[more from John Main:]
….[F]aith is not a matter of exertion but of openness.
We need to see faith in this way as openness, and to see it as a positive, creative, sensitive way of being – miles apart from mere passivity or quietism. The effectiveness of all doing depends on the quality of being we enjoy. And to be open implies certain other qualities: such as being still, because we cannot be open to what is here if we are always running after what we think is there; such as being silent, because we cannot listen or receive unless we give our whole attention; such as being simple, because what we are being open to is the wholeness, the integrity of God. This condition of openness as the blend of stillness, silence, and simplicity is the condition of prayer, our nature and our being in wholesome harmony with the being and nature of God in Jesus.
- John Main, Selected Writings
We need quiet time in the presence of God. Although we want to make all our time time for God, we will never succeed if we do not reserve a minute, an hour, a morning, a day, a week, a month, or whatever period of time, for God and God alone.
This asks for much discipline and risk taking because we always seem to have something more urgent to do and “just sitting there” and “doing nothing” often disturbs us more than it helps. But there is no way around this. Being useless and silent in the presence of our God belongs to the core of all prayer.
In the beginning we often hear our own unruly inner noises more loudly than God’s voice. This is at times very hard to tolerate. But slowly, very slowly, we discover that the silent time makes us quiet and deepens our awareness of ourselves and God.
Then, very soon, we start missing these moments when we are deprived of them, and before we are fully aware of it an inner momentum has developed that draws us more and more into silence and closer to that still point where God speaks to us.
– Henri J. M. Nouwen, Reaching Out
[The SSU staff and faculty met yesterday for an afternoon of community discernment. The second paragraph below helped us focus our thoughts for the afternoon.]
Contemplation is an entirely new way of knowing the world that has the power to move us beyond mere ideology and dualistic thinking. Mature religion will always lead us to some form of prayer, meditation, or contemplation to balance out our daily calculating mind. Believe me, it is major surgery, and you must practice it for years to begin to rewire your egocentric responses. Contemplation is work, so much so that most people give up after their first futile attempts. But the goal of contemplation is not success, only the continuing practice itself. The only people who pray well are those who keep praying….
The capacity for nondual seeing that is developed through contemplation allows us to be happy, rooted in God, comfortable with paradox and mystery, and largely immune to mass consciousness and its false promises. This is true wisdom knowing, and it is the job of elders to pass it on to the next generation so we need not start at zero.
[a third excerpt from SSU Field Notes]
Leland: What do you think this thread of discernment has meant for the University?
Lorna: Discernment has been a high value. It’s the grid by which we decide what should happen here, and how it should happen. We listen together. We might argue a lot in the process or have heated discussions or disagreements, but the bottom line is that we do the best we can to listen for how God is inviting us forward…. We’re a Christian university, and it would be easy enough to be anything just in name. But to me, being Christian means following Christ, and we can only follow Christ if we’re listening to what he says.
Leland: And what does that look like for you?
Lorna: I guess it means that when there are hard decisions to be made, it’s not one person making them. It’s the community identifying what the next steps seem to be or what the crisis area is. And we listen in every way that we know how to listen before we make a decision.
– Lorna Jones, financial officer and spiritual director at SSU, in an interview with alumnus, Leland Maerz – from SSU Field Notes
[If you’re interested in one of the few remaining “limited edition” copies of SSU Field Notes (printed by Gaspereau Press) you can order one by sending an email to Lorna Jones]
[This afternoon is the book launch of SSU Field Notes: A Collected Memoir on Canada’s Smallest University. This quote is from an interview with Peter Fitch on what has kept SSU alive]:
…[T]here were two things that have changed us: one is this determination that we could be led intuitively or spiritually. The other thing is that I, maybe more than anybody else, have a complete conviction that each new generation of students has a voice that’s been changing this place….
I think that’s what has changed us. Internally, listening to silence. And listening to students. That’s why this place isn’t stagnant…. The people are changing, the ideas are changing, and to me, it feels like a situation of perpetual growth. I hope that’s true.
– Peter Fitch, from SSU Field Notes (2015)