GROWING DEEPER IN FAITH

If Lent is a time of cultivating the ground of our spirituality, to include watering our Faith with the renewal of our Baptismal covenant with God and our commitment to sustain our Faith, then Easter is the the product of God’s grace in us. (Matthew 25:36) The analogy of the fig tree becomes important for the realization that Faith must grow to be productive.

Each year, Easter rolls around and each year, I dutifully trudge to Eucharist on Holy Thursday, sometimes on Good Friday, and Easter Eucharist. I don’t remember much about those early experiences of Lent and Easter, but I do know that I wanted to be close to Christ through living his life and experiencing his love in the events of the Church Liturgical year. To those who say they can’t see Jesus, I can only offer my own experience of having in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) on this Lent and Easter, 2019.

WE LIVE IN THE NOW

We live in the now but we remember the past. Our memories can retain those events and encounters that were significant. Humans have reason for a reason, as well as free will. All of us have free choice, but our choices define who we are. There are good choices and bad choices. Genesis is a story about Adam and Eve (the archetype of us) and the choices we make. If we make bad choices, and we may not even know what is good or bad, then we must live with the unintended consequences. God, like the loving Father He is, doesn’t want us to choose certain activities because he knows what leads to authentic love and what is not authentic. He wants to save us from going down the wrong path while we live. “The wages of sin is death.” The meaning here refers to the death of the Spirit rather than physically dying. Some accept that while others do not.

Because we live in the now, we can learn from out mistakes, like I can learn from all the times I did not love God with all my heart, my mind, and my strength. In Lent, I recognize who I am by daily reciting Chapter 4 of the Rule of Benedict each day. Easter is a time when I rise with Christ to new life once again. If I don’t renew my Baptismal commitment frequently, like all else in life, it passes into the past to be forgotten and without impact on making all things new through Christ. Only Christ can make all things new in the Church and in my personal expression of Faith. This Easter was a time when I was conscious of the now, more so than in past years. I think that was due to the time I took (in the now) to be present to Christ during Lent. Easter is the product of my cultivation of the ground of my being, my re-directing my efforts to loving God with all my mind, my heart and my strength and to try to love my neighbor as myself. It is the act of lifting up my mind and heart to be near the heart of Christ in the now of each moment I think about it, that is important. Faith is something I must struggle to cultivate every day. As a Lay Cistercian, I found that my practice of contemplative prayers in Lectio Divina daily, Eucharist daily, Rosary daily, Liturgy of the Hours daily and reading Chapter 4 of the Rule of Benedict daily, puts me in the presence of Christ. This is a way that I grow deeper in my Faith and not be captive of a Faith that is dead.

FIVE LEVELS OF SPIRITUAL AWARENESS

I use five levels of spiritual awareness. I know St. Augustine comments on these five and they are not original to me, but I use them to grow deeper in my Faith.

Whenever I do my Cistercian prayers or go to our Gathering Day at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) each month, I try to be conscious of the now and what it going on. Here are the levels that I use to tell if I am growing deeper in Christ and moving from self to God.

In the beginning, says St. John, in Chapter 1 of his Gospel, was the Word. What word? Let it be! Yes! The Word is God. The Word became flesh and living among us. The Word give us energy.

LEVEL ONE: Say the Word (Lectio)

LEVEL TWO: Pray the Word (Oratio)

LEVEL THREE: Share the Word (Meditatio)

LEVEL FOUR: Be what you say, pray and share. (Actio)

LEVEL FIVE: There are no words to describe the Word. (Contemplatio)

I try to make the now meaningful to me by realizing that this is the way I approach Christ with others. I try to read, not just for getting the words correct but using the words of Liturgy of the Hours, for example, as prayer and maybe leading to contemplation (no words are needed).

One thing I have found that is interesting about these five levels is that I don’t say to myself, “You missed Level Four.” I don’t even think about these steps until later on. I just do them. Yet, I am growing, inch by inch, deeper and with more awareness of Christ each time I try to grow from self to God.

EXERCISE:

Read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict each day for thirty days. Pray that you become what you read. That’s all you need do. It is not as easy as you might think.

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