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Mark
Mark is the Retreat and Conference Center Director.
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As Jean Vanier wrote in Living Gently in a Violent World:

The Word became flesh to bring people together, to break down the walls of fear and hatred that separate people. That's the vision of the incarnation — to bring people together. ...

Maybe the most important thing is to learn how to build communities of celebration. Maybe the world will be transformed when we learn to have fun together. I don't mean to suggest that we don't talk about serious things. But maybe what our world needs more than anything is communities where we celebrate life together and become a sign of hope for our world. Maybe we need signs that it is possible to love each other.

 

Some years ago I read that excerpt of the late great Jean Vanier on a retreat. It resonates with me, especially as we progress from holiday gatherings to the newness of time in this New Year. We’ve gathered. We’ve celebrated. But, alas, have we built communities of celebration?

 Sometimes Christmas parties may seem like “forced fun” insofar as we’re obligated to spend time with folks we may not want to. Sometimes we think the only way we can have a celebration is by having a potent beverage in our hand. But striped of liquid courage or of family obligations, immersed in total freedom how would we choose to love one another? How would we build communities of celebration? In the bleakness of winter how are we going to be a sign that life, and love, and our relational nature is both possible and hope-filled? I, for one, plan on asking a specific question: What do you need? For I believe we can only build community when we know what we’re building with.

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What is Peace?
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Mark  »

December, draped in Advent, invites us to define the word, “peace.”

And so, what is peace to you?

But wait, before you answer that, or to best answer that, perhaps meditate on a few other questions that might lead you to a good definition of peace.

Who are the peaceful people in your life? Is peace accompanied by silence or can it be found among sounds, be they cacophonous or melodic?  When you recall instances you yearned for peace, what were you looking for -- perhaps understanding, calm, love, or togetherness? Lastly, is peace only external; is peace only a gift received or generated outside of yourself or might you be able to find peace inside, receive peace from yourself?

Advent covers most of the month of December and Advent is a time of anticipation leading up to the joy of Christmas, leading up to ‘peace on earth’?  What is peace to you and how do you plan to birth it this season?  

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Share A Cup of Hospitality
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Mark  »

Being hospitable can be a most challenging trait. At the Cenacle we borrow the line from the Benedictines: when a guest comes, Christ comes. The idea being that we must be welcoming and hospitable to all. It is easy to have a very narrow gate, to allow just a few worthy souls to enter and receive your hospitality, at the appointed hour; it is quite another, to have an expansive sense of hospitality, which includes the unscheduled and unexpected.

“Do not neglect hospitality,” Sacred Scripture reminds us, “for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels” (Hebrews 13:2). Again, it can be easy to prepare for the times we expect to be hospitable, when holidays approach or planned gatherings happen. This we know and thus prepare to be hospitable perhaps by cleaning up, making arrangements, by preparing gifts or food especially things our planned guests may like. It’s the unexpected, the welcoming, the hospitality at the many unexpected guests and instances where we didn’t plan to have a comfortable cup of tea ready, or our time expended in listening to another. Try as we might, being hospitable is not dependent on being proactive (though it helps to be prepared). Being hospitable is a mindset, and a choice: a choice to welcome, a choice to share, a choice to lay previous plans aside to honor, help, and welcome another whether or not they are expected. Having a hard time with hospitality? I’ve found that gratefulness is a regular companion with hospitality. Perhaps there are other ways to engender a spirit of hospitality, to encourage us to say yes, and to understand that, whether angels, persons, or Christ himself, when someone approaches us we can choose to be hospitable.

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AUTHOR
Mark  »
A change is not a transition. For instance on September 23, we had the Autumnal Equinox and seasons changed from summer to fall. The change may have happened formally, officially, seemingly at a specific minute or day, but the transition from summer to fall began well before September 23 and continues even today. The earth’s axis has been in transition and continues to transition itself and our seasons. In the North, our daily duration of sunlight has been transitioning from its peak in June through diminishment that leads up to the winter solstice. Trees do not wait for the equinox and all at once shed their leaves; trees transition like all flowers from growth, to bloom, to fade.

It is a shame, or so I believe, to equate transitions with changes. Transitions lead to changes; transitions are the little pieces that crescendo to the change, be it a season, or any other event. What helps me honor the difference between transitions and changes is being observant. Being observant helps me see the transitions around me – and in me. Being observant and seeing transitions helps me prepare for the completed transition, the change, when it arrives. The diminishing sun, the tinges of orange on otherwise green leaves helped me understand the transitioning into fall and the change of season when the time came. 

How are you observing the transitions in your life and in the world around you?

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