One of the things I have noticed about myself as I try to fulfill the promises I made as a Professed Lay Cistercian, namely to do have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) by praying a daily Lectio Divina, daily Eucharist, daily Liturgy of the Hours (Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, and Evening Prayer), daily Rosary, reading Chapter 4 of the Rule of Benedict every day. The secret of contemplative prayer has not changed since the early challenge of the heart heard by men and women to discover the kingdom of God within themselves. It is passion to be in the presence of the one you love, and to love others as Christ loves us.
While I do try to follow Cistercian practices as much as I can, I also recognize in myself that some days are better than others. I can attribute this to many things, one of which is Original Sin. I am not always sparkling and in peek condition as I approach the Father each day through Christ using Cistercian practices. Some days are better than others. Here are a few lessons I have taken away from my consistent practice of contemplative spirituality. Like an old, worn-out boot, life takes its toll on my physical body as it interfaces with my mental universe. All three universes in which I live (physical, mental, and spiritual) interact with each other.
PRAY AS YOU CAN — Brother Michael, O.C.S.O. told our group that we should pray as we can not as we should. Praying as we should sets goals to attain, i.e., I need to go to Eucharist as a Lay Cistercian. Praying as I can has those same goals but realizes that, if I cannot make the Eucharist through sickness or having doctor’s appointments, I can offer up my prayer intentions in union with all those who are at present. The same thing applies for reciting the Liturgy of the Hours each day. Some days are better than others, but it is the heart that I desire to approach the heart of Christ in praise and glory.
PRAY WHEN YOU CAN — Over my discernment phase to become a Lay Cistercian, I noticed that no one forced me to pray. I gradually grew to a stage where, if I didn’t pray the Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina, Rosary Meditations, Reading Sacred Scriptures, Eucharist, and praying Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict each day, I felt somehow unfulfilled and empty. I begin each day with my Morning Offering, where I take 60 seconds to offer up the whole day to the Father through Christ in union with the Holy Spirit. I center myself on what is my purpose in life, i.e.., to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). I do have a schedule for each day, particularly my prayers and when I should say them, but the important thing is not keeping the schedule to pray but to life my mind and heart to be near the heart of Christ. It is that simple. It is also that difficult.
PRAY IN THE NOW– This sounds trite and somewhat out of sync with today’s default of instant gratification. When you think of it, we don’t live in the past (we recall it) and we don’t live in the future (we anticipate it) but what we do, our activities, how we find meaning for our brief sojourn on earth, the platform for choosing God as our center, and, most importantly, living in three universes and not just two (physical and mental), all happens in the NOW.
It is in the act of trying to become more like Christ each day that we make our lives a prayer, lifting our poor, imperfect bodies, minds and our spirit to be ONE in the NOW of FOREVER.
Praise be 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. Amen and Amen –-Cistercian doxology (emphases mine)