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Once again we are pleased to offer a summertime series on “Learning from the Christian Mystics!”

This fourth installment invites us to consider our own prayer life as we look at some of the many forms of prayer in our rich Christian history.

Janna Gosselin will teach about the history and origin of 5 different prayer practices, as well as the Christian mystics who wrote, taught and prayed with each of these types of prayer.

New this year is a practice element in each class! We want our approach to prayer and spiritual formation to be as much transformative as it is informative. Shelley Irvine will invite and lead participants through an explanation and guided practice of each of the five types of prayer, followed by a time for reflection and Q&A.

All women and men are welcome! Please register your attendance at THIS LINK. The classes are offered at no cost; a free will offering will be received.

Deepening Your Prayer Life

Learning from the Christian Mystics 

Introduction

A central tenet of the Christian life is that prayer draws us closer to God. Yet, many of us struggle with this practice. This five week lecture and practice series is designed to help us deepen our own prayer practice through learning about long-held Christian prayer practices and the Christian exemplars who helped to develop them, and through personal practice each week. Each class will offer a lecture segment (led by Janna Gosselin) as well as practice segment (led by Shelley Irvine) so that students can learn of and actually experience these traditional Christian prayer practices.

July 26: The Jesus Prayer

This class will examine the origins of and scholarship behind the Jesus Prayer, a formulaic prayer originating in the Orthodox church and used to quiet the mind and open the heart. Going back as far as the Seventh Century, the Jesus Prayer was discussed in the Philokalia as well as by St. Gregory Palamas. Scripturally, the prayer has its origins in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, Luke 18:10-14. In the practice segment of this class, the students will be given the opportunity to meditatively practice the Jesus Prayer.

August 2: Visio Divina

Visio Divina is a devotional practice whereby one meditates on a Christian piece of artwork or image, and inserts oneself into the story or point of Christ’s life depicted by the artwork in order to draw closer to God. Scholars argue that this practice may have been encouraged by the anonymous monk who composed the Meditationes Vita Christi. In this class, we will explore the medieval text, which is said to have inspired the great medieval artist Giotto. In the practice segment of this class, we will explore the practice of meditating on a piece of artwork as a form of prayer.

August 9: Praying with the Body  

Although Christianity has often had a mixed view of the body, ancient Christians discovered the efficacy of incorporating their bodies into their prayer practices by focusing on the breath and posture. In this class, we will explore the underlying theology, articulated by Gregory Palamas and others, as well learning about hesychastic practices which are meant to draw the head toward the heart. In the practice segment of this class, we participate in this bodily prayer practice in an effort to open our hearts to God. 

August 16: Centering Prayer

Popularized in the 20th Century by Thomas Keating, Centering Prayer is a prayer practice which goes back to the 4th Century, if not before. This class will explore the origins of and theology behind Centering Prayer. Said to have been memorialized first by Gregory of Nyssa, it was also advocated by the anonymous monk in his 14th Century work, The Cloud of Unknowing. In the practice segment of this class, we will engage in Centering Prayer.

August 23: The Prayer of Quiet

The Prayer of Quiet is perhaps most frequently associated with Teresa of Avila, but was also discussed by Francis de Sales and Thomas Merton. It is generally regarded as an intermediary stage in contemplative prayer between affective prayer and the Prayer of Union. In this class, we will explore Teresa of Avila’s discussion of this restful stage of prayer where one fills with peace and learns to delight in God. In the practice segment of this class, we will engage in techniques leading to the Prayer of Quiet.