by Sister Jeanette von Herrmann
This “Ode to Joy,” written by Beethoven, with words by Henry van Dyke could be the Spirit Center’s theme song. There are so many lines in this hymn that express the experience of those who come to Spirit Center to quiet their lives, walk more closely with God, and experience the work of the Creator around us in “field and forest, vale and mountain, chanting bird, and flowing fountain.” Whether they come as individuals or as part of a group, our retreatants come seeking God.
The beauty and quiet of our rural setting create the perfect milieu to invite and receive the joy that is planted in our hearts as the love of God grows there. Hearts do “unfold like flowers” before God, not unlike the spring flowers in the meadows above the Monastery. We are so fortunate to have the long beautiful trails that wind through the forest. These are paths that retreatants young and old use to discover God’s blessings. Our deer, quail, blue jays, owls, even feral cats and squirrels speak of the Creator’s vision and choice of astounding diversity of life. We notice how God cares so immensely for them and for each of us.
Joy is the reflection of God’s life, rooted deep within us, and expressed as we, like Christ, become icons or images of that divine life. The various aspects of a retreat contribute to the discovery of that joy and to the experience of God’s abiding love within and around us. The basic component that we at Spirit Center hope to provide for all who join us is that of prayer, a close connection to God expressed in contemplation, the Liturgy of the Hours and Eucharist with the sisters, or simply being in God’s presence. By not talking, not having your phone turned on, not being distracted by conversation [even “holy” talk] our very being can quiet down, our inner jabbering can be reduced, and the Holy Spirit has a greater chance of entering our thoughts and hearts. This silence is what the psalmist refers to in writing, “Be silent and know that I am God” [Ps 46:10]. God also comes to meet retreatants in various other ways. They might be described as “holy activities” and are ways of soothing our spirits so that we can be more open to the divine. These can be walking our grounds, listening to a retreat speaker, participating in art (be it watercolor, icon writing, color books, etc.), absorbing music, meeting with a spiritual companion, or viewing the sunrise or weather moving across the Camas Prairie below us.
Whether it is an individual retreat, a retreat that Spirit Center designs, or a retreat that your group organizes and then requests our assistance, Spirit Center’s hospitality is designed to assist you in finding joy in your search for the holy, and peace as God “calls us to rejoice” so that we may be part of God’s “center of unbroken praise.” Come join us, for a day, a weekend, or even longer.