My latest Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) has taken me to a place that I would never have thought possible, linking Christ as the Messiah and the fulfillment of the Old and New Testaments. The way my thinking progressed, as I sat in silence and solitude, waiting for Christ to visit me as I sat on my park bench in the dead of winter, was in terms of resonance or dissonance. To ensure that I don’t fly with false colors, let me say from the outset that my opinions come from beyond the edge of space and time (Holy Spirit) and reflect only my thoughts, not those of any Lay Cistercian group of Cistercian (Trappist) writings. This is me, my thoughts. Take them for what they are.
I begin, as I always do, with the hope of contemplation on Philippians 2:5. “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” While waiting for Christ to visit me on a park bench in the dead of winter, I thought about why Christ had to become one of us (human nature). The notion of Messiah coming to rescue his people is lost on me, and I suspect anyone who is not Jewish. I am living in the year 2020, far removed from the pristine problems facing the transition of the Church from Twelve Tribes to Twelve Apostles. Personally, I place my faith in the reality of the resurrection of Christ from the dead, a “sine qua non” of belief (I love to use that phrase). If the resurrection did not happen, then, as St. Paul writes, Christ is not God but, like many devout Jewish believers think, just one more in a line of false messiahs. Belief is a position or something spiritual does not depend on the believer to be true. There is a struggle between what is true and what I think is true. My belief does not make something true, but what is true makes me believe. How can some people believe in one God and others believe in one God but with three distinct persons, one of whom is Jesus the Messiah? Are these poles are symptomatic of something larger going on in reality?
THE PARADOX OF ALL THAT IS: THE COSMIC STRUGGLE OF SEEMING OPPOSITES
Are these two polar opposite positions, and even that may not be an accurate description, part of some larger design, more cosmic, more sophisticated than we could have ever imagined? This is getting far afield of Lectio Divina, don’t you think? Sorry, all I do is take dictation from the Holy Spirit.
There is a concept out there call the theory of everything, popularized by a book and a movie of the same name, about the late, great Steven Hawking and his quest to find one theory of the physical universe. I have been developing a theory of reality for the past thirty years. I am not a trained scientist, nor do I aspire to be. I do try to think about a unified theory of all that is and have come up with the notion of three separate universes, each distinct yet all one. The characteristics and measurements for each universe are completely different, and in the case of one of them, the spiritual universe, directly opposite that of the physical and mental universes.
THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE: In my model, the physical universe is all that we can see or reason to with the aid of our human languages. All physical matter, space, time, every star and the black hole, all exploding hypernovas, all live anywhere in the universe, humans, all animals, plants, even mosquitoes, are part of this observable universe. The problem with this universe has always been, why do we humans know about it, but it does not know about us? There must be purpose and reason why we find ourselves on this rocky platform of gases. Humans are part of this universe, along with all other life forms.
THE MENTAL UNIVERSE: This universe answers the questions about the Physical Universe. Only humans live in this universe. It is the universe of reason. Why do only humans have the ability to build languages, discover relationships, and seek to find the meaning of all that is? Without the Mental Universe, no one would be able to ask why it is, how is it, what is it, and so what? The two attributes that separate us from the animals are: you have the ability to reason for a reason, and, based on that reasoning, you have the ability to make choices free from nature or any other ideology. There must be a reason we find ourselves on this rock, the only persons we know of, anywhere. There must be a reason humans developed from other life forms with the ability to reason and to select what is good for them. For me, the theory of everything just looks at the physical universe using the mental universe to find meaning. The problem is that this is incomplete, there is something missing, something like 1 + 1 =, and there is no answer. For me, this led to a third universe, one which we could not have either reasoned to or chosen without someone giving us the code.
THE SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE: We are discovering so much about physical reality through the sciences and literature. If left only to science and logic, humans would never have been able to access a level of consciousness that does not fit the physical and mental universe paradigm. We don’t do well with invisible relationships. The problem with invisibility is you can’t see it. This universe has to do with solving the equation of what is real. Reality is not just what we can see but what we cannot see. Not all religious traditions can transform you into what you were designed to be. This is why you have reason and why there is an earth to give you time to discover the code of eternity. You can choose freely whatever you discover and place at the center of your life. This is the energy source that will propel you to the next reality, one for which we need to begin preparing in this lifetime.
It is interesting to note the interdependence of the three universes. The physical universe exists, the platform for where we find ourselves today. All matter, all time, all energy has a beginning and an end, and that includes each one of us. That is the paradigm in which we humans wake up to the reality of where we are and who we are. As we look around us, we notice that we are not like the other animals we have as pets or eat as food. We have something they don’t have self-awareness. Where does that come from all of a sudden? Did it randomly happen by chance or is it part of a larger dynamic the language of which we are not totally familiar? The mental universe allows us to look at the physical world and ask why, how, when, where something is. Far from being anti-spiritual, the physical and mental universes exist for us to be able to wonder about all this and seek a conclusion. I like to think of it as being in dissonance or without purpose, even though we might know the purpose of the physical as well as the mental universe. Now comes the seeming paradox, the spiritual universe, the solution to the equation of life, the resonance to the dissidence of the cosmos. Reason and free choice allow each individual to choose to live in this universe or not. The choices are clear: you are the center of reality or God is the center. Every time you choose yourself as the center of reality, there is dissonance; every time you choose God as your center, there is resonance. That is how nature is. This concept is so alien to the human way of thinking that God Himself had to tell us how to be authentically human and he did it in stages.
Stage one is the creation of the physical universe.All living things live here, including humans. This stage uses the natural law (what would happen naturally, if humans did not intervene).
Stage two is the creation of the mental universe. Adam was fashioned from the earth and Eve came from Adam’s rib. Only humans here. Humans have the ability to reason and the freedom to choose what they reason, but with consequences to each choice. We are defined by the choices we make. Adam and Eve had a chance to choose God but chose themselves instead. This was a poor choice and issued in the time of dissonance with God until it would be restored. All reality was thrown into chaos by this choice. Humans would never be able to regain resonance with God by themselves, even with all their sacrifices and prayers. All humans that are born of the flesh are subject to the laws of nature, but their destiny is to live with God…Forever as adopted sons and daughters. That was not going to happen unless God Himself rescued us from the grip of death and took on the nature that, in Philippians 2:5-12 tells us is akin to being a slave. This YES from the Blessed Mother was not only a nice-sounding gesture meant to edify the pious but was the nexus between the physical and mental universes and the addition of the spiritual universe. In terms of a cosmic, polar shift, reality had changed. It looked the same, it smelled the same, and no one even noticed that now, the beginnings of cosmic resonance were falling into place.
Stage three is the creation of the spiritual universe. Only humans and God live in this universe. This universe uses reason and free choice as does the physical and mental universes but with a difference. Humans must use their reason to choose God as their center and not themselves. The purpose of this universe is to bring all things together as one, once more, to restore relationship with God once more, to create resonance in time and space once more. Those who choose this way must continue to struggle against the effects of the flesh (physical and mental universes) each day.
If we look at these three universes of reality, each one quite different, each one with their own purpose, each one having measurements that may vastly stretch the mind of those trying to cram all reality into just one universe, the physical one. Rather than thinking something is wrong with science or that spirituality is a bunch of personal opinions that cannot possibly be true, all three universes fit nicely together. Science continues to give us how the physical universe is, why it is, and how it is. Science is limited because the spiritual universe turns logic upside down. God’s playground is the opposite of what the world, physical and mental universes, think. Only the Messiah of God has the code to unlock the consequences of that Original Sin of Adam and Eve. Read Romans 5. The Messiah would be one to unlock the gates of Heaven to give us a chance, like the chance He gave to Adam and Eve, to enter into the spiritual universe. He would be a sign of contradiction to the gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews. Everything he says would not make sense to those who just have the mind of the world, thinking that they are God. Everything he says would make complete sense to those who are filled with the Spirit of Truth at Baptism and use that grace to see what cannot be seen and hear what cannot be heard. None of this is a secret or the exclusive knowledge of a group to be kept pure from other forms of thinking (Gnostics), it is to be catholic, that is, open to all who accept the gift of faith into their hearts, thus becoming adopted sons and daughters of the Father. Jesus is the great teacher of how to live our lives in such a way that we have resonance with all reality. To do that we must die to self in order to rise to a new life in Christ. Again, none of this makes sense to the world (physical and mental universes) unless Christ is indeed the Messiah, the one St. John the Baptist asked: “are you the one, or should we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3)
Once again, it seems a neverending story, we face two choices, both of which have consequences for being resonant or dissonant. These are cosmic choices as well as personal ones. Remember, you have reason for a reason and the ability to choose what you reason. The Messiah in my thinking would not be someone to free me from the power of the Romans or Arabs or whomever, but rather free me from the tyranny of becoming my own god, the consequences of which are dissonance with the rest of reality.
This is why, as a Lay Cistercian, I focus on reading Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict as one of my Cistercian practices each day. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/ Making the resurrection real each day is now my goal. That is another way of saying that my mindset now is trying to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus each day. I use the practices and charisms of Cistercian spirituality to provide structure and accountability.
I began my thinking by realizing that science, the study of the physical phenomenon with the languages of mathematics, chemistry, physics, research, and wonder, doesn’t fit with the spiritual universe. I am at the point in my thinking that says when you burn away all of the dross of truth about reality, what remains, however improbable, is what it is, even if it does not make sense to the world.
Each of us is marked at Baptism with the sign of contradiction, a paradox to the world, which is the cross. We carry that with us throughout our whole lifetime. We use the Church Universal and particular to help us as an anchor in times of storm and sail in times of challenge and everyday living. We have not been left orphans in each age, subject to being seduced by Satan without hope of any help. We have Christ, Son of God, Savior as our brother and the Father, who has said that we are adopted sons and daughters and will inherit the kingdom. This is what the Messiah is. My wishing will not make the Messiah real, but the real Messiah will allow me the energy to make the resurrection true in my heart.