LAY CISTERCIAN JOURNEY: Life in Christ

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 fie part document as it affects me as an aspiring Lay Cistercian, struggling to move from self to God. This the fifth and final paragraph of the document. The text is bolded for your ease of reading. My reflection follows.

5) Life in Christ
The Lay Cistercian’s road is one particular way of living the universal journey of human beings into God. The presence of Christ is the heart of our journey: “He is the way, the truth, the life.” It is necessarily a journey accompanied by others. It is the quest for the encounter with Christ who transcends us and abides in us. Our greatest hope is that the gift of discovering Christ in one another will be the path of holiness and joy for us. Our journey is inspired and nourished by the sisters and brothers in the Cistercian family; for this, we will be eternally grateful.
After reflecting on our identity (Huerta 2008) and working on our formation (Dubuque 2011), we as Lay Cistercians sought to go to the heart and source of these two realities. We discovered an encounter with a Presence: Jesus Christ, the source, and summit of our journey. Jesus calls us through our brothers and sisters to be witnesses of the Gospel in the world, enlightened and supported by the Cistercian tradition as it is embodied in the nuns and monks who accompany us.
May Mary, Queen of Citeaux and model of obedience, show us the way to our full transformation into the image of her Son.”

For me, the purpose of my life is to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5). Since I was a lad of 23, they have been my mantra and the source of my spiritual nourishment. When I read the Lay Cistercian statement number five, The Life of Christ, it was like a homecoming. It is the nuclear fission of my spiritual life. I look at my journey to Forever in terms of a lifetime of what I have learned about what is meaningful and what lacks substance, or, as I like to call it, cotton candy (tastes good but there is no nourishment for the body).

There are some assumptions about my purpose of life which I feel I must share with you what I think when I hear or read The Life of Christ.

  1. When I look at my own life, I try, with varying degrees of success, to have in me the mind of Christ. Because of original sin, the condition or effects of which we still must content as we discover what it means to have and sustain the life of Christ in us, what we must do is not easy to either identify or to practice.  I don’t see spiritual thinking as natural. On the contrary, the world and its allurements to what is true, that everyone has an opinion and there is no one who can tell you what to believe, and that you can’t really know Christ because he never existed as the Church proposes, is our default. A default of original sin is what we all fall back on unless we make the effort to find out what God wants.  St. Paul calls this self-indulgence in Galatians 5:16-26.  He contrasts this with works of the Spirit, which we must choose over the default of sin. The point is, original sin is our default or self-indulgence. It is only by our choosing what God wants that we grow deeper in the life of Christ.
  2. Cistercian contemplation is only one way to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. Any spiritual pathway that has Christ as its center and leads us to grow from self to God is good. It would be a mistake to think one approach is better than another. For me, the Cistercian approach is the one I feel called to explore and participate if they will have me.
  3. As one who aspires to be a Lay Cistercian, I feel called to move forward by learning the Cistercian practices and charisms of humility, obedience to the Abbott, seeking solitude, silence, pray, work, and finding Christ in my Lay Cistercian companions.
  4. Love has an undefinable number of levels, each one deeper than the one before it, to live the Life of Christ in our hearts.
  5. Finding Christ in each other recognizes that Christ is present in each of us, only to be discovered and nourished with love and humility.
  6. The great emphases of the Gospel writers plus St. Paul (Luke) is about having in each of us the life of Christ through belief but also through doing what we believe. Over and over, Christ is seen getting angry with people, not because they were weak and sinful, but because they did not follow the will of the Father.  Post Pentecost thinking has the Apostles and disciples receiving the Holy Spirit and taking that zeal out into the world. If it was just zeal, this movement would not have lasted more than the lifetime of its leader.This was not a conversion to the Jewish way of thinking, but using the Jewish traditions and teachings of the Prophets to expand how to live as Christ taught us, with the help of the same Holy Spirit.
  7. There is indeed a quest or yearning to be more and more like Christ and less and less like me, the broken-down, old temple of the Holy Spirit.  I have called it by many names, one of which is fierce love.  What would you do to possess the life of Christ within you? What price is great enough?  Yet, it is totally without monetary cost, but it will cost you everyTHING you have. I have found that I have to give me all my mind, my heart and my strength to love God.  Christ did it and bids me do so.  As a Lay Cistercian, my focus on the Life of Christ is to discover that Christ through my Lay Cistercian and other faithful companions on my journey.

After reflecting on our identity (Huerta 2008) and working on our formation (Dubuque 2011), we as Lay Cistercians sought to go to the heart and source of these two realities. We discovered an encounter with a Presence: Jesus Christ, the source, and summit of our journey. Jesus calls us through our brothers and sisters to be witnesses of the Gospel in the world, enlightened and supported by the Cistercian tradition as it is embodied in the nuns and monks who accompany us.

The document calls us to discover an encounter with Jesus Christ. As one who aspires to be a Lay Cistercian, I try to do what nuns and monks in the monasteries do, i.e., love God with all their hearts, their strength and their souls, and their neighbor as themselves. What they do is to seek God through practices and creating a school of love to move from self to God. Sounds simple, but for me, it is a lifetime of trying to take some of these charisms and, using the Cistercian practices I have learned, apply them to my own secular situation. The question is not, is it better to be in a monastery than try it in the secular world with family, job, distractions, and the struggle to live in a secular world that does not value Christ. I would not have it any other way.

Life in Christ is both my purpose (have in you the mind of Christ Jesus), the journey, and the ultimate goal, Heaven. How can I fail, if I focus on becoming more like Christ and reproducing the passion, death, and resurrection in my life? Since I can never love God with all my heart and soul, through Cistercian practices, I can allow my heart to sit next to the heart of Christ and absorb His love.

Through Him, With Him, and In Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, the God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen.

 

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