There is a story about one of the great Desert Fathers, Moses the Black:

Abba Moses

“It happened that Abba Moses was struggling with the temptation of fornication. Unable to stay any longer in the cell, he went and told Abba Isidore. The old man exhorted him to return to his cell. But he refused, saying, ‘Abba, I cannot.’ Then Abba Isidore took Moses out onto the terrace and said to him, ‘Look towards the west.’ He looked and saw hordes of demons flying about and making a noise before launching an attack. Then Abba Isidore said to him, ‘Look towards the east.’ He turned and saw an innumerable multitude of holy angels shining with glory. Abba Isidore said, ‘See, these are sent by the Lord to the saints to bring them help, while those in the west fight against them. Those who are with us are more in number than they are.’ Then Abba Moses, gave thanks to God, plucked up courage and returned to his cell.”

Interestingly, a few lines later in the same collection we read this:

“A brother came to Scetis to visit Abba Moses and asked him for a word. The old man said to him, ‘Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.’”

What Abba Moses had learned from Abba Isidore he was the able to share himself: “Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.” It is a simple, seemingly unremarkable, bit of counsel. Unremarkable, because it seems as if it is basically counsel to do nothing: sit in your cell. That certainly doesn’t seem like much, and it certainly doesn’t seem like a great ascetical labor or warfare. But within this simple commandment is hidden a rather remarkable and profound bit of wisdom.

When we are battling against temptation, we often start casting about trying to figure out what we can do to make it stop. How do we win this fight? How do we make the temptations go away? These are the thoughts that plague us and drive us, like Moses, looking for relief, for something to do.

But, perhaps counter-intuitively, the very first thing we must learn is not to do anything. “Go, sit in your cell.” Don’t, that is, do anything. Why? Because you don’t yet know what to do, and anything you do will be the wrong thing. At this point any action that we would undertake would be something that we have learned int he past, something out of our old, fallen habits and activities, and these are the very things that got us where we are in the first place, i.e. enslaved to the passions. So, the very first thing that we must do is to do nothing but sit in our cell, not act according to old habits and responses, but to simply wait and watch. And immediately, if we do this, we will learn that this sitting in the cell is not nothing but a very definite and profound something. For to sit in the cell is itself a great act of faith.

If we go sit in our cell, we will discover that the thoughts are still there and that the temptations will not magically go away as if God were to wave a magic wand over us. But if we persist in sitting still, neither running from the thoughts nor giving into them, then the cell will begin to teach us everything, as Abba Isidore promised. It will teach us that the very things within us to which the temptations appeal, our passions, are not truly satisfied with the things with we are tempted, but will, if heeded, leave us defeated, empty, and filled with despondency as they have always done. Furthermore, it will show us the very things that drive these passions and give fuel to the temptations: our fears, lust, desires, and a seeking for comfort and consolation in things that can never comfort or console us. Ultimately, if we persist in sitting in our cell, we will be led to the One and only One who can truly give us comfort and consolation, the One who said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

All of this will be learned only if we sit in our cell and do not act according to all of our typical reactions, which were, as I said, formed in the same processes that shaped and defined our former way of being as slaves to sin. The new way of being, in Christ, will be formed and shaped in the cell like life in the womb. For that is what the cell is, a virginal womb awaiting the Word. Real spiritual life, then, is not something we produce ourselves within ourselves. Our work is to sit, waiting in faith, with patience and hope. And this sitting and waiting is not nothing but a profound something. It is the plaintive cry of the Psalmist. It is the Virgin maiden awaiting, though she does not know it, the arrival of the archangel. And it is even, mysteriously, the watching, piercing gaze of the Father looking for the arrival of the prodigal. For it is God himself, already in us, awaiting our arrival to the heavenly home, our deep heart.

A few days ago, I had a conversation with a man, a recovering alcoholic, who was experiencing a series of traumatic events in his life. In the past his response to such trauma would have been the obvious reaction to drink, looking for comfort and consolation in alcohol. The temptation is ever present, it doesn’t magically go away when someone stops drinking, and the temptation was present as he spoke. My simple and direct counsel to him was not to drink. That might seem like a simple negative, something not to do. It is, rather, the simple and yet profound wisdom of Abba Moses: “Sit in your cell and your cell will teach you everything.” Not drinking means sitting in the cell. And if that is undertaken as a simple act of faith it will become the womb from which the new life in him will be born.

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke, wrote:

“The space within us reaches out, translates each thing. For the essence of a tree to be real for you, cast inner space around it, out of the space that exists in you. Encircle it with restraint. It has no borders. Only in the realm of your renouncing can it, as tree, be known.”

True ascetical life is, to use the poet’s words, “the space within us.” And it is only in this “realm of your renouncing” that anything can be known. Sitting in your cell, not drinking, not looking for comfort and consolation in our old habits and sins, makes the inner space within us a fertile womb which can become, like the Mother of God’s, border-less and more spacious than the heavens when it receives the infinite Word. And it is only there and then that we can know him, and knowing him truly know ourselves for the first time.

Post by Fr. John, Orthodox Church of St John of Chicago.

Coronavirus – living a new life: You can offer all sorts of things as well as prayers.

Her husband is busy in the Coronavirus ward. She is at home with her children, busy with the “usual things”: cleaning, washing, cooking. And she asks herself, “How can I be useful right now?”

concept of housing and relocation. happy big family mother father and kids with roof at a home

I am a mom and I work in a hospital, but now I am home on maternity leave with my other children. My husband, an anaesthetist, has started to work in intensive care with coronavirus patients and this situation worries me all day long. But he comes home happy, not because the situation is not dramatic and delicate, but because he is responding to what reality is asking. Therefore, I have begun to ask myself: how can I be useful to the world, to my friends, how can I be in front of what is happening by spending my days locked up at home with my children who do not give me a moment’s peace? What is my task now?

I was reminded of a passage in Bruce Marshall’s book To Every Man a Penny:

“One could become a cyclist or a footballer only by riding a bicycle or kicking a football, but one could become a saint by doing all sorts of unsaintly things in a saintly manner, the abbé Gaston said. One could offer to God’s greater glory all sorts of things besides prayers. One could offer the depth one dug a ditch or the height one jumped or the way one wore a pretty dress, for if to pray was to work, to work was also to pray.”

Remember: “If you do not see Jesus here, it is because you do not want to”

Then, my usefulness in this difficult circumstance does not lie in thinking I want to be somewhere else, but in offering what I do during the day to those who are sick, for my husband, for those who work in hospitals. And everything acquires a new taste, unimaginable in the dramatic situation in which we are called to live. The usual things like cleaning, washing, cooking, being with my children, which I sometimes happen to do unwillingly, are more precious than before, thinking about those who would like to do them, but who cannot because they are unwell. And the lament is overcome by the conscience that I am called to this now, not before or after, now. I cannot detach this new consciousness of myself from the encounter that, “by its very nature, in time, becomes the true shape of every relationship, the true form by which I look at nature, at myself, at others, and at things”, as Fr. Julián reminds us in his letter to the Fraternity. And now the “virtual” company of my fraternity (we meet via video) is my call to always live the real intensely”.

Roberta, Monza, Italy

 

It’s now clear that COVID-19 is a deadly serious global pandemic, and all necessary precautions should be taken. Still, C. S. Lewis’s words—written 72 years ago—ring with some relevance for us. Just replace “atomic bomb” with “coronavirus.”

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

This May, you can enjoy five days of holiday and spiritual retreat with Dr Micha Jazz from Be Still and Know on Premier Christian Radio.

As well as morning and evening gatherings for reflection and prayer, we shall both be available throughout the day offerng personal spiritual direction and spiritual coaching. We are also happy to host informal conversations on the challenges of prayer during the afternoon. In other words this is a retreat in which everyne can choose the rhythm that best suits their preference.

See details: https://www.springharvestholidays.com/feature-weeks/retreat/

Le Pas Opton offers four-star holiday facilities and quality accommodation in a Christian environment. The Be Still and Know retreat holiday offers the opportunity chance to explore your faith with the support of an experienced Retreat Guide.

Prayer, discussion, meditation plus time to relax in the holiday environment – a perfect combination for spirit, soul and body!

Here in the Oratory our grasp on prayer is improving through practice and reflection and we’re thrilled to see God at work. Prayer is always our response to God as well as our search for enriching God encounter. Join us as together we we seek God’s presence.

https://www.springharvestholidays.com/feature-weeks/retreat/ 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 29: Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant attend a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center on December 29, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Kobe Bryant Dead at 41: How Scandal Turned Him to Catholic Faith and Divine Mercy

“His most inspiring trait,” said singer Cristina Ballestero, “was his decision to turn to his faith in God and receive God’s mercy and to be a better man after a regretful decision.”

 

As we enetr this new year we are pleased to announce our new series of Day Retreats.

These day retreats are each bult around the theme of prayer. As a Home of Prayer, the Oratory is invested in the the purpose and practice of effective prayer. Prayer offers each of us the opportunity to particpate with God in realising God’s Kingdom on earth. Yet, many of us carry questions arising from personal disappointment in apparently unanswered prayers to wondering if words uttered into space can indeed influence present events.

Prayer itself is expressed in many different forms. It is not monotone and therefore monotonous. Rather multi coloured and invites us, those who pray, to explore a tapestry of encounter with the Divine Presence. Each time we turn to prayer is an event through which we encounter God. For prayer is not solely about the influence we might have upon a fractured and failing world but equally the degree to which we are influenced by the reality of the God in whose name we pray.

Please seriously consider taking a day out of your schedule to spend in the presence of the source of life, God. Such a day can refresh your spirit, reignite your passion for God and envision you for the next stage of your journey through life. All details can be found here, and Jayne and I look forward to welcoming you to the Oratory, our Home of Prayer offering Hospitality, Healing and Hope.

Micha & Jayne

It has been quite some time since I blogged. The reason being that Jayne and I have been praying about the direction both for our own ministry and that of the Oratory.

We have been clearly guided by God to focus upon our responsibility to live out the ministry of prayer and contemplation. We believe that God has underlined the importance of our call to oversee this home of prayer. It is our home and interwoven with all the regular realities of life is this call to contemplation and prayer.

Jayne continues currently to work three days a week in her responsibilities serving adults with learning disabilities. Micha continues his pursuit of the contemplative life and works with those seeking spiritual direction and spiritual coaching. many of these individuals find themselves at a cross roads in their lives and once more want to discern all God has for them.

It has also become clear that God is inviting us to discover more about our calling to live by the faithfulness of God. This will prove a challenge, yet we believe that given the times within which we live, there is a danger that confidence in God’s provision, God’s faithfulness is waning. There is a need to recover a rhythm of prayer and rediscover a God who both hears and answers our prayers.

Consequently, much of our work is moving towards encouraging prayer and intercession. This is not simply laying down the challenge scripture presents. It is organising very practical retreats and workshops in how to pray and encounter God. The vision is to see a people of prayer rise up throughout the UK to see their intercessions answered in everyday life.

Our next newsletter will carry more details of this and how individuals might themselves join with us in this call to prayer.

If you have thoughts or want to make contact please email stcuthbertsoratory@gmail.com. God is stirring our hearts, and we are excited at what lies ahead. We know the challenges will prove great and the ground will be contested. yet, we have determined to journey onto the net stage of our journey in search of God’s heart.

Pray for us and this vision, small as a mustard seed yet ready to flourish and see Gods Kingdom break in to our time space world.

Be encouraged and God bless.

 

 

Voice is an initiative organised by Cel Thom and Micha Jazz inviting those over 55 years of age to engage with their destiny in God. In a culture that often fails to value the ageing, it offers a vital component in supporting individuals, couples and groups to identify and realise God’s purpose for them in serving the Kingdom of God in the earth.

On Tuesday July 30, we shall be holding our first gathering in Yapton, West Sussex. For specific details please email Micha.

We shall start our morning at 9:30 and conclude with lunch at 13:00. Clel and Micha will explain their vision and there will be space for conversation, questions and prayer. This we trust will offer encouragement and a deepening of our friendship with God and establish new friendships among ourselves.

A warm welcome awaits you. If you live too far away then contact us as we seek to encourage those of us entering this important season in life and explore how Voice might serve you in your community.

Summer is for us a time for working on the Oratory garden. It’s been a labour of love to create a tranquil space for Quiet Days and Retreats. Many of you have commented on the peace you encounter whilst with us. This is all by the grace of God. It stirs our hearts in prayer and adoration of God.

Oratory Day Retreats

This past year has seen our monthly retreats offer an opportunity for deepening faith and personal encounter with God. We are thrilled at the way our dream of a space for prayer and encounter has taken shape. We also want to respond to other requests made of the Oratory. This coming year we are publishing a new set of monthly retreats based upon the theme of ‘Reawakening Narnia’. We trust you will make the time to set a day aside for refreshment, renewal and envisioning and full details are available on the website. We shall be adding additional dates in 2020 very soon. And if you have a subject that you would like included then please do let us know.

 

Facilitated Conversations

We have also decided to explore running some facilitated conversations to explore critical themes that impact our faith in the world. The first of these addresses the issue of our mortality. In an age in which death has largely been surrendered to the medical profession, ignored and, more often than not, excluded from the public discourse, Dr Mich Jazz and Stuart Lindsell have created three facilitated days exploring the nature of Christian death in contemporary society.

 

Each day offers those with a genuine interest in considering the reality of death an opportunity to explore, in a non prescriptive way, the theology, practicalities and realities of ageing and dying. All are welcome, especially those with experience within the field of death and dying. Whilst the three days complete a series, each day is complete in and of itself so if you are only free for one day then do come along.

 

We are holding these days near Hampton Court, London at The House of Prayer 35 Seymour Road East Molesey Surrey KT8 0PB.

 

Cost: £50.00 per person inclusive of materials and refreshments. Please bring your own packed lunch.

 

Timings: 9:30-16:00 each day. Please email if you would like a flyer and/or to register for a place on any of the days, or the series.

Finally, I have teamed up with an old friend, Clel Thom, and we have launched an initiative for the over 55’s, called VOICE. Ageing calls Caleb to mind. At 80, he told Joshua: ‘I’m just as strong as I used to be. Give me the mountain you promised me.’ Maybe you are asking God for fresh challenge in later life. This is where Voice comes in. We aim to equip God’s Calebs to live on purpose; leave a legacy and to find God’s plans later in life.

 

Prayer

The role of the Oratory is to operate as a Home of Prayer. We pursue this life and are always ready to field your prayer requests. We also invest in praying for our nation and the world as we pass through times of transition and challenge. We very much look forward to welcoming you to The Oratory over the next few months.

Every Blessing, Micha & Jayne

stcuthbertsoratory@gmail.com

www.stcuthbertsoratory.com 

As many know, I broadcast a daily devotion, Be Still & Know, Mondaty through Friday for Premier Radio. I recognise many of us find it a challenge to find a few minutes for God everyday, and this is designed to help us navigate into that Godspace regularly. I’ve included a recent devotion below as a sampler. These devotions are available in print form direct to your front door, or on your favourite mobile device. They are also now available on the app. Podbean as well.

“Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth. Remember me in the light of your unfailing love, for you are merciful, O Lord.”  Psalm 25:7

I vividly remember my rebellious teenage years. I tried to break every convention because I could. I know I caused my parents grief, yet I was proud of my unconventional and disrespectful behaviour. My meeting with God at 19 radically changed the direction of my life.

When I have flashbacks to specific incidents from my past, attitudes towards others, actions that make me cringe and feel deep sadness, it’s difficult to accept that such feelings reflect my current response while God has forgiven me and moved on (Hebrews 8:12). At the very heart of forgiveness is completeness; that is, my debts, my wrongs are cancelled completely.

Often the greatest impediment to my spiritual formation, and hence growth, is me.

I’ve just changed my car after 167,000 miles and 14 years of faithful service. I originally bought it on a loan deal. Once paid, I did not give that debt a second thought. When scrapped, the car bore all the signs of road weariness with many a scrape and dent, something my daughter calls “urban chic”. That’s a phrase I can live with. So it is with my life. It carries the evidence of my past and has its own form of “urban chic”. No matter how I dress things up, my life is completely dependent upon God and his unfailing love. Without it, I would implode.

Forgiving myself and letting God have my past misdemeanours, as well as those misdemeanours done to me, is a challenge for each one of us. Yet as long as we hold onto them, revisit them and seek to repent all over again for them, we fail to appreciate and enjoy God’s unfailing love.

QUESTION

Are there events and memories that you are continuing to hold on to long after they have been forgiven?

PRAYER

Lord, what grace that you look on me through the eyes of unfailing love because of Jesus.

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