I completed my retreat today - I have mixed feelings about it.
For one, I signed up for a silent retreat but it turned out not a silent one. Silent retreats are a blessing for introverts like me who sometimes feel drowned in the sea of extroverts, God bless them, they are everywhere!
The theme of the retreat was Friendship with Jesus Through Spiritual Exercises. I tend to be careful about the theme of friendship in relation to Jesus. If I am not mistaken, Jesus does not call himself our friend. He only called us his friends.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
~ John 15:12-17
I have not done much exegesis on this passage yet, but what I can say is that Jesus in calling us his friends is related to his work on the cross, where he laid down his life for us. This friendship is not reciprocal nor chummy, which is the danger if we see too much into Jesus as our friend. The context of friendship, I believe, is only in relation to him giving up his life. The language in the passage do not portray Jesus as friend - a friend as we understand it (1) do not command as Jesus is doing here and (2) friends choose each other to be friends, but we did not choose Jesus but he chose us.
I have not fully digested what I read here but it might be useful if you want to think about it more.
With regards to the spiritual exercises, it was described in the website that spiritual exercises will be introduced in the retreat but only one format of exercise was used. It was alright, really - it is quite a good structure though I'd rather have some variety. I know I sound like a whiner, but doing 12 exercises for 3 full days using the same format is really a bit much for me.
But I have had a good experience with God nonetheless. Each of the exercise were accompanied with a symbol and I thought that was good as it will help connect us to the experience we had in each exercise.
The spiritual exercise involve:
1. Preparation - before my prayer place, I consider ____ (e.g. how God created life). I make a gesture of reverence and humility.
2. Opening Prayer - With simple words, I offer my ____ to God/Father/Jesus/the Holy Spirit (e.g. offer my whole life).
3. Desire - I desire to ____. (the one intention of the exercise, e.g. know the the life-giving God).
4. Prayer - imagination contemplation of a related Scripture passage.
5. Conversation using the symbol.
The symbols were presented in the friendship theme but I am going to change it into a broader relationship perspective. Another observation is that I find that not all of the symbols were directly applicable. I don't know...I do not want to have such a critical spirit but yet, these things matter to me. So I am going to make changes as well.
The Circle of My Relationship with Jesus
The Spirit hovers above the water to symbolise God who is the creator
Life that is brimming in the soil to symbolise Gos who is the life giver
My Grandma's Thimble
(anything that belongs to your grandmother or your birth certificate)
The link to my ancestors in our genealogy to symbolise my link to Jesus
My image in the mirror to symbolise God creating me in his image
(I do not know how to change this. This is one exercise that I had the most problem with. I could not carry out the spiritual exercise because I could not relate the image I see in the mirror,i.e. my face, as an image of God. And if the mirror symbol is picked up from 1 Cor 13:12, we have to realise that mirrors at that time are made of cast metal or bronze, i.e. the image that you see will be dim and unclear, and the context of the mirror here is not related to us being created in his image. What do you think will serve as a better symbol?)
The body and the blood of Christ in the coming together as one body of Christ
The ointment "in the alabaster jar" to symbolise that Jesus accepts us
The word of God that God sowed on us as soil to symbolise listening to God
The ring that the forgiving father gave to the prodigal son who returned to symbolise forgiveness
The healing oil that symbolises God's healing power
The towel that Jesus used to wash the disciples' feet to symbolise servanthood
A fruit to symbolise that I am merely a branch of the vine who is Jesus who is the source of everything I have and need
The cross of Christ where Jesus carried my guilt and shame
New clothes to symbolise that I am a new creation and risen with Christ into a new life
Fire on a candle to symbolise the Holy Spirit who is now in me, renewing me everyday in Christ, and bringing the symbols into a complete circle.