Desert Spirituality In London And Paris??

Can contemplation thrive in the city? Can the inner victories wrought ?in the desert? shine out in the streets of London and Paris? The Bishop of Woolwich (south London) Christopher Chessun, who once said to me ?Help us bring the desert into the city? joined a small group at the Royal Foundation of Saint Katharine, in the heart of London?s renascent dockland, to explore this in retreat.

He told how had taken his staff to the Jerusalem Community in Paris. The mission of the Monastic Communities of Jerusalem is to live in the heart of the city, in the heart of God. The essence of their vocation lies in Jesus? words ?Father, I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one? (John 17:15). Since human beings are created as the most beautiful likeness of God, the monks and nuns want to meet God in the city, among its inhabitants. Through a life of community and contemplation, revealing God?s presence in the heart of this world, they want to serve and to reach out to all those who seek God. The Bishop outlined the five characteristics of their vocation. This is described in The Jerusalem Community Rule of Life see www.jerusaloem.cef.fr He felt that in contrast to many new and old expressions of ?mission-shaped church?, this faith community never pounced on people. Rather, they lived a life and invited others to enter into it. Their liturgies (which are preceded by 30 minutes of silent prayer) and some meals are open to others. Lay groups of similar age or interest relate to them.

The retreat examined the Sayings, Struggles and Soul Friendships of fifth century hermits in the Egyptian desert, and ways to put their principles into practice in the city; for example by turning city hold-ups into sacred spaces, city frustrations into the arena for spiritual struggles. We tried to meditate in the fast lane. We learned how Francis de Sales taught the practice of the presence of God in busy Geneva, and how John of Kronstadt learned the rhythm of total giving by day and total receiving by night in his hard-pressed Russia sea port. ?Takeaway Food? was the title of the last session ? ten tips on how to experience desert spirituality in busy places.

Posted at 01:33am on 17th February 2008
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