My Lectio Divina today (Philippians 2:5) took me to a place I had not visited before. I thought about the very early Church and how they must have had a struggle to “have in them the mind of Christ Jesus.” I thought about my own struggles to do the same, given the unique circumstances that have presented themselves to me, i.e., my having had surgery about 12 days ago to implant a pacemaker and then subsequent cardiac procedures to shock my heart back to its normal “sinus” rhythm, called Cardioversion.
Christ did not institute an individual as church, one based on anyone but Himself, but rather one composed of many individuals. Why is that? Part of the reason seems to me to be our need to belong. Individuals don’t usually thrive in isolation but are designed to interact with others to achieve any worthwhile goals or projects. As a Lay Cistercian, one of the things that separate us from other lay organizations is silence, solitude, work, prayer in community. I am not saying Lay Cistercians are better than other such Lay Groups, rather, that what it means to be a Lay Cistercian is physically meeting together once a month for renewal, prayer, learning about Cistercian practices and charisms, and sharing the Holy Spirit we discover in each of us. They call this monthly meeting a Gathering. At first, I did not see the significance of this words, “to gather together”, but over these seven years of my participation, I see what is meant by the words, that is, to describe the early communities of Faith, by the name of ecclesia, assembly of the faithful, grouping together to sustain each other as we seek to more from self to God as individuals. The faithful are church as they gather together in the name of Christ, to give glory to the Father, through that same Christ in union with the power of the Holy Spirit. The gathering is not like the Moose, Elks, or other groups of belonging. This gathering is Christ when they come together to proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes again, as we say in each Eucharistic Liturgy. The Lay Cistercians meet only once a month, but the rest of the time they go about their professions, taking with them the Cistercian practices and charisms (humility, obedience, hospitality) as they relate to whatever comes their way. Each day is a lifetime of seeking God where you are, as you are. Lay Cistercians are Church even when they go back to their respective homes and practice loving others as Christ loves us.
The measuring stick in all of this contemplative practice (Trappist) is gathering together with Christ as our Savior and Lord, as set forth in Scripture, in the rule of St. Benedict (especially for me in Chapter 4), in Eucharist, and again in Eucharistic Adoration, in Lectio Divina meditation, and hopefully, contemplation. My Lectio Divina prayer always comes back to my one phrase, “have in your the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5). The uniqueness of each individual Lay Cistercian (woman or man, retired or still working, those with families who support them or those that may be totally unaware of what is going on) means that we approach the mind of Christ, each one of us having a different way we seek God in our daily living. Although the Gathering is a formal way we meet to share the experiences we have had in moving from self to God, it does provide us with a monthly forum to express these prompting of the Holy Spirit and share them with those who seek to use Cistercian spirituality as a way to look at reality. The Gathering is not a meeting so much as it is a mindset to be open to the Holy Spirit in each individual Lay Cistercian as a temple of that same Holy Spirit. Renewal and transformation from self to Christ come about, not because of any meeting or learning on our part, rather, like Lectio Divina, it is the openness to the presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit. Like Eucharistic Adoration, we go to The Gathering without any personal agenda except to be open to the manifest ability of whatever the Holy Spirit intends. Then, we take that overshadowing of the Spirit back to our daily living to sustain us until our next Gathering.
Christ told us in Matthew Chapter 13: “k Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.19*l Again, [amen,] I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.20*m For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
The power of the Gathering has nothing to do with us so much as it is the opportunity for us to recognize the Holy Spirit in each of us and allow that same Spirit to work through us.
Discerning of the Holy Spirit anywhere must be done with humility and in obedience to the will of the Father. It is not our power that is important but that we tag along with Jesus as he approaches the Father for us. Each of us is blessed to be chosen by Christ at Baptism with the adoption of sons and daughters of the Father.
Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology