When is the last time you looked at your wedding pictures, assuming that you are married? This seemingly innocuous statement contains several layers of complexity that I recently explored as I thought about my Lectio Divina center (Philippians 2:5), “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” I asked myself, HOW do I sustain any serious commitment and keep it from going sour, given that we live in a condition where everything has a beginning and an end, plus all things corrupt or deteriorate? In this context, what God made, Adam and Eve, is, by its nature, good, but yet subject to the forces of corruption and disintegration. You won’t be here one hundred years from now. Have you thought about the fact that every single human (including Christ) does not live past a hundred? Do you get the point? Our history of being human lasts only seventy or eighty years, if we are strong, says the Psalmist in Psalm 90. http://www.usccb.org/bible/psalms/90 Read this Psalm in its entirety, three times. The first time you detoxify the influence of Original Sin; the second time you look for just one theme the Psalm is trying to convey; the third time, reading very slowly, you stop after each stanza and think how this applies to you. Very slowly!
When I read this Psalm three-times, my second time through I was struck by how humanity must pass on what it has learned to the next seventy or eighty years. The third time I read Psalm 90 I thought of how all life passes on its genetic code to the next generation. Spiritual Apes, which is what I term humans who have voluntarily accepted Christ as their Lord, is an exception to the natural progression of all that lives. You must choose to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. You can only make this choice by Faith that comes only from God. There are forces at work outside of you that try to lead you astray from your Baptismal commitment. Humans are like God in that they have the ability to reason and they have the freedom to choose. What they choose can either be God or themselves.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF IDOLATRIES TODAY
There is such a thing as the idolatry of the mind, where human reasoning, to the exclusion of anything spiritual, is god. Reality is what is visible, what is historical, what you can discover with your mind and five senses, not what is the opinion of each individual who only lives for seventy or eighty years. In the early Church, there were three major (mortal) sins that caused the individual to be cast out of the gathering or assembly: offering incense to the Emperor, adultery, and murder. To get back into the community, you had to be re-washed with the blood of the Lamb. We call that the Sacrament of Forgiveness with a promise not to sin again and do penance for the rest of your life.
There is such a thing as idolatry of free choice, where you can choose either what is good for you or what is bad for you, and you make the wrong choice (as Adam and Eve did). Each of us has seventy or eighty years to discover how to love authentically. We learn from the successes and failures of what went before us. History is a succession of those seventy or eighty years, linked together in such a way that we can look back on what happened before and learn.
There is the idolatry of thinking that all there is, is contained in the few years we appear on the earth. If we worship at this altar, we must find meaning and the purpose of life within a few, short years. There are millions upon millons of people who are now living or who have lived before us. We move forward because of the legacy of those who have gone before us. We learn from the discoveries of generations of the past. Only humanity as a race has a history. Individually, we do our share to make this a better world for ourselves and our children, eighty years or so at a time.
The effects of Original Sin are that we will only live to seventy or eighty if we are lucky, granted me don’t get cancer or have a heart attack (I had both). It seems like a fixation that humans are trying to go into space to find new worlds and perhaps new civilizations. With all our attempts to go to the Moon or to Mars, we are still limited by Original Sin. In the case of space travel, consider that we are not born in space but in a gravity-based rock with gases on it. Even if we wanted to travel to distant planets, which we don’t about yet, it would take us more than those seventy or eight years to get there, and, we must take our gravity and gases with us to survive. Consider that the productive life of a human is forty years, granted you don’t die or disease.
You are probably worndering why I am wandering. Hold your horses! Everything fits together in the end, although we not realize it within the timeframe we have to discover what is true. Isn’t it strange that Christ would want to enter this world of corruption and Original Sin? As God, Scriptures says, he became sin for us so as to rescue (save) us from death. To do that, he became one of us (Philippians 2:5-12) in all things but sin. He came to tell us how to live beyond those seventy or eighty years, preparing us to live in the Kingdom of Heaven with God…Forever. Faith is not about what is natural, but what is supernatural. To get there you must use the gifts that God gave all humans (the ability to reason what is good or bad for you and the ability to choose what is good or bad for you). What God won’t do is make the choice for you. There fundamentally two choices you can make, one of which will lead you to life and one to death. Jesus not only became one of us to tell us what was authentic (the Old Testament) but to show us how to follow his footsteps (the New Testament).
Sacred Scriptures, given to us down through twenty centuries until it informs me now how to find the way, the truth, and the life, are love letters from God in which he tells us through the Holy Spirit inspiring writers to show us how to live in such a way that we prepare to live beyond death. Of course, not of this makes sense to the World, but that is why Christ saved us from his viewpoint that only recognizes the values of the World.
Those snippets of seventy to eighty years of living walking with Christ through twenty centuries (the Church Universal), provides a pathway from the Apostles to my life, now. You can read the path that the Church Universal has taken as it has stumbled down the path toward Point Omega. Sometimes we got off the path, such in thinking that the Church Universal is perfect, is without sin, that we are better than anyone else, is infallible in its practice. History tells of our misadventure with monarchial power, how we are very much, in each age, subject to the same effects of Original Sin as Adam and Eve. The Prophets of the Old Testament continuously railed against the infidelity of Israel keep the Law. The Saints are the prophets of the New Testament, the Church Universal in each age. Saints are important because they give us hope that the Holy Spirit has not abandoned us, despite our collective sinfulness. The Church Universal must focus on “loving others as Christ has loved us.” This Church must not be confused with a building or the Vatican governance, nor any other perishible things. These things come and go depending on the age in which we live. What remains is that Christ loved us so much that He volutarily gave up his life to die on the cross. He did that to SHOW us how we should live out our seventy or eighty years, in helping others. (Matthew 25:36) The promise of Christ was that the Holy Spirit would be with us and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against us. He promised that we should drink the cup of salvation with him, which we do in the Eucharist. The most marvelous gift of Christ is one where he gives up his life for us (humanity), continues the Resurrection from the dead, and returns to the Father in glory, now both fully God and fully human. The perfect gift of honor and glory to God. This is our sharing in the love of the Father for the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is our way to rise above our false self and put on the armor of Christ to combat the temptations of the Devil (the World). In the Hymn, Amazing Grace, we sing, “amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me” Grace is God’s own energy within us. In each age, the Church Universal focuses us on Christ in the Liturgy, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Eucharist, Penance and the Forgiveness of Sins, Healing and Preparing for Heaven.
When you think of those old wedding pictures, if you have to blow the dust off of them, you are missing a great opportunity for renewal of your Marriage Commitment to each other. It is not as though we don’t have an annual rededication of our Faith. During the Easter Vigil, those present are asked to renounce Satan and all his allurements.
Rededication to your Faith should be done frequently. It is Christ making all things new in your life, the life within your seventy or eighty years. https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Dr.+Michael+F.+Conrad&i=stripbooks&qid=1588101315&ref=sr_pg_1
What follows are the promises I made to the Abbot of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), Conyers, Georgia in May 2018. I renew them frequently to remind myself that Christ is my Lord and Savior. I pray that I become what I have promised with God’s grace and mercy.
FINAL PROMISES AS A LAY CISTERCIAN OF OUR LADY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT MONASTERY (TRAPPIST), CONYERS, GEORGIA
I, Michael Francis Conrad, a member of the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, a community of Catholics living in the world, promise to strive for a daily conversion of life as my response to the love of God.
I commit myself to live in a spirit of contemplative prayer and sacrifice in obedience to God’s universal call to holiness, using daily Cistercian practices and charisms of simplicity, humility, obedience to God’s will, hospitality, and striving for conversion of life to move from self to God.
I give thanks to my wife, Young, and my daughter, Martha, for standing with me on my journey. I ask for prayers from the Monastic community of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, and the Lay Cistercian community, to include the Ecumenical and Auxiliary communities. I place myself in the hands of those already stand before the throne of the Lamb, including Holy Mary, Mother of God, St. Benedict, St. Bernard, the Seven Cistercian Martyrs of Our Lady of Atlas, Father Anthony Delisi and other deceased monks and Lay Cistercians of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, and also Deacon Marcus Hepburn. Finally, I accept the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by the constitutions and statutes of the Strict Observance Cistercians as my guide for living the Gospel within the time I have remaining. Ut in Omnia Dei glorificatur.