Roderick’s Rambles


Dazzling Darkness
January 5, 2012, 8:07 pm
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Please see below a small reflection on the theme of dazzling darkness.  Also, if you would like to see a brief Youtube video (5 mins) of Philip in Advent reflection mode, filmed for the diocese of Sheffield, do click on either of the following links or copy and paste them into your address bar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-nLRq2R8dQ&feature=player_embedded#!

Philip’s Christmas and New Year reflection 2011/2012

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” Isaiah 9.2

Why is the feast of the incarnation, the celebration of the embodiment of God in Jesus, celebrated at the most wintery time? In the depth of mid-winter, when darkness comes early and cold is so often the order of the day, there is offered to us another way of looking at things: light in the darkness, the warmth of care and costly love, hope and hospitality, woven into the fabric of the ending of the year.

Gaining inspiration from the biblical tradition and many of the Christian mystics, the late Gordon Strachan – a thought-provoking educator and writer, who died last year – was drawn to the vision of God and to the paradox of the light and the darkness within which God is revealed. He found that such a dazzling darkness” is wonderfully present in Chartres Cathedral in northern France.

Gordon writes: “Chartres embodies perhaps the most profound expression of darkness that the world has seen. For Chartres, even in summer is always dark and yet its darkness is by no means ordinary, for it is a jewelled darkness. It mediates a dappled, jewelled light which comes through countless windows of the most beautiful and priceless stained glass and, quite apart from the biblical stories depicted in them, the colours of the glass itself: the deep reds and blues create a light which is mystical and transforms the vast emptiness of the building into a sacred space.”

From sacred space to Christ within, from the hidden to the arriving God, as we look back into 2011 and then forward into the New Year, we can give thanks for spiritual treasure given and received, rejoiced in and anticipated. At this time of year it is good to name and value people and places, creativity and culture, simple things and stupendous things that have presented themselves and will be likely to inform the future.

Be blessed and guided, comforted and illumined by the extraordinary grace, love and light of God this Christmas and throughout 2012.

Philip Roderick                                                  23 December 2011

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Prepositions as Gateways to Christ Consciousness?
January 14, 2011, 1:49 pm
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The Apeture

The Aperture

This is an invitation for you to join me on a remembering and a quest. The inquiry that I hope may take shape for us – as a response to, and yet of course beyond this blog post – will be one that finds form and texture over a period. What could be involved would be a exhilarating healthy dose of interior acuity and reflective development. Would you be interested in noticing and perhaps charting the extent to which your own following of the Christ path, your own pattern of being, knowing and doing may be further integrated, stretched and nurtured by attending to the subject of our search: prepositions as gateways into Christ consciousness? If so, I would hope to feed in these thoughts, musings and stories to a presentation/workshop/resource that might happen in 2012.

For a good many years I have been fascinated by prepositions. Why? Because of the key role they appear to play on the journey in Christ. There we are.  It’s started already!  “In Christ”. What, for goodness sake, does that mean?  Is the first word of a phrase such as “in Christ”, to be scooted over on our way to the really important word in the phrase? Are phrases such as this to be relegated to the barren wastelands of one of the six impossible things to believe before breakfast? Or could the first word of micro-phrases such as “in Christ” be a conduit to and an indicator of a mystical theology and praxis that weaves its way through the scriptures and great spiritual tradition?

The passionate Paul, in his epistles written to erring, wobbling and sometimes engaging believers, makes so much use of these two words “in Christ”, that the only conclusion can be that something must be going on for the heart as well as the head, for the person as well as the community of faith. I recall wandering along the corridors of my theological college in a sort of personal, blissed-out lectio divina process, muttering two new Greek words from the Pauline epistles which had just been introduced to me: “en Christo”, “in Christ”. I was, and still am, bowled over by their energy, promise, power and evocation. Why such a strong personal response to two wee words? “In”, like so many prepositions – perhaps all – is a relational word; it builds rapport with its connector(s). Paul and so many since, have been profoundly impacted by the mystery compacted in that preposition attached to the anointed one, Jesus the Christ.

A further fascination for me since the early eighties has been the field of consciousness studies. Unfortunately, articles and books, symposia and studies in this discipline are phrased and framed in such intricate and rarified scientific and philosophical language that it is all too easy for the ordinary enquirer to be relegated to the sidelines. And so with me. Yet the word “consciousness” refuses to leave my working vocabulary.  It stays with me as a guide or coach or prompt. I’m not sure what’s going on, but I do know, if only at an intuitive level, that states and stages, levels and dimensions of consciousness have a part to play in how I and we – as individual, community and culture – live, move and have our being.

So, I invite you to explore with me. This inquiry, I hasten to add, is not intended to linger in, or even to visit, the terrain of abstraction. I do hope that, should you be willing to accept my invitation, you might be moved to measure and report your internal and spiritual response to such phrases as “with Christ”, “into Christ”, “through Christ”, “before Christ”, and of course “in Christ”.  On this journey of exploration into the role of prepositions in relational faith, as “partakers of the divine nature” (II Peter 1:4), let’s take up and apply the sound advice from one of his mentors, shared today by Giles Brandreth on BBC Radio 4’s “Desert Island Discs”: “Don’t dabble, focus.” I would be really interested to learn your experience of Christ consciousness, especially that mediated through what we might call a “prepositional relationship”.

The discernment is for us to begin to note with a touch more awareness, how our personal experience – frail, robust, embodied or imaginal –  of encounter with the teaching Christ or the healing Christ, the boundary-walker Christ or the crucified Christ, the risen Christ or the ascended and cosmic Christ, has been aided and leavened by those bridge or gateway words we refer to as prepositions. If the Word is powerful in the Judaeo-Christian tradition , the word will be powerful.  If God invests in Word becoming flesh, it would be highly appropriate if word also might help carry the charge of transformation.



Life Long Meaning
December 26, 2010, 12:00 pm
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There is a perhaps inevitable quest for longevity.  Long life by itself however, is just not enough.  Long health is also critical to make long life full and not simply passable.  But equally crucial to well-being is, I believe, meaning. There is an inside to reality that releases its fragrance when nurtured by love.

The awe-inspiring book by the psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning: an introduction to logotherapy, was first published in 1946 and then, in a revised and enlarged edition, in 1962 (Beacon press) and 1964 (Hodder and Stoughton). Frankl’s seminal work builds upon Nietzsche’s insight: “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.”

Are you interested in longevity, long health and meaning – and how to make all three available to as many as possible? Your reflections and pointers will be most valuable.



Finding the mystical in the mundane: the deep structure of the everyday – Christmas and Epiphany letter
December 19, 2010, 5:40 pm
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Finding the mystical in the mundane: the deep structure of the everyday

At any great festival we are beckoned to come in closer, to create a pause in our pattern and draw near, to watch and pray with particular attentiveness. But what if we choose not to? What could be missed here?

Woven into the tapestry of Christmas and Epiphany preparations and celebrations may well be three gifts: firstly, threads of pure gold for the tapestry of our being; secondly, a fragrance of God that is so distilled, so purified that if we can but slow the pace to breathe deeply, we shall be astonished; thirdly, an aromatic oil of gladness that manifests even within poignancy and sadness. Gold, frankincense and myrrh: gifted by wisdom bearers – some of whom will be a part of our family or workplace, live in our street, or sell the Big Issue by our supermarket.

Within the fragility of our present state, of every present state – from person to nation, from whole earth economy to local economy of our small group, village, town or city – here is the heartbeat of God.  The mundane, our mundane, is the manger to the miraculous. Christ is being born in the deep structure of everyday. Am I, are you, witnessing the labour pains? Are we perhaps able and willing to lend a hand as apprentice midwives?  Or, to shift the metaphor, are we Mary?

In discerning the new life within the here and now, we may be helped by the scripture, saints and mystics. Below are some extracts, prose nuggets that I find profoundly heartening and intriguing. In our travelling light on this road to the healthy birthing of the now, we may discern that our path and our presence is illumined and graced. How? By the simple and well-honed gifts of others who are dwelling deep.  You may wish to take one of these each day to reflect upon and journal a brief response.

At one point in her study, Sister Elaine MacInnes, Roman Catholic nun, Zen Master and tireless worker over the years for The Prison Phoenix Trust, in Oxford, UK and Canada asked the Zen Teacher, Yamada Roshi, what he thought prayer should be for a Christian.  His immediate response was, “It should be the same as for a Buddhist.  Prayer is light sitting in light.”

This story is told on the intro page to Elaine MacInness’ book Light Sitting in Light: A   Christian’s Experience in Zen, ( Fount, Harper Collins 1996).

  • “Enlightened people are…lifted above reason into a bare and imageless vision wherein lies the eternal indrawing summons of the Divine Unity…There, their bare understanding is drenched through by the Eternal Brightness.”

from The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage by Jan van Ruysbroeck, trans by C A Wymschenck, Dom (London: Dent and Sons, 1916) p.185

  • Saint Irenaeus, pivotal early church teacher, wrote that Jesus, “on account of his measureless love became what we are that he might make us in the end what he is.”  And again, “For the glory of God is a living person; and the life of humanity is the vision of God.”

from  Sources Chretiennes (1965) Irenaeus 4.20.7

  • “The desire for, and capacity to meditate – that is to become quiet and centred around an inner core of meaning – is a gift bestowed upon every human being. It is a dimension of the divine seed sown in the heart of each person, awakening a desire to be centred, re-aligned to the fundamental mystery of existence, at peace with reality, a sense of home-coming to one’s true self.”

from Reclaiming Spirituality by Diarmid O’Muirchu, (Gill and Macmillan 1997) p.178

  • “In proportion to the strength and sincerity of the will, in fact, so shall be the measure of success in prayer. As the self pushes out towards Reality, so does Reality rush in on it.  ‘Grace and will’, says one of the greatest of living writers on religion, ‘rise and fall together’. ‘Grace’ is, of course, the theological term for that inflow of spiritual vitality which is the response made by the divine order to the human emotions of adoration, supplication and love; and according to the energy and intensity with which our efforts are made – the degree in which we concentrate our attention upon this high and difficult business of prayer – will be the amount of new life we receive.”

from the chapter “The Place of Will, Intellect and Feeling” in The Essentials of   Mysticism and Other Essays by Evelyn Underhill; (Oneworld Publications, Oxford 1995)  p.85

  • Four or five Contemplative Fire Companions on the Way and a clergy colleague have forwarded this youtube link to me in the past few weeks – Christmas Food Court Flash Mob!  It brought a big grin to my heart and tears to my eyes and I can’t resist sharing it with you on this festival of Christ’s birth: www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXh7JR9oKVE
  • To conclude, I use the paraphrase of the end of the third chapter of the Letter to the Ephesians (vv16-20) by the late Mark Gibbard, Anglican monk and member of the Society of St John the Evangelist, Oxford.

“May we be strengthened by your Spirit in the depths of our being.

May Christ live in our hearts by faith.

With love’s deep roots and firm foundations,

may we, in company with each other, discover

the breadth, the length, the height and depth of Christ’s love,

a love beyond all words, beyond all we can ever understand.

May our lives in the world be enriched with his love.

We are confident you will do more that we could ask or think,

through the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

from  Prayer and Contemplation by Mark Gibbard (Mowbrays 1976) p.173

With every blessing this Christmastide and Epiphany

Philip

Philip Roderick, Community Leader, Contemplative Fire.

This Christmastide and Epiphany missive is sent out to all on the Contemplative Fire database.  It complements the series of four weekly Advent Reflections which, like the Lenten Reflections, are composed by and for Companions on the Way. This year, the Advent reflections were designed by a team from the Contemplative Fire community in Toronto. If you would like to explore, for yourself or another, our community, its rhythm of life and resources, do email jill@contemplativefire.org




The Paradox of Presence
April 23, 2007, 10:05 am
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Spring has sprung, in fact, summer has come (at least in the western hemisphere!).  This is my favourite time of the year, with leaves and blossoms, plants and projects unfolding at a rate of knots.  I become more and more convinced that there is a real urgency to bridge-build between the edge and the hub, the seashore and the city, the green and the grit.  Some of the best exemplars of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, from Jesus onwards, have been able to hold in creative tension service and solitude, concern for the poor and the marginalized, together with care for the earth and the quiet appreciation of beauty.  We are called to go and do likewise.

How can we better honour and uphold this interweaving of compassion and contemplation, this paradox of presence?  This is where two resources can be profoundly helpful: firstly, a spiritual mentor or director; secondly, an authentic commitment to a rhythm of life shared within a community of travelling companions.

Three Questions:  through either or both of these resources, each of us can justifiably be asked three questions: a) how much time am I giving to interiority, prayer in the presence of God?  b) how much time each day or week am I allotting to the study of Spirit-breathed scripture and /or illuminating spiritual or insightful texts, to the deep attentiveness to pieces of music or art?  c) what is the level of my commitment to seek out ways in which joy and hope, creativity and the capacity to celebrate can be translated into communities, sub-cultures and families where the predominant emotion is one of despair or alienation?

The trinitarian dynamic of prayer, study and action, identified above, is challenging and essential.  The pragmatic interweaving of these three form the pattern of belonging and belief that is community in Christ.  This is mystical engagement, contemplative discipleship, dying to self and being filled with God.  This is when the deepest self is given space and fuel to be fully alive to God.



Waves of Prayer
March 2, 2007, 11:15 am
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March 1st, St David’s Day – Contemplation and Intercession – Waves of Prayer

I have been really encouraged by the responses to my first blog.  I am delighted to share this second web log on the feast day of the patron saint of Wales!

I know I need to pray more!  Much, much more.  Why am I waking up on occasion at 2.30am or 3.30am or 4.00am?  It could be that I’m doing too much and not relaxing enough.  It could be that I have two or three tasks of real significance that require concentrated energy and attention.  All these reasons may, at one time or another, be true.  But, just a few nights ago, I knew a different prompting.  I was being called to pray.  To pray in a fuller and profounder and more comprehensive way than I had ever prayed, other than at those times when a dire emergency or crisis gave rise to an intensity of prayer – and then it was more likely to be heartfelt petition (prayer asking for peace, healing, forgiveness or whatever, for oneself) or a particular pleading for a close family member.  This was a call, perhaps a vocation unfolding, to intercessory prayer coming from the heart of contemplative prayer.  This was the summons to lift into God’s presence those in danger, those in distress, areas and people buffeted by the brutalities of political adversity, natural disaster or personal malice.

One strong thread of meaning made itself real to me in those hours of attention to the practice of prayer: it was the metaphor of waves of prayer.  Jill and I love the sea, and the particular liminality of the seashore.  The ocean is massive, outrageous, strong and evocative of many emotions, aspirations, vulnerabilities and delights. I saw a stormy sea, wind buffeting in towards the land, waves high and green-white, dramatic and beautiful.  What I saw were necessary waves of prayer.  These waves were an emergence from the heart of the divine to the outer reaches of human culture and of the fragile planet. The ocean is the energy, the ontology, the being of God; the wind is Spirit, blowing where it wills; the waves are the sometimes tiny, sometimes mighty expressions of that energy of love, peace and healing that emanates from God.  The challenge in this picture is that I, and perhaps you too, are called into the midst of this sea of prayer, into its dynamism, into the Christ energy of love.

And so, from 2.30am onwards, I spent some time responding, as best I could, to this invitation to intercession.  I knew that I was being drawn out from my comfort zone into the further self-emptying of the prayer of love.  I knew in the depths of me, with a fresh urgency, that within the parameters and tracery of contemplative prayer there lies an essential, intercessory dimension, which has a momentum for expression. The wordless resting in the presence of God opens into love outpoured. Waves and waves of prayer are vitally necessary now in a topsy-turvy and fractured world.

I share with you two small examples of a prayers of intercession forged from a time of interiority and reflection. Perhaps you might use them sometimes. I wrote the first one on the day when London stopped at noon in silence to remember those killed and affected a week before in the 7/7 bombings. I was at St Ethelburga’s on Bishopsgate, in the heart of London’s financial district. The church bell tolled and thousands upon thousands of office workers and shoppers stood still on the street; even the traffic paused for two minutes. The prayer emerged from a place of personal and corporate stillness, tears and a deep longing for God’s protection and shalom:

Angels of the cities,
angels of the coasts,
angels of the universe,
O you heavenly hosts;
Stand guard over us,
stand guard over us,
stand guard o’er the ones we love,
guide us into Light.

The second prayer again was fashioned in the dark time “long before dawn”.  Jesus often withdrew to pray alone at such times. The biblical and monastic tradition from which we draw so much gives witness that this late/early time and texture is sensitive to prayer:

O energy of grace, O fire of light
let my heart express its longing and its love
for you who are within and without
for the immersion in your essence and your vibrancy
for your flow in the very marrow of my soul
and in the music of my members and molecules.
O Christ, energy of love,
pilot me, indwell me, transfigure me
enlighten me, release me into your being.

Much love,

Philip



New Blog
February 11, 2007, 1:32 pm
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The past few weeks have been fast-paced (in a galloping contemplative sort of way!) and thought-provoking. This regular occasional blog will hope to keep you up to date with some of the practicalities and outcomes of my own “travelling light and dwelling deep”. So, where have Roderick’s Rambles taken me?

Just last week I visited, for the second time, one of Britain’s key prisons. I have been hoping for many years that the Quiet Garden idea could find expression in the prison context. It is my wish that this project, which we are provisionally entitling “A Garden Inside”, will be the fruit of a cooperative partnership between The Quiet Garden Movement, Contemplative Fire and a particular prison. In this case, the prison’s head of training was delighted by the idea and took me to see the concreted courtyard in the area of the prison hospital. Please pray that this initiative finds acceptance by the powers that be, that provision is found to landscape and design the area, perhaps even with a water feature, and that those in custody will discover there, healing, soul nurture and something of “the peace which passes all understanding”.

This term I am involved quite substantively in visiting and assessing a theological course for ordination training. For the past seven or eight years I have been one of the CofE’s Bishops’ Inspectors for theological education. It is a privilege and a challenge. As well as hoping to contribute something, I learn a huge amount. In addition I am able to share something of the vision and emergence of The Quiet Garden Movement, The Well Institute and Contemplative Fire. The quality of people selected to train as readers, deacons and priests is high; their commitment to engaging in the mystery of God at depth is significant and the sensitivity and capability of the staff and tutors who train them is really encouraging. This responsibilty has meant a good deal of travelling, but it will be concluded at Easter!

Earlier this month I spent two days in Exeter working with Rick Cresswell, a professional film-maker, on the last bits of filming and some of the editing of a DVD that I am producing in response to many peoples’ requests. The DVD will be ready by April or May and will be entitled “Sacred Posture: 12 Body Prayers”. One of the foundational commitments of my discipleship and ministry is a holistic approach to faith and life. Integral to a rooted and grounded pattern of prayer, study and action is, to my mind, the exploration of visual, auditory and kinesthetic routes to God. This is all about learning to live in the presence. Body prayer is one of the most powerful ways I have found to assist us on this journey of knowing and unkowing. It was a delight to me, therefore, when a colleague and friend, Susan Blagden, discovered an article on embodiment that I had written for a spirituality journal seven years ago or so. I conclude this, my first ever blog (trumpets sound, or, alternatively “Exit, pursued by bear” as the stage direction in Shakespeare’s King Learwould have it!), with an extract from the article:

Pilgrimage notes – on being present to the now!

As a foetus in the womb and as a newly born baby I am designed to begin where I am. I am raw consciousness, certainly not self-consciousness yet, simply responding. At this point in human formation the wider realities of a larger system of meaning – of my identity, of my beliefs and values and even of my capabilities – are not part of my world. Where I am – within or without my mother’s body – determines everything. This ‘where’ is precisely where we are invited to begin on retreat. But, as you may notice, as soon as the word ‘where’ is mentioned, our minds skip ahead, rushing to entertain pictures of streets or trees, houses or landscapes. We have to remind ourselves to go back a few steps. Back into our first environment, the body.

My body is real

I am still amazed and appalled when I go to conferences and retreats, committees and working groups, to experience with what scant regard the body is held in Christian circles. As perhaps the incarnational faith par excellence, we are massively dysfunctional in our treatment of our own most personal environment. It is no wonder that those outside the Church take us with a pinch of salt. The mood today is holistic. In so many ways this returns us to our Jewish roots, but although in Christian circles we pay lip-service to those full-blooded roots and shoots, those of us who plan and design meetings and conferences remain all too often trapped in a radically disembodied mindset. From this ghastly and continuing situation we can, of course, be liberated. Some retreat organizers and conductors realize their prophetic mandate to resource the whole person, body, mind and spirit, in the context of the whole place in which the participants are set for a day or two. Generally speaking, however, there is much work to be done in honouring the eminently local, the inescapably corporal.

Home Sweet home

The environment – me and my locale – is fundamental. If we start where we are, our first environment is the body and our second environment is our home. Few of us, however, consider that our home could become a retreat. We get used to our homes much as we get used to our clothes. After a while our home becomes warm and well used, practical and comfortable but not evidently mystical – not necessarily a place of deep learning. Each of us knows that our home is not perfect, but then neither is our body and nor is the world, but it is where we are and all that we have got, at least for the moment. But have we realized all that we have got? Can my home also yield mystery, revelation, every day inspiration?We have become accustomed to our home providing the context for eating and drinking, supporting and nurturing, activity and rest. How can we access the extra, yet fundamental, dimension that our home can offer to us, and perhaps even to our visitors? The key question is simple and yet crucial: am I willing to make a mental shift, a paradigm shift as they say, to include, as an extra component in the perception and ordering of my home, a consecrated space? If I am able to make such a commitment, at least once a week if not every day, I shall find myself responding positively and unequivocally to the divine alluring. ‘Be still and know that I am God’. ‘Be still and know that I am.’ ‘Be still and know.’ ‘Be still.’ ‘Be.’

Philip Roderick, Retreats in Transition, The Way Supplement 1999/95, ‘I am here now’, p67

I hope you enjoy Roderick’s Rambles. Do feel free to pass the blog on, together with the link for it, to your friends and colleagues.

Keep praying, keep playing,

Philip