TOP TEN FAVORITE: Photos

In keeping with my Top Ten Favorites theme, here are my top ten photos with a twist. They are the focus of contemplation in various Lectio Divina (Phil 2:5) sessions I have used. Photos add richness and a touch of realism to my Lectio Divina meditations. They allow me to use more of my five senses to access my mind and, through my mind, my heart. Using photos and video clips in my Lectio, I can begin my meditations on Philippians 2:5 with a theme and tie all of my thoughts together.

PHOTO ONE: CHRIST IS THE ONLY TRUE CENTER

Blessed Virgin Mary– In the window of the Abbey Church at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, there are no pictures of saints or statues. In the back wall, there is only a stained glass window.No statues of Saints or inspirational pictures are founds in the stained glass windows. Look at that same photo of Mary below. What do you see? Nice colors? What else? Where is Jesus in relationship to Mary? Notice that Christ is her center, not the other way around. The Church honors Mary because of what she taught us: do what he tells you. Christ is always the center for Mary. Mary chose Christ as her center, just as we have the opportunity to do. Mary tells us she is a poor center but points us to a good one. My soul magnifies the Lord, she says.

download (1)
Our Lady of the Holy Spirit

What do you see? Look at this photo for ten minutes. What do you see? Certainly stained glass. What images are contained in the glass window of the Blessed Virgin Mary? This is the picture on the back wall of the Monastery Church, Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery.

I usually close my eyes for a minuto, then open them and look at the photo once again. I keep doing this for ten to fifteen minutes. What comes to mind is the result of the Holy Spirit. You don’t have to do anything but let the photo speak to your heart. No words are needed, and no images need to be remembered.

PHOTO 2: TWO DIMENSIONS OF MEANING

Animals don’t seek what is meaningful in their life. They seek to follow their nature and survive. Their nature is animal. Humans have a reason for a reason. My contention is that we alone, among any sentient life, possess the ability to ask why, when, how, what, and when. Humans share animal nature with animals, but with a big difference. We know that we know. We look at what it is and ask how it all fits together. We look around at what is and ask how we fit into what we call reality.

VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE MEANING

I suggest that we humans seek the answers to how it all fits together in two dimensions: one is external, such as using the sciences, literature, and what is outside of us to find meaning, the visible realm of the mind. This approach seeks to use the mind to answer questions of meaning, the results of which are appropriate to the physical and mental universes. The second way is contemplative, which is going within ourselves to discover what is meaningful and of value. This approach seeks to use the heart to translate what the mind discovers, the results appropriate to the physical, mental, and spiritual universes. When we use the heart, we are in God’s realm, and love is the measurement of what is of value. You don’t have to be a Lay Cistercian to be contemplative, but what makes us different (not better) from Agnostics, Atheists, and Pagans is we live in three universes (physical, mental, spiritual).

EXERCISE THE MIND: To probe deeper into reality, I will ask you to answer three seemingly innocuous questions,  all of which are the same but may be monumentally different in how you answer them.

QUESTION ONE:

This question uses your mind to probe deep into the physical universe, the realm of matter, time, and energy. Go to a place of solitude in your life. Look at this photo for five minutes. What do you see? In the space below, write down onlywhath you can see with your eyes.Don’t editorialize. Don’t go any deeper than what the photo displays.

pexels-photo-209500

WHAT DO YOU SEE?

QUESTION TWO: This second question uses your mind to probe deeper into both physical and mental universes, the realm of the mind.

pexels-photo-209500

                               WHAT DO YOU SEE?

Go to a place of solitude in your life. When you look at this photo for ten minutes, what do you see? In the space below, write down what you can see with your eyes, but now add this question,”“What is in the cup? Whom does the cup represent? What is the significance of a cloudy window? How does this photo help you contemplate your inner self? How does your mind help you to see associations and probe questions about meaning that Question One does not address? Write your ideas down in the following space.

QUESTION THREE: This third question uses your mind to probe ever deeper into reality, penetrating the physical, mental, and now spiritual universes within the realm of the heart. In the first photo, you just saw physical reality. You used the first photo to ask what it could mean in the second photo. Now you add the spiritual universe to whatit is and its meanings. Remember, spiritual means looking for the meaning of life within you.

pexels-photo-209500

                             WHAT DO YOU SEE?

Go to a place of solitude in your life. When you look at this photo for fifteen minutes, what do you see? This third photo is the same as the other three butdifferente. Look at this questionwith your mind ando focus on your heart. For Questions One and Two, you have been asked to look deeper into your inner self. When you look at the photo now, what is the cup you see? How many of the answers you gave to the purpose of life, what your purpose in life is, are in that cup? Who is the cup? With what do you fill the cup? What does the foggy window remind you of in the Mystery of Faith? Let your mind just be present to the cup. Does your first and second threshold or questionappearp in the spiritual universe? Write down your thought when you are ready.

Photo Three: The Park Bench

When using contemplation, I use LectioDivina’ss five steps to help bring me to where I can actually rid myself of all thoughts, agendas, cares of the day, and false self and move to just waiting for Christ to come and sit with me awhile. I am not so presumptuous to think that if I command, Christ will drop everything and come. Even though I know He told us to ask anything in His name and He will give it to me, I don’t want to be like Adam and Eve and make myself into God. In silence and solitude, I prefer to ask God for mercy, humility, and the strength to be obedient to the signs of contradiction in my spiritual journey. This story is one I wrote for my latest book, The Place Where No One Wants to Look. I offer it as one of my favorite photos to help with your Meditation on seeking God.

WAITING FOR THE MASTER

Snow Covered With Brown and Black Steel Couch

You are seated on a park bench in the dead of Winter. Jesus has told you He will be passing by the bench sometime soon. You seat yourself and look down the path, straining to see Christ as he comes around the bend of the trees. You don’t know what he looks like, but you have an invitation to meet with him today, and all your senses are at their peak. You don’t want to miss him.

The first person to come to the trees is an old woman pushing a cart full of what looks like bottles and rags. You smile as she passes and wishes her a good day. She turns to you and asks if you have a water bottle. She says she has not had water in two days. You only have half a bottle of water left, but you give it to her, asking her to excuse your germs. She trudges away, smiling.

You look up, and there is what looks like a teenager. He asks if he can sit on the bench with you. You do not know him and are reluctant to let him sit down but he has on only a thin T-shirt, and it is freezing outside. “Thanks,” he says. He talks about how he is homeless, the Shelter kicks them out at 7:00 a.m., and he has no place to go. Again, you look to the pathway straining to see if Christ is coming. No Christ. The teenager says he is twenty-seven years old and out of a job with no family and nowhere to go. You get out your cell phone, call the local Catholic Charities, and speak to someone you know about helping the young man. You help out there once a month with packing food for the homeless, so you are familiar with their services. It happens that the City has a long-term shelter for people who need job skills and a safe place to stay until they get a job. You give him the directions to the shelter about eight blocks away. He gives you a hug and trudges away.

It has been going on for two hours now, and no Jesus. A dog comes up to you, a Weimaraner, tail wagging, happy to see you.”“Hey girl”” you say. “Where is your Master?” She sits down and offers you one of her paws to shake? Friendly dog, you think, but who could be its owner? It has been going on for three hours now, and it seems to be getting colder. Just you and the dog are there, which you have named Michele. As you wonder once more if you have been stood up and inconvenienced, an older man approaches. He has a long, gray beard, somewhat matted together, and uses a cane to help him wobble down the path. His clothes are neat but certainly well-worn. His face has a gnarly look about him as if he had weathered many hardships, and they had taken their toll. He asked if he could sit down since he was tired. You say, “Of course, I am just waiting for a friend to come by. “You look cold,” he says. “Here, take this scarf my mother knit for me; it will keep you warm.” The dog sits next to the man as if he was its owner. All the while, he kept stroking the dog’s head and petting it on the head. “Oh, by the way,” the old man says, ”this is my dog. Thank you for finding it for me.”

Two more hours went by, but you did not notice because the conversation was so warm and intimate. You tell the kind gentleman about your trials and successes and how you want to seek God wherever and whoever it might be. The gentleman tells you he must go home to see his father; he lives with him. You think of how lucky the old man is to have such a loving Father. The old man gets up and smiles at you.”You are a good person,” he says, “and I look forward to seeing you again in the future,” his face just beaming with kindness. Turning to his dog, he says, smiling,” Coming” The dog jumps up and down a few times, wagging his tail fiercely, and they both set off, trudging slowly away from the bench. You look at your clock and see that five hours have passed, but they passed so quickly. You are a bit disappointed that Christ did not stop by. You think maybe you got the time wrong and left to go home. As you are going, you remember you have the scarf the old man gave you as a gift, knit by his mother. You are shocked by what you see. On the scarf is embroidered your name in the gold thread. You think to yourself, he said his mother made it for him.

Another thing you noticed. You felt your heart burning as the old man talked to you on the bench. “I wonder, ” you think,“…I wonder.”

The only prayer you can think of comes into your mind. Praise the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen.

 Now, look at the park bench photo for a few minutes. Think about the story you just read while focused on the park bench. What thoughts does the Holy Spirit place in your mind? Write down what your heart tells you about the story you just read. How does this relate to where you are in your Lay Cistercian or another spiritual journey?

ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS:

  1. Write down your thoughts about the bench meditation.
  2. What does this story tell you about meeting Christ? If you say you have never seen Christ but can’t see Him in your neighbor next to you, what do you need to change to seek God? Seeking God is so easy that it is the most difficult, ongoing task you will ever have in this lifetime.

PHOTO FOUR:   Is that all there is?

Free stock photo of space, dark, galaxy, stars

Ask yourself this question: Is there a beginning to time? Is there an end of time? In terms of three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual), I would say.””I don’t know about physical time. I do know about spiritual time. Time has no beginning nor end in the spiritual universe. Time is”  Time is essential for our comprehension of the world around us. For those who accept the Resurrection of Christ, time is Forever; it is the relationship we seek to achieve, our inheritance for keeping true to the command of Christ to love one another as He has loved us.

PHOTO FIVE: Photo of how I feel about being in the presence of Jesus. 

 
Father,
I abandon myself in
your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all; I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.
Blessed Charles de Foucauld
Former Trappist of N.D. de Neiges
Killed December 1, 1916
 

 
II. MEDITATION – Go to the place in your inner room (Matthew 6:6) and close the door. Listen with”“…the ear of the spirit”.” Use this image to guide thoughts from the Holy Spirit.
 
WHAT DO YOU SEE?
 
 
  
Padre mío,
Me abandono a Ti,
haz de mí lo que quieras.
Lo que hagas de mí te lo agradezco.
Estoy dispuesto a todo, lo acepto todo,
 
con tal que Tu Voluntad se haga en mí
y en todas Tus criaturas.
No deseo nada más, Dios mío.
 
Pongo mi alma en Tus manos.
Te la doy, Dios mío, con todo el amor de mi corazón,
porque Te amo y porque para mí amarte es darme,
entregarme en Tus manos sin medida,
con infinita confianza,
porque Tú eres mi Padre.  Amen.
 
 

Mon Père,
Je m’abandonne à toi,
fais de moi ce qu’il te plaira.
Quoi que tu fasses moi, je te remercie.
Je suis prêt à tout, j’accepte tout.

 
Pourvu que ta volonté se fasse en moi,
en toutes tes créatures,
je ne désire rien d’autre, mon Dieu.
 
Je remets mon âme entre tes mains.
Je te la donne, mon Dieu, avec tout l’amour de mon coeur,
parce que je t’aime, et que ce m’est un besoin d’amour de me donner,
de me remettre entre tes mains sans mesure,
avec infinie confiance
car tu es mon Père.
 
Photo Six: Humans are spiritual apes. Humans are why we have reason and the ability to choose what we think is good for us. Choosing what will allow us to fulfill our humanity as nature intended enables us to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father and heirs to Heaven.
Photo Seven The Rule of Threes. The three realms of reality: scientific thought (best for looking at visible and some invisible reality); reason and the ability to choose with consequences (best to look at physical reality with the mind); Faith informed by reason (best to look at both physical universe and the mental universe and receive questions and answers about humanity that human reasoning alone cannot provide)
Photo Eight: I look at my life in my attempt to have the mind of Christ Jesus and how successful I was each day. Trying is itself a prayer of humility. Each day I begin the process anew, with one exception. I am more like Christ today than I was before.
Photo Nine: I have two choices of what is good or bad for me. Although I make those choices internally, my nature is not harmful, nor are there hidden rooms where good or evil lurks. If I want good as a choice, I must choose it. I don’t usually choose what is bad for me, but sometimes I choose what I don’t know, which turns out bad. God tells me what is good for me because I am an adopted son (daughter of the Father). What Father wants his child to sin. Does he give me a stone or a brick if I ask for bread? Even if I choose what is bad for my humanity, God still loves me as the ProdigalSon’ss father kept looking down the road each day until he showed up.
Photo Ten: My center and where my heart longs to rest. http://www.trappist.net
1aOf David.

A
I
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?

2When evildoers come at me

to devour my flesh,*b
These my enemies and foes
themselves stumble and fall.

3Though an army encamp against me,

my heart does not fear;
Though war be waged against me,
even then do I trust.
II

4One thing I ask of the LORD;

this I seek:
To dwell in the LORD’s house
all the days of my life,
To gaze on the LORD’s beauty,
to visit his temple.c

5For God will hide me in his shelter

in time of trouble,d
He will conceal me in the cover of his tent;
and set me high upon a rock.

6Even now my head is held high

above my enemies on every side!
I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and chant praise to the LORD.
B
I

7Hear my voice, LORD, when I call;

have mercy on me and answer me.

8“Come,” says my heart, “seek his face”;*

your face, LORD, do I seek!e

9Do not hide your face from me;

do not repel your servant in anger.
You are my salvation; do not cast me off;
do not forsake me, God my savior!

10Even if my father and mother forsake me,

the LORD will take me in.f
II

11LORD, show me your way;

lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.g

12Do not abandon me to the desire of my foes;

malicious and lying witnesses have risen against me.

13I believe I shall see the LORD’s goodness

in the land of the living.*h

14Wait for the LORD, take courage;

be stouthearted, wait for the LORD!
Photo Eleven: Don’t dig a hole so big you can’t get out.
Photo Twelve: Get rid of your spiritual waste, or you will have to live in it.
Photo Thirteen: No one can serve two masters. Choose to serve your own appetites or God’s treasures.
Photo fourteen: Contemplation means silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community. You are never alone if you are in the presence of Christ.
Photo Fifteen:””What is essential is invisible to the eye” –Little Prince

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