As I begin to peel off the layers of my own sloth, greed, gluttony, lust, jealousy, vengeance, and hatred, to name a few vices, only to have them return at the beginning of the next day, I am reminded that everything in the world has a beginning and an end.
In my practice of trying to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5), there is a routineness to keep trying each day, only to begin a new day all over. Each day becomes a lifetime in and of itself. It is a chance for me to pray the day without ceasing. This concept of the consecration of the day to the glory and honor of the Father through, with, and in Christ, with the energy of the Holy Spirit, enables me to pray without ceasing. I also sanctify the moment each day in my Cistercian practices of Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Rosary, Reading Sacred Scripture, Reading the writings of holy men and women, following the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by Cistercian constitutions and adaptations, and being a member of the Gathering of Lay Cistercians from Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) in Conyers, Georgia. Sounds like I don’t have anything else to do but pray, but that would not be the case. These practices are just spikes in my day where I look forward to spending time being in the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit. I anticipate it much like a woman or man anticipates their spouse being in their presence to have and hold from this day forward, in sickness ad in health, until death do them part. There is a process to love, one that builds on the days of our lives, an unbroken chain of all those attempts to seek love in multitudes of ways.
Each day is linked together with those which have gone before. Christ makes each day new, because He is always new, always the source of inspiration energy, always one who loves unconditionally. We humans can only hope to tag along with Christ and learn, for He is meek and humble of heart. Matthew 11 shares with us:
The Praise of the Father. 25n At that time Jesus said in reply,* “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. 26 Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.o
The Gentle Mastery of Christ. 28* “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,* and I will give you rest. 29*p Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
Like everything that deals with the spiritual universe, there is an unimaginable depth to this process. I would even argue it has an infinite depth of meaning and love. Life is just a process of discovering and uncovering meaning that God says will allow me to claim my inheritance as a son of the Father. Contemplative practice is one way that I use to penetrate the veil of my false self to move beyond my own limited boundaries of what is contained in the Mystery of Faith, to begin to see things as revealed by God. Within that framework of resting in the presence of God, here are some reflections on the ongoing process of awareness that takes place when I approach the Sacred in reading Scripture and other Cistercian practices.
THE PURPOSE OF SCRIPTURE
How I read Scriptures today is not how I read it in 1962, when I studied it formally in Theology class at St. Meinrad School of Theology. There, I remember trying to see the context in which the Scriptures were written. It was an academic exercise of the mind. Now, I am not as concerned about proving which canon of Scriptures is correct or what the words actually mean in Greek or Hebrew, or Latin. Those days are long gone. In my Scripture readings and recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, most especially, I look at the words, hear the words, try to listen to what the words say to me. In doing so, I am discovering the process of awareness that says, become what you read. But, what can that possibly mean? If all the Scriptures are, are prayers as food for the mind, then I have not penetrated the veil of the Sacred Mystery of Faith. The mind (meditation) leads to the ultimate purpose of prayer (contemplation). Contemplation is relationship, sharing, love, silence, solitude, being still to receive whatever Christ wants to share.
Let me share a Scripture that I use to grow deeper in meaning. It is Psalm 27. I want you to read it three times, each time very slowly, but each time doing the following:
First Reading: The Psalm as the Word of God. God is speaking to you through the words and experiences of the Psalmist. What is the Holy Spirit saying to you? Read it out loud and very slowly.
Second Reading: The Psalm as Experience of the Word of God. What does each sentence feel like? Does the Psalm transport to actually hearing the Psalmist read it for the first time and to experience what is written. In verse 2, the picture and feel are of people who evil coming close to you to eat your flesh. Do you see that in your life? Do you feel what the Psalmist is trying to say?
Third Reading: The Psalm without words. Just look at each verse. Try to banish any external thoughts you have other than what Christ wants you to hear. Take your time with this third reading. Share your Lord’s joy.
Pray for the humility to become what you have read and the obedience to do what God through Christ has shared with you.
1The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
whom should I dread?
2When those who do evil draw near
to devour my flesh,
it is they, my enemies and foes,
who stumble and fall.
3Though an army encamp against me,
my heart would not fear.
Though war break out against me,
even then would I trust.
4There is one thing I ask of the LORD,
only this do I seek:
to live in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the LORD,
to inquire at his temple.
5For there he keeps me safe in his shelter
in the day of evil.
He hides me under cover of his tent;
he sets me high upon a rock.
6And now my head shall be raised
above my foes who surround me,
and I shall offer within his tent
a sacrifice of joy.
I will sing and make music for the LORD.
7O LORD, hear my voice when I call;
have mercy and answer me.
8Of you my heart has spoken,
“Seek his face.”
It is your face, O LORD, that I seek;
9hide not your face from me.
Dismiss not your servant in anger;
you have been my help.
Do not abandon or forsake me,
O God, my Savior!
10Though father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.
11Instruct me, LORD, in your way;
on an even path lead me
because of my enemies.
12Do not leave me to the will of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
and they breathe out violence.
13I believe I shall see the LORD’s goodness
in the land of the living.
14Wait for the LORD; be strong;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD!
I try and keep trying over and over to seek the face of God each day. My life is a daily prayer offered to God in reparation for my sins and for the grace to remain worthy to be an adopted son 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