WHAT IS YOUR CENTER?

Everything has a center. The world. The universe. The galaxy. God. Christ. You.  Of all of those, the one most elusive is YOU.  Your center is the sum of who you are, the North on your compass, that one thing that, if you took it away, everything would be meaningless, or, put another way, nothing would make sense. For all humans, they choose to have a center. If you don’t have one, life chooses one for you.  In the New Testament, Christ put it this way: by your fruits, people will know you.  Who you are is at the center of YOU. What you choose to place at your center is the one principle upon which all others exist.

In a game of darts, it is aiming for the bulls eye.  Like all games, we have some natural talent to make the bulls eye or 100% but, for most of us, it just takes practice and practice. As one who aspires to be a Lay Cistercian, and who has promised to convert my life daily to living the life of Christ in me more and more, also called conversion of life, I have to practice to hit the bulls eye of life, but at least I know what it is. That I try and try to hit it is all I can do right now. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t, but it is the trying that is my prayer, over and over, consistently, relentlessly, passionately. It is the pearl of great price, that certain something that I found that I would sell all I have to have it. It is like having a spouse that you love dearly, despite the inconsistencies of personalities and differences of what life is about. You give all to possess it, despite the rocky road you are on.

My personal center is one I chose about 1958. It was a conversion moment (we have constant conversion moments throughout our lifetime). I came up with this idea many years ago. It should not be confused with centering prayer, which it is not. It is the one principle that anchors your life, in my case, to the life of Christ. Without it, life ceases to have full meaning and I deteriorate to only having meaning that the world gives and not the unlimited depths of knowing, loving and serving that are the products of my contemplation. It completes my humanity in ways I could never have imagined five years ago. It sustains me through hatred, envy, jealousy, and the other temptations of the Devil (Galatians 5). It compels me to go places where I dare not look, inside myself. My center, one which I selected based on Faith (God’s gift to me) is contained in Philippians 2:5. It is five words long: have in you the mind of Christ Jesus. That is it.

It is the only words (sacred words) that I have ever used as my Lectio Divina prayer. It is the reason I drive five miles (one way) each month to attend the Lay Cistercian Gathering Day with other fellow Lay Cistercians. It is the motivation for me to spend time each day in prayer, as much as I can, before the Blessed Sacrament and attend the Eucharist daily. It is my way to convert myself from my false self to my true self. It is what I hope to become eventually become now, and in Heaven. It is my center of everything.

THE RULE OF REVOLVING CENTERS

Like your tires, if you don’t keep air in them, if you don’t take them in when you get a nail in them, you won’t be able to use them, a center needs maintenance. Some call it conversatio mores (conversion of life). In terms of a tire, it is more air, and to stop the leaks, to keep the tires rotated and aligned. Your center is like an ice cube. It will melt if you don’t keep it frozen.  Like everything else in nature, the physical universe, it deteroriates. This is Orginal Sin, the archetypal stores of why we find ourselves in an imperfect state with death being the ultimate penalty.

It takes work to keep your center aligned properly. Did you get that? No automatic getting on the conveyor belt of life. It takes work, your work. That is why, as a Lay Cietercian I must be diligent in taking up my cross daily to follow Christ. If not, my ice will begin to melt. My practice emcompasses the Cistercian Way, the spirituality that provides me with opportunities to place my heart next to the heart of Christ and know, love and serve as He loved us. By myself, I have neither the srrength nor the stamina to sustain myself agains the roaring lion who roams the world seeking whom he may devour. He devoured Adam and Eve, he could not devour Christ, and he most definately tries unrelentingly to keep me from practicing my spiritual exercises and charisms.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU CHOOSE

What you place at your center is God.  That may cound corney, but it is true and the consequences, even if you think you are correct, can be life threatening (not your life in this world).  There is such a thing as a false center, just like there is a choice we have to be our false self or true self. Here are some false center I have considered but rejected.

  • Church — the obvious selection for a center is the Church. Be careful. Attending church is not the same as being church. It makes for an eluring choice but one that is non sustaining. Church does not produce grace, but it is a conduit. Go for the source of power.
  • Blessed Virgin Mary– In the window of the Abbey Church at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, there are no pictures of saints or statues. In the back wall, there is only a stained glass window.  Look at it in the opening photograph of this blog. What do you see. Nice colors. What else? Where is Jesus in relationship to Mary? Notice that? Christ is her center, not the other way around.  The Church honors Mary because of what she taught us: do what he tells you. Christ is always the center for Mary. Mary chose Christ as her center just as we have the opportunity to do. Mary tells us she is a poor center, but points us to a good one.
  • Power– Power in the sense that the world give us is elusive and fleeting. We are tempted to make power our center when we think we are superior over others  because of our money, our position, or economic advantages, our genetic breeding. True power comes from accepting adoption as a son or daughter of the Father, the source of all power.
  • Money– Money makes the world go around, but it is a terrible center. People and nations kill others trying to possess it. Politics is about, not only power, but also money.  It is like cotton candy. Tastes good but no nourishment.
  • Fame– Fame is fleeting. In fact, fame is the most disposable of all values. I watched I watched Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Jimmy Stewart, President Ronald Regan all grow old and die. I still watch their movies. Fame is fleeting and makes a poor center, even if you have the Road pictures to keep you entertained.
  • Ego– If you put yourself as your center, you have a fool for a god.
  • Hatred, Anger, Envy– Placing hatred or envy at your center makes you do things that are harmful to yourself and humanity. The wrong center may seem like the right one for the time being (Nazi in WWII) but is innately corrupting of human values.
  • Family — Your heart says your center should be your family. Centers are those values from which we derive our meaning for existence. Centers should be permanent. What happens to you is your spouse dies, your children die? What is your center now? Family is in my top four picks but not my center. My center is one where I will see my family again in the next phase of reality, living with God…Forever.

LEARNING POINTS

Here are some thoughts that have popped into my mind when meditating on my Center (have in you the mind of Christ Jesus) Phil 2:5

  • What is God’s center? Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 22:38 and everything else that is
  • What is Christ’s center? To do the will of him who sent me  and glorify the Father (John   17)
  • What is Mary’s Center? Christ 100%
  • What is the center of the Church?  Christ is the head and we are the Body

 

Praise be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who as, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology

 

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