Here we offer you a simple retreat that you can do yourself over a morning, afternoon or early evening.
It combines Scripture, poetry, art and prayer to aid your meditation.
It’s designed to give you some time to be in the presence of God.
It encourages you to reflect on your life at this point in the year.
It enables you to ask for wisdom and peace over the coming months.
“Make humanity your journey and you will arrive at God.” St Augustine.
Blessings on Your Journey
As you begin this pilgrim journey
may your heart be open to surprise.
With reverence, gratitude, and acceptance
may you behold your life each day.
On every step along the way
may hidden goodness come to meet you.
In meditating on your memories
may courage be your companion.
As your life-stories rise up to greet you
may you welcome them home with love.
On every step of your pilgrimage
may you find new grace for living.
From unexpected places in your life
may blessings rise up to anoint you.
As you walk the memory road
may it become a path of transformation.
As you look upon your wounds
may you know the joy of healing.
In claiming the beauty of your life
may you recognise the One
in whose image you are created.
In moving beyond the wounds
may you be able to take up your life
and go on with your living.
Blessings on your journey!
Behold Your Life: A Pilgrimage Through Your Memories by Macrina Wiederkehr.
Ave Maria Press.
We are here, God,
in this moment, in this place
and we thank you that you are here with us.
You know us, God.
We do not have to pretend with you.
In the silence of your love, we bring you
the things that trouble us
that harm us
that make us feel ashamed or afraid.
We give thanks for the things that delight us,
bless us and bring us closer to you.
I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid, more accessible,
to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live, so that which came to me as seed goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom, goes on as fruit.
I will not die an unlived life: reclaiming purpose and passion by Dawna Makova.
Pause to reflect…
You say Peace to the storms of my life
Peace to my troubled heart
Peace to my turmoil
You breathe peace into my trembling
Peace deep into my soul
Peace into my thinking
Peace into my feeling
Peace into my being
Far beyond all knowledge or understanding
you speak Peace
you give Peace
you are Peace.
3 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God
We are, quite naturally
impatient in everything to reach the end
We should like to skip
the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being
on the way to something unknown.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability –
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually –
let them grow,
let them shape themselves,
without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today
what time will make you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accepting the anxiety of
feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
When and where do you need to trust God more?
When and where do you need to trust yourself more at this time?
Woman holding a Balance by Johannes Vermeer. c.1664. (Oil on canvas)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, USA.
We’re in 17th century Holland, at the height of the Dutch Golden age. Dutch trade, Dutch scientific discoveries, military and art were among the most acclaimed in the world. Holland is doing very well. Christianity is changing and there are new ways to portray the Bible. So for 300 years this picture was known as “The Goldweigher” or “Girl Weighing Pearls”. There were similar paintings of this genre such as by Teniers and Pieter de Hooch. Weighing money, gold or jewellery were common themes for artists to paint because of increased commercial and seafaring expansion – which later led to the Dutch East Indies.
Now the word ‘value’ in the 17th century was used only to denote monetary worth whereas now we often use the word value or values to mean anything from our ethos, our principles or our virtues. And the idea of Western values is a very recent concept dating from the 1950s. So, is this painting about the value of money, material goods or something else? What’s it got to do with the Bible anyway?
Well, microscopic analysis, has revealed the pans of the balance to be empty. And there are no loose pearls on the table that would indicate other pearls waiting to be weighed. This might seem trivial but it’s the key to this painting’s true meaning and purpose. What is being weighed – which appears to be absolutely nothing – bears significantly on the meaning of the work, as does the painting behind the woman which provides us with the answer. For “Woman Holding a Balance” as it’s now called, is overtly allegorical and biblical.
The woman stands between a painting of the Last Judgement hung in a heavy black frame in which souls are being weighed, and a table covered with jewellery representing material possessions. The empty weighing scales stress that she’s balancing spiritual rather than material considerations. She’s not wearing any jewellery or drawing attention to herself in the mirror at the top left, unlike mirrors in many paintings which denote vanity this mirror symbolises self-knowledge. Since here, what she’s weighing is the meaning of her own actions; she’s weighing a decision she must make about how she lives her life.
Is she pregnant, full with new life while her weighing scales stand empty? This isn’t clear as there were very few paintings of pregnant women at this time; what we do know is that Vermeer is showing us that a moderate, balanced life leads to salvation. The calmness of the woman shows that she’s able to do this and has chosen the right path.
Notice there’s no tension here despite the graphic road to hell for some of the poor people in the painting behind her – while they will burn in eternal damnation, she doesn’t even flinch. The woman exudes serenity, the painting exudes harmony. This harmony lies in its mathematical composition – our attention focuses on the delicate balance which is dead centre. The woman’s left hand rests on the table to steady her right hand, and her body unites the spiritual painting behind her with the earthly weighing scales in front of her. The complex interplay between verticals and horizontals, objects and negative space, light and shadow result in a strongly balanced, yet active picture.
So what about the painting behind the woman – few truths are clearer in the Bible than that of the Last Judgement. The Old Testament prophets speak of the “Day of the Lord” especially in Joel, Ezekiel and Isaiah. In the New Testament, we’re told about the second coming of Christ as Judge of the world. Jesus describes this in Matthew 24 and 25 with warnings of natural disasters, false prophets, people losing their faith, war being waged and the Church being persecuted, all while Satan thrives – sounds like now really!
Mark, Luke and John talk about the Day of the Lord, the Day of Christ, and the Son of Man and the Last Day.
The Apostles preach about it in Acts. The Last Judgement is mentioned in Romans; 1 and 2 Corinthians; Philippians; 2 Timothy; 2 Thessalonians; James; Titus; Jude, Hebrews, 1 Peter and of course in spectacular fashion in Revelation. It’s also in the Apostles’ Creed as Jesus “ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead… “ The actual date and time of the Last Judgement – we do not know, but we do know that hell is not a trusted meeting place!
Normally in Last Judgement paintings, Michael the Archangel is weighing the souls but here Vermeer purposely places the woman in front of the painting where Michael would be – to show us that she’s taking responsibility not for the weighing of her own soul but of balancing her own judgements. So Vermeer shows us a window into this woman’s heart. And asks us to reflect on our life too. Sometimes life really weighs us down, other times we feel light and free. Let us reflect on the balance or lack of it in our own lives.
What weighs you down? What makes you feel lighter?
Where in your life do you want to redress the balance?
I asked God to grant me patience.
God said No.
Patience is a by-product of tribulations; it isn’t granted, it is learned.
I asked God to give me happiness.
God said, No.
I give you blessings. Happiness is up to you.
I asked God to make my spirit grow.
God said No.
You must grow on your own, but I will prune you to make you fruitful.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
God said No.
I will give you life so that you may enjoy all things.
I asked God to help me love others as much as he loves me.
God said… At last you have the right idea.
Pause in silence to reflect on the retreat as a whole.
Allow any thoughts to drift in and out of your heart and soul.
Thank God for this sacred time in his presence
and for nurturing our souls today.
Your steadfast love, O Lord,
extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your judgments are like the great deep;
you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
A creative resource to help you find God in every room of your home.
Order here: https://www.biblesociety.org.uk/products/room-for-god/