Where I am in my spiritual journey is not where I expected to be at this point in my life. The first part of my life (from birth to my profession as a Lay Cistercian at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), in Conyers, Georgia.) I might characterize as keeping the Laws of the Church. The better I keep the laws, the more I am like Christ. With my introduction to Cistercian spirituality, with its stress on personal prayer and contemplation using silence, solitude, work, prayer, in the context of community, I am slowing moving into a new beginning (that is quite a feat for a broken-down, old temple of the Holy Spirit.) More and more, the word “abandonment to the will of Christ” trickles into my daily Lectio Divina devotions (Philippians 2:5). I say that because Philippians 2:5-12 speaks of abandonment in terms of emptying of self to fill it with something new. This is the new paradigm of my life, the all consuming fire in my heart which only grows in enlightenment and intensity when I sit quietly on a park bench in the dead of winter and get rid of all that the World says is important in relationships or through language. Abandonment to self to be able to have an increased capacity for Christ (capacitas dei) demands focus, sustainability, daily seeking God where I am, and fidelity to prayer and practices of Lay Cistercian spirituality.
The context of my life journey to seek God is my eighty years (so far) of struggling to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). I am not there yet, nor do I ever expect to attain fulness of knowledge and love. Profound love for me comes only from placing myself in the presence of Christ and waiting for my friend to sit down next to be and just be. That being, far from just an object to be encountered one to another person, as Martin Buber states in his theory of being, I-Thou and I -It. http://www.angelfire.com/md2/timewarp/buber.html Contemplation is placing myself in a context where I can have an I-Thou relationship with the being of Christ. How can this happen? As with all mysteries of faith, my awareness is still unfolding, in process of becoming something about which I have no experiences, an abandonment of logic, words, human values of the World, all just to be in the presence of the Real Christ, the pearl of great price. Contemplation has morphed for me into an emptying of self each day to be able to fill up in me what is lacking. It is the ontic possibility of the manifestibility of all being encountered. My reflections about reality are now not formed by language, words, concepts, worldly values, the seven deadly sins, but simply by placing myself purposefully (prayer) in the presence of Being. Notice the upper case “B”?
THE PRESENCE OF BEING AND BEING PRESENT TO BEING
The implication of this approach, gradually revealed through time and patience, are that my being is in the presence of the center of all that is, The Supreme Being, or the person we call God. What happens when we do sit on a park bench in the dead of winter waiting for the Lord as sentinels wait for the dawn, to quote the Psalmist? I actually don’t know, since I am not sure of particulars, but I do get a sense of what it means from the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ, highlighted in the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent. The Transfiguration passages are inserted for a reason, as are all the stories about Christ. This Gospel gives us a glimpse of Christ as he really is. Peter, James and John were overcome by fear when they saw this, as we will be when we gaze upon the face of Christ. We will never see the face of the Father because our human nature can not stand in the presence of God. Yet, we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father and heirs to his kingdom. What can this mean? Christ came to be our intercessor, our good will ambassador with the Father. I am beyond worrying about what all this means. I am content to sit in silence and solitude on a park bench in the dead of Winter and wait for Christ to sit next to me. (Yes, God is everywhere.)
What I think happens is, when I am in the presence of pure energy, pure knowledge, pure love, pure service, Christ alone is my mediator, my mentor. My human nature absorbs energy from the greater nature, divine. No need for words at this deepest level of intimacy. Person to person, but with a difference. The one person is Christ, Son of God, Savior, and the other person is me, sinful, in need of God’s mercy, bound by time and space of the physical and mental universes, but at the same time, unlimited by Christ’s love and care for me. Reflect on the Transfiguration Moment.
|Matthew 17 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) The Transfiguration 17 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I[a] will make three dwellings[b] here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved;[c] with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.|
THE TOWER OF BABEL: At the Root of Original Sin
What follows are my conclusions and reflections on reality as I see it now. Genesis 1-2 tells us about those deep, dark archetypes that lurk in the collective human consciousness down through the ages. When asking myself the question, “Why all the confusion of ideas in our days? Why the mess humans have made of environment, the freedom to choose, and human reasoning?” a clue might be found in Genesis 9:1-9, the story of the Tower of Babel. After Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, there were a series of incidents in Scripture to identify how humans fared after the Fall. First Cain killed Abel, then there was Noah and the Flood, the Covenant with the People, the one people as descendents of Noah and finally, the great flood where God caused a confusion of tongues. Why are these particular stories written for generations to ponder?
All Scriptures are linked together, even if we don’t quite know how it fits together. Brother Michael O.C.S.O. told us in retreat a few years back that Scriptures are love letters from God. He chastises those who break the Law in the Old Testament but he always forgives and has mercy on the people. The Tower of Babel story might well fit the confusion and the self-righteousness of the individual with which we find ourselves in each age, but particularly in this age. The story points out that there is one people and one language but God Himself causes a diversity of tongues so that people could not finish building the city to the heavens. Don’t you find that strange that God doesn’t want humans to complete building the city of God? Like all mythic stories of the collective human consciousness, what is real is hidden behind ordinary, human experiences. The story of Babel could be viewed as the natural progression of cultures and evolution, the way humans spread out from the one seed, Adam and Eve, proliferating throughout the world. This might be true, but might there be a deeper meaning, a fatal flaw in human existence, a darker meaning to the movement of human reasoning and choice than is first perceived. Might this story be a clue to our own absurd obsession of building our own city of God instead of abandoning our wills and following the will of the Father?
In my Lectio Divina, one morning at 2:30 a.m. (yes, I dream my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I came up with the Tower of Babel story as being a perfect paradigm for what is happening today in the world around me. I thought about my being on my favorite park bench in the dead of winter and waiting for Christ to visit. It occured to me that this is like the Tower of Babel story, not just a fairy tale but one that has implications for my own contemplation grow from self to God. I thought about what language I am using to communicate with Christ as I wait. Quite naturally, English. God does speak English, doesn’t he? I want him to come so I can relinquish my responsibility to take up my own cross each day and abandon myself to do God’s will each day. I want to control the agenda so that, if I sit on the park bench and wait for Christ, I am sure he will come and talk to me. After all, he is everywhere and he said, “Come to me all you who are heavily burdened and I will refresh you.” Do you see what I am doing? I am speaking in a language where I control God. I pray, therefore God must respond. God speaks through me if I do good works. The Tower of Babel is the seduction of our mind and will to think that I can build a city of God in my image and likeness. Contemplation means I abandon all things to see Christ where I am and when I am. I use silence and solitude to set myself apart from the World so that I can be present to the source of pure love. Faith alone can allow me the energy to do this. My product is loving others as Christ loves us.
CONFUSION OF TONGUES IN MY REALITY
The more I think about it, the more I can identify those languages that I use in everyday living some of them leading to being one with Christ and others not so much. You may not notice it, but there are a multitude of languages spoken. Language is a set of words with specific meaning known to those who comprehend the assumptions behind those words. I only speak English and don’t consider myself an expert in that language. I like to write my thoughts down in English, but those who don’t speak the language don’t know what I am saying, even if they hear it. Remember Christ telling people that “seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear?” They knew the language that Christ used and the words but were not able to see deeper into the parable.
Here are some types of language:
THE LANGUAGE OF GOD
God doesn’t need a language in the same way he doesn’t need Faith. He is Faith. He is the language–pure love, and pure energy. We need help from Christ (divine and human nature) to show us how to love others as He has loved us. This is the language of contemplation, abandoning self with all the human trappings of fame, fortune, adulation, relationships, and honors for the good we do. God speaks simplicity, silence and solitude in the midst of the complexities of the world
One of the great challenges for me before I pass over to the next reality of heaven is, why is it so difficult for other languages to speak God? Why can’t the great scientists grasp the great mystery of being and are afraid or can’t look at the one place Steven Hawking could not look. Why? He is certainly intelligent enough. He did not speak the language.
THE THREE ARE ONE: The paradox of God.
Reality, in my view, is made up of three distinct universes, the physical, the mental, and the spiritual. Each of them is separate yet inseparable. Each of them contains a language separate from the other. The three are one (sound familiar?). The first two universes, in which we have our platform for discovering the purpose of life and, within that, our particular purpose, has the natural law as its default principle. We call that “The World” because humans begin to value those things that are good but also worship the golden calf of false gods. They make laws which other people follow. I live in this reality and The next reality
My own reflection on reality has led me to explore the language of God using different assumptions. This is what I have garnered from my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) about why so many people don’t see what seems obvious to those with Faith. At this point in my journey, I don’t care if you believe me or not. I do care that you explore the depths of your Faith with the tools of contemplation in Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict. Three dimensions of the language of God stand out for me as I seek God wherever I am.
Have you ever heard of Fermat’s Last Theorem, supposedly unsolvable? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BSFyEIY2BY https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qiNcEguuFSA
If you look at this Youtube blog, you will gain some understanding of why the language of Mathematics is so exciting and valuable to finding out the make up of matter, time, and energy. The more we know about the physical universe, using the tools of the mental universe, the greater humans can discover who they are and what they will become. The problem comes when you introduce spirituality into the mix. The assumption is all universes must use the same language and measurements. All the assumptions of the physical universe and human investigation of what is and how it is are of the physical universe only.
My thinking leads me to think that Jesus came down to show us a third universe, one which would not be understood by those in the Old Testament or the New Testament upon to the present age. He could not describe it as it really is because humans were, and are still, incapable of knowing God as He truly is. We see God through Christ, the Son of the Father. St. Paul sees it as looking through a foggy glass. This spiritual universe is voluntary in keeping with reason and the ability to choose. The spiritual universe is unscientific. My view of the spiritual universe is that when God came to become human (Luke 1) there was a polar shift in time and space. Unlike the polar shifts that have happened to the Earth in times past, the shift is of the whole spiritual universe. Up becomes down, what is logical somehow is the opposite of what makes sense. This is the Christ Code, given to those who have gathered together in the Faith of the Universal Church. This code is not hidden, but is actually there for all to use, if they know how. The World doesn’t know about this code or how to use it. Upon Baptism we are given this code tattooed on our hearts. It is the sign of contradiction, the ultimate paradox that is the cross and the resurrection to new life that keeps reminding us that to gain our life, we must lose it, to be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, we must serve others, to live life fully as a human, we must die to self to rise with Christ to claim our inheritance as adopted sons and daughters of the Father. When people can’t agree on this or that about Christ, I just keep silent and marvel as the confusion of thoughts and tongues.
Before Christ, the World was the norm and Israel was the norm in learning how to love God. Keep the laws of God perfectly and I will be your God. The history of the Old Testament recounts the frustration that the Prophets had with a stiff-necked people who easily turned to stone idols. History records ten of the twelve tribes were assimilated into the general populace of Syria. This indicates, on a rather broad scale, how Israel needed to be whole again, once again with Twelve Tribes, and needing a champion to lead them to the New Jerusalem. Christ came to redeem not only Israel from its folly but to make it whole again. An indication of this is found in the story of the Eleven Apostles, the new tribes of the New Jerusalem. To be whole again, the Israel of God must be whole. The Messiah would be one to restore Israel to the way, with the truth, so they could have life and fulfill its destiny.
The Tower of Babel continues to be real and a stumbling block to each age. The confusion of tongues is not just about a particular language but, in an even deeper sense, a search for what is true. That search is made more difficult because of the confusion of words, but not only the words themselves, but our insistence that we have a right to our opinion and, of course, our opinion is right. Each person becomes a language, a stumbling block to what Christ wants to share with us about loving our neighbor. The big elephant in the room of this age is, everyone thinks they are god. To think otherwise, you must abandon yourself and accept the will of the Father and the humility of Christ. Philippians 2:5-12.
Acts 1 NRSVCE – The Promise of the Holy Spirit –
|21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” 23 So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place[g] in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.|
I discovered an even deeper meaning to Lectio Divina this morning. I got up early and went to feed my dog his cup of dog food, made my usual cup of Kona Roast coffee from Costco, popped in two pieces of whole wheat bread and waited. My dog, Tucker, sat dutifully at my feet looking up at me with those eyes that just begged for food. I went to the computer to begin writing (this very blog), eating my toast and drinking delicious black coffee. Concentrating on my writing, I payed little attention to Tucker but he just sat there looking at me with those eyes that pleaded for just a scrap of toast. Then it hit me. While trying to seek God wherever I am, I was seduced by my own needs for food and failed to see my dog’s plea. This situation is like Lectio Divina, in some respects. I am the dog and Christ is sitting at the computer of life (probably browsing ESPN or Fox News). I sit next to him in silence and solitude, looking mournfully at Christ with those eyes that long for just the scraps from his toast. This scenario is a great comparison to what happens in contemplation– all without words, heart to heart, longing for just one or two scraps from the bread of Heaven. Jesus doesn’t disappoint.
Pope Benedict XVI says that there is a fifth level to Lectio Divina, that of Actio or Do Something as a result of God sitting next to you sharing His Being.
MY GOAL IS NOT AS YET ATTAINABLE BUT IT IS WITHIN SIGHT
Philippians 3 NRSVCE –
|Pressing toward the Goal12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal;[g] but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved,[h] I do not consider that I have made it my own;[i] but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly[j] call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. 16 Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.17 Brothers and sisters,[k] join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 18 For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. 19 Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship[l] is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humiliation[m] that it may be conformed to the body of his glory,[n] by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.|
Praise be the to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who will be, at the end of the ages. –Cistercian doxology