Retreat with Matthew Fox

The weekend of May 25-27 I went to Adelynrood for a weekend retreat with Matthew Fox. When I went into the chapel on the tour of the place, it felt just like Iona. I first remembered the other chapel, a small one where we had sung, and then remembered it was on Iona.  I told Tiziana, and she looked into the distance for a moment, and then said “Yes!”  The art on the walls is fun.  Many medieval type pictures, also some wonderful primitives.  I hear a bird saying “Peter, peter, peter” — familiar from Ohio.  Maybe a cardinal.  A beautiful time of year to be here.  The breeze blows familiar scents my way, I think it must be lilac, again evocative of Cincinnati in the spring time.  (Momentary flash of the screen porch and the terrace where I grew up — I’ve been having odd flashes of the past — places, songs — parts of me waking up and integrating?)

The group is interesting.  Many people are priests or ministers.  There’s even a woman priest ordained as Catholic (by a bishop who’s name is being kept quiet, on a boat in the middle of the Ste Lawrence River because the original church had received a bomb threat.)  There’s another woman, very intense, with a South American flavor, I wish I knew her story. (She was Tiziana, I asked her about herself, and she said that among other things she had developed a new kind of healing and was trying to make sure it got taught to enough people so it could keep going.)

Tonight he quoted Bede Griffiths “Don’t fight existing reality.  Build a new model that makes the old one obsolete.”  I realized that that’s what Neskaya IS, a model of the new reality!  I wanted to raise my hand and say I was Priestess of a small fringe congregation.  That we have no dogma, no god, no allegiance one must swear to.  The only requirement is that you like to dance.  Our defining metaphor is a circle.  Although Neskaya, Inc has a Board of Trustees, and a President, there is no hierarchy of power.  The President of Neskaya has been seen cleaning bathrooms.  When one of our Circle Dancing community was murdered last summer, we held a memorial service to which 50 people came.  There was no structure, we began with a dance that brought us into a circle, and after that it unfolded organically.  People offered poems, stories about our friend, and asked for and offered dances.  I think that’s a testament to the energy field we have created.  Many people say they feel welcomed and at home as soon as they walk into the building.  At Neskaya, we are living the world we want to see.

Matt Fox told us yesterday, that someone he respected from the South American Liberation Christianity had told him “Don’t worry about the Vatican.  It’s going to crumble and collapse like the Berlin Wall did.”  Matt also told us Mussolini’s definition of Fascism: when the corporations and the government are working together.  He also told us about a “secret” group within the Catholic church, called “Opus Dei,” a very fascist organization that apparently has its tentacles in every branch of government.   When he talked about the Vatican crumbling, I had a sudden sense of the chaos we’re living in, the whole thing could crumble and realign in the twinkling of an eye.  It’s all suddenly much more fluid, not so rigid as I had been imagining.

Matthew quotes Hildegarde of Bingen: “Be strong like a tree.”  Each of us is born with a “golden tent” folded up inside, and our life is a journey to set up our tent.

Matthew says a prophet’s primary function is to shake up denial.  He’s good at that.

We did an exercise in communal grief Saturday night.  We got down on the floor on hands & knees, put the top of our heads on the floor to create a sounding chamber.  Then we allowed ourselves to make whatever sounds wanted to come from our solar plexus.  At the end we sat up and toned “Ahhhhhhh….”  At one point we read all the names of people who had been silenced or killed by the Vatican.  There were 101.  The list went around the room, and readers added two more names. Afterward we lined up with candles in our left hands, right hand on the left shoulder of the person in front.  We processed out to the dancing lawn and our firepit with the “pilgrim step” — three steps forward and one step back.  The music was from Ray Price’s Suite about the killing of the Cathars by the Inquisition.  We walked into a circle and continued moving until the music was over.  Then we faced the center and sang “By the Waters of Babylon” while the young people placed 103 small stones (for the silenced) in the sand in the firebasket.  Then we added our candles one by one.  Some people stayed around the fire singing, but I went to bed.

“We’re here to create communities of resistance.”

Sunday morning was Pentecost.  We went to the Chapel for what was called a “Rebaptising” service.  The chairs were set in a circle, a table in the center with the Bread and Wine.  A big blue pottery bowl full of water stood at the chancel rail and completed our circle.  The service was very similar to the one I had gone to earlier.  At one point there was a chance to share.  The words were in the service booklet, so I showed them the body prayer I learned so many years ago.  “Come Holy Spirit!  Fill our hearts with your fire.  Then send us forth, send us forth, and we will renew the face of the earth.”  Then we went up in two lines to the bowl of water, to “rebaptise” ourselves.  Most people dipped their fingers in the water, put it on their foreheads and went on the make the sign of the cross.  I took a double handful of water and tossed it up into the air.  I could see the drops sparkle in the light.  The final dance was a very simple one to a recording of Anya singing “Lord of the Dance.”

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