As part of my Lectio Divina reflections ((Phil 2:5) last week, I was struck by the thought that Jesus left us to go back to the Father (Ascension), but it was more than just leaving the Apostles, as a son leaves his mother and father to go to college, it was a handing over to humans what Adam and Eve did not do in the Garden of Eden.
THE GIFTS OF GOD TO ADAM AND EVE AND THEIR BETRAYAL
When you look at the Genesis Story, you may miss the forest for all the trees. It is such a rich document that chronicles what it means to be human and what it means to be a human in relationship with God. I bring it up because it is one of the core stories of Scriptures, one seen as begnning the story of how God loved us so much that he prepared humans to receive His only Son. These are my Lectio Divina ideas thoughts about what happened in the Garden of Efen.
Notice that the context is a garden. What happens to your garden, if you don’t take care of it? Weeds. There were no weeds in the Garden of Eden because this is paradise and everything is perfect and good. You don’t have to worry about water in this garden or fertilizer. It was created by God, the Grand Gardner before there was an Adam and Eve. God said, “I need somebody to help me tend the Garden.” God made someone from the very soil of the Garden, the earth itself, which he called Adam. Adam was a gardener, one who cares for the Garden (earth). He did not want Adam to be alone so he made Eve from Adam (not the earth). Maybe that is why men are so dirty and women so clean. Something happened in the Garden that would change the relationship with God forever. In your garden at home, what is the one creature you are afraid you will sometime meet? A snake. Same with the Garden of Eden. The snake in the grass is one of my favorite scenes from The Little Prince. My favorite choreographer, Bob Fosse, played the snake to perfection. If you want a real treat by Bob Fosse, look it up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUTEhEPONgc
The point of Genesis is to tell the story of why we have to die, suffer, seem to be alienated from God, why we do evil to each other. Eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil was Adam and Eve’s undoing. This was the Original or Archetypal Sin. Even today, all sin goes back to this sin, trying to be God and not ourselves. God gives us what we need to get to live in the Garden of Eden and we disobey God. The two great sins (sin being missing the point of life) are obedience to God’s will and humility. If you read the Our Father, the prayer taught us to pray, you will notice Genesis at work again. We acknowledge that God is God and not us, “…thy will be done on earth as it is the heavens.” and secondly, having mercy on other as as we would have God treat to us. This is humility as in Genesis. Humility, if you remember, is recognition that God is God and I am not.
God gave us the promise of a redeemer. Redeem from what? Redemption is the restablishment of the Garden of Eden, now called the Kingdom of Heaven. This redeemer would save us from being disobedient and prideful and wanting to be like God. The redeemer was Christ. the second Adam, according to St. Paul. (Romans 5) This redeemer would have to die, rise from the death and ascend to the Father. This redeemer would leave his heritage to be passed on to the most unlikely person, Peter, who denyed him three times. (Philippians 2:5-12)
What resulted from the betrayal of Adam and Eve was the consequences of not being in contact with God. Heaven is now closed to them and they must await a redeemer to lead them back into paradise. Such a person is Christ, but God works through nature and history not with miracles or zaps of grace from the sky. In the fulness of time, we have a redeemer, one who resotored the relationship with God. Only God could have restored this relationship, which is why Jesus had to be both God and Human.
When Jesus left the physical earth for the eternal Kingdom of Heaven, he gave us the Holy Spirit to help us fumble down the highway of history.
THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT AND GIFTS PERSEUS RECEIVED FROM ZEUS
Wow! I can’t control where my Lectio Divina takes me, but I always relish the trip with the Holy Spirit. I thought of what gifts Christ would give his Apostles and those who came centeries after him. Of course, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are core, but then I though of the Myth of Perseus and the three gifts that Zeus gave him. Here is a descriptions of these gifts.
“What Polydectes had not known was that Perseus was beloved by the gods. To help him, god Hermes gave him a curved sword and a pair of winged sandals (other versions of the myth say that Hermes did not give Perseus a pair of winged sandals but a white winged horse) while Athena gave him a mirror of polished bronze and a cap from Hades that could make invisible anyone who would wear it. With these divine aids, Perseus started his long journey to the cave of Medousa, somewhere in Africa. He indeed found lying in her deep cave. Since he was wearing the winged sandals, he could fly around her and since he was wearing the magical cap of Hades, he was invisible. In order to avoid looking Medousa directly to her face and thereby being turned into a stone, Perseus approached Medousa looking at her reflection in the mirror and cut off her head with the sword of Hermes. So easily then, the brave and intelligent Perseus managed to complete this difficult task! Source: www.greeka.com”
Even in ancient myths, the gods give mortals gifts to help them through their tasks. I thought of five non-traditional gifts that Christ gives to each of usat Baptism to allow us to complete the difficult task of getting to Heaven. Christ won’t live our life for us, as some theologians think, but allows us to struggle (take up our cross daily and follow Him), thanks to Adam and Eve. Here are five such gifts that I saw in my Lectio Divina, gifts that help us to discover God within us.
THE GIFT OF THE CUP OF SALVATON
One meaning of the cup of salvation is that it is the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper. In my Lectio based on Philippians 2:5, my notion of cup is one that Christ gives to each of his disciples at Baptism.
When you enter the Kingdom of Heaven on earth (while you live), God gives you a graduation present. It is is a cup, the cup of salvation. The cup is you. Your task, while you live is to love others as Christ has loved you. You are asked to place in the cup, as an offering of praise and glory, all those times at Eucharist you placed your fragmented self upon the altar for the priest to offer to the Father in, with, and through Christ, all those times you saw Christ in others and offered mercy and spiritual support. This is the cup of blessings that you present to Christ upon your death )Matthew 25), when you will be judged to see how much you loved others as Christ loved us. When we die, Christ makes up in us that which we lack in our cup. Only full to the brim cups can go to Heaven.
Mary also received a cup when she made her “Let it be done to me according to your will” and also had to fill it to the brim. Mary’s, it should be noted, was filled by God himself not by her. It was filled immediately. We call that the Immaculate Conception celebrate that one with our human nature was the first one to be filled completely with God’s grace. We say in the Hail Mary, “full of grace”. Mary did not fill her cup as we are asked to do, God Himself honor her (and all of us) by filling it Himself. Today, we honor Mary, particularly in the Benedictine and Cistercian traditions, by reciting the Angelus at Noon and the Magnificat at Evening Prayer.
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid; for behold henceforth all generations will call me blessed because He Who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name; and His Mercy is from generation to generation to those who fear Him. He has shown might with His Arm, He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He has put down the mighty from their thrones and has exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has given help to Israel, His servant, mindful of His mercy – even as He Spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to His posterity forever.” (Luke 1:46-55)
THE GIFT OF THE BOOK OF LIFE
I always had a problem remembering the names of those for whom I wanted to pray. I always remember my parents and grandparents and family members, but, as I grow older, and more names are added to my prayer list, I can’t remember all the people I want, nor any special intentions, such as prayer for those sick in the hospital or those I know who have cancer. Then then is another problem, time. If I start to add up all the people on my prayer list, it takes me twenty or thirty minutes. My spiritual attention span is not that long before the world creeps in an offers me alternative thoughts and diversions. So, what to do? I use the Book of Life, as referenced in Revelations 20.
” 11 Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books. 13 And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; 15 and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”
“Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.” Philippians 4:3
My use of the Book of Life is not a recent event. What is recent is my re=discovery of The Book of Life as something I use as part of my Lay Cistercian spirituality. There are two contemplative practices that I do now with greater consistency and focus:
1. I pray each morning for a different intention, usually when I go to Morning Prayer at Good Shepherd Church, Tallahassee.
Monday: In reparation for my sins and those of the Church, those on my prayer list
Tuesday: For all family, friends, teachers, 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 Dioceses of Evansville and Pensacola-Tallahassee, 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 my means of the Holy Spirit, the God who is, was, and is to come at the end of the ages
2. The second practice is writing people’s names in the Book of Life.
Jesus is the book of life. He is the file cabinet of all those who have gone before us. The file drawer is the Church, the Body of Christ that exists now. The individual file folders are those with our names on them. We have the ability to write in our file folder the names of those who have died, those whom we remember in our daily prayers each day, those intentions that we make to give glory to the Father through Christ Jesus. Whenever I pray, all I do is ask God to remember those in my file folder. I don’t make a point of trying to recall all my family members, teachers, school classmates, colleagues. You get the point. What I have been doing lately is visually seeing myself write the names of those whom I want in my file folder on a piece of paper. It is in gold, although my mental acuity has not progressed enough to actually see it in gold.
At 77, I have difficulty remembering if I took my medicine in the morning, but have no trouble with recalling my Book of Life names. I pray to the Father to be merciful to those on my file folder, but especially to me, one who only aspires to be perfect.
That in all things, may God be glorified. –St. Benedict
THE GIFT OF THE GOLDEN THREAD
Can you think back to the year 2007 and tell me what you were doing on March 1? You did something, if you were living, not so? What was it that made this date so special? How about the other dates you have experienced? They come and they go and are forgotten. Does that mean they were insignificant and a waste of time? On March 1, did you do something that would somehow change your future for the better?
I have a problem even remembering if I took my heart medication in the morning, much less what happened on March 1, 2007. I could say that about any date. I don’t know if I had lunch with someone, went to bed early, watched television, or read a book. Does that mean the sum of my life is meaningless?
When I was thinking about my Lectio Divina passage (Phil 2:5) the following thoughts came to my mind. What good is my past life, such as a day long ago that I can’t even remember very well? Did I start the day out with my Morning Prayer? Did I do anything in that day to bring me closer to God? All these days in my past seem to be easily forgotten. Do they help me get to Heaven, if I can’t even remember what happened?
If you have not read about the myth of Ariadne’s Thread, do so now. Google it. I thought of something similar, except my thread was golden and it was to help us through the Labyrinth of life and not that of Mithras. Here are my reflections:
THE GOLDEN THREAD
When each of us are born, we find ourselves in a Labyrinth of false passages and turns that all seem the same. Life is one of no hope, no exits, just the same routine of trying to find meaning in a maze that all looks the same. John Paul Statre wrote a play describing this feeling. It is called No Exit. https://archive.org/stream/NoExit/NoExit_djvu.txt This is Original Sin, where the only path is one which is negative, and leads to nowhere. For those Baptised, through faith, the Labyrinth is still there, still has a maze of differing ideas about what is true and meaningful, still with difficulties in walking down the parh. There is a difference with those who are Baptized. First, there is Hope that you can get out of the maze. You are still going to have to endure the stress of finding your way out of the Labyrinth, but now you have a Golden Thread to help you. At Baptism, you were presented with a Golden Thread by Christ. He tied it around your heart and He tied the other end around His Heart. When you reach the age of spiritual maturity, i.e., you realize that there is a Labyrinth and that you have a Golden Thread that links you to Christ, you can begin your journey. Christ won’t make the journey for you but He will make it with you, guiding you by the Golden Thread. If you follow this thread (Scriptures, Body of Christ, Eucharist, Forgiveness and Mercy, and loving others as Christ has loved you), you can get out of the maze, even if you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. The Golden Thread won’t stop you from dying, it won’t make your journey any easier to walk, it won’t be a conveyor belt on which you get and get off when you die, it won’t help you get rid of your faults and failings, it won’t save you from cancer or alcoholism, but it will save you because you are linked indelibly in Baptism with Christ Jesus, His Heart to your heart. This is why I think contemplation is important for me as an aspiring Lay Cistercian. I want to love God with my whole heart, my mind, and my strength, and thus love my neighbor as Christ as loved me. When Christ says, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, think of the Golden Thread that links your heart with the Heart of Christ. This is our way out of the Labyrinth of despair and sin, our way out of trying to be god, our reliance only on our own fallible self for salvation.
Praise be to the Father and 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 GIFT OF SPECIAL GLASSES
It must be evident the glasses of which I speak are not physical one but those special lenses that allows to see the Mystery of Faith Let me clarify what my Lectio Divina meditation was about. Mystery is a reality that we can only catch a glimps of on earth. It has not measurements that the world.
The following ideas are excerpted from my book, The Three Rules of the Spiritual Universe. You can access this book in the Store part of this blog. In my Lectio Divina/Meditations/Contemplations, I was presented with these three ideas about the spiritual universe. They are big picture themes of the Spiritual Universe, not rules to limit inquiry or innovation. You may have more rules, these are the ones I use.
“There are several rules or laws of the spiritual universe,
just as there are laws of the physical universe. One of these
laws is The Rule of Threes. The Rule of Threes states that
there is only one reality possessing three independent
and distinct universes. The three universes are one, yet
quite separate. The three universes are the physical, the
mental, and the spiritual. The Rule of Threes is important
because you will not see all of reality by just looking at
the physical or mental universes. To see life from a deeper
point of view, you must use the Rule of Threes. You won’t
get to Heaven unless you have aligned all three universes
properly.” –Michael F. Conrad, Ed.D.
TO DISCOVER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, YOU MUST USE THE RULE OF THREES
RULE ONE: THE RULE OF THREES
There is only one reality containing three separate universes. God only speaks spiritually, not in English. The Word is made flesh and lives (present tense) among us.
RULE TWO: THE RULE OF REVOLVING CENTERS
Humans default to their animal nature without mental and spiritual help.
RULE THREE: THE RULE OF OPPOSITES
In the physical and mental universes, what is true are power, greed, self-indulgence, influence, sex, riches, and fame. I am the center of the physical and mental universe. In the spiritual universe, the opposite is what is true.
THE THREE RULES OF THE SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE
1. THE RULE OF THREES Humans have reason for a reason. The purpose of life is to look at every day with fresh eyes, even if they are sleepy. Those who are spiritual see with three universes, the physical sight, mental enlightenment, and spiritual wisdom. All truth is one, but with three layers or universes, each quite distinct.
2. THE RULE OF REVOLVING CENTERS
Humans are spiritual animals, but animals nevertheless. While in the physical universe, there is a constant battle between the spirit and the flesh. It is only with spiritual
energy from God that humans can consistently and persistently keep their centers intact. To aid humans, the Master gives us help, both individually and collectively.
3. THE RULE OF OPPOSITES What may seem true in the physical universe is just the opposite in the spiritual universe. When you are weak, then you are strong.
If you wish to be a leader, you must serve all. If you wish to get to Heaven, you must be as a little child. With this rule, you learn to speak spiritually.
THOUGHT: TO DISCOVER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, YOU MUST USE ALL THREE RULES
You are capable of living in three realities or universes simultaneously. Think about that statement. If you are human, you automatically live in two universes. Some of us never progress to the third universe, the spiritual plane of existence.
1. The physical universe — all matter, all chemical elements, all physics, all that lives
belong to this universe. On this level, humans are just a species of animal.
2. The mental universe — only humans live on this level. All humans begin their lives in the Garden of Eden, where pleasure is the norm. This universe is one of reason. Only humans can reason. Only humans have a mind to find out their destiny. They have their life span to learn how to get to Heaven. They have reason for a reason.
3. The spiritual universe — this is the Kingdom of Heaven where all dreams do come true. God has invited us to share this universe with him. What a deal! This universe begins when you put God at your center. The only way to enter this universe is by a free use of your will. Humans are spiritual apes, only capable of fulfilling their destiny with God’s help.
CONSIDER THIS IDEA VERY CAREFULLY!
How many universes can you live in at the same time?
You are born into the first reality, that of the physical universe. All matter lives in this universe. Humans alone have evolved into the next universe or mental reality.
We evolved, learned, and gradually discovered meaning. The third universe is strictly voluntary. It is the reality of the Spirit. You can’t measure it. That does not mean it can not be measured. It is the universe of faith informed by reason. Our challenge, as humans, is to integrate these three realities as one, in order to make it through the threshold of death into Heaven. Some of us believe this to be true, while others do not. Life is a discovery of what is meaningful. Humans use their minds to soak up reality
and try to make sense out of it. Spirituality is a way to put value and meaning in the proper perspective. Each universe is given to us to solve the mystery of our destiny.
These three universes are three parts of the grand mystery. Humans must figure out this mystery in order to move on to their final destination. It is the ultimate Monopoly
game. In this game, we learn what to hold onto and what to sell. Our purpose is to gather as many riches as possible. We are made for Heaven, not earth. We are made for Forever, not just for eighty years or so. Play to win!
YOU WON’T NOTICE THREE UNIVERSES BECAUSE THEY HAPPEN SIMULTANEOUSLY
1. Not everyone believes in three universes. Most of us just ignore the signs God gives us.
Some become bored and fall away from their core principles.
2. The Scientific reality is what you can measure. Is it correct? Of course, it is.
3. Philosophical reality is reason. The mind deduces what is not logical, what is visible and invisible. Is it correct? Of course, it is.
4. Spiritual reality uses belief in a reality that is not seen. Is it correct? Of course, it is.
5. So, how can all three levels of reality be correct? They are each looking at one part of
reality and not the whole. Reality is one yet has three dimensions or universes. The three are one. The one is three.
7. The ultimate challenge in life is to know your purpose. That purpose is somehow bound up with three dimensions or universes.
THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE REALITY HAS THREE DIMENSIONS
THOUGHTS FOR FOOD
3=1 is the formula to Forever.
Astronomers tell us that dark matter may make up most of the known universe. We can’t see it, but we think it exists. See the website: http://astron.berkeley.edu/~mwhite/
darkmatter/dm.html Dark matter has faint mass. What we don’t know about the universe is more than we know. The same can be said about the interface between the physical universe and spirituality. The physical universe is evolving, but so is the interface between the mental universe, and that of the spiritual universe. Humans are slowly growing towards the collective purpose for which they evolved if they don’t kill each other first. Darwin was correct to notice the evolution of the species. His problem was that he just did not look far enough. We have the physical universe to thank for the condition that allows us to live at all. We have the mental universe to thank for the condition that allows us to wonder and learn from our collective wisdom. We have the spiritual universe to thank for answering the questions of why we are here, and the direction of our destiny. The authors of Genesis were not scientists but rather poets, marveling at the order of all that they saw. Darwin was only looking at the physical universe with the power of the science of his time. You are able to look at all three universes and seek the purpose of why you are here. Some of us only see two universes.
HERE ARE SOME LEARNING POINTS
THE GIFT OF THE MAP TO FOREVER
If life is a journey, what is your destination, are you planning to stop and rest somewhere to find food and rest, do you have a Mapquest directions or Google Map to show you how to find your destination? Of course, if you don’t know where you want to go, as the Cheshire Cat said to Alice in Alice in Wonderland, any direstion will get you there. Fortunately for us, Jesus not only came to show us how to get to Heaven, our purpose in life, our destination, but left us a map. Wait a minute! Jesus never left a book. Correct! Then where is this map?
In my Lectio Divina meditations, I discovered three maps, all of them one.
Jesus is the map. I am the way, the truth, and the life. Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, says Christ. This map is a person, a person we are asked to follow, someone for whom we must renounce self and follow, someone who only told us to love each oter as He loved us.
The Church Univesal is the map, the living Body of Christ in each age. Jesus left this map in the hands of sinful and imperfect people. As the tribes of Israel fashioned a golden calf to worship, even as Moses was conming down from the mountain with the sacred tablets of the Law, so too those who try to intrepret the map make the mistake of thinking they are the map. Adam and Eve made this mistake. It is one thing to have a map but quite another to intrepret it correctly. Christ gave us the correct intrepretation and passed it down through the Apostles by means of the Holy Spirit. The Church Universal today has the heritage of ages past, carrying the torch of correct intrepretation from age to age, careful not to tear or lose the map. For those who see the map, no answer is necessary; for those who do not, no answer is possible. That in all things, may God be glorified.
I am the map. Each one of us must freely choose to follow the directions set forth by Christ in Matthew 25. The Church is a guide, but we must make the journey of life as individuals but in the company of the faithful. We have ways to make all things new on the journey. We have rest for our souls in contemplation. We have food for the journey in the Eucharist, Christ’s own presence in each age, in each one of us to make us one with Him. Our map is living, our map is written in our hearts and minds with the sign of faith.Within the Church Universal there are many rites based on culture. There are also spiritual disciplines that help focus on Christ as Son of God, Savior. Dominicans, Fransicans, Ignatian spirituality, and many others. I follow the Cistercian approach to seeking God through silence, solitude, prayer, work, and community. The important thing is not what spiritual discipline is best, but rather does the one you have allow you to have in your the mind of Christ Jesus (Phl 2:5)
There are many people out there who claim to have the correct map of how to get to Heaven if you follow them. Don’t be misled by false teachings says Hebrews, hold firm to the teaching of the Apostles who receive the Holy Spirit. There is only one map that leads to Heaven. As an adopted son or daughter of the Father, you received this map upon your baptism with water and the grace of the Holy Spirit. Can you see it?
HOW DOES ALL THIS FIT TOGETHER?
I try to fit all reality, physical, mental and spiritual together, even if I don’t know if all the pieces are there. Putting together all the pieces requires me to make assumptions about the puzzle of life. They are:
I know everything fits together because all that is, is God’s creation. Sound simplistic but think about it. I only get clues or pieces of the puzzle of life one at a time. I have to earn some of them, others I must pay for with everyTHING I have (Did you catch the THING?).
The rules of the game are not just scientific methodology, or the language of art or music, or the philosophy of Existential Phenomenology, or Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncertainty_principle), rather, it is how all of these vast swatches of kowledge fit together.
I won’t be able to put all of these together until I am at one with The One Who Is.
I use the five gifts (Cup of Salvation, The Golden Thread, The Book of Life, Special Glasses, and The Map to Forever) as aids for my limited ability to comprehend and thus control reality. I am content to see life, is some of its parts, as the Mystery of Faith. I know that it is there but what it is and how it is ezcapes me now. St. Paul writes: 1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
Jesus used what we know to lead us to a deeper level or reality, what we don’t know. The comparison of what Heaven is like is such a aid. Read Matthew 13 with his very colorful and descriptive simile of seeds to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Praise be the Father and 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