LONGING: Do you do it?

In our last Lay Cistercian retreat in February, 2018, we had a commentary on one of the verses of the Psalms by Brother Cassian, O.C.S.O. which featured the word of “longing”. I remember being impressed with teasing out this one word that the Psalmist used, as in:  Psalm 42:1 ] “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.”

Now, I use the technique of slow reading in my Lectio Divina (Phil 2:5), not in my reading of these eight words (have in you the mind of Christ Jesus) but in what follows. What Brother Cassian was trying to show us in this session was the riches contained in the words we take for granted. This awareness of being careful to tease out all the meaning in a word has been helpful in my silence and solitude as I slow down my urge to just read the words of the Psalms to get through them. To move from saying to enjoying the Psalms takes focus and intentionality, when moving from self to God.  Remember the five different levels of spiritual awarness in my past blogs, next time you read the Psalms at Morning Prayer?  They are:

  1. Say the Word
  2. Pray the Word
  3. Share the Word
  4. Be the Word
  5. Enjoy the Word

Just a hint as to how I use these five levels.  I always begin each prayer or Cistercian practice with level one.  I must work to consciously move through the rest of the levels. After a few minutes, I don’t worry about levels, but move deeper and deeper without thinking about it. It is called “capacitas dei” or making more room for God.

In my Lectio Divina that prompted this blog, I thought about “longing’ and what Brother Cassian was trying to tell us about the words we take for granted. Let me share with you what I thought about “longing”.

  • I can remember being asked to slow down in my thinking and rest on each word.
  • The word contains the emotion and passion used by the author. Do I begin to FEEL that emotion?
  • Longing can mean many thing, so what are they? It may mean to feel the emotion of anticipation, in the case of the Psalmist above, the analogy of a deer longing for running water. Can you feel that deer’s emotion? Can’t you remember the last time you were thirsty for water and the feeling you had when you quenched your thirst. No greater taste in the whole world, not so?
  • Longing means you can’t wait to see the source of your longing.  I had a longing recently to make my Final Promises as a Lay Cistercian. It took me five years to discern my vocation and it took the community five years to discern if I was suitable. Now what? There is still longing but it is to dwell in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life. It is the time you take to taste the sweetness of the Lord that makes it have value.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:2-4

    For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling— if indeed, when we have taken it off we will not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
    St. Paul speaks about “longing” with another emotionally ladened word, “groan”. So much of what we read we gloss over without realizing the emotional meaning contained in them. “Groan” is not a passive word. It denotes the level of emotional investment of those that pray with God. Praying with God is praying in the presence of God, wanting so much to be with God that you groan in anticipation.

When was the last time you longed for heaven?  St. Benedict in his Chapter 4 of the Holy Rule, sets forth some of these longings.

44. To fear the Day of Judgment.
45. To be in dread of hell.
46. To desire eternal life with all the passion of the spirit.
47. To keep death daily before one’s eyes.
48. To keep constant guard over the actions of one’s life.

Longing has to do with passion for that which you long, in this case Heaven.  I have become more conscious of Heaven as my final destination, in recent years, as I get ever closer to it.  While I am on earth, if I long for something, like a vacation, a financial milestone, or a happiness for a family member, it comes and then goes. When I long for Heaven, it just come, but lasts…Forever.  Now that is something for which I want to long. How about you?

Here is one of my favorite Psalms in its entirety. Read it and reflect on it for ten minutes. Read it one or two times, every slowly. Read it once a day for seven days. How does this help you to long for the Lord? Notice the passages I have bolded. This is my personal longing that come from my Lectio Divina. http://www.usccb.org/bible/psalms/27:62

1aOf David.



The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom should I fear?

The LORD is my life’s refuge;

of whom should I be afraid?

2When evildoers come at me

to devour my flesh,*b

These my enemies and foes

themselves stumble and fall.

3Though an army encamp against me,

my heart does not fear;

Though war be waged against me,

even then do I trust.


One thing I ask of the LORD;

this I seek:

To dwell in the LORD’s house

all the days of my life,

To gaze on the LORD’s beauty,

to visit his temple.c

5For God will hide me in his shelter

in time of trouble,d

He will conceal me in the cover of his tent;

and set me high upon a rock.

6Even now my head is held high

above my enemies on every side!

I will offer in his tent

sacrifices with shouts of joy;

I will sing and chant praise to the LORD.



7Hear my voice, LORD, when I call;

have mercy on me and answer me.

8“Come,” says my heart, “seek his face”;*

your face, LORD, do I seek!e

9Do not hide your face from me;

do not repel your servant in anger.

You are my salvation; do not cast me off;

do not forsake me, God my savior!

10Even if my father and mother forsake me,

the LORD will take me in.f


11LORD, show me your way;

lead me on a level path

because of my enemies.g

12Do not abandon me to the desire of my foes;

malicious and lying witnesses have risen against me.

13I believe I shall see the LORD’s goodness

in the land of the living.*h

14Wait for the LORD, take courage;

be stouthearted, wait for the LORD!

Praise be God 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




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