Advent Wisdom for a Vesperal Age
An In-Person Retreat with
The Rev. John Michael Hayes, PhD, ABPP,
Retreat Theme We are born into history that we did not create and did not choose, even as we know we bear responsibility for its problems. A theologian described our time as a vesperal age, an apt metaphor for our time. Vespers, the evening prayer of the church, is prayed as the light diminishes and night approaches.
We should have no illusion: darkness is upon us and night is fast approaching. We are all desperately aware of the unsustainable and worsening enormity of problems facing us: the escalation of racial tensions, the galloping obscene economic inequalities, the widening political divide, the insanely inadequate responses to looming ecological disaster, and the very real threat once again of world war. The poet Yeats’ indictment of our age was eerily prophetic: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned. The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
Advent reminds us of our collective weariness with our entrapment in our declining culture, and arouses our anticipation of radical change, of new light, and of new beginnings. From a distant age very like our own, the mystic Meister Eckhart speaks to our distress and our longing, and points a way forward. Eckhart calls us to wake up to the ‘really real.’ That is, to the reality of God beyond all our idols and distractions, to wake up to the unfailing nearness of God, the very Ground of our being. He reminds us that the birth of Christ means nothing if that birth is not experienced even now within the human heart. Eckhart tells us that authentic political and social change must begin with a change in consciousness, an awakened heart. Eckhart summons us to share a letting go into God, a discovery of our Ground in God, and a transformative breaking through into God. In this retreat, we will explore Eckhart’s way to God through radical self-knowledge and acceptance.
Presenter Bio John Michael Hayes is a priest of the Episcopal diocese of Maryland. An experienced psychologist-psychoanalyst and spiritual director, John teaches spirituality and pastoral psychology at St. Mary’s Seminary and University, and serves on the psychiatry faculty of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.