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Vicar's Musings for Easter 6

13 May, 2012

There are two somewhat obscure but delightful Middle English terms used to describe contemplatives, women and men called into a life of prayer: "sitters" and "resters". In a book by the fourteenth-century mystic Richard Rolle, entitled The Mending of Life, this way of life is held up as the greatest of callings. Indeed, Rolle argues, in order to truly receive the intense fire of the Holy Spirit both body and soul must be intensely stilled (chapter 12): "Contemplation is hard labour, but it is sweet, soft and desirable . . .. O noble busyness, which sitters and resters fulfill most perfectly, for those whom the fire of the Holy Spirit enflames need to be in deep rest of body and soul."

Some in our parish community are called into this "hard labour" of prayer, shaping their lives in a profound way around the spiritual discipline of sitting and resting. One of my first pastoral visits as Vicar was to the Community of the Holy Name in Cheltenham. Our connection with the sisters goes back to the nineteenth-century when Fr Handfield was chaplain to the order, and we are blessed to still have strong links, especially thorough Sister Avrill on our pastoral and liturgical teams. Those called to the religious life as monks and nuns are a reminder to us all that prayer matters.

Most of us these days are called into an active rather than a contemplative life. If we are to keep connected to the Holy Spirit, however, we too need to make regular times for sitting and resting. Our daily masses at St Peter's are such times for those who can come. Or alternatively A Prayer Book for Australia has simple services of morning and evening prayer that we can use each day, either alone or with others. Some prefer meditation classes or the practice of mindfulness. It doesn't really matter how we do it, or even how often we do it, what really matters is that we do it. Our faith and wellbeing depends on it.

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

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