Simple Spirituality

Andy Hawes is Warden of
Edenham Regional Retreat House

It helps sometimes to break the components of a Christian rule of lifeinto simple categories. I am grateful to a friend for suggesting the following which he calls the five ‘S’s’. I have found it very helpful as I reflect on the pattern of my daily life and the use I make of my time and other gifts the Lord gives.

The first is STABILITY. This quality in life lies at the heart of the ‘religious’ or ‘monastic life’ but it also one to which every Christian should give close attention. It is very ‘counter cultural’ to resist change and to avoid ‘progress’. In contemporary mind-set ‘stability’ equals ‘forces of conservatism’. There is a wander lust abroad and a great instability in our communities and work place.

This is counter productive to life in Christ. We must therefore always question the value and motive of significant voluntary changes in our life. We learn most about ourselves and the world around us by staying put. It is important to question the ‘need for a change’ – is it to escape from problems of our own making? In the context of community life stability ensures that all relationships and situations must be dealt with – eventually.

The second is SILENCE. Again this is a rare commodity in most contemporary lifestyles. For some of us there is an almost physical dependence on background noise. Silence has always been and will always be the context for the most intimate encounter with the Divine.

This is because silence is also the best point of entry into our deepest self consciousness. Acknowledging that our environment is very rarely silent is a pure sense, it is important to cut out noise where and when one can.

The third is SOLITUDE. Here is a clear echo of Jesus’ own teaching about prayer. ‘Go into you own room and close the door and your Father who sees what is in secret will hear you.’ For many people there are many practical obstacles to establishing a pattern of solitary alones with God – nevertheless it is an aspiration which has as its heart the ‘fact’ of God. The person who chooses to be alone with God is in the very action making a step of faith and opening up a conversation with the Divine.

The fourth is SIMPLICITY the Seventies’ mantra ‘live simply that others may simply live’ is a helpful starting point in feeling the weight of this advice. The Christian life style is one that pares everything down to ‘needs’ not ‘wants’ and includes everything from fasting to tithing, contraception to organic window boxes.

The fifth is SCRIPTURE. The Christian life must be one founded on the Word of God. Here the Christian ‘doth both suck and live’ to quote George Herbert. The scriptures open for us the mind of Christ and provide a light to our path and the food that is heavenly. A life that does not open itself to the light of revelation will surely perish.

As with most simple advice the five ‘S’s’ are challenging and require much thought and prayer in their application, but as a simple aide memoire or as ‘checklist’ for a rule of life they provide a sure and straightforward guide.