In its purest form, Lectio is a movement from just repeating one phrase in Holy Scriptures repeatedly before moving to the next sentence. Lectio has never been an end in itself, although beginners will try to move through each of the four steps of Lectio (lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio) compulsively. As time goes on, the stages or steps just fade away, and I find myself just “doing Lectio” automatically.
Recently, a thought brought up by Father Cassian, O.S.C.O., our monastic advisor, at a Gathering Day, suggested that there might be another step, or one contained embedded in the contemplatio stage of Lectio, that is, illuminatio (illumination). In my reflection on this, the mental approach to belief is called enlightenment because its residence is knowledge. But the heart, influenced by the heart of Christ, is illumination or allowing the mind to see what cannot be seen or hearing what cannot be heart.
In this series of reflections on The Christ Principle, which all emanates and equally towards which all gravitates, I will share what I learned in my Lectio Divina meditations about a center. I will do this through a series of statements, all based on the illumination I received from this statement and the extension from which it flows to another thought. This is similar to existence or living “out in front of oneself,” based on the natural flow of the mind to the heart. In this case, the heart of Christ draws me outside of or “out in front of” my mere mental status, to one based on my ability to receive energy from the Holy Spirit and move from my false self to my true self. The struggle of contemplative practice comes in having to begin each day from zero. Each day is a new chance to seek God as I am (because I exist out in front of myself, my capacitas dei is greater, even if I must transform the moments of each day. Today does not guarantee that I will not be tempted to choose self over Christ. It is a daily struggle of conversion, one managed by the reception of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and Reconciliation.
REFLECTIONS ON MY CENTER, THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE
I get to choose a center in life, based on God’s center. I choose Philippians 2:5, “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” My challenge is now to move from my mind to have it in my heart and consistently make it a part of who I am.
All humans have a center to their being, even if they are unaware of it.
Centers are the one spot at the very center of who we are from which all things flow and into which all things converge.
Centers in individuals are unique because your center and my center may be different.
Some centers lead to dysfunction and those that lead to continued life in Christ Jesus. I get to choose not only my center but must keep it secure, lest it wobble, and I replace it with a false one.
No one, not even God, can stop me from putting a center in my life that will hurt it. What God can do, and does do, is tell me, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, what will let me walk through the minefields (and maybe mind fields) that the world says is my center.
As a human, I can reason and choose as my center anything that I think makes me happy and fulfilled.
But there is more. Where I get the assumptions from which my center chooses, a center that I think makes me fulfilled can come from either the world (the accumulated history and life experiences accessed by my reason so that I can choose what is authentic).
As an individual, I choose my center, which is in the interior of my being, my inner room, my place of refuge in times of stress.
I am the sum of my centers. Centers do not stay anchored at the center of my heart. They are revolving, always trying to flee unless I use free will to contain them.
Each day, in fact, each moment, I struggle with the effects of Original Sin, like Adam and Eve, to choose myself and my center over God as my center. What I put at my center is my god, and it is my choice. What I choose is based on what I think is good for me.
This is where sin comes in. Sin is choosing something in my center that is not authentic for my purpose in life. If my purpose in life is me, then the hell with it, as Flannery O’Connor said about the Eucharist if it was not the real presence.
As an individual, I have two choices for centers: one is God, and one is me. To choose God, I must realize it takes Faith to choose something that doesn’t make sense with the assumption that the world has about God. Faith is God’s own energy overshadowing me, if I so choose, to allow me to live in a world tainted by death, the works of the flesh (Galatians 5), and without the hope inspired by the Holy Spirit.
THE CENTER OF THE CHURCH
The Church has a center, too. As an individual, there are authentic centers and those who fall short, although its adherents sincerely believe they are correct.
Christ is the head of the Church, and we are members of the body. Christ is holy, and we all are sinners (except for Christ and the Blessed Mother).
Outside the Church, there is no salvation. 1. The reason for that is that those who have been found righteous by God at their judgment are in Heaven; 2. Those who are not completely righteous in mind and body have a chance to discover Christ in Purgatory; 3. Those who are on earth, facing the challenge of living in a foreign land (the world with all its false allures and promises) until we die and are judged by God before the Throne of the Lamb,
Heaven is God’s playground, and He allows people to play there that He chooses.
The Center of the Church is Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior of the World. We recite the Creed each Sunday to reaffirm our faith in God, the Father, the Son. The Holy Spirit in the world, having the Church as a mother, keeping an eye on us, brushing away our tears when we hurt ourselves, wrapping us with a warm blanket to keep us secure while we live our individual existence.
The Church is a gathering of those who are adopted sons or daughters of the Father who seek to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus each day and who proclaim that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of the Father in Heaven. (Philippians 2:5-12)
With each new challenge that the world places before us, there is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism in each age. The world changes, and Christ is the Principle from which all flow and into which all trend.
The Church Universal must struggle to keep its center from slipping away. It is a wonder of the Holy Spirit that our collective self has slipped and slid down through the centuries. We have often lost the way, stressing power, pride, authority, riches, infidelity, and lack of humility. The Holy Spirit will not let the gates of hell prevail, but the Church must constantly have in itself the mind of Christ Jesus to keep on the path of Christ’s way, Christ’s truth, and live Christ’s life. The Church, the Body of Christ, has won the war but lost several battles against the Evil One, always to come back from the blood of the martyrs and the martyrdom of daily living from members who seek to move from false self to true self.
THE CENTER OF CHRIST
If the center of the Church is Christ, then what is Christ’s center?
Christ is his own center, as Son of Son. Christ is also the center of humanity, as Jesus.
The center of Jesus is his mission to make reparation for the sin of Adam and Eve, the archetypal sin of choosing self over God. To do that took sacrifice, a total gift of self to the Father, unconditional and full knowledge of the consequences and yet freely chosen. It is the fulfillment of the sacrifice of Abraham, the Lamb of God sacrificed on the altar of the world to set humans free to live with God once more. It is the ability for God to love us first, then bid us love others, as Christ loved us.
Read this marvelous passage from Scripture. Try not only to read it for the meaning but for the feeling and faith of the author, St. John.
The Prayer of Jesus.*1When Jesus had said this, he raised his eyes to heaven* and said, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you,a 2* just as you gave him authority over all people,b so that he may give eternal life to all you gave him.3* Now this is eternal life,c that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.4I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do.5 Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began.d6 “I revealed your name* to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.7 Now they know that everything you gave me is from you,8 because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me.9 I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours,e10 and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them.f11 And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.12 When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled.g13 But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely.h14 I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.i15* I do not ask that you take them out of the worldj but that you keep them from the evil one.16They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.17 Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.k18 As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.l19 And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.20“I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,21 so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.m22 And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.24 Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am* they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.n25 Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. 26 I made known to them your name and I will make it known,* that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”
Except for sin, Jesus had temptations, like all of us. The one in the Garden of Gethsemani was the temptation to let this mission be terminated. It is clearly a temptation of the humanity of Christ, whereas the three temptations of Christ in the desert are temptations of his divinity. Sneaky Devil!
The center of Christ is each of us. Each one. This is not just human love, but divine love, love beyond all understanding.
14 And just as Moses lifted up* the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, j15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” 16 For God so loved the world that he gave* his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.k 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn* the world, but that the world might be saved through him.lhttps://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/3
WHAT IS GOD’S CENTER?
God, like all reality, has a center. What is God’s center? “I am the one who is.” God is his own center, the self-contained nature that is 100% of its potential (to use an imperfect human comparison).
God is pure knowledge, pure love, and pure service (energy).
God’s output is His input.
God is not male nor female. God has no gender. Angels have no gender. Humans have a gender.
God lives in the Now, not the past, nor the future.
It is astounding to think that this pure energy, beyond our human abilities to get a grasp of what that is, would love us so much that he created all that is from his nothingness so that we could become adopted sons and daughters and achieve our destiny as humans according to the choices we make in our lifetime.