REFLECTIONS ON THE LAY CISTERCIAN SPIRITUAL JOURNEY: The Community as a Means of Growth

The following comments are my own reflections from the document on Lay Cistercian Journey discussed at a Gathering Day of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery on October 1, 2017. It is part of our on-going Junior Professed Formation Program. Each month, our Lay Cistercian Advisor, Brother Cassian, OSCO, presents various approaches to 20th Century Cistercian Spirituality for Lay Cistercians based on the documents of International Lay Cistercians. What follows is the Lourdes document on Lay Cistercian Spiritual Journey.  Look it up for yourself  on:

http://www.cistercianfamily.org/documents/Spiritual%20Journey%20FINAL%2020June2014.pdf Over the next two to three weeks, each day, I will be commenting on one part of this document as it affects me as an aspiring Lay Cistercian, struggling to move from self to God.

The third part of the International Lay Cistercian document has to do with the central place of community in becoming more like Christ and less like you.

The bolded text is the document followed by my reflections.

3) The central place of community, lay and monastic, as a means of spiritual growth. Our response to the call of Christ leads us into a Lay Cistercian community where we are mutually enriched in a relationship with each other and with the monastic community. The monastic community recognizes the presence of Cistercian values in the lay group and authorizes it to be called a “Lay Cistercian Community.” Walking with others brings richness, as the sharing and communion experienced are sources of support and joy. The community also creates constraints, requiring patience and listening, and could cause suffering. We recognize that community is an essential and indispensable element of our journey, a necessary means of spiritual growth. We must learn to love those who are called to the same community, sharing with each other with honesty and humility. Thus, we learn to see Christ in one another and to love as Christ has loved us.

Here are a few ideas I have, after reading the section on the place of community in Lay Cistercian life.

I have always been impressed that St. Benedict compiled a list of rules to allow itinerant, 5th-century monks to live together without killing each other. He was influenced by the writings of St. John Cassian http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03404a.htm. who lived in the 4th Century.  These rules are like the banks of a river, setting boundaries of human behavior so that the waters of the human condition can flow without too much interference.  What Benedict did was to give a blueprint to many monks or nuns to live a life focused on Christ, the mystery of Faith. There are four principles that I see St. Benedict stressing to his monks.

  1. Whatever you do, prefer nothing to having in you the mind of Christ Jesus.
  2. The community is a school of love, where we practice how to love God with all our hearts, our souls, our strength, and our neighbor as yourself.
  3. Cultivate humility, obedience to the will of God as exercised by the Abbot/Abbess or superior who takes the place of Christ.
  4. Seek God by using the tools of good works (Chapter 4) daily, pray the Office of Readings, Receive the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, experience Christ in each other.

Part of the Mystery of Faith is the simultaneous dwelling of imperfect and sinful humans with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. How could Christ possibly trust his Church to sinful and weak humans, who can choose the wrong path and yet sincerely lead us toward Christ?  How can the Church be Holy as in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, yet be populated by sinful persons like ourself?  Part of the answer is, we are not rotten persons but merely weak and choose the wrong path sometimes. Community brings us back to what is good and true each time. If all we have is our own forgiveness of our own sins, we have a fool for a god.

As one who aspires to be a Lay Cistercian and follow the Rule of St. Benedict as practiced by Cistercians, I do not live in a community of faith that constantly interacts with other Lay Cistercians. Yet, the Gathering Day affords me the opportunity to interact with community members who each have different gifts of the Spirit and ways to seek God. When we share our deepest feelings about moving from self to God with other Lay Cistercians, I myself experience the God in others and so, “we learn to see Christ in one another and to love as Christ has loved us.” 

The Real Presence of Christ is not just under the appearance of bread and wine, although it is most certainly that. It is also the Real Presence of Christ under the appearance of each other. There is one faith, one Lord, one Baptism, one Spirit, one priesthood, and one God with three distinct persons. Community uncovers what is real, although invisible, and allows me to seek God as only I can do it.

LEARNING POINTS

  1. Read Acts 15:5-28. The early community had to expand to include all persons (catholic) and not just those who were Jews.
  2. The community is the living Body of Christ now and in each age. Do you believe this enough to see the power of the Holy Spirit in the Church today?
  3. Do you meet together frequently to share the Spirit or are you like someone who ha an East/West coast marriage?
  4. Being in the presence of believers does something wonderful to you.

Praise be the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, both now and Forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen.

That in all things, may God be glorified. –St. Benedict

 

 

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