THE WAITING ROOM
These days when I am at the mercy of my body, I found myself in the waiting room of my Internal Medicine physician, awaiting an appointment to examine pain in my upper right quadrant. As I always do, my thoughts go to my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5). Waiting rooms these days are strange places. People must wear masks, and no one but the patient is allowed in the waiting room. There I sat, alone, no one else in the room, waiting for the nurse to call me to go into one of the examination rooms.
THOUGHTS ON WAITING FOR GOD WHILE IN A WAITING ROOM
One of my more recent discoveries about my approach to Lectio Divina has been that, where I always thought I had to wait for God to show up on the park bench in the middle of winter, I gradually came to realize that it was I who was not there. Still, God had been there all along, just waiting for me to show up. My Lay Cistercian practices have become ways to be aware that I must show up for God and not the other way around. I have usually tried to make time before Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Eucharistic Adoration, and Scripture reading to ask the Holy Spirit to sit next to me.
Here are some ideas that filtered through my thoughts as I meditated on the whole concept of waiting for God. They take the form of waiting rooms (I wonder where I got that idea?)i.
I. MY LAY CISTERCIAN WAITING ROOM
Contemplation is going within to pray. This might be in private or as part of a group (but still internal). Read this following passage from Scripture to get a clue about the waiting room within you.
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.*
8 Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.’
Contemplation is my inner room, the place I retreat to when I sit on a bench in the middle of winter and wait for Christ, knowing that Christ is already sitting beside me.
My inner room itself is in a place of corruptibility, just as I am just subject to the corruptibility of matter and the mind until I die. I have the choice to furnish my room with corrupt things (moral corruption) or keep my inner room clean each day from the ever-encroaching corruption of matter and mind by using The Christ Principle to make all things new, again and again. I can’t entertain Christ in a corrupt room, even though my basis for living is corrupt.
I prepare this room for Christ to join me with the following:
- The awareness that Christ is not only my human brother, as I am an adopted son of the Father, but is also is the Son of God. I am reminded of St. Benedict’s Rule, Chapter 7, where he tells the monks the first of twelve steps to have humility is “Fear of the Lord:” My understanding of this fear goes something that we experience when we receive ashes during Ash Wednesday “Remember, Human, you are dust, and into dust, you shall return.” I think of this fear as”Remember, Human that the one you wish to sit next to is the Son of God and not just your friend.”
- Besides myself, there is only room for one other person in this inner room. I can invite in Satan because I have been enamored with the false allurements of the World, or I can open my heart to The Christ Principle, one that fulfills the longings of the spiritual universe. “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee,” says St. Augustine.
- When I perform Lectio Divina, I allow Christ to enter into my heart so that I can listen to His heartbeat. With Christ comes resonance and not dissonance. This incorruptibility or energy of God permeates my corruptible physical self with Christ’s own energy through the Holy Spirit. It allows me to move from my corrupt self (matter and mind) to my true self (the incorruptible Spirit). I make a daily habit of this conversio morae (refreshing my life with God).
- How do I know the Devil (Satan) or his colleagues are in my heart and not those of Christ? The fruits or products in my inner room indicate God’s presence or the remnants of evil. No one serves two masters. Think of good works as the fruit on the tree of life (like the one in the Garden of Eden). Galatians 5 tells us about some of these low-hanging fruits. I like to read Chapter 4, St. Benedict’s Rule to read these tools for good works.
- Each of us has that secret room (the place no one wants to enter) where we can hide those things that prolong our evilness or, conversely, contains the things that we can take with us to Heaven.
- Lent is a part of the Liturgical Year when we look at our inner rooms and clean out those cobwebs of bad habits and rough edges. It is a time of sweeping our house with the broom of Christ, making all things new.
- What does evil smell like? I think it smells like spiritual depression and dissonance with matter and mind. Because sin has, as its product, death (corruption), it smells of evil.
- All sin has consequences, mainly because all our choices have consequences. We live with what we choose until we change our assumptions. Reform is at the core of what it means to be marked with the sign of the cross at Baptism. Although Lent is a period of 40 days of penitential preparation for the resurrection of Christ in our lives as experienced by the community’s worship and practices, as a Lay Cistercian, being penitential is a habit I try to cultivate each day.
- Scripture says, “the wages of sin is death.” There is more than just a nice phrase to these words. The consequence of us doing sin is that something happens to us. If the desire to seek God each day (capacitas dei) means I grow in my ability to link up various parts of my life with The Christ Principle, then my failures to love God with all my heart, with all my mind, and all my strength has a consequence of allowing Satan to gain entrance into my inner sanctum, my upper room. Dust gathers on my Arc of the Covenant and, since I live within the corruption of matter and mind until I die, I must pick up my cross daily to dust off the debris that settles in my soul. This dusting is what I understand as a penitential Lay Cistercian, one that not only happens just during Lent, where I share my seeking mercy with the Church Universal but also in the inner room of my self, where I must work daily to keep my room clean and presentable for Christ to dwell therein.
- Cleaning my inner room can be accomplished if I use the tools given to me by Christ’s death on the cross. St. Benedict provides his monks (and each of us) with a list of good works that I can use to keep my inner room clean of the residue of sin that I carry with me in my heart. My understanding of being a Lay Cistercian includes being successful with five habits to help me in my conversion from false self to my true self as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father (conversio morae). If I can remember to do so, I will elaborate on these five habits at length in a separate blog. Right now, these five daily habits that I use to sustain and keep my corruption of the spirit (my spirit) in resonnance with the Christ Principle are:
- THE DAILY HABIT OF SEEKING GOD WHERE I FIND GOD, AS I AM. (Philippians 2:5)
- THE DAILY HABIT OF CONVERTING MY FALSE SELF TO MY TRUE SELF THROUGH CONVERSIO MORAE.
- THE DAILY HABIT OF CONSCIOUSLY BEING AWARE THAT I MUST PUT ON THE CLOAK OF HUMILITY EACH DAY TO PROTECT MYSELF FROM THE CORRUPTION OF MATTER AND THE WORLD.
- THE DAILY HABIT OF LONGING TO BE IN THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST THROUGH THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN LAY CISTERCIAN PRACTICES.
- THE HABIT OF LISTENING WITH THE EAR OF MY HEART IN THE SILENCE AND SOLITUDE OF MY INNER ROOM WHILE SITTING ON A PARK BENCH IN THE MIDDLE OF WINTER AND WAITING FOR MY SPIRIT TO BE STILL ENOUGH TO FEEL CHRIST’S HEART NEXT TO MY HEART.
These habits are not final states of attainments that I do as a result of my Lay Cistercian practices but rather practices that I do each day as I move from my false self to my true self, with the power of the Holy Spirit. The power of practicing good works (Chapter 4 of the Rule of Benedict) comes not from reciting this or that prayer and completing a time, but instead that they are occasions where I can be present to Christ in humility and so that my heart can feel the love of Christ overshadowing me and say “Be it done to me according to your word.”
II. THE WAITING ROOM OF GOD
In my Lectio Divina meditations on waiting for the Lord, the thought came to me that God has a waiting room, just as I have my inner waiting room. Does God need a waiting room? No, but we humans do.
These ideas are interwoven together with corruption of matter and mind and the effects of incorruptibility. If you remember, my hypothesis is that there is such a thing as a physical universe of matter. All physical reality exists within this universe, including humans with evolved emotions, penchants for selfishness, and nobility in the same person. The physical universe deteriorates, and everything within it has a beginning and an end, including humans. The corruption of matter leads me to ask, “Why does matter corrupt if God is incorruptible? How can an incorruptible God make something that is corruptible? Is that an oxymoron?” One possibility is that I am not seeking the bigger picture. How can you have a bigger picture than God? You can’t, but because God lives in a condition of incorruptibility, a perpetual NOW, the center of which is passionate love, God’s problem is the solution to how can humans live as adopted sons and daughters in Heaven without frying their neurons? This grand, cosmic plan of the Word began with matter, time, and energy in a physical universe. All of this so that you and I have a base for our existence in the movement of space and time, all of this so that I can have reason and the ability to choose what is needed for me to be with God forever. Again, there is a problem, and God’s answer is part of that difficulty: “If humans are created incorruptible (The Garden of Eden before the Fall), what made them corruptible? Genesis 2-3 gives an answer that has ruminated throughout the centuries as oral tradition but put into written form by four separate traditions (J, P, Elohist, and Yahwist). These commentators on what it means to be human make it clear that God is not the cause of corruption (the corruption of the mind). We call it “sin,” but I like corruption because of its broader implications.
There is one more element to corruption, one that slinks and slithers almost unnoticed in the Genesis account. St. Paul states in I Thessalonians 15, “sin came into the world through one man.” the serpent seduced Eve in securing Adam with the possibility of being a god in his own kingdom of power and glory. That same serpent sometimes called the Lord of the World (not the kingdom of Heaven), tempted Christ in the desert to worship him in his kingdom on earth. The wages of sin, however, are death.
Read and reflect on the problem and the solution God had as part of The Word spoken in the silence and solitude of God before there was matter, time, and physical energy.
Humanity’s Sin through Adam.
12* Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world,h and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned*—
13for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law.i
14But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.j
Grace and Life through Christ.
15But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many.
16And the gift is not like the result of the one person’s sinning. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal.
17For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ.
18In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all.k
19For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous.l
20The law entered in* so that transgression might increase but, where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more,m
21so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.n
- Just as there was a free act of the will to choose something other than God’s will in the Garden of Eden, we have that same choice to make each day as we confront the minefield of living with the corrupting influence of matter and mind on our choices.
- Human nature is good and meant to live in incorruptibility in Heaven forever. Human existence fulfills the grand design to share God’s love with us.
- Humans were created by God from animality yet retaining characteristics from which they evolved, but with an exception.
- Humans have reason and free will that is not chained to their nature. Genesis is the archetypal myth (ultimate reality) of how God so loved the world that He gave his only son that we might be saved from just being corruptible.
- Jesus became one of us (Philippians 2:5) to tell us and show us how to get it right. Still, some don’t know about this way. The truth that leads to the fulfillment of our evolutionary destiny and how to live the rest of our lives is the corruption of matter and mind while simultaneously incorruptible due to the resurrection and ascension of Christ to the Father.
- With Baptism, we live in the promise of incorruptibility by doing God’s will to the best of our ability. Baptism takes away Original Sin but not the effects of that sin (we must work for what we get, we get hungry and thirsty, we commit evil actions towards others, and we must die, to name just a few),
- There is sin in the world. Humans are not evil in their nature but prone to evil in their choices. Once again, as of old, the Devil is the seducer of the unprepared and unaware.
- Jesus, who knew no sin (incorruptibility of God), became sin (corruptibility of matter and time) so that we might be free from the wages of sin (death) and accept our inheritance as sons and daughters of the Father.
GOD’S WAITING ROOM PREPARES US TO LIVE IN INCORRUPTIBILITY
- Humans love to play the judgment game of God on other humans (which should tell you right then that they haven’t a clue what offering incense to idols means).
- Heaven is God’s playground, and He is the judge of who will play in His sandbox, despite what humans think Scriptures say.
- Heaven is not a board game where, if you play it, you automatically get to Heaven.
- Because humans are wounded warriors, they approach Heaven battered and bruised by their conflict with Satan.
- There is no sin in Heaven, so what about those who die and face God? Outside the Church, goes the ancient saying, there is no salvation. After we die, the Church Universal is the only reality in the Kingdom of Heaven, those who confessed that Jesus is Lord, all those who thought religion was a country club membership, all those who hated God.
- Where does human spirit who die unrepentant go? Is there a place where the unbaptized who had no knowledge go to learn how to love others as Christ loved us? Is there a place of second chances, a period of waiting until we are clothed with the proper wedding garment to enter the banquet hall of the King?
- Purgatory is a place of second chances, God’s waiting room, where each of us who need it will be allowed to learn the lessons we need on earth? How long will this take? Remember, there is no corruption of matter and time in Heaven. It takes time for you to move from your false self to your true self. It is time it takes for you to learn how to love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself. (Deuteronomy 6.5 and Matthew 22:38)
- Will there be fire in Purgatory? Yes, the fire of knowing that you missed the train the first time you tried it but that God loves you so much that you get a second chance. Purgatory is a place of testing, but it is also a place of Hope (upper case H means the Holy Spirit is there to be your tutor).
- I don’t know this to be accurate, but my Lectio Divina thoughts on this place of second chances were that it is The Garden of Eden as it was in the time of Adam and Eve, where there is resonance with God and all nature.
- We can pray for God to have mercy on those in Purgatory who are released from their sins and make the correct choices of all those wrong ones they made in their lifetime on earth. We can only pray for forgiveness because we, ourselves, need it as long as we are alive.