This Advent we invite you to commit some time for stillness and to listen for the voice “crying in the wilderness”.
To help and guide us in our prayer and reflection during these weeks, we are looking at the theme of New Beginnings. We look at how our lives can take a completely different path and direction when God enters our story. We remember St Ignatius of Loyola who was so convinced of his path in life until the “cannonball” moment in Pamplona. Here God intervened in his story and his life took a completely different direction. During this time of Advent we reflect on the lives of many people in the scriptures with similar stories. Like Mary we too can have “moments of visitation” in our lives where our plans are turned upside down, for a greater plan. As with Joseph, we too can awaken from “dreams” with a new clarity. And like the Wise Men, we too can be drawn to a new place, the dwelling place of God by the light of a “star”. This Advent we invite you to commit some time for stillness and to listen for the voice “crying in the wilderness”. Some time to become more aware of the opportunities for new beginnings as you walk with God. As we begin our time of retreat let us focus on God’s message to us from the prophet Isaiah “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (43:19)
We start with some practical hints that might help you if you haven’t made a retreat like this before, or act as reminders if you have. You might like to consider these headings: how, where, when, and what.
One question to consider as a “how”, is how long you feel that you are able to devote to each session of the retreat. It’s good to decide this in advance, and try to stick to it. Don’t give up too soon if the prayer seems a little dull, or continue to long if it seems to be going well. The material presented in each of these presentations lasts about 20-25 minutes, but you might want to take more time than this to prepare yourself, or to stay with it afterwards. Just choose a time that you can comfortably fit into your routine.
Under the headings “where” and “when”, you might like to give some thought to what time of day is best for you to pray – morning, evening, or taking a break in the middle of the day? This might also suggest another question – where will you find it easiest to pray and reflect in this way?
Finally, under the heading of “what”, ask yourself what you are making this retreat for. What are the gifts and graces you would hope to receive from God during these times of prayer. Make sure that you start the prayer by asking God for these, and try to be open to whatever else God wants to give you. Many times we do not know what we really need!
When you have taken a while to consider these questions, you’ll be ready to begin this prayerful time of reflecting on new beginnings. Before you start, take a moment to become aware of God’s welcoming gaze of love on you as you meet him in this way. Also become aware of all those others around the world who are praying this retreat alongside you and know that you are part of this worldwide community of prayer.
Consider praying the Advent retreat with others
In following our theme of New Beginnings, this year you might like to consider praying the Advent retreat with others. Perhaps with some friends at home, or in your parish; or neighbourhood; or with work colleagues, as we remember the words of Jesus "where two or three are gathered, there I am with them". (Matthew 18:20). The retreat can be prayed using the audio or text version so it is very suitable for a group. It runs for 5 weeks and focuses on New Beginnings in our lives. Praying with others this Advent might be the start of a “New Beginning” for you.