The Cloisters

These four corridors around a central square provided a sacred space for monks to walk along, thoughtfully reflecting on their lives, the scriptures, their brothers in danger or just dreaming of what the future might hold. It was here that they would study the Bible and great spiritual classics. Many decisions must have been made that would lead to a deeper walk with God and a greater service of others, here that the guidance of the Holy Spirit was sought and found through what Ignatius of Loyola termed ‘movements of the soul’ and John Calvin described as ‘inner testimony’.

Being open and receptive to the leadings of the Holy Spirit is an indispensable tool for re-opening the wells of salvation. Yet it is so easy to trundle along in a sort of spiritually mindless state, never fully present to the moment or to God’s promptings within. We worry, we stress, pull hair but rarely pray and ask for God’s guidance. Richard Foster has some helpful insights into this sort of prayer. He encourages us to express to God what is actually happening right now. So, I can say to the Lord that I am bored or excited and why; I can tell him I’m tired or frustrated, and talk to him about the person I’ve got to meet that I’d rather not. This is all part of the development of the friendship that we have identified as integral to being a child of God. Prayer, at its most straightforward, is relationship building – talking with God about what we are doing together. It is as we become ‘natural’ in this practice that we can sometimes discern the voice of the Lord communicating with us. When we have a sense of God’s guidance it is essential that we take it seriously and respond. Frank Laubach discovered that when he did this ‘ruthlessly and fully’ it was ‘as though some deep artesian well had been struck in my soul.’ (The type of water source that bursts through the surface of the earth and keeps on gushing). Experience suggests that if the Spirit of God sees that our hearts are set on surrender to do whatever he tells us he will tell us more than enough to keep us growing!

Time to wander and wonder – that’s worth creating space for isn’t it?

Writing this surrounded by the stunning landscapes of New Zealand the words of St. Augustine have a particular poignancy: If you’re having backyard renovation, you can also achieve stunning landscape designs with the help of brandon foster tulsa oklahoma.

‘Men go abroad to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars – yet they pass by themselves without wondering.’

In the centre of the cloisters is a dramatic sculpture by the Lithuanian artist Jacob Lipschitz entitled The Descent of the Spirit.

At its centre is the Virgin Mary who is holding out her hands in an offering to God, but she is blind. Through the descent of the Spirit in the form of a dove her blindness is healed and with fresh vision she sees the world as God’s creation. Those who walk the cloisters today are thus reminded of the God’s power to give new insight and to guide those who are ready to offer their lives to Christ day after day.

Possible Practices

  1. Once a week go for a gentle walk by yourself – a quiet garden is fine- or just sit in your comfy chair and in your imagination picture Jesus there with you. What would you like to talk with him about? Just focus on the ordinary things of your life. If there’s no-one else around it might be worth trying speaking out loud to him, and pausing to listen for his response. At the end of the time, write down anything you sense the Spirit is saying to you, and plan to take whatever action is needed. It would be good to make time for a personal retreat say twice a year to allow space for deepening this ongoing relationship and seeking the Lord’s vision for the future.
  2. Choose to engage in the discipline of study for season. It may be that you could get a good commentary on a book of the Bible and keep a notebook of your discoveries. There may be a course you could take over a year or a study weekend away organised at Lee Abbey for example.Read a biography of a Christian who inspires you and pass the book on to a friend.

For example, The Heavenly Man – the story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun.