As the saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.” Contemplation is all about the resignation of self to let the Holy Spirit overshadow you. In reality, the term, “waking the Spirit” is a misnomer, an attempt by human words to say something about the Holy Spirit, that which has no beginning and no end. Human language, in my case, English, has some words that I recognize because of their meaning. No human language can define the Holy Spirit, but what it can do is describe what we are seeing, thinking, and feeling as someone with human nature can comprehend. What Jesus did, and only because he was both divine and human natures, was to show us how to live in such a way that we fulfill our destiny as a human being. The Holy Spirit overshadowed us in Baptism as it did Mary in Luke 1-2, and the Apostles in the Upper Room. It is the very same Spirit that allows us to call God Father because we are adopted, sons and daughters.
Here are a few of my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) reflections as I think about how much God loved us to send Himself as Son, even to death on the cross to allow us to realize our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father. The Holy Spirit is what Jesus left us (Himself), to be with us as we journey in the secular world with all its minefields of false values and promises.
Each day, I wake up and remind myself that this World is not my final destination and I only live in it because I have no other way of sustaining my spiritual universe until I Passover from death to life again. Two things have happened to me that has enabled me to live this life that seems to be spiritually schizophrenic. The first is that I am loved by someone I have never seen before (God) and can’t possibly know with my human reason as I would know you if you were standing before me. The second has to do with choice, the acceptance that I am loved by the God who is, who was, and who will be, at the end of the ages. Here is the real reason I get up each morning and look forward to each day with the joy of a newlywed who realizes they have found “the one” that makes them fulfilled as a person. I realize that life is not about me at all, although paradoxically, I am the only one who can make it happen in my particular space and time. I have accumulated much learning in my life, and hopefully some wisdom along my 80-year-old journey. Like St. Thomas Aquinas (https://www.azquotes.com/author/490-Thomas_Aquinas), I have looked into the mind and heart of God through contemplation and moving from self to God, and what I found is that I can only begin to know God, not as God is, but as much as I am. It is through Christ, both God and Human that I can begin to describe, not define, that person who loves me so much that He made me an adopted son, heir to the Kingdom of Heaven that begins with my Baptism and confirmation of that Faith by loving others as Christ loved us. That is the pure energy that comes only from the God of nothingness, whose nothingness is every-thing.
Each day, I wake up and remind myself that I am a pilgrim in a foreign land (the World in which I live). The World is not bad and is it incomplete. If my center of life is money, for example, I may or may not make any money, but that is like cotton candy, it tastes terrific but has no nutritional value and won’t sustain me for very long. All the words that the World uses to define who I am and what I am are shallow, although they may seem to be productive and normal. If I use the word, “Peace” for example, it has two meanings, as do all the words I use in the World. We get a clue from Scriptures when Christ says in John 14. I encourage you to read this passage very slowly, each time slower than what you did before. The first time you read it, read for meaning. The second time you read it, read as a gift from God to you alone. The third time you read it, pray that you can be what these lessons from Christ give us as ways to love one another as He loved us.
Last Supper Discourses. 1* “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith* in God; have faith also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3* And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.a4Where [I] am going you know the way.”*5 Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth* and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.b7 If you know me, then you will also know my Father.* From now on you do know him and have seen him.”c8 Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father,* and that will be enough for us.”d9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?e10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.f11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.g12 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.h13 And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.i14 If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.
The Advocate. 15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.j16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate* to be with you always,k17 the Spirit of truth,* which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.l18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.*19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me because I live and you will live.m20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.n21 Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”o22 Judas, not the Iscariot,* said to him, “Master, [then] what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?”p23 Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.q24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words, yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me. 25 “I have told you this while I am with you. 26 The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you.r27 Peace* I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.s28* You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’t If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe. u 30 I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over me,31 but the world must know that I love the Father and that I do just as the Father has commanded me. Get up, let us go. v” https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/14
I think about this idea quite often. The Kingdom of Heaven is God’s playground and if I want to play in His sandbox, I must use His rules, not my own. What are these rules? I live in the World that has its own rules for playing in the dirt (from which Adam came), and its words have their own meaning. In the passage above, Peace, says Jesus, is not what the World thinks, such as the absence of conflict or war, but He is Peace, the presence of Love itself. It is that peace I want to have in me to help me move from self to God. The peace that the World suggests is not as bad as much as it is insufficient to allow me to be in the presence of God and just be. What is normal in the Kingdom of Heaven makes no sense to the World. Read this passage from Paul about the paradox of the cross to get some idea of the meaning that the Kingdom of Heaven means something almost paradoxical to what the World thinks. If you are a pilgrim in a foreign land, would you want to get your directions from what the World says is true, good and tempting as it might be, and that of the opposite, the Kingdom of Heaven, which is the paradox of the cross, which would you choose. To choose Christ, you have to go against human nature and find meaning that doesn’t make sense using the pure energy of divine nature. Only Christ allows you and I to approach the Father, and then only as you can do with your “capacitas dei” the wiggle room you make in you for Christ to increase and you to decrease. You and I are defined by our choices, ones that we made when we accepted Christ as our Savior, Son of God, Messiah. Our reason helps us to see what cannot be seen, the Mystery of Faith. It all seems to go back to the archetypal choice of Adam and Eve to choose what is good for them, ironically by not choosing what God told them to avoid. That they chose something based on the World, and remember, what God made is not evil but good, had consequences. The Genesis writers using four traditions with separate Genesis stories of our beginning were oral traditions written down many years after people gathered around the campfires and told stories of why there is suffering, death, and how there is hope for the future in one to come who will redeem them. I am just beginning to put together the wisdom contained in these accounts of human nature, Original Sin, and redemption.
Each day, I wake up with my Morning Offering prayer for God, to have mercy of me a sinner, and to allow me the grace to be aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit in whatever comes my way. Recently, I was put to the test by another person who challenged my Faith because I did not go to Church every day and therefore I was not a good Catholic. I don’t know if I have ever been a “good Catholic” but I do know that I must have in my mind the mind of Christ Jesus each day. (Philippians 2:5) It is a struggle for me during this COVID-19 pandemic to stay focused, which is why I like writing down my thoughts, as they come. Whenever someone challenges my belief in Christ (e.g., the Nicene Creed) or my motivations to be a Lay Cistercian and follow the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by Cistercian constitutions and policies down through the centuries, I just think of it as my personal martyrdom, the martyrdom of everyday living, the wear and tear that comes to my spiritual universe by living in the World. It takes spiritual energy to fight against evil, even if the ones hating you, culminating and disrespecting you because you believe in Jesus, the Son of God, Savior, are sincere and do not know what they are saying. In Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict, which I try to recite each day, I pray that I might just a little more like Christ and less like the old, broken-down temple of the Holy Spirit that I see when I look in the mirror. The reason for any prayer is to lift up your heart and mind to be able to sit in the presence of Christ and wait for whatever happens. Whatever it is, it will be wonderful.
” Renounce yourself in order to follow Christ (Matt 16:24; Luke 9:23);
11 discipline your body (1 Cor 9:27);
12 do not pamper yourself,
13 but love fasting.
14 You must relieve the lot of the poor,
15 clothe the naked,
16 visit the sick (Matt 25:36),
17 and bury the dead.
18 Go to help the troubled
19 and console the sorrowing.
20 Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way;
21 the love of Christ must come before all else.”
In particular, when St. Benedict suggests that we prefer nothing to the love of Christ, it is an inspiration and motivation for me to seek Him in silence and the solitude of my heart. Even in human love, being present to the other is a sign of deep respect and love. It is the same with me sitting on a park bench in the dead of winter, waiting for me to recognize the Christ next to me. What joy there is in that love, now and in the life to come…Forever.
Paradox of the Cross. 18 The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.k19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the learning of the learned I will set aside.”l20 Where is the wise one? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish?m21* For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith.22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,n23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,o24 but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
The Corinthians and Paul.*26 Consider your own calling, brothers. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.27 Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong,p28 and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, 29 so that no human being might boast* before God.q30 It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,r31 so that, as it is written, “Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.”s
I try to wake the Spirit each day as I begin my day. My day begins at about 2:30 a.m. (I go for a bathroom break, so this is nothing out of the ordinary). I try to sit on the edge of my bed, when I get back from washing my hands and think about Philippians 2:5, saying it over and over and trying to focus on just that phrase. The Holy Spirit fills the void left by move moving slightly from self to God each day. Of late, I have begun to notice the effects of the Holy Spirit being with me, just as I notice the effects of my most recent heart medicine, Sotalol. Even though my mind continues to suffer the aging process for 80 years, I can begin to see things that I not noticed before, not with physical eyes but with the results that come from sitting on a park bench in the middle of winter next to Christ and just hanging out.
I am waiting for the heart of Christ only to discover that Christ is waiting for me to listen.