Wednesday, 12 December 2012

End of Term

Yesterday was the end of term for the First Year of the Ignatian Spirituality Course. Hard to believe a whole term has gone by! We had a lovely day: the spirituality of St Francis and St Dominic in the morning, and the Body in Prayer in the afternoon. Both connected, of course, and both good topics for this season of Incarnation.

As always, I felt exhausted at the end of the day. The teaching itself, and sharing mince pies with the group at the end of the afternoon, felt good - as did the end-of-term meeting afterwards with my lovely, generous and gifted colleagues. I am so grateful to and for them. Less fun was the flurry of filing at the end of the day. I am not good with bits of paper: they don't like me, I suspect, and always seem deliberately to hide and muddle themselves. But I got the better of them in the end - I think - and left the office with everything (I hope) in the right place.

Then the very welcome offer of a drink with my dear and long-suffering friend J, who took me out and bought me a really undeserved glass of champagne. I am so bad at keeping up with friends (as some who read this might know!) but J is persistent and it was such a joy to catch up and spend time together.  We went to a delightfully eccentric wine bar where among the eclectic bric-a-brac we noticed a Bible perched on a shelf among mismatched vintage jugs and glasses. Pious creature that I am, I couldn't help reflecting on the Word of God, subtly present in the midst of our daily life. How wonderful.

I have grown into a tradition of beginning my journey home by a different route on end-of-term days, and walking over London Bridge before catching my train. Rivers are sacred, liminal places and the Thames has been regarded as holy from prehistoric times, as the votive offerings found there testify. I like to throw in an offering - metaphorically - as I pass over the bridge. When I first did this I would "throw" in all my negative experiences from the term to get rid of them; of course I soon realised that this is not what our ancestors did. They didn't throw in rubbish: they made offerings of precious things, coins and artefacts, to honour the deity. So yesterday evening I stood in the chill wind and looked across the river, up at the majestic Shard and the lights on Tower Bridge and Southwark Cathedral; and I "threw" in:

My joy at a completed term and the thought of holidays to come;
The privilege of being able to teach things I feel passionate about;
Hearing the participants share their insights and learnings and knowing that I've played a tiny part in that;
The gifts, talents, generosity and sheer loveliness of my colleagues and students;
My time with J and the fact we could talk about shopping, dogs, the weather and prayer all in the same breath...

And as I did this, funnily enough all the negative things (there have been plenty of them; I'm not Pollyanna) fell gently away into the river too.

Here's a picture of the Shard from London Bridge (I think), taken at the laser show to mark the Shard's completion back in July. Bit warmer on the bridge then!


  1. I love the idea of making an offering of the precious experiences over the negative. Reminds me very much of the customs surrounding wells. Do these come from the same origins, I wonder?

    1. I suspect they probably do. I think watery places, rivers and wells, have been sacred in most if not all cultures. Such a basic need of life (but powerful and potentially dangerous too), and something we depend on as gift. My challenge is to try to see the kitchen sink in the same way!

  2. Reading this I am suddenly struck by how important the Body in Prayer thing became to me over the three years of the course. That and some of Andrew's sessions has lead me to write a course for my teenager. The unit on Body Image is being done with a group of friends and their children. We are half way through as we paused for Advent. We have spent time thinking about the gift of a physical body and how we use it to encounter God. Teaching it to these young people has deepened my sense of the way I experience the spiritual in the physical.

    And, as I type, I remember the gift of an orange placed in our hands on our last session, three years ago. It was simple but lovely.

  3. Thank you, Julianne. I'd love to hear more about your course. I always enjoy the session on the Body in Prayer and it's very moving to hear how deeply the exercises touch people.

    Yes, we still do the orange exercise!


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