Saturday 23 July 2011

A Poustinia Experience

Br Torsten and Br Tiago spent the last week on retreat. Many who come to Aylesford comment on its peace and beauty but living here is a different reality. For us to experience that peace and beauty it is good to go to a place that is unfamiliar. Torsten and Tiago went with Fr Damian for a directed retreat with a different format to the rhythm of life here at Aylesford. Each friar, whilst they were away lived in a Poustinia.

 A Poustinia
 Originally a Russian Orthodox tradition, the poustinia was introduced to Roman Catholic spirituality by the Catholic social activist Catherine Doherty in her best-selling book Poustinia: Christian Spirituality of the East for Western Man. Although originating with ancient startsy (wise Russian elders, sg. starets), Catherine's popular book made the concept of poustinia accessible to modern Western men and women. In it, she describes the poustinia as "an entry into the desert, a lonely place, a silent place, where one can lift the two arms of prayer and penance to God in antonement, intercession, reparation for one's sins and those of one's brothers.... To go into the poustinia means to listen to God. It means entering into kenosis — the emptying of oneself." She promotes the poustinia as a place where anyone — in any walk of life — can go for 24 hours of silence, solitude and prayer. Ultimately, however, the poustinik's call is to the desert of one's own heart wherein he dwells with God alone, whether in the workplace or in a solitary locale

Inside the Poustinia
A poustinia cabin or room generally consists of a bed, a table and chair, a cross, and a Bible.

So we each entered into a different and more solitary rhythm of life for five days. The day was punctuated with prayer together and the celebration of the Eucharist but apart from that each was left with their own thoughts. It was a good week, living deliberately in the presence of God and his creation.

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