Good News Blog

Quiet Day: 48 Women and 4 Degrees of Love

Posted by Barbara Taylor on

On Saturday, November 5th, the St. Constance Chapter of the Order of the Daughters of the King hosted "Women's Quiet Day: On Loving God." Sengel Hall was filled with women from all over the Northwest Arkansas community. In addition to several of us from St. Theodore's, there were women in attendance from Grace Episcopal in Siloam Springs, St. John's in Harrison, St. Andrew's in Rogers, St. Paul's in Fayetteville, St. John's in Fort Smith, St. Thomas in Springdale, FUMC, Bella Vista Community Church, Highlands Methodist and Cross Church in Rogers.

Our presenter was the Rev. Lora Walsh from Grace Episcopal in Siloam Springs. The foundation of Rev. Lora's message was a slim book authored by a 12-century Cistercian monk: On Loving God, by Bernard of Clairvaux. Rev. Lora shared her personal experience with learning to love God more fully - from her time in Nepal to common, everyday moments - as she introduced us to Bernard's Four Degrees of Love. Each degree of love was followed by a spiritual exercise guided by Rev. Lora and group discussion.

A delicious lunch was lovingly prepared by Sue Williams, Diane Landmesser, Ginny Ellison and other helping hands. (Here are links to the recipes for Sue's Lentil Barley Soup and Diane's Pasta Meatball Stew.) The day concluded with a celebration of the Holy Eucharist in the sanctuary.

Following is a Rev. Lora's outline of Bernard's Four Degrees of Love, along with the guided spiritual exercises.

First Degree of Love: We Love Ourselves for Our Own Sake

KEY POINTS

  • Created beings have a natural love for themselves and their fellow creatures
  • This love is foundational for our spiritual growth
  • This love is not selfish

WISDOM FROM BERNARD

"Love is not imposed by a precept; it is planted in nature. Who is there who hates their own flesh?"

"It is only right to share nature's gifts with those who share that [created] nature with you."

SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

Sitting in a comfortable position, close your eyes and move your attention tenderly over different parts of your body - hands, arms, head, shoulders, back, legs, feet. Pause at each part and become aware of the sensations you experience before moving on. Rotate through your body a few times, for 3-10 minutes. Does this practice help you bring greater loving awareness to yourself?

Second Degree of Love: We Love God for Our Own Benefit

KEY POINTS

  • God protects and sustains the world through gifts
  • God's world contains sufficient gifts for everyone
  • God helps us to do things that are good for us

WISDOM FROM BERNARD

"God makes herself lovable and creates whatever else is good. She does it this way. She who made nature protects it, for nature was created in a way that it must have its creator for protector."

"Without being asked God promises to give what is necessary to the one who withholds from herself what she does not need and loves her neighbor."

SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

Bernard names six different gifts that we have received from God throughout our lives: the "natural" gifts of bread (or food), sun and air; and the "nobler" gifts of dignity, knowledge, and virtue. One by one, ponder each of these gifts and thank God for a specific time when one of these gifts came to your rescue, or whey you appreciated each gift especially much.

Third Degree of Love: We Love God for God's Sake

KEY POINTS

  • Prayers for God's help can turn into love of God's presence
  • We love god not because God is good to us, but because God is goodness itself

WISDOM FROM BERNARD

"Our frequent needs oblige us to invoke God more often and approach God more frequently. This intimacy moves us to taste and discover how sweet the Lord is. Tasting God's sweetness entices us more to pure love than does the urgency of our own needs."

SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

Sit comfortably with your hands separated and open on your lap, palms facing up. Take a few minutes to make several prayer requests to God, for yourself and/or others. When you have finished these prayers, settle your hands in the center of your lap with one hand on top of the other, palms still facing up. Spend a few more moments simply sitting in the presence of God. When you have finished, pray with these words:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; wand even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure. Amen. (BCP, p. 234)

Fourth Degree of Love: We Love Ourselves for the Sake of God

KEY POINTS

  • This love includes our whole selves serving God's will
  • This love can feel like melting or dissolving into God

WISDOM FROM BERNARD

"I would say that a person is blessed and holy to whom it is given to experience something of this sort, so rare in life, even if it be but once and for the space of a moment...It is deifying to go through such an experience. As a drop of water seems to disappear completely in a big quantity of wine, even assuming the wine's taste and color; just as red molten iron becomes so much like fire it seems to lose its primary state; just as the air on a sunny day seems transformed into sunshine instead of being lit up; so it is necessary for the saints that all human feelings melt in a mysterious way and flow into the will of God."

SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

Close your eyes and imagine yourself first as a drop of water absorbed into wine, then as a piece of iron in a red-hot fire, and finally as air on a sunny day. Conclude by offering the Prayer of Self Dedication:

Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to thee, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly thine, utterly dedicated unto thee; and then use us, we pray thee, as thou wilt, and always to thy glory and the welfare of thy people; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, p. 832)

Tags: dok, lora walsh, quiet day, women

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