Practice for All Souls Day

A collaboration between Ramon Szeitszam and Bishop Tim Mansfield.

As we come to the end of October, most people’s attention is on the candy and costume festival known as Halloween.

Like most popular, modern holidays, Halloween is a blend of an ancient pagan festival (in this case Celtic Samhain), a medieval church holy day and a liberal dash of 20th-century commercialism. Quite how much of each and where one begins and the others end is a matter of debate.

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Temple Talk

Over the last few months, stimulated by a talk I gave in Boston, an intrepid group of explorers have gathered in an online video chat to explore the details and implications of Margaret Barker’s Temple Hypothesis.

Over a series of conversations, we ranged over a pretty vast range of topics, from the details of Dr Barker’s theory, connections between the NHL material and the First Temple, implications for liturgical practice, connections to the Desert traditions and monasticism, connections between the First Temple and Egyptian ascent ritual and further back to prehistory and the mythology of ancient peoples (which Gordon White explores deeply in “Star.Ships”).

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Advent – Intentions

© Derek Soberal

We’ve now passed into the season of Advent, the preparation season before Christmas. The name comes from adventus in Latin which means the arrival – the physical arrival – of an honoured guest. In the mainstream traditions, it refers both to the commemoration of the birth of Christ and to the anticipated “second coming” of Christ. For gnostic Christians, the future coming of Christ may be more a hope that Christ will arrive within the heart of the practitioner.

Our tradition refers to Advent, like Lent, as a “solemn” season, in other words a quiet season of preparation. For us, in our part of the world, this seems such a paradox. There are so many competing demands as we head into the month before Christmas and summer begins to heat up: parties, invitations to the beach, camping trips, work end-of-year functions. “Quiet”, contemplation, prayer – these things seems a long way away. I have found, in my own life, that respecting the energy of the tradition is important – the more space in my day and my life and myself I make during the solemn seasons the more I can tune into the deep quiet that is always present, thrumming away in the background.

It’s common to call this the “silly season” and I’ve started to wonder whether the reason it always feels so crazy, so out-of-control, is that we’re so caught up in it’s busy-ness and so detached from the sacred that we all go a little nuts.

I’m not proposing that you become a recluse during Advent or that you don’t go camping, but I am suggesting that you develop some firm intentions right now, so that you work this season on your own terms instead of letting it sweep you away. I believe that Advent challenges us to pause, reaffirm our intentions and our practice and step mindfully through the summer, to reinforce our inner work and our prayer life so that we aren’t lost in the rush. How can you establish a daily practice of stepping out of the stream so you can step mindfully back in?

Perhaps you might add some spiritual reading to your morning routine, reassert your meditation practice, add some prayer of gratitude at bedtime, commit yourself to attending a service each week through Advent or simply ensure that each day has some quiet, perhaps a walk in the park, to allow you some space and solitude.

Take a moment today, commit to some practice during the Advent season and get a clear intention to be present to the Peace whenever you can. While you’re there, and perhaps throughout the coming weeks, consider – Who or what comes in the Incarnation? What do you think of Christmas? Who or what are you welcoming?

My blessings on you and your family in this Advent Tide. May Peace find you.


The Practice of Christian Mysticism

This is part two of a workshop about spiritual practice – drawn chiefly from the teaching of Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault. The first part (not recorded) was a short workshop on the practice of Centering Prayer and this second part is a talk about the other key practices.

Building on the Centering Prayer session, this workshop explains three other classic practices in the Christian mystical tradition: psalm chant, lectio divina or sacred reading and the eucharist or holy communion. Christians all over the world sing, read the Bible and attend services – attending to the stillness within these everyday activities reveals a powerful system of transformation practice.