The secular new year has begun…

jos“. . . with weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back.” –Jeremiah 31:9

The secular new year has begun, and I imagine several among us have some new year’s resolutions we hope to keep. What a great opportunity for us to endeavor to commit to daily spiritual practice, as Bishop Curry challenged us to do at our annual convention back in November.

The word consolations caught my eye from our First Lesson today. I remember a spiritual director starting our sessions by wondering how I had been consoled by God. She was drawing from the deep well of the Ignatian* spiritual tradition, which advises us to be intentional about noticing periods of consolation and desolation daily. Moments of consolation occur when we feel energized, drawn more deeply into community, and able to look beyond our own experience to take in the joys and sorrows of others. Moments of desolation occur when we turn inward, get caught in a cycle of negative emotions, and feel drained of energy. By noticing where we experience consolation and desolation, we receive clues about where God is present in our daily rounds and also get information about changes we want to make to walk more closely with the Spirit.

As I go through my days, I encounter figurative and literal weeping in the stories I’m privileged to hear, the poverty of some of our neighbors, and the grip of addiction and mental illness that can seem intractable. But there are also so many consolations: the community of St. Peter’s, our generosity, our worship together, and the privilege of praying for one another.

Perhaps you might think about consolations and desolations you have experienced recently. Or maybe you already have a life-giving daily spiritual practice. As 2014 begins, I’m reminded of Carl Jung’s words: “Bidden or not, God is present.” Spiritual practices help us to “bid God’s presence” and discover God’s many consolations.

– The Reverend Deacon Joslyn Ogden Schaefer, Associate Rector

* Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556) was the founder of the Jesuits. His book Spiritual Exercises has exerted a strong influence on Christian spirituality.