"Tree Cave, by RA Paulette, Feb 2013"
by Max shred - Canon Digital Camera.
Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons
This Advent, having decided to try to carve out what retreat time I could within daily life (as my director of the Long Retreat would say - channelling Ignatius, "adapt, adapt, adapt.."), I began by thinking what were the retreat essentials for me. Besides post-it notes and my own pillow.
They sound obvious. Prayer, liturgy, confession, sacred reading, good preaching, walks. Structure, a daily ordo, with a sensitivity to the Spirit's movements. And solitude. Right. With a line outside my office.
The caves were a helpful image. I was not going to be able to construct a cathedral sized retreat over the course of these three weeks, this was going to scratched out of the stone of my calendar, carved with the tools I had to hand, not some precision sandblaster.
Mass and morning prayer are already there, a skeleton on which to hang this retreat time.
So, I picked a book of Advent readings off the shelf (Watch for the Light which includes readings from Alfred Delp SJ, Annie Dillard , Dorothy Day, and Thomas Aquinas). One a night.
I put as inviolable on the calendar two events: an evening of Advent lessons and carols, and an Advent vespers service (with a short talk on the women of Advent: Anna, Elizabeth and Mary).
I did the same with confession. Yes, it would be lovely to make an appointment to celebrate the sacrament with my long time confessor. Instead, it would have to be a gray Saturday in a cold, dark church. Grace wins out , regardless of the space. Ex opere operato. Grace wins out, even with a perfunctory confessor (which I hasten to add was not the case!).
Ah...yes, and solitude. I've been parking further up the hill, necessitating a walk each evening. I've seen snow fall, pressed into a relentless rain, wondered at stars spangled across the sky and at the deep blues and pinks of these Advent sunsets. It's five minutes -- and full of grace.