It is amazing what happens when you change your perspective.
Homily by Fr. Tom Dillon on the scandals in the Church and our challenge to deal with imperfection and sin.
Friday, August 31, 2018
Note: Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology began the fall semester this week with the Intensive Spiritual Formation Week. President-Rector Fr. Denis Robinson, OSB, gave the following opening talk to seminarians.
Opening Talk for Spirituality Week
Anyone can tell you that the major job of any pastor is to help establish the values and the principles by which a community lives. It is an important question for us as well: What are our values? What do we stand for, in both a general way and in a particular way? Of course, we know that in general we stand for the values of the Gospel. We stand for Jesus Christ. But what about the particular way? What about the ways of this community?
Every community is different and while, in a seminary, there are many similar, perhaps for our old hands here even familiar, if at times neglected goals, there are also varied ways of achieving those goals.
What are the values of this seminary? What do we hope to achieve in our time here? Today this question may be more important to ask than ever. There is no one in this room who is unaware of the current climate of crisis facing the Church in the United States. The double blow of the charges laid at the feet of Cardinal McCarrick and the appearance at long last of the Pennsylvania report have brought our Church, in many ways, to its knees, or at least I hope so.
My experience in reading the Pennsylvania report (every last word of it) was one of profound nausea. The report is almost nine hundred pages long. Can you fathom that, nine hundred pages of reporting on the sins of priests and the absolute corruption of a system that sought to cover up their criminal action? It is hard to believe, but it is also important for us to face, and to realize that the Pennsylvania report could probably be duplicated in many regions of the United States. There is, undoubtedly, more to come. That is hard to hear. That is bad news. But you must be asking if there is any possible good news. I know I am.
What does the Church today need? The Church needs what we all need: Conversion. But we might begin that conversation by asking another question: What does the Church have? Overall, I would say the Church has good and faithful priests, we have hard working priests, and we have men who are willing to get dirty and to take chances not for personal glorification, but that the Word of the Lord might be proclaimed in season and out of season. Some of us might say that we are currently out of season. That may be true, but even out of season the Church today needs men who are willing to be authentic shepherds in a time when the occupation of shepherd is, shall we say, underrated, even castigated. The Church needs heroic priests. Will you be those heroic priests?
I would like to think that this is just the sort of men that Saint Meinrad is preparing for service in the Lord’s vineyard. But let’s be honest, even in normal times (if there is such a thing as normality), there are other kinds of priests as well. They are, I believe, a minority, but as we know it takes only one bad apple to threaten the whole barrel. It takes only one encounter with rotten fruit to put us off forever.
Who are these priests? Not only are there those who grossly abuse others, there are also those who look to their own needs and their own values before they look to the needs and values of their flocks. We have some priests who are more like preening peacocks than servants. We have priests who laugh about intellectual pursuits and prayer. We have priests who regularly abuse their bishops’ good names. We have priests who want to be media stars. We have priests who absolutely must have their voices heard. We have priests who look for power and prestige before they look for opportunities for service.
We know those priests exist; they are part of a statistic. They are the men who either end up in the newspapers or in a filing cabinet in the Congregation for Clergy. They are among those who try to ease out of promises and vows made; they are the failures. Fortunately, very few of them are alumni of Saint Meinrad. How do we get to this impasse? How do we engage a formation program, if we engage a formation program, that ultimately produces nothing because it does not offer the Church a priest in the Order of Melchizedek, a man willing to sacrifice everything, especially his ego, for the sake of proclaiming the Glory of God in the Church and do that for the rest of his life?
Here is what we want, here is what I want, not only as a rector but as a faithful Catholic whose Church is hemorrhaging because of the rottenness of a few. I want men who are ready to be crucified with Christ for the sake of the Gospel. I want men who are willing to look for meaning outside their particular tastes in serving the people, a people often, perhaps very often, ungrateful. I want men who are perfectly satisfied with pouring out their lives in anonymity. I want men, we want men, whose hearts are broken not only for their own sins, but for the sins of the world and the sins of the Church. We want men who are willing to shut up and listen every once in a while. We want men who need to know and learn and not think they know everything already. We want men of talent, willing to turn every ounce of that talent for use in God’s Kingdom, proclaiming His reign, His justice, His world. That is what we want. Will we get it with you?
In my remarks today, I would like to focus on two images from the New Testament, touching upon our themes for this spirituality week: The first is from the Book of Hebrews.
Here is the text:
And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
What is the Scripture asking here?
That seems obvious. Our task as Christian men and women is to do good and to share with others. It is also understood in the Word of God that this is a sacrifice, one that is pleasing to the Lord. Sacrifice is not a pleasant word for us to hear at times. That is something that touches the very heart of what we try to do here at Saint Meinrad. It means that true sacrifice, lives poured out, is not behavioral, although it certainly has that quality. True sacrifice is internal; it is about the person within, the person that is not seen at first glance.
One of the things I try to reiterate each year is the need for deep and extended vision. I rehearse this with faculty and staff and I try to convince each of you. Please do not be quick to judge your fellow seminarians. Do not be quick to judge the faculty and staff. There is a great deal happening here that we cannot always see, much less understand. Sometimes that is happening in others, sometimes in ourselves. That means that we have to begin all of our relationships with an act of faith, faith that something is going to unfold, something is going to be seen that is not there at first sight.
I do believe that priests should be good judges of character, but I also believe that arriving at that judgment may take some time and effort. We are going to give you time and we are going to make the effort, but you must do that as well. It also means that the sacrifice of good character also builds toward being an authentic person. When we look back at the problems the Church has faced, and is facing, it is built around men whose characters were essentially flawed and who were not willing or able to seek the help they needed into making themselves complete and whole men.
I will now move on to the Gospel of Luke:
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
We cannot serve two masters. There is a truth there that only comes with maturity. One of the most formidable tasks you face here is learning to live in this truth. You must learn that many of the things you value, many of the things you love, must now be set aside. You are conflicted, having built your life upon certain realities, you are now asked to forsake them, at least some of them. Brothers, I understand that nature within you. I also understand that it is incongruent with the pursuit of a vocation to the priesthood. Formation for the priesthood demands a singlemindedness that is unparalleled in the world we inhabit today.
A true sense of vocation means pursuing an end relentlessly and with such focus of heart, soul and mind that it cannot be set aside, even for a moment. The death of the vocation is doubt. The death of the vocation is duplicitousness. You cannot serve both God and mammon. You cannot serve two masters. The Gospel life calls us to a simplicity, not only acknowledged in simplicity of life, but acknowledged foremost in an unwavering pursuit of the ends of God, the telos of God, which have become our ends, our telos.
What does the Gospel tell us: Do not be anxious. God provides. A test for us today is to ask ourselves how deeply, how thoroughly, we believe that: God provides. The providence of God is a major theme of formation. To a great extent, your success here is dependent upon your willingness to cast all of yourself onto the providence of God. Give everything to God. Give him your hopes and dreams. Give him your cares and concerns. Give him your sin. Give him your virtue. Give him your sexuality. Give him your celibacy. Give him your intellect. Give him your stupidity. Give him your sense of wonder. Give him your depression. Give him your seeking.
Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all of these things will be given to you. Do not be anxious about tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself. Care about yourself today and foster one thing during these coming days: a deeper, more personal, intimate relationship with the Master in prayer. If we have that, we have everything. If we have that, we can overcome anything, including the nastiness of the scandals that are surrounding the Church today. If we do not have that, then we have nothing, no matter how well-stocked our liquor cabinets are.
Brothers, many blessings as we begin this spirituality week. I pray that you take it seriously and that you gain immense benefits from it. Use this time to deepen your resolve and your faith. Use this time to become more fully the man you are called to be. Use this time to love more deeply. Use this time to mend fences both here and at home. Use this time of prayer and reflection on God’s providence to extend that providence to all you know and all you meet. Entertain the unseen God as readily as you entertain one another. Learn from God as easily as you learn from your professors. This week will yield a harvest of as much as you are willing to sow. God has promised and he will do it.
I was fumbling around trying to wrap my mind around the “Nature of God” concept when I decided to look it up. Where would a broken-down, old Lay Cistercian temple of the Holy Spirit look to find out about what our heritage is? The answer surprised even me. It was the Catholic Catechism. https://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church
The astounding thing I realized as I perused it is that it is an excellent spiritual reading book. It is readable, unlike the more scholarly Catholic Encyclopedia contained in https://www.newadvent.org/
Read Psalm 34 and reflect on its wisdom.
1Of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech,* who drove him out and he went away.
2I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be always in my mouth.a
3My soul will glory in the LORD;
let the poor hear and be glad.
4Magnify the LORD with me;
and let us exalt his name together.
5I sought the LORD, and he answered me,
delivered me from all my fears.
6Look to him and be radiant,
and your faces may not blush for shame.
7This poor one cried out and the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
8The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and he saves them.b
9Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the stalwart one who takes refuge in him.c
10Fear the LORD, you his holy ones;
nothing is lacking to those who fear him.d
11The rich grow poor and go hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
I will teach you fear of the LORD.
13Who is the man who delights in life,f
who loves to see the good days?
14Keep your tongue from evil,
your lips from speaking lies.
15Turn from evil and do good;g
seek peace and pursue it.
16The eyes of the LORD are directed toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
17The LORD’s face is against evildoers
to wipe out their memory from the earth.
18The righteous cry out, the LORD hears
and he rescues them from all their afflictions.
19The LORD is close to the brokenhearted,
saves those whose spirit is crushed.
20Many are the troubles of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him from them all.
21He watches over all his bones;
not one of them shall be broken.i
22Evil will slay the wicked;
those who hate the righteous are condemned.
23The LORD is the redeemer of the souls of his servants;
and none are condemned who take refuge in him.
A GATHERING DAY
Yesterday (Sunday), the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) gathered together to meet with the Holy Spirit and share some ideas about our journey in life and how we each have realized that Christ is walking with us each day. Although we realize that each of our paths is different in how we approach reality because of the heritage and life experiences we have had that are unique to each of us, what we do share is our seeking God together based on the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by Trappists monks and nuns. https://www.trappists.org/history-of-the-trappists/
In writing this blog, I am actually doing my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) on the computer and trying to write down what comes to my mind. You might notice that these ideas may be disjointed. All I do is take dictation. This is similar to what the Old and New Testament writers did when reflecting on Christ’s teachings. Are there errors? Possibly. These are the thoughts of a broken-down, old Lay Cistercian and do not reflect any official statements or pronouncements of either the Cistercian Orders or Lay Cistercians.
Let’s go back to the Gathering Day. We were all online, all fifty of us (+ -).
SEEKING GOD WHERE YOU ARE, AS YOU ARE
I will share an exercise I used with the Wakulla Correctional Institution (Florida), Main, and Annex inmates. My purpose was to share my own ways of looking at a deeper view of reality than the World sees. This exercise came from one of my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5)
FIRST: I ask you to look at the photo of a cup and tell me what you see. Look at this for ten minutes and write down everything that you see. Limit your responses to what is actually there. This is the universe of what it is. This is the physical universe in which we humans find ourselves alive. We share this universe with other living things, matter, energy, time, and space. Why is that?
SECONDLY: Once more, look at the photo of the cup and tell me what you see. This time, realize that you can look at it and ask more questions other than WHAT. This is the mental universe, and only humans live in it. No animals, no plants, no fish, no fowl are here. Just us. This is the universe where we look back at the physical universe and ask WHY, WHO, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, AND SO WHAT. These interrogatories distinguish us from all other living species. Why is that? This is where we humans use our reasoning and our ability to choose to help us find meaning and how all of this fits together. Science helps us peer deeper into the truth by using different languages (Mathematics, Logic, Chemistry, etc…) to quantify what is. But this is a different level of reality than just existing. We are given reason for a reason and the ability to freely choose what we discover as the truth and what life is all about. What we choose either limits us or lifts us up to the next level of evolution, to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father.
THIRD TIME: Once again, what do you see? This time think of the cup as the sum of what you have learned from The Christ Principle and what you will present to God as a gift? This is the spiritual universe, one that we inherit but one that takes a dying self to be able to see the contradictions with the World. In baptism, Christ chose you. In Confirmation, you chose the cross as your way to the truth so you could have eternal life.
To be fully human ourselves, we must make sure everyone has a chance to be Pro-Choice. We are the sum of our choices.
I apologize for brushing off the dust of my old Latin texts of the Scriptures. This means “the kingdom of heaven is like…” Matthew 13. The Old Testament was all about the forecast of the one to come, the Messiah. The New Testament is all about the fulfillment of the plan of salvation that shows us what to do once God made known to use our adoption as one to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:36)
Did you know God has a problem (in human terms only), and that is, “How do I tell humans how much I love them to make them my adopted children and how can they claim that inheritance with us in Heaven, which is impossible for the human nature to know, love or serve without blowing out their circuits?”
The Holy Spirit was commissioned to solve the problem, and did He ever. God allowed the energy of the divine nature to permeate and enter humans without destroying their human nature. The tongues of fire came upon the Apostles to give them God’s knowledge, love, and service to share with others that come after them. The Apostles not only received the gift of the Spirit but were given the task to share this energy with others, even though humans were subject to the effects of Original Sin and were prone to commit departures from God’s will. As the Universal collective of those gathered together in Heaven, on earth, and awaiting purification in Purgatory, the Church is the living Body of Christ, which individual members must link into this grace through the Church as linked from Apostles to each other person. This is the continuity of the Spirit, unbroken from Christ and present to us in the Holy Spirit present each time we gather to celebrate the death of the Lord until he comes again in glory.
The Scriptures are the core document, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to show us how to love others as Christ loved us. In a very real sense, God literally reached from divine nature to enter our human nature to give us what we could never have reasoned or attained by ourselves, how to recalibrate our thinking from that of the world to the Kingdom of Heaven, into which we are reborn by Baptism and the Spirit. But what is this Kingdom of Heaven, and what does it look like? Jesus tells us in the Scriptures that no one has seen the Father but only the Son or anyone to whom the Son revealed Him. Jesus is the buffer between what we can never attain, complete knowledge of who God is (Adam tried but fell short). We can only see the Father when we see Christ, and to add to that, we only see Christ when we are present to the Holy Spirit in each of us, those good and those not so good. No one can say Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit. Jesus gives us a clue of what the Kingdom of Heaven is like when he gives stories and parables.
WHAT THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS LIKE
Matthew 13 gives us a picture of how Jesus, as the Master, uses parables to tell us about the kingdom of Heaven. He does not use examples we could not possibly understand but looks around at everyday events and says the kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed. Read one such example of a parable to see how the kingdom of Heaven might just be closer than you think. I have added the footnotes at the end of this Chapter so that you might have some context. May I suggest that you read the following Chapter through very slowly? Let the words and images have a chance to impress your mind. Next, read it for meaning. Again very slowly, identify the types of parables contained. Do they refer to the abstract next life, or are they meant to describe and not make a definitive statement about what is happening now? Third, read it through again to realize that you are reading a description of what your Heaven will be like later on. Remember that the kingdom of Heaven begins for you personally, with your baptism, as you are on earth to learn about what Heaven will be like after you die. You take with you that which you have sewn with the golden thread of Christ.
The Parable of the Sower. 1* On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.a2Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore.3* And he spoke to them at length in parables* saying: “A sower went out to sow.4And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.5Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,6and when the sun rose, it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.7Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.8But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.9Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
The Purpose of Parables.10The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11* He said to them in reply,” “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them, it has not been granted. 12b To anyone who has, more will be given* and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.13*c This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand” 14Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
‘You shall indeed hear but not understand,
you shall indeed look but never see.15Gross is the heart of this people,
they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes,
lest they see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart and be converted,
and I heal them.’
The Privilege of Discipleship.*16“ “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.17Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
The Explanation of the Parable of the Sower.*18“ “Hear then the parable of the sower.19The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.20The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.21But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.22The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.23But the seed sown on a rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold”.”
The Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat.24He proposed another parable to them.“ “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.25While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds* all through the wheat, and then went off.26When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.27The slaves of the householder came to him and said ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come fro’?’ 28He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them ‘p?’ 29He replied, ‘No if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.30Let them grow together until harvest;* then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters “s, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.'” g
The Parable of the Mustard Seed.*31h He proposed another parable to t “em. “The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field.32*i It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.'”
The Parable of the Yeast.33He spoke to them another para “le. “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast* that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.” j
“I will open my mouth in parables,
I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation [of the world].” l
The Explanation of the Parable of the Weeds.36Then, dismissing the crowds,* he went into the house. His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” 37* He said in reply, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man,38the field is the world,* the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one,39and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age,* and the harvesters are angels.40Just as weeds are collected and burned [up] with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom* all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.42m They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.43*n Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.
More Parables”*44o “The kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,* which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.45 Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls.46 When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.47 Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.48 When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away.49Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous 50and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
Treasures New and “ld.51 “Do you understand* all these “hings?” They answered” “Yes.” 52* And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and” he old.” 53 When Jesus finished these parables, he went away from there.
The Rejection at Nazareth.54* He came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue.p They were astonished* a “d said, “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?q55 Is the carpenter’s Son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?r56 Are not his sisters all with us? Where did this man get “ll this?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said “to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his “own house.” s58 And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith.
THE PROFOUND LESSON OF ORDINARY LIVING
Jesus presents the kingdom of Heaven through everyday events, probably those that He had witnessed as he was growing up and learning how to be the Messiah. As God, Jesus possessed absolute pure knowledge of the past, the present, and the future. As humans, Jesus was like us in all things, except sin. If so, he had to learn as we learn, through his senses, with the experimentation of what works and what doesn’t. If Jesus did not experience humanity fully (he emptied himself of his divinity), there could be no appropriate gift of reconciliation with the Father due to the fall of Adam and Eve. Like Mary is the Mother of God and not just the Mother of Jesus, God suffered as we suffer, got cold as we get cold, experienced grief and sorrow as with the death of Lazarus, and underwent the temptation in the Garden of Gethsemani. He was like us in all things but sin. Philippians 2:5-12 describes it this way:
5. Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,*6 Who,*. However, he was in the form of God and did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped.*7 Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness;* and found human in appearance,e8 he humbled himself,f becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.*9 Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name*that is above every name,g10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend,*of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,h11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,*to the glory of God the Father.i.“
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS WITHIN YOU
Jesus uses parables to describe and not define the Kingdom of Heaven because it is beyond the mind’s human experience and capacity to grasp it as God truly is. Christ became one of us to tell us about it in ways that we could understand. If the kingdom of Heaven begins for each individual with baptism and belief in Jesus as Lord, then my Heaven is what I make it now, within each day, within each minute. What follows are some ideas I had when I looked around my life during the past ten days and looked for the kingdom of Heaven.
The Kingdom of Heaven is like… an orange tree in my front yard which was planted from another tree given to us by our friend. This tree produces abundant fruit that is nourishing. We share this fruit with our neighbors and friends so that they may share our plenty. Sharing makes us happy.
The Kingdom of Heaven is my wife’s painting of a rose with watercolors. It gives warmth and beauty to all who see it. They marvel at her creativity and skill at painting.
The Kingdom of Heaven begins now, but so does your Hell, if you so choose it.
The following blog is what I wrote down in my Lectio Divina Meditation several months ago.
I had to swim in the pool at Premier Gym in Tallahassee, Florida. A particularly loquacious former minister was holding court in the pool, telling people what they believed, as someone who fancied himself judge, jury, and executioner. The subject turned to Mary, and he asked about my religion, which I told him. He said, and I quote, “Oh, you belong to the cult of Mary.” I told him I did not consider myself in a cult, but his opinions did not change, accusing me of worshiping Mary and not God. I told him, “If, as you say, I am of the Cult of Mary, and you don’t accept that it is not what I believe, then, by the same logic, you must be from the Cult of John Wesley.” He said he was not a member of any cult. I replied, “and neither am I.” He immediately changed the subject. This encounter got me thinking about how many people can hear the words, Mother of God, and not have an appreciation for the role of Mary in our salvation.
How can Mary be the Mother of God? Mary was the mother of Jesus. Her role was like St. John the Baptist, to prepare the way for the Lord. Mary has a primacy of honor in the Church, not the primacy of authority (that belongs to St. Peter). An unlikely place that helped me explain the role of Mary was the U.S. Army Chaplaincy. As an Army Chaplain, I was assigned to many commanders in my short stint. I learned that the religious program was for all soldiers, not just Roman Catholics. However, I had direct responsibility for the Roman Catholic services for Roman Catholics and their families. It did not matter if soldiers believed or did not. In fact, the religious program belonged to the Commander, who had a responsibility to see whether soldiers had the opportunity to workshop or not. Some Chaplains got along with the Commanders, and some did not. From the wise advice of a great Command Sergeant-Major, I learned early on that I did not have any authority whatsoever as a Chaplain, but I could have tremendous influence if I did not make an ass out of myself. That was some of the most remarkable advice I ever received, and it worked.
When you think of it, Mary was not God and did not have any authority, but, like the Chaplain, she could be a tremendous influence on Christ (and still does). The great advice Mary has for us is, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5)
Take a few minutes and do this exercise. Just answer the questions.
2. How many natures does Jesus have? Name them.
3. How many natures does Mary have? Name them.
Mary cannot be the Mother of the God the Trinity, but she is the mother of Jesus, both God and Man. This controversy was very intense in the early centuries of our formation. The mother of God’s side won this argument. The heresy of Nestorius was based on the belief that Mary was just the mother of Jesus and not God. Mohammed, the Prophet, got his notion of Mary from a Nestorian traveler and incorporated this idea into his religion.
Do Catholics worship Mary? We do not adore Mary, but she does have primacy of honor among believers. Mary is not God; she is a human, like us in all things but sin (God’s grace overshadowed her, and she was filled to the brim of her humanity with the Holy Spirits.
Do Catholics pray to Mary? We only pray to God, through, with, and in Christ. We honor those who have patterned their lives after Christ, such as early Church martyrs. We ask those living as the Church Triumphant before the throne of the Lamb to pray for us to the Father. Some people will never accept this, whether someone should even rise from the dead. (Luke 16:30-31)
From the 11th century, Cistercians and Lay Cistercians had Mary as their Patroness and celebrated that fact on August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. Why does any of this matter? Here are a few of my assumptions.
DID YOU JUST MAKE ALL THIS MARY STUFF UP RECENTLY?
Here is a Marian prayer from the early beginnings of our Catholic Universal Church, c 250. It was in use well before that date.
We fly to Thy protection, O Holy Mother of God. Do not despise our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.
Without comment, here is the prayer of abandonment recited by Saint Charles de Foucauld. He and ten others were raised to Sainthood to be venerated by the Church Universal as worthy of our imitation.
One of the great lessons I have taken away from being exposed to Cistercian spirituality is the sheer simplicity of allowing God to shine on your behavior. This life-giving energy replenishes Faith with grace and conversio morae, growing more like Christ and less like the worldly you.
I will offer my thoughts about the conversion of heart as I understand it from being exposed to the traditional concepts of Cistercian spirituality. Being a Lay Cistercian has taught me to assimilate the practices and charisms of the Cistercian Way and apply them to how I seek God every day with awareness and passion. As is my habit of thinking these days, I look at one reality as having three distinct universes (physical, mental, and spiritual). By depth, I speak of both vertical growth (within the person) and horizontal growth (from point A in time to point B). Like most things in my life, nothing happens without it being purposeful. To move from my false self (sin) to a sustainable life in Christ, I need to rely on habits.
THE HABIT OF CULTIVATING HABITS
The human tendency to form habits in their lifestyles is at the heart of what it means to be a Lay Cistercian and someone who wants to move from where they are to where they want to go. My life has been a succession of habit-forming and discarding. I would always start on the left side and move to the right when shaving. I know people who, when they eat, eat one type of food before moving on to the next one. Habits for humans are habitual. The Art of Contemplation is no exception. My premise is that, like love, contemplation is an acquired skill that takes practice as a Lay Cistercian who tries to seek God each day as I am, and as God is, the formation of habits in my search for God is critical. Each day begins anew because of Original Sin, starting from scratch. I am not the same person because I have accumulated the product of those habits (capacitas dei), but I live in a world where I can progress or regress in my resolve. Habits help me maintain a momentum of spirituality that serves me well most of the time.
Characteristics of a habit as I use it.
TWO TYPES OF HABITUAL DIRECTIONS
Moving Forward: Conversion (moving forward) and Reversion (regressing backward). The question of movement is interesting in the physical and mental universes because there is only one direction humans can move. Biological movement is autonomous; it happens because of our nature as humans. We grow older, not younger. Everything in the physical and mental universes has a beginning and end, so there is insufficient mental energy to propel humans to the next level of evolution beyond our capability and capacity. The mental universe exists to allow us to choose something, but what? Nothing in just the mental universe will allow us to move forward to the enigma that seems to be lurking “out there” but can’t entirely be conquered by science and logic, much less be comprehended in a way that makes sense of what we know is the reality that we can experience with our five senses alone.
Applying the Christ principle, everything I use allows me to make sense of life when I solve using the Divine Equation. My assumption, based on all that I have experienced and assimilated with my reason as meaningful (but just cloudy enough to be blurry, or as St. Paul states, “we see through a foggy glass” ), is that there is the next step to my human evolution, albeit one that is based on my physical and mental universe in which I live. This universe doesn’t make sense when my reasoning challenges the assumptions that there are three universes and that I must enter this third one (spiritual universe), not through the natural section process of the physical universe, but by choice.
Now the choice is not a characteristic of the physical universe, although it is the basis that allows humans to exist. Exist for what? Animals exist, but there is something about the human species that is different. We have collectively evolved our reasoning (we build on what went before). Still, we can now ask the interrogatories (who? why? what? how? where? when?) and receive information that we can group into shared communication or languages. The Sciences are such a language and are unique products of the human urge to take these interrogatories to their limits. Science is wonderful. But something is missing. Human reasoning does not produce the energy needed to move to the next stage of our evolution. It can produce energy to take us to the stars, astounding. Yet with all this energy, we have, or any energy that we discover, we still live in the physical universe, one with a beginning and an end.
The movement to the physical universe is not accomplished through merit or human intervention. There is a power outside of human nature that must share energy with us to “lift us up” to this next level of our human evolution. This spiritual universe is one of choice, but not what you think. The reason we have reason is to choose. Choose what? In this context, we choose the invitation to enter a third universe, the opposite of the one in which we live. This invitation does not come from anyone with human nature because one individual has neither the power nor the intelligence to convert human nature to something more. So, what could be more?
It is the Christ Principle. It is pure energy, love, knowledge, and pure service (the product of pure love). It is God, for lack of a better word. The problem comes when we try to possess God (knowledge is controlled) and control God. Herein lies the problem for human intelligence. God lives in a unique playground without matter, time, physical or mental energy, and space. So, how does that kind of nature communicate with a species that has evolved to the point that it can receive signals from beyond time and make sense of it? Does God speak German? If so, only Germans would understand? Is God male or female (what we humans know), or someone beyond gender, race, ideology, theology, cosmology, and all other “ologies.”
God does not speak with the human tongue or with the human ear. God speaks from the divine heart (love) to humans tuned in with the simplicity of loving others as God (Christ) loved us. In the Old Testament, God established a race to bring this message to all humanity (no favorites). All humans would get a chance at love. This love from God would be the fuel to raise us up (resurrection) to achieve our destiny at the end of our life (the physical and the universe has a beginning and an end). With the spiritual universe, God gives us a choice (saves us) from being confined to mere human constraints resulting from Original Sin. The Christ Principle became human from the security of being God (Philippians 2:5-12) because of love and so that we could share that love with our ultimate destiny, as sons and daughters of the Father. All of this is revealed through Christ (the Messiah). Not all see it. Not all ever know about it. To those who do know about it, it is a lifetime of conversion from our false self (influenced by the effects of Original Sin) to becoming what our nature intended, the fulfillment of our destiny.
II. Moving backward— Reversion is losing ground as a human being. Those who seek to establish a habit of prayer do so within the confines of human nature. Human nature is characterized by having a reason for a reason and also the ability to choose what we think is good for us. Not all our choices are good for us.
B.F. Skinner has a way of looking at and explaining reality called operant conditioning. https://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html I use this way of thinking to help me explain why we choose things that are not good for us. This is the pleasure-pain dilemma at the core of what it means to be human. We share this will all other living things, but there is a difference. Humans can choose against pleasure when our minds tell us it is harmful. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that to be fully human means that whatever we choose to make us happy or fulfilled must be correct, just because we have the right to choose this over that. None of this makes sense when you say you have to go against what makes humans happy or what is pleasurable. In writing about habits and what is meaningful, my premise is that you must go against human nature’s natural inclination to make you happy to be fulfilled as a human being. This only makes sense when I apply the Christ Principle to the reality I see around me.
YOU ARE THE REASON WE HAVE REASON
I look around me (I first knew that I knew somewhere around the Eighth Grade) and ask why I am. What is my purpose? I only live seventh to eighty years unless I get in the way of a car, have cancer, have a heart attack, or have other conditions that can terminate my frailty as a human individual. I care about myself, which I should. I don’t know much at the age of 10 years, but I know I will die in the future. I know that I have a reason for a reason and that my freedom to choose is with some things that are good for me and some things that are bad for me (although I don’t always know why).
Imprinted into all physical and mental, God’s DNA automatically dictates that I am, but with a difference. I can choose NOT to accept anything I don’t want to have as part of my value system. I can even select something terrible, like thinking it is okay to murder anyone I want. No one can tell me I am wrong because each person is their own 80-year-old universe, although only a blip on the monitor of existence.
This freedom gives me power and the illusion of invincibility. My humanity can choose to live with me as a god or give up my freedom and choose a power outside me that has the energy to take me to the next level of existence.
Through other humans, primarily through Jesus the Christ, we learn that God wants me to be an adopted son or daughter and survive the minefield of false steps and promises of the world or walk as an adopted son (daughter of the Father). As Rev. Dr. Billy Graham was fond of saying over and over and over, Jesus is your personal savior. Let that one sink in. I am not you; you are not me; God is not you, and, most certainly, you are not God.
At the core of what it means to be a Lay Cistercian, and thus for me to be authentically human, is conversio morae. The term means:
FACTORS INFLUENCING MY HABITS
NO ONE IS GOING TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO — This classic temptation sets forth choices between the source of power being outside of and more significant than yourself and the source of power being within you. Genesis is an archetypal story of the consequences of choosing me as my own center of reality. The difficulty in judgment comes because I am actually the center of the seventy or eighty years I have existed. I have human reasoning and the freedom to choose good or evil without recrimination from God, but there are unintended consequences to the choices I make. The wages of sin, says Scripture, is death. No one gets away from selecting poorly rather than the truth. This is perhaps one of two or three core temptations that face every human. We face those same temptations Christ faced in the desert, adapted to our life situations. They are:
I. It is God’s playground we seek to enter, so we must use only those rules. We must learn on earth how to love others as Christ loved us. “For yours is the kingdom.”
II. Only God’s energy enables us to fill up in us that is lacking due to our sins and the restitution we owe God for being sinful. Our hearts rest near the heart of Christ to fill up in us that which is lacking. This is prayer. “For yours is the power.”
III. At birth, we are given human reasoning and the ability to choose what is good for us. It is the only gift God lacks, not that God needs it to be fully God, but that it fulfills the love he has for each individual and makes us complete. Jesus’ mission was to give glory to the Father; our mission is to give glory through, with, and in the Son to the Father, using the energy of the Holy Spirit. “For yours in the glory.“
Conversion happens when you are in the presence of Christ and realize that He left the security of God to take on our nature to give all humans a chance to recover from the archetypal sin of pride and use our individual free will to choose God’s will be done on earth as it is in the heavens.
Conversion happens when you know God’s energy in you and not your own (belief).
Conversion is the result of an act of obedience where your will chooses God as the source of all that is, the center of reality. This act of obedience to the will of the Father has, as it types, Jesus the Christ, who struggled to achieve the mission he was given by His Father. (Philippians 2:5-12) Conversion is facing each day as though it is your last, and thanks to God for all his gifts that you don’t deserve. Conversion is seeking God each day purposefully and with
MY GOD IS BETTER THAN YOUR GOD
Adam and Eve messed this one, and so do many newly minted converted persons. The danger in conversio morae is that you anoint yourself as the authentic spokesperson for the Holy Spirit, more infallible than any Pope has claimed. You, and you alone, speak about God and what you speak is God speaking. This conversion is one of aberration and full of pride. When you hear anyone from any religion tell people that they will go to Hell if they don’t follow what they say and do, you know that this is the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees. Read this passage from Holy Scripture for how the author described the intensity of how Jesus felt when he talked about hijacking the Holy Spirit in favor of personal opinion. Read this passage three times, each time more slowly.
Denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees.1a Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples,2* saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.3Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach, but they do not practice.4b They tie up heavy burdens* [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.5*c All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.6*d They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,7greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’8* As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.9Call no one on earth your father; you have one Father in heaven.10Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah.11e The greatest among you must be your servant.12f Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.13*g “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven* before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.*15* “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves.16*h “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’17Blind fools, which is greater, the gold, or the temple that made the gold sacred?18And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’19You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?20i One who swears by the altar swears by it, and all that is upon it;21one who swears by the temple swears by it and by Him who dwells in it;22one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who is seated on it.23j “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes* of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. [But] these you should have done, without neglecting the others.24*k Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!25*l “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.26Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup so that the outside may be clean.27* “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.28m Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.29* “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees,* you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous,30n, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’31o Thus, you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets;32now fill up what your ancestors measured out!33p You serpents, you brood of vipers, how can you flee from the judgment of Gehenna?34*q Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and pursue from town to town,35so that there may come upon you all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the righteous blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.36Amen, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
The Lament over Jerusalem.*37r “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling!s38t Behold, your house will be abandoned, desolate.39u I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
THE DIVINE EQUATION— Like the Collatz Conjecture, I recommend not wasting your time trying to prove the existence of God with human constructs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=094y1Z2wpJg Not only is God unsolvable with the current mental constructs of mathematics and other sciences, but we must use the proofs and measurements of Divine Nature, of which we know nothing, except what Christ shared with us. I call it the Mathematics of Being, for lack of a better idea. Instead, I have devoted my remaining time to seeking God in my daily events. I am using The Divine Equation to discover what it means to be human. The Divine Equation has nothing to do with proving that God does or does not exist. This equation has everything to do with identifying and calculating who I am as an individual living out my seventy or eighty years (actually 81+). Ironically, both the question and this equation’s answers come from outside my human nature, something my life experiences and logical thinking do not consider normal.
My life is about discovering these six questions and their authentic answers before I die. Because each of the six questions depends on solving what came before it, there is a degree of difficulty. It might take a lifetime of trying to discover these six questions, let alone the authentic questions that bring resonance to reality rather than dissonance. I am still trying to reach the bottom of the well with these six propositions. So far, no end in sight. The six propositions that begin to address what it means for me to be human in the context of dissonance are:
Remember, you get both the questions and the correct answers outside of yourself with a power that ties together all that is and enables you to become what you discovered, the next phase of human evolution, the endpoint of all that is. The spiritual universe, which God has to create from our physical and mental universes, allows us to solve the Divine Equation. The spiritual universe does not make sense because its results contradict what the world teaches, even though our humanity can be noble and fulfilling. “There is one Law, that you love one another as I have loved you.” “To be the greatest, you must serve others.” “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” “Take up your cross each day and follow me.” “Love God with your whole heart, your whole mind, and your whole strength, and your neighbor as your self.”
Conversion is not a one-time event. This conversion uses the energy of the Holy Spirit each day to make all things new. Because of the dissonance of Original Sin, we experience not only “conversion” but sometimes “reversion” (sin). Our reason and free will use this power outside of ourselves to choose right rather than easy. It is the battle of the cross and the flesh. (Galatians 5) We can center ourselves in Baptism and have our sins washed in the blood of the Lamb, but our struggle is just beginning, and we cannot survive the onslaughts of the Evil One without actively seeking the help of the Holy Spirit each day. The secret of the Divine Equation is that there is no secret. It is open to everyone to discover. The questions and the answers have already been given to us from a power outside of ourselves. But, as you might suspect, there is a caveat; to discover what is authentic, you must play in God’s playground with God’s Rules, not yours. Luckily, there is only one rule: love others as Christ loved us. That’s all there is, but it takes a lifetime of struggle in the condition we call dissonance or original sin. The conversion happens when I must use my reason and my free will to choose to live as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father. I am accepted (loved) so much that Jesus became the Christ Principle to allow me to live in three universes and not just two (physical and mental). (Philippians 2:5-12)
CHOOSING WHAT IS RIGHT OVER WHAT IS JUST EASY — Choice has always been one of my favorite topics because the pseudo-choices that the world puts forth seem to tout that a human fulfills our intended purpose in life by choosing those things which elevate our animal instincts over the consequences of choices that seemingly go against our pleasure, our happiness, what makes us powerful and dominant. B.F. Skinner would be proud of those who view the epitome of being human as choosing what is accessible and unencumbered by any pain, sacrifice, or discomfort. https://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html
No one will tell you what to watch on television, how to think, nor even what to think (perhaps for delusional political parties who tend to see freedom as free if you agree with their thinking). Animals are controllable with operant conditioning; we can be controlled by pleasure rather than pain since we come from animal roots.
So, here is the conversion that accompanies this radical proposition from The Christ Principle that you must deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow a way of thinking opposite of the world in which you live. Even though we use words like “peace,” “love,” and “purpose” in the spiritual context, the meanings are totally different. It would be wrong to think that loving others as Christ loved us is somehow against human nature. Instead, if you accept the sign of contradiction as normative in the world you live in, this Rule of Opposites compliments our moving from old or false self to true self. That is conversion. It happens not just one time, but each day, each moment. Those who take the sign of the cross on their hearts are aware that the world’s ways will not lead to the fulfillment of human evolution. (See Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule. https://christdesert.org/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/)
The conversion of which I speak comes from the habit of humility, one which St. Benedict outlined in twelve steps in Chapter 7 of his Rule. This first step is critical because it is the conversion of the heart upon which all other habits depend. It is “Fear of the Lord.” Humility means you realize that, even though Jesus has two natures, divine, and human, you don’t forget this is God underneath humanity. Conversio morae mean that each day, you make a conscious effort to give glory to the Father through Jesus using the power of the Holy Spirit. I find this saying helpful: I am not you; you are not me; God is not you; and you, most certainly, are not God.” Who said that? I just did.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux says three “The three most important virtues are humility, humility, and humility.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux Read more quotations from St. Bernard: https://www.azquotes.com/author/19601-Bernard_of_Clairvaux
The transformation from someone who lives and loves the world as good as possible to that of moving to the next stage of our human evolution happens only with, through, and in the Christ Principle.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF CHRIST BEING REAL AND PRESENT IN THE EUCHARIST– Here is a problem for you to consider using the concept of conversion from one who lives in a reality where there is a beginning and an end but who wants to change realities to live in such a way that there is a beginning but NO end. You must use the resources you have as a human being (remember, you only live seventy or eighty years) with the power that comes from you alone.
SPACESHIP TO FOREVER
I love watching YouTube videos from NASA and SpaceX on how humans will eventually colonize the Moon, Mars, and beyond. I want you to watch what I viewed so that we can both have the same wonderful experience of what it means to board a Spaceship to the Moon/Mars destinations. I used these YouTube videos for comparison purposes with what I propose is another flight, one to the Twilight Zone, in a way, one that is a way that I can convert this mind and soul to live forever. I call this The Divine Equation, for lack of a better term. I noticed a glaring omission in this and many other YouTube programs about space travel. There is no original sin or its effects. Think about it.
Let me share a Lectio Divina meditation I had (Philippians 2:5) on conversion and how someone who is merely human can possibly prepare for the trip to the unknown.
SPIRITUAL LAZINESS LEADS TO A LACK OF FAITH— If you are a boring person, then the life you experience is perceived as boring to you. This is called reactive existence. Proactive existence is living out in front of yourself (“existere” in the LATIN, live out in front of yourself). You purposefully choose your step before you make it. Life is not a problem to be solved nor a yin without a yang. Life is about choosing each day what is authentic in terms of the center that you have chosen for your life and moving forward.
A spiritually lazy person will let life dictate its terms to them; a person full of God’s energy is so full of grace that they cannot keep their joy to themselves. It is like taking a drink of concentrated orange juice. God’s energy is too vital for us to taste it; Christ is the water that dilutes God’s pure energy to the point that we can absorb it into our hearts. This is the Christ Principle, the source of all meaning and the mediator with the Father. Each day, we must be aware of the goodness of God in whatever comes our way and, using our reason and free will, transform ourselves to be more like Christ (capacitas dei) and less like our false selves.
Everything in our physical and mental universes has a beginning and an end. The physical universe is one that we can see and know about using the mental universe. It has both visible and invisible aspects). The spiritual universe takes what is confirmed in the physical universe, using the mental universe of reason and free choice to find out what is meaningful. This meaning is the opposite of what we can learn using only our reason. The spiritual universe begins on earth with my Baptism and continues forever without end.
PREFERRING THE MORALITY OF THE MOMENT TO THAT OF THE CROSS
When you received the sign of the cross on your forehead at Baptism, it became an indelible mark on your soul, one that defines your behaviors or does not. You are now a citizen of the kingdom of heaven and adopted son (daughter) of the Father, and heir to the kingdom, the power, and the glory. When you have left on earth, you prepare yourself to be worthy of God’s trust in you by learning how to love others as Christ loved you. There is a problem. Because you are also a citizen of the World, there is an existential tug between these two worlds. It is a struggle to maintain your adoption because you must still fight the effects of original sin and the complacency that comes from thinking that all this spiritual stuff is so much fluff.
Here are some habits that I try to keep placing and replacing in my consciousness to maintain my center as The Christ Principle. I don’t always think about these habits, but I do them as much as I can think about them, helping me move from my false self to my true self.
THE HABIT OF LOVE-– If love is the purpose of life, why is it so hard to do consistently? It is an acquired habit and one that never ends. Even after death, love is the fuel that energizes life. What I must do is learn how to love others as Christ loved us. I have joined the Lay Cistercians to learn how to love. St. Benedict’s Rule helps many of us focus on the School of Love.
THE HABIT OF FAITH-– Faith is that elusive virtue that, if you don’t have it, you can’t move spiritually, and if you do have it, you are constantly in danger of losing it without God’s energy to sustain it in your heart.
THE HABIT OF SERVICE-– Service is the product of love and faith. If this is a habit, I either do it so often that I don’t even think about it (like driving a car), or service is something that I must work to sustain in my tools of good works. St. Benedict’s Chapter 4 is a good listing of what I must do each day to consciously think of how I can have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5).
THE HABIT OF PENANCE-– Part of what it means for me to be a Lay Cistercian is being a person with a penitential approach to whatever life I have left. A penitential person realizes that this world, although good, isn’t good enough to reach heaven without help from Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is an awareness that even though I have confessed my sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I continue to ask God for mercy on me, a sinner.
THE HABIT OF HUMILITY-– Humility is at the core of what I hope to become as a Lay Cistercian. It is at the very center of my purpose of being anything. Philippians 2:5 is my mantra, “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” Humility is recognizing who I am in the sight of God. St. Benedict even has twelve steps to master humility, the first one being “Fear of the Lord.” With all the exuberance that comes with Faith, I remind myself constantly that the One I serve is God, even though I am an adopted son (daughter) of the Father. Appreciation.
THE HABIT OF OBEDIENCE- Without humility, I will never reach the obedience that says, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Without obedience, I will never be fully human, giving back to God the one gift worthy to present, my obedience. It goes against everything human to die to self each day. It does not make sense to give anyone the one power that defines you as a human, but it lifts you up to a level you could not reach by yourself. This is how you know if someone is of God or the world, that you offer up that which is most human as a gift to the Father, as Christ did. “Father,” He said, “Let this cup pass from me, but not my will but yours be done.” Can you drink the cup you received at Baptism, one where, with the sign of the cross, is the sign of the resurrection and obedience to God as being God?
THE HABIT OF CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER — For each of these habits, the goal is to do them without thinking, like driving a car. This takes both consistency and constancy; consistency, in that you strive to do the same thing over and over in the same way, much like our Gathering Day agenda, where our schedule is the same each month, but what we do within that timeframe is always different; and constancy, the habit of seeking God daily, or reading Chapter 4 each day. Constancy is the frequency of consistency. Lectio Divina requires both consistency and constancy in prayer to move deeper each day with the power of the Holy Spirit.
THE HABIT OF AWARENESS OF THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE- At my center is the Scripture from Philippians 2:5, “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” The problem is that my center wobbles when it comes into contact with the effects of original sin or when tempted to do the bidding of the Lord of the World (Satan), the Great Accuser, versus the Lord of All There is (God), the Lord of Lords. The Christ Principle is that one tiny mustard seed at the very center of my bulls-eye, that if you take it away, life is no longer resonant or incorruptible. The Christ Principle is the only way, the only truth, and the only life that leads to humans fulfilling what nature intended us to be before sin entered the world through Adam and Eve.
THE HABIT OF CONVERSIO MORAE-– Each day, I must seek God. To do this, I must keep focused on moving from my false self to my true self. Living in the corruption of the World (everything has a beginning and an end, plus all matter decays, and time inexorably moves from what is to what was), each day is a new lifetime, a chance to grow in Christ. In contrast, I decrease those habits in me that detract from loving others as Christ loved us. I don’t always succeed in my resolve, such as the invisible power of original sin, the condition I was born in. Baptism removed this stain on my soul so that I could replace it with the sign of contradiction, the cross, to give me the strength to die to self each day to rise to a new life in Christ. What remains is dual citizenship of the world but now a New Jerusalem, the citizenship as adopted sons or daughters of the Father. God won’t do live my life for me, for such is the importance of free choice that God.
THE HABIT OF SEEKING GOD EACH DAY-– Each day is a lifetime of challenges to keep The Christ Principle as my center. The energy of the World seeks to cause my center to deteriorate. It does so because of matter’s natural corruption, and the mind deteriorates. This means that I begin again the struggle to have Christ Jesus’s mind in me every day. (Philippians 2:5). The habit is one of being conscious of my challenge and using the Lay Cistercian practices and charisms to place myself in the presence of Christ and wait for instructions. This habit is also one that employs the martyrdom of the ordinary in its repetition of the challenge each day to seek God where I am and as I am. With the humility that comes from realizing the fear of the Lord, I seek not only mercy for my past occasions of indifference and lack of love for others but also God’s own energy in the form of Eucharist and Lectio Divina to replenish the energy I lost from fighting the good fight and keeping the faith. Each day.
The struggle that accompanies any taking up your cross daily by moving from our false self to our true self is part of the gift of praise and thanks we offer to the Father through, with, and in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Why does human life find itself on a planet just far away from the Sun not to burn up, with just the correct mixtures of gases to exist, with just the correct protection from radiation not to be torched?” Added to that seeming statistical anomaly, humans developed on this planet with the awareness that they know and the ability to choose what they think is good for them. You have an astonishing coincidence if it is that. But, wonder if we are the only self-aware beings in the universe or universes?
One day, Enrico Fermi, a nuclear physicist, raised this question to his colleagues over coffee. He asked, “Where is everybody?” I am not so naive as to think that, with billions of Suns not counting planets, there might not be life, specifically sentient life. But, it is tantalizing to think that due to the radiation and sterility of what we know is “out there,” we human species (of all life species) ran the gauntlet of the corruptibility of matter and life to show up now. Why is that? I showed up eighty-one years ago as a product of my mom and day, which, in turn, were produced by other humans, and so on. Why is that? Rationality does not come from animality. A species by itself would seem to lack the energy to propel itself into the next dimension of its evolution, but that is precisely what happened. It is like humanity pushed itself up by its bootstraps from being an animal to being rational. Why is that? How is that? The Jesuit paleontologist/scientist Henri Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., puts forth what I consider the most compelling explanation of what and how our race became self-aware. I encourage you to watch two YouTube videos. My own notions of The Divine Equation have their fingerprints from authors such as Teilhard de Chardin, Erich Fromm, Martin Buber, Carl Sagan, and Steven Hawking. onhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCJgB7-jXmg All of these ideas, concepts, insights, and Lectio Divina meditations, I always measure against The Christ Principle, the center of all that I am.
THE RULE OF THREES AND VISIBILITY AND INVISIBILITY
When I apply the Rule of Threes to the question of visibility and invisibility and how it affects intelligent human progression (my term for natural evolution), like pulling apart the leaves of fresh cabbage, some exciting reflections come from it.
THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE –– This is the realm or universe of matter, energy, time, space, and the base for life itself. As you read this, this dimension exists from the beginning of what is to, at least right now. It is the WHAT of matter. To think that there are no rules to this universe is a mistake, even in the world of matter. The forces of visibility and invisibility are at work, even if no humans are around to see them. What influences this matter is time and energy, and all physical reality is invisible yet no less objective. Like magnetism’s pull on the face of a compass, it is present but not seen. Humans are not present to see the effects of what is invisible throughout the universe. However, we know it exists in forms such as dark matter, dark energy, and the effects of the four forces of quantum mechanics (strong force, weak force, gravity, and electromagnetism). https://www.newscientist.com/definition/quantum-physics/ My purpose is to use what I know about reality to look at “the big picture” of how all reality fits together. I seek to have a “theory of everything” combining all that we know about what we know, but I reject that the scientific approach is everything. It does not take into account all that is. When Enrico Fermi asked the famous question that I don’t think anyone has answered, “Where is everyone?” he should have asked another question. “In looking at the physical and mental universes alone, is that all there is?” This is the question I seek to pursue with my reflections.
It won’t come as a big surprise that all seven (or more) of these strings depend upon each other, although they are separate. An example is how visibility depends on the light in the physical universe. Light, in this sense, is the energy that a force emits, such as a hypernova or our own sun. Animals can see, taste, hear, feel pain, and have instincts as we do. We morphed from animality to rationality, so we carry the genetic baggage from our progenitors. Light is needed for survival. Living things have developed ways to capture the light and feed it to the brain to turn it into survival behaviors. Humans have something that turns light into enlightenment– human reasoning and free choice. When humans use light to see with their eyes, they can make observations, leading to conclusions and behavioral activity.
Visibility is essential to all living things, but only humans can use what is visible to look at a deeper level of reality, one that is invisible. Why is that? Visible light is composed of energy properties, but what about invisibility that has no mass, matter, gravity, or form? This is the problem that humans had to solve to move forward with the next level of their intelligent design. With God’s DNA, the answers are always present. The mental universe came into being not from the power of humanity but rather from a force outside itself, The Divine Equation.
THE MENTAL UNIVERSE– Humans alone inhabit this realm, one that uses intelligent progression to observe the physical universe and seeks to find the WHY and HOW, WHEN, HOW FAR, and ARE WE ALONE?
Human history is only a succession of individuals who live seventy to eight years (if they are strong) and hopefully pass on to future generations what they have learned about the meaning of life (How does everything fit together and how do I fit within all that is?). Put another way, only humans can ask and search for the answers to The Divine Equation, what it means to be fully human as the end product of intelligent progression (evolution).
Humans, most definitely, came up with the idea about all this God stuff. There was, and is, something in the human heart that yearns for immortality and closure. In the mental universe, we can reason (collectively and individually) plus the capability to use what we have learned to control our destiny through choice.
Humans have always had a problem with invisibility. Maybe that is because you can’t see it. Collectively what we see is the basis for humanity to move forward with social progression, which lasts as long as there are humans. Individually, I am the only one to see my particular world, and it lasts as long as I do. Visibility is essential to all humans, especially me, since I use my senses to inform my brain about my environments and react to them according to the accumulated choices and human emotions unique to me. I am not you, I am fond of saying; you are not me; God is not me, and you and I are certainly not God.
For humans, looking around at what gives purpose and meaning, we use our senses and reason to make choices each day. Our human world is a visible one, not an invisible one. Humans have developed reason for a reason and the ability to choose something. What is it? One of the reasons I think we have the power to reason and then choose what we reason as factual is to explore the realm of the invisible, the realms we cannot see but, like gravity, dark matter, and dark energy, exert an inexorable pull on the matter, time, energy and space (the physical universe).
THE SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE — If the physical universe is one where visibility exists, then the mental universe of humanity exists to allow us to discover the invisible universe if containing both visibility and invisible reality. We do this through our collective reasoning, which allows us to discover what is meaningful and has value for us. The spiritual universe provides the penetrating questions and answers to the question, “What does it mean to be a human being? and How to love fiercely?” The spiritual universe allows humans to discern what is visible and invisible and how it propels humanity (both collectively and individually). Only the spiritual universe provides both the answers and the questions that the physical and mental universes cannot address. It is The Divine Equation. There is one reality that contains six different questions and their correct answers to allow the resonance of all reality, the way to transverse the minefield of life without getting blown up, the truth that is incorruptible, not subject to deterioration, and most of all, how humans can accept their adoption as sons and daughters of the Father and fulfill intelligent progression as intended from the beginning of time.
Baptized and Eucharistic believers are a people of opposites and contradiction compared to the world. Several examples of this universe are right in front of us all the time, but some can see them, and many do not. It is available to all humans but, like a pair of glasses, you must know about its possibilities and try them on to see if they are helpful. As an article of our Faith in the Nicene Creed, we explicitly say that we believe in “the visible and invisible,” a reality that has matter but also one that has no matter whatsoever. We are saying that when we look at one reality, we see three universes, a physical one that is our base, a mental one that allows us to seek wisdom and truth, and a spiritual one that completes our intelligent progression in a state of invisible light. None of this makes sense without applying The Christ Principle as the key, the cornerstone of one reality with three distinct universes.
Two authors have been instrumental in my thinking, and I want to introduce them to you.
James Campbell — probably best known for his work on mythology and its importance in advancing the notion of a universal hero throughout all mythic literature. He influenced my view of Christ as an archetypal hero and not just an isolated fantasy of one lone Jewish carpenter fantasizing about being God. https://www.tckpublishing.com/joseph-campbell-monomyth-heros-journey/
Mircea Eliade — best known for linking together patterns in the thinking of all religions. As I do with any writer, I read them in terms of the compendium of my collective knowledge and experiences of what I know to be true. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Mircea-Eliade/Legacy
We like our gods to look and act like us (image and likeness) so that we can relate to them. The type of relationship throughout human history has morphed into a deeper and more profound meaning so that we relate to an invisible god using what we know from visible relationships. Humans created the gods. Where else would they come from? We like our gods to look and act like us, a virtual avatar of what we would like to be.
VISIBILITY AND INVISIBILITY AS COSMIC THREADS — Cosmic threads shepherd reality much like the banks of a river shapes the course of how and where it flows but does not affect its progress. I would like to take you on a journey through time (from the beginning of what has matter and defined time (Alpha) to whenever in the future there is no matter (Omega). I choose to use the Rule of Threes (see above) as my thoughts.
God’s cosmic string shapes us to move from visibility to consider what is invisible as part of one reality.
My latest Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) is a continuation of one that I wrote down nearly six months ago. The general theme of my thinking is The Christ Principle, and stains emanating from that one idea included Genesis 2-3 and its treatment of “What it means to be a human being.” The basic premise of Genesis is that humans are flawed but not immoral by nature (God can’t create evil).
Many scholars think four biblical sources wrote Genesis ( the J, the P, the Elohist, and the Yahwist). The writers of the two genesis accounts have two different creation accounts that give two archetypal accounts about humanity. (Yes, I know I used “accounts” several times.) If you are interested in reading more about this most fascinating of topics, look up the following site.
All of this speculating about Genesis brings up a problem with which I have had more than a casual interest. It is a problem “Where does evil come from?” Here are some quick thoughts in no particular order of importance.
So, where does your evil come from, and can you win the cosmic struggle between corruptibility and incorruptibility to maintain your rightful inheritance as one who is fully human?
There is no doubt about it. When I first began my training as a novice Lay Cistercian, I took baby steps to implement a Lay Cistercian Way that would fit my particular situation in life (a retired, broken-down, old temple of the Holy Spirit). Eight years later, I find myself still broken down and still taking baby steps in my Cistercian practices and charisms. Now, I am more aware of my surroundings.
Here is an early blog on my applications of New Cistercian practices to my life. This applies only to me. You must discover your own application.
I met a man, quite similar in appearance and temperament to me, who keeps trying to pray as much as possible in the hopes of becoming more like Christ and less like himself. The more he prays, he thought, the holier he would become and thus the closer he would become to his center (Philippians 2:5). In trying to use the World as a measuring stick for holiness (quantity equals quality), he overlooked the dimension of the heart. The mind is good at measuring quantity, while the heart looks for quality. It is not how much you pray but how much your heart can make room (capacitas dei) for Christ. He was seduced into thinking that prayer was all verbal and must be done in Church, while actually that is an important part of the contemplative life for a Lay Cistercian but there is always more. Formal prayers are not the end in themselves but only ways to be present to Christ, only the beginning of the process. This happens from the beginning of each day, which is why the Morning Offering prayer is so important. Prayer is not what you do as much as lifting the heart and mind to God wherever and however you seek God daily.
One of the ways to approach the Sacred is to follow a daily routine. Some people call it a habit. Do this every day for 30 days. If you are unable to do so, you might want to consider if your spirituality needs to go to the gym. What follows is my exercise to move from self to God.
Place this aide on your mirror. When you wake up in the morning, offer everything you do today as glory to the Father and for the grace to do God’s will, through Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Monday: In reparation for my sins and those of the Church, those on my prayer list
Tuesday: For all family, friends, teachers, classmates from St. Meinrad Seminary, those on my prayer list
Wednesday: In honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Immaculate Heart of Mary, and St. Joseph, those on my prayer list
Thursday: For all Lay Cistercians, Monks of Holy Spirit Monastery, Monks of St.Meinrad Archabbey, priests and religious of Diocese of Evansville, Monks of Norcia, Italy and those on my prayer list
Friday: For an increase in grace to love God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and my neighbor as myself.
Saturday: For all deceased, an increase in my faith through the Holy Spirit and for those on my prayer list.
Sunday: To give praise, honor, and glory to the Father through the Son by means of the Holy Spirit, the God who is, was, and is to come at the end of the ages
FIDELITY TO THE LIFE OF ONE WHO IS SIGNED WITH THE SIGN OF FAITH
In my life, it is important that I have a schedule to follow. I refuse to be used by a schedule (feeling that I have sinned if I don’t adhere to it perfectly) but would rather use it to help me seek God where I am and as I am, each day. I share with you my daily practices. I must emphasize the word “daily”. It is such a simple word but has crushed me more times than I would like to admit. These habits are what I do daily and I do not wish to impose them on you. You may wish to try some of them or none of them. If you do try them, do them daily and feel the struggle that it takes to be worthy of being an adopted son or daughter of the Father.
EACH DAY, READ CHAPTER 4 OF THE RULE OF ST. BENEDICT. NO EXCEPTIONS! — the Rule contains practices offered to his monks by St. Benedict (c. 540 AD). Most of the chapters contain practical guides on how to organize the daily lives of monks of his time. If you go to this site, you will find a wealth of information about St. Benedict and also a tutorial from the Abbott on the meaning of each chapter of the Holy Rule. The key here is asking God to become what you are reading. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict Here are some of the Chapters of the Holy Rule that I use to take up my cross daily and follow Christ.
I read and try to practice these Chapters as one who is a professed Lay Cistercian of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit (Trappist) in Georgia, always mindful of the lifetime promises I made to Christ through the Abbott, Dom Augustine, O.C.S.O. I am not a monk living in a monastery. My monastery is the limits of the World in which I seek to find meaning. I am challenged to adapt the Rule to help me seek God daily where I am and as I am. Some days are better than others. I have discovered that it is the time I take trying to calm myself down so as to present myself to God properly, that is also a prayer.
EACH DAY, RECITE THE OFFICE OF READINGS, THE MORNING PRAYER, AND THE EVENING PRAYER. These prayers are prayers of the Church Universal. Somewhere in the world, the faithful are reciting these prayers in praise of the Father through the Son in union with the Holy Spirit. They are public prayers of reparation for the sins and shortcomings of the Church and all members. It is praise and thanksgiving to the Father for considering us as adopted sons and daughters. Since before c 540 (St. Benedict), holy men and women have been praying these prayers seven times a day, 365 days a year, continuous prayer for all of us to the Father that He grant us mercy, sinners all. These Hours are not limited to “just Catholics”. There is no such thing as Catholic prayers. Our Catholic heritage contains prayers that have been part of our tradition for twenty centuries. Anyone can pray these prayers because we don’t pray to the Catholic Church or any Church. Prayer is our communication with Christ, mind to mind, heart to heart, and also to love others as Christ loves us. No one can say that Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit. Ecumenical groups also pray the Liturgy of the Hours together and are linked together by the Universal Prayer of the Church.
Watch the example of one of the Hours from Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), in Georgia. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbE92dFGG50 What did you notice about this prayer? I was struck by how slow the monks sang hymns and prayed the Psalms. It was like walking in honey.
EACH DAY, READ OR LISTEN TO SACRED SCRIPTURE — Some people read the Scripture to prove they are better than anyone else. How far away are they from the Kingdom of Heaven. St. John writes about why we have the Scriptures in John 20:30-31 when he says: “Conclusion.*30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book.s31But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.”t
The biblical quotation is from a website you should bookmark under CATHOLIC UNIVERSAL. It is the website of the Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) http://www.usccb.org/bible/john/20.
EACH DAY, IN FACT, SEVERAL TIMES A DAY, DO LECTIO DIVINA.– When I first began doing Lectio Divina on June of 1963, I was very scrupulous to follow Guigo II’s Ladder of Contemplation. As I approach the end of my life on earth, I am much more forgiving of following the steps of Guigo II. I pray Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) without realizing that there are steps. Even seven years ago, when I first became interested in applying to be a Lay Cistercian, I have found myself having one, long session of Lectio. Now, my Lectio sessions total one, sometimes two hours per day, but I spread that out over three or four shorter sessions. My daily schedule is flexible, yet strict enough, that I pray at least once a day at 2:30 a.m. (twenty minutes), then do my Lectio Divina at my computer at 6:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., after Compline.
If you are looking for a challenging read, open this URL. http://www.umilta.net/ladder.html
The Steps for Lectio Divina: Spiritual Reading (source unknown)
Step 1. Lectio (lex-ee-oh), “Reading”
Read the Scripture passage. Try reading it out loud. Try reading it several times. Let the words sink in deeply. Open your mind and heart to the meaning of the words.
Step 2. Meditatio (med-it-tots-ee-oh), “Meditation”
Reflect on the Scripture passage. Think deep thoughts. Ask yourself questions such as the following:
What does this passage say to me?
Who am I in this passage?
What do I see? What do I hear?
What do I think?
Which character do I most relate to?
What do I most need to learn from this?
Try taking notes on your answers to the questions. Try journaling about the insights gained with meditation.
Step 3. Oratio (or-o-t-see-ah), “Prayer”
Move into the heart of the matter. Feel deep feelings. Consider the following questions as you respond to God:
What do I want to communicate to God?
What am I longing for in my relationship with God?
What do I desire in my prayer life?
What secrets of my heart are ready to be expressed? Is there joy? grief? fear? gratitude?
Express your intimate self to God in your own personal way.
Step 4. Contemplatio (con-tem-plot-see-oh), “Contemplation”
Simply rest in the presence of God. Be passive and just enjoy God. Settle into the tenderness of God’s love.
(Variation) Step 4/ Additional Step 5. Actio (ax-ee-oh); “Action”
Ask yourself the following questions in utter honesty:
How is God challenging me?
Is there a good thing God is calling me to do?
Is there a harmful thing God wants me to stop doing?
What is the next step I need to take?
Decide on a course of action
In the most recent wandering in my upper room (with doors locked), I wondered about how Jesus was a carpenter with his dad up until his public ministry. In my later years (and at 82 years old, I am about as late as you can get), I am becoming more recalcitrant about religion in general, is a strange, traditional way.
This latest Lectio Divina experience (Philippians 2:5) was about how humans know God through their human experiences. The problem is that it tells us a lot about ourselves but very little about God. One such example is seeing Christ as the Good Shepherd, the vine and branches, or living water. My thoughts in this Lectio took me to relate to God as a teacher, the Magister Noster (Our Lord, Our Master, or Our Teacher). Here are some of my thoughts on this subject.
GOD AS MAGISTER NOSTER
The best way to know the invisible God is to know as much as possible about what it means to be fully human. This is ironic at best but can lead to much confusion at worst. The best way to discover what it means to be fully human is to uncover the six questions in The Divine Equation that teach us how to reach the intended purpose of our species.
The best way to learn how to find the correct and authentic answers to life’s most fundamental challenges is to join the School of Love with Christ as headmaster.
The best way to join the School of Love is to die to your human self and accept adoption as sons and daughters of the Father, the creator of the School of Love. Everyone is eligible to join this school. You must want to attend and follow the instructions of the Headmaster.
There is only one rule in this School of Love: to love others as Christ loved us. It takes a lifetime of struggle to overcome and keep at bay the false teachings of The Great Accuser.
The Father is on the board of directors or school board.
The Son is the headmaster and our only instructor.
Alumni and alumnae are all those in the Church Universal, those in heaven, those marked with the sign of the cross on their foreheads while on earth, and those given a second chance to proclaim Jesus is Lord, with the help of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is our guidance counselor and gives us the energy to be able to relate to a God that is real but unseen.
The Scripture is our textbook where we get the answers to The Divine Equation.
Our curriculum is to answer six questions that answer the questions “What does it mean to be fully human? What is our destiny, the end result of our intelligent progression (evolution)? Each answer depends on getting the previous one correct because it is part of one reality all linked together.
Our final examination is when we die and get to provide answers to what we have learned about what Christ taught us about loving others as He loved us.
CHRIST AS MAGISTER NOSTER
In my latest Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I was struck by the notion of how difficult it is to live in the world and yet also be a citizen and adopted son in the Kingdom of Heaven. This dual citizenship causes anxiety sometimes and often a choice between what seems like conflicting goods.
What brings all this to mind is the controversy in the Catholic Universal Church between ideologies of freedom to adapt the Gospel to modern times versus the freedom that comes with following what the traditions and teachings of the Church have held since the beginning.
I follow the advice that Christ is giving me for my way, his truth, and the life I must lead to reach my destiny as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father. The three battles I speak of are my own battles to move from my false self to my true self. I only offer these as struggles that I face, not those you have.
Here are the three battles (struggles) I face each day as I seek God as I am and wherever I am. As I become more and more aware of what is happening in my struggles, I am aware that these three battles take place in my mind. Still, the context of my humanity inexorably pulls at my free will to choose what I should do as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father.
SOME ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT MY BATTLE
Sin and Death.*
13Did the good, then, become death for me? Of course not! Sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin, worked death in me through the good, so that sin might become sinful beyond measure through the commandment.i
14We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold into slavery to sin.j
15What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.
16Now if I do what I do not want, I concur that the law is good.
17So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
18For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not.k
19For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.
20Now if [I] do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
21So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand.
22For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self,
24Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body?
25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore, I myself, with my mind, serve the law of God but, with my flesh, the law of sin.m
Being a human being and citizen of the world, I make good choices for myself. Some of these choices are not good for me and can actually cause damage to my promise to “Have in me the mind of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5)
THE BATTLE TO BE FULLY HUMAN AS A MEMBER OF THE WORLD — (THE POWER TO GIVE MY POWER TO GOD AS A GIFT) I rarely think about my will and God’s will be in a tug of war, but it is true. I can feel the tension. My battle is to row against the current of life (die to self and the limitations of human love, power, trust, goodness) rather than just coasting down the stream. You know you are a member of the mystical body of Christ when you notice the struggle, and it is difficult (but not impossible). This is the struggle we have because we are of the human species (or any species with reasoning and free choice). In fact, using the rule of opposites, it is only when you give up your will to a higher power than yours that you become fully human. Using the assumptions of the world makes no sense. Using The Christ Principle as the source of power makes perfect sense, although I still do not comprehend how it works.
THE BATTLE TO BE FULL HUMAN AS A MEMBER OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN– (THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION IN MY MIND AND HEART) It all comes down to this: Can you die to self and all the assumptions that keep our humanity from reaching its intended potential, even if it goes against your human senses and reasoning? The Divine Equation contains the six questions each person must answer to get to heaven as an adopted son or daughter of the Father and become fully human as nature intended. This is a battle between the world and the spirit. Because of human choice, we have the free will to select whatever makes us fulfilled but simply lack the energy to move to the next level of our evolution, the incorruptibility of the spirit. The Divine Equation is God becoming human to show us not only the Equation (hence the Divine part of the title) but also the answers. They are answers of the heart and require us to give up what we think our humanity is to possess what it truly is, adoption by the Father. This is a struggle because we made the free choice to give away our free choice in favor of “Having in us the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5). We began this struggle when the cross was made on our foreheads, and God accepted us as adopted sons and daughters.
THE BATTLE TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE (THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD OR EVIL) There is another battle we face and must face until we die. It is the same battle Adam and Eve faced. It is the battle of knowing what is good for us and what is bad for us. If the first battle was one to know what is good or evil, then the second battle I must win (and it takes a lifetime of struggle to win) is that of using that knowledge to love as one adopted by God as heir to the kingdom. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that knowledge precedes love. I believe that. I might add that this must be the knowledge from God as revealed through Jesus Christ.
What do we learn? The purpose of life is to KNOW, LOVE, and SERVE God in this world until death so that we can be happy with God as an adopted son or daughter, in the next life and fulfill what it means to be human.
This title seems like it is innocuous, don’t you think? A couple of days ago, in my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I thought of Christ as my yardstick to measure my behavior, approach to the Sacred, and obligations as a Lay Cistercian (www.trappist.net). I realize that I can never measure up to what Christ is, even though we have the admonition to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. Wonder if your measuring stick is unable to be measured? “For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.c“ Matthew 7:2 What are the implications of having a measuring stick that is The Christ Principle?
MY BEHAVIOR AS ONE WHO BELIEVES IN JESUS AS LORD
Jesus alone is the one against whom I must measure my behaviors to prioritize what I consider reality (physical universe, mental universe, and spiritual universe). Humans receive three gifts from God to discover their purpose and how they fit into that purpose. Not everyone will recognize these gifts as coming from God. Not everyone will discover three universes (the World exists in only two universes, physical and mental) comprising what is real. Not everyone will recognize how all of this fits together. Not everyone will grasp the meaning of fierce love (pure love of God’s nature). Not everyone will be able to move past just dying to the next phase of reality, the Kingdom of Heaven. And especially how the cross, far from being a symbol of derision and hopelessness, becomes our way, a way to be what is accurate, and a way to be what is the truth so that our life is our intelligent design (evolution) intended. What does not make sense to human experience using only reasoning and free will, makes perfect sense when I die to myself and my reliance on human energy to rise to what my human nature intended all along but was thwarted by the choice of Adam and Eve, our ancestors.
The only way to measure reality is by the cross, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly for the Gentiles.
Using the right measuring stick is vital that you will miss the spiritual universe altogether if you use the wrong one. To be aware of these three gifts, you must use God’s rules, not your own. To enter the Kingdom of Heaven is a gift of Faith that does not originate with you. Scripture tells us that Christ has chosen us and not the other way around. Why is that?
THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE
Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, is not only the center of my life, personally but the center of all reality. That includes the physical universe of what is seen and unseen, the mental universe of what is visible and invisible, and the spiritual universe. Christ is a measuring stick in the physical and mental universes as both human and divine nature, one God, and the key that opened the spiritual universe to humans once again. At the same time, we live but are also incorruptible.
I happen to stumble into this ongoing saga of life for eighty years. Did all this happen by accident? Am I a product of my nature, a noble but flawed experiment? Or, am I what it intended from before there was a before? This is intelligent progress, intelligent design from a higher power, so beyond human conception that our collective hearts fumbled trying to satisfy the collective longing in our DNA to somehow relate to an unseen force within us. St. Augustine captured this existential longing to move from dissonance to resonance when he said: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” Genesis is an early attempt to address our faulted human nature, at once noble yet so prone to do what is not suitable for us, in terms of our terminal intention to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father forever. Reason and free choice are so ingrained in human experience that it comes from the very DNA from which all reality evolves, a force beyond our comprehension that, with a Word (John 1:1) and a thought, began an improbable love study, one that embodies the emotions of Romeo and Juliet from Shakespear, the classic heroic myths of Ulysses and Beowulf, the triumphs of Saints who died to self as examples for us so that we might have the courage to do the same. It is the martyrdom of the ordinary life, not one of blood, although we might be called to such a sacrifice of love.
There are four treatments or applications that help me use The Christ Principle in my living out each moment of my existence in the framework of corruption of matter and mind using the incorruptible design of my ultimate purpose (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:38).
USE THE ENERGY THAT COMES FROM OUTSIDE OF MYSELF TO SUSTAIN ME –– To use this energy, you must know about it, you must be willing to learn how to use it, and then use it to move from your false self tied only to this moral universe of matter and mind to your true inheritance as the adopted son of the Father, paid for by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross to reunite us with God again, to be a ransom for the many and The Christ Principle for all reality. Christ told us to follow his way, seek the truth that comes from his words and deeds, and share this life of God in us with those around us.
FOLLOW THE FOLLOWERS OF THOSE WHO WALK IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF CHRIST — All those who follow the way are sinners (except Jesus and his mother, and only Mary because the Holy Spirit overshadowed her with grace). To move from the corruption of the effects of original sin to incorruptibility is not a one-time act of belief, and then you are done. Human nature does not work like that. Divine nature does. Because of the effects of original sin, at each moment, we are in a battle between good and evil, the very same one Adam and Eve experienced, the archetype of what it means to be human. Each morning, the struggle begins. I can’t change my human nature from being so prone to evil (or noble and heroic). Our nature is not evil because God does create evil. The purpose of Genesis is to elaborate on why individuals are prone to doing bad things and yet are capable of so much good. In the Old Testament Scriptures, we can measure ourselves by what the tribes do or don’t do to keep the covenant with God. You can measure how well you do if you keep the Law. If you don’t, God is displeased, and bad things happen, such as losing the ten tribes of Israel. But keeping the Law itself does not move Israel forward.
Someone had to come to tell them and show them how to move to the next step without destroying anything essential to the covenant from the past. Some get this, while others do not. The New Testament Scriptures are a record of how Jesus is the Messiah and what to do to claim inheritance as adopted sons and daughters of the Father. John 20:30-31. This record is one of how to love and receive instruction from The Christ Principle. The Old Testament gives us a record of WHY and WHAT for the Messiah. The New Testament gives us another record of fulfillment by moving to the next step of spiritual progression, returning to Resonance, opening up to Incorruptibility, and finally claiming the inheritance intended from the beginning. All of this activity is just for me (and all the other me’s that are born and die within the parameters of our human nature).
I MEASURE THE ENERGY OF GOD NOT BY MY STANDARDS BUT BY MOVING FROM MY FALSE SELF TO MY TRUE SELF, THUS GROWING IN THE CAPACITY FOR GOD WITHIN ME. I get to choose God by a YES or NO. Within the crucible of my inner self, I mix humanity (humanity) and my new life in Christ Jesus in Baptism (adoption). Jesus gave me a way to keep the flames of faith from flickering out. It is not easy and demands work (original sin) to maintain my center and energy to keep the world and its false promises from overtaking the sign of contradiction (the cross). My human nature does not produce this kind of energy. I can only get it from one source, The Christ Principle. The profound reason I joined Lay Cistercians and practice Cistercian practices and charisms in my life is that it is a way I discovered that allows me to die to self so that Christ might grow and I might decrease. It is a daily battle, and I have on my body the many times I have failed to love others as Christ loved me. I carry that burden as part of who I am.
THE YARDSTICK IS NOT OF THIS WORLD. The yardstick to measure scientific problems is the tools of mathematics, chemistry, physics, and medicine, to name just a few languages that uncover the truth. The yardstick of the spiritual universe is The Christ Principle and the languages of faith, hope, and love. The Divine Equation is provided to humans by God becoming human and giving us the way to solve it, the truth to know what it is, and the remainder of our lives to practice being adopted sons and daughters of the Father. We know we got it right because our yardstick is not of this world. What we measure is not matter, time, the energy of physics, or distance, but how much we loved others as Christ loved us?
THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE IS ABOUT DOING; DOING IS ABOUT KNOWING; KNOWING IS ABOUT LOVING; LOVING IS ALL ABOUT DOING. This is the doing that is incorruptible and lasts forever.
Human reasoning is a beautiful attribute that animals don’t share and, as far as we can tell, no one has but our species. I find t interesting that, using what I know of what the purpose of life is, the same reasoning that compels me to have a fierce love of Christ Jesus, also propels me to even raise the possibility that God does not exist, and that all of this religion stuff is the “opium of the people.” In my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I entertained such thoughts and would like to share them with you.
IF GOD DOES NOT EXIST, AS ATHEISTS CLAIM AND AGNOSTICS SUPPOSE…
THEN, atheists do not exist, for how can you have someone for something that is not anything.
THEN, there is no heaven after we die, which means the only meaning we find is what we discover about life, which is not flawed but limited to whatever time we breathe.
THEN, there is no resurrection from the dead and no immortality as adopted sons and daughters of the Father because there is no Father, the source of pure energy, knowledge, love, and service.
THEN, there can be no Church, the living body of Christ on earth, in heaven, and in purgatory, a place of second chances.
THEN, The Ten Commandments do not exist, nor does God speak through Israel and the Prophets about the Messiah.
THEN, I am the center of the universe for whatever time I have on earth, which also happens to be true if I hold that God exists.
THEN, what is true is what I choose to make it, but I am limited by whatever societies or groups of people who have dominant ideas have (mental predators), and I am made to conform or suffer consequences.
THEN, there are only two universes, not three. I am god because no one can tell me differently.
THEN, no one can tell me what is good for my body, what I should believe, who should be my friends, why I am, and the meaning of love.
THEN, I revert to my animal instincts because I want to get as much money, power, authority, and pleasure for pleasure and territory as I can while I live.
THEN, Democrat or Republican platforms become my morality or other anomalies to intelligent human design.
THEN, suicide and euthanasia, abortion of any life, murder, and stealing become amoral. I do what I want when I want.
THEN, there is no sacrifice with love, no loving others as you want to be loved, and no helping others in need.
If there is no god, then by using all those ideas and practices that Jesus left us 2000 years ago, I can have a fulfilled life because The Divine Equation helps me become the human I was destined to be at the end of evolution.
This morning at 2:30 a.m., I make my pilgrimage to the bathroom. Usually, when I come back to bed, I do a mini-Lectio Divina with my patron Saint, Michael, and ask him to join me as we approach Jesus to give glory and honor to the Father with the Holy Spirit. I use the Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) to place myself in the presence of Christ and then just wait. This morning, true to form, I thought about waking up just fifteen minutes before and finding myself on the very edge of the bed, almost ready to fall off. When I came back from my break, I thought of being on the edge of the bed during my mini-Lectio. I am sure all of this happens in just a moment, but I thought of how the balance was important in my life as a Professed Lay Cistercian in that memory. What does balance mean in my approach to reality using the rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by Trappist spirituality? Maybe balance in my spiritual life means I sleep in the middle of the bed and not one inch from the edge. Maybe balance means I take a step back and see if I am a perpetual dweller on the fringes of my spirituality. Using the bed analogy, what are the two fringes? Typical political commentators sometimes speak of a “right-wing” instead of the “left-wing.” I don’t like that description of the two opposing sides. Instead, If Christ is your bed, you can fall off one side or the other. Depending on what?
TOO MUCH CHRIST VERSES TOO LITTLE — Can there be such a thing as “too much Christ”? Yes and No. Yes, in that, when we use Lectio Divina as a platform to push our personal agenda about how others seek God, we think everyone must agree on my way or the highway. Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Not just by reading and praying about it, but when all of that comes into our hearts, we proclaim that Jesus is Lord. We can’t do that without the Holy Spirit. No, in that Christ is in all and the fulfillment of our human nature, our destiny to re-enter the Garden of Eden, the reason why we have human reasoning and the ability to choose what is true. In the photo above, you see a cup that we receive at Baptism from the Father as a sign of our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father. We fill this cup with God’s own life (grace), the energy of the relationship of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Christ came to give us life and teach us how to love others as He loves us. John 10:10 puts it this way: “7 So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.“
Christ would not leave each generation as orphans. The expressed reason for entrusting his mission, to give all honor and glory to the Father, to human and sinful people, is to ensure that we have the grace to call the Father “Abba.” Our heritage shows us how the Sacraments are all instituted by Christ to give us the grace to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father. Humans don’t produce grace. That comes from God alone. We can share it through our good works (Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s rule). Good works, in this sense, is the grace we receive from God for doing what He showed us, not that we have earned by saying lots of prayers. Faith informs our good works. We need balance.
When we pass over to new life in Christ, Christ will ask us to show us the results of our stewardship. All we have is our cup of salvation by which we have called the Lord to be saved and forgiven our sins. This brings up another issue, What happens to people who are saved but have not repented of their sins? Sin has consequences.
PURIFICATION IN FIRE VERSES HEALING NEXT TO HEART OF CHRIST — Purgatory has always been somewhat of an appendix to the Body of Christ for me. My faith, informed by reason, suggests that it is another way for God to show us his mercy. How so? I am not sure what it does, but it is all the same.
In the extreme sense of punishment for sins that are repented but not atoned for, Purgatory is one side of the bed. The other side is that we automatically get a “Pass Go” on Heaven and are automatically ushered before the Throne of God to enjoy the beatific vision forever. I would like to believe that, but I have some difficulties with the approach. First of all, it is too much like predetermination. You can “sin bravely,” as Luther suggests, because the blood of Christ has covered your rottenness much like the Sherman-Williams paint log has the world being doused in paint. I would love to believe this because I would be able to do anything that the World suggests is pleasure without consequences. Remember, I said all choices have consequences. This concept of the nature of man has no responsibility for sin, so there is no atonement needed. It is not consistent with human nature and what happened in Genesis 2-3. The consequences of sin are death, pain, suffering, murder (Cain and Abel), and living in a condition of imperfection. I have another view that I think is more consistent with human nature and reality.
Let’s say, for example, that someone steals $1,599 from your cookie jar at home. Five days later, they catch the thief, a friend of yours who knew how to break into your back door and where you kept the cookie jar. You confront him, and he tells you he is sorry that he just went crazy and will never do it again. You tell him that you forgive him, and the police take him away for trial. Until the money is returned, the forgiveness is hollow, it is genuine, but you must have restitution to resonate with this choice he made to rob you and break into your home. What is missing in this scenario? You still don’t have your money.
Here is another example for those who think that all it takes is to ask forgiveness, and you can get on the conveyor belt to heaven without restitution for your sin. All sin has consequences. You might be thinking that Christ never mentioned this in the Scriptures. You would be wrong. The most obvious example of restitution is Christ himself. In the Genesis story, Adam and Eve sin against God. This has consequences. Did you notice that the snake, Adam, or Eve did not say to God that they were sorry? What did they say? The snake made me do it, says Eve; Adam blamed his wife and did not take responsibility for the hurt they caused God. They are cast out of the Garden of Eden and suffer the effects of that sin. The Genesis story is a brilliant statement of where we find ourselves about God. It would not be until God Himself, in the form of Jesus, became human would save ourselves from being barred from a relationship with God again. Christ is the one who paid the ransom for Adam and Eve’s lack of awareness of what they had done to God. In restitution theory, Adam and Eve offended God. The offense is measured by the one offended, in this case, God. The unintended consequences of this disobedience were that Adam or Eve, representing humanity, could not say, “I am sorry, please forgive me, God, for having placed myself as God.” In His infinite mercy and love, God sent his only Son to reestablish the link. The Son’s mission was to show us how to live with love in our minds and hearts.
BALANCE AS A LAY CISTERCIAN
Here are some actual situations where I use balance to keep my proper perspective as a Lay Cistercian.
I do not wish to use the schedule used by contemplative monks and nuns in a monastery. This is a different context of contemplative practice from living in the world. Not better, just different. Balance for a contemplative might be different because the environments are different, but so is each individual Lay Cistercian or Trappist monk.
We pray with our being without even knowing we do so. If I am aware that I must seek God each day in whatever comes my way, I sanctify the moment, not a time or place. Being free from worrying about praying this or that or doing enough as a Lay Cistercian to pray as much as possible during the day is not what I call balanced.
I am not in a mental place where I can name all the people for whom I pray by name. Balance here means I gather all my intentions into one act of praise to the Father through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Balance means my prayers are short and straightforward. I tend to be short with my verbal prayer and long with my contemplative prayers in the silence of my heart. I do not judge others going on to pray out loud for ten minutes.
You might have some different ideas about this. Five of my thoughts that I still romance after all these years follow. I guess I never will ultimately reach the depth of their significance in my seeking God in my daily living. “That in all things, God be glorified.” –St. Benedict
|Do Not Worry25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,[j] or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?[k] 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God[l] and his[m] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.|
4. EUCHARIST IS CHRIST’S OWN BODY AND BLOOD GIVEN FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF OUR SINS. Perhaps the most conflicting and misunderstood of Christ’s commands is to believe that He exists under the appearance of bread and wine. It doesn’t fit today’s self-righteous relativism that glories in the worst part of our human nature, sin. If you really believe that Christ is present, body and blood, soul and divinity, why would you not want to spend your time in this precious gift of self, given just for you? I have dual citizenship that struggles to compete for my free will. The choice is the only aspect of each individual human that God does not have. The Blessed Mother was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, which is why she could give her YES. Faith is that gift from God that enables each of us who are Baptized to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father. The problem is that there is a hidden but natural pull between belief and unbelief in my mind and heart. St. Thomas Aquinas says: “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” I have accepted that my struggle is part of the love which I must endure to say Jesus is Lord. I do not have the power by myself to overcome the seductions that the Lord of Darkness beckons me to embrace. My struggle is a prayer to Christ to help me move from my false self to my true self. Each day, I must begin the struggle again, hoping that I will win the battle that day.
Last year, I just realized what the saying “The Church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic” means. 5, THE CHURCH IS HOLY, BUT THE TEMPORAL LIVING OUT OF THAT HOLINESS IS MADE BY SINFUL PERSONS WHO CAN MAKE POOR CHOICES, AND THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES TO THOSE CHOICES. This occurred to me in a Lectio Divina when I looked at the contradiction between good and evil in Genesis 2-3. First, what God made is good. The butterflies, the fish in the seas, the clouds in the sky, and the animals, including humans. All have a good nature. Humans have something no other species has, the ability to reason and know and the freedom to choose. The problem comes not from the ability to choose but from what we choose and its intended and unintended consequences. Christ assumed our human nature to teach us how to love, which is the ultimate purpose of being human. Although St. Paul cleverly writes that “He who knew no sin became sin for us, Christ did not sin.”
The Ministry of Reconciliation.
12We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you an opportunity to boast of us, so that you may have something to say to those who boast of external appearance rather than of the heart.h
13For if we are out of our minds,* it is for God; if we are rational, it is for you.
15He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.j
16Consequently,* from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer.
17k So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.
18* And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation,
19namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.l
20So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.mhttps://bible.usccb.org/bible/2corinthians/5
Each individual who ever lived (except Christ and his mother, Mary) was born into sin. This is another way of saying that we have problems choosing what is good or bad. The Church is holy, but those in the Church Militant (left on earth to live out our lives until we die) must struggle against Satan to win the battle of what is good or evil. These days, relativism and erroneous doctrines compete for our belief. Each day, each person signed with the cross on their forehead at Baptism must choose. Sometimes we get it wrong, but Christ gives us a way to make all things new, over and over.
The struggle is important, not the potholes we step in so frequently.
You know the parable of the good seed falling on good ground. There are three fertilizers that Christ told us to use to keep the soil of our Faith from drying up and becoming sterile. It is no accident that God is depicted as hiring Adam and Eve to take care of the Garden of Eden. The critical lesson of Genesis is that humans have a nature that is created by God (Genesis 2-3), and yet Adam and Eve (prototypes of all humanity) somehow messed it up. God gave us a choice of good or evil, but humans had no direction as to what was good or evil. Human nature is good, but we continue to mess up our choices individually, even today.
God does abandon us to our own folly but promised someone to save us from our own natural inclinations to mess things up by choosing ourselves as a god. Unlike human inclinations to harbor ill feelings and cut off those that do us evil, God is a God of second chances. He gave Adam and Eve (humanity) a second chance by sending His only -begotten Son to both tell us and show us how to use our second chance, but we humans killed Christ, the messenger. Even then, God gave us second chances by allowing us to be adopted sons and daughters with Baptism, feed us with Eucharist, and forgive us our folly and sinfulness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation by making all things new (over and over and over). Even when we are dead and have wasted our lives rejecting God and mocking his commandment to love one another as He loved us. He knew us well and had to become one of us to tell us and show us how to do it correctly, and we still do not get it. (Philippians 2:5-12) But this is not all there is. We did and are judged before the Throne of the Lamb, and no human, except Mary, can look Jesus in the eye and say, “I actually got it correct.” The Church is not immoral, but individuals within it have chosen the wrong path several times in the history of trying to do what Jesus intended. The Church is Holy, but all members (except Jesus and Mary) are sinful and inherit original sin from our ancestors. This is why we need constant conversion of morals each day. That takes work on our part. Being a Lay Cistercian and following its Charisms and Practices has allowed me to reduce complexity to simplicity and simply seek God each day where I am and as I am.
Baptism allows us to have dual citizenship as adopted sons and daughters of the Father, and our kingdom is not of this world, but we still are citizens of the world until we die. Throughout history, the Saints have called us out when we have chosen our pitiful self as god over the one and true Lord of Hosts. It doesn’t help that the Lord of this world is the Prince of Darkness (lack of knowledge, love, and service).
After we die, we get yet another chance to say YES to the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit in Purgatory, a whole realm of second chances.
ADVICE FROM ONE WHO STUMBLES DOWN THE ROAD OF LIFE SEEKING KNOWLEDGE, LOVE, AND SERVICE
Don’t be seduced by all those religious wanna-be’s who tell you the Pope is leading us down the wrong path. He is perfect? Of course not, but neither are you.
Don’t forget that the Holy Spirit has a special bond with our Holy Father: he is infallible only in faith and morals and only when speaking “ex-cathedra.” That only happened twice and only after much study and consultation with others.
Critics of the Church are often more infallible in their own minds than a Pope can ever be.
Don’t look for the speck in your brother’s eye; take the beam out of your eye before telling your brother to take the speck out of his.
2For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.c
3Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?
4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye?
5You hypocrite,* remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/7
Here is a valuable resource for Catholics who want to know what the Church actually says versus somebody who has an ax to grind. As you sow, so shall you reap. https://www.ecatholic2000.com/saints/clist.shtml
We are facing a war in the world, one with the Devil as Lord of the World. You can listen to the siren call of the world or the challenge of the cross to die to self to rise to the newness of life. One of these will get you to heaven.
Don’t listen to politicians who, with purientis auribus (itching ears), advocate evil, hatred, and injustice. The wages of sin are death. Listen to the late G.K. Chesterton from http://www.azquotes.com.
“Do not be so open-minded that your brains fall out.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton
“To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton
“A society is in decay, final or transitional, when common sense really becomes uncommon.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton
“But the truth is that it is only by believing in God that we can ever criticise the Government. Once abolish the God, and the Government becomes the God.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton
“I believe what really happens in history is this: the old man is always wrong; and the young people are always wrong about what is wrong with him. The practical form it takes is this: that, while the old man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton
“If men will not be governed by the Ten Commandments, they shall be governed by the ten thousand commandments” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton.
“Truth can understand error, but error cannot understand truth.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton
“On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but of the dawn.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton
“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton
“If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton
“A dead thing goes with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton
“The modern habit of saying “This is my opinion, but I may be wrong,” is entirely irrational. If I say that it may be wrong, I say that is not my opinion. The modern habit of saying “Every man has a different philosophy; this is my philosophy, and it suits me,” – the habit of saying this is mere weak-mindedness. A cosmic philosophy is not constructed to fit a man; a cosmic philosophy is constructed to fit a cosmos. A man can no more possess a private religion than he can possess a private sun and moon.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton
“Right is Right even if nobody does it. Wrong is wrong even if everybody is wrong about it.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton
Each of us has reason for a reason. Freedom to choose is at the center of all that is, just like gravity or much more powerful.
Those still making our trek to the heavens are fond of saying that those around us who have died are in a better place or are reaping the rewards of a life well-lived. Is this a pious saying, or do we actually believe it? A test might be: do you pray for your loved ones that they are loosed from their sins, and if they are in Purgatory (a place of second chances if you missed the first one while alive on earth)? All prayers go straight to God, but asking your loved ones to join in your prayer is intercessory prayer.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is my go-to site for all things Catholic. http://www.usccb.org
Look up prayers for the dead and dying: https://www.usccb.org/prayers/prayers-death-and-dying
The Vatican News site is an excellent source of the latest from Rome. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope.html
I was involved this last week in a bit of controversy over a statement in the press about how the Church does not have to convert Jews. As with all the reports that try to cast doubt on Christ and the Church, this one is subtle and seems to state that the Church teaches conflicting ideas (a favorite pastime of nonbelievers who don’t have enough to do with their time).
Peeling back the onion layers, I looked to actual documents and some articles I trust over the secular press. The issue dates from 2015-to 2016, so it is not relevant to today’s issues, yet, the fact that it surfaced and caused a ripple in the minds of some people, is to be taken seriously. This is my take (who else would it be?)
The article I received that started all this commotion is from National Public Radio. I will add a commentary on it from another article, followed by what I consider a balanced approach to how other beliefs and faiths need to be seen in the light of The Christ Principle. You be the judge.
December 10, 20151:26 PM ET
Pope Francis, seen here listening to music in St. Peter’s Square Wednesday, has said “a rich complementarity” exists between Jews and Catholics.
Furthering a thaw in relations that began 50 years ago, the Vatican has released a new document about Catholics’ historic ties with Jews, whom Pope Benedict once called the church’s “fathers in faith.” Among the panel’s conclusions: Jews don’t need to be converted to find salvation.
“While affirming salvation through an explicit or even implicit faith in Christ,” the Vatican document reads, “the Church does not question the continued love of God for the chosen people of Israel.”
Titled “The Gifts and Calling of God are irrevocable,” the 10,000-word document calls for Jews and Christians to work together to make the world a better place by combating poverty and human suffering.
NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli reports:
“The new document states that owing to the Jewish roots of Christianity, Catholic dialogue with Judaism cannot in any way be compared with dialogue with other world religions. It says Jesus can only be understood in the Jewish context of his time.
“The document was drafted by the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations With Jews; the commission was created following the release half a century ago of the groundbreaking document called Nostra Aetate — ‘In Our Times.’
“That document repudiated the idea of collective Jewish guilt for Jesus’ death.
“The new document says that from a detached coexistence, Catholics and Jews have arrived at a deep friendship. And it says Catholics must refrain from active attempts to convert Jews.”
The Vatican commission includes the work of Cardinal Kurt Koch and the Rev. Norbert Hofmann. They presented the results of their work Thursday alongside Edward Kessler, founder of the Woolf Institute in Cambridge, U.K., and Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee’s International Director of Interreligious Affairs.
While it seeks to deal with hundreds of years of history, the Vatican document also quotes the current pope:
“Pope Francis states that ‘while it is true that certain Christian beliefs are unacceptable to Judaism, and that the Church cannot refrain from proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Messiah, there exists as well a rich complementarity which allows us to read the texts of the Hebrew Scriptures together and to help one another to mine the riches of God’s word. We can also share many ethical convictions and a common concern for justice and the development of peoples’ (‘Evangelii gaudium,’ 249).”
Discussing the document today, Rosen said, “the very fact that we can talk about complementarity is itself a powerful demonstration of how far we have come along this remarkable journey of transformation and reconciliation between Catholics and Jews over the last half century.”
The commission’s document also cites Francis’ immediate predecessors:
“Judaism is not to be considered simply as another religion; the Jews are instead our ‘elder brothers’ (Saint Pope John Paul II), our ‘fathers in faith’ (Benedict XVI). Jesus was a Jew, was at home in the Jewish tradition of his time, and was decisively shaped by this religious milieu (cf. ‘Ecclesia in Medio Oriente,’ 20). His first disciples gathered around him had the same heritage and were defined by the same Jewish tradition in their everyday life.”
Having had some red flags go up on this topic, I decided to look for an article that comments on the above article. Here it is. Note that both of these articles are from 2015 and 2016, respectively.
An American Catholic offers a reflection on the recent statement on Catholic-Jewish relations from the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.
Initial news headlines on the recent document issued by the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews were somewhat misleading (such as: “New Vatican document: Catholics should not seek to convert Jews”). The term “convert” in this context is usually used to describe the acceptance of Jesus Christ by Jews, a process that the headline seems to dismiss. But in fact, the document insists that Christians are still to bear witness to the fulfillment of Judaism in Christ.
A somewhat more accurate but far less interesting, the headline might have read something like this: “New Vatican document: Catholics must honor Jewish faith in Old Covenant but a witness to Christ as its fulfillment.” Nonetheless, I’ve used the term “conversion” in my title because it draws attention to the difference between what the document says and what many might guess that it says.
The document in question is The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable (Rom 11:29). Perhaps the first thing that wary readers need to know is that this was not intended to be an exercise of the Magisterium. To quote its own Preface: “The text is not a magisterial document or doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church, but is a reflection prepared by the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews on current theological questions that have developed since the Second Vatican Council. It is intended to be a starting point for further theological thought with a view to enriching and intensifying the theological dimension of Jewish-Catholic dialogue.”
The problem with the relationship between Christians and Jews is that it is a deep mystery. In the first couple of centuries, many Christians would have had a natural instinct to exclaim: “Come on, old friends. You are so close! All of God’s promises to you are true, so true that they have now been fulfilled in Christ!”
As the centuries passed, however, the Jewish roots of Christianity tended to be undervalued in an overwhelmingly Gentile Church, and Christians too often viewed Jews as a stiff-necked people who had been rejected by God.
It took the post-Christian, semi-pagan horrors of the Holocaust in the 20th century to bring Catholics to the defense of Jews and to fuel a rethinking of the Christian-Jewish relationship. This rethinking went back to Scripture, particularly the Revelation we have received in St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans — most notably in chapters 9-11.
The recovery of a deep respect for the mystery of the Old Covenant was moved to the forefront of Jewish-Christian relations by the Second Vatican Council’s “Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions” (Nostra Aetate). Again, it is the purpose of this new text from the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews to reflect on the relevant theological questions as they have emerged and clarified themselves since the Council.
It was, after all, St. Paul who said of the Jewish people that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rm 11:29).
This new document tells the history of Catholic dialogue with Jews since the Council, underscoring that it has a “special theological status”:
In spite of the historical breach and the painful conflicts arising from it, the Church remains conscious of its enduring continuity with Israel. Judaism is not to be considered simply another religion; the Jews are instead our “elder brothers” (Saint Pope John Paul II), our “fathers in faith” (Benedict XVI). Jesus was a Jew, was at home in the Jewish tradition of his time, and was decisively shaped by this religious milieu. 
This has important implications:
Fully and completely human, a Jew of his time, descendant of Abraham, son of David, shaped by the whole tradition of Israel, heir of the prophets, Jesus stands in continuity with his people and its history. On the other hand he is, in the light of the Christian faith, himself God—the Son—and he transcends time, history, and every earthly reality. The community of those who believe in him confesses his divinity (cf. Phil 2:6-11). In this sense he is perceived to be in discontinuity with the history that prepared his coming. From the perspective of the Christian faith, he fulfills the mission and expectations of Israel in a perfect way. 
For these reasons, dialogue between Jews and Christians cannot proceed as if these are two fundamentally diverse religions that developed independently or without mutual influence.
Moreover, while it is certainly true that the Church is the new people of God, “the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures” (23, quoted from Nostra Aetate, 4). Ultimately, God does not lie and He is always faithful. The covenant that God offered Israel is irrevocable and God’s elective fidelity is never repudiated.
In this light, any Christian effort to separate the two covenants, rejecting the Old Testament while retaining only the New, is a grave error. This is why Marcion was excommunicated in AD 144. Again, there is a deep mystery in the relationship between the covenants, in the relationship between Judaism and Christianity, and in the relationship between Jews and Gentiles. As St. Paul wrote, “Just as you [Gentile Christians] were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy” (Rm 11:30-31).
But the text also cautions against two key errors. First, there are not two different but parallel ways of salvation for Christians and Jews: “The Church and Judaism cannot be represented as ‘two parallel ways to salvation,’ but…the Church must ‘witness to Christ as the Redeemer for all.’ The Christian faith confesses that God wants to lead all people to salvation, that Jesus Christ is the universal mediator of salvation, and that there is no ‘other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved’ (Acts 4:12).”(35)
Second, Jews are in fact called to membership in the Church: “The people of God attains a new dimension through Jesus, who calls his Church from both Jews and Gentiles (cf. Eph 2:11-22) on the basis of faith in Christ and by means of baptism, through which there is incorporation into his Body which is the Church” (41). And, “It is and remains a qualitative definition of the Church of the New Covenant that it consists of Jews and Gentiles, even if the quantitative proportions of Jewish and Gentile Christians may initially give a different impression” (42).
So where does this leave us? The Church must view evangelization of the Jews “in a different manner from… people of other religions and world views” (40). The text notes that the Church “neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews” — and, in fact, it is instructive to reflect that the Church has never, over 2,000 years of history, done this. This is highly suggestive that such a stance is part of her DNA.
But the call to evangelization must not be denied: “While there is a principled rejection of an institutional Jewish mission, Christians are nonetheless called to bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews” (40) and “Christian mission means that all Christians, in community with the Church, confess and proclaim the historical realization of God’s universal will for salvation in Christ Jesus” (42).
The upshot is that the Church uses a more nuanced language in speaking of her relationship with the Jews. It is not a question of “conversion” away from the Old Covenant, the law and the promises. Still less is it a question of hostility and rejection. It is rather a question of fulfillment in Christ. The Church does not see Judaism as a foreign and false religion, but as the root of her own development — a root which, for a mysterious reason, has not yet realized its fulfillment in Christ.
Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org, where this article originally appeared.
“The violence of man toward man is in contradiction with every religion worthy of this name, and in particular with the great monotheistic religions,” Pope Francis said in his talk at Rome’s Great Synagogue during a January 17 visit. “Life is sacred, a gift from God,” he said. “The Fifth Commandment of the Decalogue says, ‘Do not kill.’ God is the God of life and always seeks to promote and defend it; and we, created in his image and likeness, are required to do the same.” “Every human being, as a creature of God, is our brother, independent of his origin or religious practice,” he said, recalling that God “extends his merciful hand to all, independent of their faith and their origin,” and “cares for those who need him the most: the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the defenseless.” “We must pray to him insistently so that he helps us to practice in Europe, in the Holy Land, in the Middle East, in Africa, and in every other part of the world, the logic of peace, reconciliation, forgiveness and life.”—CNA
MY PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE
What the word “convert” means depends upon how you use it. The beauty of the Church is that we have twenty centuries of trying to get it right, and even now, some have a problem.
Evangelization is letting the light of Christ shine in your heart so that others might see it and glorify God; proselytizing means you got to believe what I believe as I believe it, or you are not saved.
We evangelize all humans, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and others, because we want to share the “Good News,” but we don’t force it, and we don’t deny it. Christ told us in John 17 words that should comfort us. Read this Chapter prayerfully and as though Christ is speaking straight to you. He is.
The Prayer of Jesus.*
4I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do.
5Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began.d
6“I revealed your name* to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
7Now they know that everything you gave me is from you,
8because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me.
9I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours,e
10and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them.f
11And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.
12When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled.g
13But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely.h
14I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.i
16They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.
17Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.k
18As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.l
19And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.
20“I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
21so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.m
22And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one,
23I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.
25Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me.o
26I made known to them your name and I will make it known,* that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”
Read the encyclical Nostra Aetate. It gives a balanced approach to believing and not becoming God in how we treat others. https://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life says Christ. There is only one path to salvation, through, with, and in Christ. Scripture tells us, “Don’t you judge anyone in the Church, and let God judge anyone outside the Church.”
Balance and trust that the heritage of the Church (guided by the Holy Spirit) won’t let us down, even when our clergy and laity sometimes do, is comforting.
All words have weight behind them. I use the saying: Whatever is received is received according to the disposition of the one who receives it. In the age where misinformation becomes an infallible truth (after all, the secular press would not knowingly deceive us with their own agenda), there is a need for critical examination measured against The Christ Principle.
Wait! Can you answer these six questions before you die? How do you know these are THE six questions you must answer before you die? How do you know they are not? This is my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) for today.
In any event, I have the answers to these six questions. Who told you they were correct? The Holy Spirit told me where to look. How do you know the Holy Spirit told you where to look? How do you know these answers are correct ones? How do you know they were not?
The secret to answering these six questions comes with some strange requirements that I had to discover for myself.
1) The answers are available to any human who has reason and free will. They are not hidden, but you must know where to look.
2) Someone told me where to look and how to look, and this person never wrote anything down in a book.
3) The answers are without cost but will cost you everyTHING you possess.
4) What do you gain, or what is your reward? Nothing in this life, but everything in the next.
5)Wonder if I disagree with both your questions and your answers? It is your choice, but there are consequences with each choice we make.
6)In all that exists, you are self-aware if you are vital for seventy or eighty years. Why is that? In all that exists, you can reason and choose a YES or a NO. Only one behavior is core in that seventy or eighty years, and the rest are supportive (while some are destructive).
7)If we get the answers correct, we discover what it means to be fully human and the fulfillment of intelligent progression (evolution). Both the questions and the answers do not come from human nature but from divine nature. This divine nature wanted us to be fully human as intended and to be able to walk through the minefields of life without getting blown up by the Evil One.
8) God gave Himself to become human in all things but sin in the person of Jesus. (Philippians 2:5) This person died, giving us the key to unlocking these six questions with the correct answers. To ensure that this universal secret comes down to each successive human person, Jesus, Son of God, Savior, gave of Himself in the Real Presence of the Eucharist to sinful and wayward followers who struggle each day with the world’s cares. If you eat this bread, you will live forever. As the answers to these questions, this bread is available right now at no cost, and all it takes is a YES.
8)To get the correct questions and answers, you must die to yourself and be reborn as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father in Baptism. There are five gifts that God gave me to help me discover both the questions and answers.
CAN YOU ANSWER THESE SIX QUESTIONS THAT SHOW THAT YOU HAVE IDENTIFIED WHAT IT MEANS TO BE FULLY HUMAN?
To make things easier for you, I will give you the six questions that I received from the Holy Spirit. You may choose to use them or not. The answers come from The Divine Equation which identifies what it means to be fully human.
The answers must be done in succession, i.e., you must correctly answer the first question because you use that result to ask the next question on the list. It may take you a lifetime to answer these questions. Take your time, you have all the time there is.
A warning! Beware of getting stuck in front of the Mirror of Erisad. This is when you become more fixated on proving that there are different questions than the six and keep staring at the alternatives but NEVER answer the real questions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3GOhCA1HgA
If you won’t or can’t answer these questions, I urge you not to sit in front of the Mirror of Erisad.
Part II of this blog will give you more information about my journey to answer these six questions.
I can remember reading The Soul of the Apostolate in College. This is the spiritual classic by DOM JEAN-BAPTIST CHAUTARD, O.C.S.O. (Abbot of Notre Dame de Sept Fons). This morning, the Holy Spirit tickled my neurons to bring up my previous encounters with this most revered of Cistercian writings. I not only enjoy reading this book, but I want to become what I read.
If you have not read it, use this opportunity to begin to do so. A warning: Reading this book is like drinking concentrated orange juice (you will need to water it down with your life experiences for a year). Take your time reading it. Like enjoying a delectable piece of German chocolate cake, savor each bit.
I offer you a site where you may choose to save it to your computer, then read so much every day or every week.
I will print out for you the APPENDIX, which will give you a flavor of this book. Your challenge will be to take small bites from this masterpiece and mix it with your life experiences, then give glory to the Father through Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember your sign, the cross made on your forehead at Baptism and renewed on Ash Wednesday with ashes.
The Soul of the Apostolate By DOM JEAN-BAPTIST CHAUTARD, O.C.S.O. (Abbot of Notre Dame de Sept Fons)
TEN AIDS TO MENTAL PRAYER
Mental prayer is a furnace in which the watchfires of vigilance are constantly rekindled. Fidelity to mental prayer gives life to all our other pious exercises. By it, the soul will gradually acquire vigilance and a spirit of prayer, that is, a habit of ever more frequent recourse to God. Union with God in mental prayer will lead to intimate union with Him, even in the midst of our most absorbing occupations. 139 The soul, thus living in union with God, by custody of the heart, will draw down into itself, more and more, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the infused virtues, and perhaps God will call it to a higher degree of prayer. Dom Vital Lehodey’s splendid “Ways of Mental Prayer” (Paris, Lecoffre. Eng. Transl. Dublin, M. H. Gill) presents a clear and forceful summary of all the essentials of the ascent of the soul, through the various degrees of prayer, and gives rules by which we can ascertain whether a higher type of prayer is really a gift of God or the product of illusion. Before speaking of affective prayer, the first degree of the comparatively advanced prayer to which God ordinarily only calls souls who have attained custody of the heart by means of meditation, Fr. Rigoleuc points out in his fine book of “Spiritual Works” (Avignon, 1843, pp. 17ff.) ten ways of conversing with God when, after a sincere attempt, one finds it morally impossible to make a set meditation upon a subject prepared the evening before. We here summarise the suggestions of this holy writer: FIRST WAY. Take some spiritual book (New Testament, Following of Christ), read a few lines, pausing long in between — meditate a little on what you have read, trying to get the full meaning and to impress it on your mind. — Draw some holy affection, love, contrition, etc., from the reading. Avoid reading or meditating too much. — Every time you pause, remain as long as your mind finds it pleasant or useful to do so. SECOND WAY. Take some text of Holy Scripture, or some vocal prayer, like the Pater, Ave, or Credo, and say it over, stopping at each word, drawing our various holy sentiments, upon which you may dwell as long as you like. At the end, ask God for some grace or virtue, depending on what has been the subject of your meditations. Do not stop on any one word if it wearies or tires you. When you find no more matter for thought or affections, leave it and pass on quietly to the next. But when you feel moved by some good sentiment, remain there as long as it lasts, without going to the trouble of passing on to something else. — There is no necessity to be always making new acts; it is often quite enough to remain in the presence of God silently turning over in your mind the words you have already meditated upon, or savoring the affections they have aroused in your heart. THIRD WAY. When the prepared subject matter does not give you enough scope, or room for free action, make acts of faith, adoration, thanksgiving, hope, love, and so on, letting them range as wide and free as you please, pausing at each one to let it sink in. FOURTH WAY. When meditation is impossible, and you are too helpless and dried up to produce a single affection, tell Our Lord that it is your intention to make an act, for example, of contrition, every time you draw breath, or pass a bead of the rosary between your fingers, or say, vocally, some short prayer. Renew this assurance of your intention, from time to time, and then, if God suggests some other good thought, receive it with humility, and dwell upon it. FIFTH WAY. In a time of trial or dryness, if you are completely barren and powerless to make any acts or to have any thoughts, abandon yourself generously to suffering, without anxiety, and without making any effort to avoid it, making no other acts except this self-abandonment into the hands of God to suffer this trial and all it may please Him to send. 140 Or else you may unite your prayer with Our Lord’s Agony in the garden and His desolation upon the Cross. — See yourself attached to the Cross with the Saviour and stir yourself up to follow His example, and remain there suffering without flinching, until death. SIXTH WAY. A survey of your own conscience. — Admit your defects, passions, weaknesses, infirmities, helplessness, misery, nothingness. — Adore God’s judgments with regard to the state in which you find yourself. — Submit to His holy will. — Bless Him both for His punishments and for the favors of His mercy. — Humble yourself before His sovereign Majesty. — Sincerely confess your sins and infidelities to Him and ask Him to forgive you. — Take back all your false judgments and errors. — Detest all the wrongs you have done and resolve to correct yourself in the future. his kind of prayer is very free and unhampered and admits to all kinds of affections. It can be practiced at all times, especially in some unexpected trials, to submit to the punishments of God’s justice, or as a means of regaining recollection after a lot of activity and distracting affairs. SEVENTH WAY. Conjure up a vivid picture of the Last Things. Visualize yourself in agony, between time and eternity — between your past life and the judgment of God. — What would you wish to have done? How would you want to have lived? — Think of the pain you will feel then. — Call to mind your sins, your negligence, your abuse of grace. — How would you like to have acted in this or that situation? — Make up your mind to adopt a real, practical means of remedying those defects which give you the reason for anxiety. Visualize yourself dead, buried, rotting, forgotten by all. See yourself before the judgment seat of Christ: in purgatory — in hell. The more vivid the picture, the better will be your meditation. We all need this mystical death, to get dead flesh out of our soul, and to rise again, that is, to get free from corruption and sin. We need to go through this purgatory, in order to arrive at the enjoyment of God in this life. EIGHTH WAY. Apply your mind to Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Address yourself to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, with all the respect that His Real Presence demands, unite yourself to Him and to all His operations in the Eucharist, where He is ceaselessly adoring, praising, and loving His Father, in the name of all men, and in the condition of a victim. Realize His recollection, His hidden life, His utter privation of everything, obedience, humility, and soon. Stir yourself up to imitate them, and resolve to do so according to as the occasions arise. Offer up Jesus to the Father, as the only Victim worthy of Him, and by Whom we can offer homage to Him, thank Him for His gifts, satisfy His justice, and oblige His mercy to help us. Offer yourself to sacrifice your being, your life, your work. Offer up to Him some act of virtue you propose to perform, some mortification upon which you have resolved, with a view to self-conquest, and offer this for the same ends for which Our Lord immolates Himself in the Holy Sacraments. — Make this offering with an ardent desire to add as much as possible to the glory He gives to His Father in this august mystery. End with a spiritual Communion. This is an excellent form of prayer, especially for your visit to the Blessed Sacrament. Get to know it well, because our happiness in this life depends on our union with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. 141 NINTH WAY. This prayer is to be made in the Name of Jesus Christ. It will arouse our confidence in God, and help us to enter into the spirit and the sentiments of Our Lord. Its foundation is the fact that we are united to the Son of God, and are His brothers, members of His Mystical Body; that He has made over to us all His merits, and left us the legacy of all the rewards owed Him by His Father for His labors and death. And this is what makes us capable of honoring God with worship worthy of Him, and gives us the right to treat with God, and, as it were, to exact His graces of Him as though by justice. — As creatures, we have not this right, still less as sinners, for there is an infinite disproportion between God and creatures, and infinite opposition between God and sinners. But because we are united to the Incarnate Word and are His brothers, and His members, we are enabled to appear before God with confidence, speak familiarly with Him and oblige Him to give us a favorable hearing, to grant our requests, and to grant us His graces, because of the alliance and union between us and His Son. Hence, we are to appear before God either to adore, to praise, or to love Him, by Jesus Christ working in us as the Head in His members, lifting us up, by His spirit, to an entirely divine state, or else to ask some favor in virtue of the merits of His Son. And for that purpose, we should remind Him of all that His well-beloved Son has done for Him, His life and death, and His sufferings, the reward for which belongs to us because of the deed of gift by which he has made it over to us. And this is the spirit in which we should recite the Divine Office. TENTH WAY. Simple attention to the presence of God, and meditation. Before starting out to meditate on the prepared topic, put yourself in the presence of God without making any other distinct thought, or stirring up in yourself any other sentiment except the respect and love for God which His presence inspires. — Be content to remain thus before God, in silence, in simple repose of the spirit as long as it satisfies you. After that, go on with your meditation in the usual way. It is a good thing to begin all your prayers in this way, and worthwhile to return to it after every point. — Relax in this simple awareness of God’s presence. — It is a way to gain real interior recollection. — You will develop the habit of centering your mind upon God and thus gradually pave die way for contemplation. — But do not remain this way out of pure laziness or just to avoid the trouble of making a meditation.
I made this contemplative retreat recently and found it to be life-changing and the most inspiring thoughts that I am still processing to assimilate into my personal spiritual worldview. I offer to share this with you, but be forewarned, it is not for the faint of heart, and you must go to a place where no one wants to look.
There is no cost to this retreat but making it will cost you everyTHING you have. There is no retreat director or spiritual director for this retreat. It is just you and Christ in the presence of the Holy Spirit. It does use a YouTube from Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, and the subject is “His Last Words.” There are no discussion groups or comments to share from me or anyone else, just you and Jesus. There are four sessions to this retreat that you must complete. Turn on the closed caption for better viewing. I came up with this approach to Lay Cistercian spirituality to focus on silence, solitude, stillness in my heart, and just waiting patiently for Christ to speak through my overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. It works so well for me that I am still trying to assimilate all of this is who I am as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father. The joy that comes from this experience is something the world can never give.
LAST WORDS: A contemplative experience
PREPARE THE WAY FOR THE COMING OF THE LORD
As St. Benedict points out in Chapter 7 of his Rule, it is essential to remember that we should approach Christ (who then can approach the Father) with fear of the Lord in our hearts. This is the first of twelve steps of humility in the Rule of Benedict. Another way of saying it is, “Don’t forget it is God in whose presence you are asking to sit.”
I prepared my heart for nine days (your time is up to you) by reciting in entire Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict, after which I opened my heart in silence and solitude for fifteen minutes and just waited. https://christdesert.org/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/
LESSON ONE: Listen to the Word
1. In the YouTube below, I recommend that you find a time that is uninterrupted by the world, and you can view this video all the way through. Just click skip as soon as you see it on the screen. I apologize for the advertisements on the YouTube video.
2. Once you have completed this video, I ask you to sit in a chair somewhere for fifteen minutes and think about the three segments of Archbishop Sheen’s remarks.
LESSON TWO: Pray the Word
1. In the YouTube below, I recommend that you find a time that is uninterrupted by the world, and you can view this video all the way through.
2. Once you have completed this video, I ask you to sit in a chair somewhere for fifteen minutes and think about the three segments of Archbishop Sheen’s remarks.
LESSON THREE: Share the Word
LESSON FOUR: Be the Word in your heart.
1. In the YouTube below, I recommend that you find a time that is uninterrupted by the world, and you can view this video all the way through. Wait in the silence of your heart for the Holy Spirit.
2. Once you have completed this video, I ask you to sit in a chair somewhere for fifteen minutes and think about the three segments of Archbishop Sheen’s remarks. What three questions should you be asking?
LESSON FIVE: No Words are needed.
Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the age. –Cistercian doxology
If you choose to access this blog from various Trappist websites, hopefully, you will be as inspired as I was.
I can remember the Sun slicing through the gigantic, three-feet thick, sandstone window openings of our Second Theology class in Sacramental Theology on the first floor of Major Theology section at Saint Meinrad School of Theology. At the blackboard was the late Father Aiden Kavanaugh, O.S.B., writing down the words, “Mrs. Murphy,” on the blackboard. In 1963, not knowing what I did not know, much less what I should know about theology, I was just trying to stay awake on the warm Spring day in Southern Indiana. At the time, I remember thinking that his explanation of Mrs. Murphy did not make sense. Father Adrian told us to remember that liturgy was about the human heart being able to approach the unapproachable mystery of Faith through using the senses and common human experiences to share what we can share about Word and Sacrament.
Those who were fortunate to hear Father Aiden, recognize that he thought in terms of compound, complex sentences, but his keen insights into the human condition began to formulate how the Sacred informs meaning in each of us in very different ways.
Now, I am merely a broken-down, old Lay Cistercian of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, lucky to comment about life around me and certainly not an eloquent apologist for any approach to liturgics. In this book, Mrs. Murphy looms large as an archetype of us all, an Adam and Eve for relations with the Sacred. Let me use a quote from Fr. Aidan to give you a sense of his eloquent thinking.
“The liturgical assembly is thus a theological corporation and each of its members a theologian. . . . Mrs. Murphy and her pastor are primary theologians whose discourse in faith is carried on not by concepts and propositions nearly so much as in the vastly complex vocabulary of experiences had, prayers said, sights seen, smells smelled, words said and heard and responded to, emotions controlled and released, sins committed and repented, children born and loved ones buried, and in many other ways no one can count or always account for.” (On Liturgical Theology, Chapter 7)
If I understand Father Aidan’s thinking even remotely, it is that the local church is established by Christ to enable its members to communicate and give glory to a God we cannot see, to make sense out of everyday struggles and trials with those we do see, and to find meaning and purpose with a world gone mad with its importance. By loving our neighbor as our self, within the sacramental and non-sacramental context of the local assembly, the Mystery of Faith, we find purpose, pure energy with the source of all reality, and how to love with all our hearts, our minds, and our strength. God will not leave any of us stranded or without food to sustain us on our journey. If our purpose is to be with God…Forever, then the invisible God needs some way to communicate with those who call him Lord and give them food for the journey and the ability to make all things new, over and over. The context in which we find what we need to make sense out of all of this is the local church, linked by heritage and practice to the Apostles. It is the way to touch the invisible God in our midst; it is the way we claim our adoption as God’s sons and daughters.
I think I am beginning to get what Father Aidan was proposing with the archetypal character of Mrs. Murphy, much like Genesis did with Adam and Eve. What has bothered me all these years, up to five years ago, was the concept of Mrs. Murphy. How can an old woman sit in the back of church and know more than all the theologians and clerics combined? I say five years ago because that was the time I was accepted as a novice Lay Cistercian. With the emphasis on contemplation and Lectio Divina, I found that I gradually morphed into Mrs. Murphy, at least I fancy that I did. I wasn’t worried that I had to comprehend the Mystery of Faith, only that I could approach it in humility and wait. I began to think less of knowing and more of loving through doing. As part of doing, I wrote down all my thoughts about Mrs. Murphy in 54 books and a blog to keep my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) fresh and relevant to my relationship with the Sacred. Information, Knowledge, and Science is not the end purpose of life, as St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P., described in his famous quote about everything he knew about God was so much straw.
Knowledge unlocks the door to the heart, the place where no one wants to look. It is my sitting on a park bench in the dead of Winter, waiting for Christ to come by, straining to see him trudging about the bend with his pet Yellow Lab, in the hope that he will sit down next to me.
Mrs. Murphy is that every-person who has profound simplicity, the simplicity of a human approaching that which the human mind cannot control or grasp, but the human heart can partially capture. We get a glimpse of divine reality, like looking through a foggy glass. For Mrs. Murphy, and now for me, I am satisfied that Christ is my mediator between the Sacred and the world in which I live. With Christ, I access the Mystery of Faith through silence, solitude, work, prayer, in the context of my two communities of Faith. I am grateful and blessed that Father Aidan planted the seed, I watered it, but it is Christ who gives the issue. And what an issue it is.
Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology
I had gall bladder removal surgery yesterday and am slowly getting back to normal (which is no small feat for me because I haven’t been normal for over twenty years). As I grow in awareness that I don’t know the full implications of the questions that I raise in my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), two approaches to my search for the nexus between science, philosophy, psychology, and religion (spirituality as I define it) have emerged in my thoughts. Both approaches are sides of the same coin, so this is not an “either-or” selection. I am resigned to this seeming conundrum.
The Tuesday after Easter Sunday, our community of Good Shepherd, Tallahassee, Florida, will gather together in Eucharistic adoration at the Mass to celebrate the 99th birthday of Mary Stuart Hartmann. Mary Stuart reminds me of Mrs. Murphy, which is quite a compliment. What follows are my thoughts about Mary Stuart that inspire me to think about the silence and quiet truth of just believing in Jesus.
THE SIMPLICITY OF TRUTH: The first is based on looking at the totality of all reality (remember, this is the reality that is the capsule of my life experiences that will be different from those you have lived through). The big picture view of my Lay Cistercian promises to seek God each day as I am. This approach is characterized by being more and more simple, realizing that the complexity of The Christ Principle is a tool, like the Ten Commandments, meant to be lived out so that my heart is prepared to sit on a park bench in the middle of winter and anticipate just being with the Being of Jesus. There are no steps to follow or fancy readings to inspire me to holiness, although these make me a better-informed person when I do them. I ask no questions, seek no answers, bring up no agenda, and do not call upon my background to “know” more. Rather, it is the conscious “kenosis” or emptying of my false self to make room for more love.
THE COMPLEXITY OF TRUTH: We humans only live one moment at a time. A succession of these moments gives continuity to what would otherwise be a fractured experience of holding on to one thought and focusing on it. All thoughts have a direction (there is always a beginning and an ending to everything, including each activity or mental awareness) and depth (or height, if you want). In dealing with The Christ Principle, my Lectio Divina thoughts have a beginning and an ending because I live in a world that continues to deteriorate around me. Still, I am also a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, which is incorruptible and has no limit to its depth.
My new awareness of these two approaches to truth and how they interact with each other has opened a new door to solving one of the most annoying and frustrating concepts about spirituality. This has to do with Mrs. Murphy’s character, originally presented to me in 1963 by the late Aidan Kavanaugh, O.S.B., in a class on sacramental theology. I have attached a blog I wrote about Mrs. Murphy so you can sketch out a backstory if you so desire. https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=5689&action=edit
When Father Aidan told us that this simple person who sits on the backbench in the darkness of the Church, eyes lowered, smiling in the silence and solitude of her heart, knows more than all the great theologians who have ever lived, I was taken aback by it. From 1963 until last year, I struggled with how this could be true, even though I realized this was a fictional character. The distance it took me to continuously ponder this idea was considerable; the depth I had to reach the truth was also formidable and required stick-to-it-ness to realize any kind of assimilation into my thoughts from 1993.
This is what I realized. Mrs. Murphy is you or me as you approach the great, amorphous Mystery of Faith. Learned theologians and clerics devote their whole existence to acquiring more and more knowledge with the assumption that the more you know, the more you can love God. St. Thomas Aquinas told us that. Father Aidan was not the first to portray the simplicity in the complexity of knowing about God.
“Any old woman can love God better than a doctor of theology can.” ~ Bonaventure
“One day when Thomas Aquinas was preaching to the local populace on the love of God, he saw an old woman listening attentively to his every word. And inspired by her eagerness to learn more about her God whom she loved so dearly, he said to the people: It is better to be this unlearned woman, loving God with all her heart, than the most learned theologian lacking love.” ~ Thomas Aquinas
It did not click until this year that all the Scripture we read, the Liturgy of the Hours we pray, the Eucharist we share, and the contemplation where all of this comes together in The Christ Principle is not how much you know, although that is essential. The simplicity of a simple act of sitting on a park bench in the middle of winter in silence and solitude to wait for Christ is the meaning of Mrs. Murphy’s paradox. Seek out the precise reason there is complexity and become one with that goal of all contemplation. Waiting is not a passive activity but rather the only way to enter the kingdom of heaven. Don’t hurry! Don’t be afraid! Simplicity sits on the lap of complexity at its center. Being present to the heart of Christ is the purpose of Scriptures, Eucharist, and Cistercian practices following the Rule of St. Benedict.
These ideas on how to love others as Christ loved us form the basis of moving from my false self to the newness of life, especially at this time of the Resurrection. We celebrate that pure energy became subject to corruptibility because God loved humans, each one, one at a time. Mrs. Murphy is everyman, superman, the Blessed Mother, the Apostles. Each person in the church struggles to love God with all their hearts, minds, and strength and their neighbor as themselves. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:38).
I experienced the closure of Mrs. Murphy’s seeming conundrum only to realize that it opened up to me an additional height, depth, and width (capacitas dei) I did not realize I had. What joy comes from sitting in that backbench before the Blessed Sacrament, in silence and solitude, in the company of the Church Universal, and feeling the heart of Christ beating, waiting for me to move from this kingdom of heaven to the next, in quiet anticipation of being one with my destiny as evolving to be fully human, to just be. My life is a vast THANKS to God for all His blessings.
Mary Stuart reminds me of Mrs. Murphy, who reflects the complexity of God in the simplicity of her life well-lived. We should all learn from the many Mary Stuarts to inspire us to love with our whole heart, our whole mind, our whole self, and our neighbor as ourselves. (Matthew 22:38) The complexity of truth is made simple in the heart of each person who just sits in the presence of Christ and waits, smiling at knowing that the love of Christ is everything.
Praise to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. –Cistercian doxology
Remember the actor Flip Wilson and his characters.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kaiLcwHXB4 This is one of my favorite comedic routines, “The Devil Made Me Do It.” Geraldine blams the Devil on her buying a new dress. Sounds a lot like Genesis 1-2, where Eve blamed the Serpent for eating the fruit. We know the consequences, right?
The older I get, the more wisdom I hope to inform all the knowledge and experiences I have gleaned over the ages. I used to be satisfied with just knowing something. The World values memory, knowledge (along with the assumptions that accompany it), and the thinking that each person has the right to choose whatever value system they want, and not only that but what they choose is right. This thinking is seductive because it reinforces human choice, which seems to be at the core of being human. Let’s look deeper into the whole paradigm of evil and how it relates to our salvation by Christ.
If you ask what differentiates all life from the human species (Homo Sapiens), I come up with two attributes: we have reason for a reason, and we have the ability to choose for a reason. Using human reasoning, we can identify what is good for us and bad for us. Genesis 1-2 is the classic, archetypal story of how humans (Adam and Eve) chose poorly, and God gave them the path to be fully human again. The Original Sin is couched deep in the psyche of the human experience. God gave humans reason to be able to know what is good and what is evil. God gave humans the ability to choose because, to activate it, one must actually do something to make it happen. Adam and Eve missed what God had intended for them, even though he gave them reason. Clearly, reason is not enough when facing the choice of what is good for me or what is bad for me. This is why I hold that there has been a titanic battle going on since the fall of Lucifer and his choice to be God. This is why some people hold that they are gods and can determine what is good and evil. This is why some people hold that only God can give us the way, the truth, and the life. It is not the fact that we have choices that define us but what we choose as a result of choosing what is good or evil. The effects of Original Sin mean that, even with the forgiving power of God for the sin of Adam and Eve, we continue to struggle with temptation from the evil one.
THE EXISTENCE OF EVIL
We pray it every time we say the Lord’s Prayer, “and lead us not into temptation.” A better way to look at it is “Lord, do not abandon me when I am tempted.”
The big question for those who have been baptized in the blood of the Lamb is, “Is evil real?” and “Is there a Devil?” If you look at some movies and television shows, e.g., Lucifer, or Constantine, the answer might be “yes.” If you analyze evil from the viewpoint of science or psychology, the answer might be “no,” depending on who you read. What is real? That is the question, isn’t it?
Woven deep within the fabric of our Christian Faith is the notion of evil as personified by a fallen angel, Lucifer. It is part of the story of what it means to be human, as recounted in Genesis 1-2. This archetypal story of good and evil portrays God the Grand Gardner as making everything and then finding out He needs someone to tend his garden. What God makes is good, including Adam and Eve. It is only with Adam and Eve, different because God gifted them with reason and free choice, that this story continues. Choice means that someone must choose something for it to be activated. So, Adam and Eve are given a directive by God, “Do not eat of the fruit of the tree of good and evil. In the case o Adam and Eve, Genesis has a cunning serpent to represent Satan. Satan first tempts Eve with the sin of vanity and power, then Eve tempts Adam, and the consequences of that choice are Original Sin, a condition of corruption that all of us are born into. So, is this real? Depends?
THE PLACE NO ONE WANTS TO LOOK
My answer is contained in the book I wrote about the Foundations of Contemplative Spirituality, THE PLACE WHERE NO ONE WANTS TO LOOK. Here are six questions that all humans must ask and answer before they die. They are foundational questions that go to the heart of what it means to be human. Not everyone will agree with this, nor will they understand the significance of these archetypal questions. https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Dr.+Michael+F.+Conrad&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss
I used to worry if someone would disagree with my hypotheses. Now, I am too old to care about comments. I think of myself as a dictation writer, writing whatever the Holy Spirit puts in my mind. Some of it will be folly for the Gentiles, and some will be a stumbling block to the Jews. It is a way to make sense out of the sign of contradiction, which everyone signed with the mark of salvation at Baptism has tattooed on their soul, the cross.
I am at the fourth question of those six questions, the others being:
1. What is the purpose of life?
2. What is your purpose within that purpose?
3. What does reality look like?
4. How does it all fit together?
5. How to love fiercely?
6. You know you are going to die. Now what?
At this late stage in my life, I am fixated on how all things are one in Christ.
John 12:32 32 And if I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself.
Reality contains three universes, each separate, each with its purpose and their own measurements.
EVIL IN THREE UNIVERSES
Let’s use the word “EVIL” from the perspective of three universes.
Evil lives in the realm of darkness, not light. It is invisible. The problem with invisibility is that you can’t see it. The darkness is not physical darkness but the spiritual darkness that comes as the wages of sin. Christ is the light that comes into the spiritual universe to enlighten the mind, enable the heart, and produce good works, that, when you let your light shine before others, they will see it and glorify your Father, the source of all light.
Hell on earth means the darkness of not knowing the way, the truth, and the life. Hell after death means you are in the darkness but now know what you should have chosen but did not.
The Resurrection Event lifts all humans up to have a chance to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father. Those who die without the benefit of The Christ Principle are judged accordingly.
Humans have human nature. That sounds like a Yogi Berra truism, but there is a wisdom that belies this simple turn of phrase. The Book of Genesis, the archetypal story of our nature, points out that we humans are not God. Yet, as a result of the Original Sin, the principal sin we commit has to do with why we are so persistently opposed to God’s will for us and stubbornly obstinant at doing what is bad for us. All sin is rooted in the sin of Adam, that Archetypal sin of wanting to be God. Ever ask yourself why the Devil tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? Satan is a fallen Archangel and made wanted to be like God and was banished from the presence of God as a consequence of his choice. Ever since then, Satan has tried to seduce humans to choose his thinking rather than God’s to get revenge on God. Original sin is the condition into which all humans are born, the condition St. Paul refers to as the World. Baptism takes away the Original Sin of Adam and Eve, but its effect still remains with me. Our nature does not change. What does change is that Christ is our Savior, the one who tells us, “follow me and I will help you through the minefields of life so that you can join me in Heaven, forever.” Christ shows us how to repel the temptations of the Devil. Satan is not God’s son, as the popular television show, Lucifer, suggests, but rather someone who is consumed by hatred, jealousy, and envy and wants other humans to hate God as much as he does. Some believe that some do not. You are free to believe whatever you want. I must keep myself vigilant in being a Lay Cistercian because Satan most definitely uses our weaknesses and wounded nature to think that we don’t need God, only ourselves.
This idea was part of my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) when I meditated on the real meaning of sin. What follows are at least three temptations that Satan and his demons use to seduce my hope in the Resurrection and my Lay Cistercian practices. In a way, these three temptations are like the three temptations that Christ experienced in the desert. All of us have at least three of them. What are the three temptations that the Devil uses to seduce you as you practice taking up your cross daily to follow Christ?
My three temptations are about the three most important principles in my life, all part of my center. The Devil tries by any means available to make a crack in the foundation of this temple of the Holy Spirit. I confess to having some minor cracks, but I patched them up with Christ in the Sacrament of Forgiveness. I will experience the struggle of doing God’s will versus my own will for as long as I live.
LOVING GOD WITH ALL MY HEART, WITH ALL MY MIND AND WITH ALL MY STRENGTH AND MY NEIGHBOR AS MYSELF (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:36). That doesn’t sound like a temptation, does it? In the Garden of Eden, in the second story of creation, two trees are mentioned, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God says to Adam and Eve that he wants them to be his gardeners of the garden of Eden but warns them not to eat of this second tree. This is like mom and dad telling us not to do something with the result that we often do just that very thing.
Genesis 2 NRSVCE – 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
The temptation comes when I try to love God using my energy. It always falls short of loving with ALL my heart, so I just give us as being impossible. Actually, it is in the act of consistently trying repeatedly that makes the human love that I have transformed by the addition of the power of the Holy Spirit. With Christ, I can do all things.
WHEN CONFESSING MY SINS TO A PRIEST, ALL I NEED TO DO IS TELL HIM WHAT I WANT HIM TO HEAR, THEN GOD WILL AUTOMATICALLY FORGIVE ME. Not so fast! Confessing my sins is all about admitting to another person (who is given the power of Christ to forgive) my need to make all things new in my life, again, then having a firm purpose of amendment not to sin again. Who are you trying to fool? You can’t just say you are sorry for your sins and then go out and do them again. There is a big difference between knowing you can go out and sin as much as you want because you have a free pass to heaven with Baptism and sincerely knowing that what you do is bad and trying not to do it again. One is a perversion, and the other is conversion. You simply can’t fool God.
LIFE IS ALL ABOUT STORING UP RICHES IN THE MATERIAL WORLD. We can even be seduced by thinking that the word “riches” means possessions. We have to store up our treasures in this life to take to the next life in heaven. Only the rich get to heaven, but it is not your riches you must pack in your suitcase, but what God considers riches. And what are they? Read what a Catholic website has to say about these treasures. https://www.loyolapress.com/catholic-resources/scripture-and-tradition/catholic-basics/catholic-beliefs-and-practices/gifts-of-the-holy-spirit/
“In the Book of Isaiah 11:2-3, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are described. In the passage, the gifts are considered ones that the Messiah would have possessed. Through Jesus, we also receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation.
Wisdom helps us recognize the importance of others and the importance of keeping God central in our lives.
Understanding is the ability to comprehend the meaning of God’s message.
Knowledge is the ability to think about and explore God’s revelation and recognize there are mysteries of faith beyond us.
Counsel is the ability to see the best way to follow God’s plan when we have choices related to him.
Fortitude is the courage to do what one knows is right.
Piety helps us pray to God in true devotion.
Fear of the Lord is the feeling of amazement before God, who is all-present, and whose friendship we do not want to lose.
Those are some of the riches you can take with you to Heaven.
ASSUMPTIONS UNDERPINNING THE DIVINE EQUATION
For some reason, always unknown to me, the notion of The Divine Equation popped up in my Lectio Divina this morning. I have been writing down what I have received from the Holy Spirit without totally knowing what I am writing but hoping to put the pieces together gradually. I realized that I am unique in all the World with my view of what reality looks like but that I must exercise my reason to being into the Equation not only my Faith but the Faith of the Church, the Church Universal as it has been since the time of Christ. The Church is like a bank, housing the wisdom of those who have not only written the Gospel and Epistles in the New Testament but also preserving how those in each age use their assumptions to live out what it means to die to self to rise with Christ to new life, again and again, until death. The Divine Equation might mean something different to you and to me. What the words mean depends on how I interpret them according to the total accumulation of my knowledge, what I learned about the purpose of life, and what my purpose in life is. The differences are assumptions I make about what the words mean. Assumptions are those hidden ideas in my head that prompt me to say something in a particular way. You may not know what those hidden ideas are unless you ask. Guessing about assumptions in what another person says is called assumicide.
Back to the Divine Equation. “Divine” in the Divine Equation does not mean it is an equation that proves who God is or defines once and for all God’s nature, which is impossible with mere human languages. I assume that “Divine” means that the six questions and their authentic answers come from a power higher than ourselves and outside our human nature. The Divine Equation gives humans what it means to be fully human nature and the result of human evolution.
The tool I use to look at reality is The Rule of Three. I have not always used it but only recently discovered it in one of my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) sessions.
Using The Rule of Three, the first universe is one in which all reality exists, the base of our existence. It exists quite independently of whether humans know about it or not. Humans have evolved with special tools or capabilities to look at this physical universe and ask why and how questions in the next universe, the mental one. Only humans live in the mental universe. The questions I had were: Why are we the only ones that know that we know? Know what? Is there a purpose to all reality and an endpoint to which all matter and energy aspire? This leads me to posit that there must be a roadblock in our human evolution over which human progression has no control. Humanity exists in a condition of corruption (everything has a beginning and an end, there is pain, there is a choice of evil, people die). Humanity needed help to jump to the next level of its evolution to fulfill its destiny. I hold that the spiritual universe is the universe that allows humanity to move forward toward what is intended in nature. The problem comes when this spiritual universe is one where each person must enter on their own using the experiences of a lifetime. This problem is that humans by themselves (the World) don’t possess the energy needed to raise their seventy or eighty years to the next level of evolution. This level is one of incorruptibility and is the opposite of what The World says is needed to be fully human.
The Christ Principle offers humanity the capability to reach the destiny intended for the human race. Humans that so choose are given a special sign at their Baptism. They can lead a double life (they live in the corruptibility of matter and the mind but are accepted by pure energy as being adopted sons and daughters of the Father.) This is dual citizenship where we struggle with the effects of corruption (pain, temptations to be evil in our hearts, and death, to name a few) and yet are a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, which is incorruptible. This is the price we pay for the price Christ paid for our incorruptibility.
MY ASSUMPTIONS AS A LAY CISTERCIAN AS I COMMENT ABOUT SPIRITUAL REALITY
Assumptions are like icebergs; what you see, hear, taste, touch, and feel and thus know about the reality around you at any moment always has something deeper involved; in this case, my assumptions that you cannot see unless I share them.
Assumptions are like icebergs.
All assumptions are important because how I look at reality (and how you view the same situation) is different. Each of us looks at who God is by using our assumptions about who I am. God may be one, but each human has the potential to be an adopted son or daughter of the Father with Baptism or with God’s mercy in the case of those who do not know The Christ Principle. Assumptions are the frame of reference that shape how I think about anything. Assumptions can change by adding or detracting from what we believe or act. Assumptions might be good or destructive to how you view what is morally correct. If you assume that stealing is acceptable as long as you don’t get caught, your behavior follows. Ex fructibus cognocsetis. Watch how a person acts, and it will tell you what is in their heart.
15“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.k
16l By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
17Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.
18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.
19Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
20So by their fruits, you will know them.m
The True Disciple.
Use this full text to ponder in your heart about what assumptions you hold about being next to the heart of Christ in contemplation. Take some time with this practice.
What follows are some cryptic statements that I hold due to having made The Christ Principle one of my assumptions. My belief is not your belief because my assumptions are not your assumptions.
“I am not you; you are not me; God is not me; and I am certainly not God.”
I have chosen that God is the center of my life and not my false self.
Each day, I begin from scratch in seeking God. But each day, I have also changed in my capacity to seek God.
My prayer life is my life of prayer for the whole day, not just during Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Reading Scripture, Rosary, and Praying the Penitential Psalms.
Each day, I make the sign of the cross on my forehead to remind me that I am but a sinful person whom God has graced with discovering The Divine Equation using the energy of the Holy Spirit.
All I seek is to wait in the presence of God before the Blessed Sacrament and be near the heart of Christ.
Profound waiting in the stillness of my heart as I assimilate the love of Christ as He loved me, using the power of the Holy Spirit.
I use the Rule of Threes with nearly every word I utter. The Rule of Threes states that there is one reality with three distinct and separate universes corresponding to the nature of God, the nature of animality to rationality, and the nature of rationality to spirituality.
I assume that when I am accepted as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father, I inherit the Kingdom of Heaven on earth and become a caretaker (like Adam and Eve) of the World that I experience.
I assume that I do not speak for anyone else but only relate what I receive from the Holy Spirit. That depends on my assumptions as one who receives from the Spirit. What that means depends on the assumptions that you make with your life about The Divine Equation. In the Divine Equation, God’s questions and answers are the ones that are authentic and make us fully human as intended by our evolution.
I have been accepted as a Lay Cistercian by the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia, to follow the Rule of St. Benedict, as interpreted by Cistercian practices and charisms and confirmed through its principles and policies.
My center is: “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)
Each day, because of the corruption of human nature due to Adam and Eve (Genesis 2-3), I must keep vigil against the World’s temptations to substitute the words I use to become more like Christ with what the World says is meaningful. They are the exact words, such as “peace,” “love,” “What it means to be human?” and “How does all this fit together?”
I have pledged my life to the conversion of my morals to become more like Christ and less like me, a paradox that the World will never understand or accept.
I live in a world until I die where I have dual citizenship, that of being in the physical and mental World. Still, I have been accepted by God as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, which leads to my continuing after I die in Heaven.
The one rule I follow is to love others as Christ loved me.
The New Commandment.
32[If God is glorified in him,] God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once.r
33My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go, you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.s
35This is how all will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.”
Scripture is there for me to clarify humans’ assumptions about how to love each other as Christ loved us. (John 20:30-31)
In my attempt to sanctify each moment, I realize that I must become what I pray for and that the moment has depths I have yet to discover. You can always pray deeper.
When I use the term “The Rule of Threes,” I assume that there are three phases of evolution:
The Physical Universe is the universe of all matter, including all living species, including humans. It is the world into which we are born for our 70 to 80-year sprint to find purpose and solve The Divine Equation. This universe is the object of scientific inquiry and the foundation of all living things. One of the purposes of this universe is to sustain the mental universe while it searches for meaning and fulfillment as a human. It is the visible universe.
The Mental Universe – only humans live in this universe, but we need the physical universe to sustain us. St. Paul terms these two universes as living in the World. It is the universe where we look for meaning by looking at the physical universe and asking questions. This universe combines visibility and invisibility so we can discover reality in these two elements.
The Spiritual Universe—Here is where it gets tricky. The spiritual universe is only in the invisible realm, while we humans also live in the physical and mental universes as our base. In this universe, we seek to discover the purpose of the other two universes (physical and mental) by using invisible reality. In addition, each person must choose to enter this universe voluntarily. By accepting the invitation of God to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father (the prototype is the Blessed Mother who first accepted God’s invitation), each human receives dual citizenship. When we die, life is changed, not ended, and we move on to fulfilling what it means to be human in Heaven. There is only one reality, just as there is only one God.
When I use the word “string,” I am inspired by the science of Quantum mechanics and string theory. My notion of string theory is that unseen forces exist that link the physical, mental, and spiritual universes (viewed simultaneously). These forces do not contain matter or energy as we know it from Quantum Mechanics or Relativity but are threads that bind the purposes of each universe together as one.
The purpose of three distinct and separate universes is:
The physical universe is the base for matter, energy, time, and life as we know it. It is the visible universe against which all life, including humans, fulfills its purpose.
The mental universe is an aberration of sorts. Humans are the only ones that know that we know and can choose something outside of the natural fabric of their nature. Humans have more than one choice. Humans evolved from animality for a reason. The mental universe allows humans to ask interrogatory questions and discover meaning by looking at the physical universe. Why do humans have the ability to reason and to choose? Choose what? This universe allows us to look at what is visible around us and probe what is invisible. The mental universe is a bridge or an interim capability to move to something. What is that unresolved something that we can’t see?
The third universe, existing simultaneously with the other two, is the answer to the first two trends. Humans could never have reasoned or discovered the spiritual universe with logic, science, or any human language. God had to take on human nature to tell us and show us how to use the spiritual universe to fulfill our destiny. The reason is that the next phase in human evolution is voluntary, not tied to matter or physical energy. Not only is it voluntary, but each individual must choose to enter it. That takes knowledge, love, and service on the part of each human to say YES to creation, YES to accept the invitation to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father, and being able to “see” reality invisible because of human reasoning. We have a cosmic evolution all pointing to me as I live my seventy or eighty years (or whatever) to give me the chance to say YES to the fulfillment of my species, incorruptibility. (Philippians 2:5) God’s DNA or fingerprints are on each atom, each galaxy or Sun, each cell, the hairs of our head are numbered, and we are shown how to love others as Christ loved us. With all due respect to B.F. Skinner, this spiritual universe is dying to the human self so that we can rise to incorruptibility. It is not without struggle nor danger (The Devil wants us to fail).
The title suggests that the blog you now read is the last one I will ever write. I don’t mean that. My Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) meditation is “If you could write one short paragraph, summing up everything you have learned about the purpose of life and your purpose within it, what would that be?”
Everything I know moves from simplicity to complexity. As I approach the end of my life, I bear the weight of all those crosses I have lifted each day as I tried to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). I carry on my body and my spirit the many cuts and bruises that come from struggling against the Devil. I am a flawed person who is redeemed by the sign of the cross. It is heavy, and I am tired of carrying my cross (even with the help of Christ). It dawned on me that all I have been doing is what the world says I should do, even denying myself and taking up my cross daily to follow Christ. I realized that I should have been seeking simplicity, the simplicity of Christ, who gives glory to the Father eternally with the energy of the Holy Spirit.
In all my studies about God and being busy with God stuff, it was always right in front of me. My Lectio Divina is critically important because I choose to sit on a bench in the middle of winter and wait for Jesus. Yes, I know that Jesus is there. What I wait for is for me to show up to be in the presence of the heart of Christ and hear that heartbeat.
There is simplicity in being a Lay Cistercian or any approach that places THE WAY, THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE as your center, The Christ Principle, then just waiting in the stillness of spiritual time. Humans are not built to wait. We must do something or be something. We must fill all empty holes with everything but the one thing that fills us and makes us realize what it means to be human and why I am loved. This is waiting to be completely human.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who will be, at the end of the ages. –Cistercian doxology
The “Don’t tell me” generation goes back a long way. In fact, it is recorded in the Book of Genesis, Chapters 2-3. The classic archetype of humans is one with fundamental flaws yet whose nature is good. Individually, not so much so. We have reason and free choices, but the choices are sometimes destructive to our purpose. Such is the conflict in the human mind that, when someone tells us to do something we don’t want, we either avoid them completely or just ignore them.
There is a dynamic at work in how the individual human chooses anything. Rights are confused with the choices that are right for me or destructive. Freedom to choose what is good has morphed into anything I choose for me is good, and no one can tell me differently.
There are essentially two approaches to making choices in this flotsam jetsom of competing values we inherit.
The first choice is that all morals and values come from within me. Actually, that is essentially correct. When we are born, we are born of the human species with the capability to reason and make choices. What we choose depends on our capacity to search around us and see what is good or bad for us. No one can tell me what to do if I don’t want to hear it. I may have no choice in the matter, such as getting a job or paying taxes, but all things equal, I can say NO to anything. Of course, all choices come with the consequences resulting from that choice. If I choose to rob a bank, then get caught, I must pay the price that society imposes on this action, which we call a crime. If I choose to attend Florida State University, granted that I am accepted, I must follow their rules, which I agree to do. If I do so and make the grade, I am graduated with some kind of degree (consequences).
The second choice is that, although all morals and values come from within me, I freely accept that what I choose comes from a power outside of myself. Knowing that I am the center of all reality (for my seventy or eighty years, if I am lucky), I realize that what is good for me, in terms of my purpose, can only be fulfilled by going outside of myself with a power that is beyond my capability.
Put another way, I recognize that I must live in three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual) to reach the fulfillment of my species as a human, rather than relying on what the world has to offer me (the physical and mental universes alone). The problem comes when I realize that all spiritual approaches to life won’t lead me to fulfill my purpose in life and my individual purpose within that set of assumptions. I am trying to say that it is only when we give away our precious gift of choice to make God’s choices based on how I view the reality that we actually fulfill what it means to be human.
When I say to God, “For Thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory….forever,” I pledge my obedience to a way of life that contradicts what the world says is its purpose (power, money, fame, fortune, sex without love, control). That doesn’t make sense to the world, hence the dissonance I feel. The dissonance this causes to my human penchant for control is strong, yet, it is denying that self in favor of gaining something transcendent that I become more human.
In Baptism, I receive citizenship as the Father’s adopted son (daughter). That means I pledge to obey God’s word in my heart and serve others with love as Christ did for us. Because of the dissonance of Original Sin, my life is a battle between the citizenship of the world (until I die) on top of my dual citizenship as a member of the Body of Christ, which restores me to resonance with all that is, as it should be.
The tension that I feel when I try to do Lectio Divina go to Eucharist, pray the Divine Office, and Read Holy Scriptures, is between my false self trying to reassert power over my movement to my true self. The tension itself is a prayer and makes my conquering or dying to self all the more a gift from me to God in thanksgiving for the energy of the Holy Spirit to lift me up to a new level of humanity, one loved by Love itself.
Rather than denying my resistance to moving from my false self to my true self, paradoxically, it is when I accept that the gift I offer to the Father through Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit is the one that he doesn’t already possess. Obedience is conversio morae every day. Just as the weeds in your front yard will grow, and you can’t stop that natural process, your belief also needs nourishment and re-centering each day to keep from spiritual atrophy. As a Lay Cistercian, I have promised to use the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by the statues and policies of the Cistercians (Trappists in particular). I must constantly pray that I do not enter into temptation. Some days are better than others.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.”
What thoughts should you have about obedience and the freedom to choose?
LOVE IS LIKE A VALENTINE CARD
Love has two dimensions: the mind (knowledge and logic) and the heart (emotion and feeling). Remember when you were in Third Grade, and everyone exchanged Valentine’s Day cards? What did you do when you went home that day? Did you put them in a special spot in your drawer where you could pull them out and look at them frequently? Did you think of the person who gave you the card with affection? Did you feel a sense of warmth and pleasure? Love is one of the ways humans are different from other living things. It is a form of communication between two persons, heart, heart, thinking of others, wanting to help others. It can be with two humans or groups of humans. It can be between single persons, homosexuals, heterosexuals, groups of people, with families and relatives. Love is a human phenomenon. Love does not exist between animals or between animals and humans, although we can love our pets. Animals can’t love back, but they do have affection. So, what is this love? It is one of the thresholds through which all of us must pass.
Mature love is so much more than a Valentine’s Day card. Here are Eric Fromm’s five criteria for authentic loving with some thoughts about both dimensions of the head and the heart.
Fromm says, “immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says ‘I need you because I love you.'”
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/erich_fromm_100716
It is the realization that in God speaking to you, you delude yourself into thinking you speak for God. If you say you love someone but don’t do anything to show it, there may not be love there but just your representation of what it means in your own mind. Similarly, if you receive Faith from God but hide it under a bushel basket and don’t do anything with it, there may not be Faith there but just your representation that you have made yourself into God.
A LAY CISTERCIAN AND LOVE: There are no answers needed
To wander through the high grass of the English language is to walk through paths that are sometimes strewn with weeds among the wildflowers. The communication problem becomes one of learning to delve into the assumptions underlying the words we use. For example, to say the word “Love” might mean one thing to my wife but something else to me, both of which would be correct according to how it is interpreted.
This is, at least in part, due to how each individual human places meaning on the words that we speak. We receive meaning from languages with the sum total of our life experiences and both successes and failures we have endured. We are the sum of the choices we make and their consequences. I am not a physician and do not know the language of medicine, although medicine affects us significantly. I am a user but not a practitioner.
Five people might read the phrase, “You must deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me,” and yet react in five different ways.
Whatever these people think, they think based on their assumptions about what the words mean. What the words mean depends upon the uniqueness of their lives and where they are in terms of their center (the one principle that, if you took it away, nothing makes sense).
This may lead you to believe that assumptions are not important to how we look at reality. Truth be told, they are actually the foundation and reason we think the way we do. When we recite the Creed at the Eucharist each Sunday, each individual does so using the assumptions they have formed through a lifetime of trial and error. These assumptions are how each interprets reality and form the basis of Belief. The assumptions we use when we believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, are the limits of our individual experiences, both good and evil. Like snowflakes, no two of us relate to God in the same way. That is neither good nor bad, but rather how humans process any information with our senses.
Genesis 2-3, the most eloquent of commentaries on what it means to be human and live in a morally corrupt world and yet be destined to live in incorruptibility, speaks of how human nature has the freedom to eat of the knowledge of good and evil yet is forbidden by God to do so under pain of death (the wage of sin is still death). The choices we make today about what is good or bad for us, as those who inherit the consequences of the sin of Adam and Eve, we make assumptions that come either from ourselves or from a power outside of ourselves.
As a Lay Cistercian who tries to seek God each day in this land of the lost we call the world, I try to solve The Divine Equation each day. To review, The Divine Equation are those six questions each human must answer to be able to become fully human. The Divine in The Divine Equation denotes both the questions and the correct answers come from God. They are the answers to what is good and evil and from what is its origin.
ASSUMPTIONS UNDERPINNING THE DIVINE EQUATION
For some reason, always unknown to me, the notion of The Divine Equation popped up in my Lectio Divina this morning. I have been writing down what I myself have received from the Holy Spirit without totally knowing what I am writing but hoping to gradually put the pieces together. I realized that I am unique in all the world with my view of what reality looks like but that I must exercise my reason to being into the Equation not only my Faith but the Faith of the Church, the Church Universal as it has been since the time of Christ. The Church is like a bank, housing the wisdom of those who have not only written the Gospel and Epistles in the New Testament but also preserving how those in each age use their assumptions to live out what it means to die to self to rise with Christ to new life, again and again, until death.
The Divine Equation might mean something different to you and to me. What the words mean depends on how I interpret them according to the total accumulation of my knowledge, what I learned about the purpose of life, and what my purpose in life is. The differences are assumptions I make about what the words mean. Assumptions are those hidden ideas in my head that prompt me to say something in a particular way. You may not know what those hidden ideas are unless you ask. Guessing about assumptions in what another person says is called assumicide.
Back to the Divine Equation. “Divine” in the Divine Equation does not mean it is an equation that proves who God is or defines once and for all God’s nature, which is impossible with mere human languages. I assume that “Divine” means that the six questions and their authentic answers come from a power higher than ourselves and outside our human nature. The Divine Equation gives humans what it means to be fully human nature and the end result of human evolution.
MY ASSUMPTIONS AS A LAY CISTERCIAN AS I COMMENT ABOUT SPIRITUAL REALITY
Assumptions are like icebergs; what you see, hear, taste, touch, and feel and thus know about the reality around you at any moment always has something deeper involved; in this case, my assumptions that you cannot see unless I share them.
All assumptions are important because how I look at reality (and how you view the same situation) is different. Each of us looks at who God is by using our assumptions about who I am. God may be one, but each human has the potential to be an adopted son or daughter of the Father with Baptism or with God’s mercy in the case of those who do not know The Christ Principle. Assumptions are the frame of reference that shape how I think about anything. Assumptions can change by adding or detracting from what we believe or how we act. Assumptions might be good or destructive to how you view what is morally correct. If your assumption is that stealing is acceptable as long as you don’t get caught, your behavior follows. Ex fructibus cognocsetis. Watch how a person acts, and it will tell you what is in their heart.
15“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.k
16l By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
17Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.
18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.
19Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
20So by their fruits you will know them.m
The True Disciple.https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/7
Use this full text to ponder in your heart about what assumptions you hold about being next to the heart of Christ in contemplation. Take some time with this practice.
What follows are some cryptic statements that I hold due to having made The Christ Principle one of my assumptions.
The New Commandment.
32[If God is glorified in him,] God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once.r
33My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.s
35This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/13
Praise to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. –Cistercian doxology
There is nothing more challenging in life than moving or growing in awareness of your environment. The most basic and fundamental unit is the human person, who comes into being with two other persons’ consent and lives for seventy or eighty years, if lucky.
I would like you to accompany me on a Lectio Divina I took a few months ago when I was thinking about trying to save the world because of the Ukraine invasion by Russia. The term “World” can mean many things depending on your assumptions about what it means to be in the world (small caps). This
Would you join me in praying the Office of the Dead for my friend, Father Carl Roos, who died on April 3rd in Indianapolis, Indiana? We can also include any other souls of the Faithful Departed. May they rest in the peace of Christ. Here is the website http://www.divineoffice.org. You may also find my blog listed under resources on the home page. A Lay Cistercian reflects on spiritual reality. I say the Invitatory at the beginning of the day, then go to “For a Man; Morning Prayer.” Both Father Carl and I thank you.
The Office for the Dead is a prayer cycle of the Liturgy of the Hours in the Roman Catholic Church, said for the repose of the soul of a deceased individual or individuals. It is the proper reading on All Souls’ Day (normally November 2) for all souls in Purgatory and can be a votive office on other days when said for a particular deceased.
Select from the following:
The English translation of
Here are some sayings I discovered on one of my favorite websites.
Here are some sayings that have popped up in my Lectio Divina
This topic would not be the conversation starter around any dinner in my experience of eating, but it is critical to what it means to be a human.
REFLECTIONS ON WHY WE HAVE THE CHOICE OF GOOD OR EVIL
Does good or evil originate with humans? Within humans? Outside of humans? With God? With society? I had a few thoughts while doing Lectio Divina on this subject in my Lectio (Philippians 2:5).
I use the Rule of Threes to examine most ideas, in this case, the origins of good or evil. Remember, The Rule of Threes is my attempt to look at one reality having three distinct and separate universes simultaneously, so you don’t see the differences.
THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE — This is the universe of the physical world, composed of matter, energy, time, space, and living species, including humans. The rule of this universe is a natural law. It is good with no evil or good in it. It acts according to its nature. Stephenson 2-18 is not good nor evil but acts its nature. Animals are not evil but good by nature. Humans are good by nature, but with a difference. They control what is good or bad for them with their free will.
THE MENTAL UNIVERSE — The fact that we can look at the physical universe with our human reason and choices and increase our knowledge, meaning, and seek the purpose of life, differentiates us from all other living species. Humans alone can ask the Interrogatories (WHY, WHO, WHEN, WHERE, HOW, and SO WHAT? The mental universe depends upon the physical universe for its existence, so humans inherit traits and characteristics of animals for preservation, needs for security and safety, and power. What individual persons place at their center is what they hold as meaningful. Humans can’t keep their center centered without struggle each minute, day, and year. Humans wake up or begin to discern the environment around them, then make choices that they think will make them happy and fulfilled. St. Paul says that “sin came into the world through one man (Adam and Eve)” Evil is not outside of us, like stepping in a pool of water and getting wet. Genesis, the great archetypal story of why humans act the way they do, gives us a hint. Evil is not the ability to choose but the actual choice of good for us or bad for us, which is within us. It is not within us but the result of the sin of Adam and Eve, the possibility of choosing what God says we need to become fully human, even though it goes against our human inclinations of pleasure, power, desire for adulation, ego, and
THE SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE- This is the universe created by The Christ Principle, which became human to show us how to fulfill our humanity and become what we were meant to be. Christ is the answer to the interrogatories of the physical and mental universes. The problem is that the language used to define what it means to be human is love. We measure that against how humans act. Love is authentic when it resonates with the physical and mental universes. When we place something unauthentic at our center (power, fame, fortune, greed, envy, jealousy, lust, lying, sexual coveting of persons and things). In the Old Testament, God gave the people the core beliefs that would allow them to have morally good choices. (The Ten Commandments). Unlike the other two, the problem with this universe is that it takes reason and free will to enter it. You must choose a way of life that is nearly the opposite of what the world says is authentic for being human. Jesus came to SHOW us how to love others by dying to the false self and replacing it with an incorruptible self, using the energy of God.
WHY ARE HUMANS PRONE TO BOTH GOOD AND EVIL?
It is no coincidence that the archetypal story of Genesis 2-3 is about what it means to be human. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that the various authors of Genesis looked around at their world and asked, “If humans act this way, what is good and what is bad?” or, put another way, “Why do good people do bad things and bad people do good things?” I struggle with the notion that God created Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before the Fall; therefore, human nature is good, then something happened within that nature, and it was good, but flawed or prone to make choices that are reasonable for them but actually may be detrimental to the fulfillment of their human nature, being adopted sons and daughters of the Father and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.
If humans do evil, who determines what is evil and what is not? I believe the environment in which a person grows up and assimulates the values around them is an important indicator of why someone chooses what others consider evil.
Characteristics of Fallen Human Nature
God is not the cause of good or evil but the source of knowledge, love, and service. If humans are the source of good and evil because of their individual ability to reason and their freedom to choose what they think is good for them, here are some possible indicators of why this might be so.
A great question for you to ponder when you have a moment to focus on The Christ Principle is to ask yourself, “Is evil the opposite of good like darkness is the opposite of light?”
Evil can exist in the human mind and heart. Butterflies are not evil. The birds of the sky are not evil. Humans are not evil by nature but are susceptible to a choice that is not consistent with their human nature. We call that sin. St.Paul’s famous line in Romans 5 tells us how sin came into the world and its relationship to goodness. Human nature is not evil but rather good, yet humans offer a choice of good or evil because of what it brought over from its animality. Animals do not have a choice between good and evil.
Humanity’s Sin through Adam.
13for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law.i
14But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.j
Grace and Life through Christ.
15But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many.
16And the gift is not like the result of the one person’s sinning. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal.
17For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ.
18In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all.k
19For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous.l
21so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.nhttps://bible.usccb.org/bible/romans/5
2. The Battle between Good and Evil: The titanic battle is not one between Russia and Ukraine but takes place each day as I approach whatever comes my way. I choose how I react to my environment by my choices. I can choose what I think is good for me or accept that God, as a loving Father, wants me to walk the minefields of human nature without stepping into it.
Baptism is when God gives me the gift of being an adopted son (daughter) of the Father and heir to the kingdom of heaven. Baptism means that I must proclaim that I use power outside of myself to help raise me up to being fully human each day. Baptism means accepting that the spiritual universe is the power and glory, not me. Baptism means I must be humble and realize that, although I communicate with Jesus through the Holy Spirit, God doesn’t fit into my agenda, but I must wait in silence and solitude to listen with “the ear of the heart” to feel what the heart of Christ wants me to know. St. Thomas Aquinas says knowledge precedes love. This knowledge is not ordinary but the energy of the divine nature in me. It is conversio morae, or the emptying of self and filling my heart with the love of others as Christ loves me.
Baptism means I have turned reality upside down and have embraced a series of norms that do not fit or make sense to those of the world. It is no coincidence that we receive the sign of the cross on our hearts in Baptism, one that marks us indelibly with the contradiction that to be fully human, to fulfill our destiny as a human, we must die to that very humanity on which we tenaciously hold, and die to self. We must let go of our lives in that former universe of physical and mental corruption to possess an incorruptible universe. The problem for all those Baptised is that we still live in and are subject to the world’s seduction. Being a Lay Cistercian is one way in which I can not only address the challenge of the sign of contradiction but have the power (from the Holy Spirit) to sustain me at the moment. Each day the process repeats until I die. I call it a struggle to be resonant rather than dissonant, incorrupt rather than correct. Christ gives me the power to be an adopted son or daughter through the Holy Spirit’s power, but I must fight the good fight and take up my cross each day to love others as Christ loved us. It is a happy fault, as celebrated in the Pascal Mystery of the Resurrection.
I encourage you to listen to both of these ancient chants and take some time to ponder the words. I usually take two or three days to keep coming back to the melody, particularly the texts. Let the words sink into the softness of your life and sit there. Be with Christ and ask for wisdom and love as you allow the words to become one with how you think.
That contradiction of dying to self is a way of thinking, loving, and serving others, the opposite of what we learn about being human from living in a world without God. That voluntary commitment is one where we must put to death the idea that evil is good, that we listen to movie stars and politicians are arbiters for what is moral and what is not. Society is never a good center to have in my life. It blows with the winds of who shouts the loudest or has the most votes. In Baptism, we inherit the kingdom of heaven not only later on in heaven but right now, each and every day. The problem with dual citizenship in the world and the spirit is that the two are incompatible.
In the kingdom of heaven on earth, you cannot serve two masters.
If evil does not exist in God, nor does it reside in me, and it doesn’t exist apart like a juicy piece of Sumo orange, how does any of this make sense? If you want to have a love present, you must put it there, says the Scriptures. If you choose what is evil, even though you may not know the unintended consequences, you must bring it into your temple of the Holy Spirit. Evil is not the ability to choose, but rather what we take into our hearts that does not lead to enlightenment or fulness of our humanity, but rather death. This is not the death to self that is a process of daily conversion to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5-12), but rather the fulfillment of corruption of morals instead of grace, the choice of disobedience to what is resonant in all of reality. Love and hatred cannot exist in the same space. Christ and Satan cannot exist in the same room. The Devil always flees. You and I are the crucibles in which this battle of choices is contained. The YES you made at Baptism when you became an adopted son (daughter) of the Father is not a one-time event to impress others. It is the beginning of your interior battle to keep yourself centered on Christ in the midst of all the false promises and allures of the World.
Baptism not only takes away Original Sin but paves the way for us to be called adopted sons (daughters) of the Father.
Baptism is the beginning of a process to keep The Christ Principle as your center. For the rest of your life, you are tempted to worship false gods, first and foremost, yourself.
Good must be replenished each day, or there are consequences.
God has the power to sustain us as we wait for the end of our life. Prayer is how those signed with the cross place themselves in the presence of the Holy Spirit, the source of energy. One of the charisms of a Lay Cistercian is to convert oneself from being reliant on what the world says fulfills you as a human being to making room for Christ in your heart.
To be a follower of Christ takes humility and obedience to God’s will.
When Christ speaks of the poor and those suffering hardships, He is talking about each of us overcoming our weakness with Faith and making all things new each day.
God does not cause evil.
Human nature is good.
Evil exists as a choice that we make with our free will.
The choice is conditioned by how we are brought up, what values we place at our center, and the companions we keep.
What follows is a blog from last year on the liturgical celebration of what Christ did for us in the passion, death and resurrection.
The recent fiasco over two actors, one of whom struck the other because of an insult, indicates just how much we revere actors in general as the paragons of what it means to be human. This fixation on a celebrity or who’s who in the zoo can border on the ridiculous was it not so tragic. We have our heroes in the World, such as the hall of fame for all sports. We raise these people, men, and women, to a higher level of respect due to their skills in what they do. A Hall of Famer is just a significant cut above ordinary football players, which is the significant gap over fans of the sport.
The problem with actors, professional sports players, role models such as politicians (tongue in cheek), or any other class or people who do a job that we find inspirational is twofold: they may be role models to some of us because they excel or are the best at what they do, but often this does not help us to become better humans because of their contributions. Actors, for goodness sake, make their living pretending to be someone else. Some of them do it well, and television and YouTube have glorified their achievements, but do they teach us about the purpose of life and how to solve The Divine Equation by what their lives proclaim? There is a saying, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”
An actor has special talents that we do not possess, so they are special. The problem becomes they are the perceived best at acting, so they automatically because the seat of wisdom in anything they say, and are they someone that will help us identify what it means to be human? Their notion of morality must be correct, and what they say about God must be the truth. We relegate to them what we would never do other “mere moral: creatures. They become the norms of what is good or evil. What they spout may be absolute nonsense, but we let them get away with it without informed challenge. This is the celebrity that the world touts as our role models of moral and spiritual righteousness.
Contrast that with the lives of any of the Saints. I limit my remarks to those made Saints by the Catholic Church for what they did in having Christ Jesus’s mind (Philippians 2:5). Heroic? Some shed their blood for what they believed, and what they believed was to love one another as Christ loved you. Some lived their life in such a way that those who followed after them were more fulfilled as a human (belief in three universes of physical, mental, and spiritual, rather than only two, the physical and mental).
Every Saint has in common with us is that we are all sinners (except Jesus and his mother, Mary). We live in the corruptibility of matter and mind but have put on the armor of incorruptibility to die to self so that we could rise with Christ each day. Who are the role models to show us how to love others as Christ loved us? Actor and sports figures? What questions should you be asking?
This topic is near and dear to me because it is me and my attempts to die to self to move from false self to God.
This is the Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) I had this morning at 7:15 EDT at Cardiology Associates on the third floor in Tallahassee, Florida. I drove to an early check-in for a Nuclear Stress Test for my heart. I am having Gall Bladder surgery this month, and I needed clearance from my Cardiologists (my regular Cardiologist and by ElectroCardiologist). To the point, I am sitting in the waiting room, and with me are six people, all elderly, one lady, and five gentlemen. All of them were using their cell phones to pass the time, filling them with music or whatever. I noticed this because I focused on Lectio Divina instead (I do not own a cell phone, probably because it is too complex for my mental processes). I only offer these thoughts because there are what happened to me over the past several months.
WHAT IS A LAY CISTERCIAN?
You can tell a Lay Cistercian because they are the ones with a smile on their face, focusing on Lectio Divina (Phillipians 2:5), eyes lowered to the ground, sitting straight in the chair, for thirty or more minutes without moving. Everyone else may or may not have a smile on their face but is looking at their cell phone to pass the time.
Father Anthony Delisi, O.C.S.O., God rest his soul, told a group of us that the first requirement you need to be a Lay Cistercian is recognizing you are a sinner and want to become better.
A Lay Cistercian, like those in the AA program, knows that it is in the context of community that silence, solitude, work, and prayer.
Monks, nuns, and Lay Cistercians seek to retire to that place where no human wants to look, the room described in Matthew 6:6, where the doors are locked from the inside, and we have two chairs, one for Christ and one for us. Ironically, we join others in their individual rooms and practice Cistercian practices and charisms to help us move from our false self to our true self in Christ Jesus. Community keeps us balanced and from falling off the deep end into radicalism.
A Lay Cistercian knows that prayer is a process of conversion and that they must begin each day as though it was the only day for the rest of their life.
A Lay Cistercian seeks God each day as it comes.
A Lay Cistercian cherishes reading from the Benedictine and Cistercian men and women who share their struggles and successes with us.
A Lay Cistercian keep their eyes lowered (custos oculi) when praying and doing Lectio Meditation.
A Lay Cistercian practices simplicity in prayer by praying The Liturgy of the Hours and Eucharist together with the community as they can.
A Lay Cistercian can sit facing someone who yells at you that you are worthless, God doesn’t love you, being a Lay Cistercian is a waste of your time, that you like in la-la land and not in reality, that you must not meet with your Lay Cistercian group because all you want is attention from the widows and because you write a blog, that no one reads your ideas because you are no good, but they won’t tell you so. On that day, Lay Cistercian, rejoice, and keep repeating in your heart, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they say.” Peace conquers hatred, but you must put love where there is no love to love others as Christ loved us.”
A Lay Cistercian fills any lack of time (waiting in line at the doctor’s office, waiting to get help from local government for a tax problem, or the time before the Blessed Sacrament) by just waiting for the Holy Spirit to visit that inner room and overshadow you with the warm embrace of the way, what is true, and the life or energy of Christ.
A Lay Cistercian, after a period of years practicing how to love Christ, can just sit there and focus the mind on pure energy, letting it “be done to you, according to His Word.”
What questions should you be asking yourself?
In one of my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) meditations, I experienced a rapid succession of ideas all unrelated. I call them firecracker thoughts because they are explosive bursts of energy from the Holy Spirit.
“Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.” ~ Joseph Campbell
“There are something like 18 billion cells in the brain alone. There are no two brains alike; there are no two hands alike; there are no two human beings alike. You can take your instructions and your guidance from others, but you must find your own path.” ~ Joseph Campbell
“Take care of your body as if you were going to live forever, and take care of your soul as if you were going to die tomorrow.” ~ Saint Augustine
“The truth is like a lion; you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself.” ~ Saint Augustine
“Because God has made us for Himself, our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.” ~ Saint Augustine
“You don’t climb a mountain in leaps and bounds, but by taking it slowly.” ~ Pope Gregory I
“The Holy Bible is like a mirror before our mind’s eye. In it, we see our inner face. From the Scriptures, we can learn about our spiritual deformities and beauties. And there too we discover the progress we are making and how far we are from perfection.” ~ Pope Gregory I
“If the intention is unclean, the deed that follows from it will also be evil, even if it seems good.” ~ Pope Gregory I
“The Light of Christ illumines all.” ~ Gregory Palamas
“Given that we desire long life, should we not take eternal life into account? If we long for a kingdom which, however enduring, has an end, and glory and joy which, great as they are, will fade, and wealth that will perish with this present life, and we labour for the sake of such things; ought we not to seek the kingdom, glory, joy and riches which, as well as being all-surpassing, are unfading and endless, and ought we not to endure a little constraint in order to inherit it?” ~ Gregory Palamas
“Remove grace, and you have nothing whereby to be saved. Remove free will and you have nothing that could be saved.” ~ Anselm of Canterbury
“I believe in order that I may understand.” ~ Anselm of Canterbury
“A single Mass offered for oneself during life may be worth more than a thousand celebrated for the same intention after death.” ~ Anselm of Canterbury
“God was conceived of a most pure Virgin … it was fitting that the virgin should be radiant with a purity so great that a greater purity cannot be conceived.” ~ Anselm of Canterbury
“The best perfection of a religious man is to do common things in a perfect manner. A constant fidelity in small things is a great and heroic virtue.” ~ Bonaventure
“Any old woman can love God better than a doctor of theology can.” ~ Bonaventure
“It maketh God man, and man God; things temporal, eternal; mortal, immortal; it maketh an enemy a friend, a servant a son, vile things glorious, cold hearts fiery, and hard thing liquid.” ~ Bonaventure
“To know much and taste nothing-of what use is that?” ~ Bonaventure
“We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become.” ~ Clare of Assisi
“Our labor here is brief, but the reward is eternal. Do not be disturbed by the clamor of the world, which passes like a shadow. Do not let false delights of a deceptive world deceive you.” ~ Clare of Assisi
“Place your mind before the mirror of eternity! Place your soul in the brilliance of glory! And transform your entire being into the image of the Godhead Itself through contemplation.” ~ Clare of Assisi
“I come, O Lord, unto Thy sanctuary to see the life and food of my soul. As I hope in Thee, O Lord, inspire me with that confidence which brings me to Thy holy mountain. Permit me, Divine Jesus, to come closer to Thee, that my whole soul may do homage to the greatness of Thy majesty; that my heart, with its tenderest affections, may acknowledge Thine infinite love; that my memory may dwell on the admirable mysteries here renewed every day, and that the sacrifice of my whole being may accompany Thine.” ~ Clare of Assisi
“It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. But where charity is not found, God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess charity, we possess God, for “God is Charity” (1John 4:8)” ~ Albertus Magnus
“In this way, if you continue all the time in the way we have described from the beginning, it will become as easy and clear for you to remain in contemplation in your inward and recollected state, as to live in the natural state.” ~ Albertus Magnus
“Nothing can be believed unless it is first understood; and that for anyone to preach to others that which either he has not understood nor they have understood is absurd.” ~ Peter Abelard
“Our redemption through the suffering of Christ is that deeper love within us which not only frees us from slavery to sin, but also secures for us the true liberty of the children of God, in order that we might do all things out of love rather than out of fear – love for him that has shown us such grace that no greater can be found.” ~ Peter Abelard
“What we love we shall grow to resemble.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux
“The three most important virtues are humility, humility, and humility.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux
“Ingratitude is the soul’s enemy… Ingratitude is a burning wind that dries up the source of love, the dew of mercy, the streams of grace.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux
“Ingratitude is the soul’s enemy… Ingratitude is a burning wind that dries up the source of love, the dew of mercy, the streams of grace.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux
“To love anyone is to hope in him for always. From the moment at which we begin to judge anyone, to limit our confidence in him, from the moment at which we identify him with what we know of him and so reduce him to that, we cease to love him and he ceases to be able to be better.” ~ Charles de Foucauld
“See the Face of God in everyone.” ~ Catherine Laboure
“We know certainly that our God calls us to a holy life. We know that he gives us every grace, every abundant grace; and though we are so weak of ourselves, this grace is able to carry us through every obstacle and difficulty.” ~ Elizabeth Ann Seton
“We are born to love, we live to love, and we will die to love still more.” ~ Saint Joseph
The fourth type of cross-cutting strings or patterns that span all reality is that of a YES or a NO. This is how I dissect all reality into its manageable components, the physical universe of matter and energy. This mental universe is aware that there is a YES or NO, then the spiritual universe seeks to fulfill the other two. I will be looking at this phenomenon using my Rule of Threes.
Bear with me as I review the previous three strings that stretch from what is in the beginning to what is at the end.
This brings us to the current blog exploring the topic of YES and NO as it applies to The Divine Equation and how my own choices can influence how I can fulfill my destiny as a human being.
THE FOURTH STRING: YES AND NO
Characteristics of both YES and NO
When I think of YES or NO in the context of the three universes having one reality, I try to describe them as such:
THE POWER OF YES
THE POWER OF NO
Using these characteristics, let me walk you through my reflections on three distinct universes composing one reality.
THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE
THE MENTAL UNIVERSE
Although humans populate the physical universe because they are composed of matter and exist in time, something is different about humans than other life forms.
Humans inhabit their own universe that exists simultaneously with their physical base.
Only humans exist in the universe where we are the only living things that know that we know. We can look at the physical universe and ask WHY, WHAT, HOW, WHEN, and SO WHAT? Humans can say YES or NO to the choices that they present to their reason.
There are three segments in the book of Genesis: Before the Fall, The Fall, and The Consequences of Poor Choice. (Genesis 2-3) In this story, humans were created before the Fall. Their nature was good because what God creates is after God’s image and likeness. In this tremendous archetypal story, Adam and Eve were given a choice of good or evil and chose poorly because of Satan’s suggestions (temptations). The consequences of the story are immediate.
“Who told you that you were naked?” asked God. Adam and Eve, representing all of humanity, have corrupted the mores or moral choices of those to come. The four traditions of Genesis (J, P, Yahwist, and Elohist) reflect what was gnawing at the consciences of those early Israelites. Why do good people do bad things, and why do I do the things I don’t want to do and not do the things I want to do (St. Paul). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFcuFF4DBEc
Several thoughts became clear in trying to make sense of all these ideas. Adam and Eve was a NO to the offer of God to be Gardeners.
The nature of humanity is good. Individual humans are wounded by Original Sin and suffer the corruptive effects of this archetypal event by Adam and Eve. They must die.
God is not the cause of evil but is the source of good.
Human choice is either from within oneself as the source of good or evil or chooses what God says is true.
There is always a struggle between what is good and what is evil. The consequences or wages of sin, the wrong choice is death. The consequence of voluntarily placing oneself in the presence of God in the act of obedience is life.
From the time of Adam and Eve until Christ, humans, particularly the Israelites, waited on someone to redeem them from the consequences of Original Sin. The Messiah would be someone who would be able to say YES to take away the sin of Adam and Eve for the ransom of many.
Scriptures in the Old Testament are a history of Israel making a YES choice or a NO choice and its consequences.
THE SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE
This universe began with a YES, but it was not from whom you would expect. The YES of Jesus was to redeem humanity by suffering voluntarily and giving up his life to the Father in reparation for the single sin of Adam and Eve. Before he was born, this universe began with a YES from Mary, Jesus’ mother. (Luke 1-2)
Humanity’s Sin through Adam.
13for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law.i
14But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.jhttps://bible.usccb.org/bible/romans/5
We venerate and honor (not adore) Mary because a human uttered a YES so that Jesus could take on our nature and utter the YES that allowed us to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father. (Philippians 2:5-12)
With the redemption of Christ, we have an Advocate before the Father (whom we cannot approach) to help us while on earth to overcome the minefields of the World and to keep ourselves centered on the cross by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We have the power, through the incorruptibility of Christ, to turn our NOs into YESes through Eucharist and Forgiveness of Sins.
THE SINGULARITY OF A SOLIDARY YES OR NO
All of these YESes or NOs in reality (physical, mental, or spiritual) exist so that I can have the freedom to say YES or NO to the invitation of Jesus to be an adopted son (daughter) of the Father.
I don’t depend upon your YES or NO for my salvation or adoption. I can say NO to God alone, or I can say YES. St. Thomas Aquinas is quoted as saying, “Knowledge comes before love.” Sin means my center of The Christ Principle wavers and careens down the road of life, sometimes going off the road. As Lay Cistercian with the habit of humility, I try not to let myself go too long before I measure myself against the heart of Christ and ask for mercy and forgiveness. I must do this daily. It is called conversion morae or constant measuring of your life against the love Christ showed for us.
I am so important in God’s plan that all creation was there just for me (or just for you). All of this goes back to that first YES of the nothingness of God and is confirmed by my YES each time I take time to sit down next to the heart of Christ and wait in peace.
What questions should you be asking about your YES or NO?
Listen to this YouTube. You would have been a truly generational leader, had you chosen what this Youtube embodies.
In keeping with my slightly off-center personality, I pose to you some photos/YouTubes/articles and ask you to think about what questions these images raise in your mind. Remember, I am not you; you are not me; God is not you; and you, most certainly, are not God. St. Thomas Aquinas says that knowledge precedes love. What are the questions that lead to an increase in your Faith?
ST. JUSTIN MARTYR AND THE ORDER OF EUCHARIST
I USED TO LOOK DOWN AT THE BAPTISTS
We all are guilty. When we hear something, we process it according to our first impressions. As the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Perhaps this is because the old adage applies: whatever is received, is received according to the disposition of the recipient.
Before I get to the implications of the title about looking down at Baptists, may I relate an incident that happened at Premier Gym in Tallahassee, Florida, two years ago. It was 5:40 a.m. in the morning. I was peddling on the recumbent bicycle and another old man (it seems only old men go to the gym that early) asked me what I was reading. It happened that I had taken my Liturgy of the Hours to read the Office of Readings on that particular day. He asked if it was the Bible and I told him it was more than that. The look on his face would have cracked the Great Wall in China in two. He told me that nothing was greater than the Bible. I agreed with him. What he did not know was that I was referring to not only the Scripture which is contained in the Office of Readings but also the writings of early Church Fathers and the Saints. In this sense, it is more than just the Bible in the Office of Readings. That does not take away from the fact that Scriptures are the supreme authority for the early Church. Actually, Scriptures are not the supreme authority overall, Christ is. Eucharist is far more of a core than is Scripture, although both are part of the Mystery of Faith. My point is, we hear what we hear based on the sum of our experiences about what words mean. What words actually mean might be something deeper.
About the title above that, I looked down on the Baptist Church. That is a true statement. As my favorite radio commentator, the late Paul Harvey was fond of saying, and now the rest of the story.
In 1976, I was a Pastor of a small congregation in Bloomfield, Indiana called Holy Name. At the time, I was an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Adult Education for the Bureau of Studies in Adult Education, Indiana University, as it was known back then. Our church was on a ten-acre plot of land with the rectory and church high on a hill and some of the property is on the lower part, below the rectory. It happened that my colleague and friend, the Baptist minister and his wife, approached me with the proposition to sell them some of that bottom land, about an acre total. I consulted our parish council and we were more than happy to sell them part of our property for their Baptist Church, in fact, we gave them a good deal on the price. The church was completed and stands there today with the rectory and our Holy Name on the hill overlooking it. I used to joke to people that I used to look down on Baptists but don’t do so anymore. True story. http://fbcbloom.org/wordpress/
Every day I looked down from my rectory to see our Baptist brothers and sisters praising God. I don’t want to sound mushy but I looked forward to praying with the Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Church of Christ ministers and seeing what I could do to help people who wanted to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus (Phl 2:5). This served me well, as I went next year into the US Army as a Chaplain. Looking down on anyone because they love God is absurd. No one can say Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit. To those who believe other than what I do all I say is Blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it. Pope Francis said it: who am I to judge?
The Chapter 4 in the title refers to St. Benedict’s Rule, where he gives a list of things we must do to convert ourselves from sin to grace, from our old selves to our new selves.
I read Chapter 4 every day, anchored as it is in Scripture, in the hope that I can become what I read. Every day!
The Instruments of Good Works
(1) In the first place to love the Lord God with the whole heart, the whole soul, the whole strength…
(2) Then, one’s neighbor as one’s self (cf Mt 22:37-39; Mk 12:30-31; Lk 10:27).
(3) Then, not to kill…
(4) Not to commit adultery…
(5) Not to steal…
(6) Not to covet (cf Rom 13:9).
(7) Not to bear false witness (cf Mt 19:18; Mk 10:19; Lk 18:20).
(8) To honor all men (cf 1 Pt 2:17). (9) And what one would not have done to himself, not to do to another (cf Tob 4:16; Mt 7:12; Lk 6:31).
(10) To deny one’s self in order to follow Christ (cf Mt 16:24; Lk 9:23).
(11) To chastise the body (cf 1 Cor 9:27).
(12) Not to seek after pleasures.
(13) To love fasting.
(14) To relieve the poor.
(15) To clothe the naked…
(16) To visit the sick (cf Mt 25:36).
(17) To bury the dead.
(18) To help in trouble.
(19) To console the sorrowing.
(20) To hold one’s self aloof from worldly ways.
(21) To prefer nothing to the love of Christ.
(22) Not to give way to anger.
(23) Not to foster a desire for revenge.
(24) Not to entertain deceit in the heart.
(25) Not to make a false peace.
(26) Not to forsake charity. (Emphases mine)
(27) Not to swear, lest perchance one swear falsely.
(28) To speak the truth with heart and tongue.
(29) Not to return evil for evil (cf 1 Thes 5:15; 1 Pt 3:9).
(30) To do no injury, yea, even patiently to bear the injury done us.
(31) To love one’s enemies (cf Mt 5:44; Lk 6:27).
(32) Not to curse them that curse us, but rather to bless them.
(33) To bear persecution for justice sake (cf Mt 5:10).
(34) Not to be proud…
(35) Not to be given to wine (cf Ti 1:7; 1 Tm 3:3).
(36) Not to be a great eater.
(37) Not to be drowsy.
(38) Not to be slothful (cf Rom 12:11).
(39) Not to be a murmurer.
(40) Not to be a detractor.
(41) To put one’s trust in God.
(42) To refer what good one sees in himself, not to self, but to God.
(43) But as to any evil in himself, let him be convinced that it is his own and charge it to himself.
(44) To fear the day of judgment.
(45) To be in dread of hell.
(46) To desire eternal life with all spiritual longing.
(47) To keep death before one’s eyes daily.
(48) To keep a constant watch over the actions of our life.
(49) To hold as certain that God sees us everywhere.
(50) To dash at once against Christ the evil thoughts which rise in one’s heart.
(51) And to disclose them to our spiritual father.
(52) To guard one’s tongue against bad and wicked speech.
(53) Not to love much speaking.
(54) Not to speak useless words and such as provoke laughter.
(55) Not to love much or boisterous laughter.
(56) To listen willingly to holy reading.
(57) To apply one’s self often to prayer.
(58) To confess one’s past sins to God daily in prayer with sighs and tears, and to amend them for the future.
(59) Not to fulfill the desires of the flesh (cf Gal 5:16).
(60) To hate one’s own will.
(61) To obey the commands of the Abbot in all things, even though he himself (which Heaven forbid) act otherwise, mindful of that precept of the Lord: “What they say, do ye; what they do, do ye not” (Mt 23:3).
(62) Not to desire to be called holy before one is; but to be holy first, that one may be truly so called.
(63) To fulfill daily the commandments of God by works.
(64) To love chastity.
(65) To hate no one.
(66) Not to be jealous; not to entertain envy.
(67) Not to love strife.
(68) Not to love pride.
(69) To honor the aged.
(70) To love the younger.
(71) To pray for one’s enemies in the love of Christ.
(72) To make peace with an adversary before the setting of the sun.
(73) And never to despair of God’s mercy.
Behold, these are the instruments of the spiritual art, which, if they have been applied without ceasing day and night and approved on judgment day, will merit for us from the Lord that reward which He hath promised: “The eye hath not seen, nor the ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Cor 2:9). But the workshop in which we perform all these works with diligence is the enclosure of the monastery, and stability in the community.oral to any of this it is that when we hear others say that they believe in God, we don’t judge solely on the words but on the heart.
WAYS TO RESPECT THE BELIEF OF OTHERS WITHOUT DAMAGING YOUR OWN
Here are some of my ideas on how to view other religious beliefs. What I don’t want to do, and this should be true for any religion, is distort the religious heritage of any religion, including mine. What I do want to do is to share with you some of the lessons I have learned from a lifetime of working with other religions.
FIRST PRINCIPLE: Don’t judge others. I believe we begin life by not judging others and then learn about prejudices from our environment and sometime from our religion. Put all that behind you. Life has a way of taking off those rough edges of pride, presumptions that what you think of others is actually who they are. Don’t judge.
SECOND PRINCIPLE: Share what you can. The assumption I always make, when meeting or even writing about people from other Faith traditions is, they are sincerely trying to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Gone are the days when I try to make other people a tiny copy of me. Far from my mind are those thoughts of converting the whole world. I am realizing that converting my own self takes much more energy that I would ever expend in convincing someone to be Catholic.
THIRD PRINCIPLE: Pray as you can. I love to pray with people who are not of my own faith. I also love to pray with people who share my view of spirituality, such as the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monstery (Trappist), www.trappist.net/about/lay-cistercians and my faith family at Good Shepherd Catholic Church, Tallahassee, Florida.https://goodshepherdparish.org/ The key to getting along with others is rooted in your own Faith and knowing what your purpose in life is. My purpose is to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). I can share that with others by prayer, reading, scripture and praising the Lord, all while keeping the one rule of my Catholic Universal Faith “Shema Yisrael. Love God with all your mind, all your strength, and all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37) Everything else is to help us to love others more as Christ has loved us.
When I was deep in a pity party because I thought the Catholic Church did not care about me (I was thinking of the authoritative aspect of the Church who did not even know me). I went to St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Tallahassee to take the complete set of discernment instructions to see if I would fit there. What follows is my blog on this extraordinary experience.
I TOOK INSTRUCTIONS TO BECOME AN ANGLICAN
It was not a particularly good time in my life in 2010. My application for laicization had been on hold for 18 years since Pope Saint John Paul II decided not to grant priests dispensation. I felt like I still wanted to be useful to the Church, but was cut off from doing anything overtly religious. Maybe that is another blog. I made a decision to explore being an Anglican, in the hopes of being ordained a priest for them. So I gave it a try.
My intention in writing down these ideas is not to prove this or that religion is good and another one is bad. I had always been Roman Catholic and did not have the experience of another faith home. I did want to resolve my situation at the time and see if I could still practice the ministry of a priest. I chose Anglican not Episcopal because their physical Church was closer.
I could not have been more warmly greeted and accepted as who I was, someone on a journey to seek God. In many ways, I owe my being Roman Catholic today to the laity of the Anglican Church and the generosity of its clergy. I will be forever grateful to them.
I went through a year’s worth of instructions on what it means to be Anglican. I attended their worship services on Sunday. I went to parish socials to mix with parishioners. If it was just a matter of being with good people of faith, I would be Anglican today.
During the period of instruction, I kept thinking how wonderful it would be to serve these people in ministry. My time at morning services was good and familiar. All the things I grew up with were there, the large crucifix, the altar, the candles, the Votive Light that we call the Elijah candle, the smells, the order of the service. If I didn’t know better, I would not have known this service was Anglican and not Roman Catholic. Yet, I had that undefinable something way down deep (and I mean way down deep) in my consciousness that kept me from giving my full self. That went on for nearly six months.
At the end of that time, my instructions were complete and others in my group were given the opportunity to join the community. So was I. It was a generous gift from them and I realized that I would be happy in community with all these believers. Yet, those troubling, nagging doubts were not going away. I remember driving to a Sunday service and parking, then walking to Church. I thought to myself, I can’t do this. Maybe for someone else, it would be okay, but I can’t do this. So, now comes the choice. The choice was, there is no choice at all. I can’t do this. If I did convert, no one would ever know, or even care about my struggle. I cared! I was caught in not attending the Roman Catholic Church because I was unable to get a dispensation from my vows and having no other option. I chose the former, which I termed dark love.
Then, things changed. My dispensation came through because Pope Benedict XVI was once again giving dispensations to priests and religious.
My reasons for not wanting to continue as Anglican were these:
I was not fully convinced that Anglican orders were valid. It might not be a problem for anyone else, but it was for me. If Anglican order may not be valid, why should I want to be a clergy person for them?
When I asked about the authority of the Church, in terms of Apostolicity, I was told that there are three Anglican branches: traditional or Anglo-Catholic, Evangelical, and Progressive. These three branches do not agree on things like Real Presence, Authority of Apostolicity, rituals. I had problems with knowing that each clergy person, depending on their branch of Anglicanism, would give you a different answer to how they approach issues of Church, worship, authority, the grace of God. This might not be a problem for some, but it was for me. I did not see their Catholicity, Apostolicity nor Oneness. I did observe their holiness and goodness of heart.
This is my journey, not yours, but I would only caution you. Just because your road to spirituality is rocky, doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road. In whatever remains of the time I have left, I plan to daily convert my life (conversio mores) to be more like Christ and less like me. I have to fight for my core beliefs and not let the Church get away with abandoning me to relativism, worshipping false gods, and my being my own church. Ironically, as Luther said long ago, “Here I stand, I can do no other.”
Being a Lay Cistercian has been a big blessing. Accepted by the monastic community and fellow brother and sister Lay Cistercians is a true community, like the early assemblies of Ephesus and Philippi. My appreciation for the history and tradition of the Roman Catholic Church has grown exponentially since I began to get rid of my pride and pledge obedience to God’s will for me. One of the most significant events for me is Lectio Divina, which I describe as sitting on a wintry park bench, waiting for Jesus to come by, and, if and when it happens, placing my heart next to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
I pray for all the monks and Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Georgia, I pray for all those in my prayer group at Good Shepherd Community, Tallahassee, Florida. I give thanks to God for the privilege of taking instructions to become an Anglican at St. Peter’s Community in Tallahassee. I am not only home, but, like Job, have more than I could have ever dreamed back in 2010. All I can say is:
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian Doxology
PRINCIPLE FOUR: No one who confesses Jesus is the Son of God, Savior, can do so without the grace of the Holy Spirit. As Pope Francis says: Who am I to judge? Can I stop the Holy Spirit from overshadowing someone who is not of my Catholic Universal Faith? Impossible! Rather than looking at what divides us both theologically and by heritage, and this is not to be minimized, we stress what binds us together. When I was a United States Army Chaplain (1977-1982) I help many more Baptist and Pentecostal soldiers to re-convert their lives to Jesus as their personal savior, than I did Catholics. That was my job as Chaplain and I am proud that I could have been an instrument to help these soldiers find Christ again. There is one faith, one Lord, one Baptism.
PRINCIPLE FIVE: One Rule: Love one another as I have loved you. I find it very interesting to observe most religions, my own included, jockeying to be right, rather than focusing on loving one another as Christ loves us. Behavior follows from what your priority is. Conversion of heart means I focus on what Christ focused on. The basis of my Faith is not the Church, it is Christ and trying as I might to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus each day. (Philippians 2:5-12). It is the “every day” that is killing me, reminding me of the effects of Original Sin into which I must spend whatever time I have left. I try. I hope.
Two gifts we receive: the Eucharist, the Real Presence of Christ into our minds and heart, and the gift of peace which we then give to each other as Christ has just given it to us. Remember, these gifts are from God and pass through you to others. When Jesus tells us to pass on the good news to the whole world, we sometimes forget that it is in the simple act of sharing both love (Eucharist) and peace of Christ (Forgiveness) that we love others as Christ loves us. We can only give others what Christ has given us. All religions who confess that Jesus is the Lord, the Son of God, Savior share this peace with each other.
DID YOU KNOW? The Lay Cistercians of Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), Conyers, Georgia, have an ecumenical group composed of other faith traditions. They make promises before the Abbot to convert their life to Christ using the Rule of St. Benedict and openness to the Spirit through silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community. They meet once a month in a Gathering Day for reflection, prayer, Liturgy of the Hours, and instruction from one of the monks. That in all things, may God be glorified. –St. Benedict
Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and Forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology.
The practice of contemplative thinking is being able to move ideas from the head into the heart. One way to do this is Cistercian (Trappist) spirituality which stresses: silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community. I have used seven habits that allow me to focus consistently and purposefully on moving from my false self to my true self. It is not as easy as it seems. Here is what St. Bernard of Clairvaux had to say about having in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5)
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux wrote of twelfth-century Cistercian life: This is what being a Lay Cistercian means, the fulfillment of our desires to rest in the heart of Christ. I want to have this Cistercian Way as part of my reality.
“Our way of life is abjection. It is humility, it is voluntary poverty, obedience, peace, joy in the Holy Spirit.Our way of life means being under a master, under an abbot, under a rule, under discipline. Our way of life means applying ourselves in silence, being trained in fasts, vigils, prayers, manual labor, and above all it means clinging to the most excellent way, which is Charity, and furthermore advancing day by day in these things and preservering in them until the last day.” (The Cistercian Way, Cover)
Habits are those repetitive behaviors that we repeatedly repeat until we have reached a level of skill that enables us to move to the next habit. Here are seven habits I use in my search for God each day.
I. THE HABIT OF PATIENCE– No question, but this is a flaw in most human endeavors that involve the Sacred. Sacred time is not the same as temporal time. My patience with God is sometimes relegated to making God in my image and likeness. This awareness of allowing God to be and realizing that patience in my expectations must not be immediate gratification is a habit in prayer. Patientia attingit omnia. Patience achieves everything.
II. THE HABIT OF WAITING — As with patience, my human anxiety fills up holes in my life immediately with busy work. Waiting to sit next to Christ on a park bench in the middle of winter requires silence and internal solitude to focus on emptying the false self (wanting to get in, get on, get over, and get out) and be present to whatever happens.
III. THE HABIT OF WONDERING — Although it might seem a bit of a stretch, wondering is a wonderful habit that I try to cultivate. Several sessions ago at our Gathering Days at the Monastery, Father Cassian brought up the concept of living out in front of oneself. It brought to mind Dr. Bernard Boland, one of my instructors at the Institue for Pastoral Studies at Loyola University in Chicago. His class was on the existential-phenomenological approach to spirituality, where we are open to the ontic possibility of the manifest ability of all being encountered. He described that to exist means we must live just a bit beyond what we see and experience (ex-istere or to live a step outside of ourselves). This is direction, momentum, and the ability to allow the wonder in my mind and heart to propel me forward. Wonder is the essence of all scientific inquiry about what and how it is. Wonder in my contemplative spirituality is a cultivated awareness of the physical and mental universes in which I exist and the spiritual universe where I can construct the conditions of meeting Christ because my reason and free will don’t control outcomes. Patience, waiting and wondering all help me anchor myself in my resolve to be present to the Real Presence.
IV. THE HABIT OF CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER — Contemplative prayer, unlike praying in a prayer group or small faith community, is going into that inner room Christ speaks of in Matthew 6:6, locking the door, and praying in the silence of your heart. It is a scary place to be when you think about it. All there is: just you and Jesus with the Holy Spirit helping out with wonder. My urge is to blurt out everything from the Holy Spirit to share with others so that others know what the Holy Spirit said to me. If I am not careful, I fall into the trap of having my sharing be the end result of prayer rather than redirecting my ideas to share with Christ in the silence of the inner room. Even monks and nuns and Lay Cistercians pray in common during Eucharist and other community praying opportunities. Lection Divina is suited to being alone in that inner room of the soul and just patiently waiting with the wonder of anticipation that Christ is there. To draw an unlikely parallel, The Little Prince by Saint Exupery has a scene when the fox talks to the Little Prince about taming as a way to approach each other so they can be friends. Christ tames us. Watch a YouTube on this interaction. (Use the closed captioning edit)
V. THE HABIT OF SILENCE AND SOLITUDE — It would be a mistake to think of contemplative practices of silence and solitude as external conditions that must be present BEFORE you begin Lectio Divina or contemplative meditation on Scripture. If I had to wait until there were no people around me or be in a place with no noise, I would never do Lectio. What I can do is to go to that inner room (Matthew 6.6) and wait. This is inner silence and inner solitude.
VI. THE HABIT OF ADORATION BEFORE THE BLESSED SACRAMENT- This is a habit that comes from wanting to be with Jesus. Waiting before the Blessed Sacrament in vigil is a habit with unexpected consequences. This is a habit that, if I have to explain it, you won’t get it, but it doesn’t need any explanation if you get it.
VII. THE HABIT OF LOOKING TO GROW DEEPER — One of the remarkable consequences of making all these habits real is the realization that I am never stuck with the same old routines each time I pray. I have the ability to grow deeper in my spirituality each time I pray. This is vertical prayer or delving into the depths of your thoughts right now. With God, there is no limit to your growth.