Saturday, March 10, 2012

"Everywhere Present and Fills All Things" - Retreat Part 1

A couple of weekends ago we held a mother's retreat for a Catholic moms group of which I am a part.  For the second year I was the organizer of the retreat (I hope I am doing a good job).  I wanted to share what I learned at the retreat.  I will do a few posts in parts containing a summary of the speakers.

The retreat was called, "Come to the Table."  We advertised it as a Eucharist centered retreat.  We had two speakers in person, a Scott Hahn audio, an hour of Eucharistic Adoration and an opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation; and lots of good food and conversation.

It all began last spring when I read For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemman.  I was so inspired.  I wanted to bring this to the retreat.  Most of all, what I wanted to bring to life was the part of the Eastern prayer to the Holy Spirit that says, "O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who are everywhere present and fills all things..."  I wanted those attending the retreat to be given an opportunity to be present with the Lord and then remind them that He does not leave us.  It is we who leave Him.  So by the end of the retreat the ladies would be prepared to be present with the Lord always and take this home to their families.  As moms our days are full of children's, household and wifely demands.  It's easy to lose God's presence amidst the noise and busy-ness of daily life, or is it?

I offered the first chapter of For the Life of the World as an optional reading.  The chapter introduces man, "'Man is what he eats.' With this statement the German materialistic philosopher Feuerbach thought he had put an end to all 'idealistic; speculations about human nature. In fact, however, he was expressing without knowing it, the most religious idea of man" (Pg. 11). To paraphrase further, man, first,  is a hungry being; man must eat in order to live; take the world into himself and transform it into his flesh and blood.

Schmemman's mission was to end the fallacies of religiosity.  He wanted to end notions that our physical life and spiritual life were separate entities and in order to have a spiritual life one had to leave himself and this world behind.  He wanted to end notions that the material was in opposition to the spiritual--that because man eats and consumes to live and has appetites, this is his profane side. However, Christ unites all things in Himself.  Everything Christ did as a human becomes of God.  "In the Bible the food that man eats, the world of which he must partake in order to live, is given to him by God, and it is given as communion with God…All that exists is God's gift to man and it all exists to make God known to man, to make man's life communion with God.  It is divine love made food, made life for man" (Pg. 14).'

"The world is a fallen world because it has fallen away from the awareness that God is all in all" (Pg. 16).  Man uses the world for its own sake and not because God made it and not for the love of God.  "Man's dependence on the world was intended to be transformed into communion with God."  It is only when the divine gifts are received by man in communion with God, received for the sake of God, that we are granted life.

If this is whet your spirit and intellect, I recommend you follow the link above and read the entire chapter.  What Schmemman offers so clearly, what Christ Himself offered, is that communion with God is meant to be unending and filled with His love.

1 comment:

kayleen said...

Great post. I'm glad the retreat went so well.

I want to pick up that book. I see hints of those themes in the Great Lent book, but it would be nice to explore them more in his other book. Schmemman was a great teacher for our time, no?!