A great blessing of this sabbatical time is time for deeper study and learning. My original plan was to audit a course that fit with my “Jesus” them at a local seminary. However, I ran into a roadblock when I found out that none of the local seminaries were offering any advanced courses on New Testament study or Christology this particular semester (of course they all have New Testament 101 but I don’t’ really want to take that again…)
So I thought a bit more about what I really wanted to get out of my study time. One thing was to really dig into the New Testament. I took Greek in seminary and loved it, but didn’t get as far with it as I would have liked. I have always wanted to be able to read the Christian scripture in its original language with some fluency. So, I did some poking around and found a course offered through iTunes U by Dallas Theological Seminary. It has video lectures, interactive elements, and online tests. It’s not a live class, the material is just on the internet to be accessed at any time, so you can do it at your own pace. So that will be one element of my fall study.
The other thing that I wanted was to learn more about Ignatian spirituality and to work through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. St. Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits. He also wrote a book of spiritual exercises, designed to be worked through in a 30 day silent retreat. The exercises are based on the life of Christ. They start out with meditating on Jesus’s birth and go all the way through the Passion and Resurrection. Each day there is a certain scripture passage to meditate on, and specific suggestions given for how to pray. Meeting daily with a trained spiritual director is an important part of the process.
Many people still do this, going to retreat centers like Eastern Point in Gloucester or the Campion Center in Weston which are both well known for their excellent spiritual directors. However, a thirty-day long retreat is probably more than I can manage this fall (or really more than my family can manage – they are already letting me go to Israel for 3 weeks!). Fortunately, St. Ignatius thought of this. In the 19th “annotation” or footnote to his exercises, he said that the exercises could also be done in daily life by praying for an hour or so each day and meeting with a director weekly. Today this is called “doing a 19th annotation retreat”. Once I figured that out, I realized it was a great fit for me but I just needed to find a spiritual director to work with. Blessedly, one of the spiritual directors at Bethany House of Prayer in Arlington Heights was formerly a director at Eastern Point. She has agreed to work with me this fall on a 19th annotation retreat. Since I already love Bethany House (and the Episcopal nuns who live there — they are awesome!) and can walk there from my house in East Lexington, I’m really looking forward to this part of my sabbatical.
If you continue to follow this blog, you’ll be reading a lot more about Biblical Greek, New Testament study in general, and St. Ignatius’ exercises in September and October!