One of those lessons I have had to learn over and over is struggling against my human nature (the world) when I attempt to attain mastery over my struggles to be an adopted son of the Father. I wish is was not a struggle but it is, never ending, always present, and with only the promise that “my grace is sufficient” for all the failures and false promises I make to Christ.
I bring this up because this is the latest Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) at 4:45 a.m. today. I asked why I, Lord, can never reach my goal of loving others as Christ loves us? Why do I have to begin each day anew, taking up my cross for this day, trying to wait for the Lord to come to me? Why do I practice the practice of Lay Cistercian spirituality each day, day in and day out, when attaining something new? My answer, as it always does, comes from the same Spirit that overshadowed me with the question. My only part in this is to keep my mouth shut and write down as much as I can remember. I am not very good at that but learning more each day.
ORIGINAL SIN AND THE PROCESS OF BECOMING HUMAN
Here are four effects of Original Sin not taken away in Baptism.
I. WANTING INSTANT GRATIFICATION
I think of the movie, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Gene Wilder) and the scene with Barucka Salt. Wanting something and wanting it now is a condition of original sin and one at odds with silence and solitude (with stillness). Watch the scene on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pqsy7V0wphI
My temptation in Lectio Divina or any Cistercian practices is to get up, get on, get over, and get out. “Let’s get through this because it is taking too much time (for what, I have no idea).” This is the struggle to slow down, like the song says: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=So0ZrTwf8vI Rather than just being a waste of time, wanting silence and solitude is all about being present to Christ and listening with “the ear of the heart.”
Slow down your prayers. Listen to the monks as they chant the Liturgy of the Hours. They slow WAY down for a reason. The purpose of prayer, and prayer, is not to complete the prayer and make God happy, but rather to slow down, reach resonance in the dissonance of Original Sin around you, and sit down with Christ as a brother, friend, savior, Son of God, and messiah.
Slow down your life. Life has its own pace. You can’t live faster than time allows because we exist in the context of Original Sin. We only live in a succession of NOW’s, where we use our reason and choices to move to another NOW moment. This happens so quickly that we don’t freeze-frame the moment. Our choices have consequences. Original Sin means I exist in the condition of the corruption of matter and mind, two universes that are not evil in themselves but corrupt in the sense that everything dies, moves from what it was to what it will be. Everything is our life experience, every single thing, has a beginning and an end. Perhaps this is what we must begin each day as though it were the only one we ever live.
Focus on what is important. If winning the Lottery is the purpose of your life, your train has already left the station. Original Sin, because we live with the effects, seeks to imprint its default values of the World on us. The choice is clouded by Original Sin, that inexorable pull to seek our own self satisfaction. Taking up the cross daily and denying self to allow Christ to grow in capacity in our hearts, is useless and meaningless.
Baptism takes away the sin of the world. This is the sin of Adam and Even and the sin for which Christ died on the cross, rose from the dead, ascended to the Father in reparation. Everyone is born with this Original Sin in their lives. Only Baptism takes away the sin of the world, but there is a catch. We have to live out whatever time we have left with the effects of Original Sin (pain, suffering, being a victim of the sins of others, having to struggle with keeping Faith alive in our hearts with Christ’s help). Those who are Baptized are now adopted sons and daughters of the Father. There is sin after Original Sin for the faithful, but Christ forgivess our sin and lack of faith through the Church and in our hearts and makes all things new, over and over and over, until we die. Death changes us into sons and daughters of the Father. Our purpose is to lead a life of Christ as the way, the truth, and the life, to love others as Christ loved us. Our reward is determined by Christ in our particular judgement when we die. We are judged according to our works, says St. Paul.
God’s Just Judgment.1* Therefore, you are without excuse,a every one of you who passes judgment.* For by the standard by which you judge another you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the very same things.2We know that the judgment of God on those who do such things is true.3Do you suppose, then, you who judge those who engage in such things and yet do them yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?b4Or do you hold his priceless kindness, forbearance, and patience in low esteem, unaware that the kindness of God would lead you to repentance?c5By your stubbornness and impenitent heart,d you are storing up wrath for yourself for the day of wrath and revelation of the just judgment of God,6e who will repay everyone according to his works:*7eternal life to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in good works,8but wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness.f9Yes, affliction and distress will come upon every human being who does evil, Jew first and then Greek.10g But there will be glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good, Jew first and then Greek.11*h There is no partiality with God.https://bible.usccb.org/bible/romans/2
II. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE SEXUAL AS A HUMAN BEING?
This effect of Original Sin is the strongest urge we have, that invisible tingle in our stomach every time we encounter another person, the automatic response when we see someone beautiful in body, mind, or even spirit. We want to possess that quality and as such them. This is coveting and a core warning of the Ten Commands. To covet is an urge we have from moving from animality to humanity. That urge does not change when we are Baptized, but we are given the tool to focus on the true meaning of love. Parameters are set: fornication, adultery, incest, Beastiality, trafficking in human slaves, and pedophilia, are urges which we are all capable of but must struggle to keep focused. Baptism does not take away these urges, which the Devil uses to seduce us into think are okay as long as no one is hurt. Baptism gives us the power to resist these urges and reorient them to a higher purpose. It is with Christ’s help that we can go against our natural inclinations to move to a higher level. We, humans, are not animals, nor are we just humans. Because of the redemption of Christ we live on a yet higher level, the kingdom of heaven on earth where we await our destiny in heaven. Cistercian spirituality, with its emphasis on seeking God daily, is a good way that I use to try to combat the illicit urges of my human nature to be worthy of being an adopted son of the Father. Some days are better than others.
If you view, as I do, reality having three separate universes, humans belong to that first one, the physical one as well as the second one, the mental universe. Humans share the physical universe with all other matter, energy, living things. We evolved from this physical universe to the next one, the mental one. We did this because all reality contains God’s DNA at creation, moving from singularity to complexity.
The only rules in the physical universe are natural ones, those that exist without the intervention of humans. The rules in the mental universe are more complex. Humans have reason for a reason as well as the ability to make independent choices for good or bad. We still experience the pull from our animality, particularly with procreation and sexual urges, but our mental universe tempers them with reason. Humans enact laws that suit their pleasure or political persuasion. Some are good, while others are bad for humans.
Then, there is the third universe, one that is voluntary, one where God accepts us as acting as adopted sons and daughters. This universe is one where Jesus became one of us to show us which way to go that is correct, what the truth is, and how to live a life that will enable us to fulfill our destiny as being sons and daughters of the Father. Some people see this, others do not. Baptism, in this context, takes away the sin of the world (Original Sin) but the effects still remain. I have accepted Lay Cistercian spirituality as a way to live out whatever time I have left. Other authentic ways exist (Dominican, Franciscan, Jesuit, Augustian, Basilian, etc…). Lay Cistercian spirituality is not for everyone. I have to keep my energy high to overcome the effects of Original Sin that mitigate against my seeking God each day.
I can not be a sexual human being (don’t trip on the double negative). The question becomes,
“What does it means to be fully human, including sexuality, in all three universes?” What is authentic sexuality as God intended it? Doesn’t God limit me in being created in His image and likeness? All these rules about what is authentic love and what is false love seem overwhelming and contradictory. It all goes back to my choice to be an adopted son of the Father, as experienced by Baptism. Original Sin means that, after my Baptism to remove the Original Sin, I fail often in my attempts to measure myself against the love that Christ had for us. (Philippians 2:5). Read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict for a great examination of what Lay Cistercian spirituality should be. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/ The Sacrament of Penance renews that Baptismal commitment I made to keep Christ as my Principle, my Center. When I stray, and that happens a lot, the Sacrament of Forgiveness and Reconciliation re-focuses me on Christ. Christ set up these seven ways to make all things new so that He Himself could provide the grace I need to persevere on my journey. The Church is a gathering of gathered believers in heaven, on earth, and in purification that is inseparable from my individual seventy or eighty years on this earth.
III. THE STRUGGLE TO FOCUS ON MORE THAN TEN SECONDS
Contemplative Lectio Divina is all about moving within to be in the presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit. The techniques of silence and solitude shape the external reality around you so that you might more fully focus on the interior (listen with the ear of the heart). Because we all live in a condition of Original Sin, we humans find it difficult to focus on anything for more than a few seconds. Those who have these gifts innately are fortunate, usually the scientists and deep thinkers. For the rest of us, we must endure The Art of Contemplative Practice by working to develop this skill. This takes time and requires a constant focus on your center (Philippians 2:5) to ease into a longer and longer meditation. The feeling deep within you to pack up your bag and get out of the chapel during Lectio Divina is part of the transformation that must take place to move from false self to your true self (capacitas dei).
IV. THE STRUGGLE TO SEEK YOUR COMFORT LEVEL
Nothing about being a true follower of Christ is comfortable. Do you think taking up your cross daily and following Christ comes without passion? Two kinds of passion: Christ underwent a Passion as part of the Death and Resurrection Atonement for our sin. Christ also had a passion, a single-minded focus on his mission from the Father. St. Paul says Christ became sin for us to save us from being held hostage to the effects of Original Sin. Those effects of Original Sin are still with us and don’t go away just because you say “Jesus is Lord.” The struggle to be spiritual is one that entails constantly living in a condition where the World wants us to stop believing in the way, the truth, and the life, and instead replace it with what is comfortable. It is the fight to keep your spiritual head above water by doing what is right versus what is easy. The cross is no dead symbol that athletes and movie stars hang around their necks with gold chains to convince themselves they are righteous, but a sign tattooed on your soul, a reminder that you must love others as Christ loved us. If your Christ is one that does not suffer for the sins of all humanity, then you may have a Christ made in your own image and likeness, comfortable but hardly a redeemer.
FIVE DAILY HABITS OF HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL LAY CISTERCIANS (my opinion only)
Dependence on God.*25n “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?26Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?o27Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life span?*28Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wildflowers grow. They do not work or spin.29But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.30* If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?31So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’32All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.33 But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness,* and all these things will be given you besides. 34 Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.
2. EAT THE BREAD OF HEAVEN (John 6)
The Bread of Life Discourse.22* The next day, the crowd that remained across the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not gone along with his disciples in the boat, but only his disciples had left.23* Other boats came from Tiberias near the place where they had eaten the bread when the Lord gave thanks.24When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.25And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”26Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.27Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life,* which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”l28So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”29Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”30So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do?m31* Our ancestors ate the manna in the desert, as it is written:n
‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”32So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.o33For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”34p So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”35* Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.q36But I told you that although you have seen [me], you do not believe.r37Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me,38because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.s39And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it [on] the last day.t40For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day.”u41The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,”42and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven?”v43Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring* among yourselves.w44No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him on the last day.45It is written in the prophets:
‘They shall all be taught by God.’
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.x46Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.y47Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.48I am the bread of life.49Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;z50this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.51I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”a52The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”53Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.54Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.55For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.57Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.b58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”59These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
3. LEARN FROM ME FOR I AM MEEK AND HUMBLE OF HEART
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.30For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
Plea for Unity and Humility.*1If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy,2complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.a3Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,b4each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others.c5Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,*
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.*
7Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;*
and found human in appearance,e
8he humbled himself,f
becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.*
9Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name*
that is above every name,g
10that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,*
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,h
11and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,*
to the glory of God the Father.i
Obedience and Service in the World.*12j So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.*13For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work.k14Do everything without grumbling or questioning,l15that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,* among whom you shine like lights in the world,m16as you hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.n17But, even if I am poured out as a libation* upon the sacrificial service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with all of you.o18In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me.
4. WITH CHRIST, MAKE ALL THINGS NEW (Revelations 21)
The New Heaven and the New Earth.1a Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.*2I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem,* coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.b3I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.c He will dwell with them and they will be his people* and God himself will always be with them [as their God].*4He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.”d5The one who sat on the throne* said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then he said, “Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.”e6He said to me, “They are accomplished.* I [am] the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty, I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water.f7The victor* will inherit these gifts, and I shall be his God, and he will be my son.g8But as for cowards,* the unfaithful, the depraved, murderers, the unchaste, sorcerers, idol-worshipers, and deceivers of every sort, their lot is in the burning pool of fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”h
5. THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT (Matthew 22)
The Greatest Commandment.*34i When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together,35and one of them [a scholar of the law]* tested him by asking,36“Teacher,* which commandment in the law is the greatest?”37j He said to him,* “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.38This is the greatest and the first commandment.39k The second is like it:* You shall love your neighbor as yourself.40*l The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”