Like any good examination of conscience (Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule, https://christdesert.org/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/), it is my custom to review my life achievements and frequent faults and failings at the end of each year with the resolve to “prefer nothing to the love of Christ,” with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Today, I performed such a recollection during my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), while I was flooded with the feeling that “…I am not worthy that you should come under my roof.”
Ten such moments come to mind last year, many of them recurring from each year as before, but a few of them are new (actually, all of them are new in the sense that Christ makes all things new).
MOMENT ONE: I have tried to seek God each day and consecrate each day to doing the will of the Father, through, with, and in Christ, using the power of the Holy Spirit. I don’t think giving a grade for how I did is appropriate, but rather that I have fallen short on this one and need renewal.
MOMENT TWO: While trying to have in me”… the mind of Christ Jesus” each day (Philippians 2:5), I find the challenge is the consistency of intention and lack of focus on my part in my Lectio (and other Cistercian practices and charisms). I have fallen short on this one, but I am grateful that Jesus still sits by me on a park bench in the dead of winter to warm my year with the divine energy of His heart.
MOMENT THREE: The problem with solving the Divine Equation is thinking that it solves who God is. My temptation is to think that, just because the Holy Spirit speaks in my heart that this is all there is. I must keep reminding myself repeatedly that the beginnings of humility, according to the first of twelve steps of St. Benedict’s Rule, is fear of the Lord. This is not fear as the world sees it, as in I fear COVID 19, but rather the paradoxical feeling when you realize that the one you love is God and the Divine Nature, and you play by God’s rules, not yours. In the presence of such greatness beyond human comprehension, all I can do is say, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner (and mean that from the depth of my being).
MOMENT FOUR: Once I have this realization (humility), I realize that the Divine Equation is not about God at all; it is from God to help my human brokenness to love others as Christ loved us. There are six questions I must ask and answer to fulfill my responsibilities as an adopted son(daughter) of the Father.
The story of my taking each moment as a step toward fulfilling my humanity (return to the Garden of Eden) is one of walking in the “residue of sin” as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve. Christ saved me from being unable to respond once again as Adam and Eve should have done, to once more be grateful for whatever it is that is the will of the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit giving me knowledge, love, and service in this life, to be happy with God in the next. (Baltimore Catechism, Question 6).
MOMENT FIVE: I have human reasoning for a reason and the ability to choose what I reason. No other lifeform has this ability. Why? Being human with freedom is the price humanity must pay for this gift from God to be like him in image and likeness. This price is the residue from the sin of Adam and Eve. We must die, we must work for what we get, there is evil in the world, although what God made is good in our nature, what we do individually or collectively as ways of living out what we think is good is subject to our world emotions and selfishness. I am the center of all that is, but I must remember that “all there is” for me is just seventy or eighty years. My purpose is to use this choice to choose God and not what I think makes me happy. God has given us instructions (but no written how-to book) of acting as He would if we were to love one another. This is why St. Paul says that “…the things I want to do, I don’t do; while the things I don’t want to do, I do.”
MOMENT SIX: The Christ Principle in my heart allows me to fulfill the next level of my evolution, one that takes human reasoning and freedom of choice to enter. It is a gift from God (Faith) for my saying “Thank you” for giving me some small way to relate to God (prayer). I can lose this gift if I am not grateful. This means that each day, I prefer nothing to the love of Christ. (Rule of st. Benedict, Chapter 4). It takes work to keep my center aligned with the resonance of God. I need to keep doing Lectio Divina to keep up my energy that the residue of my sins causes grace to diminish. I use the Lay Cistercian practices and charisms to keep my feet to the fine in the midst of the chaos of the world.
MOMENT SEVEN: I have to work each day to see Jesus as a living person I can relate to. The sign of contradiction, crazy as it sounds, makes sense of the Christ Principle, using the power and energy from God to answer The Divine Equation properly. I must constantly keep up my guard in this foreign land I inhabit until I reach the Kingdom of Heaven. I do this by realizing that God is here right now and that the Kingdom of Heaven begins each day if I but realize it. To do that, I must transform myself from my false self of sinfulness (Seven Deadly Sins) to become more like Christ (Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy). This is capacitas dei, my decreasing while He must increase in my heart. For a good reason, we are signed with the cross at our Baptism to remind us of the struggles we must face with the help of Jesus and the power (energy) of the Holy Spirit. Some days are better than others in this battle. I have lost quite a few battles with the Evil One, but I have won the war with Christ in my heart so far.
MOMENT EIGHT: Growth in Christ is not only horizontal (each day is not dependent upon the next because of free will), but what I do during the entire day. I exist to see how deeply my mind and heart can love Christ by moving vertically in the silence and solitude of my inner room (my heart), where Christ has been waiting for me since before the beginning of time. The advantage of vertical growth in Christ is we can take that with us each day as we move forward in time. With horizontal time, each day is sufficient unto itself, and we begin from scratch when we wake up and mark the sign of the cross on our foreheads as we say, “O God, come to my assistance, O Lord, make haste to help me.” (Liturgy of the Hours, Invitatory)
MOMENT NINE: Prayer is not just the time I take to pray privately (Lectio Divina, Reading Scripture)or collectively (Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy), but my whole day, when I consecrate the day to doing God’s will for me. I seek to “…have in me the mind of Christ Jesus,” and be grateful for the grace of adoption.
MOMENT TEN: I am now not wishing you a Merry Christmas anymore, but rather, Happy and Joyous Incarnation (Christ becomes one of us to show us how to love) and Joyous Resurrection, instead of the Easter Bunny.