At the heart of the city centre, in the Cloister Garden of Chester Cathedral, is a much-photographed sculpture: ‘Water of Life’. So the two figures in this sculpture – Christ and the Samaritan Woman – were a fitting starting point for our reflective day for Lent, ‘Thirsting for God’.
We welcomed two retreat-givers for this day – Fr Matthew Blake, a Carmelite friar from Boar’s Hill in Oxford, and Gillian Coxhead, from the team of Tabor Retreat House in Preston who is also an A & E nurse. Together, they were a clear example of how people in very different everyday circumstances can draw inspiration from the same fount – here, the contemplative way, as expressed for them especially in Carmelite spirituality, a monastic tradition with ancient roots in the Christian hermits on Mt Carmel.
The morning took us through an exploration of what ‘mysticism’ and ‘contemplative’ might mean, and their sense of spacious, intimate and freeing encounter with the divine, and then what the experience of ‘thirsting for God’ – or thirsting for living water - might be like (with illustration from the writings of Teresa of Avila to help us). In the afternoon, there was time for Q & A, conversation, contemplative silence… and gifts, including a walnut from a tree in Avila.
In a day that involved much to reflect with, we were richly offered ‘living water’ for our living, and a suggestion of how this is available in our own circumstances. Our thanks to Gillian and Fr Matt for coming to Chester to share in this with us, and exploring how ancient wisdom can mean so much to us today.
(If you’d like to explore more about contemplation and silence, you might like our Contemplative Prayer evenings with Chester Cathedral and our Thursday Hub on 30th March with the theme of ‘Discovering Silence’. Please see our programme page for details.)