You are invited to join in a multimedia meditation for a moment of “hush in the rush” this Advent season. The Center for Christian Spirituality at General Theological Seminary and Lifelong Learning at Virginia Theological Seminary collaborated to produce the Advent Meditation Workshop for 2022, and it is available for free to all who want to experience this devotional opportunity.
The primary creator of the workshop is the Rev. Hillary Raining, D.Min., Director of the Center for Christian Spirituality and Affiliated Professor of Ascetic and Liturgical Theology at General Theological Seminary. In the workshop video, Raining leads a 15-minute meditation with prayer, scripture, and reflection. She uses “An Order for Worship in the Evening” in The Book of Common Prayer and the practice of visio divina, or “divine seeing,” with a lit candle. The workshop also provides a printable worksheet for journaling with the meditation.
Building Faith’s editors invited Raining to tell more of the story behind this workshop. Here’s what she shared in response to our questions:
What was your vision for creating this workshop?
In writing this meditation, I drew on my experience as a priest, educator, and mother to design a prayer practice that would fit into my own busy schedule. It is just the right length to help you step out of the harried and hectic pull of this time of year without requiring you to set aside hours at a time to complete it.
Why visio divina? As an educator in spiritual formation, what do you value about visio divina as a spiritual practice?
I have found visio divina (“sacred viewing”) to be a deep spiritual tool for meditation and contemplation. So many of us have a hard time sitting in silence without having our minds wander off. This can be especially true when we shut our eyes and turn inward. It is often assumed that we should try to turn off all our senses to meditate, but leaving our eyes gently open and focused on an object can actually give our “monkey mind” — the part of our brain that seems to swing from thought to thought — something small to engage.
During Advent, that “monkey mind” can be in overdrive. There are countless engagements, tasks, and emotions that vie for our attention. Yet the season itself asks us to sit in simple candlelight (such as with a wreath) to contemplate anew the light of Christ coming into the world. With all those elements combined, visio divina felt like a perfect way to sink into a bit of hush in the rush.
What tips might you offer on how to use this workshop?
I would recommend simply lighting a candle (or watching the one we have filmed for you) and letting the meditation guide you through this time of peace. It is short enough to add into any day, and it would work particularly well after the sun has gone down. One great way to use this guide is to pray with it each week when you light a new candle on your Advent wreath. The printable worksheet can also be a wonderful companion to help ground every week in this season.
What are your hopes in creating this workshop for participants this Advent season?
I would hope that anyone who participates in this workshop would feel as though they have entered into a time of sacred stillness where they can encounter the Holy Spirit.
Any words of wisdom from your experience with this workshop for those who might want to develop meditation guides for their communities in the future?
I always like to recommend to anyone who wants to develop a guide like this to start with their own heart and spiritual longings. What are the issues and needs within yourself, and what spiritual practices have been valuable to your own relationship with God? If God is leading you in this way in this moment, then it can be a vocational call that reaches beyond you to the communities with which you work.
The Rev. Dr. Hillary Raining (she/her/hers) is Director of the Center for Christian Spirituality and Affiliated Professor of Ascetic and Liturgical Theology at General Theological Seminary in New York, New York. She is also Rector of St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania and the creator of The Hive, an online spirituality and wellness community at www.thehiveapiary.com.