Now comes the 40-day annual season entered on Ash Wednesday by Christians, both Roman Catholics and Protestants. This season is historically intended for self-denial and prayer, worship, and service in preparation for the observance of Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter.
The journey through this time, scripturally and personally, has always been very important in my faith life and church life!
But when I write for this spirituality column in this EP Local News, my preferred intention is to be focused “ecumenically” in hopes of offering something of spiritual value to all readers regardless of their faith orientation. Could it be that anyone and everyone might feel included and involved by an invitation simply to a 40-day time of contemplation?
The human spirit needs times for contemplation that open the mind to deep thought and reflection, the body to deep breathing and respiration and the heart to inspiration and hope. Solitude and silence open opportunities for experiencing retrospective and introspective views that see all sides of the matter instead of just my own singular selfish perspective.
Setting aside a time to retreat for contemplation might be a wonderful individual discipline in these 40 days, or it may present the opportunity for a retreat in community with others.
A favorite life experience of solitude for me has been retreating as a clergy person with the contemplative monks of the Catholic Benedictine order at St. John’s Abby on the campus of St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. Worshiping and praying together five times each day in the beautiful chapel was life-changing!
Friends who have experienced a silent weekend retreat at Demontreville Jesuit Retreat House on Lake Elmo near St. Paul tell me the solitude was cleansing and refreshing.
High school campers and canoers from my congregation who spent a week together on the 21 years of youth trips with me in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area never tired of the scheduled afternoon of silence and solitude alone on a rock or a log, just meditating and reflecting. My son, who winter camps there in the snow, tells me that’s when the solitude is best!
What might be the subject of your contemplation? If you’re a philosophy major like me, why not focus on Immanuel Kant’s “categorical imperative” in his 1785 “Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals?” Yikes!
If you are religious, why not reflect on the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would want others to do unto you!” That is the one verse that it is said can be found in the sacred scriptures of every world religion.
What could be more ecumenical than that verse for this time of contemplation?
Editor’s note: EPLN contributor Pastor Rod Anderson serves on the EPLN Board of Directors. Anderson is the former senior pastor of St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie. If you want to contribute a faith-based column to EPLN, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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