division between man and animals. Animals had no need to fear man before the fall. Because of the fall there is now a division between male and female. Because of the fall there is now a division there is now a division within the human person. Our head and our hearts are separated.
Whenever you are caught up in your thoughts you are not present. You cannot be thinking and present at the same time. Most western tradition’s goal is to get people to think about God. We are not called to think about God but to experience God.
We can only meet God in the present. Unless we are present we will not be in the presence. The presence of God is always there. We do not recognize it because of the fall. The mission of Christ is to heal the brokenness.
*see my response below to Jeremy’s comment for further clarification
I took off 70 days, an entire summer, from blogging. It was time to hit the reset button. And it was not only the blog that got the axe. I said “good bye” to a weekly meeting. I resigned from a volunteer position when they asked for 5 to 8 hours a week. And the cell phone rang itself to voice mail every early morning, late night, weekend, days off and while on vacation. My schedule is still full but I am leaner and meaner when it comes to time. The proper use of time means work when working, play when playing, etc. Living in the present moment.
St. Gregory Palamas writes about Christ resting and that we too ought to seek this divine rest. He says we need to concentrate our heart through attention and uninterrupted prayer. If you are like me you are tired of being scattered, running from thing to thing and barely praying. This summer I took a stab at less distraction. It has been nice.
Scholé will reflect the change I have implemented in my life. Blogs should appear at the much less hectic pace of about 3 times a week. Thank you for reading.
I took a timeout from blogging during Bright Week. I was very ready for a break and when I heard that Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, was shutting down his blog for Holy Week and Bright Week so I knew a good idea had come my way. Bright Week became about Sabbath and rest.
People are tired. We need a break. I am constantly thinking through steps to simplify my life and approach a more minimalistic lifestyle. And today, while doing my readings, I stumbled on a verse that reached out and grabbed me:
Remember the word of the Lord which Moses, the servant of the Lord, commanded you saying, “The Lord your God has caused you to rest and has given you this land.” Joshua 1:13 bold mine (Further reading: Deuteronomy 3:12-20)
The only part of God’s creation that avoids rest are the beings that stand to benefit from it the most. We need some rest and relaxation. We fill our schedules and suffer from sickness and stress. We are lonely and unable to concentrate. All we do is work.
“Unfortunately, this hectic pace is causing damage to our quality of life. We are destroying every sense of our being (body, mind, and soul). There is a reason we run faster and work harder, but only fall farther behind. Our lives have become too full and too out of balance. Somewhere along the way, we lost the essential practice of concentrated rest. We would be wise to reclaim the ancient, lost practice of resting one day each week.” Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist.
We need to hit the pause button one day a week.
Scripture tells us to remember (Ex 20:8), keep (Lv 19:3, 30), sanctify (Jer 17:19-27) and guard (Deut. 5:15) the Sabbath rest. Everyone needs a break. It’s as if Scripture is warning us that protecting the worship and rest we need is going to be difficult. Is the Sabbath something you observe? Any tips you can give for the rest of us struggling to make it part of our lives?