Sitting before the Blessed Sacrament while thinking about my lectio divina phrase (Philippians 2:5), I realized how much I have changed since I first began this leg of my journey of life, that of a Lay Cistercian. http://www.trappist.net. This was not a mental construct but rather a feeling somewhere inside me. I had consciously taken time to sit in from the Blessed Sacrament and wait. As is my custom, I thought about silence and solitude and recited over and over my Lectio Divina phrase (Philippians 2:5).
My thoughts turned to trying to move through the four levels of Lectio Divina (lectio, meditatio, oratio, contemplation). Over the years, I have moved from consciously and deliberately moving through these four stages to that of doing it as a seamless progression. What is important is the process not keeping or not doing this or that step.
Quitely, in just a whisper, I just sat there in the stillness of time. I realized how important it was for be to be still to my false self so I become more like Christ. Another product of my Lectio was the realization that each day, each day I must begin from zero. I begin my Morning Offering before my toes his the floor as I get out of bed. It takes time to move from my old, false self to newness of life. I must keep the words of St. Benedict before me as he wrote in Chapter 4, Tool for Good Works. This is the daily struggle, the cross that I accept to carry each day. I offer you four outcomes or products from being consistent and faithful to Cistercian practices of Lectio Divina, what I notice about myself now that were not present even a year ago.
The Stillness of the Mind: The mind must be tamed to make it accepting of spiritual contemplation. How does one tame the mind? In his book, The Little Prince, Saint Exupere gives us a clue. Listen to the clip about how how to tame the heart. Listen also for the final statement about the heart. The mind prepares us to love along with the mind. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d33AQNo8H6U
The emptying of the mind of all extraneous thoughts and preoccupations takes time and practice, it takes taming. For me, the Cistercian practices have become occasions where I leave behind my personal preoccupations and focus just on Christ and not just on Scriptures, although I do that also. I like to focus sitting on a park bench in the middle of a severe winter and waiting for Christ. Isn’t Christ everywhere? Yes, but in this way, I use my reason which God gave me to separate me from being so occupied with my own self to refocus just on Philippians 2:5, the only Lectio Divina I have ever used consistently and every day. The product of all of this is not that I embrace Christ but the realization that He has loved me first. This is the Christ that I don’t make into an image and likeness of myself, but one where I am open to the ontic possibility of the manifestibility of Being itself. I must tame my mind and my heart first to receive what Christ, through the Holy Spirit, wants to share.
The stillness of the heart: Another product of having in me “…the mind of Christ Jesus”, (Philippians 2:5) is my heart is less concerned with what makes me happy than with just being in the presence of Christ.. St. Augustine says,”My heart is restless until it rests in Three.” The stillness of the mind allows me to find and open the door of my hear. St. Benedict calls this, “…listen to the ear of your heart,” in his Prologue to the Rule. What does Christ say is at the core of both the New and Old Testaments? “
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.[a] 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.
37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
The heart has many distractions when trying to contemplate. I can only describe what happens to me as a work in progress. Some days are better than others. As you listened to in the clip from The Little Prince, it is the time you take in taming someone that is precious. As applied to my quest for Lectio Divina and contemplation, it is the time I take with all the distractions and detours that makes it so meaningful. Lectio Divina is not just the actual time you take in prayer, but also everything that leads up to it.
If my life is a journey, it is the time I take along the way to seek God in everyday living that is itself my prayer of abandonment to the will of the Father through Christ by means of the Holy Spirit.
2. EVERY DAY IS A LIFETIME. A product of silence and solitude is my thinking that what I did yesterday to praise the Father does not count for this day, a new day. If I miss a Liturgy of the Hours Morning Prayer one day, no problem. It is what I do that day, whatever it is that compels me to seek God for that day, not that I did or did not do one of the Hours. This behavioral outcome or product has caused me to emphasize my practices more and re-energize my saying Compline as a night prayer. All of us have a spiritual attention span. As a result of my collective moving from self to God, ever so slowly, almost imperceptibly, my attention span in meditation with a view to contemplation, has grown from two or three minutes, to more than an hour or more.
3. SIMPLICITY OF LIFE. I am consciously becoming more simple in my prayer life and in contemplation. Simplicity of life now means I seek first the kingdom of heaven and wait for all that comes after that as God’s will. I have slowed down my life in order to get off the Merry-Go-Round of the World. I find that I used to tell God what I wanted as a result of my praying to Him, such as peace, love, and community. Now I wait for God to tell me what is good for me, the antithesis of Adam and Eve.
4. RETURN TO CLASSIC SPIRITUALITY. One of my favorite books on spirituality is the The SOUL of the APOSTOLATE by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O., Cistercian (Trappist) Abbot of Sept-Fons in Central France. I include it here for your spiritual reading and meditation. https://servusfidelis.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/soul_of_the_apostolate.pdf
I have discovered what is more important than Faith alone. I know a bit more how Faith is not one dimensional but contains layers, the three being One Faith. They are Faith, Hope and Love, and the greatest of these is Love. You cannot have Love without having Faith. Faith comes from the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, Love comes from loving others as Christ has loved us.
1 Corinthians 13 NRSVCE – The Gift of Love – If I speak in the – Bible Gateway
|1 Corinthians 13 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,[a] but do not have love, I gain nothing.4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly,[b] but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”|
I wanted you to read this entire quote because it reminds me of the dynamics at work within the very nature of God. The Father is the Lord of Faith; the Son is the Lord of Love; the Holy Spirit is the Lord of Hope. All three are one. There is only one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism as St. Paul writes in his Epistle to the Ephesians 4,
“4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”