Several years ago, I tried to bake one batch of biscuits to fix biscuits and gravy for my anniversary. “Tried” is the operable word here because I found out baking is not a skill that I have yet acquired, much less mastered. If I stopped trying to bake biscuits, life would still go on, but without my ability to learn how to bake anything. That is what actually happened. This is a lot like my attempts at profound listening. Profound listening is indeed a skill, albeit a spiritual one connected to my contemplative practices. My journey as a Lay Cistercian is like that, too. I am in a perpetual state of trying to do God’s will but not quite reaching it. Again, again, and then again, the heart keeps me trying to learn this art of contemplative practice, how to listen with the “ear of my heart.” I am getting there, slowly but surely. I find that it is time I take to keep trying “…to love others as Christ loved me,” that is itself prayer.
Reflecting, as I am wont to do, on my process of Lectio Divina, I have teased out some conditions that I realize must be present for me to move from my false self to “…have in me the mind of Christ Jesus”. (Philippians 2:5) I must add here that I am not compulsive about following steps or conditions to move forward. I have found I don’t even consciously think of any of them unless there is a distress signal, and I hit a roadblock (usually me) in my quest for contemplatio, my idea of profound listening.
Here are some conditions I find present when I “try” to do Profound Listening.
KENOSIS – https://biblehub.com/nas/philippians/2.htm One who contains pure energy emptied that divine energy to become human (still fully God, but not human nature). When I try to do profound listening, I try to emulate The Master (as much as I am capable) and empty my humanity to receive whatever the potter wishes to create with me, the clay. The act of self-emptying by God at the Incarnation is fulfilled in the self-emptying of Jesus the Messiah on the cross in reparation for the sin of Adam and Eve, and consequently our sins. As we continue to live our life trying to love others as He loved us, Baptism, Eucharist, Penance, and Reconciliation continue that emptying of our false self, over and over and over. Those who are adopted sons and daughters of the Father accept that Jesus is their Lord and Savior and wish to follow in those footsteps by taking up their cross daily to transform the world into the kingdom of heaven. Profound listening allows me to do this transformation “with the ear of the heart.”
STILLNESS –– Remember the Rule of Threes (one reality containing three separate universes, the physical, the mental, and the spiritual)? If I apply it to the word, “stillness” it means three levels of reality. Physical–no movement, associated with silence and solitude, like going to Ruby Falls and walking through the underground caverns. Mental — mental stillness is the lack of movement in the mind, quietness, without mental activity, much like a peaceful brook flowing down a mountain stream with birds chirping and butterflies fluttering in the Sunlight. This is nature doing what it is without human intervention. Human intervention is our ability to look at this stillness and make choices about its value and meaning. Spiritual– This is the opposite of the natural stillness of the physical and mental universes (the world). It is dynamic, electric, possessing the entry into the stillness of God, pure energy, pure knowledge, pure love, and pure service. Profound listening allows me to listen to the stillness of God in my own heart and to be aware of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of others who share Christ’s love.
SILENCE –– Silence, in the physical sense, is not the absence of sound but the absence of the ability to hear that sound. In the spiritual universe, silence is always the opposite of what the physical and mental universes hold as real. Physical silence contains and envelopes the body so that the ears cannot hear because there is nothing to hear. Profound silence is the ability of the heart to hear with the vibrations of the heart of Christ beating next to your own. This is communication without words, communication of minds and hearts joined as one, to the extent that humans are capable.
SOLITUDE-– When I attempted profound listening in my Lectio Divina, I used to try to find a place where I could be by myself, then my Lectio Divina prayers could commence. Now, I find that Solitude is not a physical place but the space my mind carves out of what is real right now. Profound listening is my inner room where I do go pray in the silence of my heart. The place Christ talked about in https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/6
Teaching About Prayer.5“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.6But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.7* In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.*8Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
The Lord’s Prayer.9* “This is how you are to pray:c
Our Father in heaven,*
hallowed be your name,
10your kingdom come,*
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.d
11*e Give us today our daily bread;
12and forgive us our debts,*
as we forgive our debtors;f
13and do not subject us to the final test,*
but deliver us from the evil one.g14* If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.h15But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.i