On our recent Quiet Day at Aylesford Priory I spoke about the Benedictine Poverty Bill. This is an undertaking that Benedictine monks make on a yearly basis. They write what they call a Poverty Bill, which is a list of all the things they possess for personal use. Once they have made their list they hand it in to the Abbot who files it away. The idea behind the Poverty Bill is that the monks should be aware of the things they possess, and then ask themselves whether or not they actually need them. It does not necessarily mean that they give them away, but it does mean that they don’t possess things pushed away in the back of a cupboard that they have forgotten about or are not aware of. It heightens their appreciation of their possessions, helps them to not take them for granted, and challenges them to decide if they really need each item or will ever use it again. It seems to me a good practice to follow in Advent.
The Christmas season tends to be a season of accumulation and receiving yet more possessions. Maybe Advent is a time to look at what we have and to make the decision to give some things away; a time to declutter, a time to face the truth about just how much we have and how little of it we use. We all have our weakness, mine tends to be books and cd’s, I have far too many of both. There was a time when a new book, or a new cd, brought me a lot of joy, these days they do not have the same impact; having too much takes away our appreciation and joy of things. An Advent Poverty Bill is a way of beginning to learn to value and appreciate things all over again, and learning to let go of the things we no longer use. I will begin this Advent by seriously looking at my music collection – where will you begin?
These coming weeks will offer the usual opportunities for prayer and reflection in the build up to Christmas; all the Advent and Christmas worship can be found elsewhere in this magazine. I hope you will have a very blessed Advent and joyful Christmas.
A TIME TO BE SILENT.......
There must be a time in the day
when the man who makes plans forgets his plans,
and acts as if he had no plans at all.
There must be a time in the day
when the man who has to speak falls very silent,
and his mind forms no more propositions.
There must be a time in the day
when a man of prayer goes to pray,
as if it were the first time in his life he has ever prayed.
So wrote one of our greatest spiritual writers, Thomas Merton. The above is one of my favourite passages from his many books. The older I get the more I feel the need for silence and stillness in my life. Silence and stillness are vital to life and if we continue to ignore them they tend to force themselves upon us in one way or another. When we are younger we can just about get away with ignoring their call in our lives, but as we get older the call becomes more insistent and if we continue to ignore them life becomes something of a jumble.
Without silence, words become just mere noise. Without stillness our actions lose their meaning and vitality. For me the most essential form of prayer is learning to be still and silent before God, and making a commitment to doing it on a regular basis. Being still and silent before God gives us a firm foundation from which the rest of our life can flow and find meaning. It does not matter if the time we spend being still and silent before God feels chaotic and unfruitful. It doesn’t matter if, when trying to be silent and still, our mind charges around like a bull in a china shop and it all feels like a waste of time. What does matter is making a commitment to be still and silent for a short period each day, eventually our mind and body will catch up with that commitment and it will begin to feel more natural. If we do make a commitment to a short period of stillness and silence, and stick to it, we will soon discover its benefits in our daily life.
Throughout this year there has been an opportunity in church on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 9am in church for a short period of silent prayer before God. Some have taken advantage of this and found it beneficial, and I have been asked by others if it would be possible to do something similar in the evening for those who cannot make it in a morning. So, beginning in November the church will be open on a Wednesday evening between 7.30 and 8pm for silent prayer. As in a morning, you can come along for any part of that time that you like and just spend a few minutes in stillness and silence. Once a month or so there will be an extra half hour at 8pm to talk about silent prayer, to learn about meditation, and to ask any questions you would like to ask. I encourage you to take advantage of this time and to explore the power of silence and stillness in your lives, and the effect it can have on our daily living.
that can be said alone at home
May the Lord grant to us a quiet night and a perfect end. Amen
Thou 0 Lord art in the midst of us and we are called by thy name. Leave us not, 0 Lord, Our God.
Have mercy upon us, 0 God: And hearken unto our prayer.
0 God, you are my God, for you I long. My soul thirsts for you, like a dry weary land without water.
Your steadfast love is better than life; I will bless you as long as I live.
I will lift up my hands and call upon your name; My mouth shall praise you with joyful lips,
I think of you as I lay upon my bed; I meditate upon you in the watches of the night
For you have been my help. In the shadow of your wings I sing for joy,
My soul clings to you, And your right hand upholds me.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. World without end. Amen.
Have Mercy on us, O God; And Hearken unto our prayer.
Before the ending of the day: creator of the world, we pray That thou with wonted love wouldst keep thy watch around us while we sleep.
0 let no evil dreams be near; nor phantoms of the night appear. Our ghostly enemy restrain; lest ought of sin our bodies stain.
Almighty Father, hear our cry; through Jesus Christ our Lord most high. Who with the Holy Ghost and thee; doth live and reign eternally. Amen.
Into thy hands, 0 Lord, I commend my spirit
For thou hast redeemed me, 0 Lord, thou God of truth: Keep me, 0 Lord, as the apple of an eye: Hide me under the shadow of thy wings.
Save us, 0 Lord, waking; guard us sleeping, that awake we may watch with Christ; and asleep we may rest in peace.
You may wish to end with some of the following prayers
Our Father, Who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trepass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory.
For ever and ever. Amen
Be present, 0 merciful God, and protect us through the silent hours of this night,
So that we who are fatigued by the changes and chances of this fleeting world may repose upon thy eternal changelessness;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Visit we beseech thee, 0 Lord, this home, and the homes of all our loved ones;
Drive far from them all the snares of the enemy. May thy holy angels dwell within them to preserve us in peace.
And may thy blessing be upon us ever more. Amen.
All whom I love, I place in your keeping. All whom I pray for, I place in your keeping. Be with us by day, be with us by night,
And as this day closes my eyelids with sleep grant that we may rise to the gift of a new day. Amen.
May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.
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