Way of Life: an Exterior Framework for an Interior Journey
Part Three: The ‘Way of Life’ of the Nazareth Community at St. Martin-in-the-Fields –
A Contemporary Path of Discipleship By Emma Bresslaw
In September 2022, Emma Bresslaw joined the Way of Life of the Nazareth Community at St Martin-in-the-Fields. In her previous article she described how silence creates the space to receive God’s love. In this, the last of 3 instalments, she describes how a Way of Life can shape the pattern and focus of our lives and help us become the people that God wants us to be.
A Way of Life has been defined as “an exterior framework for an interior journey”, and, as a keen if decidedly amateur gardener, I think that the best framework to compare it to is a garden trellis. Plants can grow up the trellis and fill it, taking meandering, individual pathways up its structure, some using tendrils to attach themselves, others securing themselves by holding on to other plants, others still needing twine to tie them in. The plants flourish with support and blossom freely or become fruitful as they mature. Imagine your faith as one such climber planted at the base of this trellis. It needs to be secured at the base or else it will have nowhere to climb to, so it is tied into the structure. This is the moment you vow to follow the Way of Life that the trellis represents. As the rose grows, supported by the framework, it flourishes and explores with its side-shoots different directions of growth within the scaffolding that the trellis provides. Some exploration may take the rose beyond the trellis and pruning may be required. Equally well some branches may thrive for a while then die, they too need to be pruned. The result will be a vigorous plant, your faith, that thrives and blossoms in abundance. The trellis allows for free growth, for new shoots to explore different directions, it guides and supports the rose whichever route its growth follows, and it offers support if tempest or storm threaten to blow it off course.
Since joining the Nazareth Community, I have had the confidence to prune some aspects of my life which I know were holding back my growth as a follower of Christ. I have already found that the Way of Life calls me back and recentres me if I feel lost or have doubts about my actions or choices. It is an encouraging support that invites me to try again if I fall short. It accepts me as I am but gently realigns and reorientates me so that my life can continue to be intentionally focused on a pathway towards God. The Way of Life is, I believe, helping me to become the person that God wants me to be by shaping the pattern and focus of my spiritual life. It understands and accepts my past, affirms my present and provides a liberating path for the future.
Before joining the Nazareth Community, I had worked out a rough, informal Way of Life for myself, comprised of a hotchpotch of Benedictine, Franciscan and Ignatian elements. It was sufficient but not entirely satisfactory. The more formal Way of Life which I have now committed to follow sits comfortably alongside the pre-existing rhythm of my daily prayer life but contributes hugely to helping me remaining focused on God in the decisions and actions of my everyday life. In our complex, fast moving, high tech, demanding lives, this is hugely helpful. To faithfully follow the demands of the Way is a challenge, and one to which I am still adapting and have by no means mastered. You could say that this is a cross to carry, but not a burdensome one and one which I cheerfully pick up and take along with me. The periods of silent contemplation built into the fabric of every day ensure that I don’t forget to press the pause button on the clamour of everyday life and listen for the Spirit, the Comforter, who seeks to find me and guide me and be with me.
Part Two: The ‘Way of Life’ of the Nazareth Community at St Martin-in-the-Fields - A Contemporary Path of Discipleship.
In this second of three short articles, Emma Bresslaw describes how silence is creating space for her to be receptive to the love of God.
Part One: The ‘Way of Life’ of the Nazareth Community at St Martin-in-the-Fields,
by Emma Bresslaw.
In this first of three short articles, Emma Bresslaw describes her experience of participating in a contemporary path of Discipleship.
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