I have always had a problem with spirituality until very recently. In the last six years, since I began my discernment as a Lay Cistercian (which I am still doing) into what it means to transform myself from my false self to a new self in Christ, I was under the illusion that those words of Christ, to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect, were to be taken literally. Back then, that translated into doing more prayers, more penance, more good works, and more love. Matthew 5:47-48 (NRSVCE)47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,[a] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

My problem was, and to a lesser degree still is, how can I be perfect when I know I live in a condition of Original Sin? For example, when I go to the Eucharist and receive Our Lord in the Bread and Wine, I feel, at the time, that I do reach a little higher toward perfection, but then comes the fall, just like Adam and Eve. As soon as I begin to live my daily routine, there are those little peccadilloes that pull me back to the World. Sometimes I feel like a yo-yo. I think that is all part of striving for perfection. We venerate Mary, the Mother of God, because she was made perfect by God, just like we will be when we make it to Heaven. We venerate all the Saints because they were not perfect, but by renouncing themselves to put on Christ, they all tried to be perfect. Only Jesus and his Mother, Mary were without sin. The rest of us must work to be spiritual, to learn how to love, to use the gifts from Christ to help us become perfect.

I realize that Christ was like us in all things but sin. This takes me to a Lectio Divina I had on perfection while meditating on Philippians 2:5. Perfection is one of those qualities that I seek but know that I will never attain in this life. It is the seeking Christ that is important for me, the daily taking up my cross, the struggle to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5) that is my lot.

  • It takes work to be perfect. Doing nothing actually does nothing to allow you to live in three universes (physical, mental, spiritual) and to receive the energy of God in our hearts.
  • I will never be perfect like Christ. I may only seek to be perfect with Christ.
  • Heaven is a final attainment of that which I sought and struggled for while I live.
  • In Christ, I will reach perfection. I can’t even strive for perfection in two universes (physical and mental) because the World does not believe in renouncing oneself to follow anyone, except itself.
  • This is the importance of being a Lay Cistercian to me. This way of life, the emphasis on the contemplative, helps me to seek God and strive for perfection all the while realizing that I am in need of Christ’s redemption on a daily basis.
  • The Cistercian practices and charisms all help me focus on this striving, Humility and obedience to God’s will are keys to my struggle. I read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict every day so that I might anchor myself in Christ and not in me. I use Chapter 4 as a good example of perfection because when I read them, I see how short I have come in transforming myself from self to God.

During this Lenten season, it is a time of repentance and penance for our past sins. Seeking perfection is a goal, one that can only be reached by having in you the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)

Praise to the Father and 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

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