THREE DIVORCES YOU WON’T BELIEVE HAPPENED
Like the boy who called wolf, many of the values we hold today are so commonplace that we don’t even realize the have special significance. Divorce is one of those happenings that has become so routine that it does not carry any negative consequences. Everyone does it, just like everyone can get married and no one is shocked at male to male and female to female marriages. At least some culpability for the societal shift, away from traditional Judeo-Christian values, is due to the divorce between Church and State. In this scenario, State is not so much spearated from Church as it becomes Church in morals, values, and being one’s own god.
Here are three divorces, separations, or what ever you call it, that have had major consequences on the way we think about reality. Like divorce, the reality does not change as much as our approach to how we think about it, is most important. It matters because morality has shifted as a result of how a majority of us think. It matters because the result of how a majority of us think determines what is right and wrong. When this happens, God’s laws and command as we have held them in the past, are sometimes in conflict with what society holds are moral or important. This is the classic dichotomy between the world and the Spirit in Galatians Chapter 5.
In one of my Lectio Divina (Phil 2:5) meditations, divorce came up when I thought about what the world sees is good and how Christ views the will of His Father. I reviewed three significant divorces and the tremendous impact each has had on how we look at what is real and what is the purpose of life.
I. There has taken place a separation (divorce) between belief and heritage. You may have a different view of this divorce than I do. I trace the beginnings of this divorce to the Reformation of the Fifteenth Century, where political upheaval and confiscation of Monastic living and Church property was the prime motivation of the “protestati” those Germanic Nobles who wanted the lands and revenues of Monasteries to go to their coffers. The discontent and nationalism lead to the religious “protestati” with Rome. Rather than reform they cut down the tree of their heritage that was good and planted their own seedlings. As Robert Bolt states in his play about A Man for All Seasons, when Sir Thomas More is asked to sever his heritage with the law, he writes:
“William Roper: “So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!”
Sir Thomas More: “Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?”
William Roper: “Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!”
Sir Thomas More: “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!”
― Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons
My point is, when you make up your own law, there are unintended consequences that you can have no idea how or why they pop up, maybe centuries later. One such consequence of the move in authority from the heritage from Christ to your intrepretation of it is, now you are the law, each individual person is a church, no one can tell you what to believe or link it to the heritage of the past. You can get a Bible and declare you have the truth and no one else and who is to say you are wrong? The Devil turns on you and says, “You don’t need to deny yourself, you just believe. There is no cross, only a conveyor belt on which you hitch an automatic ride to Heaven.”
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE?
How do you know that there is a separation between belief (the ascent to Faith) and heritage? Here are some quotes of people who have tried to pry me away from my heritage.
- “I pray only to God and not to some third party.”
- “All you need is Faith.”
- “If Jesus would have wanted us to have celibate priests, he would have said so.”
- “The Catholic Church began with the Edict of Milan, before that there was the Apostolic Church. I belong to the Apostolic Church.”
- “The Catholic Church is corrupt, look at all those pedophiles. I don’t want to belong to a sinful Church like that.”
- “I don’t care what you believe, I have the truth because the Bible tells me you are wrong.”
I want to resist the tempation to get into a “my church is better than your church” arguement. My only question is, “What is the one command Jesus taught us? Are you following it?”
II. There is a huge divorce between the individual as center of the universe and God’s will as the purpose of life.
There was an uproar in the scientific community of the time when Copernicus stated that the Sun was the center of the universe and the Earth revolved around it. Athough it sounds simplistic, there are but two ways to approach life. Either God is the center or you are. The archetypal story of Genesis about Adam and Eve is there for a reason. Adam and Eve are types of humans who choose themselves as God, rather than live in peace and harmony according to God’s will. The divorce is the separation by the world of God’s will from your will. No one can tell you what to do with your body. We are free to choose anything as our center, but there are consequences to choosing the wrong path, as Adam and Eve learned to their sorrow. Christ became one of us to allow us to choose what is correct by showing us the way, what is true, and what leads to a fulfilled life in this world and in the world to come. As a Lay Cistercian, I know I must take up my cross daily and follow Christ (not my first choice) by practising Cistercians prayers and charisms (especially humility and obedience). I struggle with the effects of this divorce, the effects of Original Son, testing belief and my daily resolve to move from self to God.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE?
- “You are not going to tell me what to do with my life.”
- “You say that your religion has the truth because you believe it. Wouldn’t it be better to believe it because it is true? Who determines what is true, apart from each individual?”
- “No one can force me to believe in a god that I can’t see.”
- “Religion is too confusing and difficult to understand. Look at all the denominations that say they are Christian. They can’t all be correct, so none of them are correct.”
III. In Morality, the purpose of marriage has been the procreation of children (natural law) but now the purpose of marriage is to be happy (if not, get someone else to make you happy). This is a divorce or separation of responsibility and the fulfillment of human nature verses the mental superiority of choice over God’s will. Proponents will cite the freedom to choose, opponents will cite what they choose is immoral. The loser is aways one who expouses God’s will.
Take a few moments and reflect on the Psalms, not just the words but the feeling sroused by the author at those who triffle with God’s natural design. There is a great struggle happening even as you read these words. It is the core Original Sin of Adam and Eve, it is the reason why we have in us the mind of ME rather than Christ Jesus. I choose to be God, even if I choose what I consider what the Scriptures say, even though I think I am sincere in what I believe, just because I believe it. Disciples know that they must deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow Christ, that what they hold from Christ will be at odds with what the World teaches, that they will be mocked and ridiculed for not being “accomodating” and “merciful to others.”
1 Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me!
2 Take hold of shield and buckler,
and rise up to help me!
3 Draw the spear and javelin
against my pursuers;
say to my soul,
“I am your salvation.”
4 Let them be put to shame and dishonor
who seek after my life.
Let them be turned back and confounded
who devise evil against me.
5 Let them be like chaff before the wind,
with the angel of the Lord driving them on.
6 Let their way be dark and slippery,
with the angel of the Lord pursuing them.
7 For without cause they hid their net for me;
without cause they dug a pit for my life.
8 Let ruin come on them unawares.
And let the net that they hid ensnare them;
let them fall in it—to their ruin.
9 Then my soul shall rejoice in the Lord,
exulting in his deliverance.
10 All my bones shall say,
“O Lord, who is like you?
You deliver the weak
from those too strong for them,
the weak and needy from those who despoil them.”
11 Malicious witnesses rise up;
they ask me about things I do not know.
12 They repay me evil for good;
my soul is forlorn.
13 But as for me, when they were sick,
I wore sackcloth;
I afflicted myself with fasting.
I prayed with head bowed on my bosom,
14 as though I grieved for a friend or a brother;
I went about as one who laments for a mother,
bowed down and in mourning.
15 But at my stumbling they gathered in glee,
they gathered together against me;
ruffians whom I did not know
tore at me without ceasing;
16 they impiously mocked more and more,
gnashing at me with their teeth.
17 How long, O Lord, will you look on?
Rescue me from their ravages,
my life from the lions!
18 Then I will thank you in the great congregation;
in the mighty throng I will praise you.
19 Do not let my treacherous enemies rejoice over me,
or those who hate me without cause wink the eye.
20 For they do not speak peace,
but they conceive deceitful words
against those who are quiet in the land.
21 They open wide their mouths against me;
they say, “Aha, Aha,
our eyes have seen it.”
22 You have seen, O Lord; do not be silent!
O Lord, do not be far from me!
23 Wake up! Bestir yourself for my defense,
for my cause, my God and my Lord!
24 Vindicate me, O Lord, my God,
according to your righteousness,
and do not let them rejoice over me.
25 Do not let them say to themselves,
“Aha, we have our heart’s desire.”
Do not let them say, “We have swallowed you up.”
26 Let all those who rejoice at my calamity
be put to shame and confusion;
let those who exalt themselves against me
be clothed with shame and dishonor.
27 Let those who desire my vindication
shout for joy and be glad,
and say evermore,
“Great is the Lord,
who delights in the welfare of his servant.”
28 Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness
and of your praise all day long.
Everything is about choice as a human. Everything about being a Lay Cistercian is how I can have correct choices that lead to life and not death of the spirit. I can choose to follow Christ, as handed down from the Apostles, not handed what we think they said from us to them, and whatever we say is right. Worship of idols was one of the three big (mortal) sins of the Early Church at the time of the Apostles, it still is one of the big three and, as far as I can tell. Christ is the second Adam to free us from the bonds of sin. He did not take away their effects, one of which is the tempation to be God. That is still the biggest temptation in my experience. Morality is so subjective in our days, frought with relativism and false promises of satisfaction and happiness. Who is to say who is right? Who is to tell you, if you go astray? Where are the prophets of Israel who were killed and mocked when they told Israel to turn back to God? All of this is happening as we speak and has happened through the centuries.
What does God have to do with abortion, with living together in sin, with going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to confess your sins, when you know you have not converted your heart to that of Christ and made all things new?. The sevenfold indictment of the Scribes and Pharisees is reminder of how far we have strayed from the truth and divorced ourselves from the admonition to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me. Matthew 23:13:32. We are like these Scribes and Pharisees when we seek to be God and not follow the counsel of the Prophets and the Apostles. We are like these hyprcrites whose hearts are centered on themselves and find no room for God’s love in their action.
Matthew 23:13-32 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.’ 19 How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; 21 and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; 22 and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. 28 So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, 30 and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors.
WHAT CAN I DO?
If you don’t want divorce, you need to return to your roots, in this case your center. The problem is, if you have a false center, you will be cultivating these divorces not healing them. It all goes back to the archetypal sin of Adam and Eve, to be God instread of who you really are. Lay Cistercians talk about a false self and a true self, one directed by you fitting into God’s plan and not God fitting into what you think is moral or true.
There are six things I woud recommend to those wishing to avoid divorce and moving from my false self to my true self. (Taken from The Cistercian Way, Dom Andre Louf, O.C.S.C., foldout at the end of the book)
- Life of Prayer –you become what you pray.
- Practice of Silence and Solitude — allowing your heart to sit next to the heart of Christ.
- Community — not a garden party but the discipline of the School of Love. Allowing the Holy Spirit to touch you through by loving others as Christ loved you.
- Working on Humility– a lifetime struggle to confront the idolitry of worshipping yourself as God
- Labor in Obedience– recognition of the sign of contradiction in being Christ to those in front of you. (Matthew 25:31-46)
- Older Brother or Sister– have someone outside of yourself to guide you on your spiritual journey