Sometimes I can’t get to sleep or wake up at night and must use the bathroom then can’t get back to sleep. This is one of those nights. I always get enough rest, but sometimes nothing works, even Melatonin.
My thoughts go to Lectio Divina, my old companion of Philippians 2:5, and what that means for me today as I sit before the computer here trying to get some rest. Simplicity in life comes to mind.
I am reminded that Christ became one of us, not to make life more complex, but through our adoption as sons an daughters of the Father to make life simpler, but not necessarily easier. As a Lay Cistercian, I try to practice simplicity in all aspects of my life in keeping with what I understand the contemplative life in the World to be.
CHARACTERISTICS OF SIMPLICITY
There are five ideas of about simplicity that I want to share with you today.
THE SIMPLICITY OF HEART-– Love others as I have loved you.
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.”
Like all principles, what sounds simplistic contains such depth that it takes a lifetime of struggle to each approach some of it. There is only one command that Christ gave us, “love one another as I have loved you.” We can approach the Father through the Son. For me, Cistercian practices of silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community help me to join with the Son so we can, together, approach the Father. Through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ, together we can offer praise to 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. –Cistercian doxology
THE SIMPLICITY OF PURPOSE — Love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself, Psalm 119:145 “With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord. I will keep your statutes.”
Matthew 22 NRSVCE –
36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
If you ask yourself the question, “What is the purpose of life?” I believe Matthew 22 is the one answer, the bullseye on the dart board of life, the North Star, the principle from which all others flow. How simple is that?
God is one. One what? This is the simplicity principle, the black hole of the spiritual life. Shema Yisrael, the Lord your God is one. Deuteronomy 6:5. The sign of contradiction with simplicity is that, despite being dense and compact, it contains meaning for both those not initiated in the practices of contemplation and also those who approach the face of God without burning up their neurons.
In my case, the depth of the Mystery of Faith is one that I based all of this on John 1:1
THE SIMPLICITY OF LIFESTYLE– Seek first the kingdom of God and all else will be given to you. Everything in reality, is linked to everything else. The problem is, I don’t have the capacity or the capability to know how it all fits together in my lifetime, but I do know it does. When I look at my own simplicity and how I can change my life to fit my simplicity of purpose or simplicity of faith, that translates to be like the desert monks and nuns and rely less on things and more on seeking God wherever I find Him. Here are some thoughts that came to me during my Lectio Divina. I am not sure what they mean, but I am not worried about them.
THE SIMPLICITY OF FAITH — No one knows the Father except the Son or anyone to whom he has revealed Him.
Several passages from Scripture tell of how we should strive for simplicity in our hearts. Here are some of them:
Matthew 6:33 “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” This is one of my favorite passages because of its simplicity (yet complexity) of practice. As a Lay Cistercian who tries to practice having in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) each day, I think about placing God first and forgetting the rest.
Read what Matthew 6 says in its entireity. “Do Not Worry25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,[j] or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?[k] 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things, and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God[l] and his[m] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Abraman Maslow created what he called the Heirarchy of Needs. These are needs that all humans have (those living in two universes). What stikes me about the Scripture passage is the passage in verse 33 that recommends to us that we try to seek God first and every thing else, in this case, all of Maslow’s human needs will fall into place. In former times, I used to think that this meant that I didn’t need to work about my human’s needs and I could just give responsibility for them to God and forget about them. Not so. In reality, I find that I must work even harder to try to make those human needs fulfilled, but with one exception. I now put Jesus first in my needs. I have expanded Maslow’s hierarchy from two universes (just physical and mental) to three (physical, mental, and now spiritual). Each morning, I make my morning offering with a free act of love telling Christ that he is Lord and that I wish to join with him in giving…glory and honor to the Father to the Son and to 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. Now THAT is simplicity.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs essay pdf – Bing
Matthew 11:27 “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
In the complexity of simplicity, humans find they cannot approach the Father directly. Adam and Eve found this out when they were cast out of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2-3). Because Christ is BOTH divine and human, he can approach the Father and, Scriptures says, the Son is the only one who can reveal the Father to us. Any relationship with God must come through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ. In my Lay Cistercian practice, all the prayers we do are designed to give back to the Father praise and glory through Christ. Every day!
Part of what love means is to be present to the other person. In the case of marriage, it is called fidelity and living life together, two diverse personalities living to compliment each other. In the case of a monk or nun, being present to each other is the community and the community is seen as the body of Christ. For me as a Lay Cistercian, I put myself in the presence of Christ through contemplative practices (Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina, Rosary, Reading Scripture, reciting Chapter 4 of the Rule of Benedict, and trying to see how I can live each day in silence, solitude, work, prayer and community.
Jesus Is Rejected by the Jews22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah,[a] tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.[b] 30 The Father and I are one.” If, as Jesus says, the Father and I are one and we are one with Christ by loving those whom Christ loved, we fulfill the mission of Christ to allow people the opportunity to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father…Forever. We don’t have to do anything but prepare our own hearts to sit next to Christ on a park bench and receive from the Holy Spirit life-giving energy and love, so that we can share it with others. How simple is that?
Simplicity in Faith is reducing what you do in order to expand the capacity for God in you. More is not necessarily better.
Using the Lay Cistercian charisms of humility and obedience to God’s will, I have observed and experienced the seeming contradiction that the more I strive for simplicity for all of these aspects of my spiritual journey, the deeper I realize they are. It is in realizing that they are part of the Mystery of Faith that makes sense for me. I don’t struggle to know every aspect of them but rather I just appreciate God more and more because He allowed me to use them as tools to help me grow from self to God.
THE SIMPLICITY OF SILENCE AND SOLITUDE
Some approach Christ through activities for the good of the Church Universal, while others seek God primarily through silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community. This last aspect of simplicity is my encounter with Christ on a park bench in the dead of Winter.
I have a story that came from one of my Lectio Divina encounters with the heart of Christ that I wish to share with you again. Read it slowly and carefully.
WAITING FOR THE MASTER
You are seated on a park bench in the dead of Winter. Jesus has told you He will be passing by the bench sometime soon. You seat yourself and look down the path, straining to see Christ as he comes around the bend of the trees. You don’t know what he looks like, but you have an invitation to meet with him today, and all your senses are at their peak. You don’t want to miss him.
The first person to come to the trees is an old woman pushing a cart full of what looks like bottles and rags. You smile as she passes and wishes her a good day. She turns back to you and asks if you have a bottle of water. She says she has not had water in two days. You only have half a bottle of water left, but you give it to her, asking her to excuse your germs. She trudges away, smiling.
You look up, and there is what looks like a teenager. He asks if he can sit on the bench with you. You do not know him and are reluctant to let him sit down but he has on only a thin T-shirt, and it is very cold outside. “Thanks,” he says. He talks about how he is homeless, and the Shelter kicks them out at 7:00 a.m. and he has no place to go. Again, you look to the pathway straining to see if Christ is coming. No Christ. The teenager says he is twenty-seven years old and out of a job with no family and nowhere to go. You get out your cell phone and call the local Catholic Charities and speak to someone you know about helping the young man. You help out there once a month with packing food for the homeless, so you are familiar with their services. It happens that the City has a long-term shelter for people who need job skills and a safe place to stay until they get a job. You give him the directions to the shelter, about eight blocks away. He gives you a hug and trudges away. It is going on two hours now, and no Jesus. A dog comes up to you, a Weimaraner, tail wagging, happy to see you. “Hey girl,” you say. “Where is your Master?” She sits down and offers you one of her paws to shake. Friendly dog, you think, but who could be its owner? It is going on three hours now, and it seems to be getting colder. Just you and the dog are there, which you have named Michele. Just as you wonder once more if you have been stood up and inconvenienced, an older man approaches. He has a long, gray beard, somewhat matted together and uses a cane to help him wobble down the path. His clothes are neat but certainly well worn. His face has a gnarly look about him as if he had weathered many hardships and they had taken their toll. He asked if he could sit down since he was tired. You say, “Of course, I am just waiting for a friend to come by here.” “You look cold,” he says. “Here, take this scarf that my mother knit for me, it will keep you warm.” The dog sits next to the man as if he was the owner. All the while he kept stroking the dogs head and petting it on the head. “Oh, by the way,” the old man says ”this is my dog. Thank you for finding it for me.” Two more hours went by but you do not notice because the conversation is so warm and intimate. You tell the kind gentleman all about your trials and successes and how you just want to seek God wherever that might be and whoever it might be. The gentleman tells you that He has to go home to see his father, to whom he owes everything You think of how lucky the old man is to have such a loving Father. The old man gets up and smiles at you. “You are a good person,” he says, “and I look forward to seeing you again in the future,” his face just beaming with kindness. Turing to his dog, he says, “Coming?” The dog jumps up and down a few times, wagging his tail fiercely and they both set off trudging slowly away from the bench. You look at your clock and see that five hours have passed, but passed so quickly. You are a bit disappointed that Christ did not stop by. You think maybe you got the time wrong and leave to go home. As you are going, you remember you have on you the scarf which the old man gave you as a gift, knit by his mother. You are shocked by what you see. On the scarf is embroidered your name in the gold thread. You think to yourself, he said his mother made it for him. Another thing you noticed. You felt your heart burning within you as the old man talked to you on the bench. “I wonder,” you think, “…I wonder.” The only prayer you can think of comes into your mind.
Praise 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.
Now, look at the photo of the park bench for a few minutes. Think about the story you just read while focused on the park bench. What thoughts does the Holy Spirit place in your mind? Write down what your heart tells you about the story you just read. How does this relate to where you are in your Lay Cistercian or another spiritual journey?
1. Before you write down your thoughts, take ten minutes to just compose your mind. Write down your thoughts, but more importantly how you felt, about the bench meditation.
2. What three ideas would you like to share with someone about this story?
3. How is this story simple yet complex? It is like everything in the spiritual universe because there is where God is. We hope to be there some day.