On my way to achieving Lectio Divina, I begin with Philippians 2:5 (Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.) Then, I go to meditation. I have to have templates to help me focus on The Christ Principle now and then. I share with you three such templates. A template is an overlay that shapes my thoughts, but ironically, the thoughts are different each time, while the template remains the same. I use this in my Lectio Divina after I initiate my only scripture passage that is the center of my life, “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5). These templates assist me in going deeper in my Meditatio phase. I don’t use them in Contemplation, although the residue of what I gleaned forms the basis for my final stage.
I. THE RULE OF THREE
In my book, The Three Rules of the Spiritual Universe, I use a technique called The Rule of Three. It is a way of looking at a word or idea from the viewpoint of three separate and distinct universes, the physical (our basis of life itself), the mental universe (one where we use reason and free will to explore that physical universe) and the spiritual universe (one where we make sense out of what we reasoned and see how it fits into the Divine Equation).
I will take you through an example and then allow you to use this rule.
Lectio Divina word or idea: SEXUAL INTERCOURSE (I bet you didn’t see that coming).
THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE
The most powerful human emotion is sexual intercourse or physical pleasure. God intended it for us and all living things as a natural way “to increase and multiply.” If this most powerful of all emotions and pleasures are good, why do we have so much problem using it correctly?
In the physical universe, humans exist because without it w,e would not survive physically. It is the natural law of propagation and renewal. For all living things, it is the most dominant emotion and feeling. In animals, it is tied to copulation and propagation, but in humans, copulation and pleasure are for procreation and then pleasure. This is an excellent emotion in the physical universe, of which humans and all living things exist because they are made up of matter, live in time, and experience the corruption of death and deterioration.
Without copulation, we don’t have more people to populate and renew the species. Nothing last is the time frame of what began and what ended. Planets are born and die. Galaxies are born from matter (dust) and into dust return. Everything that is has a purpose.
In the physical universe, humans alone moved from animality to rationality. Why? Still working on that one. Although the mega propagation of the universe happens automatically, it follows natural, unseen laws. Animals don’t notice this. Stephenson 2-19, the giant Sun, does not notice this. Humans alone notice that there is an intelligent progression.
Plants, animals, and all living things don’t think about propagation in this physical universe. This natural law applies to all matter and species, with only one exception that evolved through the gauntlet of intelligent progression: humans.
In my view of this universe, God created it, and so it is good because evil does not come from good, with one exception, human beings. Humans, of all matter and energy we know, are the only species that know. They also can transcend nature and go against the flow, so to speak. Humans are good by nature but corrupt by the influences of original sin. God is, among other things, in my perception, the personification of intelligent progression. Being in this being where all matter exists is an invisible tug toward its fulfillment or intended purpose.
In this first universe of matter and intelligent design, everything scrambles to make all things new again and again. The Genesis Principle (intelligent design) brought everything together to move forward according to its nature. Sex in this universe is doing what comes naturally. Intercourse, the intense need to masturbate more in men than women, the preoccupation with the naked body, and what is necessary for our survival (propagation) linked to sexual intercourse. All of this is good, natural, and necessary in this universe. In this universe, humans are no exception to the intense urge to copulate and become addicted to sexual acts. Pornography is a good example of the urge at this level for humans to satisfy this urge for intense pleasure. Prostitution is also an example of how strong our urges are to have sexual intercourse and much more, and more, and more. Sex can and is an addiction.
If all human experiences were on this level, humans would be just animals. In fact, we have the characteristics we share with animals through our DNA and the evolution of emotions, intelligence, and, of course, propagation.
THE MENTAL UNIVERSE
This is a universe where only humans live because it houses our ability to reason and to choose what we reason without interference but with consequences for our behavior. I choose to kill someone and am cut off from God (society says I have to pay for my crime). That is a dual consequence.
Each human wakes up in the bubble of their seventy or eighty years (Psalms), looks around at reality (the physical universe), and must make choices that they think are good for them.
Like Erich Fromm, whose book, The Art of Loving, states that we don’t automatically love as part of our DNA but must make choices (some of which are good for us and some are bad), trial and error are how we can tell what is good for us. That statement got me thinking that humans don’t know the difference between our animal heritage and pure acts of intercourse and what it means to move to the next level in our intelligent progression; having the ability to control my urges following my human nature now requires. We move from just having intercourse as an animal would do as part of its nature to now having reasoning to know the implications of our actions. We still want to have our will as dominant over others, including our human nature. We want to be able to control who determines not only the sexual act for our pleasure alone but also to determine what is good and what is evil (Genesis Chapters 1-2). This is at the epicenter of what Genesis is about, our struggle to move from animality to rationality. With rationality, we don’t know how to use it properly, even now, and move between the ups and downs of being what we would like to be to recognize that we are still burdened with the control that most incredible urge to become more than we are.
Add this greatest of urges as procreation and sexual intercourse, and humans go crazy. Men just want to satisfy their natural urge for pleasure; women want to satisfy their urge for pleasure but want more than a one-night stand.
The consequence of intercourse, using the natural law of the physical universe from which all of us emerged, is that it feels good and satisfies that natural human emotion. Other consequences are a sense of belonging (another powerful emotion) and fertilization, an unintended consequence of being human without any morality. Animals don’t have morality; they have the natural instinct to survive. What is the source of that instinct (invisible urge)?
THE SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE
In the physical universe, it is all about using your sex organs. In the mental universe (within the physical universe), it is all about using your sex organs appropriately and discovering the meaning of love as we go. In the next level or universe, that of the spiritual one, divine nature tells us not only tells us what is good and what will be detrimental to our evolution as humans but provides us with the energy to make it to the next level of human evolution, intelligent progression to the fullness of what it means to be human as our nature intended. This third universe is invisible to the human eye, but not with a humble mind and heart that accepts God’s help in becoming adopted sons and daughters of the Father and heirs to the spiritual universe now on earth and after we die. If you use only the physical and mental universes alone, none of this makes sense. The spiritual universe is one you must accept, even though it makes no sense according to the world. This is the Baptism of adoption and a new like using The Christ Principle as the master key to make all things new, to give new life each day to continue the journey in both the world (until you die) and the Kingdom of Heaven now and forever. The Christ Principle is the sign of contradiction: knowledge, love, and service while we live. That people don’t believe in God, Jesus, or the Church Universal is a sign that we are where we should be. Christ tells us that people will hate us because of His name and may even kill us in the name of peace. The Beatitudes are the statements for those who challenge the world and its inability to move us to our final inheritance (the fullness of humanity as nature intended). His followers are required to pray for those who persecute them and not to return evil for evil. If you love those that love you, Jesus says, what merit is there in that? Love your enemy and do good to those who hate you. Now that is taking up my cross each day and creeping forward.
What started out as sex organs being the most dominant feeling and emotion becomes a sign of contradiction when Jesus tells us not to put pleasure as our center but rather love. Not that we should not feel pleasure, but that it does not have the energy, the power, and the glory to lift humanity and each one of us up to the next level of our intelligent progression, adoption as sons and daughters of the Father and friends of Jesus.
THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE — sex is about fulfilling pleasure and using your organs to make you feel good. This is not bad, but it cannot lift me to the next level of my evolution, rationality.
THE MENTAL UNIVERSE — This is the level where I look at my urges and emotions and seek to control them. Using human reasoning and my ability to choose good or evil, I stumble down life’s paths, experiencing what is good for me. This universe is where I discover meaning (ala Victor Frankle) and wrap that around the ball of my life experiences. This is the sum of who I am and what I have learned about love, life, purpose, my purpose in life, what reality looks like, how it all fits together, how to love fiercely, and now that I know I am going to die, now what? With all that is good about the mental universe, it cannot lift me up to the next level. I can’t push myself up alone, but someone can reach down from another nature and give me a hand. All I have to do is take it. This is my belief that the words from God are true.
THE SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE– There is only one energy that can span all three universes because it is
All are one nature and the final state of all that is corruptible, giving final resonance to the dissonance of matter and mind.
There is no sex, marriage, or giving in marriage in Heaven. But, while we live our dual citizenship on earth (living in this body until we die and also living in our adopted body on earth), we must struggle with Satan trying to derail us and have us choose the Devil’s Kingdom (Hell).
Excuse my bluntness, but we won’t need our sexual organs in Heaven. Sex becomes what we discover while on earth and constitutes the meaning of a relationship. We use our knowledge of what we discovered love to be as we sit next to Jesus on a park bench in the middle of winter and just love to be in His presence. No talking is necessary. Sex in the Spiritual Universe is what we have discovered about physical pleasure in life and how we share that with others (spouse, mom and dad, brothers and sisters, family pets, neighbors, fellow Lay Cistercians, and even our enemies.
I use this Rule of Threes as a template for separating three distinct processes of reality, all happening simultaneously but all having distinct characteristics and measurements for validity.
Mr. Denny is a person I met when I was twelve years old while coming out of Church at The Old Cathedral in Vincennes, Indiana. I had gone over for a visitation before the Blessed Sacrament after school. Mr, Denny was coming out of the Church, and we met outside. I asked him what he was doing there, and he told me that he was there to be in the presence of Christ. I asked him what he did when he went there because all I see is a peaceful but empty church. Mr. Denny said that he just goes there to look at Christ, and he looks back at me. That encounter, among the many others afterward, changed my life. I stopped trying to do something when I visited the Blessed Sacrament and began going there because that is where I could meet my friend, one whose face I have never seen but whose heart beats next to mine when I attend Eucharistic Adoration. Love in both the mental and spiritual universes is about longing to be present to the other and discover happiness and joy. In the mental universe, I do this with my spouse; in the mental and spiritual universe, I do this with Jesus while being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit.
THE RULE OF THREES
PHYSICAL UNIVERSE – Base of Matter
MENTAL UNIVERSE—Meaning through Reason and Free Choice
SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE—Intelligent progression and the fulfillment of my humanity
I use the Rule of Three to tease reality apart to separate what is from our animal nature, what comes from our human nature, and what comes from our being granted adoption by The Father.
There is only one reality, but it has three dimensions or universes, the physical, the mental, and the spiritual.
I use this template of the Rule of Three to explain Question Three of the Divine Equation, “What does reality look like?”
II. THE TEMPLATE OF THE FOUR QUADRANTS
As I use them, templates are overlays to questions or to situations for me to probe deeper and deeper into reality. I will share with you one template and how to use it.
|REALM OF THE MIND||REALM OF THE HEART|
|What my masculine side provides.||What my feminine side provides.|
AUTHORITY AND FAITH
The Christ Principle
My adoption by Christ
My acceptance of the Holy Spirit
Freely offer my will to the Father
Dying to Self
| SERVICE AND GOOD WORKS|
Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy
Chapter 4, Rule of St. Benedict
Tallahassee Lay Cistercian discernment group
Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Lay Cistercian Gathering
|KNOWLEDGE AND FREE WILL|
The Primacy of Holy Scriptures
Writings of the Early Church via New Advent
Writings of St. Benedict
Writings of Cistercian authors
YouTube of Bishop Barron and others
Catechism of the Catholic Church
| THE OMEGA|
LOVE THROUGH CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE
Reconciliation and Penance
Liturgy of the Hours
“Do what he tells you.”
Humility and Obedience to the will of the Father ‘
through the power of the Holy Spirit each day.
HOW I USE THE QUADRANT
Jesus is the center of the quadrant and the Christ Principle from which and into which all reality has its life and truth, and finally, is the way to reach the fullness of our humanity as nature intended.
There are four quadrants:
I took the template from what I have concluded is the purpose of all existence, taken from The Baltimore Catechism, Question 6: The purpose of life is to know, love, and serve God in this world and to be happy with God in the next.
As a Lay Cistercian who seeks God each day through silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community, my focus is on how I can “have in me the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)
I begin all my Lectio Divina sessions with this same statement.
I try to make all things new each time I pray, which means I seek to grow in the capacity of God within me through the power of the Holy Spirit and by opening up my heart to what the heart of Christ shares with me. My faith experiences are so profound and beyond my poor abilities to come up with the interactions and connections with what Christ intended for his disciples that I have stopped fighting it and now just wait.
These quadrants are unique to me. There is only one Christ Principle, but the four quadrants will be different for each one of us due to the rareness and choices each of us makes with our lives.
Some of the outcomes of my thoughts are:
I. These four quadrants correspond to the four marks of the Church:
You can see how I filled each quadrant with what I consider important aspects yet to be fully explored.
To grow even deeper, I take just one of them, for example, in Apostolic, the item of my adoption by Christ, and then use a blank template and ask what authority means, what knowledge, love, and service mean to me as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father. This takes me a step deep in my meditation. There is no end to how many levels I can go.
I use this template to answer the fourth question in the Divine Equation, “How does it all fit together?”
II. When I apply this template to my spirituality, I have a way to focus my thoughts on my center “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus, (Philippians 2:), then select a word, such as the nature of God, and apply these four quadrants:
St Thomas Aquinas writes that knowledge proceeds love.
Jesus, the Messiah and the Second Person of the Trinity emptied Himself (kenosis) to become our tainted human nature so that he can be a ransom for many to restore to humans the ability to continue with their evolution to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father.
III. THE TEMPLATE OF TWO WORLDS
With Baptism comes certain changes in the way that I perceive reality. The template of two worlds allows me to discern the difference between the world and my adoption as the son (daughter) of the Father. The Son became one of us to tell us the good news that we have the choice to be both citizens of the world but also citizens of a higher dimension. Christ told us that his kingdom was not of this earth. Adoption by the Father through, with, and in Christ, our brother, allows us to begin to live in that spiritual universe while we still live on earth and are bound by its natural laws and societal norms.
AS A CITIZEN OF THE WORLD–I still perceive reality with my senses and use language to interpret what it means to be human daily. I must make choices about what I think is good for me. The problem is that I only think of what is good for me and what will make me happy. This is similar to B.F. Skinner’s concept of operant conditioning, where I am presented with pleasure or pain, but I most often choose pleasure or what fulfills my needs. I inherit the condition of original sin from my birth as a citizen of the world. To reach heaven, I must fulfill the original intent of my humanity: to know, love, and serve God in this world and be happy with God in the next. The problem is that our intended evolution has been thwarted and sidetracked because of the original sin. The effects of this sin on Adam and Eve (prototypes of humanity) are that we must endure pain, work for a living, clothe our nakedness, and die. To reach our intended destiny, I must die to that citizen of the world (Baptized) and live my life with the effects of original sin.
AS A CITIZEN OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN– The Resurrection Event only makes sense if Christ has prepared a place for me, and I claim that (belief) adoption as a son or daughter of the Father. Humanism only makes sense if it leads me to fulfill the original intention of my human nature, to be happy with God as Father, and Son, through the Holy Spirit. Intelligent progression means the terminal end of my eighty + years on earth is to continue as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven with God.
HOW I USE THIS DUALITY IN MY LECTIO DIVINA MEDITATIONS
I always begin with The Christ Principle (Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.) Philippians 2:5
I wait some more.
I think about a word, such as original sin.
I grow deeper by dividing my thoughts into two parts:
I do all this by focusing on Christ using the power of the Holy Spirit. This duality allows me to see things in my everyday life that I would otherwise overlook. It is a technique that I find extremely helpful.