St. Benedict teaches his monks that the monastery is a School of Charity or Love where we can learn how to love others as Christ loved us. It takes a lifetime to master the Art of Contemplative Practice.
In one of my Lectio Divina meditations, the Holy Spirit prompted me to think of this School of Love as part of how I view my time since I made profession as a Lay Cistercian of Our Lady of Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), Conyers, Georgia, but with a slight twist (The Holy Spirit is always giving me ideas but with his own sense of humor.). In this case, I am to meditate on being a Lay Cistercian as a School of Art, not only a School of Love. This is what I thought about.
A School of Art, as I thought about it, has Master teachers, ones to whom aspiring students gravitate because they want to be like them. Christ is my Master teacher of this School of Lay Cistercian Art. As an apprentice (novice) student, I just know I want to be more like Christ and less like my false self imprinted with decades of what the World says is meaningful. In this school, I must learn to take off the old habits of self-indulgence, pride, envy, power, unauthentic sexuality, hatred, jealousy, factions, judging others’ motives, or if they will go to heaven or not, basically the seven deadly sins. Read what Bishop Barron has to say about the seven deadly sins but also the seven helpful virtues. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vt4aMtCNwCI This moves from my false self (the World) to my true self as an adopted son (daughter) the Father. It takes work to do this, always dying to self to prefer nothing to the love of Christ (St. Benedict Chapter 4 of the Rule).
Every day, and I stress every day, I must convert myself from one born under the influence of Original Sin to one saved through the merits of Christ’s death on the cross. A school of any kind is a place where we focus our attention and seek to improve our skills to meet whatever goal we have. The School of Art is not an end in itself, but a means whereby each student meets the Master and leans those unique skills or practices that lead to becoming more like Christ the Master Artist and less like the past apprentice.
When I signed into this Lay Cistercian School of Art, Jesus gave me some tools to help me learn to see Him in everyday living. The problem with a virtual school is that it is invisible. The problem with invisibility is you can’t see anything. To make Himself real, Christ gave this student instructors, monks that teach us, fellow Lay Cistercians who are fountains of the Holy Spirit on Gathering Day and through linking our minds and hearts through prayer centered on Christ. I can see Jesus with my mind and heart by presenting myself to God in Cistercian practices and seeking the charisms of silence, solitude, work, prayer in the midst of a community of those gathered together in the name of Christ.
Jesus is the paint brush with which I must paint what I see in my mind and heart. What I see is not just scenery but how Christ infused all reality with life, the truth, as the way. From my Baptism, which took away my Original Sin, I must face the consequences or effects of that sin of Adam and Eve, but now I have a canvas on which to paint what I see about the Kingdom of Heaven around me each day. When I get up, I don’t worry about filling up the hole of time to be productive. I am a painter, and whatever comes my way, I paint, much like what St. Benedict said: “That in all things, God be gloried.”
I wrote a poem of what being a painter with the brush of Christ means to me.
The Poem of My Life
I sing the song of life and love…
…sometimes flat and out of tune
…sometimes eloquent and full of passion
…sometimes forgetting notes and melody
…sometimes quaint and intimate
…often forgetful and negligent
…often in tune with the very core of my being
…often with the breath of those who would pull me down,
shouting right in my face
…often with the breath of life uplifting me to heights never
…greatly grateful for the gift of humility and obedience to The One
…greatly thankful for adoption, the discovery of new life of pure energy
…greatly appreciative for sharing meaning with others of The Master
…greatly sensitive for not judging the motives of anyone but me
…happy to be accepted as an aspiring Lay Cistercian …happy to spend time in Eucharistic Adoration
…happy and humbled to be an adopted son of the Father
…happy for communities of faith and love with wife,
…mindful that the passage of time increases each year …mindful of the major distractions of cancer and cardiac arrest
…mindful of my center and the perspective that I am loved
moreover, I must love back with all the energy of my
heart and strength, yet always falling a little short
…mindful of the energy I receive from The One in Whom I
find purpose and meaning in the Mystery of Faith…Forever.
To The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, be glory, honor, power, and blessings through The Redeemer Son, in unity with the Advocate, the Spirit of Love.
From The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, I seek hope that His words about the purpose of life are true, that He is the Way that leads to life…Forever.
With The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, I seek the fierce love so I can have in me the mind of Christ Jesus, my purpose in life, and my center…Forever. “That in all things, may God be glorified.” –St. Benedict
God gives each human a canvas of life when they are born. In Baptism, Christ gives us not only Himself as a brush (transubstantiation) but is our teacher on how to paint what we see (transformation). Christ uses, in my case, the Cistercian practices and charism to help me practice my craft. Christ won’t paint my canvas for me, but he showed me the canvas of his being, with the sign of contradiction placed on my soul at Baptism. The paint I must use is good works (Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict) that come from Christ. Jesus is real for those who use Faith alone as the pure energy come down from the Father through Christ and is present now in the Holy Spirit.
I don’t worry if my painting is perfect. I am certainly not perfect. I paint what I see. I try to see Jesus each day in all the various ways life embraces me. Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, all I can say is: “Be it done to me according to your word.” When I paint something on the canvas, I don’t just look at it and forget it, like a nice sunrise or how the wind blows on my body during a hot, Florida July day. Everything I take the time to paint on my canvas of life with the brush of Christ I can take with me to heaven. After all, it is my picture.