9. And not to do to another what one would not have done to oneself. 10. To deny oneself in order to follow Christ. 11. To chastise the body. 12. Not to become attached to pleasures. 13. To love fasting. 14. To relieve the poor. 15. To clothe the naked. 16. To visit the sick. 17. To bury the dead. 18. To help in trouble. 19. To console the sorrowing. 20. To become a stranger to the world's ways. 21. To prefer nothing to the love of Christ.
I love this Chapter 4, so much so that I read at least part of it daily as my spiritual reading. As one who aspires to be perfect, these statements of formation actually can lead to transformation from self to God. That is why I like them so much. #10 especially intrigues me. Deny yourself is what the Scriptures says. Luke 9:23 “Then he said to them all, If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
This is not an easy road to follow. Those who think they get on a conveyor belt when they are Baptized and get off in Heaven automatically, are in for a rude shock. Being a follower of the Master is a struggle. Christ tells us “Take up their cross daily and follow me.” Do you know how heavy a cross is? Daily? Follow me? I thought about this passage, when I was told I had cancer. Christ bids us to take up our crosses just as he took up his cross (his life and death) and follow him. This is not the action of a passive God. God said, “Do what I do. Follow what I do.”
I studied enough psychology in College to be dangerous. What I learned was the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It was all about me, all about fulfilling myself, making myself better. One of the unseen consequences of this thinking is making myself into God. To renounce oneself, in this context, makes perfect sense for me, especially since I realize the true meaning of Original Sin, the imperfection in which I live. I can’t change Original Sin but I can try to resist its effects, number one being I make myself into God.
The big struggle, the big battle we face is making ourselves into God, the very first command God warned us to avoid. God won’t do it for me, but gives me all the helps I need to succeed, with his grace: humility, obedience to God’s will, seeking God first, the insight to see that I must carry my burden and follow Christ, just as he carried his burden. St. Benedict’s Rule focuses those who follow his Chapter 4 on preferring nothing to loving Christ. That is so difficult to do. The wisdom of community means I have people of similar spiritual orientation that help sustain me as I try to take up my cross and follow Him. When I am down, they are usually up; when some of them are down, sometimes I help out because I am up. In all thing, God is glorified.
Being a Lay Cistercian means my community of faith is so important for my balance and stability. Being a Lay Cistercian means my struggle with the effects of Original Sin can be to my advantage. It is the “daily” in the take up your cross daily and follow me that is important. Daily! Who can sustain that? No one without Christ. Being a Lay Cistercian means I practice my instruments for good works DAILY. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, but I am still in the race.
Praise to God 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. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology.