Are You Ready for a Silent Retreat?
It is better for a man to be silent and be [a Christian], than to talk and not to be one. It is good to teach, if he who speaks also acts. There is then one Teacher, who spake and it was done; while even those things which He did in silence are worthy of the Father. He who possesses the word of Jesus, is truly able to hear even His very silence, that he may be perfect, and may both act as he speaks, and be recognized by his silence. There is nothing which is hid from God, but our very secrets are near to Him. Let us therefore do all things as those who have Him dwelling in us, that we may be His temples, and He may be in us as our God, which indeed He is, and will manifest Himself before our faces. Wherefore we justly love Him.
Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Ephesians, XV 1.
The True Treasure of the Christian Faith
The true treasure of the Christian faith is the enjoyment of communion with God; utter rapture in the beatific vision of his incontestable majesty. This enjoyment is spotty in this life, but one glimpse assures us of its reality and fullness in the life to come. Contemplative Christian training at Mons Nubifer Sanctus points always toward this end. You do not have to be extraordinary to catch the vision of God. But you do have to avail yourself to him on ever deepening levels of your being; in your thoughts, words, deeds, and in the secret bridal chamber of the heart. The most assuredly reliable way to accomplish this is by taking the time to practice prayer intensively in an atmosphere stripped of distraction. In other words, by attending a silent retreat.
The True Treasure of Silence
For many people, a silent retreat sounds daunting. After all, we are fond of our distractions. We are addicted, in a very real way, to the noise, restlessness, and chaos of our lives, and we often cannot imagine living without them even for a day. No cell phone? Absolutely terrifying!
During one of our silent retreats, participants can spend upwards of 4 to 5 hours a day in formal silent prayer. Add to this the singing of the daily office and the general rule of quietness, and the whole undertaking can seem well beyond one’s ability. But we forget that we always accomplish any task one moment at a time. Similarly, we always practice the formal silent prayer in chewable portions of 25 to 30 minute periods.
But why bother attending a silent retreat? The frank answer is, because our incessant activities and attachments to the things and conditions of this life get in the way of our knowing and resting in God. Saint Athanasius has written,
[The soul] is fashioned according to the image of God, and according to His likeness is it made; as also the Divine Scripture indicates. . . . Therefore, when [the soul] puts aside all the filth of sin which covers it, and retains only what is pure according to that image, then quite properly, when it has been so brightened, it beholds as in a mirror the Word, the Image of the Father; and through Him it reasons to the Father, whose image the Savior is.1Athanasius of Alexandria, Treatise against the Pagans, 34, 3.
A formal silent retreat is the most effective way to clear away what Blessed Athanasius calls “the filth of sin” so that we might touch something pure and original in ourselves, the image of God. By touching this original purity, this original healthiness of the soul, given by God at the beginning, we also touch the hem of Christ’s seamless robe.2See Lk 8:40-48, Jn 19:23
A Silent Retreat at Mons Nubifer Sanctus
Unless a person already has a practice of still prayer, we generally ask inquirers to attend an Introduction to the Theology and Practice of Contemplative Prayer retreat before having a go at a fully silent retreat. The introductory retreat provides some historical, theological, and practical background to the practice of contemplative prayer, and helps participants get a feel for the schedule here and the demands of the practice.
Yes, it can be demanding. But don’t let that scare you away. If the Christian life is not demanding something of you, it is likely that you are not growing. A healthy challenge, especially in a safe place like Mons Nubifer Sanctus, is the key to growth in our life in God.
Are You Ready for a Silent Retreat?
Are you ready for a silent retreat? Many answer this question too quickly in the negative. I would venture a guess, however, that you are more ready than you might think. We invite you to come and find out.
Mons Nubifer Sanctus: Christian spiritual training in the fullness of the ancient faith.
References [ + ]
|1.||￪||Athanasius of Alexandria, Treatise against the Pagans, 34, 3.|
|2.||￪||See Lk 8:40-48, Jn 19:23|