As November arrives with its colder days and darker evenings, I always think of it as the time of year for ‘looking back’. At the beginning of the month we celebrate All Saints and All Souls Day – a time when we remember those who have gone before us, that cloud of witnesses who include the named and un-named saints – those we have loved and those whose example we try to emulate. That is followed, this year on 13th November, with Remembrance Day when we gather as churches together to look back and remember those who have given their lives in the defence of liberty, to repent of humanity’s drive to go to war and to pray for peace. The month then ends with our AGM on Nov 20th – a time when we give thanks for the year past and to look forward in God’s grace to the year ahead.
It is good to reflect. It is good to look back, not in maudlin, regretful way, but in rather with a willingness to learn from what has gone before and with an open heart of gratitude to God for all the blessings we have received.
One way to do this on a daily basis is to pray the Ignatian prayer of the Examen. It is a method of prayer which Ignatius thought was the most important one for his monks to learn. He even encouraged them to pray it three times a day – and in hard times even more often! In the Examen, which I pray in the evening (once is enough for me!), I look back over the previous 24 hours and bring to mind the moments I have been aware of God’s presence. These moments are rarely earth shattering – but they are times when my heart has been lifted… perhaps with laughter, a smile from another, a hold of a baby, a giving of time to someone in need, a word of thanks, a task completed. All of these are experienced in love and goodness, and as St John writes – where there is love there is God. I give thanks for each and every one of them.
During the Examen prayer I also write down those moments when I have turned away from God during the past day… when I’ve thought things which are not kind, said something without thinking or followed my ego. And I repent.
Through this daily practice it becomes easier to spot the good moments as they occur… and makes me more aware of God’s presence in the ordinary, in the day to day. It also encourages me to see the world and my life in God’s perspective rather than my own – and that is a positive healthy way to be, particularly when life is so turbulent around us.
I am so glad that each year at Holy Trinity I can look back and name so many positive moments. You will hear more of them at the AGM, but for now I give thanks.
with love, Liz