A SPIRITUAL AUDIT
Everyone during tax season seems to be doing an audit (filing taxes), our parish just concluded an audit of their books and procedures. I wondered what it would look like if I conducted an audit on my spiritual experiences today. It would be a snapshot of where I am now in my “capacitas dei” practices of Lay Cistercians of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit (Trappist), not where I was or have been.
Six areas seem to pop out, when I ask the question that Christ might ask of me, “how do you love others, as I have loved you?” Remember, this is an audit of not what we have done throughout our lifetime, but what practices and charisms we use to “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) When we die, we will have accountability to Christ for our entire stewardship, what we have learned about how “to love with our whole heart, our whole mind, and our whole strength and our neighbor as our self.” (Matthew 22:36)
- I NOW KNOW A LITTLE MORE OF WHAT I DON’T KNOW. Humility has taught me to look at reality in terms of three separate universes, each a realm of the Trinity. THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE: The Father is Lord of creation and of the mind, imprinting his divine DNA on all that is in this universe. THE MENTAL UNIVERSE: the Son is Lord of the Heart, being a visible sign of an invisible God and allowing us to become adopted sons and daughters of the redeemer and savior and showing us the way as the way, the truth, and the life; THE SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE: the Holy Spirit is Advocate and enabler of those left on earth. The Spirit is not contained by any one religion but favors the righteous and faithful to Jesus’ admonition to die to oneself so as to rise to new life.
- PRAYER IS LIFTING THE HEART AND MIND TO GOD. Contemplation is sitting on a park bench, in the dead of winter, longing for Christ to sit with you, just to sit in silence and solitude with your heart next to the heart of Christ. Contemplation is profound listening and feeling the energy of God surrounding you. He has chosen you, you have not chosen Him. Paradoxically, it is only when you respond to this choice that you complete the cycle of Faith and Belief.
- UPON ENTERING THE SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE, EVERYTHING IS THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT THE WORLD TEACHES. Love in the world means self-gratification and fulfillment as a human being. Love in the Spirit means you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life, not playing god or being your own church, not a political party, a movie star, or the modern Pharasasees (telling people what to do but not doing it themselves). CONTRADICTIONS: If you wish to be my disciple, keep the commandments. You must love others as I have loved you. The Virgin shall conceive and bear a son and he shall be called Emmanuel. You must die to self to rise to new life.
- THE RESURRECTION IS REAL. If there is no resurrection of Christ from the dead, that means there is no Heaven, no Grace, no Faith, no Church, and no Scriptures. It means Christ died, just like you and me, and that is it. Scriptures become fiction. Like you, I always believed in the Resurrection of Christ. We celebrate it every Easter. What has surprised me about my Lectio Divina is how pervasive this event is to my Cistercian spiritual practices. When St. Paul says that, if there is no resurrection from the dead, everything we believe is a waste of time.
- THE REAL PRESENCE IS THE PROOF OF THE RESURRECTION. I try to do most of my Lectio Divina praying before the Blessed Sacrament. The assumption here is that the insignificant-looking wafer of bread contains the Real Presence of Christ (humanity and divinity). I use contained in the sense that Christ is not limited to the Bread of Life, but uses it as a way to be present to his adopted sons and daughters. In some religious traditions, it is only a symbol. The gap between those two ways of believing is infinite. All the people who ever live or whoever will live can’t make Christ appear just because they believe it. This is a question of Faith. St. Thomas Aquinas states that when you approach the Real Presence, for those with Faith no proof is necessary, while those who do not have Faith, no explanation is possible. Christ would not leave us orphans. He left us his most treasured possession, Himself. Each time I think about this, I lower my eyes from the heavens and proclaim, “Be merciful to me, Lord, a sinner.” As the song says, “How Great Thou Art.”
- TREAT EACH DAY AS A LIFETIME. This might be the biggest awareness of where I find myself today. Like Alcoholics Anonymous, life must be lived a day at a time. Every day, we start again from zero. That is why Christ asked us to take up our cross daily and follow him.
- DAILY PRACTICES:
- Say the Lord’s Prayer “give us this day, our daily bread.
- Read Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule every day. Pray to become what I read.
- Pray Lectio Divina each day and write down what the Holy Spirit tells me.
- Pray the Liturgy of the Hours every day, (Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline.
- Read Thomas Merton’s The Silence of Siloam
I am in a better place spiritually than I have ever been before and I don’t credit it to me but, with the use of Cistercian charisms (humility, obedience, kindness) and practices (Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, Rosary, Sacrament of Penance, Lectio Divina, Spiritual Reading from Scripture), I now just begin to know the meaning of St. John the Baptist’s statement: I must decrease but He must increase. My spirituality has infected my whole well-being.
So. does God test me? I am accountable for my actions, I will be judged according to Matthew 25. I am not worried, I have spent the better part of my life just longing to sit near the heart of Christ and listen profoundly to his Being.
Praise be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who will be, at the end of the ages. —Cistercian doxology