The Mystery of Death Retreat at Mepkin Abbey

Last week my father, Mahan Siler, and I trekked from the mountains of western North Carolina to the low country of South Carolina. We joined 12 others for a Wisdom School retreat at Mepkin Abbey, led by Cynthia Bourgeault, on the Mystery of Death, a contemporary Christian classic by Ladislaus Boros. We were welcomed by the monks into their generous hearts and into their daily rhythm of prayer which infuses the grounds. As our week unfolded, it was nestled in this palpable field of Love. Through the power of technology 150 others joined us by Zoom or by listening to recordings of Cynthia’s teachings.

My father is 86 years old. He is a wise elder, a prophetic pastor, an activist, a Camino and Appalachian Trail walker into his early 80’s, and one who continues to mentor clergy, young and old, finding their way as church leaders. He has been visiting Mepkin Abbey for many years, attending retreats convened by Father Geurric, one of the monks who has created a vibrant ministry at the monastery for visiting seekers.

We had been anticipating this father-daughter experience with a powerful knowing that it would continue to weave our hearts together at this stage of our earthly, embodied relationship. It was truly a gift. He sent this poem to me a few days ago, and it captures the heart of the teaching and of the week together for all of us at Mepkin. Let these words and the beautiful photographs from Thomas Teilhard wash over you, and sense the Body of Christ that infuses our world in a dance of Divine Exchange.

To Mepkin Abbey by Mahan Siler

First, a confession:

Until now I have experienced your sacred parts as separate

your creation body
oak trees, branches extending, welcoming

manicured gardens and grasses

Cooper River caressing your borders

your simple, embracing architecture
a worshipping community marinated in Trappist lineage
retreat center, nesting retreats for inner transformation.

Relationships, new and old.

Now, from my last visit, a profession:

You are One

a single organism
an interconnected web

a magnetic system
a relational field of divine energy,

electrical currents of incarnated compassion.

No separation. No fragmentation. No division. No dualism. No either/or.

This time

when experiencing one part of you, I encountered all of you

grasping one thread sent the entire web quivering

to touch at any place joined electricity throughout.

Thank you, Mepkin Abbey, for embodying Christ at every point, the resonance of Spirit renewing.

Jeanine, Cynthia and Mahan

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3 thoughts on “The Mystery of Death Retreat at Mepkin Abbey

  1. PS I really wanted to meet you, Jeanine, and your father and many others in person…. And to be in the embodied presence of Cynthia! Some day.

  2. Ah! Truthfully, I respond with deep resonance….and envy. The oneness you describe, Mahan and Jeanine, I experienced at my first Wisdom School at Kanuga, NC in 2015. The “container” was one, with many parts: silence, beauty, trees and water, kingfishers, chanting, centering prayer, conversation in groups, joint conscious work, eating together and finally eucharist. This Great Oneness, a school in the Lord’s service, knit me into this Wisdom Web. I Therefore I continue to be touched and to resonate. Even on Zoom. But, alas, as you know, it is not the same. Thank you to you disciples who gathered on behalf of the whole web to deepen the Wisdom at the heart of all we tend. I know the fruits will keep coming.

  3. a beautiful account of one of the most moving and powerful weeka i have ever spent in my life. Mahan, Jeanine, Guerric, Thomas, and our entire gathered crerw–on the ground and globally–blessing upon blessing.

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