Everyone has a center of their life. It is that one principle, that one value upon which all others find their support. Granted that your center as a twenty-year-old may not be the one you have when you are sixty, but you will have a center, even if you don’t know what it is. My thinking about centers has nothing to do with centering prayer, in my opinion. It means that the center of each person’s life is a free choice made by human reasoning and experience. Only you can choose a center that is, for you, the one principle upon which all others are based.
When you look at the art of contemplative practice, or how you must learn to use the tools given to us by Christ to be able to love one another. St. Benedict prescribed the tools for good works in Chapter 4 of his Rule, as well as chapters on humility and obedience, both essential to being able to die to self and rise to a new life in Christ.
A center, in just the physical and mental universes is using your reason to be able to choose what one value all others rest, the keystone of your life, that which, if you took it away, nothing would remain, the capstone of a building, the North on your compass. If I do not believe in God, my center is limited to the world around me. Personally, being on the North side of 80 years old, I am grateful to get up each morning and creek around the house until I get acclamated. I like to write books no one reads and to have a blog that allows my neurons to synapt and keep the cobwebs away. This alone won’t be enough to satisfy my real longing.
When you use your Faith to jump from the physical and mental universes to the spiritual one, one where everything is turned upside down in values and what is important, your center becomes what sustains you in this life for the life to come. If you wish to read one of those books no one reads but me, I recommend the following ones on centers. https://amzn.to/2Om5w2M https://amzn.to/3rLmO7S
The spiritual universe’s center is the default over the physical and mental universes because what you place there lasts forever, with one caveat. While you are on earth, the Devil will constantly tempt you to choose another center, so you must work daily to keep yourself focused on seeking God. Being a Lay Cistercian is one way, in fact, the only way for me to keep my center from resolving out of control. In my book, The Three Rules of the Spiritual Universe, I write about just three rules that govern the spiritual universe. They are:
1. The Rule of Threes — When asking the question, “What does reality look like?” I use three universes to separate what I have come to parce out as three dimensions or universes in which I live. The physical universe, the mental universe, and the spiritual universe. One reality, yet only three separate and distinct realms of existence, each with its own measurements, requirements, purpose, and center.
2. The Rule of Revolving Centers– In the spiritual universe, while you are a member of the Church Militant, you must battle against the forces that try to tear your center from its rightful place. This is not only the deterioration effects of Original Sin that cause all things to have a beginning and an end, but also the natural corruption that occurs when we leave our center unattended. Like an ice cube, if you don’t keep it frozen in the freezer of contemplative practice, it will melt. Guaranteed. This is called losing one’s faith. We must not only choose the correct center for our individual life, but you must also guard it daily from the corrupting influences of the World and the seduction of the Devil that God is just a fantasy and Heaven is la-la land. Contemplative practices and charisma are to be used daily to combat the influences of decay and moral relativism that has permeated our collective thinking.
3. The Rule of Opposites — This rule means that, with the coming of Christ, the splitting of the veil in the temple, the power of the Resurrection, the expectations of the World are the opposite of what God sets forth as being reality. Think about it! The measurements for proving this spiritual universe turned upside down, like a polar shift in the magnetic field. Up is down and down is up. When measured with the yardstick of science, logic, psychology, and any other measurement or proof of reality that the world has, none of it makes any sense. It is only when we are given the key to the kingdom of heaven at Baptism that we have a chance throughout our lifetime to find out where the lock is and how to use it to fulfill our destiny as humans. Our Nicene Creed proclaims over and over (we forget it so easily) that there is a visible and invisible reality. One thing you won’t find the Devil doing, according to Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen in his book, The Life of Christ, is suffering and dying for the sins of all humans, unconditionally. The cross is the one sign Satan cannot bear to look at because it means God so loved the world that he gave us his only-begotten son to redeem us. This redemption is the sign of contradiction, the cross, burned indelibly on each soul that is Baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is our invisible tattoo. The world laughs and scoffs at anything to do with self-denial, taking up one’s cross to follow Christ, believing in a person we cannot see, humility, obedience to another person taking the place of Christ, and following the rule that we love one another as Christ loves us. The Rule of Opposites proclaims that the nothingness of God created all that has a beginning and an end. With the Rule of Opposites, humans can see through a glass darkly at what awaits us in the life to come.
WHAT DOES GOD SAY HIS CENTER IS? Everyone has a center, even God (apologies to God for presuming so much). God not only told us what his center is, but he also showed us.
Read the encounter of Moses and God in Genesis 3. I recommend you read it three time. First, read it through normally; in your second reading, read it very slowly pondering on the meaning; for the third time, read it as though you were Moses and identify what it means.
The Call and Commission of Moses.7 But the LORD said: I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry against their taskmasters, so I know well what they are suffering. 8 Therefore I have come down* to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them up from that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey, the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.d 9 Now indeed the outcry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen how the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 Now, go! I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt. 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I* that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 God answered: I will be with you, and this will be your sign* that I have sent you. When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will serve God at this mountain. 13 “But,” said Moses to God, “if I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what do I tell them?” 14 God replied to Moses: I am who I am.* Then he added: This is what you will tell the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you. 15 God spoke further to Moses: This is what you will say to the Israelites: The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.https://bible.usccb.org/bible/exodus/3
[3:14] I am who I am: Moses asks in v. 13 for the name of the One speaking to him, but God responds with a wordplay which preserves the utterly mysterious character of the divine being even as it appears to suggest something of the inner meaning of God’s name: ‘ehyeh “I am” or “I will be(come)” for “Yhwh,” the personal name of the God of Israel. While the phrase “I am who I am” resists unraveling, it nevertheless suggests an etymological linking between the name “Yhwh” and an earlier form of the Hebrew verbal root h-y-h “to be.” On that basis many have interpreted the name “Yhwh” as a third-person form of the verb meaning “He causes to be, creates,” itself perhaps a shortened form of a longer liturgical name such as “(God who) creates (the heavenly armies).” Note in this connection the invocation of Israel’s God as “LORD (Yhwh) of Hosts” (e.g., 1 Sm 17:45). In any case, out of reverence for God’s proper name, the term Adonai, “my Lord,” was later used as a substitute. The word LORD (in small capital letters) indicates that the Hebrew text has the sacred name (Yhwh), the tetragrammaton. The word “Jehovah” arose from a false reading of this name as it is written in the current Hebrew text. The Septuagint has egō eimi ho ōn, “I am the One who is” (ōn being the participle of the verb “to be”). This can be taken as an assertion of God’s aseity or self-existence, and has been understood as such by the Church, since the time of the Fathers, as a true expression of God’s being, even though it is not precisely the meaning of the Hebrew.
God is telling Moses (all humans) that He is, or I am my own center. This is all the more significant because Adam and Eve also said they were their own centers, not God, and… you know the rest of the story, as the late Paul Harvey would say. Listen to Mr. Harvey’s inspirational “Letter from God” and think of you and God having a conversation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4ueqSbriu8
WHAT IS THE CENTER OF ALL EXISTENCE?
God Himself provided us with the answers to this, coincidentally the same in both Old and New Testaments.
Deuteronomy 6:5 http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/__P4L.HTM
Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe them, that you may grow and prosper the more, in keeping with the promise of the LORD, the God of your fathers, to give you a land flowing with milk and honey. \
4 1 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!
5 Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.
6 Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.
7 Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest.
8 2 Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead.
9 Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.
Read what Jesus said was at the center of all reality as found in Matthew 22.
34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together,
35 and one of them [a scholar of the law] 20 tested him by asking,
36 “Teacher, 21 which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
37 He said to him, 22 “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
38 This is the greatest and the first commandment.
39 The second is like it: 23 You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
40 24 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/__PVV.HTM
WHAT IS YOUR CENTER?
You are the center of the physical and mental universes for whatever time you spend on earth. You are not the center of all reality, only God is that. You are given reason and the ability to choose to be able to select your center voluntarily and freely, even if it is a bad center. There are consequences to all of our choices, which is why Jesus became human, one of us, to show us the footprints we should follow lest we step on a land mine. If you listened to Mr. Harvey’s YouTube in the segment above, it would speak to this center.
MY PERSONAL CENTER?
My center is based on what God has determined as the center of all reality, not what I think. I have selected a center that informs all my behaviors as a Lay Cistercian. I affirm that center as I pray the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in the heavens.” I have selected as my center, the phrase from Philippians 2:5, “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” Each day, I begin anew the quest to seek God where I am and as I am.
Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who as, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology