Time seems to be the fabric of all that we know and can observe. We can observe the physical universe with its energy, matter, and time. Time exists on this level with a beginning to all that we can observe and also an end to it. Several billions of years ago, time was present as part of nature or the natural way things are. Time does not depend on human intervention to exist. Do you know of anyone who can stop time from happening? All scientists, and the rest of us, can do it measure it or comprehend it. We don’t control it or even understand the nexus between time and matter, much less time and spirituality. This is the subject of a Lectio Divina I had recently, (Phil 2:5) a topic so esoteric and way out there that it even put me to sleep while thinking about it.
Quite unexpectedly, my Lectio Divina was unorthodox, although recently, I must admit, the topics seem quite bizarre and out of the box (depending on which box you have).
I offer these ideas about time and the Mystery of Faith for your reading, not that I have even the slightest clue as to how it all fits together. I am still trying to discern what is, which I am sure will preoccupy me for the next fifty years or so.
TIME AND THE MYSTERY OF FAITH
As far back as I can remember (some people say that is only until Noon of each day), I have wanted to be a Cistercian monk. As things unfolded in my life, that was not to be. This Lectio Divina (Phil 2:5) is one I wrote down on September 9th as I sat in the parking space beside the Abbey Church at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) before I went in for Gathering Day. What follows is a conversation I had on a park bench in the dead of Winter with Christ. Of course, it was in my mind, where else would it be? I choose to believe that it is rooted in my heart, as well.
“What is on your mind?” said Jesus.
I asked him to help me discern the meaning of a recent Lectio Divina I had.
“Sure,” said Christ, ” I am good at parables.”
“I hope you are good at this one,” I said. “When I was twenty-three, I wanted to love God with all my mind, all my heart, all my strength, and my neighbor as myself.”
“I remember that one,” said Jesus.
“My problem was, and still is, how can I love you with all my heart, all my mind and all my strength? Does that mean I have to say more prayers every day to reach the perfection I think is needed to love with my whole being?” I said, turning to look at the face of Christ.
“There is more to prayer than addition,” he added. “Reflecting on the Mystery of Faith has a multiplying effect.”
I was at a great loss as to how to proceed in my contemplation, so I decided that I needed twenty more days for me to grasp the width, the depths, and the height of the Mystery of Faith. At the end of twenty days of contemplation, I once more sat in front of the Blessed Sacrament and waited for Christ to pass by. Christ did not stop by but St. Thomas Aquinas did. I asked him, “Why is it so hard for me to unravel the layers of meaning in the Mystery of Faith? Just when I get to where I peel back a layer, twenty more appear out of no where, each one more complex than the one I attained.”
St. Thomas Aquinas told me that he had the same problem. He told me wrong questions demand wrong answers and he did not want to give wrong answers. “The question,” he said, “was how to obtain the knowledge of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” “That was the sin of Adam and Eve,” I said.
St. Thomas Aquinas said, “I came to the realization that everything I ever knew from the physical and mental world around me was so much straw compared to the love that comes from the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. I realized that I was a tiny thimble trying to contain the waters of the whole ocean. The Mystery of Faith is the totality of all that is, both in the heavens, on earth and under the earth. (Philippians 2:5-12) I realized that my human nature is incapable of grasping what is essential about the Mystery of Faith with only human capabilities such as logic, reason, and scientific knowledge. We are given reason for a reason, I thought. Reason allows us to approach with Faith (not belief) that which is currently beyond our abilities to know with certitude. We know with faith informed by reason, and hope in the promise that we might one day approach the Mystery of Faith so that we can love God with all our hearts, all our minds and all our strength and our neighbor as ourselves.”
After St. Thomas Aquinas got up and moved on, I thought to myself, I am going to need five whole years to discover the correct question to ask, just like it took many years to solve Fermat’s Last Theorem. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/03/20/why-its-so-impressive-that-fermats-last-theorum-has-been-solved/
I realized that the Mystery of Faith might not have a solution with the measuring tools we use with our minds and while we live in the physical and mental universes, but we might approach this compendium with our hearts in contemplation and expanding our capacity for God within me.
The five years zipped by and I found myself once more before the Blessed Sacrament, sitting in silence and solitude, waiting for, hoping for Christ to pass my way. This time, Christ appeared on the bench beside me. “What have you learned?” he asked me?
Somewhat at a loss for words, I told him that I don’t think I had made any progress whatsoever. I didn’t reach any level of spiritual awareness that I could remember. All I did was to practice loving God to the best of my ability each and every day in the hopes that I could be more like Him and less like my false self (like me).
“It is the time you took to think of me in silence and solitude of your heart that compelled me to come and visit you,” said Christ. “Every day, I would look forward to the time when we could be together. I never left you, but you needed to open your heart and mind and all your being to love with all your strength to see me, when all that is, is ordinary, and the same.”
“Because I have loved you, you are able to love others,” Christ said. “You pass on my love when you help those who are in needs of comfort and assistance. When you love your neighbor you do so because I have first loved you with a fierce love, ” he said.
“So what does this have to do with the Mystery of Faith?” I asked. “This is the Mystery of Faith, Michael,” he told me. “You can’t explain it with mere human words, but must live it by loving others as I have loved you,” he said.
“When you sit on the park bench on a cold day and wait for me every day, what is in your mind and heart?” Christ asked me.
I replied,”I don’t remember anything in particular that I think about, other than my heart just races within me when I think that you would even stop by the Tax Collector’s Bench in Church to sit with me. No words. No thoughts. No agenda on my part. I just share being with you as I am capable.”
“This is the realization of your hope and your dreams, Michael,” said Christ. “Be content to approach the Mystery of Being, that which is beyond human knowledge but may be approached with human love. One day soon, you will share your Lord’s joy and we will all be One.”
“I know that, Lord,” I said. “I believe, help my unbelief.”
Praise be to 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