When thinking about my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) subject, the concept of starting over came up. Usually, I just slough it off as if it were an unrelated piece of the puzzle and I didn’t know where it fit. This time, I thought of my own life and how there are patterns in my observations about reality that somehow make sense as I get older.
My life is all about starting over from zero. That is not completely true because, even if I begin each day as a new one, I am not the same person as I was at the end of that time. What changes are the intangibles, the way I interact with people and situations that come my way, the center of my being (Philippians 2:5) against which I measure if I am doing God’s will or my own, the Cistercian Way, which is a way for me to sustain my struggle against mediocrity and the temptation to seek my own will and not God’s. My life is a series of segmented growth rings, like those in a tree. In my case, I notice that the move to entirely new situations with new beginnings, new relationships, new skills, and new awareness. Let me elaborate.
BIRTH: The First Beginning
You can have a new start until you have had your first start. For me, that was on September 24, 1940, when my parents gave me life and I was born into the world. It is interesting to me to look back at that event from the perspective that my mom and dad received life from two others, just as I did. If you take that back far enough, you end up with the first life on earth, and before that is nothingness. However, this is not the physical universe, which has a beginning and an end, but the nothingness of the divine being, which, along with somethingness (Alpha and Omega) makes up all that is. My birth was just the reconfirmation of the birth of the universe going from that which has no beginning and end to that which has a beginning and an end. What may sound too philosophical (my wife calls it living in la-la land), is actually the mega-paradigm in which all life must find itself existing. As a human being, I have two things that separate me from all other living things. I know that I know and I can choose what I can choose. My human nature has reason to allow me to peer into the future and to see my destiny as going beyond just my death. The Christ Principle allows me to now only know how to do that but gives me the strength to choose what is correct to fulfill my human destiny, designed to live in a place foreign to my normal perspective of time and matter.
I have seventy or eighty years to discover the answers to the six questions or foundations of human existence, which, coincidently, is also the same questions I need to reach Heaven.
What differs is the World (secular society with no god except itself) provides answers to those who only live in two universes (the physical and the mental ones) whereas the Christ Principle has the answers to the divine equation of all reality, the physical universe, the mental universe, fulfilled by the spiritual universe. To discover both the authentic questions and answers, each of us must choose to answer them. In my experience, there are only two possible ways to answer these six questions.
A. Reality has only two universes. The first way is to use what the world says is important through reason, logic, mathematics, science, and the assumptions that come from believing in only the physical and mental universes. These are the languages of the world. We use language to communicate.
Lest you think me too radical, I do not propose that this first way is wrong, so much as it just doesn’t answer the six questions that allow me to solve the divine equation. I wrote a blog some time ago with the title The Place Where Steven Hawking Could Not Look. My purpose was not to discount in any way science or physics but to put forth the proposition that reality in its totality consists of more than that which we can observe with the languages of science and psychology. This assumption leads me to the second way I use to ask and answer the six questions of life.
B. The Unity of All Reality with three universes. My assumption is that Christ became human (Philippians 2:5) to tell us (knowledge) the way, to show us the truth (love), and to first practice what it means to be an adopted son or daughter of the Father (service). This third universe is one of free choice, we must want to join it. Then we must use the gift Christ has given us to sustain us in those seventy or eighty years we have to discover the solution to the divine equation. Some people see that, while others have no idea, and still, others don’t care at all. There is a catch to the third universe. It is the opposite of both physical and mental universes of the secular world. With the physical and mental universes, the laws of nature and human intervention determines reality moving from simplicity to complexity. Since the spiritual universe is God’s playground, He sets the rules and principles, one of which is the Christ Principle, that from which and through which and in which all reality has its fulfillment. In this scenario, everything moves from complexity to simplicity. God is Love. God just is. Read Ephesians 4.
Unity in the Body.1* I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,a2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love,b3striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:c4* one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call;d5one Lord, one faith, one baptism;e6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.f
KNOWING: I began learning and reacting to my environment immediately. The template for knowing is to go to school beginning in Kindergarten and moving up as life dictates. I had to begin my formal education at some point. Learning what it means to be a human also began with my awareness of the dignity of the human person, as taught to me by the Catholic Church. Going through Grade School and High School and into College, I learned about the various languages that would or could help me with my career (mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry, English, German, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, literature, philosophy, music, poetry, cosmology, metaphysics, Scripture, Theology, Sacrament Theology, History, Morality, Pastoral Education, to name a few). Every time I began high school, college, theology, summer school, or doctoral courses at Indiana University, I had to begin from zero once again.
CAREER: Over the course of my lifetime, there have been many work changes. From full-time ministry to US Army Chaplain, from management trainer to multiple jobs after retirement. Each time, I started from zero: Zero seniority, starting salary, zero knowledge of the politics of the office (who works and who just talks).
RETIREMENT: Retirement is starting over in a big way. No friends from work call, no deadlines to complete, no office intrigue, and the feeling that all you have left in life is drinking ice tea and watching the Weather Channel for excitement.
DEATH: Death is a new change for humans. You most definitely begin again, if you believe in an afterlife. If you don’t, you just die (and then face whatever fate awaits you).
THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE AND STARTING OVER
Earlier, I spoke of those who believe that the words of Christ are true and that are three universes, one beginning with Baptism and ending in Heaven…forever. I offer you some of my reflections on the impact that Christ has made in my Lay Cistercian approach to having in me the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)
The Christ Principle is pure energy, pure thought (The Word), pure love, and pure service. There is but one God, and, incredible as it may seem, God wants all humans to share in the joys of Heaven, as their human capabilities and capacities allow. Cistercian contemplative practices and charisms focus on growing that capacitas dei (capacity to know, love, and serve God on this earth so that we continue to share with each other that joy in heaven).
As you can tell from this brief reflection, to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) means we seek first the kingdom of heaven and all else falls into place. This is my personal quest, a journey to forever that is not without its roadblocks and false starts, but one shared by my advocate friends, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
Each day is an opportunity for me to make all things new again. Each new Cistercian practice is a tool to allow me to enter into the presence of Christ and be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. I look forward to starting over with Christ because it is always a new way to be with the one I love. The thing about starting over with Christ is you never begin from zero. I am the sum of my experiences and opportunities to love others ad Christ loves me. And you know what? I take all that with me to Heaven, not what I gave to God but however, he has blessed me.
Praise to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who will be at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology