The place no one wants to look, according to my thinking, is the darkness inside each of us. It is a realm where many of the questions we ask may be answered. The question is, how can I get there? What door do I open to get there?
Cistercian spirituality, as I try to live it at this point in my life, points to putting oneself in the presence of Christ and wait. Silence and solitude are two of the charisms I can use to put me in a place where my heart can wait for Christ to come and be with me. Silence and solitude distinguish Lay Cistercians from others who seek Christ through other spiritual ways (Carmelite, Ignatian, Dominican, Fransican, Augustianian). We use the Cistercian Way of seeking God, even if we live in the wasteland and desert of society. When some of my friends ask me how I can practice silence and solitude in the midst of the distractions of society and the World, I tell them that the contemplative approach to spirituality in the World does not refer to being quiet or silent in the sense of the absence of sound, but of putting yourself in a place where your heart can be receptive to the heart of Christ. The practice of silence and solitude can be conditions where you clear away the cobwebs to be able to find the door to open up your inner self to Christ. It is not the door itself but the pre-conditions, those two charisms that Christ makes possible in so that that we can even open the door. Christ alone is the door and we do not open it from the outside, but must stand ready for it to open as we await the Master. See Matthew 24:37-44.
Here are some doors or portals which you may wish to use to access the place where no one wants to go. The question is, once you open the door, what do I do now? Let’s look at some doors that I identified in my book, Who Does God Think He is, Anyway? These doors are God Himself. God tells us the doors. He won’t open them for us, but tells us what they are and how to access them. One way to access them is through contemplation in silence and solitude.
I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, THE LIFE
Christ tells us to open our hearts to him. As a Lay Cistercian, I do that by not telling God what to do or to be. I allow God to be. One of the things St. Augustine said about Jesus was, while he lived out his life here on earth as Jesus Christ, he was also the Second Person of the Holy Trinity in Heaven–He did not leave being God. Christ, both God and Man, is our mediator, our translator with the Sacred, our representative of humanity before divinity. Lots of people throw up arguements about Christ, the Resurrection, and Eucharist by saying that is just your opinion, to which I add, and God’s opinion. My practices of Cistercian spirituality is to put me in a position where I can move from self to God, expand my capacity for God in my heart, to die to self so that I can rise with Christ. This is the Life of Christ now, each day.
THE BREAD OF LIFE
“Bread is the staff of life, the saying goes. When you think of bread, you don’t normally think of spiritual bread. Spiritual bread gives life. This bread is a living person, the person of the Master.”
I Am …the Bread of Life
Read John 6:24. Read John 6:24. If you are spiritual, you must always think in threes.
There are three persons in one God. There are three universes in one reality. Let’s apply that principle to what God says he is. The Master never wrote any of this down, unlike the Ten Commandments. But, like the Ten Commandments, his ideas were transcribed by various peoples who passed on his sayings. We call those sayings by the name Bible, which is another word for series of books. God is food. Food in the physical sense of
bread? That gets stale, if you leave it in the air. It becomes as hard as a brick. No, it means much more. Is it mental food? Is this food for thought? Is this bread meant to feed the mind? You are getting warmer. Finally, we come to spiritual food. This is food that nourishes our minds but also our spiritual life. When the Master, who is God, shares bread, it is the essence of communication. We call it Eucharist, the bread that gives life. We can see, eat, taste, hear, and smell the bread of eternal life. Remember, when you think of God, you must think in threes. Do the same with everything else that is spiritual.
Three levels of bread.
There are three types of bread. You need all three to fulfill your destiny as a human being.
Physical Bread — this is the bread you eat to sustain your body for the journey. This is the bread that our ancestors ate in the desert (manna) but they died, says the Master. Bread not only nourishes our bodies, it smells good, and makes us feed better. Read John
Mental Bread — this is the bread that nourishes your reason. The mind has a beginning but no end. This is the platform, the linkage between our world and the world to come. It is the big computer that stores what is good about you on a hard drive. You take that with you to Heaven. If you haven’t stored anything on your computer, you have not eaten mental bread.
Spiritual Bread — this is living bread. If you eat this bread, you will live forever, says the Master. It is your destiny, human, to use the body to sustain your mind, and to use your mind to sustain your spirit, which then lives Forever. Forever is Heaven. Read John 6: 34-48.
Do you think God would go to all the trouble of creating three universes and then not give you what you need to reach your destiny? How wonderful of God to share his love and energy. He does that in the form of food. The simplest form of
food is bread.
How eloquent that the most dynamic energy in any universe is contain under the simple appearance of the most common form of food. This profound contradiction is the basis of most of God’s statements. Why do they seem so contradictory. God is talking about the spiritual universe, while we humans continue to think in terms of the physical and mental universes.
When you add the spiritual element of the equation, it makes sense. Again, think in terms of threes.
Read Matthew 6:9-13. Recognize it? You should. It is the way the Master taught us to pray. In it contains the words, “…Give us this day our daily bread.” This prayer asks the Father to give us NOT the physical bread for your body, but the spiritual bread that is living, to energize our spirit. Energy is another word for grace. Grace is something that only comes from outside of ourselves, from God.
As a Lay Cistercian, I enter the gate of my inner self through Christ, the bread of life. Eucharist is taking the actual body and blood of Christ into me so that I can decrease and He can increase. Eucarist is not contemplation but it sustains me so that, in silence and solitude, I can approach Christ, who in turn approaches the Father with all praise and glory, now and forever.
I AM THE LIVING WATER
QUESTION: What makes the earth different from any of the other billions of planets in the heavens? It could be a mixture of temperature, just the right mix of oxygen and carbon dioxide, and also the abundance of water.
REFLECTION : When you look at the earth, you come to the conclusion that we were just lucky, or was there a purpose to all of this? God’s grand design could have resulted in the extinction of the human race, and it still might be so. If the human race becomes extinct, he will most likely be due to humans destroying our paradise. Read John Chapter 4. The Master tells us a story to give us insight into the mystery of life. This is the story of the Samaritan woman and Jesus at the well. During the next several pages, this story will be the basis for our reflections on living water.
A STORY: Tony, and Peter were Boy Scouts taking a hiking trip in the mountains with their Troop. They became separated from the rest and wandered for two days and one night, without food or water. As soon as they realized they were lost, they sat down and made a plan to help them think out their situation. They would stay put because that was the last known position. Tony would look for water. Brandon would make a shelter. Peter would make a safe fire. All three had purpose and used their scouting skills to survive. They were found two days later in good condition. Water is essential for life on our planet. We all need water to live. Eight glasses a day might be a stretch for some of
us, but we need water. If the body does not have water, it dies. The Master used water to tell us what God is like. I am the living water, says our Master. If you drink this water, you will never be thirsty.
THREE TYPES OF WATER
Physical water helps the physical body survive. Mental water keeps the mind from atrophying. When someone retires, if the mind retires, so will the body. Meaning after retirement is the water of the mind that helps sustain one. Spiritual water helps the spirit live…Forever. Read John 3:5-8. You must be born of water and the spirit to get to Heaven. When you were born, you were surrounded by a water sac. You were born in a flood of water from your mother’s placenta. That is birth in the physical universe. In the mental universe, you must be born of the both water and spirit to enter the spiritual universe. Some people call it baptism. At some point, you must choose to be spiritual. God determines what that might mean for you. A spiritual person is capable of seeing the living water, drinking of its riches, and sharing that water with others. Spiritual water is meant to be shared.
YOU MUST DRINK FROM THE LIVING WATER
We need to drink from the living water to get to Heaven. Heaven. The best drink in all the world. all the world. When the Samaritan woman asked for a drink of water, Jesus said that if she had know it was God giving her a drink, she would have asked for living water. How could she have known it was God? Jesus promises that if she drinks the water he gives her, she will have eternal life. The woman, quite astutely, asks for some water so that she would not have to draw water again. Next comes the truly remarkable part of this story. It is not enough that Jesus says to the woman that he has living water for her. Listen to this dialog from the woman. “I know that Messiah–that is–Christ–is coming and when he comes he will tell us everything.” Now the Master,
who looks tired at the end of the day, dusty, and gritty from the day’s journey, says, “I who am speaking to you, said Jesus. I Am He.” (John 4:26) This is the crescendo of John’s Gospel–God is the Savior/Messiah.
As one who continues to strive to seek God by being spiritual through Cistercians practices and charisms, I enter the door to my inner self through drinking the living water of Christ. I access that through contemplation and Lectio Divina each day and I find something curious happening. Unknowningly, imperceptibly, almost invisibly, I am drawn like a moth to a flame in my desire to be in the presence of God, the Mystery of Faith. I don’t comprehend it all, but that is okay, I know that there is something out there because I drink the living water of someone who is out there. I drink the living water every time I ask God to be merciful to me, a sinner. I drink the living water each time I say the Rosary and meditate on the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5). I drink the living water each time I sit in Lectio Divina in silence and solitude before the Blessed Sacrament and wait for Christ to sit down by me. I look forward to entering this inner self because I find, through no power of mine, that I have the “capacitas dei” within me, room for Christ to sit down.
I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE
I Am…the Resurrection. “The core of the gospels, the top of the mountain, the purpose for our Master coming to visit us is the Resurrection. The Resurrection is not to be confused
with an event. The Master says he is the Resurrection. Remember, that when God speaks, his only language is silence.To be able to hear silence requires listening with the ear of the heart, as St. Benedict says in his Prologue to The Rule of Benedict.
Chris showed us how to resurrect ourselves, another way of saying we pass from being spiritual apes to our next level of evolution…to live with God…Forever. How
I AM THE RESURRECTION
Read John 11:25-26. Read John 11:25-26. God tells us that He is the resurrection. Not only that, but if you believe in him, you will never die. That is the at the five foot level. Let’s move our perspective up three levels to the 5,000 foot level. At this level, we look not only at what God told us but the context in which it was said. Is there a larger truth here that we humans must discover together? Is there a secret that will allow us to fulfill our destiny as humans? Reread all of Chapter 11 of John’s Gospel. The statement of who God is, is in the context of the story of Christ’s friend, Lazarus. Maybe they played kick-ball when they were children together. Maybe Lazarus went to the same school at Jesus. At any rate, Jesus knew Lazarus and his sister, Mary, very well indeed. He wept when he
found out that Lazarus had died. Strange, isn’t it that God would weep for someone. The Master’s human or physical universe was overcome. He displayed the depth of his love when he brought Lazarus back to life. That story was meant for us. You are asked to believe that the Master is God. Do you believe? Read John 11. If The Master can bring Lazarus back from the dead, can He bring you into communion with the lifegiving spiritual universe Look around. There are mini-resurrections happening all around you.
The CORE IMPERATIVE
The very center, the core, the apex of John’s Gospel, the rationale for his writing it, is to make the statement in John 11:11:27. Read it! In the context of the story of Lazarus, his friend, he is told of his death. Mary, Lazarus’ brother tells the Master that if he would have been here, Lazarus would still be alive. Jesus uses this occasion to make a very significant statement: “Your brother,” said Jesus to her, “will rise again.” Mary says that she knows he will rise in the resurrection on the last day. Here comes the most profound statement in the Gospels. “I am the resurrection. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Then the Master asks Mary, “Do you believe this?” Mary states the core imperative: “Yes, Lord, she said, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.” After that, the Master raises Lazarus from the dead. Twenty centuries later, you are asked, through the words of Mary, to believe that The Master is God. Mary is all of humanity being asked to fulfill their humanness. Do you believe that The Master is the Resurrection and the Life?
God began his covenant with Moses in Genesis 3:13-15. God tells Moses his name is ” Am the One Who Is.” God ends his time by telling us “I Am the Resurrection and the Life”and we will have eternal life if we believe in Him. I open the door of my inner self when I contemplate on the eight words of Philippians 2:5, “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” This is the Resurrection happening each and every day. Each day, I try to read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict in the hopes of becoming what I read. This is the Lord I try to emulate in my petituions for mercy. It is the God I yearn for as sentiniles await the dawn. It is why I keep coming back to that park bench in silence and solitude and waiting for Christ. With St. Paul, I can say,
Philippians 3:8-12 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)
8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ,[a] the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 I want to know Christ[b] and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Pressing toward the Goal
12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal;[c] but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.