With patience, you can achieve all things. (My loose translation).

Patience is a virtue, so that saying goes. With patience, you can achieve all that you seek. I find it very important to achieve silence and solitude within myself. Every time I try to do Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I find that there is a period of anticipation of what will occur. This longing to be in the presence of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit is an abandonment or emptying (kenosis) to be able to wait patiently until I am ready to receive whatever it is.

Patience is the active virtue that allows me to know what is going on in my Lectio. When I try to insert my own words and agenda into being present to Christ, I find it is limiting and often takes more time. As mentioned in Chapter 7 of St. Benedict’s rule, the first step towards humility is fear of the Lord.

10 The first step of humility, then, is that a man keeps the fear of God always before his eyes (Ps 35[36]:2) and never forgets it. 11 He must constantly remember everything God has commanded, keeping in mind that all who despise God will burn in hell for their sins, and all who fear God have everlasting life awaiting them. 12 While he guards himself at every moment from sins and vices of thought or tongue, of hand or foot, of self-will or bodily desire, 13 let him recall that he is always seen by God in heaven, that his actions everywhere are in God’s sight and are reported by angels at every hour.

Humans don’t do well with patience. We seek instant gratification for what we want, an intrinsic outcome from Original Sin. Patience is a virtue that allows me to be aware that God is God, that I am not God, that I fit into God’s agenda rather God fitting into mine. I live with this strain on my choices every day. If I seek God, I expect immediate access, almost too demanding it from God. Chapter 7 above points out that “fear of the Lord” is necessary for humility. One of the painful lessons about my fragility as a beginner in the process of moving from my false self (pride) to my new self in Christ (humility) is that I am a controller.

I like to use the scenario of sitting on a park bench in the middle of winter, waiting for God to show up. The winter signifies the resistance of the World to my sitting there. My human nature wants to leave the cold and seek warmth. There is a tension between the cold (the World) and my desire to see Christ and just sit here and chat. Patience comes in when Christ does not appear immediately as I want. Patience helps my heart realize that Christ has always been there on that bench, waiting for me to be still enough to show up.

Monks, who must use the schedule of the Divine Office as the routine from which they can gain access to the presence of Christ, experience the martyrdom of the ordinary (trying to discover a deeper meaning in what their corruption of matter and mind tells them is just ordinary). The schedule becomes the occasion where you meet the one you love and move to grow in the capacity to accept what is present to Christ may present itself to you. The schedule can also be your enemy if all we do is complete a period of time. Patience is the virtue that envelopes the mind and overshadows the heart to endure the pain of sameness and routine to be able to go deeper into contemplative thinking rather than just a thirty-minute session each morning at 4:00 a.m. Patience with long periods where we suffer the martyrdom of the ordinary while we endure the effects of our human corruption is all part of fidelity. With God’s help, those who persevere receive a deeper meaning because of this struggle.

In my experience of the process, Lay Cistercians don’t have the schedule to help anchor them order their lives, but they have a different type of temptation based on the corruption of matter and mind. I must battle my human nature and inclinations to do what is easy rather than right. I must form the schedule based on my daily situation. In my spiritual awareness, that means my temptation is to say that going to Trader Joe’s takes precedent over my Lectio, that Eucharist is not as necessary as I thought, that I don’t need conversion of heart and being a penitent Lay Cistercian during Lent because I do it every day during Lectio Divina. Patience draws me back to my center, “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5), and brings perspective to what is taking place.

The Church Year, Lenten Season, provides me with a time to examine where I am in my journey, seek God’s mercy and help on the way, find the truth and burn away the dross, and experience the life of just saying “Thanks” to God for loving us and teaching us to love others.


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