I’m half an hour away from leaving for a 24 hour retreat, courtesy of my bishop. This year all the clergy of the diocese have been invited to one of four retreats at our diocesan house and this is the last. The timing of this is ideal, coming shortly after Ash Wednesday and will (I hope) be a good introduction to the rest of Lent.
The practice of retreat in Christianity is an ancient one with an honourable pedigree. THe Desert Fathers, and the Celtic saints, sought isolation in order to confront demons and do spiritual battle within themselves and, as they sought, for the sake of society at large. Jesus, as we remeber at this time of year, used a forty day fast in the wilderness to prepare for the reigours of his public ministry; and that ministry was punctuated by periods of isolation for private prayer and for “timeout” with the closer disciples.
Going into the desert does, of course, pre-date Jesus. For the Israelites the desert was a place of testing. But it also became a place of refuge, somewhere to go when things got tough politically or militarily. It is this balance, I think, that makes retreats so valuable and, as they have become, so popular.
My retreat is unlikely to be a great hardship. I will be well looked after; the accommodation will be comfortable; the food (I am expecting) will be good. Hardly the ascetic life! But I am praying it will be a time for reflection and meeting with God – a time to pause, collect myself (or allow myself to be coolected) and then move on.
May your Lent also be one of blessing and edification.
Finally, I love Rev.’s take on retreats: