FRIDAY OF LENT WEEK 1

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Today’s Gospel is: Matthew 5:20-26  ‘If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.’
 
Some people have asked recently about how the Covid Year has influenced me personally. I think I may be in the ten percent of people that research suggests drew overall advantage from it, embarrassing in some ways as it is to say it. 
 
Apparently, sixty percent have been very resilient, some with pre-existing mental illness have suffered intensely and others have experienced episodes of depression and anxiety. Of course, that’s a neat statistical survey that ignores the sacredness of each personal experience and the immensity of the tragedy it has been to some. Most of us over the year have moved across the spectrum of response. A final evaluation may not be meaningful for some years. I know people who have died and those who suffer from long Covid. And I am very conscious that although we have all been buffeted by the same storm we haven’t by any means been in the same boat.
 
When the shutdowns began, I was at Bonnevaux with a warm, lively and loving community. It is a place of great natural beauty and a long history of contemplation has soaked into the land and the buildings allowing it to emit a continuous energy of peace. Over the years I have been travelling a lot. But, whenever I left on a journey, I often hoped, for a moment the day before departure, that something would happen to cancel it. Some people assumed I had become attached to travel for its own sake but that was not true. Yet, once away, I felt at home everywhere and richly blessed by the people and places I visited. When travel ground to a halt I didn’t miss it at all and spent nine months at Bonnevaux mostly contentedly. Between the daily spiritual schedule, being part of what others were going through in community and with sixty-seven national communities as extended family, it was a full life, in fact very full.
 
We felt the need to reach out to those less safe and content than we were. So we developed an online programme teaching and supporting meditation, offering retreats and courses and many speakers and dialogues aimed at helping people make contemplative sense of the crisis. From the feedback, we feel this is worthwhile and it was without doubt an intense but creative time. I discovered the spiritual potential of the internet and also how it could be more demanding of time and energy than the physical dimension. I also felt clearer about the role Bonnevaux was coming into being to serve.
 
Then, when the community decided to take a fallow time at the end of the year, I came to a hermitage on Bere Island and have spent several weeks in solitude. Although I stayed teaching online, life has been very different. I have been able to set my own schedule and meditate longer. It has been, not only a less intense time than before, but it also revived personal capacities for peace and contemplative living that had weakened without my realising it.
 
Covid has hardly been easy but I have suffered far less than many. I hope the graces that unexpectedly emerged will help me in our community better serve those who are looking for meaning in this chaos, peace in their fears and God in their hearts.
 

Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2021

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