SIMPLICITY

Sometimes I can’t get to sleep or wake up at night and must use the bathroom then can’t get back to sleep. This is one of those nights. I always get enough rest, but sometimes nothing works, even Melatonin.

My thoughts go to Lectio Divina, my old companion of Philippians 2:5, and what that means for me today as I sit before the computer here trying to get some rest. Simplicity in life comes to mind.

I am reminded that Christ became one of us, not to make life more complex, but through our adoption as sons an daughters of the Father to make life simpler, but not necessarily easier. As a Lay Cistercian, I try to practice simplicity in all aspects of my life in keeping with what I understand the contemplative life in the World to be.

CHARACTERISTICS OF SIMPLICITY

  • Simplicity is reducing something to its core components, then doing it routinely.
  • Simplicity in the spiritual universe means the more complex it is.
  • Simplicity is seeking God in daily living without my agenda.
  • Simplicity is sitting on a park bench in the dead of Winter and waiting for Christ to come around the bend and sit with you.
  • Simplicity is doing more with less, as Brother Michael, O.C.S.O. keeps telling us.
  • Simplicity is your heart next to the heart of Christ in silence and solitude.
  • Simplicity is when you do Lectio Divina without knowing you are going through each step.
  • Simplicity is just being what you pray and not just saying more prayers. Reading Chapter 4 of the Rule of Benedict is a practice I do every day. I read it without thinking about the words too much.

There are five ideas of about simplicity that I want to share with you today.

THE SIMPLICITY OF HEART-– Love others as I have loved you.

John 13:34-35
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.”

Like all principles, what sounds simplistic contains such depth that it takes a lifetime of struggle to each approach some of it. There is only one command that Christ gave us, “love one another as I have loved you.” We can approach the Father through the Son. For me, Cistercian practices of silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community help me to join with the Son so we can, together, approach the Father. Through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ, together we can offer praise to God the Father, and 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. –Cistercian doxology

THE SIMPLICITY OF PURPOSE — Love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself, Psalm 119:145 “With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord. I will keep your statutes.”

Matthew 22 NRSVCE –
36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

If you ask yourself the question, “What is the purpose of life?” I believe Matthew 22 is the one answer, the bullseye on the dart board of life, the North Star, the principle from which all others flow. How simple is that?

God is one. One what? This is the simplicity principle, the black hole of the spiritual life. Shema Yisrael, the Lord your God is one. Deuteronomy 6:5. The sign of contradiction with simplicity is that, despite being dense and compact, it contains meaning for both those not initiated in the practices of contemplation and also those who approach the face of God without burning up their neurons.

In my case, the depth of the Mystery of Faith is one that I based all of this on John 1:1

  • Say the Word
  • Pray the Word
  • Share the Word
  • Be what you say, pray, and share.
  • There are no words to describe this level of awareness of God.

THE SIMPLICITY OF LIFESTYLE– Seek first the kingdom of God and all else will be given to you. Everything in reality, is linked to everything else. The problem is, I don’t have the capacity or the capability to know how it all fits together in my lifetime, but I do know it does. When I look at my own simplicity and how I can change my life to fit my simplicity of purpose or simplicity of faith, that translates to be like the desert monks and nuns and rely less on things and more on seeking God wherever I find Him. Here are some thoughts that came to me during my Lectio Divina. I am not sure what they mean, but I am not worried about them.

  • You can’t drive two cars at the same time, but you can own a dozen of them. Seek simplicity of lifestyle.
  • You can’t live in more than one house at a time, but you can own two or more of them.
  • You can’t possibly eat three full meals every day without being blotted (at least I can’t).

THE SIMPLICITY OF FAITH — No one knows the Father except the Son or anyone to whom he has revealed Him.

Several passages from Scripture tell of how we should strive for simplicity in our hearts. Here are some of them:

Matthew 6:33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” This is one of my favorite passages because of its simplicity (yet complexity) of practice. As a Lay Cistercian who tries to practice having in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) each day, I think about placing God first and forgetting the rest.

Read what Matthew 6 says in its entireity. “Do Not Worry25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,[j] or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?[k] 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things, and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God[l] and his[m] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Abraman Maslow created what he called the Heirarchy of Needs. These are needs that all humans have (those living in two universes). What stikes me about the Scripture passage is the passage in verse 33 that recommends to us that we try to seek God first and every thing else, in this case, all of Maslow’s human needs will fall into place. In former times, I used to think that this meant that I didn’t need to work about my human’s needs and I could just give responsibility for them to God and forget about them. Not so. In reality, I find that I must work even harder to try to make those human needs fulfilled, but with one exception. I now put Jesus first in my needs. I have expanded Maslow’s hierarchy from two universes (just physical and mental) to three (physical, mental, and now spiritual). Each morning, I make my morning offering with a free act of love telling Christ that he is Lord and that I wish to join with him in giving…glory and honor to the Father to the Son and to 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 –Cistercian doxology. Now THAT is simplicity.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs essay pdf – Bing

See the source image

Matthew 11:27All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

In the complexity of simplicity, humans find they cannot approach the Father directly. Adam and Eve found this out when they were cast out of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2-3). Because Christ is BOTH divine and human, he can approach the Father and, Scriptures says, the Son is the only one who can reveal the Father to us. Any relationship with God must come through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ. In my Lay Cistercian practice, all the prayers we do are designed to give back to the Father praise and glory through Christ. Every day!

Part of what love means is to be present to the other person. In the case of marriage, it is called fidelity and living life together, two diverse personalities living to compliment each other. In the case of a monk or nun, being present to each other is the community and the community is seen as the body of Christ. For me as a Lay Cistercian, I put myself in the presence of Christ through contemplative practices (Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina, Rosary, Reading Scripture, reciting Chapter 4 of the Rule of Benedict, and trying to see how I can live each day in silence, solitude, work, prayer and community.

Jesus Is Rejected by the Jews22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah,[a] tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.[b] 30 The Father and I are one.” If, as Jesus says, the Father and I are one and we are one with Christ by loving those whom Christ loved, we fulfill the mission of Christ to allow people the opportunity to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father…Forever. We don’t have to do anything but prepare our own hearts to sit next to Christ on a park bench and receive from the Holy Spirit life-giving energy and love, so that we can share it with others. How simple is that?

Simplicity in Faith is reducing what you do in order to expand the capacity for God in you. More is not necessarily better.

Using the Lay Cistercian charisms of humility and obedience to God’s will, I have observed and experienced the seeming contradiction that the more I strive for simplicity for all of these aspects of my spiritual journey, the deeper I realize they are. It is in realizing that they are part of the Mystery of Faith that makes sense for me. I don’t struggle to know every aspect of them but rather I just appreciate God more and more because He allowed me to use them as tools to help me grow from self to God.

THE SIMPLICITY OF SILENCE AND SOLITUDE

Some approach Christ through activities for the good of the Church Universal, while others seek God primarily through silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community. This last aspect of simplicity is my encounter with Christ on a park bench in the dead of Winter.

Waiting for Christ

I have a story that came from one of my Lectio Divina encounters with the heart of Christ that I wish to share with you again. Read it slowly and carefully.

WAITING FOR THE MASTER

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 back to you and asks if you have a bottle of water. 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 very cold outside. “Thanks,” he says. He talks about how he is homeless, and 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 and 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 is going on 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 is going on three hours now, and it seems to be getting colder. Just you and the dog are there, which you have named Michele. Just 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 here.” “You look cold,” he says. “Here, take this scarf that my mother knit for me, it will keep you warm.” The dog sits next to the man as if he was the owner. All the while he kept stroking the dogs 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 do not notice because the conversation is so warm and intimate. You tell the kind gentleman all about your trials and successes and how you just want to seek God wherever that might be and whoever it might be. The gentleman tells you that He has to go home to see his father, to whom he owes everything 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. Turing to his dog, he says, “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 passed so quickly. You are a bit disappointed that Christ did not stop by. You think maybe you got the time wrong and leave to go home. As you are going, you remember you have on you the scarf which 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 within you 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 to the Father and 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.

YOUR RESPONSE

Now, look at the photo of the park bench 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?

1. Before you write down your thoughts, take ten minutes to just compose your mind. Write down your thoughts, but more importantly how you felt, about the bench meditation.

2. What three ideas would you like to share with someone about this story?

3. How is this story simple yet complex? It is like everything in the spiritual universe because there is where God is. We hope to be there some day.

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PROGRESS

I don’t remember it always being this way, but it seems we have developed a corporate mentality that says results are not good unless they are immediate. There is a time for everything. As Scriptures points out:

Ecclesiastes 3 NRSVCE –

Everything Has Its Time

3 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

One of the lessons I have learned, thankfully before I die, is that God moves at His pace, not mine. God is not someone we can Tweet and expect an immediate reply. This idea is paramount in my image of me sitting on a park bench in the dead of Winter, straining for Christ to show up and sit next to me. Even though God is everywhere and always with me, it is my anticipation of the coming of the Lord that I must never take for granted. God response comes when I make myself acceptable through humility and obedience to God’s will. How long this takes is unclear. I perform the Cistercian practices to put myself in the presence of God and wait for whatever comes.

REFLECTIONS ON PRAYER AND SOME TIMEFRAMES OF HOW LONG WE HAVE WAITED FOR THINGS TO HAPPEN

THE UNIVERSE- How old is the universe? What is the oldest thing we know of? https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Oldest+Object+in+the+Universe&&view=detail&mid=CFAA2378EB475BE5E877CFAA2378EB475BE5E877&&FORM=VRDGAR

Based on what I have read on Youtube, what we call The Universe is 13.5 billion years old. Yet, I am writing about this today so from the beginning to now is there for a reason. I just realized it right now and made that part of how I look at how all things fit together into one. I think back that, from the beginning of time, God created all that is so that I might be an adopted son of the Father.

THE EARTH — How old is the Earth? Within the framework of the universe, the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old. Watch Youtube on the age of the Earth. https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=how+old+is+the+earth+youtube&&view=detail&mid=86ADC0DDCC09E669516086ADC0DDCC09E6695160&&FORM=VRDGAR

We were not there to see the beginning of Earth’s formation. Does that mean it did not take place? It is the classic dilemma if a tree in the forest falls and you don’t hear it, did it really fall? Logical thinkers like to do mental gymnastics with these ideas. Why is the Earth one of the very few places where any life can exist? Coincidence?

ADAM AND EVE — Whether you hold that the Genesis story was an actual historical event or an ancient myth describing the human condition as it affects our relationship with God, you are reading it. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01129a.htm

The Genesis event foreshadows the coming of Christ, the second Adam. The Christ event gives rise to our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father, one of the most significant events and also one that would not have happened had there been no platform upon which to build our ability to reason. Do you see a pattern here?

CHRIST —
If any of these events did not take place, we are not only not here, but would not be able to give glory to the Father through the Son. Christ was a historical figure who lived among us. Read Philippians 2:5.

THE CHURCH — The interface between Christ and reality is the Church, his mystical body, the living body in each age as we attempt to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus. This is the Church Universal.

YOU — All of this formation, all of this time is for you to be able to live your life for the next reality, to know, love, and serve God in this life so we can be with God forever.

Lay Cistercian contemplative practices and charisms help those who use them to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus here and now.

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SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR

I recommend that you consider asking someone to be your spiritual director. This should be a person of great integrity in things spiritual, especially as it pertains to the contemplative approach. One of the reasons that an outside person is helpful to give you feedback on how you complete your contemplative practices is to guard against idolatry in your spiritual life. This means you are not only your own god but also your own church. No one can tell you what is right or wrong; you are the supreme authority in all things pertaining to God. Who better than you knows what the mind of God is, is the dominant thinking.

A spiritual director can challenge you on your lack of humility or keep you from thinking that you can just say you believe in God but don’t actually love your neighbor. Human nature tends to seek its own level of comfort. If you have ever been on a diet, you know what I mean. Intentions are initially good to lose weight, but there is a problem. It takes work. Businesses have been founded to help people with their diet by introducing accountability and moral support to their plan. Weight-watchers and Jenny Craig are some of the many examples of diets who provide human interaction to help you keep your focus. Some days are better than others. All diets work, it is the people who do not work at doing what they say they will do.

As a Lay Cistercian, I can go it alone, if I choose, but one of the helps to keep me honest with myself is a spiritual director or guide. This is someone I select to tell them of my routine, my goals, how I think I am doing, and get feedback. The danger of each of us being our own church is that we tend to believe the press we write about ourselves.

CHARACTERISTICS OF A SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR

  • Choose someone you want to emulate or be like in their spirituality.
  • Lay Cistercians should select someone who knows that way of spiritual practice.
  • Meet once a quarter or as needed.
  • A spiritual director doesn’t have to know more than you, but should be someone you trust to help you move from self to God.
  • A spiritual director should be meek and humble of heart.
  • A spiritual director can be male or female.
  • A spiritual director should help you become what you read in Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict.
  • A spiritual director will hold you accountable to what you say you will do.

TIPS ON CHOOSING A DIRECTOR FOR YOUR SPIRITUAL JOURNEY

  • Having a spiritual relationship with another person means the two of you are focused on Christ as your center.
  • Hold your sessions in Church and preferably after Eucharist for 30 minutes or so. Use your common sense and the Holy Spirit to guide you.
  • In humility, open yourself to the Holy Spirit without conditions.
  • If your spiritual director does not fit with you or you feel uncomfortable, discontinue and get someone else.
  • Spiritual direction is no substitute for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is not counseling or therapy.
  • Before selecting a spiritual director, ask them three questions:
    • What is your center, your purpose in life?
    • Who wears the Shoes of the Fisherman, as we speak?
    • When was the last time you spent in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament?

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THE LIFE OF A HERMIT

Read about Sister Mary Beatrice Raphael, a hermit living on the grounds of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Georgia.

https://georgiabulletin.org/news/2014/10/devout-doctor-chooses-hermitage-focus-just-jesus/

That in all things, God be glorified. –St. Benedict

MAKING SENSE OF THE SACRED

I have discovered four questions that have caused me to sit up and take notice of the world around me. In my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) last week, I thought of how reality fits together, even if I don’t see any connection at the moment. This is actually the fourth question that I must ask and answer before I die. To review, the six questions are:

  • What is the purpose of life?
  • What is my purpose within that purpose?
  • What does reality look like?
  • How does it all fit together?
  • How can I love fiercely?
  • You know you are going to die, now what?

QUESTION ONE: What is the most powerful thing that we know of in this universe?

https://www.businessinsider.com/hypernovas-are-the-most-powerful-thing-in-the-universe-2014-9

Some say the most powerful thing in the universe is a hypernova. In terms of energy, it far surpasses anything we know of on earth. But wait, how powerful is the hypernova when compared to say a human, any human?

Ask yourself this question, “What hypernova knows that it knows?” Using this criterion, a human, any human, is more powerful than any natural power. It is the power of the mind, the power to ask why and to seek out what is real that is truly powerful. Why is that?

QUESTION TWO: Are humans the only ones in the universe that knows that we know? Probably not, but we base thought on the hypothesis that probability favors there being some form of life out there. Professor Frank Drake even designed an equation to show the probability that life exists in the universe. https://www.space.com/25219-drake-equation.html

Ask yourself this question, “Wonder if we are the only sentient species in all of the universe? What does this say about the purpose of life?”

QUESTION THREE: Of everything that is living (being) on earth, why are humans the only ones to have free will that is not tied to nature and the ability to know that we know? Baboons don’t make good politicians, although when you look at the House of Representatives these days, you would swear some act like monkeys.
Ask yourself this question, “Why are humans the only sentient life form that we know of?” Is there a reason that happened? We not only have a nature that is above the animals, we have the ability to choose. Why is that? Who gave us that freedom?

QUESTION FOUR: Why do some people live in three universes (physical, mental and spiritual) while others only live in two (physical and mental)?

It is only in the three universe approach to reality that we can fully answer the six questions each human must ask and answer before they die.
Ask yourself this question, “Of all humans, why do some people use their ability to choose, to include Faith and the possibility of loving fiercely, while others choose to make themselves gods?” To live in three universes, you must use your free will to do so. In all of the universe, why do humans have the ability to choose? Choose what? Adam and Eve chose what they thought was good but it turned out to be a false choice, one we inherit to this very day.

In Genesis 2-3, Adam and Eve chose to live in two universes rather than accept three universes with God as its center. In Philippians 2:5-12, God sent his only Son, Christ, whom St. Paul calls the second Adam, to become one of us so that we would have the choice of two universes or three. Read what St. Paul says about our ability to choose three universes and the consequences of that choice.

Romans 5 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) Results of Justification5 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access[b] to this grace in which we stand; and we[c] boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we[d] also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.[e] 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.Adam and Christ12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— 13 sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. 14 Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 16 And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17 If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. 19 For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification[f] leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

LEARNING AND DISCUSSION POINTS

  • It is not by accident that humans find themselves on this rocky ball of gases.
  • It is not by accident that we are tied to this planet for seventy or eight years if we are strong.
  • It is not by accident that, of all living things, humans have the ability to know that we know.
  • It is not by accident that we have the ability to choose.
  • One man and women, our human archetypal parents, choose poorly (chose two universes and the consequences of that choice being work, pain, and ultimately death).
  • It is by free will that God chose to send His Son, Christ, to give us the ability to select to live three universes (restoring the possibility of everlasting life with God as it was in the beginning).
  • It is no accident that Christ came not only to tell us that we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father but show us the meaning of love in three universes. He bid us only to love one another as He has loved us.
  • It is no accident that Christ was Baptized in the Jordan to new life and bid us do the same.
  • It was no accident that Christ suffered, died and rose again to restore the Old covenant into a New one, one that is open to all humans but also one which demands an act of the free will to enter.
  • It is not by accident that Christ asked the Advocate to be with us in each age to allow us to keep alive the good news of salvation until the end of time.
  • It is no accident that Christ left his followers the responsibility to be fragile stewards of His body and blood (Real Presence) by the forgiveness of sins and by making all things new.
  • It is no accident that Christ restored all things and is the way, the truth, and the life for those who love Him.
  • Now, we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father, capable of approaching the Father through Christ.
  • Now, we can call God Father, Abba with Christ.
  • Now, we can offer to the Father the honor and glory due His name, through, with, and in Christ. By ourselves, we are sons of Adam (living in two universes) but with Christ, we inherit the Kingdom of God…Forever.

Because of this great love for all of us, praise be to the Father and to the Son and to 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. –Cistercian doxology

WAYS TO LOOK AT SIN

Lent is a time of penance and prayer, a time to examine your collective consciousness to see if you are on the right track or not. Lent is also a time to reflect on how you increase your capacity to love Christ by loving your neighbor as yourself.

If your true self tries to move towards the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, then the false self pulls each of us towards the seven deadly sins. If you think life is a struggle to pull against Original sin, you would be correct in my estimation. Some have even characterized this titanic struggle between good and evil as a war against Satan.

Sin plays a significant part of the struggle we all face as a result of the Original Sin of Adam and Eve. Christ came to remove that sin through Baptism but it does not diminish the effects of Original Sin. Faith can be gained through humility and obedience to God’s will but it can easily be lost to pride and the other deadly sins if we are not careful. It is not without some significance that Christ bid us take up our cross daily and follow Him.

Sin, according to this way of thinking is not just one action that we commit, but more of a mindset that says “We are God.” When we receive the Sacrament of Penance in many cases, we do so without having committed any serious or mortal sins. What we confess is our lack of Faith to love God with all our hearts and minds and strength. What we ask is the grace to make all things new in our hearts.

MISSING THE TARGET

Sin is an archer who aims for the target bullseye but misses it slightly or even completely. I use the Rule of St. Benedict, especially Chapter 4 as an examination of conscience, as the basis for my moral behavior. When I pray this Chapter 4 each day, my prayer is always that I become what I read. I am in the process of moving from my old self to my new self. Some days are better than others. This is my target in life, to move from self to God. I find it interesting that I must begin the struggle each day anew. Each day is sufficient unto itself.

GRACE CENTERED

A mistake would be to think of my spiritual behavior in terms of not committing sin. Rather, I should focus on loving God with all my heart, all my mind, and all my strength and my neighbor as myself. Avoidance of sin is not the center of my life, but rather how to love others as Christ loves us. Christ died for each of us, not because we are evil or corrupt persons, but to give us an inheritance as adopted sons and daughters of the Father.

SIN IS LIVING IN TWO UNIVERSES AND NOT THREE

It takes energy to live in three universes and not just two. That energy comes from God. That energy is God’s own life. Christ gives us the template when he became one of us. He chose to live in the world of Original Sin (two universes) to show us how to live in three universes. In many ways, it is just the opposite of the World, a sign of contradiction, Chapter 49 of the Rule of St. Benedict reminds monks (and all of us) that Lent is a year-long struggle. It should be a special time liturgically to prepare our hearts once more to live the Life of Christ by appreciating the Resurrection. I can’t convert my life from my old self to my new self if I live in two universes. Galatians Chapter 5 points out this dichotomy by framing our living as coming from the flesh (two universes) or the Spirit (three universes).

LEARNING AND DISCUSSION POINTS

Don’t fall into the trap of just doing “something” for Lent without it changing the way you live. Conversion of heart takes energy, God’s energy, not yours.

Place yourself in the presence of God and not vice versa. Lent is a time of intensive love where we long to expand our capacity to receive God in our hearts.

Lent is a time to choose love over sin. As a Lay Cistercian I find that I must fast and pray that I do not enter into temptation. I can’t do that in two universes, but only in three.

Lent is a time when I re-center myself on my personal purpose in life, “to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5-12.

UIODG

FAST AND PRAY

Lent is a time of repentance for our sins of the past, plus asking God for the grace to be more focused on Christ for the future. Ashes are an ancient sign of repentance. Ash Wednesday is a time to remember, O Human, that you are dust and into dust you shall return. It is a period of 40 days, like Jesus endured, as a way to purify the mind and the heart to seek God clearly.

Ashes are an outward sign of interior conversion and transformation. Soon after Christ died, there were those who, like the Essenes before them, wanted to experience a purification of mind and body to be able to approach God as Christ instructed, “learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls.”

A LAY CISTERCIAN REFLECTS ON LENTEN PENANCE

There is one thing about fasting that puzzles me. When Christ was led into the desert to be tempted, this was a time for him to fast and pray that he not be tempted. Was it a real 40 days of fasting without water or food? What human can last 40 days without food or water? I don’t know of any. Maybe the 40 days refers to the 40 years Moses wandered in the desert. The Israelites had no food or water other than what God gave them. Do you see a similarity here? If no human can survive without food or water and live, and Christ is like us in all things but sin, then the 40 days must be a period of time during which Christ wandered in the desert. Satan attacked not his divinity, which the Devil could not approach, but Christ’s humanity, and the interface between His human nature and the divine nature. Fasting and prayer were the contemplative ways that Christ used to gain mastery over his human tendencies of Original Sin. Like Baptism, Christ exposed his human nature to the effects of Original Sin to show us how to overcome temptation and its allure of false meaning. Lent is a period that precedes the Resurrection. It purifies the soul even today as it did for countless men and women who went out in the desert to purify themselves of their false self to be able to put on the white garments of the Resurrection to a new life in Christ. Over and over, we actually do the life that Christ lived through the liturgical year. The point of placing ourselves in the presence of the Holy Spirit so as to make all things new, once again, is building up the capacity for God to grow in us and we decrease.

Lent is a time in the Church calendar when we make the temptations of Christ real for us by doing something to bring us closer to the heart of Christ. Lent is such a time, one where we do something to remind us that nourishment of the body with food and water is necessary but nourishment of the soul allows us to fulfill our destiny as humans.

At Baptism, Christ gives us several gifts to help sustain us on our journey to Forever. Everyone receives these gifts but not everyone wants them or knows how to use them. One of my six foundational principles of being human is living in three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual) and not just in two (physical and mental). One gift is a set of special glasses, ones that allow us to see reality in 3U or three universes. Unlike the early Gnostic followers who thought that only select people (Illuminati) could know the secrets of being like God, the Church Universal says that all people have been redeemed, but that free will allows us to respond to Faith in ways that are appropriate. To help us on our way, the Church Universal is there to provide insights into the way, the truth, and the life. The church is not the way, but Christ is, and the Church Universal is the living body of Christ in each age. Lent with its emphasis on fasting and prayer is a time to immerse ourselves in the life of Christ. Christ himself gives us the grace to see what cannot be seen (living in just two universes) and to understand what we hear.

Another gift is a set of hearing aids. Glasses help those who cannot see to make sense of images, and hearing aids help us to hear. What is different about these glasses and hearing aids is that they allow us to see and hear in three universes, not just two. As it says in Scriptures: Matthew 13 NRSVCE – The Parable of the Sower –

13 The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not
perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’
14 With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of
hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.’
16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.
17 Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

Lent, as St. Benedict points out to his monks in Chapter 49 of the Rule, isa yearly task, and it only intensifies during this liturgical season of
penance and mortification. Chapter 4 of the Rule states that “…your way must be different from the world’s way. the love of Christ must come before all else.

Characteristics of Fasting for a Broken-Down, old Lay Cistercian

  • At 78.6 years of age, I use Brother Michael’s advice on prayer and apply it to fasting. Pray as you can. Fast as you can.
  • Sit on the park bench in the dead of Winter and listen to what the heart of Christ says to me. Keep silence in the heart. Keep prayer simple. Have in me the mind of Christ Jesus and express it through writing this blog and my books.
  • I need three virtues. Seek humility, seek humility, seek humility, as St. Bernard tells us.
  • Smaller plates for supper, smaller bowls for salads. No sodas. No meat.
  • Offer up my fasting and prayer for those who have cancer and heart replacement surgery.

THE POINT (AT LAST)

  • Every time you seek the kingdom of heaven first, you place everything else in proper order in three universes, not just two.
  • Fasting and prayer refer not just to saying Hail Marys (good as that is) but in the constant and consistent use of prayer to approach the Sacred for 40 days. It is overcoming the human tendency to procrastinate doing something uncomfortable in favor of doing something that will help you in three universes.
  • Lent is about conversion from my false self to my true self. Fasting and prayer are only instruments to do that, not ends in themselves.
  • My favorite image is sitting on a park bench in the dead of Winter waiting for Christ to approach me. St. Benedict asked his monks to “listen with the ear of the heart.” in his Prologue to the Rule of Benedict.
  • Penance is not limited to Lenten season, it is only intensified during these 40 days in preparation for the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ.
  • At the heart of repentance is the humility to love others as Christ loves us.
  • Silence and solitude during Lent, as we do all year long, places the mind in a position to open the heart to the heart of Christ.
  • Longing to see Christ, we sit on a park bench in the middle of Winter, waiting for Christ to sit next to us. It is the longing of the heart that is love. It is the anticipation of the mind that allows us to endure discomfort for the sake of having in us the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)

Anthony of the Desert was a person who wished to deny himself, take up his cross and follow Christ. His writings: Sayings of the Desert Fathers represents an important insight into how fourth-century cenobites (monks) sought to transform themselves into Christ.

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Anthony_the_Great

This is translated by the late Sr Benedicta Ward SLG in her collection The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

ACTIVITIES FOR LENT

Read these 39 sayings as part of your Lenten Penance. Read one a day for each day of Lent. Reflect on the meaning of each one and ask yourself what it means for your daily living out of the Life of Christ during Lent.

1. When the holy Abba Anthony lived in the desert he was beset by accidie, and attacked by many sinful thoughts. He said to God, “Lord, I wand to be saved but these thoughts do not leave me alone; what shall I do in my affliction? How can I be saved?” A short while afterwards, when he got up to go out, Anthony say a man like himself sitting at his work, getting up from his work to pray, then sitting down again and plaiting a rope, then getting up again to pray. It was an angel of the Lord sent to correct and reassure him. He heard the angel saying to him, “Do this and you will be saved.” At these words, Anthony was filled with joy and courage. He did this, and he was saved.

2. When the same Abba Anthony thought about the depth of the judgments of God, he asked, “Lord, how is it that some die when they are young, while others drag on to extreme old age? Why are there those who are poor and those who are rich? Why do wicked men proper and why are the just in need? He heard a voice answering him, “Anthony, keep your attention on yourself; these things are according to the judgment of God, and it is not to your advantage to known anything about them.”

3. Someone asked Abba Anthony, “What must one do in order to please God?” The old man replied, “Pay attention to what I tell you: whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes, whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it. Keep these three precepts and you will be saved.”

4. Abba Anthony said to Abba Poemen, “This is the great work of man: always to take the blame for his own sins before God and to expect temptation to his last breath.

5. He also said, “Whoever has not experienced temptation cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” He even added, “Without temptations no-one can be saved.”

6. Abba Pambo asked Abba Anthony, “What ought I to do?” and the old man said to him, “Do not trust in your own righteousness, do not worry about the past, but control your tongue and your stomach.”

7. Abba Anthony said, “I saw the snares that the enemy spreads out over the world and I said groaning, “What can get through from such snares?” Then I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Humility.'”

8. He also said, “Some have afflicted their bodies by asceticism, but they lack discernment, and so they are far from God.”

9. He said also, “Our life and our death is with our neighbor. If we gain our brother, we have gained God, but if we scandalize our brother, we have sinned against Christ.”

10. He also said, “Just as fish die if they stay too long out of water, so the monks who loiter outside their cells or pass their time with men of the world lose the intensity of inner peace. SO like a fish going towards the sea, we must hurry to reach our cell, for fear that if we delay outside we will lost our interior watchfulness.”

11. He said also, “He who wishes to live in solitude in the desert is delivered from three conflicts: hearing, speech, and sight; there is only one conflict for him and that is with fornication.”

12. Some brothers came to find Abba Anthony to tell him about the visions they were having, and to find out from him if they were true or if they came from the demons. They had a donkey which died on the way. When they reached the place where the old man was, he said to them before they could ask him anything, “How was is that the little donkey died on the way here?” They said, “How do you know about that, Father?” And he told them, “The demons shewed me what happened.” So they said, “That was what we came to question you about, for fear we were being deceived, for we have visions which often turn out to be true.” Thus the old man convinced them, by the example of the donkey, that their visions came from the demons.

13. A hunter in the desert saw Abba Anthony enjoying himself with the brethren and he was shocked. Wanting to show him that it was necessary sometimes to meet the needs of the brethren, the old man said to him, “Put an arrow in your bow and shoot it.” So he did. The old man then said, “Shoot another,” and he did so. Then the old man said, ‘Shoot yet again,” and the hunter replied “If I bend my bow so much I will break it.” Then the old man said to him, “It is the same with the work of God. If we stretch the brethren beyond measure they will soon break. Sometimes it is necessary to come down to meet their needs.” When he heard these words the hunter was pierced by compunction and, greatly edified by the old man, he went away. As for the brethren, they went home strengthened.

14. Abba Anthony heard of a very young monk who had performed a miracle on the road. Seeing the old man walking with difficulty along the road, he ordered the wild asses to come and carry them until they reached Abba Anthony. He said to them, “This monk seems to me to a ship loaded with goods but I do not know if he will reach harbor.” After a while, Anthony suddenly began to weep, to tear his hair and lament. His disciples said to him, “Why are you weeping, Father?” and the old man replied, “A great pillar of the Church has just fallen (he meant the young monk) but go to him and see what has happened.” So the disciples went and found the monk sitting on a mat and weeping for the sin he had committed. Seeing the disciples of the old man he said, “Tell the old man to pray that God will give me just ten days and I hope I will have made satisfaction.” But in the space of five days he died.

15. The brothers praised a monk before Abba Anthony. When the monk came to see him, Anthony wanted to know how he would bear insults; and seeing that he could not bear them at all, he said to him, “You are like a village magnificently decorated on the outside, but destroyed from within by robbers.”

16. A brother said to Abba Anthony, “Pray for me.” The old man said to him, ” I will have no mercy upon you, nor will God have any, if you yourself do not make an effort and if you do not pray to God.

17. One day some old men came to see Abba Anthony. In the midst of them was Abba Joseph. Wanting to test them, the old man suggested a text from the Scriptures, and, beginning with the youngest, he asked them what it meant. Each gave his opinion as he was able. But to each one the old man said, “You have not understood it.” Last of all he said to Abba Joseph, “How would you explain this saying?” and he replied, “I do not know.” Then Abba Anthony said, “Indeed, Abba Joseph has found the way, for he has said: ‘I do not know.'”

18. Some brothers were coming from Scetis to see Abba Anthony. When they were getting into a boat to go there, they found an old man who also wanted to go there. The brothers did not know him. They sat in the boat, occupied by turns with the words of the Fathers, Scripture and their manual work. As for the old man, he remained silent. When they arrived on shore they found that the old man was going to the cell of Abba Anthony too. When they reached the place, Anthony said to them, “You found this old man a good companion for the journey?” Then he said to the old man, ” You have brought many good brethren with you, father.” The old man said, “No doubt they are good, but they do not have a door to their house and anyone who wishes can enter the stable and loose the ass.” He meant that the brethren said whatever came into their mouths.

19. The brethren came to the Abba Anthony and said to him, “Speak a word; how are we to be saved?” The old man said to them, “You have heard the Scriptures. That should teach you how.” But they said, “We want to hear from you too, Father.” Then the old man said to them, “The Gospel says, ‘if anyone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.'” (Matt. 5.39) They said, “We cannot do that.” The old man said, “If you cannot offer the other cheek, at least allow one cheek to be struck.” “We cannot do that either,” they said. So he said, “If you are not able to do that, do not return evil for evil,” and they said, “We cannot do that either.” Then the old man said to his disciples, “Prepare a little brew of corn for these invalids. If you cannot do this, or that, what can I do for you? What you need is prayers.”

20. A brother renounced the world and gave his goods to the poor, but he kept back a little for his personal expenses. He went to see Abba Anthony. When he told him this, the old man said to him, “If you want to be a monk, go into the village, buy some meat, cover your naked body with it and come here like that.” The brother did so, and the dogs and birds tore at his flesh. When he came back the old man asked him whether he had followed his advice. He showed him his wounded body, and Saint Anthony said, “Those who renounce the world but want to keep something for themselves are torn in this way by the demons who make war on them.”

21. It happened one day that one of the brethren in the monastery of Abba Elias was tempted. Cast out of the monastery, he went over the mountain to Abba Anthony. The brother lived hear him for a while and then Anthony sent him back to the monastery from which he had been expelled. When the brothers saw him they cast him out yet again, and he went back to Abba Anthony saying, “My Father, they will not receive me.” Then the old man sent them a message saying, “A boat was shipwrecked at sea and lost its cargo; with great difficulty it reached the shore; but you want to throw into the sea that which has found a safe harbor on the shore.” When the brothers understood that it was Abba Anthony who had sent them this monk, they received him at once.

22. Abba Anthony said, “I believe that the body possesses a natural movement, to which it is adapted, but which it cannot follow without the consent of the soul; it only signifies in the body a movement without passion. There is another movement, which comes from the nourishment and warming of the body by eating and drinking, and this causes the heat of the blood to stir up the body to work. That is why the apostle said, ‘Do not get drunk with win for that is debauchery.’ (Ephes. 5.18) And in the Gospel the Lord also recommends this to his disciples: ‘Take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness.’ (Luke 21.34) But there is yet another movement which afflicts those who fight, and that comes from the wiles and jealousy of the demons. You must understand what these three bodily movements are: one is natural, one comes from too much to eat, the third is caused by the demons.”

23. He also said, “God does not allow the same warfare and temptations to this generation as he did formerly, for men are weaker now and cannot bear so much.”

24. It was revealed to Abba Anthony in his desert that there was one who was his equal in the city. He was a doctor by profession and whatever he had beyond his needs he gave to the poor, and every day he sang the Sanctus with the angels.

25. Abba Anthony said, “A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, ‘You are mad, you are not like us.'”

26. The brethren came to Abba Anthony and laid before him a passage from Leviticus. The old man went out into the desert, secretly followed by Abba Ammonas, who knew that this was his custom. Abba Anthony went a long way off and stood there praying, crying in a loud voice, “God, send Moses, to make me understand this saying,” Then there came a voice speaking with him. Abba Ammonas said that although he heard the voice speaking with him, he could not understand what it said.

27. Three Fathers used to go and visit blessed Anthony every year and two of them used to discuss their thoughts and the salvation of their souls with him, but the third always remained silent and did not ask him anything. After a long time, Abba Anthony said to him, “You often come here to see me, but you never ask me anything,” and the other replied, “It is enough fo rme to see you, Father.”

28. They said that a certain old man asked God to let him see the Fathers and he saw them all except Abba Anthony. So he asked his guide, “Where is Abba Anthony?” He told him in reply that in the place where God is, there Anthony would be.

29. A brother in a monastery was falsely accused of fornication and he arose and went to Abba Anthony. The brethren also came from the monastery to correct him and bring him back. They set about proving that he had done this thing, but he defended himself and denied that he had done anything of the kind. Now Abba Paphnutius, who is called Cephalus, happened to be there, and he told them this parable: “I have seen a man on the bank of the river buried up to his knees in mud and some men came to give him a hand to help him out, but they pushed him further in up to his neck.” Then Abba Anthony said this about Abba Paphnutius: “Here is a real man, who can care for souls and save them.” All those present were pierced to the heart by the words of the old man and they asked forgiveness of the brother. So, admonished by the Fathers, they took the brother back to the monastery.

30. Some say of Saint Anthony that he was “Spirit-borne,” that is, carried along by the Holy Spirit, but he would never speak of this to men. Such men see what is happening in the world, as well as knowing what is going to happen.

31. One day Abba Anthony received a letter from the Emperor Constantius, asking him to come to Constantinople and he wondered whether he ought to go. So he said to Abba Paul, his disciple, “Ought I to go?” He replied, “If you go, you will be called Anthony; but if you stay here, you will be called Abba Anthony.”

32. Abba Anthony said, “I no longer fear God, but I love Him. For love casts out fear.” (John 4.18)

33. He also said, “Always have the fear of God before your eyes. Remember him who gives death and life. Hate the world and all that is in it. Hate all peace that comes from the flesh. Renounce this life, so that you may be alive to God. Remember what you have promised God, for it will be required of you on the day of judgment. Suffer hunger, thirst, nakedness, be watchful and sorrowful; weep, and groan in your heart; test yourselves, to see if you are worthy of God; despise the flesh, so that you may preserve your souls.

34. Abba Anthony once went to visit Abba Amoun in Mount Nitria and when they met, Abba Amoun said, “By your prayers, the number of the brethren increases, and some of them want to build more cells where they may live in peace. How far away from here do you think we should build the cells?” Abba Anthony said, “Let us eat at the ninth hour and then let us go out for a walk in the desert and explore the country.” So they went out into the desert and they walked until sunset and then Abba Anthony said, “Let us pray and plant the cross here, so that those who wish to do so may build here. Then when those who remain there want to visit those who have come here, they can take a little food at the ninth hour and then come. If they do this, they will be able to keep in touch with each other without distraction of mind.” The distance is twelve miles.

35. Abba Anthony said, “Whoever hammers a lump of iron, first decides what he is going to make of it, a scythe, a sword, or an axe. Even so we ought to make up our minds what kind of virute we want to forge or we labor in vain.”

36. He also said, “Obedience with abstinence gives men power over wild beasts.”

37. He also said, “Nine monks fell away after many labors and were obsessed with spiritual pride, for they put their trust in their own works and being deceived they did not give due heed to the commandment that says, ‘Ask your father and he will tell you.'” (Deut. 32.7)

38. And he said this, “If he is able to, a monk ought to tell his elders confidently how many steps he takes and how many drops of water he drinks in his cell, in case he is in error about it.”

Read this excerpt from the Rule of St. Benedict on Lent. What three ideas seem to apply to you during this Lenten season?http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/03d/0480-0547,_Benedictus_Nursinus,_Regola,_EN.pdf

CHAPTER XLIX On the Keeping of Lent The life of a monk ought always to be a Lenten observance. However, since such virtue is that of few, we advise that during these days of Lent he guard his life with all purity and at the same time wash away during these holy days all the shortcomings of other times. This will then be worthily done if we restrain ourselves from all vices. Let us devote ourselves to tearful prayers, to reading and compunction of heart, and to abstinence. During these days, therefore, let us add something to the usual amount of our service, special prayers, abstinence from food and drink, that each one offer to God “with the joy of the Holy Ghost” (1 Thes 1:6), of his own accord, something above his prescribed measure; namely, let him withdraw from his body somewhat of food, drink, sleep, speech, merriment, and with the gladness of spiritual desire await holy Easter. Let each one, however, make known to his Abbot what he offereth and let it be done with his approval and blessing; because what is done without permission of the spiritual father will be imputed to presumption and vainglory, and not to merit. Therefore, let all be done with the approval of the Abbot.

St. Benedict told his monks and nuns (and us) that Lent lasts all year around. For the rest of us, we might consider doing something extra during Lent, over and above the normal Cistercian practices we have in our daily schedule. Brother Cassian, O.C.S.O. handed out the following recommendations to the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist)at our last Gathering Day. I share them with you because they are based on Chapter 49 (above) and give a deeper dive into Lent. Remember, what we are about is the transformation from our false self to our true self in Christ. Fasting and prayer help us become what we pray. Below you will find what Brother Cassian suggests and I have put down what I will do over and above my daily Cistercian practices in italics (as an example). You might wish to fill in something different.

In order to I will

  • renew fervor (wash away negligence) examine my conscience daily
  • devote myself to reading reread The Cistercian Way
  • deepen prayer (add to private prayer, Stations of the Cross weekly devote myself to tearful prayer, devote myself to compunction)
  • add to abstinence (devote myself to self-denial, refuse to indulge in evil habits. fast (main meal at Noon)

ACTIO

What will you do that you have not up to this point to increase the love of Christ in you for others?

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Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to 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. –Cistercian Doxology

SIC TRANSEAT GLORIA MUNDI

What goes around comes around eventually. Consider this example.

We are all born without our consent, alone, from darkness into the light of the world.

We live our unique lives at birth confined to a crib and would not exist without the help of our parents.

We expand that space to include our house and gain knowledge of what is right and wrong and begin to discover what is meaningful.

We push out further, going to school, learning to read and write, discovering the larger world around us.

We get a job, take on responsibilities, get married, raise a family and our progeny increases.

We complete our job, retire, and try to discover meaning for what is to come.

We are confined sometimes to our house and our movement may be limited.

We end up in our bed, once again, taken care of by our family or friends.

We die alone, in darkness, but with an exception. We wake up to the light of Christ which we have carried faithfully in our hearts.

Good and faithful servant, God tells us, come, share your Lord’s joy.

Amen and Amen.

FIVE TIPS TO HELP WITH PRAYER

There are five things about prayer that I have learned from my time going to Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), Conyers, Georgia.

Without editorializing too much, I offer them for your consideration for those times you find yourself approaching the Sacred through prayer.

I. PRAY AS YOU CAN: Brother Michael, O.C.S.O. told us this during a conference on Lectio Divina. This is important because many times I don’t find myself in an environment conducive to praying. Either there is too much noise for me, or I am doing “things” to help the family and find myself waiting for my wife outside of Trader Joe’s market or going to the Premier Gym to exercise.

I learned that it does not make any difference in praying if I am in Premier Gym or attending the Eucharist. Each type of prayer is different and not to be confused with each other, but both or prayer, the lifting of the heart and mind to God. I pray as I can. I have done Lectio Divina outside Trader Joe’s waiting for my wife to finish her shopping. I have stopped waiting until I find quiet (usually impossible for me) and embraced noise as a form of silence. My mind focuses on Lectio Divina at Premier Gym in the midst of all that noise and distraction. I pray as I can.

II. PRAY WHEN YOU CAN: I learned that some days are better than others. Life sometimes throws me a curve in my intensity of prayer. I go to Eucharist, pray the Liturgy of the Hours in the morning and evening, do Lectio Divina, but there are times when I sit at Tom Brown Park in Tallahassee, Florida and sit on a park bench seeking God. Both types of prayer are part of my integrated spiritual life.

In being a Lay Cistercian, I am more and more aware of praying Lectio Divina outside of formal prayers with others. I am looking at the blue sky and praising God for his creation.

III. WORK IS PRAYER. Formal prayer is not the only time I pray. When I offer up my writing to God, my going to the Gym for exercise, whenever and wherever I find myself, I can sanctify the moment. It comes and it goes.

IV. LIFTING THE HEART AND MIND TO GOD. Prayer is nothing other than thinking of the one you love and wanting to sit next to them.

V. DON’T LIMIT PRAYER. Prayer may be formal or informal. It may take the form of contemplation as an individual or the prayer of the Church Universal, Eucharist in a community of Faith.

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THE CONTEMPLATIVE APPROACH TO SPIRITUALITY

Some people have difficulty relating to a spirituality that is contemplative. Some people have difficulty comprehending the meaning of spiritual versus religion. Not all that is contemplative is Cistercian, but all that is Cistercian is most definitely contemplative.

Here are some of my ideas about the meaning of contemplative.

  • It is a way that I approach the Sacred.
  • Contemplation happens in the depths of my self.
  • I approach the meaning of life by a look at reality in terms of wonder, moving from self to God, expanding the “capicitas dei” (my capacity to approach the Sacred). I do this through Cistercian practices and charisms, although I am not limited exclusively to this approach.
  • My assumption is that I use what I learned from Cistercian spirituality to define contemplative.
  • Contemplative means five areas of emphasis to help me approach the Sacred: silence, solitude, work, prayer, community.
  • The contemplative approach to life is not to worry about converting the world but rather convert yourself from false self to a new self.
  • Contemplative practices are those which place your heart next to the heart of Christ and then get out of the way.
  • Contemplative practices require the skill of listening more than talking and demanding what you want.
  • Reflecting on what Christ meant when he said, “love one another as I have loved you” is part of contemplation.
  • Contemplative may mean solitude in the midst of a community of faith.
  • For me, as a Lay Cistercian, it means approaching the Sacred in the Mystery of Faith in the Eucharist, Eucharistic Adoration, reflections on the Rosary, Lectio Divina, Spiritual Reading, Reading Scripture, Reading Chapter 4 of the Rule of Benedict every day.
  • Contemplative means preferring nothing to the love of Christ. (Chapter 4)
  • The contemplative approach is not something that is beyond our capabilities or our capacity. It actually increases the capacity for God in our hearts.

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THE SIXTY SECOND CATHOLIC

Many people are afraid to recite the Liturgy of the Hours because they find it difficult to master. Like everything else in life, there is a learning curve. We don’t master something in one day. Our impatience sometimes causes us to avoid certain practices we don’t understand.

Try this practice for 30 days, then evaluate its effectiveness.

Read all or part of Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict every day. Pray that you become what you read.

Lay Cistercian Litany of Praise and Glory

One of the great prayer traditions in the Church Universal is the Liturgy of the Saints. I was thinking, during one of my recent Lectio Divina meditations about how I should praise God for his supreme act of Love to become one of us to save us from our human condition. (Philippians 2:5)

My mind ventured to pray the Cistercian doxology, “Praise to the Father and 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.” In the Liturgy of the Hours, we always conclude this doxology at the end of each of the Psalms or the end of the three Psalms that make up each hour.

Cutting Wheat

My mind continued to conjure up various scenarios where we praise God. I thought of one of my favorite passages in the Liturgy of the Hours, that of Daniel 3. How people working in the fields would recite these psalms with each other. How the faithful would gather to respond to the various litanies with “Lord Have Mercy” “Lord, save your people” or “We beseech you, hear us.” Below are references to read the history of the Litany of Saints, the one I know the best and was prayed for me at the reception of Holy Orders.

LITANY AS PRAYER OF THE PEOPLE

Here is a litany from the Old Testament book of Daniel (3).

46 Now the king’s servants who had thrown them in continued to stoke the furnace with naphtha, pitch, tow, and brush. 47 The flames rose forty-nine cubits above the furnace, 48 and spread out, burning the Chaldeans that it caught around the furnace. 49 But the angel of the Lord went down into the furnace with Azariah and his companions, drove the fiery flames out of the furnace, 50 and made the inside of the furnace as though a dew-laden breeze were blowing through it. The fire in no way touched them or caused them pain or harm. 51 Then these three in the furnace with one voice sang, glorifying and blessing God:

52 “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our ancestors,
    praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;
And blessed is your holy and glorious name,
    praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages.
53 Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,
    praiseworthy and glorious above all forever.
54 Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom,
    praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
55 Blessed are you who look into the depths
    from your throne upon the cherubim,
    praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
56 Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven,
    praiseworthy and glorious forever.
57 Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord,
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
58 Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord,
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
59 You heavens, bless the Lord,
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
60 All you waters above the heavens, bless the Lord,
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
61 All you powers, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
62 Sun and moon, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
63 Stars of heaven, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
64 Every shower and dew, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
65 All you winds, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
66 Fire and heat, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
67 Cold and chill, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
68 Dew and rain, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
69 Frost and chill, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
70 Hoarfrost and snow, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
71 Nights and days, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
72 Light and darkness, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
73 Lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
74 Let the earth bless the Lord,
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
75 Mountains and hills, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
76 Everything growing on earth, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
77 You springs, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
78 Seas and rivers, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
79 You sea monsters and all water creatures, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
80 All you birds of the air, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
81 All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
82 All you mortals, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
83 O Israel, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
84 Priests of the Lord, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
85 Servants of the Lord, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
86 Spirits and souls of the just, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
87 Holy and humble of heart, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
88 Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
For he has delivered us from Sheol,
    and saved us from the power of death;
He has freed us from the raging flame
    and delivered us from the fire.
89 Give thanks to the Lord, who is good,
    whose mercy endures forever.
90 Bless the God of gods, all you who fear the Lord;
    praise and give thanks,
    for his mercy endures forever.”

LOOK IT UP

THE LITANY OF SAINTS AS PRAYER OF THE CHURCH UNIVERSAL

There are two types of sung Litany of the Saints. I have references for you to listen to each of them.

Traditional Litany of the Saints
Modern Litany of the Saints

I love both of these chants, one traditional and one modern. Sometimes, I just listen to them to enhance my Meditation on Philippians 2:5. Take some time and listen to both of them, one in Latin and one in English.

A LAY CISTERCIAN REFLECTS ON THE LITANY OF THE SAINTS

Litanies begin by asking God for mercy. Next is praise for the Trinity, redemption, salvation. The next level is asking the key players in our salvation to help us., then comes the prayer to the specific Saints (note: we ask the Saints that stand in perpetual adoration before the Throne of the Father to join with us in prayer. We don’t pray TO the saints as our final source of praise and glory, that is to God alone.)

The Saints (those recognized as in God’s Hall of Fame) and the saints who have died and are before the Throne of the Father are alive in Heaven, just as we are. As we asked them when they were living, we now ask them via the litany to join us in in praise and glory to the Father through the Son by means of the Holy Spirit.

I will be using the patron saint or namesake in the Litany that I compose below. Saints are those who have died and are before the Throne of the Lamb.

We ask the Father to be merciful and helps us, as we continue to struggle on earth, with petitions of mercy and help. I can remember reciting litanies which say “save us from the peril of the Vikings.” There are prayers of petition to the Father to keep us strong in Faith and not let our Faith waiver.

The Litany of the Saints states and petition or statement from the Schola Cantorum (a group of lead singers) and then requires a response from us. This mantra-like chant opens up, to those disposed to the Spirit, relationship with the Sacred. The music is simple and does not get in the way of the words spoken, but elevates them so that we have both word and music praising and glorifying the Father through the Son by means of the Holy Spirit.

A LAY CISTERCIAN LITANY OF PRAISE AND GLORY

I have composed a Litany of Praise and Glory to the Father, using some of the Saints I know and people who have died in the peace of Christ. The first part is sung by the Schola Cantorum and the response is sung by the congregants (in italics)

Lord, Have Mercy Lord, Have Mercy

Christ, Have Mercy Christ, Have Mercy

Lord, Have Mercy Lord, Have Mercy

To the Father Who Creates All That Is Praise and Glory be to you

To the Son Who Set us Free Praise and Glory be to you

To the Holy Spirit who Gives us Strength Praise and Glory be to you

You are the God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages

Praise and Glory be to you

All you who stand before the throne of God Pray for us

Holy Mary,  Pray for us (repeat after each line)
Holy Mother of God, 
Holy Virgin of virgins,
St. Michael, 
St. Gabriel, 
St. Raphael, 

All you Holy Angels and Archangels, 
St. John the Baptist, 
St. Joseph, 
All you Holy Patriarchs and Prophets,

St. Peter, 
St. Paul, 
St. Andrew, 
St. James, 
St. John, 
St. Thomas, 
St. James,
St. Philip, 
St. Bartholomew, 
St. Matthew, 
St. Simon, 
St. Jude, 
St. Matthias,
St. Barnabas, 
St. Luke, 
St. Mark, 
All you holy Apostles and Evangelists, 

All you holy Disciples of the Lord, 
St. Stephen, 
St. Lawrence, 
St. Vincent, 
Sts. Fabian and Sebastian, 
Sts. John and Paul, 

St. Ignatius of Antioch

St. Polycarp
Sts. Cosmas and Damian, 
All you holy men, Saints of God

St. Anthony,
St. Benedict, 
St. Bernard, 
St. Dominic,  
St. Francis, 

St. Ignatius
All you holy Priests and Levites, 
All you holy Monks and Hermits,

John Cassian

All you Cistercian monks and nuns


All you Cistercian Martyrs and Martyrs of Atlas

Father Anthony Delisi

Francisco Ambrosetti

All you holy Lay Cistercians living and dead Pray for us

All you Holy Women, Saints of God Pray for us

St. Mary Magdalene, 
St. Agatha, 
St. Lucy, 
St. Agnes, 
St. Cecilia, 
St. Anastasia,
St. Catherine, 

St. Mother Theresa

Sr. Mother Theodore Guerin

St. Scholastica

O Lord, be merciful Lord, save your people (repeat after each verse)

O Lord, give us your peace

O Lord, may our capacity to love you grow every day

O Lord, sustain us in our search for you

O Lord, move us from self to you

O Lord, protect us from the temptation of relativism

O Lord, may we listen with the ear of the heart

O Lord, may our prayers permit us to approach you in Faith

O Lord, give us humility of heart

O Lord, may we be always close to your heart

O Lord, grant us the grace of silence and solitude

O Lord, that in all things may we have the mind of Christ

O Lord, give us the grace to experience the Holy Spirit in each other

We sinners, we beseech Thee, hear us (repeat after each line)
That you wouldst spare us,
That you wouldst pardon us,
That you wouldst bring us to true repentance,
That you wouldst bless those who follow the Rule of St. Benedict
That you would bring all of together as one
That you wouldst sustain and preserve us in Thy holy service,
That you would give us your own energy to love one another as you have loved us
That you wouldst render eternal blessings to all our family, friends and those who help us
That you would give us your own Spirit to stand vigil before the Blessed Sacrament
That you would grant eternal rest to all the faithful departed, Lay Cistercians, monks and nuns
That you would give us the strength to practice Lectio Divina and Liturgy of the Hours for your glory and honor

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of
    the world, have mercy on us
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of
    the world, have mercy on us
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of
    the world, grant us peace

Christ, hear us, Lord Jesus, hear our prayer.
Lord Jesus, hear our prayer. Lord, have mercy on us.

Lord have mercy on us. Lord have mercy on us

Christ, have mercy on us. Christ, graciously hear us

Lord, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.

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ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY

What follows is an exerpt from two of my books, THE PLACE NO ONE WANTS TO LOOK: Six questions all of us must answer before we die, and, SEEKING GOD AT PREMIER GYM IN TALLAHASSEE FLORIDA.What seems like nonsensical titles are actually at the core of contemplative spirituality as I practice it. In one of my Lectio Divina meditations (Philippians 2:5), I thought of this saying: “You don’t meet God through Christ where he is, you meet Him where you are.” In all the different ways to see God, the best way for me has been to realize that God is right before me. When I first went to Premier Gym, I had no thoughts of God. After all, I wanted to exercise, and what does God have to do with getting your muscles and heart toned up? All of this depends on my assumptions.

As I move around my day, and my day moves around my years, and my years pass away, quickly, it seems, I am more and more conscious of transforming the NOW into something I can take with me to Heaven, packing my suitcase, if you will, for my last big trip.

As a Lay Cistercian, using the charisms and practices of Cistercian spirituality to help me reach my purpose in life (Philipians 2:5), assumptions are so important. Assumptions are those embedded principles that you use to find meaning and purpose in life. Depending on your assumptions, your behavior follows. Christ told us, “…by their fruits you shall know them.” You can tell a lot about someone by their external behavior. These behaviors come from somewhere. I think they are from my assumptions that I make about who God is, who I am, what my purpose in life is.

A FEW OF MY ASSUMPTIONS

Anytime you read anything, whenever you hear a commentator on television news give an opinion, there are always assumptions underlying their thoughts. We can’t help it. We speak of what we know based on our value system. Here are assumptions I have about my contemplative practice of prayer, as it pertains to any of my thoughts.

ASSUMPTION ONE: We need to attend a school of love to learn how to love as Jesus loved us.

We are not born with a mature spirituality. We must learn how to do it, just as we must learn the meaning of the word “Love”. It would be foolish indeed to attempt to start my own school of Love when there has been one around since St. Benedict of Nursia wrote his Rule (c.540 A.D.) to develop rules to organize the monks of his day. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Monte-Cassino. http://www.osb.org/rb/text/rbejms1.html#pro

Notes: ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Here is an excerpt from the Prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict.

“LI S T E N  carefully, my child,

to your master’s precepts,

and incline the ear of your heart (Prov. 4:20).

Receive willingly and carry out effectively

your loving father’s advice,

that by the labor of obedience

you may return to Him

from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience.

To you, therefore, my words are now addressed,

whoever you may be,

who are renouncing your own will

to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King,

and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.”

He founded a monastery for monks at Monte Casino, Italy, which still follows this Rule. What is the school of love? It is a place where you learn the disciplines of how to love using proven practices and charisms (what you convert your life into when you say you want to be like Christ). The Christ Principle has endured to this very day.

These disciplines are not easily mastered and may take a lifetime of conversion of life only to realize they are beyond mastery, you may only approach them when you love others as Christ loved you.  Each day is a lifetime in this school. Conversion is the curriculum. There is no graduation.

Cistercians (contemplative monks and nuns) and Carthusians (hermits) evolved from the Benedictine tradition c. 1090’s, with a desire to love Christ even more fiercely. They did this through their contemplative prayers and practices (silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community), adapting the Rule of  Benedict to each age. This is the same school that comes down to us today with the same practices, traditions, writings, wisdom, temptations, and graces in each age. It is a monastic tradition.

Characteristics of a School of Love

  • All Schools of Love have a Master. The model, of course, is Christ whom we call Rabonni or teacher. He is the Master, and we are all disciples, in all ages, from all cultures and philosophies. The Lay Cistercians have a  Master of their School, called an Abbot or Abbess. His person is the personification of Christ in the School. Humility and obedience to the command of Christ are paramount. “Prefer nothing to the love of Christ,” says St. Benedict in his Chapter 4 of the Rule. In the Church Universal, we have many religious orders of men, women, brothers, and laity. They all have a superior, one who represents Christ to the disciples.
  • The School of Love has a conversion of life as one of its purposes. There is little value in a school that doesn’t do anything to make you more than you were before. As a Lay Cistercian, I do not live within the walls of a monastery, but I do live within the walls of my own self. The more I make room for Christ in my life, the greater is my “capacitas dei” or the capacity to love as Christ loved us.
  • A school is a discipline that helps me focus on love in the midst of a world full of Original Sin.
  • The School of Love provides practices and charisms to enable you to touch the heart of Christ, who is the way, the truth, and, most certainly, the life. Contemplation is a way to put you in the presence of Christ, then asks you to be silent in solitude to let God talk.
  • The School of Love stresses being present to the Holy Spirit in other community members.
  • The School of Love begins the process of answering these six questions of life with Christ by using Cistercian spirituality and contemplation to provide meaning and clarification on what might seem murky.
  • The School of Love approaches the Mystery of Faith in humility and obedience to the will of God, being open to the energy of the Holy Spirit.
  • Each of the six questions must be answered in turn because they build on the answer before it. 
  • These six questions have not been fully answered but are in the process of being discovered.
  • These are the six questions I had to discover. I use Cistercian spirituality in the form of Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, daily Rosary, daily Liturgy of the Hours, and prayer to grow deeper into the Mystery of Faith.
  • The School of Love bring joy to the heart, not the joy that the world gives, but the ability to love others as Christ loved us.

We will spend the next three days together, part of your larger journey of life. It is what you do with the rest of your life after you go home that will sustain you for the rest of your life. It is time you take to overcome self-inflicted obstacles and temptations that say all of this is irrelevant and foolish and does no good, that is meaningful and makes the journey worthwhile. This journal-retreat is a trip to enter the one place no one wants to look, within you. If you allow, I will take you to a place where you may have never been, one that begins to answer the six questions the human heart asks. I will show you how contemplation and prayer using both mind and heart can unlock the darkness. Mystery continues to mean something beyond our mortal intellectual capability, but it will be welcomed as an old friend and not as a block to the truth. 

The six questions are:

  • What is the purpose of Life?
  • What is the purpose of your life?
  • What does reality look like?
  • How does it all fit together?
  • How to love fiercely?
  • You know you are going to die, now what?

If you wish to explore this topic more thoroughly,  look up the following URLs.

Notes:__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

ASSUMPTION TWO: My contemplation follows the Cistercian Way. Cistercian (Trappist) spirituality with its unique practices of silence, solitude, pray, work, and community forms the basis of charisms (humility, obedience to the will of God, hospitality, simplicity, and Lectio Divina) that lead to the conversion of self to God. Lay Cistercians, following Cistercian spirituality, adapt the disciplines of the Monastery (without actually living there) to whatever their vocations might be. Contemplation is certainly not limited to one religious order, i.e., Cistercians, but it is the one which I use in all my books.

ASSUMPTION THREE: The Mystery of Faith is approached in at least five levels of spiritual awareness, each one leading to a more deeper penetration of God’s plan of action for us.  I will use the transformative Word of God as an example of growing deeper in faith, love, and service.

  • Level One; Hear the Word with your mind
  • Level Two: Pray the Word in your heart
  • Level Three: Share the Word with others
  • Level Four: Be the Word you hear, pray, and share
  • Level Five: Enjoy the Word. Allow the Word made flesh to sit next to you in silence and solitude.

(You will notice the same levels of transformation are also below.)

This assumption is at the heart of what it means to dig deeper into contemplative spirituality. Deeper here means going within oneself using silence and solitude to discover the unlimited riches of what lies within us. Retirees may sometimes be afraid that they won’t have enough to do or to keep busy. If you use the foundations of spirituality with contemplative practices, you are never alone, and you will find meaning not by just keeping busy but by loving others.

ASSUMPTION FOUR: Contemplation allows us to move from the realm of the mind to the realm of the heart. Contemplative spirituality is all about being silent, being in solitude, practicing Lectio Divina daily, sharing Eucharist daily, reciting the Liturgy of the Word together daily, converting your life to the Lift of Christ daily. All of these practices begin with the realm of the mind but develop into the realm of the heart. This realm of the heart is what we all aspire to attain.

As a Lay Cistercian, I reach this level of love and then slip back into my old self again. This notion of dying to the old self and rising to new self is core to the conversion of life into the Life of Christ Jesus. My purpose in life, as you will soon see, is based on Philippians 2:5. My life becomes trying and trying, over and over, to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus as a way I address these six questions of life. The journey is the important part of my attempts to love, sometimes even achieving fleeting completion, This is the deepest part of me, unexplored, like the darkness of a cave; unknown, yet luring me ever forward, like a moth seeks a flame.

ASSUMPTION FIVE: Dedication to a contemplative way of life is all about dying to self and rising again with Christ. Conversion of life is a lifetime process of striving to move from my false self to the true self, giving up the self of arrogance, pride, vanity and the allure of world to choose death, not life…Forever. The late Dom Andre Louf, the abbot of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont in Bailleul, France, wrote a book which opened my spiritual eyes and ears entitled, The Cistercian Way.

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The Cistercian Way is all about moving from the false self to God (true self) and how to use proven practices to seek God within you.

ASSUMPTION SIX: I used whatever thoughts came to mind as a result of my Lectio Divina statement found in Philippians 6:5. I just think of this phrase, “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus” over and over in the silence and solitude of my inner self (my outer self is full of noise and distractions). I don’t plan on having any thoughts or have any agenda, other than sitting on a park bench in the dead of Winter and waiting. I have never been disappointed.

             

I try to use the Cistercian principles and practices of conversion of life, but do not use the Monastery as my occasion to express it. Here are a few of my obseservations about the differences between a monastery and living the Cistercian Way in the world.

Early monks went into the desert to find solitude and silence in the wilderness. Ironically, Lay Cistercians find a wilderness of ideas and false self in the world, a place devoid of nourishment unless you put it there, a place with no water to quench the longing in the soul for Christ. The Garden of Eden is still the Garden of Eden because what God made is good. The majestic beauty of the physical universe, the natural law of all life, the wonders of science that delve into the very make up of matter and time with energy, all creation praises the Lord. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 148. “Praise him sun and moon, praise him, shining stars, praise him highest heaves and the waters above the heavens,” How can sun and moon praise God? They do not live, as we do? The Psalmist points to a very important reflection about life itself. When Sun and Moon be what they are destined to be, they automatically praise to God be just being. All life is like that, with the exception of humans. Humans don’t act their nature, they tend to act like animals or not as their nature intended.  Remember, Genesis 2-3 speak of a fall from grace? Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden (did not act according to how they were created) and had to suffer pain, death, and other human dysfunctions. Christ came to redeem us (restore us to be able to act our nature, except for the effects of Original Sin).

Matter and time are not evil, yet they will end. Humans are not evil, but all will die. While we imperfect humans live, we are tempted by the wilderness of false ideas, like Adam and Eve were in the story of salvation. We will be tempted to make ourselves gods until we die, yet, because Christ became one of us and paid the price for our redemption, rising from the dead to be our mediator with the Father once more, we have found adoption as sons and daughters. This is the Good News Christ wants everyone to know, even if they don’t believe in Him.

In recognition of that great series of events (Philippians 2:5,-12) we proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes again in glory, using Cistercian practices and conversion of life. Lay Cistercians pray as they can, not with schedules of prayer but by transforming the very struggle and distractions into a hymn to the wonders of God’s love for each of us. As  he little fox tells the Little Prince, in Saint Exupere’s tale of the meaning of love, it is the time you take to discover the meaning of love that is itself part of loving.

Lay Cistercians embrace time, not just as part of the make-up of the physical universe, along with matter and energy, but as an instrument to transform us from where we are now to where we want to be with our true self, one rooted in the Life of Christ in the best sense of that phrase. Time becomes transformative when both monks, nuns, laity all see themselves in relationship to the totality of all that is and proclaim, Abba, Father. Time exists to help us approach the Mystery of Faith in the now, so that we can live that same Mystery forever with the source of all energy, the pure energy of God in the Trinity. We all live in the context of time, but we do not all realize that we alone can transform ourselves from our false self to our true self by Cistercian practices and charisms into our intended nature in the Garden of Eden. Christ gave us, adopted sons and daughters, the power, not only to go to heaven, but to transform earth by recognizing that God is, God and we are who we are, then giving praise, as found in Revelation 4:11; “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

Of the many excellent, transformative ways to move from self to God that the Church has developed over the centuries (Franciscan, Dominican, Carmelite, Augustinian, Ignatian, Cistercian, Benedictine) I have chosen the Cistercian Way as my personal vehicle because it stresses silence and solitude in the context of Lectio Divina, Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharist, Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament and being what I read in Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict. Everything is geared to move from self to God.

I carry these assumptions with me everytime I go anywhere. Consequently, I am, ever more and more, waking up to the great possibility of the manifestibility of all Being encountered. I like to think of it as transforming the Now into Forever.

LEARNING AND DISCUSSION POINTS

  • Assumptions underly all of our behaviors. Our behaviors come how we find meaning and purpose. Our meaning and purpose depend on our assumptions. What are three assumptions that inform how you believe about the purpose of your life?
  • Your assumptions might be different than mine. How does all of this impact the way, the truth and the life?
  • Philippians 2:5-12 are the assumptions Christ had about becoming human. There is only one assumption that Christ had, that we should love others as Christ has loved us.
  • The School of Love is a learned habit. This school lasts a lifetime. In this school we learn how to love as Christ loves us. Are you in such a school of Charity or Love? Do you want to be?

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CHAPTER 7: Fear of the Lord

In one of my Lectio Divina meditations on Philippians 2:5, I marveled at the key role that humility plays in the divine economy of salvation. Not only does this seem to be the cornerstone of any way of thinking with Jesus as the center, but it is the charism that defines what I have learned about being a Lay Cistercian so far. Chapter 7 refers to St. Benedict’s Rule,

Some few of us are called to the monastic lifestyle, where we just focus on having in us the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Others, who live in the context of the World, try to use Cistercian practices and charisms as we can to seek the same end, one that we can only approach but never quite master in this lifetime. No matter what approach we use, humility is the essential ingredient that makes the rest of the charisms fall into place. It is the cardinal virtue without which nothing makes sense.

THE HUMILITY OF CHRIST

It would be a mistake to think of humility in terms of how the world sees it. When we assume the responsibility for not only having Faith but actually doing what that Faith demands (Matthew 25:36) according to the example of Christ, there are various characteristics that seem to pop up.

Characteristics:

Humility comes from our heart touching the heart of Christ. That heart is what humility is all about. Philippians 2:5-12 inspires me to be like Christ in humility, not like a politician, military leader, or some financeer from banking,

There are examples we have of those who have practiced humility, and thus obedience to God’s will, trying to love others as Christ loves us. We call those people Saints (upper case S). All of us are saints, who, be it in heaven, on the earth, or awaiting purification, are marked with the sign of Faith (the cross), purchased by the blood of Christ. Saints are not those without sin but who use humility and obedience to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus. It is for this reason that we honor and venerate them. We do not adore Saints as much as try to use them as inspiration for us while we live out our destiny.

  • Humility is a virtue to enable us to approach God through Christ. We need humility for us to “see” what obedience to God’s will means. With our preoccupation in this culture on being free to do what you think is correct, humility stands as the hurtle over which many of us can’t cross.
  • Humility, as the World sees it, means self-deprecation. Humility as Christ showed us means recognizing who you are in the sight of God.
  • Adam and Eve committed the sin of Pride, one of the seven deadly sins, one that keeps us focused on our false self instead of our true self. Humility is the answer to pride, thinking that you are God. Humility must come from God for it to be beneficial for us in our quest to seek that very God.
  • Humility, for St. Benedict, was key to obedience and the conversion of self to what God wants (obedience).
  • For me, I begin a new life every day, beginning and not totally succeeding to have in me the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5). I must begin each day with the intention to do God’s will with Christ’s help. Lay Cistercian practices allow me to be in the presence of Christ, who is One with the Father.

THE FIRST STEP OF HUMILITY

Any of us who wish to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus must also have the humility to approach the Sacredness of God with the Imperfections of Human Nature (Original Sin). St. Benedict outlines twelve steps that he encourages his monks to take to begin the lifetime struggle. I have not been strong enough to perform all twelve steps, but I do have an appreciation for the depth of meaning involved in this crucial Gift of the Holy Spirit.

I have developed a saying about humility that works for me. It is:
I am not you; you are not me; God is not me, and I am certainly not God.

Step One is that “we keep the fear of God always before our eyes (Psalms 35:2) and never forget it.”

I can remember talking about this first step with my Lay Cistercian group on Gathering Day (the one day per month meeting requirement). The word fear is open to many interpretations. It could be we should be afraid of God, but that doesn’t make complete sense when you think that Jesus became one of us so that we would not be afraid of God. Our humanity makes God into its own image, without God define who He is and the purpose of life. Fear here has more of a ring of respect for God and reverence for what God says.

One thing I thought about is how every action, every word we speak will be revealed at the Last Judgement. This is the context in which I think about fear. It changes the way I make decisions that are a little flakey at times.

WHAT OTHERS SAY ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF HUMILITY

“A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” ~ C. S. Lewis

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” ~ C. S. Lewis

“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” ~ Saint Augustine

“If you wish to attain to a true knowledge of the Scriptures, hasten to acquire first an unshakeable humility of heart. That alone will lead you, not to the knowledge that puffs up, but to that which enlightens, by the perfecting of love.” ~ John Cassian

“No structure of virtue can possibly be raised in our soul unless, first, the foundations of true humility are laid in our heart.” ~ John Cassian

“… a Christian is quite certain to fall into the same sins which he condemns in another with merciless and inhuman severity, for ‘a stern king will fall into misfortunes,’ and ‘one who stops his ears so as not to hear the weak, shall himself cry, and there shall be none to hear him’ (Prov. 13:17; 21:13).” ~ John Cassian

“Humility, in its turn, can be achieved only through faith, fear of God, gentleness and the shedding of all possessions.” ~ John Cassian

“The first degree of humility is prompt obedience.” ~ Benedict of Nursia

“The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all.” ~ Benedict of Nursia

“The value of life does not depend upon the place we occupy. It depends upon the way we occupy that place.” ~ Therese of Lisieux

“My vocation, at last I have found it; my vocation is love.” ~ Therese of Lisieux

“Above the clouds the sky is always blue.” ~ Therese of Lisieux

“How happy I am to see myself as imperfect and to be in need of God’s mercy.” ~ Therese of Lisieux

“Your true character Is most accurately measured by how you treat those who can do ‘Nothing’ for you” ~ Mother Teresa

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” ~ Mother Teresa

“There are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge; that is curiosity. There are those who seek knowledge to be known by others; that is vanity. There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve; that is Love.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux

“The three most important virtues are humility, humility, and humility.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux

“What we love we shall grow to resemble.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux

“there are four degrees of love: 1) Love of self for self’s sake. 2) Love of God for self’s sake. 3) Love of God for God’s own sake. 4) Love of self for God’s sake.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux

“The rivers of Grace cannot flow uphill, up the steep cliff of the proud man’s heart.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux

“As patience leads to peace, and study to science, so are humiliations the path that leads to humility.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux

“Glance at the sun. See the moon and the stars.
Gaze at the beauty of earth’s greenings.
Now, think.
What delight God gives to humankind
with all these things .
All nature is at the disposal of humankind.
We are to work with it. For
without we cannot survive.” ~ Hildegard of Bingen

“God has arranged everything in the universe in consideration of everything else.” ~ Hildegard of Bingen

“The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.
God is the ground, the substance,
the teaching, the teacher,
the purpose, and the reward for which every soul labors.” ~ Julian of Norwich

LAY CISTERN APPLICATION

The contributions of others must be accepted as coming from sincere hearts. There is also the gift of discernment to tell you what is consistent with the Holy Spirit and what is not. When I attend the Gathering Day each month at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, we meet in groups to talk about a selected book. Humility means I must accept what others say as being sincere and coming from the heart, it does not mean that what people think is correct and I cannot state what I think is true. Knowing the difference allows me to keep my integrity.

Without humility, obedience to an abbot, abbess, bishop, superior general, or any person taking the place of Christ another as speaking for God becomes ridiculous, in terms of how the World sees humility.

Pride is the vice that keeps us from reaching our potential as sons and daughters of the Father. No one approaches God without humility of mind and heart.

LOOK UP THESE REFERENCES

https://richardconlin.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/st-bernard-of-clairvaux-the-twelve-degrees-of-humility-and-pride.pdf

https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/religion-and-philosophy/spiritual-life/the-twelve-steps-up-the-mountain-of-pride-according-to-st-bernard-of-clairvaux.html

LEARNING AND DISCUSSION POINTS

  • How is humility related to conversion of life from self to God?
  • Is humility something you can lose? If so, how can you sustain a level of humility to help you in your struggle against Original Sin?
  • Jesus told us to learn from Him for he is meek and humble of heart. What does that mean as you pray to God?
  • How would you describe Philippians 2:5-12 in terms of humility?
  • Is there a humility which comes from the World and humility that comes from the Spirit? What is the difference?
  • What three activities will you attempt in the next 30 days to increase the capacity for God in you and how does humility play a key role?

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SEEKING GOD IN MY BACK YARD

I must share this incident with you. Last week, we replaced an old, wooden deck with a new one. It took a long time to ask three or four contractors to give us estimates (my wife is the brains, I am just old). Last Thursday and Friday they came and tore down the old one and put up a new wooden structure.

Don’t ask me why, but this event was part of my Friday Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5). It came to me that Christ came to be one of us and knew exactly what we needed to survive Original Sin, that caustic human condition that leads to death.

Here is my point. I thought of how all of us must update everything, making new from old, just like tearing out an old deck and replacing it with a new one. I can remember how the old boards were rotten and looked terrible. The rain and sun had taken their effect. I thought of how nothing in this world lasts, nothing. Original Sin is the default activity for humans, The effects of Original Sin are still with us, the human condition, even though Christ came to open up the possibility for us to live beyond our nature. Christ became one of us to give us ways to combat the effects of Original Sin (death, sin, temptation to be God, breaking the Ten Commandments, and not loving others as Christ loves us). Faith as Baptism and the Spirit from God are gifts that make us adopted sons and daughters of the Father. But there is a problem. Once we have Faith, we must live it out with free will using the gifts that God have given us to survive until we pass over to the next reality, Heaven.

I thought of the deck as wearing out with use, growing old and dying, our not taking care of it, and of the time I fell through the rotting decking (not injured). This is like Original Sin with us. To survive, Christ told us to love others as He Himself loves us. He gave us seven gifts to give us grace (the energy of God) to sustain our Faith. Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Marriage, Holy Orders and Anointing of the Sick. The community of Faith uses these gifts to sustain us as we journey to Forever.

On this occasion, I thought of how Christ saved us from the effects of that Original Sin of Adam and Eve but left us with a way to make all things new. This changes the paradigm from one of decay and deterioration to one of accepting that we live in the World of the effects of Original Sin but have God’s grace to help us make all things new again.

Being a Lay Cistercian means, more and more as I seek more and more humility, that I try to use the Cistercian practices and charisms to move forward from self to God. It takes work. I am not always completely successful. I still live in the state of Original Sin but I know how to recharge the batteries, to make a new deck to replace the old one. Christ is the carpenter who builds decks. He makes all things new over and over. Not that I will ever reach perfection in this lifetime, but I strive to love as Christ has loved us, over and over.

Each new day is a lifetime of trying to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:5). I have my doubts and anxieties over that last hurdle (death) and what it is like. I also have the way, the truth, and the life to sit next to me on a park bench in the dead of Winter and tell me, “Don’t be afraid.”

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MAKE A CONTEMPLATIVE RETREAT

This coming August 19-22, 2019, (Monday through Thursday), there will be an opportunity for you to make a retreat at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Retreat Center, Conyers, Georgia. If you have been to the Monastery for a retreat, you know that silence is a big part of any contemplative retreat, yet, there is plenty of sharing of ideas through the sessions and in long walks in the woods. Couples are most welcome.

Contemplative means you take time from all the cares and woes of life to reinvigorate your inner self through silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community. I have the privilege of being the retreat master for this retreat, along with a colleague, Peter Cowdrey, both of us from Good Shepherd Parish, Tallahassee, Florida.

If you have never made such a retreat, or feel the need to be energized in the presence of the Holy Spirit, the actual retreat master for all retreats, I would encourage you to do so.

Here is the description from the official brochure from the Monastery.

August 19-22 (Midweek)

The Six Questions You Must Answer Before you Die

(Michael F. Conrad, Ed. D. & Peter Cowdrey)

There is a place in all of us where we are afraid to look to find the answers to some of life’s most perplexing questions. Contemplative spirituality can help to clear away some of the cobwebs so we can have a chance to address them. These six fundamental questions are:

  • What is the purpose of life?
  • What is my purpose in life?
  • What does reality look like?
  • How does it all fit together?
  • How can you love fiercely?
  • You know you are going to die, now what?

Each person may have unique answers to them. This retreat will focus on how the Christ Principle enables us to discover authentic meaning and love within us by using Cistercian practices and charisms to move from self to God.

HOW TO ATTEND THE RETREAT

You can sign up right now for this event by calling the Retreat Center at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery and ask for Brother Mark, O.C.S.O., or Patti. They will guide you through the requirements and registration.
Call (770) 760-0959. Give them the title or dates of the retreat and they will do the rest.

The website is: http://www.trappist.net/ Look up “Plan Your Visit” then click on retreats.

I send this to you in advance so you may clear your schedule, if you are called to attend this retreat. We would like to have several people from the Tallahassee area attend this retreat. Don’t wait too long to sign up for the retreat. Space is limited.

You may reach me, Michael Conrad, at my Email: conrad40@comcast.net with any questions or concerns.

That in all thing, may God be glorified. –St. Benedict

SEEKING GOD THROUGH YOUTUBE

Like everything else in life, seeking God on Youtube can be authentic or unauthentic. In terms of secular thinking, you determine what is authentic or unauthentic (the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis 2-3). As a Lay Cistercian seeking God in everyday living, Christ is my center (Philippians 2:5).

Here are some Youtube sites you might find of interest to help you seek God. They helped me focus on what love is. I will offer them with a bit of contextual commentary but no reflections. That is up to you.

Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery

Brother Callistus talks about Trappist life
Trappist Monks of Virginia
The Life of a Monk
Life of a Monk

THE INTIMACY OF GOD

One of my friends (I do still have a few of them) asked me last year how I know that God loves me. In reflecting on my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I put this question to God.

For those who know me, you know my favorite Lectio Divina image is to see myself on a park bench, in the dead of Winter, peering down the long road hoping to see Christ come my way so I can ask him about intimacy.

Waiting for the intimacy of God

Yes, I know that God is always near me, always close to my heart. What the problem is, due to Original Sin, is me. I don’t want to presume on God to answer me just because I asked Him. I don’t want to demand an answer, but rather, with humility and obedience to what He tells me, I listen with the “ear of the heart? as St. Benedict recommends. Relax! My mind keeps wanting results, seeking to ask Why all the time, demanding that I receive an answer, just because I asked for help.

Just as there are two realms of spirituality, that of the mind and that of the heart, there are two types of intimacy to correspond to them, that of the intimacy of the mind (knowledge, information, the Mystery of Faith) and intimacy of the heart (contemplation, feeling your heart next to the heart of Christ, the Mystery of Faith). The realm of the mind is unique and helps us open the realm of the heart to be next to Christ.

I find that, when I abandon all thoughts of me and focus on what God wants me to know and to feel, then I reach a more creative and deeper level of contemplation, one where the Holy Spirit dwells, waiting for those who brave the temptations of the World. The purpose of all life, physical, mental, and spiritual, is to know God with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our strength and love our neighbor as ourselves. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37)

Here are some of my thoughts about human intimacy.
Intimacy has the following characteristics:

  • First, we know about intimacy because we experience human intimacy. This is our only base of experience.
  • It exists only between humans. It is a part of being human, along with the need to be spiritual, the need to find meaning, the need to belong, and the need to procreate, to name a few.
  • Intimacy is the desire to be one with the other.
  • Intimacy is being one in mind and heart. The sign of contradiction in this is, it is only in the intimacy of God, our source of creation (the hidden part of our DNA), the purpose for which we were created, that we can be fulfilled as a human on our journey to Forever. St. Augustine says, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”

Here are some thoughts about the Intimacy of God.

This intimacy has the following characteristics

  • First, knowing human intimacy, we know Intimacy with God because Christ first loves us.
  • Christ allows us to approach the Father being as intimate as humans can be, depending on how they love as He loves us. Intimacy is a human word to denote the intensity of the relationship. The Intimacy of God is so beyond us that we have a term for it, The Mystery of Faith.
  • Intimacy is all about relationship, the Intimacy of the Trinity, the Intimacy of Christ’s divine and human nature, the Intimacy of God taking on the nature of a slave (Philippians 2:5-12), the Intimacy of Christ with his living Body in space and time, the Church.
  • Christ allows us to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father, a key to intimacy with God.
  • Christ, both God and equally man, allows us to approach the Son and to sit on a park bench in the dead of Winter to wait for His coming in our hearts.
  • Christ allows us to receive the Holy Spirit through our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father. The Holy Spirit is the energy in the Church Universal (those now in Heaven, those still on earth, and those awaiting purification).
  • Christ allows us to be one with Him in receiving His real body and blood into our hearts and minds. We, in turn, are intimate with God when we do the will of the Father and love others as Christ loves us. (Matthew 24:36)
  • Christ allows us to be intimate with Him in Adoration of the Eucharist where we just sit in praise and glory, the Throne of the Lamb, if you will, on earth. Only with Faith in Christ, itself a gift from the Father, makes the Holy Spirit able to approach us. Remember the time when Jesus Himself could work no miracles there because of their lack of Faith.

Let’s look at some types of human intimacy and then interpolate these ideas to the Intimacy of God, in no particular order of priority.

  • Sexual Intimacy — we usually think of this type of intimacy, the sharing your body with another, in the context of marriage.
  • Familial Intimacy — we belong to a biological family, composed of mom and dad, brothers and sisters, cousins.
  • Spiritual Intimacy — Baptism enables us to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father.
  • Eucharistic Intimacy — When we receive the Eucharist, Christ comes into our hearts and sits down next to us. Eucharistic adoration is also part of this type of intimacy.
  • The Intimacy of Mary — God overshadowed Mary with his presence. Mary kept her heart close to the heart of Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary.
  • Contemplation — Part of Lectio Divina, this is sitting down on a park bench in the dead of Winter and just waiting for Christ to speak.
  • The Intimacy of God — this is the love the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share. God is.

At the beginning of this blog, I tried to ask the question, how do I know that God loves me? You have to ask Him. Whoa! That is too simple! The simplicity of God is being in the presence of God without words, without my agenda, without demanding God speak to me, without requiring God answer my petition for a favor or a gift, opening my heart to let in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. https://www.stjmod.com/7-gifts-of-the-holy-spirit.html I will quote this page in its entirety so that you get a sense of how important these Seven Gifts are.

“1. Wisdom

​Wisdom is not the quoting of facts. Wisdom is a gift that allows a person to understand things from God’s point of view. In other words, Wisdom allows a person to recognize truth. A person with the Gift of Wisdom is able to take this truth and use it to glorify God by choosing Godly solutions to problems. 

2. Understanding

Understanding is the second gift of the Holy Spirit, and people sometimes have a hard time understanding (no pun intended) how it differs from wisdom. While wisdom is the desire to contemplate the things of God, understanding allows us grasp, at least in a limited way, the very essence of the truths of the Catholic Faith. Through understanding, we gain a certitude about our beliefs that moves beyond faith

3. Counsel

​The Gift of Counsel is also known as a Gift of Right Judgment. Counsel, the third gift of the Holy Spirit, is the perfection of the cardinal virtue of prudence. Prudence can be practiced by anyone, but counsel is supernatural. Through this gift of the Holy Spirit, we are able to judge how best to act almost by intuition. Because of the gift of counsel, Christians need not fear to stand up for the truths of the Faith, because the Holy Spirit will guide us in defending those truths.

4. Fortitude

​The Gift of Fortitude is also known as the Gift of Courage. Through this Gift a person is no longer afraid to stand up for God and His truths. A person who has the Gift of Fortitude will stand up for good against evil and is convicted to take a stand when the occasion arises.

5. Knowledge

​The Gift of Knowledge allows a person to understand the meaning and purpose God has for him and to live up to this meaning. It differs from wisdom in that it is an action, not just a desire to live up to the ways of God. It differs from Understanding in that it is not just ability, it is a knowing.

​6. Piety

Piety, the sixth gift of the Holy Spirit, is the perfection of the virtue of religion. While we tend to think of religion today as the external elements of our faith, it really means the willingness to worship and to serve God. Piety takes that willingness beyond a sense of duty so that we desire to worship God and to serve Him out of love, the way that we desire to honor our parents and do what they wish.

​7. Fear of the Lord

​The Gift of Fear of the Lord puts God in the proper perspective. A person with this Gift understands the greatness and awesomeness of the Lord. They want to serve Him because of who He is. A person with the Gift of Fear of the Lord understands who they are and why they are here in relationship to God; In other words, everything they are is due to the wonder, love, grace, and perfection of God. They are totally dependent on the Lord as a child is to a parent. The Gift of Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom. Once a person understands who God is and desires to please Him, they can begin to understand things from God’s point of view or have Wisdom. “

  • To be one with God, who is One, we need to approach this Mystery of Faith with humility and obedience to what we receive.
  • To be one with God, we need to realize that we are not God. We are, however, adopted sons and daughters.
  • To be one with God, we need to make the effort to place ourselves in the presence of the One and just wait. We have the gifts of intimacy (seven sacraments) to help us approach the Sacred, and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to energize us. Each age, each of us as individuals in each age, has the challenge to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). The extent to which we love God with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves, is the reward we shall live out…Forever. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37). Intimacy means I begin my Heaven right now by realizing that everything I need for Heaven is right in front of me, all the goodness I will experience in Heaven is right now in front of me. All I need to do is do it.
  • The energy of God (grace) overshadows us just like it did to Mary when Jesus was conceived

Like the intimacy we have with other human beings, e.g., spouse, mom and dad, brothers and sisters, family members, communities of faith, Lay Cistercians, and friends we hold in high esteem, our reward, or treasure is is what happens as a result of being in the presence of the Other and the others.

Where your heart is, there your treasure will be. As a Lay Cistercian practicing the Rule of Benedict in Chapter 4 each day, being present with the Eucharist as much as possible, praying the meditations on the life of Christ with the Rosary, placing myself in a position for Lectio Divina, reading Scripture and pondering all these things in my heart, making a daily morning offering of each day to God in praise and glory, and attempting to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus, all of these activities put me in the presence of God so that I can experience intimacy with God as much as my “capacitas dei” (capacity for God in me) will allow.

Praise be to the Father and 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. –Cistercian doxology

You Are What You Were, When, Again

If I think back on it, it was at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma in 1979, when I first saw Dr. Morris Massey and listened to his presentation entitled, “You Are What You Were, When.” This will date me, but I watched it on a 16mm movie projector with three big reels that we had to replace to complete the long film. The occasion was a seminar by the US Army Chaplains stationed at Ft. Sill, OK.

These days, all you need to do is go on Google and look up Morris Massey. Here is the Youtube site.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWMBuOUHn0U I believe he has a new, updated version of the Original presentation which I saw, way back, when.

His premise is, what you are is set in stone as you first acquire your values of good and what is bad, as you grow up in your early years. We don’t ditch those values when we get older unless there is what Dr. Massey terms a Significant Emotional Event (SEE) causes those values and learned behaviors to change. How we cope with whatever life throws our way is determined by what we learned as a child and as a youth growing up. Significant Emotional Events are the death of a loved one, traumatic health problems such as cancer and stroke, divorce, having children, getting fired. The list is endless, it seems. It is what we learn from these challenges to our status quo that cause us to change to something better than before.

I thought of Dr. Morris Massey during one of my Lectio Divina sessions (Philippians 2:5) when I asked myself, “how do I have in myself the mind of Christ Jesus?” If I need to convert my life each day to make more and more room for Christ inside me, then what is there needs to have a Significant Emotional Event for me to break the stereotypes of my youth as to what a relationship with Christ is and replace those values from my youth with those new ones that are more mature and have the weight of many years of experience behind them.

I would term this Significant Emotional Event a conversion of heart to grow ever deeper into the Mystery of Faith. When I was a child, I thought the things of a child, Now, I think like an adult and have put away childish ways. Being a Lay Cistercian has been such a Significant Emotional Event for me, gradually, imperceptibly replacing old values of Church, Christ, God, Holy Spirit with a more dynamic approach to my relationship with the Father, one that involves love as it’s core. I realize that these shocks to my stereotypes come frequently and are prompted by my willingness to let go of the past in order to grasp the future. It is a future that is informed by the heritage of the past, a future that is the sum of who I am and who I wish to be, not one created by me but informed by God.

Look at the youtube video above to get a flavor of how people change their values and replace the old one with new ones. Remember the story of Ozymandias? Listen to it in this podcast. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/podcasts/75866/ozymandias

Sic transeat gloria mundi

SIGNIFICANT EMOTIONAL EVENTS

Here are three examples of how a traumatic emotional event (SEE) can cause us to change our behaviors.

1. The Conversion of St. Paul. Read St. Paul’s account of his conversion and think of the lightning and his blindness as a Significant Emotional Event. I am adding the whole Chapter 9 for your reading. God had to get St. Paul’s attention because he had been zealous in persecuting the Church and now he changed the purpose of his life completely. Unless there is a jolt to the system, as Dr. Moris Massey suggests, we will continue to use our past experiences as the basis for our judgments and motivation. If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got. The Holy Spirit is speaking to the Church Universal and each one of us. The key is not to dwell on the darkness and the shadow of death but to allow the light of Christ to shine before all. St. Paul did this and so too do all the Saints

CHAPTER 9 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)
The Conversion of Saul
9 Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision[a] a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16 I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul[b] and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul Preaches in Damascus for several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, 20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 All who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” 22 Saul became increasingly more powerful and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus[c] was the Messiah.[d]

2. The crisis in the Catholic Church. This second example of a Significant Emotional Event happened to a whole Church. I refer to the crisis of infidelity by priests and Church officials. This was indeed a shock to the whole Body of Christ.

The topic of the crisis in the Catholic Church was one of the sessions in our Lay Cistercian retreat in February 2019. In my small discussion group, we talked about how the sexual abuse by clergy and its cover-up caused many to think about leaving the Church. Our thinking was that the crisis affected all of us, even though only a small percentage of people were guilty of these crimes. We thought we should follow the advice of St. Benedict in Chapter 4 of the Rule where he says to place your hope in God alone. Only the Holy Spirit can solve the sinfulness of the Church and keep it on the path of truth.

To me, it is like shaking a rug to get out the dirt. We need to re-convert ourselves to Christ. Some people will leave the Church, some will remain. Hopefully, those who remain will be centered on Christ, the only source of the way, the truth and the life. We must not condone evil, but replace it with goodness. This is the conversion of the heart that must be accomplished by both the Church Universal as well as each one of us individually. It would be so easy to cast the first stone and blame people for the crisis. It is mercy that we should seek, first from God, then from those who are victims.

We can use this evil event as an occasion for transforming out collective and individual self to God or just complain that the human race is evil and it is business as usual. One way is avoidance and the other is redemption.

There has been a significant movement to reclaim our heritage in the Church. http://www.saintmeinrad.edu/priests-ongoing-formation/presbyterates/

3. Lay Cistercian Spirituality. For me, the Lay Cistercians have been an opportunity to convert my own life from whatever I was to where I want to be. Silence, Solitude, Work, Prayer, and Community have shaped who I am, not like St. Paul being hit by a lightning bolt, but most definitely by the fire of the Holy Spirit. Like the prime exemplar of humility and obedience to God’s will, Our Lady, it takes a “Let it be done to me according to your word” to become aware of the Holy Spirit. In the Upper Room, the Spirit descended like tongues of fire over each of those present. This was the gift of Faith that can come only from God and not from anything we do. Prayer is the occasion where we respond back to God that we indeed know that God is God and we are the ones in need of daily conversion of life.

Where I was in my spiritual journey is not where I am now, but it is because I can go back in my life experiences and identify where the Spirit was present (even though I was unaware of that grace) that makes me joyful.

TOWARDS A CONCLUSION

  • Like Mary, we all must be open to the fire of the Spirit in humility and obedience to God’s will, to be able to recognize that the Holy Spirit is alive in me, and also the Church Universal.
  • God will not leave his Church to be abandoned to the Devil. The gates of Hell will not prevail against it.
  • The Significant Emotional Event of the current crisis of Faith needs to be addressed and we need to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness and do penance for our sins. The very Early Church had crises like we do, maybe even more devastating. Many people became heretics, many people were martyred for their Faith.
  • I am not a Roman Catholic because of the Pope, nor any Bishop, nor any diocese, nor any parish. We must place our hope in God alone as our Center.
  • I am a Lay Cistercian because I wish to have a greater capacity for God (think of a balloon blown up and filled with the Holy Spirit).

Praise be God the Father and 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. –Cistercian doxology

CHAPTER 4: DO WHAT YOU SAY YOU WILL DO

 

It is probably not the most glamorous or notable example from Scripture, but one that I think about a lot. It is about duplicity, Duplicity is saying one thing but thinking or doing something quite different. It is speaking with a forked tongue (referenced by the snake). It is being a fox in sheep’s skin. It is lying to one another as the rule and not the occasional inconvenience.

St. Benedict bids us, in Chapter 4, to “guard your lips from harmful or deceptive speech” and again “Rid your heart of all deceit. Never give a hollow greeting of peace, or turn away when someone needs your love. Bind yourself to no oath lest it prove false, but speak the truth with heart and tongue.” 

One way I look at Chapter 4, although unorthodox, is to see these admonitions as effects of Original Sin, effects which I want to either put in my life or struggle to banish. I learned that lying was “locutio contra mentem”, saying one thing with with your lips and quite another with your mind and heart. 

As a Lay Cistercian, one of my struggles is conversion of life from the falsehood and empty promises of the World to the truth that comes from being one with God, as much as possible on this earth.  

One of the prayer practices I do every day is to pick up Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict and read it. I don’t try to go deeper or ponder the words. I just read them every day. You have heard the saying, “You are what you eat?” I think “You are what you read,” especially if what you read is the transforming “Word Made Flesh” dwelling among us.  

Try it.  

Praise be to God the Father and 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.  –Cistercian doxology

 

The Covenant

Belonging to God

Psalm 62
Peace in God
May God, the source of our hope, fill your hearts with peace as you believe in him (Romans 15:13).

In God alone is my soul at rest;
my help comes from him.
He alone is my rock, my stronghold,
my fortress; I stand firm.

How long will you all attack one man
to break him down,
as though he were a tottering wall,
or a tumbling fence?

Their plan is only to destroy;
they take pleasure in lies.
With their mouth they utter blessing
but in their heart they curse.

In God alone be at rest, my soul;
for my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock, my stronghold,
my fortress; I stand firm.

In God is my safety and glory,
the rock of my strength.
Take refuge in God, all you people.
Trust him at all times.
Pour out your hearts before him
for God is our refuge.

Common folk are only a breath,
great men an illusion.
Placed in the scales, they rise;
they weigh less than a breath.

Do not put your trust in oppression
nor vain hopes on plunder.
Do not set your heart on riches
even when they increase.

For God has said only one thing;
only two do I know:
that to God alone belongs power
and to you, Lord, love;
and that you repay each man
according to his deeds.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
— as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

REFLECTIONS

In God alone is my soul at rest;
my help comes from him.
He alone is my rock, my stronghold,
my fortress; I stand firm.

Living in the World, or the Profane, as Mircea Eliade would term it, is caustic to the spirit. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Mircea-Eliade

I used to think of Original Sin as committing a bunch of acts which God did not like but which I did not understand. It is more than that. OS is also a condition into which we find ourselves, like breathing oxygen. We need to live in the Profane because that is our only framework of existence, but we must struggle against its influence if we are to live in the spiritual universe.

What would happen if you were to live under the ocean, like the fishes? You would need to breathe oxygen, for one thing, needing special equipment to last more than a minute. The oxygen of the spirit is God, as the Psalm says: In God alone is my soul at rest. Original Sin is like the ocean. It is not just a series of actions that are wrong, but the ability for us to fulfill our human destiny, to claim our inheritance as sons and daughters of the Father. Again, my help comes from him. Why would I need help to move beyond just the physical and mental universes? Humans can’t do that without help from God. He alone is my rock, my stronghold, my fortress; I stand firm. The word “alone” is critical for the Psalmist. The Profane World cannot save us from the toxicity of being human. Humanity corrupts. Death is the ultimate corruption: the body gets old, dies, becomes dust. Ideas last a bit longer, carried on from family to family, or in the case of the Church Universe, from each age. God alone is able to sustain us, beginning in this lifetime, to prepare us to live in the next life with God. We are meant to know God in this lifetime so that we can carry that love to begin living Heaven right now. We do that by loving others (service) as God loves us. This is the struggle of Original Sin.

Trust him at all times. Pour out your hearts before him for God is our refuge, says the Psalmist. This is how we survive the struggle of Original Sin and keep ourselves from being consumed by the allurements of the World. The World is what Christ came to save us from, but also to be our strength as we journey through life.

We don’t walk our path of life’s experiences alone. We are always part of something bigger than our individual self, although it is through that personal journey that we find salvation.

We need others to move forward with our spiritual growth, but we need to be careful whom we trust for help. The Psalmist challenges us to be careful.
Do not put your trust in oppression
nor vain hopes on plunder.
Do not set your heart on riches
even when they increase.  

Our trust should be in God as our rock.

In conclusion, the Psalmist writes:
For God has said only one thing;
only two do I know:
that to God alone belongs power
and to you, Lord, love;
and that you repay each man
according to his deeds.

This is a gentle reminder to us that, if we want to survive anything in this life, most especially death or sickness, we should remember that God is God and we are just human. What we do to bring us to living out our salvation in the next life is due to the deeds. These deeds, the Psalmist reminds us, come from God, not us. There are only three kinds of works: good works, bad works, and no works. We are repaid according to how we have tried to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)

That in all things, may God be glorified. –St. Benedict

CHAPTER 4: I USED TO LOOK DOWN ON THE BAPTIST CHURCH

I USED TO LOOK DOWN AT THE BAPTISTS

We all are guilty. When we hear something, we process it according to our first impressions. As the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Perhaps this is because the old adage applies: whatever is received, is received according to the disposition of the recipient.

Before I get to the implications of the title about looking down at Baptists, may I relate an incident that happened at Premier Gym in Tallahassee, Florida, two years ago. It was 5:40 a.m. in the morning. I was peddling on the recumbent bicycle and another old man (it seems only old men go to the gym that early) asked me what I was reading. It happened that I had taken my Liturgy of the Hours to read the Office of Readings on that particular day. He asked if it was the Bible and I told him it was more than that. The look on his face would have cracked the Great Wall in China in two.  He told me that nothing was greater than the Bible. I agreed with him.  What he did not know was that I was referring to not only the Scripture which is contained in the Office of Readings but also the writings of early Church Fathers and the Saints.  In this sense, it is more than just the Bible in the Office of Readings. That does not take away from the fact that Scriptures are the supreme authority for the early Church. Actually, Scriptures are not the supreme authority overall, Christ is. Eucharist is far more of a core than is Scripture, although both are part of the Mystery of Faith. My point is, we hear what we hear based on the sum of our experiences about what words mean. What words actually mean might be something deeper.

About the title above that, I looked down on the Baptist Church. That is a true statement. As my favorite radio commentator, the late Paul Harvey was fond of saying, and now the rest of the story.

http://fbcbloom.org/wordpress/

In 1976, I was a Pastor of a small congregation in Bloomfield, Indiana called Holy Name.  At the time, I was an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Adult Education for the Bureau of Studies in Adult Education, Indiana University, as it was known back then.  Our church was on a ten-acre plot of land with the rectory and church high on a hill and some of the property is on the lower part, below the rectory. It happened that my colleague and friend, the Baptist minister and his wife, approached me with the proposition to sell them some of that bottom land, about an acre total.  I consulted our parish council and we were more than happy to sell them part of our property for their Baptist Church, in fact, we gave them a good deal on the price.  The church was completed and stands there today with the rectory and our Holy Name on the hill overlooking it. I used to joke to people that I used to look down on Baptists but don’t do so anymore. True story.  http://fbcbloom.org/wordpress/

Every day I looked down from my rectory to see our Baptist brothers and sisters praising God. I don’t want to sound mushy but I looked forward to praying with the Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Church of Christ ministers and seeing what I could do to help people who wanted to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus (Phl 2:5). This served me well, as I went next year into the US Army as a Chaplain.  Looking down on anyone because they love God is absurd. No one can say Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit. To those who believe other than what I do all I say is Blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it.  Pope Francis said it: who am I to judge?

The Chapter 4 in the title refers to St. Benedict’s Rule, where he gives a list of things we must do to convert ourselves from sin to grace, from our old selves to our new selves.

I read Chapter 4 every day, anchored as it is in Scripture, in the hope that I can become what I read. Every day!

CHAPTER IV
The Instruments of Good Works

(1) In the first place to love the Lord God with the whole heart, the whole soul, the whole strength…
(2) Then, one’s neighbor as one’s self (cf Mt 22:37-39; Mk 12:30-31; Lk 10:27).
(3) Then, not to kill…
(4) Not to commit adultery…
(5) Not to steal…
(6) Not to covet (cf Rom 13:9).
(7) Not to bear false witness (cf Mt 19:18; Mk 10:19; Lk 18:20).
(8) To honor all men (cf 1 Pt 2:17). (9) And what one would not have done to himself, not to do to another (cf Tob 4:16; Mt 7:12; Lk 6:31).
(10) To deny one’s self in order to follow Christ (cf Mt 16:24; Lk 9:23).
(11) To chastise the body (cf 1 Cor 9:27).
(12) Not to seek after pleasures.
(13) To love fasting.
(14) To relieve the poor.
(15) To clothe the naked…
(16) To visit the sick (cf Mt 25:36).
(17) To bury the dead.
(18) To help in trouble.
(19) To console the sorrowing.
(20) To hold one’s self aloof from worldly ways.
(21) To prefer nothing to the love of Christ.
(22) Not to give way to anger.
(23) Not to foster a desire for revenge.
(24) Not to entertain deceit in the heart.
(25) Not to make a false peace.
(26) Not to forsake charity. (Emphases mine)
(27) Not to swear, lest perchance one swear falsely.
(28) To speak the truth with heart and tongue.
(29) Not to return evil for evil (cf 1 Thes 5:15; 1 Pt 3:9).
(30) To do no injury, yea, even patiently to bear the injury done us.
(31) To love one’s enemies (cf Mt 5:44; Lk 6:27).
(32) Not to curse them that curse us, but rather to bless them.
(33) To bear persecution for justice sake (cf Mt 5:10).
(34) Not to be proud…
(35) Not to be given to wine (cf Ti 1:7; 1 Tm 3:3).
(36) Not to be a great eater.
(37) Not to be drowsy.
(38) Not to be slothful (cf Rom 12:11).
(39) Not to be a murmurer.
(40) Not to be a detractor.
(41) To put one’s trust in God.
(42) To refer what good one sees in himself, not to self, but to God.
(43) But as to any evil in himself, let him be convinced that it is his own and charge it to himself.
(44) To fear the day of judgment.
(45) To be in dread of hell.
(46) To desire eternal life with all spiritual longing.
(47) To keep death before one’s eyes daily.
(48) To keep a constant watch over the actions of our life.
(49) To hold as certain that God sees us everywhere.
(50) To dash at once against Christ the evil thoughts which rise in one’s heart.
(51) And to disclose them to our spiritual father.
(52) To guard one’s tongue against bad and wicked speech.
(53) Not to love much speaking.
(54) Not to speak useless words and such as provoke laughter.
(55) Not to love much or boisterous laughter.
(56) To listen willingly to holy reading.
(57) To apply one’s self often to prayer.
(58) To confess one’s past sins to God daily in prayer with sighs and tears, and to amend them for the future.
(59) Not to fulfill the desires of the flesh (cf Gal 5:16).
(60) To hate one’s own will.
(61) To obey the commands of the Abbot in all things, even though he himself (which Heaven forbid) act otherwise, mindful of that precept of the Lord: “What they say, do ye; what they do, do ye not” (Mt 23:3).
(62) Not to desire to be called holy before one is; but to be holy first, that one may be truly so called.
(63) To fulfill daily the commandments of God by works.
(64) To love chastity.
(65) To hate no one.
(66) Not to be jealous; not to entertain envy.
(67) Not to love strife.
(68) Not to love pride.
(69) To honor the aged.
(70) To love the younger.
(71) To pray for one’s enemies in the love of Christ.
(72) To make peace with an adversary before the setting of the sun.
(73) And never to despair of God’s mercy.

Behold, these are the instruments of the spiritual art, which, if they have been applied without ceasing day and night and approved on judgment day, will merit for us from the Lord that reward which He hath promised: “The eye hath not seen, nor the ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Cor 2:9). But the workshop in which we perform all these works with diligence is the enclosure of the monastery, and stability in the community.oral to any of this it is that when we hear others say that they believe in God, we don’t judge solely on the words but on the heart.

WAYS TO RESPECT THE BELIEF OF OTHERS WITHOUT DAMAGING YOUR OWN

Here are some of my ideas on how to view other religious beliefs.  What I don’t want to do, and this should be true for any religion, is distort the religious heritage of any religion. What I do want to do is to share with you some of the lessons I have learned from a lifetime of working with other religions.

FIRST PRINCIPLE:  Don’t judge others. I believe we begin life by not judging others and then learn about prejudices from our environment and sometime from our religion. Put all that behind you. Life has a way of taking off those rough edges of pride, presumptions that what you think of others is actually who they are. Don’t judge.

SECOND PRINCIPLE: Share what you can. The assumption I always make, when meeting or even writing about people from other Faith traditions is, they are sincerely trying to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Gone are the days when I try to make other people a tiny copy of me. Far from my mind are those thoughts of converting the whole world. I am realizing that converting my own self takes much more energy that I would ever expend in convincing someone to be Catholic.

THIRD PRINCIPLE: Pray as you can.  I love to pray with people who are not of my own faith. I also love to pray with people who share my view of spirituality, such as the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monstery (Trappist), www.trappist.net/about/lay-cistercians and my faith family at Good Shepherd Catholic Church, Tallahassee, Florida.https://goodshepherdparish.org/ The key to getting along with others is rooted in your own Faith and knowing what your purpose in life is. My purpose is to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). I can share that with others by prayer, reading, scripture and praising the Lord, all while keeping the one rule of my Catholic Universal Faith “Shema Yisrael. Love God with all your mind, all your strength, and all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37) Everything else is to help us to love others more as Christ has loved us.

When I was deep in a pity party because I thought the Catholic Church did not care about me (I was thinking of the authoritative aspect of the Church who did not even know me). I went to St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Tallahassee to take the complete set of discernment instructions to see if I would fit there. What follows is my blog on this extraordinary experience.

I TOOK INSTRUCTIONS TO BECOME AN ANGLICAN

It was not a particularly good time in my life in 2010. My application for laicization had been on hold for 18 years since Pope Saint John Paul II decided not to grant priests dispensation. I felt like I still wanted to be useful to the Church, but was cut off from doing anything overtly religious.  Maybe that is another blog. I made a decision to explore being an Anglican, in the hopes of being ordained a priest for them. So I gave it a try.

My intention in writing down these ideas is not to prove this or that religion is good and another one is bad.  I had always been Roman Catholic and did not have the experience of another faith home.  I did want to resolve my situation at the time and see if I could still practice the ministry of a priest.  I chose Anglican not Episcopal because their physical Church was closer.

I could not have been more warmly greeted and accepted as who I was, someone on a journey to seek God.  In many ways, I owe my being Roman Catholic to the laity of the Anglican Church and the generosity of its clergy. I will be forever grateful to them.

I went through a year’s worth of instructions on what it means to be Anglican. I attended their worship services on Sunday. I went to parish socials to mix with parishioners. If it was just a matter of being with good people of faith, I would be Anglican today.

During the period of instruction, I kept thinking how wonderful it would be to serve these people in ministry. My time at morning services was good and familiar. All the things I grew up with were there, the large crucifix, the altar, the candles, the Votive Light that we call the Elijah candle, the smells, the order of the service. If I didn’t know better, I would not have known this service was Anglican and not Roman Catholic.  Yet, I had that undefinable something way down deep (and I mean way down deep) in my consciousness that kept me from giving my full self. That went on for nearly six months.

At the end of that time, my instructions were complete and others in my group were given the opportunity to join the community. So was I. It was a generous gift from them and I realized that I would be happy in community with all these believers. Yet, those troubling, nagging doubts were not going away.  I remember driving to a Sunday service and parking, then walking to Church.  I thought to myself, I can’t do this.  Maybe for someone else, it would be okay, but I can’t do this. So, now comes the choice.  The choice was, there is no choice at all. I can’t do this.  If I did convert, no one would ever know, or even care about my struggle. I cared!  I was caught in not attending the Roman Catholic Church because I was unable to get a dispensation from my vows and having no other option. I chose the former, which I termed dark love.

Then, things changed.  My dispensation came through because Pope Benedict XVI was once again giving dispensations to priests and religious.

My reasons for not wanting to continue as Anglican were these:

I was not fully convinced that Anglican orders were valid. It might not be a problem for anyone else, but it was for me.  If Anglican order may not be valid, why should I want to be a clergy person for them?

When I asked about the authority of the Church, in terms of Apostolicity, I was told that there are three Anglican branches: traditional or Anglo-Catholic, Evangelical, and Progressive.  These three branches do not agree on things like Real Presence, Authority of Apostolicity, rituals. I had problems with knowing that each clergy person, depending on their branch of Anglicanism, would give you a different answer to how they approach issues of Church, worship, authority, the grace of God. This might not be a problem for some, but it was for me.  I did not see their Catholicity, Apostolicity nor Oneness. I did observe their holiness and goodness of heart.

This is my journey, not yours, but I would only caution you. Just because your road to spirituality is rocky, doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road. In whatever remains of the time I have left, I plan to daily convert my life (conversio mores) to be more like Christ and less like me.  I have to fight for my core beliefs and not let the Church get away with abandoning me to relativism, worshipping false gods, and my being my own church. Ironically, as Luther said long ago, “Here I stand, I can do no other.”

Being a Lay Cistercian has been a big blessing. Accepted by the monastic community and fellow brother and sister Lay Cistercians is a true community, like the early assemblies of Ephesus and Philippi.  My appreciation for the history and tradition of the Roman Catholic Church has grown exponentially since I began to get rid of my pride and pledge obedience to God’s will for me.  One of the most significant events for me is Lectio Divina, which I describe as sitting on a wintry park bench, waiting for Jesus to come by, and, if and when it happens, placing my heart next to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

I pray for all the monks and Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Georgia, I pray for all those in my prayer group at Good Shepherd Community, Tallahassee, Florida. I give thanks to God for the privilege of taking instructions to become an Anglican at St. Peter’s Community in Tallahassee. I am not only home, but, like Job, have more than I could have ever dreamed back in 2010. All I can say is:

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to 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. –Cistercian Doxology

PRINCIPLE FOUR: No one who confesses Jesus is the Son of God, Savior, can do so without the grace of the Holy Spirit. As Pope Francis says: Who am I to judge? Can I stop the Holy Spirit from overshadowing someone who is not of my Catholic Universal Faith? Impossible! Rather than looking at what divides us both theologically and by heritage, and this is not to be minimized, we stress what binds us together.

PRINCIPLE FIVE: One Rule: Love one another as I have loved you. I find it very interesting to observe most religions, my own included, jockeying to be right, rather than focusing on loving one another as Christ loves us. Behavior follows from what your priority is. Conversion of heart means I focus on what Christ focused on. The basis of my Faith is not the Church, it is Christ and trying as I might to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus each day. (Philippians 2:5-12). It is the “every day” that is killing me, reminding me of the effects of Original Sin into which I must spend whatever time I have left.  I try. I hope. 

Two gifts we receive: the Eucharist, the Real Presence of Christ into our minds and heart, and the gift of peace which we then give to each other as Christ has just given it to us. Remember, these gifts are from God and pass through you to others. When Jesus tells us to pass on the good news to the whole world, we sometimes forget that it is in the simple act of sharing both love (Eucharist) and peace of Christ (Forgiveness) that we love others as Christ loves us. We can only give others what Christ has given us. All religions who confess that Jesus is the Lord, the Son of God, Savior share this peace with each other.   

DID YOU KNOW? The Lay Cistercians of Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), Conyers, Georgia, have an ecumenical group composed of other faith traditions. They make promises before the Abbot to convert their life to Christ using the Rule of St. Benedict and openness to the Spirit through silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community. They meet once a month in a Gathering Day for reflection, prayer, Liturgy of the Hours, and instruction from one of the monks. That in all things, may God be glorified. –St. Benedict

Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to 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. –Cistercian doxology.

CHAPTER 4: If you have a dispute with someone…

When I first read this admonition of St. Benedict in Chapter 4, #73, “If you have a dispute with someone, make peace with him before the sun goes down,” I remember thinking that I use to tell Pre-Cana classes the same quote.

St. Benedict knew human nature’s tendency to hold grudges and go around with passive-aggressive pity parties. The Rule was originally written to keep the monks from killing each other (figuratively, of course). Making peace with someone is, as St. Benedict knew all too well, has to do with replacing hatred and envy, jealousy, gossip with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These seven gifts are given to us, hence the name gifts, for us to convert our selves inside from sinful tendencies to grace.

Think of a room in your house. Now see it filled with hatred for others, jealousy, prideful disputes, disagreements over finances, how to best rear the children, what to have for supper, paying credit card bills. You get the point! In my Lectio Divina reflections, I think of St. Benedict giving his monks the Tools of Good Works to convert their lives to one of love, not hatred. Your room cannot house both sin and grace, good and evil, hatred and love in the same room. You cannot serve two Masters. You have to choose. St. Benedict can’t choose for you but he does tell monks and nuns that follow the Rule the way to choose what is good.

As a Lay Cistercian, my environment is not a monastery, as if any monastery can keep out the temptations of the mind and heart. The World is a distraction that sometimes keeps me from focusing on what is good for me. I practice silence and solitude as I can so that I can expand my capacity for God in my inner self. I ask for mercy each evening at night prayers (Chapter 4 is an excellent review) and pledge to do better the next day. I try to make all things new, over and over and over. What is fascinating is that I never tame the beast, merely keep it from consuming me. St. Paul calls it a thorn of the flesh.

I wanted to read something about those gifts of the Spirit that we should put into our capacity for God. Here is the URL. Read it and draw your own conclusions. I have attached the quote below that I find to be compelling. https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/the-seven-gifts-of-the-holy-spirit

“Rather than perpetuating either a strictly Thomistic approach or an approach based on contemporary, culturally conditioned definitions, I propose a third way of understanding the seven gifts, one that goes back the biblical source material.

The first—and only—place in the entire Bible where these seven special qualities are listed together is Isaiah 11:1–3, in a famous Messianic prophecy:

Soldiers of Christ

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

Virtually every commentator on the seven gifts for the past two millennia has identified this passage as the source of the teaching, yet none have noted how integral these seven concepts were to the ancient Israelite “Wisdom” tradition, which is reflected in such Old Testament books as Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Psalms, Ecclesiasticus, and the Wisdom of Solomon, as well as certain strands of the prophetic books, including Isaiah. This material focuses on how to navigate the ethical demands of daily life (economics, love and marriage, rearing children, interpersonal relationships, the use and abuse of power) rather than the historical, prophetic, or mythical/metaphysical themes usually associated with the Old Testament. It does not contradict these other.aspects of revelation but complements them by providing a glimpse into how Israel’s covenant with Yahweh is lived out in all its nitty-gritty detail.

It is from this world of practical, down-to-earth, everyday concerns rather than the realm of ascetical or mystical experience that the seven gifts emerged, and the context of Isaiah 11 reinforces this frame of reference. The balance of Isaiah describes in loving detail the aggressiveness with which the “shoot of Jesse” will establish his “peaceable kingdom” upon the earth:

He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. . . . They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Is. 11:3–4, 9)

Establishing this kingdom entails thought, planning, work, struggle, courage, endurance, perseverance, humility—that is, getting one’s hands dirty. This earthbound perspective is a profitable one from which to view the role the seven gifts play in the life of mature (or maturing) Christians.

There is a strain within Catholicism, as within Christianity in general, that focuses on the afterlife to the exclusion—and detriment—of this world, as if detachment from temporal things were alone a guarantee of eternal life. One of the correctives to this kind of thinking issued by Vatican II was the recovery of the biblical emphasis on the kingdom of God as a concrete reality that not only transcends the created order but also transforms it (Dei Verbum 17; Lumen Gentium 5; Gaudium et Spes 39).

The seven gifts are indispensable resources in the struggle to establish the kingdom and are, in a sense, a byproduct of actively engaging in spiritual warfare. If a person does not bother to equip himself properly for battle, he should not be surprised to find himself defenseless when the battle is brought to his doorstep. If my classmates and I never “acquired” the “mysterious powers” we anticipated, perhaps it is because we never took up arms in the struggle to advance the kingdom of God!

The seven gifts are an endowment to which every baptized Christian can lay claim from his earliest childhood. They are our patrimony. These gifts, given in the sacraments for us to develop through experience, are indispensable to the successful conduct of the Christian way of life. They do not appear spontaneously and out of nowhere but emerge gradually as the fruit of virtuous living. Nor are they withdrawn by the Spirit once they are no longer needed, for they are perpetually needed as long as we are fighting the good fight.

The seven gifts are designed to be used in the world for the purpose of transforming that world for Christ. Isaiah 11 vividly portrays what these gifts are to be used for: to do what one is called to do in one’s own time and place to advance the kingdom of God. The specific, personal details of that call do not come into focus until one has realized his very limited, ungodlike place in the scheme of things (fear of the Lord), accepted one’s role as a member of God’s family (piety), and acquired the habit of following the Father’s specific directions for living a godly life (knowledge). This familiarity with God breeds the strength and courage needed to confront the evil that one inevitably encounters in one’s life (fortitude) and the cunning to nimbly shift one’s strategies to match—even anticipate—the many machinations of the Enemy (counsel). The more one engages in such “spiritual warfare,” the more one perceives how such skirmishes fit into the big picture that is God’s master plan for establishing his reign in this fallen world (understanding) and the more confident, skillful, and successful one becomes in the conduct of his particular vocation (wisdom).


These remarks are aimed primarily at adult cradle Catholics who, like me, were inadequately catechized (at least with respect to the seven gifts). Because of the ongoing controversy in the Church at large over the proper age for reception of the sacrament of confirmation, the malaise of inadequate catechesis is likely to continue afflicting the faithful. The lack of attention to the synergistic relationship between the virtues and the gifts seems to be the main culprit in the failure to develop the gifts among the confirmandi. Catechesis that is aimed only at the acquisition of knowledge or merely at promoting “random acts of kindness” without a solidly evangelical organizing principle simply will not cut it with this (or any other) generation of young people. Centering prayer, journaling, guided meditation, or any of the host of other pseudo-pedagogical tricks popular in many current catechetical programs cannot compete with the seductions of the culture of death.

The path to a mature appropriation of the spiritual arsenal represented by the seven gifts needs to be trod as early as possible, and the seven virtues can serve today, as they have for most of the Church’s history, as excellent guides along that path. Perhaps it is time to resurrect the traditional image of the baptized as “soldiers of Christ,” a phrase that has been anathema for Catholic catechetical materials for decades. Despite the fact that the post-Vatican II zeitgeist has militated against the notion of “militancy” in all things religious, this stance has been shown to be misguided—by an honest assessment of what Sacred Scripture has to say about it and by world events in our own lifetime. The toppling of the Soviet Union, for example, would not have happened without the nonviolent militancy of John Paul II in the pursuit of a legitimate goal. The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are our spiritual weaponry for the spiritual warfare of everyday life.”

That in all things, God be glorified. –St. Benedict

Fidelity and Endurance

How does fidelity and endurance help in living the life of Christ?

First, what is fidelity and why is it important. As it affects me as a Lay Cistercian, it means an assent of the mind and heart to Christ and then being passionate about doing what I believe to be true. Christ is my purpose in life (Philippians 2:5) and contemplative prayer is a way that I practice to help me focus on being faithful.

Faithful is important in any relationship, marriage, being single, as a religious monk or nun. I think of fidelity as being important because it allows me to measure myself against a set of values, in this case, what Christ has selected for us to follow. St, Benedict puts it best, when he writes Chapter 4 of his Rule. I try to read these admonitions every day. Fidelity means I push against the temptation that says I don’t need to become what I read, to move daily from self to Christ. Fidelity means doing what you say you will do.

Endurance means finishing what you start. Some people think that belief is the same as Faith. Faith comes from God; belief comes from humans. Belief does not produce energy; Faith produces God’s energy in us to endure not only the temptation about fidelity but also helps sustain us to finish the race, as St. Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:7
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

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MRS. MURPHY KNOWS

I can remember the Sun slicing through the gigantic, three-feet thick, sandstone window openings of our Second Theology class in Sacramental Theology on the first floor of Major Theology section at Saint Meinrad School of Theology. At the blackboard was the late Father Aiden Kavanaugh, O.S.B., writing down the words, “Mrs. Murphy,” on the blackboard. In 1963, not knowing what I did not know, much less what I should know about theology, I was just trying to stay awake on the warm Spring day in Southern Indiana. At the time, I remember thinking that his explanation of Mrs. Murphy did not make sense. Father Adrian told us to remember that liturgy was about the human heart being able to approach the unapproachable mystery of Faith through using the senses and common human experiences to share what we can share about Word and Sacrament.

Those who were fortunate to hear Father Aiden, recognize that he thought in terms of compound, complex sentences, but his keen insights into the human condition began to formulate how the Sacred informs meaning in each of us in very different ways.

Now, I am merely a broken-down, old Lay Cistercian of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, lucky to comment about life around me and certainly not an eloquent apologist for any approach to liturgics. In this book, Mrs. Murphy looms large as an archetype of us all, an Adam and Eve for relations with the Sacred. Let me use a quote from Fr. Aidan to give you a sense of his eloquent thinking. 

“The liturgical assembly is thus a theological corporation and each of its members a theologian. . . . Mrs. Murphy and her pastor are primary theologians whose discourse in faith is carried on not by concepts and propositions nearly so much as in the vastly complex vocabulary of experiences had, prayers said, sights seen, smells smelled, words said and heard and responded to, emotions controlled and released, sins committed and repented, children born and loved ones buried, and in many other ways no one can count or always account for.” (On Liturgical Theology, Chapter 7)

 If I understand Father Aidan’s thinking even remotely, it is that the local church is established by Christ to enable its members to communicate and give glory to a God we cannot see, to make sense out of everyday struggles and trials with those we do see, and to find meaning and purpose with a world gone mad with its importance. By loving our neighbor as our self, within the sacramental and non-sacramental context of the local assembly, the Mystery of Faith, we find purpose, pure energy with the source of all reality, and how to love with all our hearts, our minds, and our strength. God will not leave any of us stranded or without food to sustain us on our journey. If our purpose is to be with God…Forever, then the invisible God needs some way to communicate with those who call him Lord and give them food for the journey and the ability to make all things new, over and over. The context in which we find what we need to make sense out of all of this is the local church, linked by heritage and practice to the Apostles. It is the way to touch the invisible God in our midst; it is the way we claim our adoption as God’s sons and daughters.

I think I am beginning to get what Father Aidan was proposing with the archetypal character of Mrs. Murphy, much like Genesis did with Adam and Eve. What has bothered me all these years, up to five years ago, was the concept of Mrs. Murphy. How can an old woman sit in the back of church and know more than all the theologians and clerics combined? I say five years ago because that was the time I was accepted as a novice Lay Cistercian. With the emphasis on contemplation and Lectio Divina, I found that I gradually morphed into Mrs. Murphy, at least I fancy that I did. I wasn’t worried that I had to comprehend the Mystery of Faith, only that I could approach it in humility and wait. I began to think less of knowing and more of loving through doing. As part of doing, I wrote down all my thoughts about Mrs. Murphy in 54 books and a blog to keep my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) fresh and relevant to my relationship with the Sacred. Information, Knowledge, and Science is not the end purpose of life, as St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P., described in his famous quote about everything he knew about God was so much straw.

Waiting for the Lord on a cold, Winter day.

Knowledge unlocks the door to the heart, the place where no one wants to look. It is my sitting on a park bench in the dead of Winter, waiting for Christ to come by, straining to see him trudging about the bend with his pet Yellow Lab, in the hope that he will sit down next to me.

The Mystery of Faith

Mrs. Murphy is that every-person who has profound simplicity, the simplicity of a human approaching that which the human mind cannot control or grasp, but the human heart can partially capture. We get a glimpse of divine reality, like looking through a foggy glass. For Mrs. Murphy, and now for me, I am satisfied that Christ is my mediator between the Sacred and the world in which I live. With Christ, I access the Mystery of Faith through silence, solitude, work, prayer, in the context of my two communities of Faith. I am grateful and blessed that Father Aidan planted the seed, I watered it, but it is Christ who gives the issue. And what an issue it is.

Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to 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. –Cistercian doxology

YOU HAVE JUST MADE YOUR PROFESSION OF FAITH. NOW WHAT?

One of the big questions that a new Catholic must answer is, now what? I say that because, as a newly professed, Lay Cistercian, I face that same question, even at the ripe old age of 78 (and believe me, that is ripe). I am fortunate to have begun to discover how to sustain the heart of Christ in me and even grow in my journey from self to God. Here are twelve skills or exercises I use to help me have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). They are the twelve Cistercian activities that I practice, ones that produce charisms (humility, obedience, profound knowledge, and fierce love), ones that allow we to approach the Mystery of Faith. As a Lay Cistercian five principles guide my life: silence, solitude, prayer, work, and community.

THE BEST WAY TO USE THIS BOOK

I wrote this book to share some ideas with you about how to sustain your Faith in Christ Jesus in the midst of the world’s allurements and false promises. I have some reflections that you might find helpful. This is a journal/workbook for you, and, if you choose for your local community of Faith (parish).

  • Each of the twelve skills come from a book that I wrote. They are available through Amazon.com/books (then, type in Dr. Michael F. Conrad).
  • If you are a parish coordinator of Adult Learning, then you may want to use one exercise a month (for a total of twelve sessions) as a post-commitment program for the newly professed.
  • If you are a newly professed Catholic, you might want to take this book to your parish coordinator and ask that you be allowed to meet once a month to pray for the Holy Spirit and to learn contemplative practices and charisms.

The whole idea of any spiritual reflection or retreat is to make all things new, to move from self to God, to begin to recognize that life is a process, to take step by step towards Omega, the Christ Principle, with the purpose of having in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5).  I have included Internet sites for you to visit to see where I get my ideas and to expand your horizon.

As a Lay Cistercian, once again, I use the five steps in the Cistercian Way (silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community) to not only provide me with a North on my compass but to give me ways to move down my path of life with Christ as my companion, sitting next to the heart of Christ in contemplation, receiving the Life of Christ in me in Eucharist and Penance, praying in silence, solitude, work, in the context of community. A seminarium is a term I use for greenhouse, or place where new seedlings can grow in a protected and nutrient-rich soil. The Mystery of Faith is the totality of all pure knowledge, pure love, and pure service that we can only approach with Christ’s help. Human reason alone cannot define it (defining is limiting, mystery means it is true but so deep we cannot fathom its contents). Prayer and practice using Cistercian principles, as I understand them, are ways I can access what Christ taught.

You may wish to use the twelve spiritual skills mentioned in this book as a monthly discussion of various topics contained in it. At the end of each skill, there are learning and discussion points for you to use. Here is an outline of the twelve skills contained in this book.

SKILL ONE: Learn to see deeper with the eyes of Faith.

SKILL TWO: Learn how to survive as a pilgrim in a foreign land.

SKILL THREE: Learn six questions everyone must ask and answer before they die. These are the foundations of human spirituality.

SKILL FOUR: Learn how to approach the Mystery of Faith without frying your neurons.

SKILL FIVE: What does fierce love look like?

SKILL SIX: How to use the golden thread.

SKILL SEVEN: Learn how to find food for the journey.

SKILL EIGHT: Learn the meaning of mercy and how to make all things new in your spiritual journey.

SKILL NINE: Learn how the community can be the occasion for the Holy Spirit to be present to you.

SKILL TEN: Learn how to pray to allow you to convert your morals (conversio morae) to be more like Christ.

SKILL ELEVEN: Learn how to create a system of practices and charisms that allow you to grow deeper as a Catholic.

SKILL TWELVE: You know you are going to die. Now what?

A FEW OF MY ASSUMPTIONS

Anytime you read anything, whenever you hear a commentator on television news give an opinion, there are always assumptions underlying their thoughts. Here are some assumptions I have about what it means to deny oneself, take up my cross, and follow Christ using five Cistercian practices.

  • I am a Lay Cistercian. I am using the five Cistercian practices of silence, solitude, prayer, work, and community as the basis of my contemplative approach to spirituality.
  • My spirituality comes from Cistercian practices and charisms (humility, obedience, hospitality, and daily conversion of life from self to God).
  • My personal Lectio comes from Philippians 2:5.”Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.”
  • These ideas are my own and do not reflect any official doctrine or teachings of the Catholic Church or Cistercian/Lay Cistercian spirituality. Having said that, they are based entirely on how I view what is core to being Catholic, to love each other as Christ loved us. It takes a lifetime. Fortunately, Christ gave us gifts to help us I share what I have learned as a broken-down, old Lay Cistercian.
  • Many of these lessons come from blogs I have previously published on https:thecenterforcontemplativepracticorg
  • New Catholics, like anyone who begins their journey, must not stop the struggle to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5). Your journey demands never ending practices and charisms to make up in your that which you lack or skills that are not yet fully developed. What follows are twelve exercises I have used to help me in my quest.
  • Far from being an automatic ticket to Heaven, as some think, your profession is actually the beginning of a struggle to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5). You can’t do that by yourself. You need help. Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, but you also have additional help to convert your morals to how Christ loves us. The purpose of the Church, in each age, is to help those seeking God to find him through prayer and penance. But you have even more help. Cistercian spirituality, among many other methods, enables you to drill down even further by being a Lay Cistercian. This helps you to focus on seeking and finding Christ in contemplative spirituality using practices and charisms handed down by Cistercian monks and nuns through the ages, and before that, by St. Benedict and St. Scholastica. Now, we come to you. As a professed Lay Cistercian, the community of other L.C.s is the occasion in which I pray, work, have silence and solitude. You might look again at the title of this book. It says “skills” to help you.
  • All these assumptions themselves assume that all the twelve practices, all the prayers, all charisms, presuppose that the Holy Spirit is the Advocate, the energy that allows us to call God, Abba, Father.

I hope that these thoughts will provide you with the opportunity to grow in Christ Jesus. He must increase, you and I must decrease.

WHAT IS A LAY CISTERCIAN?

Since I put Lay Cistercian on the cover, I thought you might want to know what a Lay Cistercian is. This term is used for someone who follows the practices of Cistercian monks and nuns while not living in a monastery.www.trappist.net/lay-cistercian

I have chosen to be a Lay Cistercian and have been accepted by the Monastery of the Holy Spirit as someone who tries to love those around him or her with all their mind, their heart, and their strength. It is not as easy as it looks. I don’t always succeed. What is love? How in the world can you love with ALL your heart? How do you keep from being fanatical about love? Who do you love and what does that mean?

I follow the Cistercian spiritual traditions, going back to the year c. 1080 A.D.  See some of the websites below. In writing this book, I will try to share with you some of the Cistercian practices and techniques that I use to enter the one place none of us wants to go, inside us in the depths of our consciousness in the hidden room of our unconsciousness. Facing ourselves, without any of the false faces or avoidances we use in our ordinary life, is frightening alone. Ironically, it is one of the premier places we meet Christ.

Further websites are:

http://www.ben.edu/center-for-mission-and-identity/resources/rule-of-st-benedict.cfm

https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org

https://cistercianfamily.org/

https://www.trappist.net

I wrote this journal/book for you to give you an interactive way to raise and answer some of the critical questions that face a newly converted Catholic. You may wish to use this in our parish, but when I write my ideas, I put them on paper for you to have a thought, give you Internet references for you to look up, and then write down your thoughts. You may wish to share your ideas later in a group from your local faith community (parish). I recommend that you visit my website regularly to look at the blogs. My blogs are practical ways I use to seek God in everyday life. https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A NEW CATHOLIC?

I am not a good one to answer this question, although I did take the total instructional preparation to be an Anglican. I chose not to join the Anglican Church because I would have to give up more than I would receive.  I will say that I am so grateful to have met so many dedicated and spiritual Anglicans. For that, I am a better person. I can give you some ideas on which you can reflect, and you might want to add your own in the journal space provided. The word “convert” has special significance because it is a call you have accepted to convert your life to be more like Christ and less like the World. The Church gives you guidance but won’t make the decisions for you. You receive Faith from God but God won’t live your life for you, maybe with you. That you must do by yourself.

THREE STAGES OF MATURITY FOR NOVICE CATHOLICS

With the Christian Rite of Initiation for Adults (RCIA), the Catholic Church does a decent job of preparing the mind and the heart to be a disciple of Christ before Baptism or profession of faith. Where we could improve, in my view, is ensuring that the mind and the heart receive the practices and charisms needed to move forward on their journey to Forever. The following stages are based on my Lay Cistercian journey, including discernment, Novice, Junior, and Finally Professed. You might have different terminology or stages. 

NOVICE CATHOLIC: Making a profession of Faith in the Church Universal with other members of your local church community of Faith is just the beginning of your process.  Now, you must learn the tools and charisms of what it means to be Catholic, or you will lose it. It will dry up for lack of water. There is so much, not only to know about Christ but skills of how to love as Christ loves us, using silence, solitude, work, prayer, in the context of community, that you soon realize, that all Catholics all novices for the rest of our lives, always becoming more and more like Christ and less and less of the world. Ideally, it would be nice to have a mentor during your first year of profession. Like a godfather or godmother, this person will pray for their brother or sister for the two years and contact with them once per week to be a spiritual guide and mentor.

Novice Catholics should try to pray a Morning Offering each day, (60 seconds), attend Eucharist on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict each day,(60 seconds), pray Lectio Divina privately once a month or more, and to sign up for a parish ministry for no more than one year, then back off. These are small goals for all Novice Catholics. So, what happens to you when you do not meet these goals? Nothing, you talk about it with your Mentor, if you have one, receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation to receive God’s grace to make all things new, and try again.

JUNIOR CATHOLIC –After the first year, a deeper practice of your Faith is needed to build up your strength and sustain you each day, just as someone needs to go to the gym to tone up or build stamina. Can you imagine a Pro Football player not being a regular in the weight room? Muscles can atrophy if not used; likewise, your Faith can wither. We can’t have a mindset of growing deeper in the love of Christ without help. I recommended that the Junior members meet every month for a short meeting (you may use some of these exercises as topics for the meeting). Lay Cistercians, for example, promise to attempt to meet every month to learn, pray, in the context of a community that stresses silence and solitude to convert the false self into the true self. We call that a Gathering Day, a day of prayer, learning how to love, and sharing with the monks in Liturgy of the Hours and Cistercian topics of transformation from self to God.

Junior Catholics should promise to practice to seek God with all their heart, with all their mind, with all their strength and love their neighbor as themselves. After two or three years, Junior Catholics may apply for Professed Catholic status. People who choose to do so, and who are accepted by the parish council as being faithful to seeking God, are formally prayed over by the Priests and Parish Council and make a commitment to the local church. 

DISCIPLE: A disciple is one who is now tested in the ways of living as a pilgrim in a foreign land, one who tries to love God with all their mind, all their heart, and all their strength and their neighbor as themselves, for the rest of their time on earth.  (Matthew 22:37)  Service may mean doing something with the love of Christ for your neighbor in addition to contemplating the heart of Christ next to your heart in prayer. This is a unique and additional commitment to the Practicum above in that you commit yourself to a regular schedule of practices and activities that will lead to your conversion of life. Discipleship, in my case, means I promise to love God with my whole heart, whole mind, whole strength and to love my neighbor as myself.

I do that by practicing the Cistercian practices (silence, solitude, prayer, work, and community) so that I can daily convert myself to that of Christ. St. Paul says It so well in Philippians 3:7-16. Read it and think about the power of fierce love that St. Paul has for The Master.

7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.  8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ,[a] the righteousness from God based on faith.  10 I want to know Christ[b] and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,  11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Pressing toward the Goal

12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal;[c] but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  13 Beloved,[d] I do not consider that I have made it my own;[e] but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly[f] call of God in Christ Jesus.  15 Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you.  16 Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.

         New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

This is the level of permanent commitment. Not everyone needs to be a disciple nor does it mean you are better than anyone else. It does mean you make a public profession of Faith to ratify the commitment you made at your first profession of Faith before the local community.

For any new novice to the Faith, and believe me, all of us are novices compared to the wonders and riches Christ has awaiting us through contemplation in this lifetime and Heaven in the next, this passage is one in which I take great comfort and peace when life gets a little dicey

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO KNOW AS A NEW CATHOLIC?

  • YOU MAY OR MAY NOT BE STARTING OVER FROM ZERO Although you are new to Catholicism, you probably have had a rich and fulfilling spiritual life in another faith tradition. One of the reasons you do not have to be re-Baptized is you have already made a faith commitment to a body of beliefs and have been Baptized and maybe even Confirmed in the Holy Spirit. You make your profession of Faith to Christ and not to the Church. Many of your beliefs carry over into your Catholic practice. Unless you are a person who did not have any religion, you probably will not be starting out from ground zero, like you would do if you began a job or joined the Marines.
  • THE NEED TO LEARN HOW TO BE A CATHOLIC Practicing to love God with all your heart, your mind, and your strength and your neighbor as yourself is a lifetime commitment. Like St. Paul says in Philippians 3:8-16, you run the race to win. What we sometimes forget is Christ gives us the tools to be successful in our journey in life, but it demands commitment on our part to sustain ourselves against the temptations of the Evil One and the world’s false allurements. That is why we must train to run the race and not just get on the conveyor belt of Faith and get off when we die. It doesn’t work like that. This book is all about ten ways that I use to sustain my Faith. Jesus is the only door through which we must pass to go to the Father. We do that in each age through the power of the Holy Spirit. The only command Jesus gave us is to love one another as He loved us. You can know that intellectually, but more importantly, Christ wants us to do his commands in each age. That is not easy, which is why he instituted the Church to help us. The Church, far from being just a bunch of rules to which we must conform, is the living Body of Christ, with this added dimension: it is the Church Universal, those who have died and are not before the Throne of the Lamb, those who are still making the journey on earth, and those awaiting purification. Learning to be a Catholic means you are in constant conversion of your old self to your new self. The Church is not the place, but the resource to allow us to identify those steps Christ gave us and then provide us what we need to love God with all our heart, all our mind, and all our strength and our neighbor as yourself.
  • YOUR BAPTISMAL FAITH WILL BE TESTED Being a newly Baptized person, you have the euphoria and zeal to conquer the world. Christ lives in your mind and heart as you have never experienced Him before. The Holy Spirit beckons you to tell everyone that Jesus is Lord, just like the Apostles felt in the Upper Room.  You do, and if people don’t listen, you are quick to condemn them to Hell. This is like the honeymoon period in marriage. The initial flush of excitement and pleasure masks what is the reality of life. Where are those photos of your marriage now? When was the last time you got them out, blew off the dust, and took a good look at you then and then now? You probably look much thinner back then, with more hair, darker hair, and an innocence that comes with those whose think they can conquer the whole world. Two or three years later, reality has set in. The world you set out to conquer is limited to what you can see and experience around you. Ten years later, your world is limited to changing only yourself. What you change into is the question here. You have made  a commitment to move from self  to God, to struggle, to find meaning around you using the eyeglasses God gave you at Baptism, to accept that others in your faith community are critical for you to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5)
  • IT TAKES A LIFETIME TO MOVE FROM SELF TO GOD Take your time to savor your new relationship with Christ. Before the Lay Cistercians of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit considered me for membership, I had to discern my call to determine if I had the endurance and strength to sustain my desire to move from self to God using Cistercian practices and charisms. In my case, I had to assess if I was up to the challenge of driving the five hours from Tallahassee, Florida, my home, to Conyers, Georgia (outside of Atlanta) each month. The normal progression is discernment for a year or two, then accepted as a novice (one who begins the conversion of life to renounce self and life the Life of Christ for two years. After that, for the next three years, each year, .Lay Cistercians make Junior promises to follow the Cistercian way of life as Lay Persons. At the end of five years, Lay Cistercians who are accepted by the Abbott or Abbess and the Lay Cistercian, make their final, permanent commitment or promises to seek God the Cistercian Way, to grow in Christ and convert their life to lead the Life of Christ. Although I don’t think that being a Lay Cistercian is for everyone, the idea that Baptism is only the beginning of the process of moving from self to God has merit and should be studied to provide new Catholics with the Seminarium (greenhouse) where their Faith may be nourished with Christ’s grace and energy. You have a lifetime to know, love, and serve God with all your mind, all your heart, and all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Pace yourself!
  • YOU CAN LOSE YOUR FAITH IF YOU DON’T NURTURE IT

I like to think of losing Faith with the comparison of an ice cube. Ice is not the usual state of water, room temperature is. When you are Baptized (God chooses you to be an adopted son or daughter) or Confirmed with the Holy Spirit (your acceptance of God’s energy in you), you enter a world where, as the ice cube, the normal state is foreign to what the world teaches. That is why I hold that there is a separate universe, the spiritual universe, different than just the physical universe which we interpret with the mental universe.

Back to the ice cube analogy. What happens to an ice cube if you leave it out on the kitchen counter? It will melt and return to room temperature. Now, it is no longer ice but water. A Baptized person who has accepted Christ as the center of his or her life, no longer lives in a world of room temperature but must keep their ice cube from melting. I think this is an excellent way to look at Original Sin, the room temperature into which we were all born, and how it slowly erodes your Faith if you do not actively keep your ice cube from melting. That is why good works are necessary for stabilizing and maintain the faith.  You must work to keep your ice cube frozen, not just get on the conveyor belt of spirituality and go through life without struggle. Christ tells us this over and over. Do unto others as you would have them do to you. Forgive others as you would be forgiven. Love your neighbor as yourself.

St. Benedict realized this in his Rule, Chapter 4,Tools for Good Works. Get over the idea that you can buy your way to Heaven or Good Works alone will get you to Heaven. Wrong questions have wrong answers.

THE CISTERCIAN CONTEMPLATIVE APPROACH TO SPIRITUALITY IS ONE WAY TO APPROACH THE MYSTERY OF FAITH IN SILENCE AND SOLITUDE

I am using what I understand about being a Lay Cistercian, using silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community, as the framework for the ten lessons I use in my own journey to move from self to God. Contemplative means you seek to go inside yourself to discover Christ through contemplation and Cistercian practices. At the very center, the core of what it means to be a Catholic, which is also the center for Lay Cistercians, is to love God with your whole heart, your whole mind, and your whole strength and your neighbor as yourself.(Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37)

No one can attempt to love with all your might without knowing how Christ first loved us. The Catholic Church is not God, they are people in each age who, at their very best, provide helps with howto love others as Christ loved us. They provide a community of faith in which you can nurture your faith with the Faith of the Church. Lay Cistercians is an additional method of spirituality based on St. Benedict and St. Bernard. You need the tools to grow deeper into the Mystery of Faith, the source of loving with your whole mind and heart.

One of the things we could do better for each other is to share HOW to pray using silence, solitude, work, prayer in the context of a community centered around Christ. That is why I like the Lay Cistercian approach to spirituality, one that stresses the interior. To be fair, there are other equally appropriate ways to express your spirituality, such as:

Dominican https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMkAnpUPH4g

Franciscan- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMkAnpUPH4g

I have this big problem, and I can’t seem to shake it. Try as I might I cannot run from the Hound of Heaven, as Francis Thompson’s tries to capture in his poetry.https://www.ewtn.com/library/HUMANITY/HNDHVN.HTM

I turned on the faucet of the Holy Spirit when I began my journey as Lay Cistercian way back in 2012, and I can’t seem to turn it off. My spouse thinks I am living in la-la land, and everyone else is the object of my compulsion to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5), my center and the only phrase I use in my daily Lectio Divina. You would be safe from my reflections if I just thought about them, but the Holy Spirit led me to write all this down. If you are reading this, you are the object of one of my Lectio Divina reflections, this time on the dimensions of the Church.  I propose to set forth four dimensions of the Church, you might have many more than I do, but these are the one I use in my daily practice of contemplation. But, that is not all. Because I am focusing my attention on the Mystery of Faith, the cloud of the unknowing, the concept of Church becomes one of a lived reality having four dimensions, but each dimension has four elements that I use to try to probe deeper into the Mystery that is the Body of Christ made present in each age. I will conclude with some reflections on the four marks whereby we know the Body of Christ is authentic and not the creation of magicians and charletons. 

Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to 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.  –Cistercian doxology

MAKING A CONTEMPLATIVE RETREAT

In February, Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Georgia, will be making their annual retreat. Retreats are special opportunities to advance the amount of time we spend in the presence of Christ. What follows is an excerpt from my book GETTING FROM HERE     TO THERE: A Lay Cistercian reflects on Cistercian Charisms and how they move us to conversion of life from self to God. 

All methods of spirituality have Charisms. In the Roman Catholic heritage, Dominicans, Basilian, Augustinian, Ignatian, Benedictine, Cistercian and Carmelite systems of spirituality, and many more, have a Lay component, a way for Laity to practice a particular way to approach living the Life of Christ. Anyone who seeks to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus is blessed, be they Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopal, or Assembly of God or Eastern Orthodox.

Cistercians, evolving from Benedictine spiritual methodology or the Rule of St. Benedict, also have charisms. It is only recently, (1986) that Lay Cistercians were founded at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), Conyers, Georgia. Lay Cistercians use practices and charisms of the monastery to which they are attached (called the charism of stability).

One of the important core qualities that comprise Cistercian spirituality is the conversion of morals “conversio morae” or conversion of self to God. It is a transformation from the false self to your true self. Charisms help those who wish to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5) to get there from where you are.

WHAT IS A CHARISM?

The following items I found in a book by the late Father Anthony Delisi, OCSO, a monk of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit.  He writes in this book about Cistercian charisms, What makes a Cistercian Monk? His book is taken from a series of weekly Chapter meetings he presented to monks from 2003-2004. He offered some of these reflections to Lay Cistercians to help them define what it means to seek God in the world and not only in a monastery.

What is a charism? I remember my first session as a novice Lay Cistercian, sitting in the second-floor conference room and having the late Father Anthony address all of us on the meaning of charisms. I knew that it was an important concept, but had little appreciation for what it meant, other than it was what was necessary to be a monk. Father Anthony, in his typically understated way, told us that charisms are that special something that makes a monk a monk. If I apply that to Lay Cistercians, I get “Charisms are those things that make a Lay Cistercian a Lay Cistercian.”

I know a bit more, now that I am a professed Lay Cistercian, and I stress the bit. The following areas of formation as seen below, all leading to transformation from our false self to our true self in Christ, are charisms that monks try to live every day in silence and solitude. I will use these categories to explore these charisms that have helped me become a Lay Cistercian. I speak for my own spirituality and no one else.

When I first entered the Lay Cistercians as a novice (2012), the late Father Anthony Delisi, O.C.S.O., considered the founding father of Lay Cistercians, ask a group of us “greenies” what a charism is. Of course, we all knew that we had no clue what that meant. He also knew that we did not know. In his unique wisdom, Father Anthony told us to read his book for the answer. What topics follow are the chapters from his book, What Makes a Cistercian Monk?  Father Anthony delivered these topics as part of his Chapter talks to the monks of Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Georgia. I have provided you with some of his topic headings and added my own reflections on what it means for me as a Lay Cistercian.

A FEW DIMENSIONS OF LAY CISTERCIAN CHARISMS  Excerpted from: What makes a Cistercian Monk? Chapter talks on the charisms of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance. Father Anthony Delisi, O.C.S.O.

  • Nothing is to be preferred to the work of God
  • Faith in the rule of St. Benedict
  • Respect and Love for one another
  • The Stability of the Rule
  • Respect your Elders, Love the Young
  • Charisms of the Strict Order Observance Cistercians (OCSO)
  • Early Rising
  • Encountering the Presence of God Especially at Divine Office
  • The Psalms as Song and Prayer of the Monks
  • Lectio Divina
  • Contemplative Prayer
  • Silence in Contemplative Prayer
  • Why do we need solitude?
  • Treasuring Cistercian simplicity
  • Living by the work of our hands
  • Embracing the torch of obedience
  • Stability and Community
  • The gift of celibacy
  • Living in Community
  • Amore Christi–the love of Christ
  • Conversion of manners (life)
  • Humility
  • Patience
  • Balance

Not all of these charisms are appropriate for Lay Cistercians, mainly because they are designed for monks and nuns who live a cloistered life in a monastery, purposefully separated from society, but many of them apply to those of us who still weather the storms of daily living in the World.  We use five charisms: silence, solitude, pray, work, and community as cornerstones and try to implement the rest of them as we can.

See https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org  for my blog on contemplative practice.

See www.trappist.net/support/lay-cistercians  to see the Monastery of the Holy Spirit and look under Lay Cistercians.

SOME ASSUMPTIONS I USE

All of these ideas from the edge of time come from my praying Lectio Divina based on Philippians 2:5. What happens when you just let go and accepting whatever follows? For me, it is truly remarkable. I have to admit, sometimes, nothing comes to mind. I don’t know if time actually has an edge in the spiritual universe nor even in the physical universe for that matter. My point is: the ideas come from somewhere out there. I believe it is from the Holy Spirit. Moreover, I am not worried about it.

My ideas are, as I have said, the result of my Lectio Divina meditations and contemplations. This book is your chance to write down your ideas about some spiritual thoughts. You may have always wanted to write a book, here is your chance to make a private retreat and also set down your feelings for your family and friends.

The blogs may be found on my site at:

https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org You will need access to the Internet for some of my connections to sites to read and reflect upon as you make your retreat. May I offer some ways to seek the most out of this time we have together.

1. The Holy Spirit is your Guide. That may sound trite since you might not think you can experience the Holy Spirit, but you can place yourself in the presence of Christ, and where Christ is, so the Holy Spirit, the spirit of truth and wisdom, must be. Let go of your defenses and trust the Holy Spirit.

2. Be open to the ideas produced by your reading and reflection. I get new ideas every time I try Lectio Divina. I have been doing Lectio off and on, since 1964, but have only been writing down the results in my books (51 so far) and blogs, since 2000. Where these ideas come from is always a marvel and a mysteries. I think I know, but I don’t want to get too cocky about it. The Holy Spirit gets the credit because I don’t have these thoughts in my mind as I begin the Lectio Divina meditations on Philippians 2:5, the only phrase I have ever used in Lectio (reading) section of my Lectio Divina prayer.

3. I use the Lectio Divina method (reading, meditating, praying, contemplating), but you can just focus your mind and your thinking on the blog and the Internet sites you have accessed. You can make this retreat to fit your life patterns, but I think it works best if you say a prayer to the Holy Spirit for enlightenment and wisdom, read the book, look up any Internet sites, then silently reflect on all of it, finally writing down your thoughts in the space provided.

4. Pray as you can. I read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict every day. You can read Chapter Four in total in just a couple of minutes. Many time I struggle to read the entire Chapter 4 without getting off track. Sometimes the thoughts are violent, some are extremely provocative with intense sexual innuendos, some are covetous of goods. with thoughts that what I do is not worth my time. I understand why Moses wandered in the desert for forty years. I let these thoughts happen as they present themselves and don’t try to categorize or prioritize them. I try to banish them like St. Benedict advises us to do in Chapter 4. of the Rule. “(50) To dash at once against Christ the evil thoughts which rise in one’s heart. (51) And to disclose them to our spiritual father.” I win some and lose some. That is why I need to live each day as a lifetime of trying to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus.

5. Make this, or any spiritual experience, with not only your head but your heart. The head tells us what is, how it exists in our world, where it fits, the heart helps us to feel what is right, why it is right, and where it fits in the Kingdom of Heaven. Trust both your head and your heart. I try, in all my attempts to pray, to approach the Sacred and allow what happens to happen, rather than forcing something to be there that I want. The goal is to feel Christ’s presence in you.

6. Scriptures are the collected love letters of God to humans from the Torah through Revelations. What do you do with love letters you received from your spouse or family? Do you throw them away? Are there such things as hate letters? You don’t send someone a love letter if you don’t love them. You can’t respond to a love letter unless you hold the person who sent it as special.

8. You know you have been effective in your prayer when you produce something that you did not have before. For example, replace hatred with love. I read Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule every day. I pray Chapter 4 with the hope that I become what I read. It is a way for me to keep in mind that Christ is my center and that I must have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5)

9. You must pray as though everything in spirituality depends on God, but act as that you are the one who must make it real. You must Hope and Trust that everything God tells you to do is true. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, not you, not the Church, not any ministers, priests, or rabbis. You.

10. Contemplation is a relationship, more of a feeling of God’s presence in your heart, than reciting a prayer with your mind., although both are good. The move from Lectio, Meditatio, Oratio, to Contemplatio (Lectio Divina stages) is to allow you to travel from the mind to the heart. Moving from self to God means in silence and solitude is one way to increase the capacity for God in your spirit, making room for Christ while you have less room for yourself. Contemplation allows me to confront my demons (7 Deadly Sins) and move toward replacing them with the Gifts of the Spirit. Each day, I begin with a Morning Offering to the Father to try to convert my life from a false self (the world) to my true self (adopted son of the Father). That I don’t make it is just a fact of Original Sin. I begin the next day again using the Cistercian practices and charisms as I can. I do this over and over and over until I die.

11. Christ’s only command was to love one another as he has loved us. Of course, that contains the totality of spirituality. As a Lay Cistercian, I use the practices and charisms of Cistercian spirituality to open my mind to my heart and open my heart to sit next to the Heart of Christ. St. Benedict, in his Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict, says we should prefer nothing to the love of Christ.

LEARNING AND DISCUSSION POINTS

  • One of the effects of totally surrendering oneself to the Mystery of Faith, that which is beyond definition, ut exists in God, is to be present to the one you love. In the case of God’s energy, you canNOT be changed into the greater reality, i.e., God. How would making a contemplative retreat place you in the presence, the Real Presence of Christ?
  • We are like an empty glass, waiting to be filled with the Spirit of Truth. All we can do is lift up our glasses to the Father and ask for more. What are the effects of being filled with the Holy Spirit?
  • Mary was filled with the Holy Spirit, but with a difference. Because of Original Sin, my glass can be filled up (capacitas dei) only to the extent that I make room. In Mary’s case, God filled her human nature with so much grace that she is like a glass that is filled up to the meniscus–one more drop and it overflows. We call that being full of grace.
  • A contemplative retreat is abandoning all agenda’s, all private comforts, seeking to have your private time with Christ, being driven by achieving something tangible from the retreat. It is simply sitting on a park bench in the dead of Winter and waiting for Christ to come by and sit with you, It is the waiting that is prayer. It is the anticipation that converts your false self into newness of life, not your own, but Christ’s.

Praise be to the Father and 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 —Cistercian Doxology

RESPECT OUR JEWISH HERITAGE

What follows is an exerpt from my newest book entitled PRESCRIPTIONS

   FOR LOVING GOD: A Lay Cistercian reflects  on five sets of laws that  

   enable us to seek God in everyday living.

In going through my daily Lectio Divina, I thought about Philippians 2:5 and Matthew 22:37 when Christ told us that he did not come to change the Law but to fulfill it. I wondered, as I still do, what that might mean. I found five listings of the law to be helpful in my seeking God. 

I. THE OLD TESTAMENT LAW

What follows are the 613 laws that Jews must follow. I am going to copy them in full, for you to see how the people at the time of Christ, especially Pharisees, were, sincere people, trying to keep the law of Moses. You will notice that some of these laws are not found in scripture but in the traditions that come down through the centuries. I offer my reflections on this article at the end. I am struck by the transformation of Law from the Old Testament and what Christ fulfilled in the New Testament. Matthew 22:37. The Church today has all the flaws, the anxieties, the miscues of Israel. The Old Covenant tells how much God loves his stiff-necked people and he will be there God forever. In the New Covenant, Christ tells his flawed and sinful followers how much he loved them but asked them to love one another as He has loved them. The Gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church, his Mystical Body.

I usually don’t recommend placing the questions before what I ask you to read, but in this case, the resource is so beautiful that I want you to think about these 613 prescriptions BEFORE you read them, hopefully, in their entirety. Here are three questions to keep in mind as you read them. They come to us from God through Israel.

LEARNING POINTS AND DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • How many of these Jewish laws would you be able to keep right now? If you can’t keep them, why not? 
  • Do you see any carry-over trends from the 613 prescriptions of the Law to what Christ taught us? What are they?
  • What are the assumptions you must hold if you are Jewish and wish to carry out the Law and love God with your whole mind, your whole heart, and your whole strength? Are these the same assumptions that you hold to be true when you look at these 613 prescriptions of the Law?

RESOURCES

https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/756399/jewish/The-613-Commandments-Mitzvot.htm

http://www.jewfaq.org/613.htm

By Tracey R. Rich © Copyright 5757-5771 (1996-2011),

“Below is a list of the 613 mitzvot (commandments). It is based primarily on the list compiled by Rambam in the Mishneh Torah, but I have consulted other sources as well. As I said in the page on Halakhah, Rambam’s list is probably the most widely accepted list, but it is not the only one. The order is my own, as are the explanations of how some rules are derived from some biblical passages.”

For each mitzvah, I have provided a citation to the biblical passage or passages from which it is derived, based primarily on Rambam. For commandments that can be observed today, I have also provided citations to the Chafetz Chayim’s Concise Book of Mitzvot (CCA refers to affirmative commandments; CCN refers to negative commandments; CCI refers to commandments that only apply in Israel). Commandments that cannot be observed today primarily relate to the Temple, its sacrifices and services (because the Temple does not exist) and criminal procedures (because the theocratic state of Israel does not exist).

G-d

  1. To know that G-d exists (Ex. 20:2; Deut. 5:6) (CCA1). See What Do Jews Believe?.
  2. Not to entertain the idea that there is any god but the Eternal (Ex. 20:3) (CCN8). See What Do Jews Believe?.
  3. Not to blaspheme (Ex. 22:27; in Christian texts, Ex. 22:28), the penalty for which is death (Lev. 24:16) (negative).
  4. To hallow G-d’s name (Lev. 22:32) (CCA5). See The Name of G-d.
  5. Not to profane G-d’s name (Lev . 22:32) (CCN155). See The Name of G-d.
  6. To know that G-d is One, a complete Unity (Deut. 6:4) (CCA2). See What Do Jews Believe?.
  7. To love G-d (Deut. 6:5) (CCA3). See What Do Jews Believe?.
  8. To fear Him reverently (Deut. 6:13; 10:20) (CCA4).
  9. Not to put the word of G-d to the test (Deut. 6:16) (negative).
  10. To imitate His good and upright ways (Deut. 28:9) (CCA6).

Torah

  1. To honor the old and the wise (Lev. 19:32) (CCA17).
  2. To learn Torah and to teach it (Deut. 6:7) (CCA14). See Torah.
  3. To cleave to those who know Him (Deut. 10:20) (the Talmud states that cleaving to scholars is equivalent to cleaving to Him) (CCA16).
  4. Not to add to the commandments of the Torah, whether in the Written Law or in its interpretation received by tradition (Deut. 13:1) (CCN159). See Torah.
  5. Not to take away from the commandments of the Torah (Deut. 13:1) (CCN160). See Torah.
  6. That every person shall write a scroll of the Torah for himself (Deut. 31:19) (CCA15). See Torah.

Signs and Symbols

  1. To circumcise the male offspring (Gen. 17:12; Lev. 12:3) (CCA47) See Brit Milah: Circumcision.
  2. To put tzitzit on the corners of clothing (Num. 15:38) (CCA10). See Tzitzit and Tallit.
  3. To bind tefillin on the head (Deut. 6:8) (CCA9). See Tefillin.
  4. To bind tefillin on the arm (Deut. 6:8) (CCA8). See Tefillin.
  5. To affix the mezuzah to the doorposts and gates of your house (Deut. 6:9) (CCA12). See Mezuzah.

Prayer and Blessings

  1. To pray to G-d (Ex. 23:25; Deut. 6:13) (according to the Talmud, the word “serve” in these verses refers to prayer) (CCA7). See Prayers and BlessingsJewish Liturgy.
  2. To read the Shema in the morning and at night (Deut. 6:7) (CCA11). See Jewish Liturgy.
  3. To recite grace after meals (Deut. 8:10) (CCA13). See Birkat Ha-Mazon: Grace After Meals
  4. Not to lay down a stone for worship (Lev. 26:1) (CCN161).

Love and Brotherhood

  1. To love all human beings who are of the covenant (Lev. 19:18) (CCA60). See Love and Brotherhood.
  2. Not to stand by idly when a human life is in danger (Lev. 19:16) (CCN82). See Love and Brotherhood.
  3. Not to wrong anyone in speech (Lev. 25:17) (CCN48). See Speech and Lashon Ha-Ra.
  4. Not to carry tales (Lev. 19:16) (CCN77). See Speech and Lashon Ha-Ra.
  5. Not to cherish hatred in one’s heart (Lev. 19:17) (CCN78). See Love and Brotherhood.
  6. Not to take revenge (Lev. 19:18) (CCN80).
  7. Not to bear a grudge (Lev. 19:18) (CCN81).
  8. Not to put any Jew to shame (Lev. 19:17) (CCN79).
  9. Not to curse any other Israelite (Lev. 19:14) (by implication: if you may not curse those who cannot hear, you certainly may not curse those who can) (CCN45).
  10. Not to give occasion to the simple-minded to stumble on the road (Lev. 19:14) (this includes doing anything that will cause another to sin) (CCN76).
  11. To rebuke the sinner (Lev. 19:17) (CCA72).
  12. To relieve a neighbor of his burden and help to unload his beast (Ex. 23:5) (CCA70). See Love and Brotherhood.
  13. To assist in replacing the load upon a neighbor’s beast (Deut. 22:4) (CCA71). See Love and Brotherhood.
  14. Not to leave a beast, that has fallen down beneath its burden, unaided (Deut. 22:4) (CCN183). See Love and Brotherhood.

The Poor and Unfortunate

  1. Not to afflict an orphan or a widow (Ex. 22:21) (CCN51).
  2. Not to reap the entire field (Lev. 19:9; Lev. 23:22) (negative) (CCI6).
  3. To leave the unreaped corner of the field or orchard for the poor (Lev. 19:9) (affirmative) (CCI1).
  4. Not to gather gleanings (the ears that have fallen to the ground while reaping) (Lev. 19:9) (negative) (CCI7).
  5. To leave the gleanings for the poor (Lev. 19:9) (affirmative) (CCI2).
  6. Not to gather ol’loth (the imperfect clusters) of the vineyard (Lev. 19:10) (negative) (CCI8).
  7. To leave ol’loth (the imperfect clusters) of the vineyard for the poor (Lev. 19:10; Deut. 24:21) (affirmative) (CCI3).
  8. Not to gather the peret (grapes) that have fallen to the ground (Lev. 19:10) (negative) (CCI9).
  9. To leave peret (the single grapes) of the vineyard for the poor (Lev. 19:10) (affirmative) (CCI4).
  10. Not to return to take a forgotten sheaf (Deut. 24:19) This applies to all fruit trees (Deut. 24:20) (negative) (CC10).
  11. To leave the forgotten sheaves for the poor (Deut. 24:19-20) (affirmative) (CCI5).
  12. Not to refrain from maintaining a poor man and giving him what he needs (Deut. 15:7) (CCN62). See Tzedakah: Charity.
  13. To give charity according to one’s means (Deut. 15:11) (CCA38). See Tzedakah: Charity.

Treatment of Gentiles

  1. To love the stranger (Deut. 10:19) (CCA61). See Love and Brotherhood.
  2. Not to wrong the stranger in speech (Ex. 22:20) (CCN49).
  3. Not to wrong the stranger in buying or selling (Ex. 22:20) (CCN50).
  4. Not to intermarry with gentiles (Deut. 7:3) (CCN19). See Interfaith Marriages.
  5. To exact the debt of an alien (Deut. 15:3) (affirmative).
  6. To lend to an alien at interest (Deut. 23:21) According to tradition, this is mandatory (affirmative).

Marriage, Divorce and Family

  1. To honor father and mother (Ex. 20:12) (CCA41).
  2. Not to smite a father or a mother (Ex. 21:15) (CCN44).
  3. Not to curse a father or mother (Ex. 21:17) (CCN46).
  4. To reverently fear father and mother (Lev. 19:3) (CCA42).
  5. To be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28) (CCA43).
  6. That a eunuch shall not marry a daughter of Israel (Deut. 23:2) (CCN136).
  7. That a mamzer shall not marry the daughter of a Jew (Deut. 23:3) (CCN137). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  8. That an Ammonite or Moabite shall never marry the daughter of an Israelite (Deut. 23:4) (negative).
  9. Not to exclude a descendant of Esau from the community of Israel for three generations (Deut. 23:8-9) (negative).
  10. Not to exclude an Egyptian from the community of Israel for three generations (Deut. 23:8-9) (negative).
  11. That there shall be no harlot (in Israel); that is, that there shall be no intercourse with a woman, without previous marriage with a deed of marriage and formal declaration of marriage (Deut. 23:18) (CCN133). SeeMarriage.
  12. To take a wife by kiddushin, the sacrament of marriage (Deut. 24:1) (CCA44). See The Process of Marriage: Kiddushin and Nisuin.
  13. That the newly married husband shall (be free) for one year to rejoice with his wife (Deut. 24:5) (affirmative).
  14. That a bridegroom shall be exempt for a whole year from taking part in any public labor, such as military service, guarding the wall and similar duties (Deut. 24:5) (negative).
  15. Not to withhold food, clothing or conjugal rights from a wife (Ex. 21:10) (CCN42). See The Marital Relationship.
  16. That the woman suspected of adultery shall be dealt with as prescribed in the Torah (Num. 5:30) (affirmative).
  17. That one who defames his wife’s honor (by falsely accusing her of unchastity before marriage) must live with her all his lifetime (Deut. 22:19) (affirmative).
  18. That a man may not divorce his wife concerning whom he has published an evil report (about her unchastity before marriage) (Deut. 22:19) (negative).
  19. To divorce by a formal written document (Deut. 24:1) (affirmative). See The Process of Obtaining a Divorce.
  20. That one who divorced his wife shall not remarry her, if after the divorce she had been married to another man (Deut. 24:4) (CCN134). See Divorce.
  21. That a widow whose husband died childless must not be married to anyone but her deceased husband’s brother (Deut. 25:5) (CCN135) (this is only in effect insofar as it requires the procedure of release below).
  22. To marry the widow of a brother who has died childless (Deut. 25:5) (this is only in effect insofar as it requires the procedure of release below ) (CCA45).
  23. That the widow formally release the brother-in-law (if he refuses to marry her) (Deut. 25:7-9) (CCA46).

Forbidden Sexual Relations

  1. Not to indulge in familiarities with relatives, such as kissing, embracing, winking, skipping, which may lead to incest (Lev. 18:6) (CCN110).
  2. Not to commit incest with one’s mother (Lev. 18:7) (CCN112). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  3. Not to commit sodomy with one’s father (Lev. 18:7) (CCN111).
  4. Not to commit incest with one’s father’s wife (Lev. 18:8) (CCN113). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  5. Not to commit incest with one’s sister (Lev. 18:9) (CCN127). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  6. Not to commit incest with one’s father’s wife’s daughter (Lev. 18:11) (CCN128). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  7. Not to commit incest with one’s son’s daughter (Lev. 18:10) (CCN119) (Note: CC treats this and the next as one commandment; however, Rambam treats them as two). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  8. Not to commit incest with one’s daughter’s daughter (Lev. 18:10) (CCN119) (Note: CC treats this and the previous as one commandment; however, Rambam treats them as two). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  9. Not to commit incest with one’s daughter (this is not explicitly in the Torah but is inferred from other explicit commands that would include it) (CCN120). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  10. Not to commit incest with one’s fathers sister (Lev. 18:12) (CCN129). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  11. Not to commit incest with one’s mother’s sister (Lev. 18:13) (CCN130). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  12. Not to commit incest with one’s father’s brothers wife (Lev. 18:14) (CCN125). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  13. Not to commit sodomy with one’s father’s brother (Lev. 18:14) (CCN114).
  14. Not to commit incest with one’s son’s wife (Lev. 18:15) (CCN115). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  15. Not to commit incest with one’s brother’s wife (Lev. 18:16) (CCN126). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  16. Not to commit incest with one’s wife’s daughter (Lev. 18:17) (CCN121). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  17. Not to commit incest with the daughter of one’s wife’s son (Lev. 18:17) (CCN122). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  18. Not to commit incest with the daughter of one’s wife’s daughter (Lev. 18:17) (CCN123). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  19. Not to commit incest with one’s wife’s sister (Lev. 18:18) (CCN131). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  20. Not to have intercourse with a woman, in her menstrual period (Lev. 18:19) (CCN132).
  21. Not to have intercourse with another man’s wife (Lev. 18:20) (CCN124).
  22. Not to commit sodomy with a male (Lev. 18:22) (CCN116).
  23. Not to have intercourse with a beast (Lev. 18:23) (CCN117).
  24. That a woman shall not have intercourse with a beast (Lev. 18:23) (CCN118).
  25. Not to castrate the male of any species; neither a man, nor a domestic or wild beast, nor a fowl (Lev. 22:24) (CCN143).

BEING A CATHOLIC UNIVERSAL MEMBER UNDER THE LAW

Here are some thoughts from a broken-down, old Lay Cistercian about the Law, Faith, the Spirit, and how all of this works towards the glory of God.

  • The Law of the OT is not bad. It came from God. What makes it the object of Christ’s wrath is not practicing it the way it was intended, to love God. Christ came, not to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it.
  • Fulfilling it means what is essential about the Law moves forward.
  • There is an Old Covenant with the Twelve Tribes of Israel (10 of whom were assumed into Assyria) and fulfilled by Christ, and the Twelve Apostles in a New Covenant, one of love for each other as Christ loves us.
  • The Old Testament is exclusive of those who are Jewish. The New Testament (Acts of the Apostles) had to struggle to move from a geographical area (although that is still true) to the whole world.
  • For those who believe in Faith (a gift from God, not because of your belief), spirituality opens up past the statues and regulations to one law– Shema Yisrael Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37).
  • The Spirit of the Law is the deeper meaning contained in keeping it.
  • The Jews are the firstborn of God. Salvation comes from the Jews and is perfected and fulfilled through Christ.
  • Don’t think of the Law as being bad while the Spirit is good. The Law is good, when used to lead us to the Spirit. We are not saved by doing the Law, reading the Law, but by Faith. Faith is a gift from God that overshadows us and allows us to share in a small way the love of Christ for the Father through the Holy Spirit. Just as Faith without works is dead, so too is the Law without the Spirit. The Advocate comes at Pentecost to give theApostles Faith to go out and do what Christ showed us how to live until we reach Heaven.
  • What the Apostles shared, they share with the Church Universal in all ages, to keep the prescriptions of the Law, not to abolish them or make them up to suit our fickle claims to know what God thinks. The Law ensures stability and continuity with the past so that we can practice our Faith as Christ taught us and the Apostles handed down to us.

All of these sets of laws are designed to help us focus on loving God or Christ. The important part of the Law is it comes from God as interpreted through the leaders of Israel in the OT and by the Church Universal in the NT. Authority is given to the Law by God Himself.

These are the Laws of Christ and the Apostles inherited. We honor these Laws and traditions of the Elders because from they sprout the prescriptions we observe today.

PEACE BEYOND ALL TELLING

It must be Christmas time because the media and commercial stores are plastered with Peace signs. I was reflecting on my Lectio quote (Phil 2:5) and the thought about the meaning of Peace came to mind.

The Incarnation, I reasoned, is not just the beginning of an epoch, but allows those who are people of good will to experience peace. This is not the peace that the world gives, as in the absence of conflict, although that is one of its meanings. I thought about going deeper into the meaning of Peace in terms of the divine economy of salvation, the Mystery of Faith, one step along the path to salvation. For those who have authentic Faith (a gift from God to allow us to give Him glory and praise), Peace is a word that is not passive, but an active word, one that produces in us what it signifies. Since this is not just the peace that the world thinks of at Christ, Peace is actually energy from God to allow us to claim our inheritance as adopted sons and daughters of the Father.

For the World, Peace comes in the form of good will to humans. We give gifts to one another at Christmas to signify that we love family and friends. After all, isn’t it better to give than to receive?

For Christ, Peace means love to humans of good will. This love is different because the gift is the love Christ had for each of us and all of us. The only command Christ left us is to love one another as He loves us. What more fitting commemoration could we have than for God to become one of us out of pure love, the love that we can only approach with humility and obedience to God’s will. (Philippians 2:5-12) This Christ event informs all that we do, so much so that we are bid to give each other love. At the Eucharist, a much-underappreciated activity is the Sign of Peace, where Christ is made present to us in a community of those of good will and bids us to share himself with others. This giving of the Sign of Peace is our gift to Christ so that we can try to love others as he has loved us. We actually share His love with each other as when we give each other the sign of Peace. This is the Mystery of Faith.

During this time of Peace, this memorial of the birth of Christ, this sign of contradiction to the allurements of the World, this ultimate sign of humility for us to copy in our lives, we celebrate the Good News of Peace, the coming of our God, once again.

I will have had seventy-eight Christmas celebrations so far, not that I remember all of them. I do remember Midnight Mass in Vincennes, Indiana, when we had to walk four blocks to the Old Cathedral Church on very cold and sometimes snowy nights. We all bundled up and made the trek. The Church was packed to the rafters. There was the large manger with Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus. Each year it was there, and each year we did the same thing. Today, the setting is different but there is still a Midnight Mass.

Being exposed to Cistercian (Benedictine) spirituality, I hope I see more clearly, yet through a foggy window at the great reality that is part of our heritage of Faith. Every day is the Incarnation. Every day is the Passion and Death of Christ in my life. Every day is the Resurrection and Ascension to the Father. To be sure, I don’t consciously think about them each day, but they are the foundations for loving others as Christ loves us.

In this season of Peace, God gives us the gift of love and asks only that we share it with each other. It takes a lifetime to probe even the fringes of what that Mystery of Faith might mean in our human existence, but it is the challenge we face. That in all things, God may be glorified. –St. Benedict

May the Peace of Christ be with you. Amen and Amen.

THREE QUESTIONS THAT MAY ESCAPE YOU IN THE SEASON

This is the season to be jolly. It goes without saying (which is why I am saying it) that the search each one of us has to find meaning is much more mysterious than just a surface look at our physical universe (what we can experience through our five senses).

Our transition from the Sacred to the Profane has been centuries in coming, but it is here now and threatens to seduce the minds of the pusillanimous. (that means weak willed individuals). As a Lay Cisterecian who like to reflect on reality in terms of Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I look at reality now in three layers, or three separate universes, each distinct, each complimenting each other, each making up an indispensable part of the whole. Three universes yet one reality. Does that remind you of anything?

Let me take you on a holiday journey, one which you may never have taken but which has always been there before time had a tick and a tock.

My thinking is that the implications of the Nativity of Christ is a milestone in the development of three universes (physical, mental and spiritual). I see all reality in terms of these three universes.

https://www.businessinsider.com/hypernovas-are-the-most-powerful-thing-in-the-universe-2014-9

What is the largest and most immense structure in the universe? Did you see the Youtube video? Is it the cosmic web? Again, what is the most powerful energy in the physical universe. Is it a supernova or a quasar? Did you watch the Youtube video on the most powerful energy in the universe.

Based on my Lectio Divina meditations, I submit to you that the next level of reality, the mental universe, is more powerful than anything in the physical universe. What quasar knows that it knows? What cosmic web can choose that which is harmful for it over what is good? Even the most meager human can do that. Which brings me to my second question. Why are humans the only ones who know that we know? Know what? Why a collective intelligence that we can pass on to our posterity?  Your pet does not know that it knows. It knows when it is hungry but not much beyond living in the natural state. Animals can’t answer why something is. Why can you? 

And yet, the least person in the kingdom of heaven, the spiritual universe on earth and in heaven, is more powerful than those who just exist in the physical and mental universes alone. Why? Because they have the ability to reason and the ability to choose that which is meaningful, but what they choose to believe propels them forwards, not backwards. To live in the spiritual universe you must choose to do so. To be sure humans are not God, with the exception of Christ, but we have been raised up in adoption to give praise to the one who is power and majesty before the Throne of the Lamb.  Heaven is not only our purpose in life (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37) but our final destiny as humans. Now that is power!

So where does Christmas fit in? In human history, there are four epochs of time, all beginning with a “Yes”. 

CREATION– It all began with a yes. Some call it the Big Bang, for lack of a more accurate description. John’s Gospel begins with the Word. A word takes intelligence to say. Quasars can’t say words. Atoms can’t say words. Animals can’t say words. God says a word and all of this began. But what word did he say?  Yes!

HUMAN  CREATION — This epoch began with a yes, initially, but then reverted to a No with Adam and Eve. Original Sin describes the human condition in which we find ourselves, one in which we still struggle to work for our bread, have suffering and pain, often go off the path of what is right to become our own god, and finally face the ultimate effect of sin, death. There is Hope of a redeemer to save us from our troubles and fulfill our original destiny in the Garden of Eden. This is the story of how God loved his people so much that he told them how to be one with him through the Law and the Spirit.

THE NEW CREATION –– This epoch is one which fulfills the longing of a people to be free to keep the covenant given by God on Mt. Sinai. Their fidelity or lack of it is the history we call the Old Testament. In all of this confusion and struggle is a promise of someone to come that will restore the convenant and open it up to all humans. There is one problem. God had to become one of us to “buy back” that which Adam and Eve sold to the pawn shop. The price was being born as a human at all. That had to be accomplished in a natural way, consistent with the Law of Nature.  The price was to empty himself completely (die) in atonement for sins of all humans. (Philippians 2:5-12 and Romans 5). This is the story of love, one where God became one of us to show us how to live. There is one law that Christ left us, to love one another as He has loved us.

THE CHURCH UNIVERSAL — This fourth epoch is from the time of Christ’s Ascension to the Father to the Second Coming. It demands a yes from you, the you in each age, the individual who must freely commit to the new covenant by doing which Christ taught us. Heaven is a place of an eternal Yes, the result of our struggle on earth to overcome the lure of the World to be our own god. May won’t get it. May will resist it. Some will think they have it but don’t. Some will have it but won’t realize it.  Matthew 25:31-46. This is your chance to say YES to the YES of Mary, the Mother of God, the YES of Human Creation that is good, the YES of all matter, time, and energy. All creation glorifies the Father. God left his DNA, the imprint of His thumb, so to speak, on matter, energy, and time. We, humans, have the ability to reflect on all that is and ask Why. We, humans, have the opportunity to say YES to creation each day as we try to discover meaning in the world in which we find ourselves. We are not destined to be Democrats, Republicans, members of this or that country, male or female. We are one body, one faith, and have one Lord. 

LEARNING POINTS

  • Scriptures are the love letters from God that tell us that we are loved. How we respond is based on what is in our hearts and minds.
  • Christ told us to love each other as He loves us. Love means sharing ourselves with the community as He does with us in the Eucharist. Matthew 25:31-46.
  • The joy of the season does not come at the front of the process but at the end, where we do what Christ commanded and share in his glory to the Father through the Holy Spirit.
  • Think of the Birth of Christ as the time when humans (with Mary as the archetype of humanity) said Yes to the gift that God gave us, from Himself, for us, to be With us,,, Forever. What a gift that is, compared to the neutron star or the energy of matter, or even just existence. We are adopted sons and daughters of the Father. Our destiny is Forever. 
  • In this season that beguiles us with riches and gifts without a link to Christ and the true gift of the Father to humans, the Son, we can suffer from a lack of true joy that only comes when we join our hearts to the heart of Christ, each day. 

Praise be the Father and 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.  –Cistercian doxology 

 

FOUR QUALITIES FOR CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY

In my very limited time being a Lay Cistercian, I have learned so much about the interior life, the realm of silence and solitude, the place where I had been afraid to look before now. I am actually astounded because I don’t even live in a monastery.

SCANDALUM PUSSILORUM

One of the dangers of being a new Catholic, a new Lay Cistercian, even a new member of a parish ministry, is being able to sustain it past the so-called “honeymoon” period. I remember being verbally and physically accosted by a newly minted Catholic on how I was a traitor because I left the ministry and became Laicized by Pope Benedict XVI. I just smiled and told her that I continuously ask for God’s mercy on me and that I would add her to my list. She turned abruptly and walked away, uttering words to the effect that I betrayed my Church. For this reason, I do not advertise my situation nor do I attend many publicly advertised functions. As one of the conditions of Laicization, I am banned from teaching, preaching, leading, or taking an active role in the faith life of my parish for fear of scandal. The Latin term for this is Scandalum Pussilorum or Scandal of the Faint Hearted. I agreed to this and can appreciate the thinking of the Church on this point, which is why I must write down all my thoughts–I may not teach them but I thought I could have others to teach them.

In addition, probably the main reason I write down everything I can think of is to preserve my heritage in writing for my daughter to read. I want her to have the heritage passed on from her grandmother and grandfather through me. All I do is so that God can be glorified, as St. Benedict counsels, but I want my daughter to not only know what I know, but have the feeling inside when you sit on a park bench in the middle of Winter, waiting for Christ to come by, and He does. As a Lay Cistercian practicing Cistercian practices and charisms, my goal, like St. Paul, is to seek God in daily living. He puts is so well: Philippians 3:8-16. 

I remember thinking to myself, “I could never be a Cistercian monk because I could not think about God all day without going crazy.”  St. Benedict probably had the same thoughts, so he created a Rule where there are at least four characteristics that keep us from going off the deep edge.  This is my take on what I think the four are (you may have others). As it turns out, monks do both prayer and work (ora et labora). They also need:

BALANCE — We are not built to think about God all day long 24/7. Humans must be consistent with their humanity. This is one of the thoughts I had in one of my Lectio Divina meditations: why would God adopt me as a son when He knows my frame of reference must be tied to earth’s parameters (six senses, original sin, the struggle for truth, temptation to do evil, to name only a few)? I live in three dimensions. Heaven doesn’t have dimensions, it just is. My body will not accompany me to Heaven. I won’t have to eat physical food. Isn’t all of this a bit scary.  I then thought that God has all of this covered since before time began.

Six principles that help enlighten my spirituality:

  • We need purpose
  • Our personal purpose or meaning,
  • Living in the Reality of Three Universes (physical, mental, spiritual) rather just in two universes (physical, and mental).
  • Realizing how it all fits
  • Being able  to love fiercely
  • You know you are going to die, now what?

I call these the six Thresholds of Life, those through which all of us must pass to reach meaning (God’s meaning, not ours). These are the foundations of my Cistercian spirituality.

Balance means that my work, even if it is not in Eucharistic Adoration, is also prayer. That in all things, may God be glorified, says St. Benedict. For me, writing is my work, now that I am retired. I must be cautious in my balance that I don’t go off the deep end in work and not enough in actual prayer time devoted to Lectio Divina.

Another thing about balance is I have people I count on to tell me when I am out of sync.  I can remember the late Dr. Marcus Hepburn, a deacon, who was unable to say “no” to those who asked him for help (and that was causing him to have health issues).  We all kept telling Marcus to keep some perspective, all with mixed success.  The same is true for Lay Cistercians. The zeal for my father’s house consumes me, says the Psalmist. Balance is necessary for Lay Cistercians to keep our feet on the ground.

FOCUS — When I first became a Lay Cistercian, one of the struggles I had, and to some extent I still have, was to keep my focus on Christ in Lectio Divina (Phil 2:5), or in silence and solitude before the Blessed Sacrament. I always had to have an agenda, almost always mine, as I met Christ on a park bench in the middle of Winter. It is cold in Winter, and hard to focus on anything when you are cold. I still have to practice focus. It does not come easily because of the distractions (always mine) that I put in the way of just waiting for the Lord in silence and solitude. I am beginning to be better, ever so slowly, ever inching closer to God.

I don’t live in a monastery, I live in a single-family house, but I do have a community of faith at Good Shepherd Parish, Tallahassee, Florida. I am ever so grateful that Father Mike Foley and the Liturgy of the Hours group allows me to be a part of their praise of the Father.  I try to keep a very low profile in all my interactions with the parish, but enough to keep me focused on the need for others to help me have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. (Phil 2:5).

Focus is an important part of being a Lay Cistercian. 

CONSISTENCY–  Imagine being married and you live in Seattle and your spouse lives in Atlanta. That is not a recipe for a successful marriage in the traditional sense. Consistency is important for me because it means the more I am physically present and put myself in the presence of Christ, the more the Holy Spirit can empower me to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. Erich Fromm, who wrote the classic, The Art of Loving, says humans are not naturally infused with how to love. It must be learned.

You must be present one to another to allow love to express itself. When I think of the ways that Christ has shown us what love is and provided us with the opportunity to be loved by Him so we can love one another (Love one another as I have loved you). Whenever I think of being consistent in prayer, I want to be with Christ, present to him, so that He can be present to me. I don’t ever want to take the relationship for granted like Christ owes me something. One of the ways we know that God loves us is that He instituted the Real Presence of Christ to be with us, both internally through prayer, but also externally, though being present to the community of Faith. 

SIMPLICITY –– More is not always better. in my experience with prayer, since I was a novice Lay Cistercian, I have begun to appreciate simplicity much more than before. Simplicity means I strip away all those extraneous thoughts and practices that I have learned as living in the World and replace them with the sign of contradiction, what God thinks. 

I had occasion recently to talk with a person about sitting on the park bench in the dead of Winter and waiting for Christ to come and sit next to me. I keep peering down the road, longing to see Christ. He could not grasp the fact that I was waiting for the Lord to show up because Christ is always with us. I tried to explain to him that Christ being with us is our representation of what Christ should be, rather than allowing Christ to choose us.  It goes against our minds when Christ won’t automatically show up every time we snap our fingers. Granted that Christ is always present with us, the Mystery of Faith is that we don’t exploit that presence by thinking God does what we want. Humility helps to keep a perspective, a balance to our making God into our image and likeness and actually allowing God to choose us.  Brother Michael, O.C.S.O., told us one time that we long for the Lord, not with the expectation that God will automatically show up at our beckoning, but with the humility and obedience to God we are grateful that the Lord has graced us with His presence, the Real Presence. Of course, he is always present to us, but we should not take that presence for granted. The simplicity of thought (mind)  and love (heart) lays bare the relationship between  God and humans. Adam and Eve did not get it right. Christ restored it once again. The Church Universal, of which you are a part, has the opportunity in each day to convert ourselves from pride and idolatry to love and obedience to God’s will on earth as it is in Heaven. 

The Lord’s Prayer is a classic example of simplicity in prayer. 

That in all things, may God be glorified.  –St. Benedict

 

 

HOW WELL DO YOU KEEP THE LAW?

In going through my daily Lectio Divina, I thought about Philippians 2:5 and Matthew 22:37 when Christ told us that he did not come to change the Law but to fulfill it. I wondered, as I still do, what that might mean. I found four listings of the law to be helpful in my seeking God. 

I. THE OLD TESTAMENT LAW

What follows are the 613 laws that Jews must follow. I am going to write them out in full in order for you to see how the people at the time of Christ, especially Pharisees, were,  sincere people trying to keep the law of Moses. You will notice that some of these laws are not found in scripture but in the traditions that come down through the centuries. I offer my reflections on this article at the end. I am struck by the transformation of Law from the Old Testament and what Christ fulfilled in the New Testament. Matthew 22:37

RESOURCES

https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/756399/jewish/The-613-Commandments-Mitzvot.htm

http://www.jewfaq.org/613.htm

By Tracey R. Rich


“Below is a list of the 613 mitzvot (commandments). It is based primarily on the list compiled by Rambam in the Mishneh Torah, but I have consulted other sources as well. As I said in the page on halakhah, Rambam’s list is probably the most widely accepted list, but it is not the only one. The order is my own, as are the explanations of how some rules are derived from some biblical passages.”

For each mitzvah, I have provided a citation to the biblical passage or passages from which it is derived, based primarily on Rambam. For commandments that can be observed today, I have also provided citations to the Chafetz Chayim’s Concise Book of Mitzvot (CCA refers to affirmative commandments; CCN refers to negative commandments; CCI refers to commandments that only apply in Israel). Commandments that cannot be observed today primarily relate to the Temple, its sacrifices and services (because the Temple does not exist) and criminal procedures (because the theocratic state of Israel does not exist).

G-d

  1. To know that G-d exists (Ex. 20:2; Deut. 5:6) (CCA1). See What Do Jews Believe?.
  2. Not to entertain the idea that there is any god but the Eternal (Ex. 20:3) (CCN8). See What Do Jews Believe?.
  3. Not to blaspheme (Ex. 22:27; in Christian texts, Ex. 22:28), the penalty for which is death (Lev. 24:16) (negative).
  4. To hallow G-d’s name (Lev. 22:32) (CCA5). See The Name of G-d.
  5. Not to profane G-d’s name (Lev . 22:32) (CCN155). See The Name of G-d.
  6. To know that G-d is One, a complete Unity (Deut. 6:4) (CCA2). See What Do Jews Believe?.
  7. To love G-d (Deut. 6:5) (CCA3). See What Do Jews Believe?.
  8. To fear Him reverently (Deut. 6:13; 10:20) (CCA4).
  9. Not to put the word of G-d to the test (Deut. 6:16) (negative).
  10. To imitate His good and upright ways (Deut. 28:9) (CCA6).

Torah

  1. To honor the old and the wise (Lev. 19:32) (CCA17).
  2. To learn Torah and to teach it (Deut. 6:7) (CCA14). See Torah.
  3. To cleave to those who know Him (Deut. 10:20) (the Talmud states that cleaving to scholars is equivalent to cleaving to Him) (CCA16).
  4. Not to add to the commandments of the Torah, whether in the Written Law or in its interpretation received by tradition (Deut. 13:1) (CCN159). See Torah.
  5. Not to take away from the commandments of the Torah (Deut. 13:1) (CCN160). See Torah.
  6. That every person shall write a scroll of the Torah for himself (Deut. 31:19) (CCA15). See Torah.

Signs and Symbols

  1. To circumcise the male offspring (Gen. 17:12; Lev. 12:3) (CCA47) See Brit Milah: Circumcision.
  2. To put tzitzit on the corners of clothing (Num. 15:38) (CCA10). See Tzitzit and Tallit.
  3. To bind tefillin on the head (Deut. 6:8) (CCA9). See Tefillin.
  4. To bind tefillin on the arm (Deut. 6:8) (CCA8). See Tefillin.
  5. To affix the mezuzah to the doorposts and gates of your house (Deut. 6:9) (CCA12). See Mezuzah.

Prayer and Blessings

  1. To pray to G-d (Ex. 23:25; Deut. 6:13) (according to the Talmud, the word “serve” in these verses refers to prayer) (CCA7). See Prayers and BlessingsJewish Liturgy.
  2. To read the Shema in the morning and at night (Deut. 6:7) (CCA11). See Jewish Liturgy.
  3. To recite grace after meals (Deut. 8:10) (CCA13). See Birkat Ha-Mazon: Grace After Meals
  4. Not to lay down a stone for worship (Lev. 26:1) (CCN161).

Love and Brotherhood

  1. To love all human beings who are of the covenant (Lev. 19:18) (CCA60). See Love and Brotherhood.
  2. Not to stand by idly when a human life is in danger (Lev. 19:16) (CCN82). See Love and Brotherhood.
  3. Not to wrong any one in speech (Lev. 25:17) (CCN48). See Speech and Lashon Ha-Ra.
  4. Not to carry tales (Lev. 19:16) (CCN77). See Speech and Lashon Ha-Ra.
  5. Not to cherish hatred in one’s heart (Lev. 19:17) (CCN78). See Love and Brotherhood.
  6. Not to take revenge (Lev. 19:18) (CCN80).
  7. Not to bear a grudge (Lev. 19:18) (CCN81).
  8. Not to put any Jew to shame (Lev. 19:17) (CCN79).
  9. Not to curse any other Israelite (Lev. 19:14) (by implication: if you may not curse those who cannot hear, you certainly may not curse those who can) (CCN45).
  10. Not to give occasion to the simple-minded to stumble on the road (Lev. 19:14) (this includes doing anything that will cause another to sin) (CCN76).
  11. To rebuke the sinner (Lev. 19:17) (CCA72).
  12. To relieve a neighbor of his burden and help to unload his beast (Ex. 23:5) (CCA70). See Love and Brotherhood.
  13. To assist in replacing the load upon a neighbor’s beast (Deut. 22:4) (CCA71). See Love and Brotherhood.
  14. Not to leave a beast, that has fallen down beneath its burden, unaided (Deut. 22:4) (CCN183). See Love and Brotherhood.

The Poor and Unfortunate

  1. Not to afflict an orphan or a widow (Ex. 22:21) (CCN51).
  2. Not to reap the entire field (Lev. 19:9; Lev. 23:22) (negative) (CCI6).
  3. To leave the unreaped corner of the field or orchard for the poor (Lev. 19:9) (affirmative) (CCI1).
  4. Not to gather gleanings (the ears that have fallen to the ground while reaping) (Lev. 19:9) (negative) (CCI7).
  5. To leave the gleanings for the poor (Lev. 19:9) (affirmative) (CCI2).
  6. Not to gather ol’loth (the imperfect clusters) of the vineyard (Lev. 19:10) (negative) (CCI8).
  7. To leave ol’loth (the imperfect clusters) of the vineyard for the poor (Lev. 19:10; Deut. 24:21) (affirmative) (CCI3).
  8. Not to gather the peret (grapes) that have fallen to the ground (Lev. 19:10) (negative) (CCI9).
  9. To leave peret (the single grapes) of the vineyard for the poor (Lev. 19:10) (affirmative) (CCI4).
  10. Not to return to take a forgotten sheaf (Deut. 24:19) This applies to all fruit trees (Deut. 24:20) (negative) (CC10).
  11. To leave the forgotten sheaves for the poor (Deut. 24:19-20) (affirmative) (CCI5).
  12. Not to refrain from maintaining a poor man and giving him what he needs (Deut. 15:7) (CCN62). See Tzedakah: Charity.
  13. To give charity according to one’s means (Deut. 15:11) (CCA38). See Tzedakah: Charity.

Treatment of Gentiles

  1. To love the stranger (Deut. 10:19) (CCA61). See Love and Brotherhood.
  2. Not to wrong the stranger in speech (Ex. 22:20) (CCN49).
  3. Not to wrong the stranger in buying or selling (Ex. 22:20) (CCN50).
  4. Not to intermarry with gentiles (Deut. 7:3) (CCN19). See Interfaith Marriages.
  5. To exact the debt of an alien (Deut. 15:3) (affirmative).
  6. To lend to an alien at interest (Deut. 23:21) According to tradition, this is mandatory (affirmative).

Marriage, Divorce and Family

  1. To honor father and mother (Ex. 20:12) (CCA41).
  2. Not to smite a father or a mother (Ex. 21:15) (CCN44).
  3. Not to curse a father or mother (Ex. 21:17) (CCN46).
  4. To reverently fear father and mother (Lev. 19:3) (CCA42).
  5. To be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28) (CCA43).
  6. That a eunuch shall not marry a daughter of Israel (Deut. 23:2) (CCN136).
  7. That a mamzer shall not marry the daughter of a Jew (Deut. 23:3) (CCN137). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  8. That an Ammonite or Moabite shall never marry the daughter of an Israelite (Deut. 23:4) (negative).
  9. Not to exclude a descendant of Esau from the community of Israel for three generations (Deut. 23:8-9) (negative).
  10. Not to exclude an Egyptian from the community of Israel for three generations (Deut. 23:8-9) (negative).
  11. That there shall be no harlot (in Israel); that is, that there shall be no intercourse with a woman, without previous marriage with a deed of marriage and formal declaration of marriage (Deut. 23:18) (CCN133). SeeMarriage.
  12. To take a wife by kiddushin, the sacrament of marriage (Deut. 24:1) (CCA44). See The Process of Marriage: Kiddushin and Nisuin.
  13. That the newly married husband shall (be free) for one year to rejoice with his wife (Deut. 24:5) (affirmative).
  14. That a bridegroom shall be exempt for a whole year from taking part in any public labor, such as military service, guarding the wall and similar duties (Deut. 24:5) (negative).
  15. Not to withhold food, clothing or conjugal rights from a wife (Ex. 21:10) (CCN42). See The Marital Relationship.
  16. That the woman suspected of adultery shall be dealt with as prescribed in the Torah (Num. 5:30) (affirmative).
  17. That one who defames his wife’s honor (by falsely accusing her of unchastity before marriage) must live with her all his lifetime (Deut. 22:19) (affirmative).
  18. That a man may not divorce his wife concerning whom he has published an evil report (about her unchastity before marriage) (Deut. 22:19) (negative).
  19. To divorce by a formal written document (Deut. 24:1) (affirmative). See The Process of Obtaining a Divorce.
  20. That one who divorced his wife shall not remarry her, if after the divorce she had been married to another man (Deut. 24:4) (CCN134). See Divorce.
  21. That a widow whose husband died childless must not be married to anyone but her deceased husband’s brother (Deut. 25:5) (CCN135) (this is only in effect insofar as it requires the procedure of release below).
  22. To marry the widow of a brother who has died childless (Deut. 25:5) (this is only in effect insofar as it requires the procedure of release below ) (CCA45).
  23. That the widow formally release the brother-in-law (if he refuses to marry her) (Deut. 25:7-9) (CCA46).

Forbidden Sexual Relations

  1. Not to indulge in familiarities with relatives, such as kissing, embracing, winking, skipping, which may lead to incest (Lev. 18:6) (CCN110).
  2. Not to commit incest with one’s mother (Lev. 18:7) (CCN112). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  3. Not to commit sodomy with one’s father (Lev. 18:7) (CCN111).
  4. Not to commit incest with one’s father’s wife (Lev. 18:8) (CCN113). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  5. Not to commit incest with one’s sister (Lev. 18:9) (CCN127). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  6. Not to commit incest with one’s father’s wife’s daughter (Lev. 18:11) (CCN128). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  7. Not to commit incest with one’s son’s daughter (Lev. 18:10) (CCN119) (Note: CC treats this and the next as one commandment; however, Rambam treats them as two). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  8. Not to commit incest with one’s daughter’s daughter (Lev. 18:10) (CCN119) (Note: CC treats this and the previous as one commandment; however, Rambam treats them as two). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  9. Not to commit incest with one’s daughter (this is not explicitly in the Torah but is inferred from other explicit commands that would include it) (CCN120). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  10. Not to commit incest with one’s fathers sister (Lev. 18:12) (CCN129). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  11. Not to commit incest with one’s mother’s sister (Lev. 18:13) (CCN130). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  12. Not to commit incest with one’s father’s brothers wife (Lev. 18:14) (CCN125). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  13. Not to commit sodomy with one’s father’s brother (Lev. 18:14) (CCN114).
  14. Not to commit incest with one’s son’s wife (Lev. 18:15) (CCN115). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  15. Not to commit incest with one’s brother’s wife (Lev. 18:16) (CCN126). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  16. Not to commit incest with one’s wife’s daughter (Lev. 18:17) (CCN121). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  17. Not to commit incest with the daughter of one’s wife’s son (Lev. 18:17) (CCN122). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  18. Not to commit incest with the daughter of one’s wife’s daughter (Lev. 18:17) (CCN123). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  19. Not to commit incest with one’s wife’s sister (Lev. 18:18) (CCN131). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate Children.
  20. Not to have intercourse with a woman, in her menstrual period (Lev. 18:19) (CCN132).
  21. Not to have intercourse with another man’s wife (Lev. 18:20) (CCN124).
  22. Not to commit sodomy with a male (Lev. 18:22) (CCN116).
  23. Not to have intercourse with a beast (Lev. 18:23) (CCN117).
  24. That a woman shall not have intercourse with a beast (Lev. 18:23) (CCN118).
  25. Not to castrate the male of any species; neither a man, nor a domestic or wild beast, nor a fowl (Lev. 22:24) (CCN143).

Times and Seasons

  1. That the new month shall be solemnly proclaimed as holy, and the months and years shall be calculated by the Supreme Court only (Ex. 12:2) (affirmative) (the authority to declare months is inferred from the use of the word “unto you”).
  2. Not to travel on Shabbat outside the limits of one’s place of residence (Ex. 16:29) (CCN7). See Shabbat.
  3. To sanctify Shabbat (Ex. 20:8) (CCA19). See Shabbat.
  4. Not to do work on Shabbat (Ex. 20:10) (CCN6). See Shabbat.
  5. To rest on Shabbat (Ex. 23:12; 34:21) (CCA20). See Shabbat.
  6. To celebrate the festivals [Passover, Shavu’ot and Sukkot] (Ex. 23:14) (affirmative).
  7. To rejoice on the festivals (Deut. 16:14) (CCA21).
  8. To appear in the Sanctuary on the festivals (Deut. 16:16) (affirmative).
  9. To remove chametz on the Eve of Passover (Ex. 12:15) (CCA22). See Passover.
  10. To rest on the first day of Passover (Ex. 12:16; Lev. 23:7) (CCA25). See Passover.
  11. Not to do work on the first day of Passover (Ex. 12:16; Lev. 23:6-7) (CCN147). See Passover.
  12. To rest on the seventh day of Passover (Ex. 12:16; Lev. 23:8) (CCA27). See Passover.
  13. Not to do work on the seventh day of Passover (Ex. 12:16; Lev. 23:8) (CCN148). See Passover.
  14. To eat matzah on the first night of Passover (Ex. 12:18) (CCA23). See Passover.
  15. That no chametz be in the Israelite’s possession during Passover (Ex. 12:19) (CCN3). See Passover.
  16. Not to eat any food containing chametz on Passover (Ex. 12:20) (CCN5). See Passover.
  17. Not to eat chametz on Passover (Ex. 13:3) (CCN4). See Passover.
  18. That chametz shall not be seen in an Israelite’s home during Passover (Ex. 13:7) (CCN2). See Passover.
  19. To discuss the departure from Egypt on the first night of Passover (Ex. 13:8) (CCA24). See The Passover Seder.
  20. Not to eat chametz after mid-day on the fourteenth of Nissan (Deut. 16:3) (CCN104). See Passover.
  21. To count forty-nine days from the time of the cutting of the Omer (first sheaves of the barley harvest) (Lev. 23:15) (CCA26). See The Counting of the Omer.
  22. To rest on Shavu’ot (Lev. 23:21) (CCA28). See Shavu’ot.
  23. Not to do work on the Shavu’ot (Lev. 23:21) (CCN149). See Shavu’ot.
  24. To rest on Rosh Hashanah (Lev. 23:24) (CCA29). See Rosh Hashanah.
  25. Not to do work on Rosh Hashanah (Lev. 23:25) (CCN150). See Rosh Hashanah.
  26. To hear the sound of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah (Num. 29:1) (CCA30). See Rosh Hashanah.
  27. To fast on Yom Kippur (Lev. 23:27) (CCA32). See Yom Kippur.
  28. Not to eat or drink on Yom Kippur (Lev. 23:29) (CCN152). See Yom Kippur.
  29. Not to do work on Yom Kippur (Lev. 23:31) (CCN151). See Yom Kippur.
  30. To rest on the Yom Kippur (Lev. 23:32) (CCA31). See Yom Kippur.
  31. To rest on the first day of Sukkot (Lev. 23:35) (CCA34). See Sukkot.
  32. Not to do work on the first day of Sukkot (Lev. 23:35) (CCN153). See Sukkot.
  33. To rest on the eighth day of Sukkot (Shemini Atzeret) (Lev. 23:36) (CCA37). See Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.
  34. Not to do work on the eighth day of Sukkot (Shemini Atzeret) (Lev. 23:36) (CCN154). See Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.
  35. To take during Sukkot a palm branch and the other three plants (Lev. 23:40) (CCA36). See Sukkot.
  36. To dwell in booths seven days during Sukkot (Lev. 23:42) (CCA35). See Sukkot.

Dietary Laws

  1. To examine the marks in cattle (so as to distinguish the clean from the unclean) (Lev. 11:2) (affirmative). See Animals that may not be eaten.
  2. Not to eat the flesh of unclean beasts (Lev. 11:4) (CCN93). See Animals that may not be eaten.
  3. To examine the marks in fishes (so as to distinguish the clean from the unclean (Lev. 11:9) (affirmative). See Animals that may not be eaten.
  4. Not to eat unclean fish (Lev. 11:11) (CCN95). See Animals that may not be eaten.
  5. To examine the marks in fowl, so as to distinguish the clean from the unclean (Deut. 14:11) (affirmative). See Animals that may not be eaten.
  6. Not to eat unclean fowl (Lev. 11:13) (CCN94). See Animals that may not be eaten.
  7. To examine the marks in locusts, so as to distinguish the clean from the unclean (Lev. 11:21) (affirmative). See Animals that may not be eaten.
  8. Not to eat a worm found in fruit (Lev. 11:41) (CCN98). See Animals that may not be eaten.
  9. Not to eat of things that creep upon the earth (Lev. 11:41-42) (CCN97). See Animals that may not be eaten.
  10. Not to eat any vermin of the earth (Lev. 11:44) (CCN100). See Animals that may not be eaten.
  11. Not to eat things that swarm in the water (Lev. 11:43 and 46) (CCN99). See Animals that may not be eaten.
  12. Not to eat of winged insects (Deut. 14:19) (CCN96). See Animals that may not be eaten.
  13. Not to eat the flesh of a beast that is terefah (lit torn) (Ex. 22:30) (CCN87). See Kosher slaughtering.
  14. Not to eat the flesh of a beast that died of itself (Deut. 14:21) (CCN86). See Kosher slaughtering.
  15. To slay cattle, deer and fowl according to the laws of shechitah if their flesh is to be eaten (Deut. 12:21) (“as I have commanded” in this verse refers to the technique) (CCA48). See Kosher slaughtering.
  16. Not to eat a limb removed from a living beast (Deut. 12:23) (CCN90). See Kosher slaughtering.
  17. Not to slaughter an animal and its young on the same day (Lev. 22:28) (CCN108).
  18. Not to take the mother-bird with the young (Deut. 22:6) (CCN189). See Treatment of Animals.
  19. To set the mother-bird free when taking the nest (Deut. 22:6-7) (CCA74). See Treatment of Animals.
  20. Not to eat the flesh of an ox that was condemned to be stoned (Ex. 21:28) (negative).
  21. Not to boil meat with milk (Ex. 23:19) (CCN91). See Separation of Meat and Dairy.
  22. Not to eat flesh with milk (Ex. 34:26) (according to the Talmud, this passage is a distinct prohibition from the one in Ex. 23:19) (CCN92). See Separation of Meat and Dairy.
  23. Not to eat the of the thigh-vein which shrank (Gen. 32:33) (CCN1). See Forbidden Fats and Nerves.
  24. Not to eat chelev (tallow-fat) (Lev. 7:23) (CCN88). See Forbidden Fats and Nerves.
  25. Not to eat blood (Lev. 7:26) (CCN89). See Draining of Blood.
  26. To cover the blood of undomesticated animals (deer, etc.) and of fowl that have been killed (Lev. 17:13) (CCA49).
  27. Not to eat or drink like a glutton or a drunkard (not to rebel against father or mother) (Lev. 19:26; Deut. 21:20) (CCN106).

Business Practices

  1. Not to do wrong in buying or selling (Lev. 25:14) (CCN47).
  2. Not to make a loan to an Israelite on interest (Lev. 25:37) (CCN54).
  3. Not to borrow on interest (Deut. 23:20) (because this would cause the lender to sin) (CCN55).
  4. Not to take part in any usurious transaction between borrower and lender, neither as a surety, nor as a witness, nor as a writer of the bond for them (Ex. 22:24) (CCN53).
  5. To lend to a poor person (Ex. 22:24) (even though the passage says “if you lend” it is understood as obligatory) (CCA62).
  6. Not to demand from a poor man repayment of his debt, when the creditor knows that he cannot pay, nor press him (Ex. 22:24) (CCN52).
  7. Not to take in pledge utensils used in preparing food (Deut. 24:6) (CCN58).
  8. Not to exact a pledge from a debtor by force (Deut. 24:10) (CCN59).
  9. Not to keep the pledge from its owner at the time when he needs it (Deut. 24:12) (CCN61).
  10. To return a pledge to its owner (Deut. 24:13) (CCA63).
  11. Not to take a pledge from a widow (Deut. 24:17) (CCN60).
  12. Not to commit fraud in measuring (Lev. 19:35) (CCN83).
  13. To ensure that scales and weights are correct (Lev. 19:36) (affirmative).
  14. Not to possess inaccurate measures and weights (Deut. 25:13-14) (CCN84).

Employees, Servants and Slaves

  1. Not to delay payment of a hired man’s wages (Lev. 19:13) (CCN38).
  2. That the hired laborer shall be permitted to eat of the produce he is reaping (Deut. 23:25-26) (CCA65).
  3. That the hired laborer shall not take more than he can eat (Deut. 23:25) (CCN187).
  4. That a hired laborer shall not eat produce that is not being harvested (Deut. 23:26) (CCN186).
  5. To pay wages to the hired man at the due time (Deut. 24:15) (CCA66).
  6. To deal judicially with the Hebrew bondman in accordance with the laws appertaining to him (Ex. 21:2-6) (affirmative).
  7. Not to compel the Hebrew servant to do the work of a slave (Lev. 25:39) (negative).
  8. Not to sell a Hebrew servant as a slave (Lev. 25:42) (negative).
  9. Not to treat a Hebrew servant rigorously (Lev. 25:43) (negative).
  10. Not to permit a gentile to treat harshly a Hebrew bondman sold to him (Lev. 25:53) (negative).
  11. Not to send away a Hebrew bondman servant empty handed, when he is freed from service (Deut. 15:13) (negative).
  12. To bestow liberal gifts upon the Hebrew bondsman (at the end of his term of service), and the same should be done to a Hebrew bondwoman (Deut. 15:14) (affirmative).
  13. To redeem a Hebrew maid-servant (Ex. 21:8) (affirmative).
  14. Not to sell a Hebrew maid-servant to another person (Ex. 21:8) (negative).
  15. To espouse a Hebrew maid-servant (Ex. 21:8-9) (affirmative).
  16. To keep the Canaanite slave forever (Lev. 25:46) (affirmative).
  17. Not to surrender a slave, who has fled to the land of Israel, to his owner who lives outside Palestine (Deut. 23:16) (negative).
  18. Not to wrong such a slave (Deut. 23:17) (negative).
  19. Not to muzzle a beast, while it is working in produce which it can eat and enjoy (Deut. 25:4) (CCN188).

Vows, Oaths and Swearing

  1. That a man should fulfill whatever he has uttered (Deut. 23:24) (CCA39).
  2. Not to swear needlessly (Ex. 20:7) (CCN29).
  3. Not to violate an oath or swear falsely (Lev. 19:12) (CCN31).
  4. To decide in cases of annulment of vows, according to the rules set forth in the Torah (Num. 30:2-17) (CCA40).
  5. Not to break a vow (Num. 30:3) (CCN184).
  6. To swear by His name truly (Deut. 10:20) (affirmative).
  7. Not to delay in fulfilling vows or bringing vowed or free-will offerings (Deut. 23:22) (CCN185).

The Sabbatical and Jubilee Years

  1. To let the land lie fallow in the Sabbatical year (Ex. 23:11; Lev. 25:2) (affirmative) (CCI20).
  2. To cease from tilling the land in the Sabbatical year (Ex. 23:11) (affirmative) (Lev. 25:2) (CCI21).
  3. Not to till the ground in the Sabbatical year (Lev. 25:4) (negative) (CCI22).
  4. Not to do any work on the trees in the Sabbatical year (Lev. 25:4) (negative) (CCI23).
  5. Not to reap the aftermath that grows in the Sabbatical year, in the same way as it is reaped in other years (Lev. 25:5) (negative) (CCI24).
  6. Not to gather the fruit of the tree in the Sabbatical year in the same way as it is gathered in other years (Lev. 25:5) (negative) (CCI25).
  7. To sound the Ram’s horn in the Sabbatical year (Lev. 25:9) (affirmative).
  8. To release debts in the seventh year (Deut. 15:2) (CCA64).
  9. Not to demand return of a loan after the Sabbatical year has passed (Deut. 15:2) (CCN57).
  10. Not to refrain from making a loan to a poor man, because of the release of loans in the Sabbatical year (Deut. 15:9) (CCN56).
  11. To assemble the people to hear the Torah at the close of the seventh year (Deut. 31:12) (affirmative)
  12. To count the years of the Jubilee by years and by cycles of seven years (Lev. 25:8) (affirmative).
  13. To keep the Jubilee year holy by resting and letting the land lie fallow (Lev. 25:10) (affirmative).
  14. Not to cultivate the soil nor do any work on the trees, in the Jubilee Year (Lev. 25:11) (negative).
  15. Not to reap the aftermath of the field that grew of itself in the Jubilee Year, in the same way as in other years (Lev. 25:11) (negative).
  16. Not to gather the fruit of the tree in the Jubilee Year, in the same way as in other years (Lev. 25:11) (negative).
  17. To grant redemption to the land in the Jubilee year (Lev. 25:24) (affirmative).

The Court and Judicial Procedure

  1. To appoint judges and officers in every community of Israel (Deut. 16:18) (affirmative).
  2. Not to appoint as a judge, a person who is not well versed in the laws of the Torah, even if he is expert in other branches of knowledge (Deut. 1:17) (CCN64).
  3. To adjudicate cases of purchase and sale (Lev. 25:14) (CCA67).
  4. To judge cases of liability of a paid depositary (Ex. 22:9) (affirmative).
  5. To adjudicate cases of loss for which a gratuitous borrower is liable (Ex. 22:13-14) (affirmative).
  6. To adjudicate cases of inheritances (Num. 27:8-11) (CCA73).
  7. To judge cases of damage caused by an uncovered pit (Ex. 21:33-34) (affirmative).
  8. To judge cases of injuries caused by beasts (Ex. 21:35-36) (affirmative).
  9. To adjudicate cases of damage caused by trespass of cattle (Ex. 22:4) (affirmative).
  10. To adjudicate cases of damage caused by fire (Ex. 22:5) (affirmative).
  11. To adjudicate cases of damage caused by a gratuitous depositary (Ex. 22:6-7) (affirmative).
  12. To adjudicate other cases between a plaintiff and a defendant (Ex. 22:8) (affirmative).
  13. Not to curse a judge (Ex. 22:27) (CCN63).
  14. That one who possesses evidence shall testify in Court (Lev. 5:1) (affirmative).
  15. Not to testify falsely (Ex. 20:13) (CCN39).
  16. That a witness, who has testified in a capital case, shall not lay down the law in that particular case (Num. 35:30) (negative).
  17. That a transgressor shall not testify (Ex. 23:1) (CCN75).
  18. That the court shall not accept the testimony of a close relative of the defendant in matters of capital punishment (Deut. 24:16) (CCN74).
  19. Not to hear one of the parties to a suit in the absence of the other party (Ex. 23:1) (CCN65).
  20. To examine witnesses thoroughly (Deut. 13:15) (affirmative).
  21. Not to decide a case on the evidence of a single witness (Deut. 19:15) (CCN73).
  22. To give the decision according to the majority, when there is a difference of opinion among the members of the Sanhedrin as to matters of law (Ex. 23:2) (affirmative).
  23. Not to decide, in capital cases, according to the view of the majority, when those who are for condemnation exceed by one only, those who are for acquittal (Ex. 23:2) (negative).
  24. That, in capital cases, one who had argued for acquittal, shall not later on argue for condemnation (Ex. 23:2) (negative).
  25. To treat parties in a litigation with equal impartiality (Lev. 19:15) (affirmative).
  26. Not to render iniquitous decisions (Lev. 19:15) (CCN69).
  27. Not to favor a great man when trying a case (Lev. 19:15) (CCN70).
  28. Not to take a bribe (Ex. 23:8) (CCN71).
  29. Not to be afraid of a bad man, when trying a case (Deut. 1:17) (CCN72).
  30. Not to be moved in trying a case, by the poverty of one of the parties (Ex. 23:3; Lev. 19:15) (CCN66).
  31. Not to pervert the judgment of strangers or orphans (Deut. 24:17) (CCN68).
  32. Not to pervert the judgment of a sinner (a person poor in fulfillment of commandments) (Ex. 23:6) (CCN67).
  33. Not to render a decision on one’s personal opinion, but only on the evidence of two witnesses, who saw what actually occurred (Ex. 23:7) (negative).
  34. Not to execute one guilty of a capital offense, before he has stood his trial (Num. 35:12) (negative).
  35. To accept the rulings of every Supreme Court in Israel (Deut. 17:11) (affirmative).
  36. Not to rebel against the orders of the Court (Deut. 17:11) (CCN158).

Injuries and Damages

  1. To make a parapet for your roof (Deut. 22:8) (CCA75). See Love and Brotherhood.
  2. Not to leave something that might cause hurt (Deut. 22:8) (CCN190). See Love and Brotherhood.
  3. To save the pursued even at the cost of the life of the pursuer (Deut. 25:12) (affirmative). See Life.
  4. Not to spare a pursuer, but he is to be slain before he reaches the pursued and slays the latter, or uncovers his nakedness (Deut. 25:12) (negative).

Property and Property Rights

  1. Not to sell a field in the land of Israel in perpetuity (Lev. 25:23) (negative).
  2. Not to change the character of the open land (about the cities of) the Levites or of their fields; not to sell it in perpetuity, but it may be redeemed at any time (Lev. 25:34) (negative). See Levi.
  3. That houses sold within a walled city may be redeemed within a year (Lev. 25:29) (affirmative).
  4. Not to remove landmarks (property boundaries) (Deut. 19:14) (CCN85).
  5. Not to swear falsely in denial of another’s property rights (Lev. 19:11) (CCN30).
  6. Not to deny falsely another’s property rights (Lev. 19:11) (CCN36).
  7. Never to settle in the land of Egypt (Deut. 17:16) (CCN192).
  8. Not to steal personal property (Lev. 19:11) (CCN34).
  9. To restore that which one took by robbery (Lev. 5:23) (CCA68).
  10. To return lost property (Deut. 22:1) (CCA69).
  11. Not to pretend not to have seen lost property, to avoid the obligation to return it (Deut. 22:3) (CCN182).

Criminal Laws

  1. Not to slay an innocent person (Ex. 20:13) (CCN32). See Life.
  2. Not to kidnap any person of Israel (Ex. 20:13) (according to the Talmud, this verse refers to stealing a person, distinguished from Lev. 19:11, regarding the taking of property) (CCN33).
  3. Not to rob by violence (Lev. 19:13) (CCN35).
  4. Not to defraud (Lev. 19:13) (CCN37).
  5. Not to covet what belongs to another (Ex. 20:14) (CCN40).
  6. Not to crave something that belongs to another (Deut. 5:18) (CCN41).
  7. Not to indulge in evil thoughts and sights (Num. 15:39) (CCN156).

Punishment and Restitution

  1. That the Court shall pass sentence of death by decapitation with the sword (Ex. 21:20; Lev. 26:25) (affirmative).
  2. That the Court shall pass sentence of death by strangulation (Lev. 20:10) (affirmative).
  3. That the Court shall pass sentence of death by burning with fire (Lev. 20:14) (affirmative).
  4. That the Court shall pass sentence of death by stoning (Deut. 22:24) (affirmative).
  5. To hang the dead body of one who has incurred that penalty (Deut. 21:22) (affirmative).
  6. That the dead body of an executed criminal shall not remain hanging on the tree over night (Deut. 21:23) (negative).
  7. To inter the executed on the day of execution (Deut. 21:23) (affirmative)
  8. Not to accept ransom from a murderer (Num. 35:31) (negative).
  9. To exile one who committed accidental homicide (Num. 35:25) (affirmative).
  10. To establish six cities of refuge (for those who committed accidental homicide) (Deut. 19:3) (affirmative).
  11. Not to accept ransom from an accidental homicide, so as to relieve him from exile (Num. 35:32) (negative).
  12. To decapitate the heifer in the manner prescribed (in expiation of a murder on the road, the perpetrator of which remained undiscovered) (Deut. 21:4) (affirmative).
  13. Not to plow nor sow the rough valley (in which a heifer’s neck was broken) (Deut. 21:4) (negative).
  14. To adjudge a thief to pay compensation or (in certain cases) suffer death (Ex. 21:16; Ex. 21:37; Ex. 22:1) (affirmative).
  15. That he who inflicts a bodily injury shall pay monetary compensation (Ex. 21:18-19) (affirmative).
  16. To impose a penalty of fifty shekels upon the seducer (of an unbetrothed virgin) and enforce the other rules in connection with the case (Ex. 22:15-16) (affirmative).
  17. That the violator (of an unbetrothed virgin) shall marry her (Deut. 22:28-29) (affirmative).
  18. That one who has raped a damsel and has then (in accordance with the law) married her, may not divorce her (Deut. 22:29) (negative).
  19. Not to inflict punishment on Shabbat (Ex. 35:3) (because some punishments were inflicted by fire) (negative). See Shabbat.
  20. To punish the wicked by the infliction of stripes (Deut. 25:2) (affirmative).
  21. Not to exceed the statutory number of stripes laid on one who has incurred that punishment (Deut. 25:3) (and by implication, not to strike anyone) (CCN43).
  22. Not to spare the offender, in imposing the prescribed penalties on one who has caused damage (Deut. 19:13) (negative).
  23. To do unto false witnesses as they had purposed to do (to the accused) (Deut. 19:19) (affirmative).
  24. Not to punish any one who has committed an offense under duress (Deut. 22:26) (negative).

Prophecy

  1. To heed the call of every prophet in each generation, provided that he neither adds to, nor takes away from the Torah (Deut. 18:15) (affirmative).
  2. Not to prophesy falsely (Deut. 18:20) (CCN175).
  3. Not to refrain from putting a false prophet to death nor to be in fear of him (Deut. 18:22) (negative).

Idolatry, Idolaters and Idolatrous Practices

  1. Not to make a graven image; neither to make it oneself nor to have it made by others (Ex. 20:4) (CCN9).
  2. Not to make any figures for ornament, even if they are not worshipped (Ex. 20:20) (CCN144).
  3. Not to make idols even for others (Ex. 34:17; Lev. 19:4) (CCN10).
  4. Not to use the ornament of any object of idolatrous worship (Deut. 7:25) (CCN17).
  5. Not to make use of an idol or its accessory objects, offerings, or libations (Deut. 7:26) (CCN18). See Grape Products.
  6. Not to drink wine of idolaters (Deut. 32:38) (CCN15). See Grape Products.
  7. Not to worship an idol in the way in which it is usually worshipped (Ex. 20:5) (CCN12).
  8. Not to bow down to an idol, even if that is not its mode of worship (Ex. 20:5) (CCN11).
  9. Not to prophesy in the name of an idol (Ex. 23:13; Deut. 18:20) (CCN27).
  10. Not to hearken to one who prophesies in the name of an idol (Deut. 13:4) (CCN22).
  11. Not to lead the children of Israel astray to idolatry (Ex. 23:13) (CCN14).
  12. Not to entice an Israelite to idolatry (Deut. 13:12) (CCN23).
  13. To destroy idolatry and its appurtenances (Deut. 12:2-3) (affirmative).
  14. Not to love the enticer to idolatry (Deut. 13:9) (CCN24).
  15. Not to give up hating the enticer to idolatry (Deut. 13:9) (CCN25).
  16. Not to save the enticer from capital punishment, but to stand by at his execution (Deut. 13:9) (negative).
  17. A person whom he attempted to entice to idolatry shall not urge pleas for the acquittal of the enticer (Deut. 13:9) (CCN26).
  18. A person whom he attempted to entice shall not refrain from giving evidence of the enticer’s guilt, if he has such evidence (Deut. 13:9) (negative).
  19. Not to swear by an idol to its worshipers, nor cause them to swear by it (Ex. 23:13) (CCN13).
  20. Not to turn one’s attention to idolatry (Lev. 19:4) (CCN16).
  21. Not to adopt the institutions of idolaters nor their customs (Lev. 18:3; Lev. 20:23) (CCN21).
  22. Not to pass a child through the fire to Molech (Lev. 18:21) (negative).
  23. Not to suffer any one practicing witchcraft to live (Ex. 22:17) (negative).
  24. Not to practice onein (observing times or seasons as favorable or unfavorable, using astrology) (Lev. 19:26) (CCN166).
  25. Not to practice nachesh (doing things based on signs and portents; using charms and incantations) (Lev. 19:26) (CCN165).
  26. Not to consult ovoth (ghosts) (Lev. 19:31) (CCN170).
  27. Not to consult yid’onim (wizards) (Lev. 19:31) (CCN171).
  28. Not to practice kisuf (magic using herbs, stones and objects that people use) (Deut. 18:10) (CCN168).
  29. Not to practice kessem (a general term for magical practices) (Deut. 18:10) (CCN167).
  30. Not to practice the art of a chover chaver (casting spells over snakes and scorpions) (Deut. 18:11) (CCN169).
  31. Not to enquire of an ob (a ghost) (Deut. 18:11) (CCN172).
  32. Not to seek the maytim (dead) (Deut. 18:11) (CCN174).
  33. Not to enquire of a yid’oni (wizard) (Deut. 18:11) (CCN173).
  34. Not to remove the entire beard, like the idolaters (Lev. 19:27) (CCN177).
  35. Not to round the corners of the head, as the idolatrous priests do (Lev. 19:27) (CCN176).
  36. Not to cut oneself or make incisions in one’s flesh in grief, like the idolaters (Lev. 19:28; Deut. 14:1) (CCN28).
  37. Not to tattoo the body like the idolaters (Lev. 19:28) (CCN163).
  38. Not to make a bald spot for the dead (Deut. 14:1) (CCN164).
  39. Not to plant a tree for worship (Deut. 16:21) (negative).
  40. Not to set up a pillar (for worship) (Deut. 16:22) (CCN162).
  41. Not to show favor to idolaters (Deut. 7:2) (CCN20).
  42. Not to make a covenant with the seven (Canaanite, idolatrous) nations (Ex. 23:32; Deut. 7:2) (negative).
  43. Not to settle idolaters in our land (Ex. 23:33) (negative) (CCI26).
  44. To slay the inhabitants of a city that has become idolatrous and burn that city (Deut. 13:16-17) (affirmative).
  45. Not to rebuild a city that has been led astray to idolatry (Deut. 13:17) (negative).
  46. Not to make use of the property of city that has been so led astray (Deut. 13:18) (negative).

Agriculture and Animal Husbandry

  1. Not to cross-breed cattle of different species (Lev. 19:19) (according to the Talmud, this also applies to birds) (CCN142).
  2. Not to sow different kinds of seed together in one field (Lev. 19:19) (CCN107).
  3. Not to eat the fruit of a tree for three years from the time it was planted (Lev. 19:23) (CCN105). See Tu B’Shevat.
  4. That the fruit of fruit-bearing trees in the fourth year of their planting shall be sacred like the second tithe and eaten in Jerusalem (Lev. 19:24) (affirmative) (CCI16). See Tu B’Shevat.
  5. Not to sow grain or herbs in a vineyard (Deut. 22:9) (negative).
  6. Not to eat the produce of diverse seeds sown in a vineyard (Deut. 22:9) (negative).
  7. Not to work with beasts of different species, yoked together (Deut. 22:10) (CCN180).

Clothing

  1. That a man shall not wear women’s clothing (Deut. 22:5) (CCN179).
  2. That a woman should not wear men’s clothing (Deut. 22:5) (CCN178).
  3. Not to wear garments made of wool and linen mixed together (Deut. 22:11) (CCN181).

The Firstborn

  1. To redeem the firstborn human male (Ex. 13:13; Ex. 34:20; Num. 18:15) (CCA54). See Pidyon Ha-Ben: Redemption of the Firstborn.
  2. To redeem the firstling of an ass (Ex. 13:13; Ex. 34:20) (CCA55).
  3. To break the neck of the firstling of an ass if it is not redeemed (Ex. 13:13; Ex. 34:20) (CCA56).
  4. Not to redeem the firstling of a clean beast (Num. 18:17) (CCN109).

Kohanim and Levites

  1. That the kohanim shall put on priestly vestments for the service (Ex. 28:2) (affirmative). See Kohein.
  2. Not to tear the High Kohein’s robe (Ex. 28:32) (negative). See Kohein.
  3. That the kohein shall not enter the Sanctuary at all times (i.e., at times when he is not performing service) (Lev. 16:2) (negative). See Kohein.
  4. That the ordinary kohein shall not defile himself by contact with any dead, other than immediate relatives (Lev. 21:1-3) (CCN141). See KoheinCare for the Dead.
  5. That the kohanim defile themselves for their deceased relatives (by attending their burial), and mourn for them like other Israelites, who are commanded to mourn for their relatives (Lev. 21:3) (CCA59). See KoheinCare for the DeadMourning.
  6. That a kohein who had an immersion during the day (to cleanse him from his uncleanness) shall not serve in the Sanctuary until after sunset (Lev. 21:6) (negative). See Kohein.
  7. That a kohein shall not marry a divorced woman (Lev. 21:7) (CCN140). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate ChildrenKohein.
  8. That a kohein shall not marry a harlot (Lev. 21:7) (CCN138). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate ChildrenKohein.
  9. That a kohein shall not marry a profaned woman (Lev. 21:7) (CCN139). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate ChildrenKohein.
  10. To show honor to a kohein, and to give him precedence in all things that are holy (Lev. 21:8) (CCA50). See Kohein.
  11. That a High Kohein shall not defile himself with any dead, even if they are relatives (Lev. 21:11) (negative). See KoheinCare for the Dead.
  12. That a High Kohein shall not go (under the same roof) with a dead body (Lev. 21:11) It has been learnt by tradition that a kohein, who does so, violates the prohibition, “Neither shall he go in “, and also the prohibition “He shall not defile himself” (negative). See KoheinCare for the Dead.
  13. That the High Kohein shall marry a virgin (Lev. 21:13) (affirmative). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate ChildrenKohein.
  14. That the High Kohein shall not marry a widow (Lev. 21:14) (negative). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate ChildrenKohein.
  15. That the High Kohein shall not cohabit with a widow, even without marriage, because he profanes her (Lev. 21:15) (negative). See Prohibited Marriages and Illegitimate ChildrenKohein.
  16. That a person with a physical blemish shall not serve (in the Sanctuary) (Lev. 21:17) (negative).
  17. That a kohein with a temporary blemish shall not serve there (Lev. 21:21) (negative). See Kohein.
  18. That a person with a physical blemish shall not enter the Sanctuary further than the altar (Lev. 21:23) (negative).
  19. That a kohein who is unclean shall not serve (in the Sanctuary) (Lev. 22:2-3) (negative). See Kohein.
  20. To send the unclean out of the Camp of the Shechinah, that is, out of the Sanctuary (Num. 5:2) (affirmative).
  21. That a kohein who is unclean shall not enter the courtyard (Num. 5:2-3) This refers to the Camp of the Shechinah (negative). See Kohein.
  22. That the kohanim shall bless Israel (Num. 6:23) (CCA58). See Kohein.
  23. To set apart a portion of the dough for the kohein (Num. 15:20) (CCA57). See Kohein.
  24. That the Levites shall not occupy themselves with the service that belongs to the kohanim, nor the kohanim with that belonging to the Levites (Num. 18:3) (negative). See KoheinLevi.
  25. That one not a descendant of Aaron in the male line shall not serve (in the Sanctuary) (Num. 18:4-7) (negative).
  26. That the Levite shall serve in the Sanctuary (Num. 18:23) (affirmative). See Levi.
  27. To give the Levites cities to dwell in, these to serve also as cities of refuge (Num. 35:2) (affirmative). See Levi.
  28. That none of the tribe of Levi shall take any portion of territory in the land (of Israel) (Deut. 18:1) (negative). See Levi.
  29. That none of the tribe of Levi shall take any share of the spoil (at the conquest of the Promised Land) (Deut. 18:1) (negative). See Levi.
  30. That the kohanim shall serve in the Sanctuary in divisions, but on festivals, they all serve together (Deut. 18:6-8) (affirmative). See Kohein.

T’rumah, Tithes and Taxes

  1. That an uncircumcised person shall not eat of the t’rumah (heave offering), and the same applies to other holy things. This rule is inferred from the law of the Paschal offering, by similarity of phrase (Ex. 12:44-45 and Lev. 22:10) but it is not explicitly set forth in the Torah. Traditionally, it has been learnt that the rule that the uncircumcised must not eat holy things is an essential principle of the Torah and not an enactment of the Scribes (negative). See Brit Milah: Circumcision
  2. Not to alter the order of separating the t’rumah and the tithes; the separation be in the order first-fruits at the beginning, then the t’rumah, then the first tithe, and last the second tithe (Ex. 22:28) (negative) (CCI19).
  3. To give half a shekel every year (to the Sanctuary for provision of the public sacrifices) (Ex. 30:13) (affirmative).
  4. That a kohein who is unclean shall not eat of the t’rumah (Lev. 22:3-4) (negative). See Kohein.
  5. That a person who is not a kohein or the wife or unmarried daughter of a kohein shall not eat of the t’rumah (Lev. 22:10) (negative). See Kohein.
  6. That a sojourner with a kohein or his hired servant shall not eat of the t’rumah (Lev. 22:10) (negative). See Kohein.
  7. Not to eat tevel (something from which the t’rumah and tithe have not yet been separated) (Lev. 22:15) (negative) (CCI18).
  8. To set apart the tithe of the produce (one tenth of the produce after taking out t’rumah) for the Levites (Lev. 27:30; Num. 18:24) (affirmative) (CCI12). See Levi.
  9. To tithe cattle (Lev. 27:32) (affirmative).
  10. Not to sell the tithe of the herd (Lev. 27:32-33) (negative).
  11. That the Levites shall set apart a tenth of the tithes, which they had received from the Israelites, and give it to the kohanim (called the t’rumah of the tithe) (Num. 18:26) (affirmative) (CCI13). See KoheinLevi.
  12. Not to eat the second tithe of cereals outside Jerusalem (Deut. 12:17) (negative).
  13. Not to consume the second tithe of the vintage outside of Jerusalem (Deut. 12:17) (negative).
  14. Not to consume the second tithe of the oil outside of Jerusalem (Deut. 12:17) (negative).
  15. Not to forsake the Levites (Deut. 12:19); but their gifts (dues) should be given to them, so that they might rejoice therewith on each and every festival (negative). See Levi.
  16. To set apart the second tithe in the first, second, fourth and fifth years of the sabbatical cycle to be eaten by its owner in Jerusalem (Deut. 14:22) (affirmative) (CCI14) (today, it is set aside but not eaten in Jerusalem).
  17. To set apart the second tithe in the third and sixth year of the sabbatical cycle for the poor (Deut. 14:28-29) (affirmative) (CCI15) (today, it must be separated out but need not be given to the poor).
  18. To give the kohein the due portions of the carcass of cattle (Deut. 18:3) (according to the Talmud, this is not mandatory in the present outside of Israel, but it is permissible, and some observant people do so) (CCA51). See Kohein.
  19. To give the first of the fleece to the kohein (Deut. 18:4) (according to the Talmud, this is not mandatory in the present outside of Israel, but it is permissible, and some observant people do so) (CCA52). See Kohein.
  20. To set apart t’rumah g’dolah (the great heave-offering, that is, a small portion of the grain, wine and oil) for the kohein (Deut. 18:4) (affirmative) (CCI11). See Kohein.
  21. Not to expend the proceeds of the second tithe on anything but food and drink (Deut. 26:14). Anything outside of things necessary for sustenance comes within the class in the phrase “Given for the dead” (negative).
  22. Not to eat the Second Tithe, even in Jerusalem, in a state of uncleanness, until the tithe had been redeemed (Deut. 26:14) (negative).
  23. Not to eat the Second Tithe, when mourning (Deut. 26:14) (negative).
  24. To make the declaration, when bringing the second tithe to the Sanctuary (Deut. 26:13) (affirmative) (CCI17).

The Temple, the Sanctuary and Sacred Objects

  1. Not to build an altar of hewn stone (Ex. 20:22) (negative).
  2. Not to mount the altar by steps (Ex. 20:23) (negative).
  3. To build the Sanctuary (Ex. 25:8) (affirmative).
  4. Not to remove the staves from the Ark (Ex. 25:15) (negative).
  5. To set the showbread and the frankincense before the L-rd every Shabbat (Ex. 25:30) (affirmative).
  6. To kindle lights in the Sanctuary (Ex. 27:21) (affirmative).
  7. That the breastplate shall not be loosened from the ephod (Ex. 28:28) (negative).
  8. To offer up incense twice daily (Ex. 30:7) (affirmative).
  9. Not to offer strange incense nor any sacrifice upon the golden altar (Ex. 30:9) (negative).
  10. That the kohein shall wash his hands and feet at the time of service (Ex. 30:19) (affirmative). See Kohein.
  11. To prepare the oil of anointment and anoint high kohanim and kings with it (Ex. 30:31) (affirmative). See Kohein.
  12. Not to compound oil for lay use after the formula of the anointing oil (Ex. 30:32-33) (CCN145).
  13. Not to anoint a stranger with the anointing oil (Ex. 30:32) (negative).
  14. Not to compound anything after the formula of the incense (Ex. 30:37) (CCN146).
  15. That he who, in error, makes unlawful use of sacred things, shall make restitution of the value of his trespass and add a fifth (Lev. 5:16) (affirmative).
  16. To remove the ashes from the altar (Lev. 6:3) (affirmative).
  17. To keep fire always burning on the altar of the burnt-offering (Lev. 6:6) (affirmative).
  18. Not to extinguish the fire on the altar (Lev. 6:6) (negative).
  19. That a kohein shall not enter the Sanctuary with disheveled hair (Lev. 10:6) (negative). See Kohein.
  20. That a kohein shall not enter the Sanctuary with torn garments (Lev. 10:6) (negative). See Kohein.
  21. That the kohein shall not leave the Courtyard of the Sanctuary, during service (Lev. 10:7) (negative). See Kohein.
  22. That an intoxicated person shall not enter the Sanctuary nor give decisions in matters of the Law (Lev. 10:9-11) (negative).
  23. To revere the Sanctuary (Lev. 19:30) (today, this applies to synagogues) (CCA18). See Synagogues, Shuls and Temples.
  24. That when the Ark is carried, it should be carried on the shoulder (Num. 7:9) (affirmative).
  25. To observe the second Passover (Num. 9:11) (affirmative).
  26. To eat the flesh of the Paschal lamb on it, with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (Num. 9:11) (affirmative).
  27. Not to leave any flesh of the Paschal lamb brought on the second Passover until the morning (Num. 9:12) (negative).
  28. Not to break a bone of the Paschal lamb brought on the second Passover (Num. 9:12) (negative).
  29. To sound the trumpets at the offering of sacrifices and in times of trouble (Num. 10:9-10) (affirmative).
  30. To watch over the edifice continually (Num. 18:2) (affirmative).
  31. Not to allow the Sanctuary to remain unwatched (Num. 18:5) (negative).
  32. That an offering shall be brought by one who has in error committed a trespass against sacred things, or robbed, or lain carnally with a bond-maid betrothed to a man, or denied what was deposited with him and swore falsely to support his denial. This is called a guilt-offering for a known trespass (affirmative). See Asham: Guilt Offering.
  33. Not to destroy anything of the Sanctuary, of synagogues, or of houses of study, nor erase the holy names (of G-d); nor may sacred scriptures be destroyed (Deut. 12:2-4) (CCN157). See The Name of G-d.

Sacrifices and Offerings

  1. To sanctify the firstling of clean cattle and offer it up (Ex. 13:2; Deut. 15:19) (at the present time, it is not offered up) (CCA53).
  2. To slay the Paschal lamb (Ex. 12:6) (affirmative).
  3. To eat the flesh of the Paschal sacrifice on the night of the fifteenth of Nissan (Ex. 12:8) (affirmative).
  4. Not to eat the flesh of the Paschal lamb raw or sodden (Ex. 12:9) (negative).
  5. Not to leave any portion of the flesh of the Paschal sacrifice until the morning unconsumed (Ex. 12:10) (negative).
  6. Not to give the flesh of the Paschal lamb to an Israelite who had become an apostate (Ex. 12:43) (negative).
  7. Not to give flesh of the Paschal lamb to a stranger who lives among you to eat (Ex. 12:45) (negative).
  8. Not to take any of the flesh of the Paschal lamb from the company’s place of assembly (Ex. 12:46) (negative).
  9. Not to break a bone of the Paschal lamb (Ex. 12:46) (negative).
  10. That the uncircumcised shall not eat of the flesh of the Paschal lamb (Ex. 12:48) (negative). See Brit Milah: Circumcision
  11. Not to slaughter the Paschal lamb while there is chametz in the home (Ex. 23:18; Ex. 24:25) (negative).
  12. Not to leave the part of the Paschal lamb that should be burnt on the altar until the morning, when it will no longer be fit to be burnt (Ex. 23:18; Ex. 24:25) (negative).
  13. Not to go up to the Sanctuary for the festival without bringing an offering (Ex. 23:15) (negative).
  14. To bring the first fruits to the Sanctuary (Ex. 23:19) (affirmative).
  15. That the flesh of a sin-offering and guilt-offering shall be eaten (Ex. 29:33) (affirmative). See Qorbanot: Sacrifices and Offerings
  16. That one not of the seed of Aaron, shall not eat the flesh of the holy sacrifices (Ex. 29:33) (negative).
  17. To observe the procedure of the burnt-offering (Lev. 1:3) (affirmative). See Olah: Burnt Offering.
  18. To observe the procedure of the meal-offering (Lev. 2:1) (affirmative). See Food and Drink Offerings.
  19. Not to offer up leaven or honey (Lev. 2:11) (negative).
  20. That every sacrifice be salted (Lev. 2:13) (affirmative).
  21. Not to offer up any offering unsalted (Lev. 2:13) (negative).
  22. That the Court of Judgment shall offer up a sacrifice if they have erred in a judicial pronouncement (Lev. 4:13) (affirmative).
  23. That an individual shall bring a sin-offering if he has sinned in error by committing a transgression, the conscious violation of which is punished with excision (Lev. 4:27-28) (affirmative). See Chatat: Sin Offering.
  24. To offer a sacrifice of varying value in accordance with one’s means (Lev. 5:7) (affirmative).
  25. Not to sever completely the head of a fowl brought as a sin-offering (Lev. 5:8) (negative).
  26. Not to put olive oil in a sin-offering made of flour (Lev. 5:11) (negative).
  27. Not to put frankincense on a sin-offering made of flour (Lev. 5:11) (negative).
  28. That an individual shall bring an offering if he is in doubt as to whether he has committed a sin for which one has to bring a sin-offering. This is called a guilt-offering for doubtful sins (Lev. 5:17-19) (affirmative). SeeAsham: Guilt Offering.
  29. That the remainder of the meal offerings shall be eaten (Lev. 6:9) (affirmative).
  30. Not to allow the remainder of the meal offerings to become leavened (Lev. 6:10) (negative).
  31. That the High Kohein shall offer a meal offering daily (Lev. 6:13) (affirmative).
  32. Not to eat of the meal offering brought by the kohanim (Lev. 6:16) (negative).
  33. To observe the procedure of the sin-offering (Lev. 6:18) (affirmative). See Chatat: Sin Offering.
  34. Not to eat of the flesh of sin offerings, the blood of which is brought within the Sanctuary and sprinkled towards the Veil (Lev. 6:23) (negative).
  35. To observe the procedure of the guilt-offering (Lev. 7:1) (affirmative).See Asham: Guilt Offering.
  36. To observe the procedure of the peace-offering (Lev. 7:11) (affirmative). See Zebach Sh’lamim: Peace Offering.
  37. To burn meat of the holy sacrifice that has remained over (Lev. 7:17) (affirmative).
  38. Not to eat of sacrifices that are eaten beyond the appointed time for eating them (Lev. 7:18) The penalty is excision (negative).
  39. Not to eat of holy things that have become unclean (Lev. 7:19) (negative).
  40. To burn meat of the holy sacrifice that has become unclean (Lev. 7:19) (affirmative).
  41. That a person who is unclean shall not eat of things that are holy (Lev. 7:20) (negative).
  42. A kohein’s daughter who profaned herself shall not eat of the holy things, neither of the heave offering nor of the breast, nor of the shoulder of peace offerings (Lev. 10:14, Lev. 22:12) (negative). See Kohein.
  43. That a woman after childbirth shall bring an offering when she is clean (Lev. 12:6) (affirmative). See Birth.
  44. That the leper shall bring a sacrifice after he is cleansed (Lev. 14:10) (affirmative).
  45. That a man having an issue shall bring a sacrifice after he is cleansed of his issue (Lev. 15:13-15) (affirmative).
  46. That a woman having an issue shall bring a sacrifice after she is cleansed of her issue (Lev. 15:28-30) (affirmative).
  47. To observe, on Yom Kippur, the service appointed for that day, regarding the sacrifice, confessions, sending away of the scapegoat, etc. (Lev. 16:3-34) (affirmative).
  48. Not to slaughter beasts set apart for sacrifices outside (the Sanctuary) (Lev. 17:3-4) (negative).
  49. Not to eat flesh of a sacrifice that has been left over (beyond the time appointed for its consumption) (Lev. 19:8 ) (negative).
  50. Not to sanctify blemished cattle for sacrifice on the altar (Lev. 22:20) This text prohibits such beasts being set apart for sacrifice on the altar (negative).
  51. That every animal offered up shall be without blemish (Lev. 22:21) (affirmative).
  52. Not to inflict a blemish on cattle set apart for sacrifice (Lev. 22:21) (negative).
  53. Not to slaughter blemished cattle as sacrifices (Lev. 22:22) (negative).
  54. Not to burn the limbs of blemished cattle upon the altar (Lev. 22:22) (negative).
  55. Not to sprinkle the blood of blemished cattle upon the altar (Lev. 22:24) (negative).
  56. Not to offer up a blemished beast that comes from non-Israelites (Lev. 22:25) (negative).
  57. That sacrifices of cattle can only take place when they are at least eight days old (Lev. 22:27) (affirmative).
  58. Not to leave any flesh of the thanksgiving offering until the morning (Lev. 22:30) (negative).
  59. To offer up the meal-offering of the Omer on the morrow after the first day of Passover, together with one lamb (Lev. 23:10) (affirmative). See The Counting of the Omer.
  60. Not to eat bread made of new grain before the Omer of barley has been offered up on the second day of Passover (Lev. 23:14) (CCN101). See The Counting of the Omer.
  61. Not to eat roasted grain of the new produce before that time (Lev. 23:14) (CCN102). See The Counting of the Omer.
  62. Not to eat fresh ears of the new grain before that time (Lev. 23:14) (CCN103). See The Counting of the Omer.
  63. To bring on Shavu’ot loaves of bread together with the sacrifices which are then offered up in connection with the loaves (Lev. 23:17-20) (affirmative).
  64. To offer up an additional sacrifice on Passover (Lev. 23:36) (affirmative).
  65. That one who vows to the L-rd the monetary value of a person shall pay the amount appointed in the Scriptural portion (Lev. 27:2-8) (affirmative).
  66. If a beast is exchanged for one that had been set apart as an offering, both become sacred (Lev. 27:10) (affirmative).
  67. Not to exchange a beast set aside for sacrifice (Lev. 27:10) (negative).
  68. That one who vows to the L-rd the monetary value of an unclean beast shall pay its value (Lev. 27:11-13) (affirmative).
  69. That one who vows the value of his house shall pay according to the appraisal of the kohein (Lev. 27:11-13) (affirmative). See Kohein.
  70. That one who sanctifies to the L-rd a portion of his field shall pay according to the estimation appointed in the Scriptural portion (Lev. 27:16-24) (affirmative).
  71. Not to transfer a beast set apart for sacrifice from one class of sacrifices to another (Lev. 27:26) (negative).
  72. To decide in regard to dedicated property as to which is sacred to the Lord and which belongs to the kohein (Lev. 27:28) (affirmative). See Kohein.
  73. Not to sell a field devoted to the Lord (Lev. 27:28) (negative).
  74. Not to redeem a field devoted to the Lord (Lev. 27:28) (negative).
  75. To make confession before the L-rd of any sin that one has committed, when bringing a sacrifice and at other times (Num. 5:6-7) (CCA33).
  76. Not to put olive oil in the meal-offering of a woman suspected of adultery (Num. 5:15) (negative).
  77. Not to put frankincense on it (Num. 5:15) (negative).
  78. To offer up the regular sacrifices daily (two lambs as burnt offerings) (Num. 28:3) (affirmative).
  79. To offer up an additional sacrifice every Shabbat (two lambs) (Num. 28:9) (affirmative).
  80. To offer up an additional sacrifice every New Moon (Num. 28:11) (affirmative).
  81. To bring an additional offering on Shavu’ot (Num. 28:26-27) (affirmative).
  82. To offer up an additional sacrifice on Rosh Hashanah (Num. 29:1-6) (affirmative).
  83. To offer up an additional sacrifice on Yom Kippur (Num. 29:7-8) (affirmative).
  84. To offer up an additional sacrifice on Sukkot (Num. 29:12-34) (affirmative).
  85. To offer up an additional offering on Shemini Atzeret, which is a festival by itself (Num. 29:35-38) (affirmative).
  86. To bring all offerings, whether obligatory or freewill, on the first festival after these were incurred (Deut. 12:5-6) (affirmative).
  87. Not to offer up sacrifices outside (the Sanctuary) (Deut. 12:13) (negative).
  88. To offer all sacrifices in the Sanctuary (Deut. 12:14) (affirmative).
  89. To redeem cattle set apart for sacrifices that contracted disqualifying blemishes, after which they may be eaten by anyone. (Deut. 12:15) (affirmative).
  90. Not to eat of the unblemished firstling outside Jerusalem (Deut. 12:17) (negative).
  91. Not to eat the flesh of the burnt-offering (Deut. 12:17). This is a Prohibition applying to every trespasser, not to enjoy any of the holy things. If he does so, he commits a trespass (negative).
  92. That the kohanim shall not eat the flesh of the sin-offering or guilt-offering outside the Courtyard (of the Sanctuary) (Deut. 12:17) (negative).
  93. Not to eat of the flesh of the sacrifices that are holy in a minor degree, before the blood has been sprinkled (on the altar), (Deut. 12:17) (negative).
  94. That the kohein shall not eat the first-fruits before they are set down in the Courtyard (of the Sanctuary) (Deut. 12:17) (negative).
  95. To take trouble to bring sacrifices to the Sanctuary from places outside the land of Israel (Deut. 12:26) (affirmative).
  96. Not to eat the flesh of beasts set apart as sacrifices, that have been rendered unfit to be offered up by deliberately inflicted blemish (Deut. 14:3) (negative).
  97. Not to do work with cattle set apart for sacrifice (Deut. 15:19) (negative).
  98. Not to shear beasts set apart for sacrifice (Deut. 15:19) (negative).
  99. Not to leave any portion of the festival offering brought on the fourteenth of Nissan unto the third day (Deut. 16:4) (negative).
  100. Not to offer up a beast that has a temporary blemish (Deut. 17:1) (negative).
  101. Not to bring sacrifices out of the hire of a harlot or price of a dog (apparently a euphemism for sodomy) (Deut. 23:19) (negative).
  102. To read the portion prescribed on bringing the first fruits (Deut. 26:5-10) (affirmative).

Ritual Purity and Impurity

  1. That eight species of creeping things defile by contact (Lev. 11:29-30) (affirmative).
  2. That foods become defiled by contact with unclean things (Lev. 11:34) (affirmative).
  3. That anyone who touches the carcass of a beast that died of itself shall be unclean (Lev. 11:39) (affirmative).
  4. That a lying-in woman is unclean like a menstruating woman (in terms of uncleanness) (Lev. 12:2-5) (affirmative).
  5. That a leper is unclean and defiles (Lev. 13:2-46) (affirmative).
  6. That the leper shall be universally recognized as such by the prescribed marks. So too, all other unclean persons should declare themselves as such (Lev. 13:45) (affirmative).
  7. That a leprous garment is unclean and defiles (Lev. 13:47-49) (affirmative).
  8. That a leprous house defiles (Lev. 14:34-46) (affirmative).
  9. That a man, having a running issue, defiles (Lev. 15:1-15) (affirmative).
  10. That the seed of copulation defiles (Lev. 15:16) (affirmative).
  11. That purification from all kinds of defilement shall be effected by immersion in the waters of a mikvah (Lev. 15:16) (affirmative).
  12. That a menstruating woman is unclean and defiles others (Lev. 15:19-24) (affirmative).
  13. That a woman, having a running issue, defiles (Lev. 15:25-27) (affirmative).
  14. To carry out the ordinance of the Red Heifer so that its ashes will always be available (Num. 19:9) (affirmative). See Parah Adumah: Red Heifer.
  15. That a corpse defiles (Num. 19:11-16) (affirmative). See Care for the Dead.
  16. That the waters of separation defile one who is clean, and cleanse the unclean from pollution by a dead body (Num. 19:19-22) (affirmative).

Lepers and Leprosy

  1. Not to drove off the hair of the scall (Lev. 13:33) (negative).
  2. That the procedure of cleansing leprosy, whether of a man or of a house, takes place with cedar-wood, hyssop, scarlet thread, two birds, and running water (Lev. 14:1-7) (affirmative).
  3. That the leper shall shave all his hair (Lev. 14:9) (affirmative).
  4. Not to pluck out the marks of leprosy (Deut. 24:8) (negative).

The King

  1. Not to curse a ruler, that is, the King or the head of the College in the land of Israel (Ex. 22:27) (negative).
  2. To appoint a king (Deut. 17:15) (affirmative).
  3. Not to appoint as ruler over Israel, one who comes from non-Israelites (Deut. 17:15) (negative).
  4. That the King shall not acquire an excessive number of horses (Deut. 17:16) (negative).
  5. That the King shall not take an excessive number of wives (Deut. 17:17) (negative).
  6. That he shall not accumulate an excessive quantity of gold and silver (Deut. 17:17) (negative).
  7. That the King shall write a scroll of the Torah for himself, in addition to the one that every person should write, so that he writes two scrolls (Deut. 17:18) (affirmative). See Torah.

Nazarites

  1. That a Nazarite shall not drink wine, or anything mixed with wine which tastes like wine; and even if the wine or the mixture has turned sour, it is prohibited to him (Num. 6:3) (negative).
  2. That he shall not eat fresh grapes (Num. 6:3) (negative).
  3. That he shall not eat dried grapes (raisins) (Num. 6:3) (negative).
  4. That he shall not eat the kernels of the grapes (Num. 6:4) (negative).
  5. That he shall not eat of the skins of the grapes (Num. 6:4) (negative).
  6. That the Nazarite shall permit his hair to grow (Num. 6:5) (affirmative).
  7. That the Nazarite shall not cut his hair (Num. 6:5) (negative).
  8. That he shall not enter any covered structure where there is a dead body (Num. 6:6) (negative).
  9. That a Nazarite shall not defile himself for any dead person (by being in the presence of the corpse) (Num. 6:7) (negative).
  10. That the Nazarite shall shave his hair when he brings his offerings at the completion of the period of his Nazariteship, or within that period if he has become defiled (Num. 6:9) (affirmative).

Wars

  1. That those engaged in warfare shall not fear their enemies nor be panic-stricken by them during battle (Deut. 3:22, 7:21, 20:3) (negative).
  2. To anoint a special kohein (to speak to the soldiers) in a war (Deut. 20:2) (affirmative). See Kohein.
  3. In a permissive war (as distinguished from obligatory ones), to observe the procedure prescribed in the Torah(Deut. 20:10) (affirmative).
  4. Not to keep alive any individual of the seven Canaanite nations (Deut. 20:16) (negative).
  5. To exterminate the seven Canaanite nations from the land of Israel (Deut. 20:17) (affirmative).
  6. Not to destroy fruit trees (wantonly or in warfare) (Deut. 20:19-20) (CCN191).
  7. To deal with a beautiful woman taken captive in war in the manner prescribed in the Torah (Deut. 21:10-14) (affirmative).
  8. Not to sell a beautiful woman, (taken captive in war) (Deut. 21:14) (negative).
  9. Not to degrade a beautiful woman (taken captive in war) to the condition of a bondwoman (Deut. 21:14) (negative).
  10. Not to offer peace to the Ammonites and the Moabites before waging war on them, as should be done to other nations (Deut. 23:7) (negative).
  11. That anyone who is unclean shall not enter the Camp of the Levites (Deut. 23:11) (according to the Talmud, in the present day this means the Temple mount) (CCN193).
  12. To have a place outside the camp for sanitary purposes (Deut. 23:13) (affirmative).
  13. To keep that place sanitary (Deut. 23:14-15) (affirmative).
  14. Always to remember what Amalek did (Deut. 25:17) (CCA76).
  15. That the evil done to us by Amalek shall not be forgotten (Deut. 25:19) (CCN194).
  16. To destroy the seed of Amalek (Deut. 25:19) (CCA77).

© Copyright 5757-5771 (1996-2011), Tracey R Rich

REFLECTIONS OF A LAY CISTERCIAN

I am struck by these 613 laws to be kept by Israel as a way to show that they loved God. The Shema Yisrael (Deuteronomy 6:5) is the core of all these laws for they all tell how the people can love God with their whole heart, their whole mind, all their strength.  

Many of the laws we hold dear come from these 613 laws designed to keep the tribes of Israel as One. I am struck by how much the laws are designed to help the tribes love God, as in the Shema Yisrael, as seen in #6 in the G-d above. (God’s name is unpronouncable to Jews) 

Christ’s coming to us as God brings simplicity and truth, that which the Law alone cannot bring. Christ has only one command, one Law for his followers, love one another as I have loved you. But that command emcompasses all of the hopes and dreams of the OT tribes, all the longings of the Church to live daily living as Christ wanted us to do, all the laws that are really ways to love others as Christ loved us.  Christ is the Law, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. 

Laws in the OT are like street signs, they help you regulate where you are going. They are not the destination any more as the Catholic Church is the destination or purpose for being Catholic, but Christ is.

Listening to the late Aidan Kavanaugh, O.S.B., at that time our instructor in Sacramental Theology at St. Meinrad School of Theology, St. Meinrad, Indiana, he related how a fictional character he called Mrs. Murphy would sit in the back of her Church silently praying for God’s mercy and would know more than all the learned theologians combined.  I wondered how this could be. In the past five years, as I have continued with my Lectio Divina on Philippians 2:5, I am beginning to get a glimps of what he meant. http://www.stmeinrad.edu

When you read these grounds of our heritage, what are your thoughts about the continuity between OT and NT?

II. THE LAW OF ST. BENEDICT

When reading the 613 Laws that God gave to the Israelites, I was struck by two things, 1. Even though humans came up with these Laws, they treated them as from God, not humans. 2. St. Benedict had laws to help us love one another in his Holy Rule, especially for me as a Lay Cistercian in Chapters 4-5-7 and the Prologue. Faith has a lot to do with all these laws. Keeping the law for the sake of the law is something that made Christ angry. In the OT, keeping the laws from God was a way to be close to God through covenant. In the NT, Christ shares himself with us through Eucharist and Mercy. In my journey as a Lay Cistercian, I catch glimmers of what the monks and nuns might experience in a monastery with their focus on preferring nothing to the love of  Christ. One such glimpse is that I must read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict every day in the hopes of becoming what I read. The same could be said for the 613 Jewish laws. All of these laws are holy because God is holy and they help all of us to become more like what we read through the power and Mystery of Faith.

When I observe the law, such as a STOP sign, it tells me something, “Stop or you will get hurt.” It regulates the behavior of many people so that there is right order. What is significant is that law or the sign is outside of ourselves given to us by someone other than ourselves for the good of all. Sin is when we run the red light, even if we don’t think we are hitting another automobile or fail to get caught. 

Here is the rest of the story, what Christ was trying to tell us; the power of the law is not the law buy the heart who takes it into themselves to transform themselves into the one who gave us the law. When Christ told us in Matthew 22 that he did not come to abolish the law and the prophets, it was to show that the letter of the law might change but to fulfill the purpose of the law, to love God more perfectly, would not change.

Matthew 5:16-18 NRSVCE – In the same way, let your light shine – Bible Gateway

Matthew 5:16-18 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)1In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they
may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.The
Law and the Prophets17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter,[a] not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.

Here are the rules of St. Benedict. Read them carefully. I read them every day in the hopes of one day being what they say.

http://www.ben.edu/center-for-mission-and-identity/resources/rule-of-st-benedict.cfm#ch4

CHAPTER FOUR: The Instruments of Good Works

(1) In the first place to love the Lord God with the whole heart, the whole soul, the whole strength…

(2) Then, one’s neighbor as one’s self (cf Mt 22:37-39; Mk 12:30-31; Lk 10:27).

(3) Then, not to kill…

(4) Not to commit adultery…

(5) Not to steal…

(6) Not to covet (cf Rom 13:9).

(7) Not to bear false witness (cf Mt 19:18; Mk 10:19; Lk 18:20).

(8) To honor all men (cf 1 Pt 2:17). (9) And what one would not have done to himself, not to do to another (cf Tob 4:16; Mt 7:12; Lk 6:31).

(10) To deny one’s self to follow Christ (cf Mt 16:24; Lk 9:23).

(11) To chastise the body (cf 1 Cor 9:27).

(12) Not to seek after pleasures.

(13) To love fasting.

(14) To relieve the poor.

(15) To clothe the naked…

(16) To visit the sick (cf Mt 25:36).

(17) To bury the dead.

(18) To help in trouble.

(19) To console the sorrowing.

(20) To hold one’s self-aloof from worldly ways.

(21) To prefer nothing to the love of Christ.

(22) Not to give way to anger.

(23) Not to foster a desire for revenge.

(24) Not to entertain deceit in the heart.

(25) Not to make a false peace.

(26) Not to forsake charity.

(27) Not to swear, lest perchance one swear falsely.

(28) To speak the truth with heart and tongue.

(29) Not to return evil for evil (cf 1 Thes 5:15; 1 Pt 3:9).

(30) To do no injury, yea, even patiently to bear the injury done us.

(31) To love one’s enemies (cf Mt 5:44; Lk 6:27).

(32) Not to curse them that curse us, but rather to bless them.

(33) To bear persecution for justice sake (cf Mt 5:10).

(34) Not to be proud…

(35) Not to be given to wine (cf Ti 1:7; 1 Tm 3:3).

(36) Not to be a great eater.

(37) Not to be drowsy.

(38) Not to be slothful (cf Rom 12:11).

(39) Not to be a murmurer.

(40) Not to be a detractor.

(41) To put one’s trust in God.

(42) To refer what good one sees in himself, not to self, but to God.

(43) But as to any evil in himself, let him be convinced that it is his own and charge it to himself.

(44) To fear the day of judgment.

(45) To be in dread of hell.

(46) To desire eternal life with all spiritual longing.

(47) To keep death before one’s eyes daily.

(48) To keep a constant watch over the actions of our life.

(49) To hold as certain that God sees us everywhere.

(50) To dash at once against Christ the evil thoughts which rise in one’s heart.

(51) And to disclose them to our spiritual father.

(52) To guard one’s tongue against bad and wicked speech.

(53) Not to love much speaking.

(54) Not to speak useless words and such as provoke laughter.

(55) Not to love much or boisterous laughter.

(56) To listen willingly to holy reading.

(57) To apply one’s self often to prayer.

(58) To confess one’s past sins to God daily in prayer with sighs and tears, and to amend them for the future.

(59) Not to fulfill the desires of the flesh (cf Gal 5:16).

(60) To hate one’s own will.

(61) To obey the commands of the Abbot in all things, even though he himself (which Heaven forbid) act otherwise, mindful of that precept of the Lord: “What they say, do ye; what they do, do ye not” (Mt 23:3).

(62) Not to desire to be called holy before one is; but to be holy first, that one may be truly so called.

(63) To fulfill daily the commandments of God by works.

(64) To love chastity.

(65) To hate no one.

(66) Not to be jealous; not to entertain envy.

(67) Not to love strife.

(68) Not to love pride.

(69) To honor the aged.

(70) To love the younger.

(71) To pray for one’s enemies in the love of Christ.

(72) To make peace with an adversary before the setting of the sun.

(73) And never to despair of God’s mercy.Behold, these are theinstruments of the spiritual art, which, if they have been applied withoutceasing day and night and approved on judgment day, will merit for us from theLord that reward which He hath promised: “Theeye hath not seen, nor the ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart ofman, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Cor 2:9).

MY REFLECTIONS

The law is the realm of the mind. The Spirit is the realm of the heart. When you read holy thoughts as above, you can still be standing on the platform of the World and not the Spirit. Using these words of St. Benedict, I try to follow the five levels of spiritual awareness, each one deeper than the last.

  • Read the Word
  • Pray the Word
  • Share the Word
  • Be the Word you read, pray, and share.
  • Enjoy the Word

I recite Chapter 4 every day, but I do so with the hope that I can become what I read. I ask the Holy Spirit to help me in my transformation from self to God. Do I automatically reach completion with each of the Tool for Conversion of Life? No. Each day, like the movie about the Groundhog Day, I have to begin anew, with one exception–it gets easier sometimes takin steps fowards rather than two step back.

These prescriptions are very concrete reminders of what I must do if I want to love others as Christ loves me. 

III. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

The Ten Commandments are  given to us to help us love God more and keep the covenant relationship. As Erich Fromm states in his book, The Art of Loving, there are four characteristics of love: knowledge, respect, caring, responsibility. 

The Old and New Testaments are to show us how to love by looking at how God loves us. Respect, knowledge, caring and responsibility are four characteristics embedded in these statutes. You might recognize these characteristics as those also in Erich Fromm’s book, The Art of Loving.

These commands are ones that help the people in the 12 Tribes of Israel keep the covenant relationship of love with God. Even today, they form the basis of our morality, how we treat one another.

The first three commands deal with how we should related to God. The next seven commands show us how to deal with our neighbor. They are, in my opinion the foundation for all of our moral judgements.

Deuteronomy 5 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)The Ten Commandments5 Moses convened all Israel, and said to them:Hear, O Israel, the statutes and ordinances that I am addressing to you today; you shall learn them and observe them diligently. The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. Not with our ancestors did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. The Lord spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the fire. (At that time I was standing between the Lord and you to declare to you the words[a] of the Lord; for you were afraid because of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before[b] me.You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, 10 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation[c] of those who love me and keep my commandments.11 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.12 Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 14 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. 15 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.16 Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.17 You shall not murder.[d]18 Neither shall you commit adultery.19 Neither shall you steal.20 Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor.21 Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife.Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

IV. THE BEATITUDES

Matthew 5 NRSVCE – The Beatitudes – When Jesus saw the – Bible Gateway

5 When Jesus[a] saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he
sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for
righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.11 “Blessed are
you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely[b] on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your
reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the
prophets who were before you.

The Beatitude just don’t make sense, at first glance. Who in their right mind believes that the meek inherit the earth. Earth history is replete with nations taking over nations.  Rome tried to conquer the world, and so did Hitler and Stalin.  The Beatitudes that Jesus gave us describe a place where those things are the norm and the result of keeping the prescription. The Beatitudes talk about Heaven not Earth. They talk about three universes (physical, mental and spiritual) and not just two (physical and mental).

The peacemakers are not called children of God in this lifetime but in the next. The Ten Commands were given to Moses on a mountain top (power and authority) for the people to love each other. Christ gave us the Beatitudes on a mountaintop so that we could know what awaits us in Heaven and what is expected of us while we live on earth. Of course, we don’t live up to the Beatitudes, but we have these prescriptions to SHOW us what it should be like.  All we are bid do is try our best in this lifetime.

V. THE ONE RULE OF CHRIST

Although you could argue for many laws, there is only command that Christ gave us. 

John 13:34-35  I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Deuteronomy 6:5-10 NRSVCE – 

Deuteronomy 6:5-10 New Revised Standard Version Catholic
Edition (NRSVCE)You shall love the Lord your God with all your
heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.
Matthew 22:37-40 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
 This is the greatest and  first commandment. 39 And a second is
like it: ‘You shall love your  neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two
commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Christ fulfills the OT Shema Yisrael by adding love of our neighbor as ourself.  (See above)

LEARNING POINTS AND QUESTIONS

When you look at all five of these prescription lists, what do you notice? They are all designed to help you love more.  

Things are getting simpler with Christ. We go from 613 prescriptions for what it means to love down to one. What are your thoughts about that?

 Keeping the list is different than allowing the list to lead you from just mouthing the words to feelin them in your heart through your behavior. Matthew 25:31-46. 

Keeping the letter of the law is not as important as allowing you to become what you read. 

Galatians 3 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

Law or Faith

3 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing?—if it really was for nothing. Well then, does God[a] supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.” For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for “The one who is righteous will live by faith.”[b]12 But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, “Whoever does the works of the law[c] will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.The Promise to Abraham15 Brothers and sisters,[d] I give an example from daily life: once a person’s will[e] has been ratified, no one adds to it or annuls it. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring;[f] it does not say, “And to offsprings,”[g] as of many; but it says, “And to your offspring,”[h] that is, to one person, who is Christ. 17 My point is this: the law, which came four hundred thirty years later, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18 For if the inheritance comes from the law, it no longer comes from the promise; but God granted it to Abraham through the promise.The Purpose of the Law19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring[i] would come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained through angels by a mediator. 20 Now a mediator involves more than one party; but God is one.21 Is the law then opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law. 22 But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ[j] might be given to those who believe.23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 

25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring,[k] heirs according to the promise.

BEING A CATHOLIC UNIVERSAL MEMBER UNDER THE LAW

Here are some thoughts from a broken-down, old Lay Cistercian about the Law, Faith, the Spirit, and how all of this works towards the glory of God.

Christ came, not to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it.

Fulfilling it means what is essential about the Law moves forward.

There is an Old Covenant with the Twelve Tribes of Israel (10 of whom were assumed into Assyria) and fulfilled by Christ and the Twelve Apostles in a New Covenant, one of love for each other as Christ loves us.

The Old Testament is exclusive of those who are not Jewish. The New Testament (Acts of the Apostles) had to struggle to move from a georraphical area (although that is still true) to the whole world.

For those who believe in Faith (a gift from God, not because of your belief), spirituality opens up past the statues and regulations to one law– Shema Yisrael Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37).

The Spirit of the Law is the deeper meaning contained it keeping it.

INTERNET RESOURCES YOU MAY USE TO MAKE ALL THINGS NEW

It might seem like an unlikely place to find inspiration about contemplative practice, but Youtube did that for me, as well as other websites and modern day marvels of communication.

In particular, you may find the Youtube episodes of G. K. Chesterton (Google it) and Bishop and Servant of God Fulton J. Sheen of interest. I would encourage you to look at Scott Hahn’s Youtube talks. Hope your holidays are full of grace rather than full of gifts that don’t matter.

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES THAT HAVE HELPED ME ON MY LAY CISTERCIAN JOURNEY (SO FAR)

Here are some wonderful, contemplative websites in which you may find some rest for your soul. I admit my bias.

http://www.trappist.net

http://www.newadvent.com

https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org

http://www.cistercianfamily.org/

https://siena.org/

http://www.carlmccolman.net

http://scotthahn.com

http://www.cistercianpublications.org

http://dynamiccatholic.com

http://www.centeringprayer.com/cntrgpryr.htm

http://www.monk.org

https://cistercianpublications.org/Category/CPCT/Cistercian-Tradition

http://www.saintmeinrad.edu

http://w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html

http://ccc.usccb.org/flipbooks/catechism/files/assets/basic-html/page-I.html#

http://www.catholicapologetics.org/

https://stpaulcenter.com/support-the-center

https://www.osv.com/Home.aspx

http://www.osb.org/cist/

http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/catechesis/catechetical-sunday/word-of-god/upload/lectio-divina.pdf

http://www.ewtn.com/library/mary/bernard2.htm

https://www.ecatholic2000.com/index2.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYE7CC1m_II

http://www.ncregister.com/

https://cistercianfamily.org/lay-groups/

https://cuf.org/support-our-work/cuf-chapters/

https://catholicexchange.com/seven-capital-sins

http://www.catholicapologetics.org/aff/courses.html

http://divineoffice.org

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/

http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/

https://zenit.org/

https://lifeteen.com/blog/

https://catholicherald.co.uk/

http://catholicmom.com/

https://cruxnow.com/

https://www.wordonfire.org/

https://onepeterfive.com/

YOUTUBE

G.K. Chesterton 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jE0b4zteOoI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anBuPC6DpvE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jE0b4zteOoI

 

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHaizmIj3ck

https://whttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8qqZup3Bg4ww.youtube.com/watch?v=NnXlQWmubYw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGGSxxuBtMk

 

Scott Hahn and Catholic Apologetics

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67WmIGLPvEM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uL_IAJWvX0

BISHOP ROBERT BARRON

https://www.youtube.com/user/wordonfirevideo/videos

FIVE CONTEMPLATIVE WEBSITES

When I look up something that puzzles me or confuses me, which is almost 100% of the time, I use these five sites when I think of contemplative spirituality. I thought you might like to see what they are and bookmark them. I offer these sites as an aspiring Lay Cistercian in search of wisdom and humility.

NUMBER FIVE:  CISTERCIAN WEBSITES OF NOTE

http://www.osb.org/cist/

You will find many hours of enjoyment clicking on and reading the various sites that pertain to Cistercians.  There are two branches of the Cistercian observance, Regular Observance ( O. Cist.) and Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.). Of particular interest to me were the sites that pertain to Lay Cistercians and those highlighting the early history of the movement.

NUMBER FOUR: LAY CISTERCIAN WEBSITES OF NOTE TO MOVE FROM SELF TO GOD

http://www.citeaux.net/wri-av/laics_cisterciens-eng.htm

http://www.trappist.net/about/lay-cistercians

http://www.carlmccolman.net/category/laycistercians/  Read this website. Carl is a Lay Cistercian of Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Georgia, also where I aspire to be a Lay Cistercian. My favorite website of an individual practitioner of Cistercian piety.

NUMBER THREE: RESEARCH SITES TO GROW DEEPER INTO CHRIST JESUS

http://newadvent.org  If there is one source I use more than others, it is New Advent.  It contains the Catholic Encyclopedia, Summa Theologica, Bible, Early primary sources or Fathers of the Church, plus other great links.  Don’t miss this one.

NUMBER TWO: TEACHINGS OF THE MAGISTERIUM (Vatican)

 

http://w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html  This is a site on which I have spent many happy hours looking up the actual texts about what the Church actually teaches, as opposed to what people say we teach but don’t.

NUMBER ONE: MY WEBSITE

https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org   This is my own website.  I put it as number one because I use it the most, not because I think it is the best. It is the result of my daily Lectio Divina and a poor attempt to share some practical ways to practice contemplative spirituality with an emphasis on the Cistercian heritage.  I had tried to give you a variety of website that I use to grow from self to God.  They have all helped me to look at who I am in relationship to God (He must increase, I must decrease).

That in all things, may God be glorified. –St. Benedict

 

 

 

 

GREAT GIFTS FOR CHRISTMAS

The heading above was on the Internet in one of the hundreds of Emails I get on buying something I just can’t do without. That got me thinking in my Lectio Divina reflection (Phil 2:5), what is a gift I can receive at Christmas that I can’t do without, or what gift can I give someone to make them happy?

I don’t want anyone to give me gifts of things. I have everyTHING I need. This means clothes I don’t or won’t wear, kitchen appliances I never use, toys or novelties I leave in their original box, electronic gadgets I don’t know how to use (an exception might be a television set installed by Computer Geeks). Add to this that most clothing or gifts are not needs I have because no one has asked me what I need.

I tried to just give money or Target gift cards. I give you $500.00 and you give me $500.00. What craziness is that?

The World has seduced us into thinking that giving gifts is more important than giving the gifts of self and conversion of morals as it affects others. We can give and receive as the World suggest is meaningful, or we can live in three universes (physical, mental and spiritual) and give of self to others.

THE  GREAT GIFT OF SELF

Christ is the reason for the season, as the bumper sticker says. For me, it means I find meaning at Christmas time not from looking at a baby in a manger, although that is cute, but in God giving the gift of who he is to us, to me, to you. (Philippians 2:5-12) I remind you to not be seduced by seeing reality with just two universes (physical and mental) but rather by three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual).

My Lection Divina presented me with four gifts, some of them not traditionally seen as gifts, but are meaningful to me.

THE GREAT GIFT OF CREATION

We take it for granted, but creation or the physical universe is our platform to hold our bodies and our spirit. I like to think of Fermi’s Paradox when I think of creation. The famed scientist asked his colleagues at lunch, where is everyone? Creation is so commonplace, we don’t even think about it. Scientists and great thinkers do think about creation, like the late Stephen Hawking, or Carl Sagan, and provide us with ways to see reality as it is. We need to continue to explore our universe to ask questions such as, why is it, how is it, and what does all of this tell us about who we are as humans.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_deGrasse_Tyson Neil deGrasse Tyson is a scientist who looks at reality from a practical view but using science to explain the physical universe. I like his viewpoints, but he has limited the scope of what he considers reality. What he does have is great.

If you use three universes to look at Creation, then God is the Word (John 1:1) in the beginning. But wait! Why is there a universe at all? If we look at Creation as the platform for living things and sentient beings, we find that we are alone in the Universe. What does that mean? Look at the immensity of what is. There must be a reason that we have the earth as our platform for human evolution from the first cells to the last blast of the trumpet. This is the season to remember not only the birth of Christ but the preparation from all eternity for this event to take place. In fact, there is no season that proclaims the great gift of creation, all four seasons do.  This is the day the Lord has made, says the Psalmist in 118, let us be glad in it and rejoice. But there is more…

THE GREAT GIFT OF LIFE

We have a platform for life, the world, and the universe, but where is life? The next gift is life itself, characterized in the archetypal form in Genesis with the story of Adam and Eve. Life began on earth but developed into what we know as humans, Adam and Eve being the primal beginnings of humans. Before there was life, but after Adam and Eve, however they developed, there was something different, so different that Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., noted paleontologist and philosopher, termed it Noosphere, the circle of Knowing.  The gift of life is that we can reflect on what is and ask the question why. Sounds like a simple thing, but animals can’t do that. Plants can’t do that. I go so far as to say that, in all the known universe, humans are the only ones that know that we know. Why is that? We have a platform for life and now we have life reflecting on itself over time and trying to discover meaning and purpose. Why is that? Do you realize that, with all our sophisticated instruments, we have not found one planet out there that harbors life, much less sentient life (stories of aliens notwithstanding)? I hope that there is such life out there, but right now, it looks bleak.  So, why is that? Why do humans, of all the known living things, have the ability to ask why to know that we know? You see a trend developing here? But there is more…

THE GREAT GIFT OF LIFE…LOST.

Let’s recap: we have a platform for life, one not too hot or too cold (the Goldilocks effect) and one that enables humans to mature and develop their knowledge in all sorts of good ways. But there is a problem. The Genesis Story tells us that humans were made by a Being outside of themselves, one divine not human. Humans (Adam and Eve) disobeyed God’s command to be human and wanted to be what they were not. We call that Original Sin, which is still the core sin and temptation facing all humans, no matter what their belief system. And that is not the end of the story…

THE GREAT GIFT OF LIFE…RESTORED

God took pity on humans for fumbling their one chance to fulfill both the reason for creation and the reason for the gift of life itself. God sent his only Son, the Word made Flesh to dwell among us and show us how to restore paradise lost. We call this by the word, redemption, as in going to a pawn shop and buying back the ticket we used to pawn our collective inheritance. The price: death, death on a cross. The results: we are now adopted sons and daughters of the Father…again…Forever. This is the news that is so good, the great gift of Faith from God, one we did not, and still do not deserve. But that is not all…

THE GREAT GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

God made the platform for human life and restored us to our inheritance (the prodigal sons and daughters). God’s problem now is how to sustain this life-giving energy in light of Original Sin and the weakness of humans to want to be their own god. The Church is born from the Upper Room, with some exceptions. We still have to work to keep from temptation. (and lead us not into temptation, says the Lord’s Prayer).

THE GIFT OF LAY CISTERCIAN SPIRITUALITY

To enter the spiritual universe and remain there takes work. As a Lay Cistercian, I use Cistercian spirituality, silence, and solitude to help me convert my life to be more like Christ on a daily basis, to make room in my heart for the heart of Christ, to move from self to God. There is no reward without a struggle, just as there was no redemption without the passion and death of Christ. Christ came to give us the tools to sustain us. St. Benedict, in Chapter 4 of his Rule, sets forth those tools of good works that enable me to call God Abba, Father, and sustain me through Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, Adoration Before the Blessed Sacrament and the Rosary.

Christmas is a remembrance of all of these wondrous gifts we have been given by God through, with and in Christ with the Holy Spirit, in order to survive the minefields of this World until we can reach our purpose for which the universe was created, and why humans are the only ones to know that they know, and why Christ came to give us back that which Adam and Eve lost for us through lack of humility and obedience to God’s will. What greater gift is there than to realize that, through Faith (energy from God) that we are sons and daughters of the Father who will claim our inheritance one day. As you sew on earth you shall reap in Heaven.  May you realize all your gifts from God and become what you pray, love, and know. May the gifts that you share with each other include these special blessings from God to us, blessed be God forever.

Praise be the Father and 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. –Cistercian doxology

 

OBEDIENCE: The Archetypal Sin

The following is excerpted from my new book, GETTING THERE FROM HERE:  A Lay Cistercian reflects on  Cistercian Charisms and how they move us to conversion of life from self to God. I have dedicated this book to the late Father Anthony Delisi, O.C.S.O., our Lay Cistercian spiritual adviser who wrote a book entitled, What makes a Cistercian Monk? Chapter talks on the charisms of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance. 

CHARISM FIVE: Obedience: The Archetypal Sin

During one of my Lectio Divina sessions (Phil 2:5), I thought of what the obedience of the Son must be to God the Father to come earth and make reparation for the sin of Adam and Eve. He who takes away the sins of the world indeed has mercy on us. But there is more to obedience than meets the eye. First of all, we do not think of obedience as the world sees it, influenced by pseudo, psychological pragmatism, and relativism.

WHAT IS OBEDIENCE?

The spiritual universe is God’s playground, and if we want to use it, we must follow God’s rules, not human ones. The biggest rule has to do with the relationship of Adam and Eve to God in the Garden of Eden. In the Genesis story. there is a tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God says, don’t eat of it.  The Devil tempts Eve to eat of it because if she and Adam eat its fruit, they will be God. This archetypal story of God and humanity is the Original Sin, the one which Jesus had to become one of us to reconcile with the Father.  If you look around the world today, you will see this sin as the most prevalent and pernicious one we commit. The Wiley One still pulls the wool over the eyes of most of us and even tempts us as individuals to become god.  All sin is the sin of Adam and Eve at its core. Sin, remember, means the archer aims at the target but misses the bullseye, or even the target itself. God give us the target. This Genesis story has disobedience to God and its consequences at the heart of what it means to be human. There is also another dimension to obedience or the lack of it, and that is humility. All told, I count three big events or principles in Genesis:

God is God, and you are not.– God is not human but divine nature. Jesus Christ, however, is both human and divine nature. We are adopted sons and daughters of the Father, each and every human. Some realize this and move forward in resonance with their human nature Forever. Some do not and end up in dissonance with their human nature…Forever. Each person has a choice of placing God as their center or placing themselves there. If you place yourself at the center of reality, you are god. The First Command Moses received on Sinai was to warn that God is God, and we are not. This sin contains every sin that we commit against God. The Kingdom of Heaven on earth is God’s playground, and you must follow His rules if you want to use the swingset. There is only one rule, according to our Master, to love one another as Christ loved us.  All the Creeds, all the Sacraments, all the contemplations with Liturgy of the Hours and Lectio Divina all flow from the Christ principle. God is love, and your purpose in life is to love God with all your hearts. all your minds, and all our strength and our neighbor as yourself. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37). It is the center of both our Jewish heritage and its fulfillment with the resurrection of Christ.

If you want to be God, when God told you not to, this is disobedience. At the heart of what it means to be human, some concepts are prominent.  Chief among them is that God is the creator of all that is. What God made is good, not evil. God gave Adam and Eve limits but they disobeyed Him. Sin came into the world through one man (Romans 5:12-21), and we inherit the effects of that Original Sin. That is why, although we are good, we have been wounded and are prone to evil. We must make up in us that which our nature does not provide. That is why Christ, Son of God, had to die on the cross (Philippians 2: 5-12). It is the ultimate sign of contradiction and the perfect gift of obedience of a human (Jesus) to the Father in reparation for the sin of Adam and Eve.  The problem comes when Christ entrusts his mission to the Apostles. By themselves, they cower in the upper room, afraid of the Jews and of being martyred.  At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon them in tongues of fire, and the Church was born. It is still being born today, the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom of Heaven in time and space, the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church Universal (church triumphant in heaven, the church militant on earth, the church purgative awaiting the last judgment).

Pride or the lack of humility is at the core of disobedience.  You can’t have disobedience without having a lack of humility or pride. Pride means you think you are better than anyone, including God. Humility recognized who you are and who God is. St. Benedict in Chapter 7 of his Rule speaks of the steps to gain humility. As a Lay Cistercian, humility and obedience to God’s will through my visible authority (Abbot or Abbess) but also with the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the community of Faith, keeps me grounded in moving from self to God, even if I stray or weave down the road of life. Pride is one of the sins that opens up the possibility that I think I am God, that no one can tell me what to do with my body, that love can exist without God, that I don’t need to be a part of the living community of the Body of Christ. I am the Sixth Sola, the Solus Sola, or I am my own church meaning the individual alone can define what knowledge of good and evil is. God is who I say it is. No one can tell me what to believe. Things are true because I believe them not because I believe them because they are true. The modern heresy after Pentecost is: God is who I say it is and no one has the right to tell me anything about God except me. Modern idolatry at work, offering incense to the gods (you) on sacrificing on your own altar with unclean gifts (lack of obedience, lack of humility and lack of love). All you think all of this is normal. Who is to say otherwise? You are god.

BE CAREFUL OF THE WORDS YOU USE

One of the things I always try to keep in mind as I think about the Cistercian charisms, especially silence, solitude, humility, obedience, Lectio Divina, Eucharist, and Liturgy of the Hours is, I live in three universes and not just two. Let’s do a quick refresher on what I mean by two universes verses three universes.

Think of two universes as being just the physical and the mental. 

  • Life is what happens to you.
  • Your center is yourself.
  • You love your family, get meaning from work and activities that enhance what it means for you to be human.
  • Morality and civil order come from what society says is wrong or right, depending on which political regime is in power.
  • Like those animals or plants, you are born, mature, taking values and meaning from your environment, work, procreate, love, find fulfillment in a job or family or some humanistic work of charity, retire, then you die.
  • The physical and mental universes are good unless you go against societal norms.
  • Obedience becomes accepting society’s order because you agree with it.
  • Everyone with this view has the right to believe what they want, outside of these norms.
  • Morality becomes individualistic and relativistic.
  • Suicide makes perfect sense. Who is to say it is wrong?
  • Similarly, Incest, Adultery, and Fornication are perfectly within the moral rights of the individual, because self-gratification is the norm, not the exception.
  • Clergy and professionals, such as teachers, dentists, physicians can sexually abuse others because they have needs that must be fulfilled and they give in to them. Who is to say they are wrong? Not you. Not me.

The response back is always, that is your opinion, and they would be correct if the only reality was just two universes. Scriptures use the word, “World,” to describe this humanistic approach to life. There is a reluctance, almost fringing on hatred for those who think that there is a God out there who would limit my ability to choose what I want as being moral.

Think of three universes as being physical and mental, but now add an authentic, spiritual one. All universes are distinct from each other, have different measurements to determine what is valuable or what is real, and have different characteristics. In this realm of reality, God is central to these three distinct universes. Remember, not all people believe the same about God or Jesus in the spiritual universe. That is why I use the word “authentic” to describe the plan of salvation began by God and redeemed by Christ, and sustained through the Holy Spirit. This is the reality that is the sign of contradiction, the opposite of the two universe thinking. When I use the word “obedience” in this reality, I make a conscious choice that God’s will is my center. I know what God’s will is in several ways:

  • through the Faith of the Church Universal in heaven, on earth and awaiting purification and redemption;
  • through the authorized representative of Christ on earth in the Church;
  • through Sacred Scriptures;
  • through the authorized representative of Christ on earth in my diocese or religious community or lay institute;
  • through openness to the Holy Spirit in each other.
  • Through my own interior prayer of humility to the Father asking for mercy on me. Notice in this reality, I am not first but last. What does that mean?

All of this takes dynamic Faith, and remember this comes from God’s energy, not the belief in the human ability to chose right or wrong. You know that obedience is from God when you “listen with the ear of the heart” (Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict) and find yourself being not like Adam and Eve who disobeyed God’s command, but now like Christ, who obeyed the will of the Father and became one of us. Philippians 2:5-12. This is the sign of contradiction, the type represented by the cross on which Christ gave us his human life, emptying himself once more (first at the Immaculate Conception) to show us what we should do in obedience to Christ in others.

THE GARDEN OF EDEN IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

It might be a mistake to think that the archetypal story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was meant to be a book filler for children in Sunday School. There is far more going on in Genesis 2-3 than meets the eye. Like the many parables of Christ, given for us to ponder about what is true and authentic living, the Garden of Eden makes even more sense to me than earlier in my life.

The Garden of Eden is meant to warn us about the dangers of thinking that we are God. It is a classic tale of love, loves betrayed, and redemption. It shows the consequences of not loving as we humans were intended. Our nature is to be human, not God. It is a part of the Mystery of Faith, the Good News of Redemption, that Christ came to set us free from the bonds of Original Sin. But, the consequences of sin remain in the form of being continually tempted to be God by Satan, in this metaphor, going about like a lion seeking whom He may devour. No snake here.

Pride and disobedience were the primal sins of Adam and Eve. Humility and Obedience are different remedies for disobedience. brought to us by Christ. in three universes (as God sees it). We know what it means to be obedient because Christ showed us what it means to live in humility and obedience to the Father. The Church Universal helps blanket us in the warm embrace of Faith so that we can practice obedience without fear.

One of the lessons I have learned from Lay Cistercian spiritual practices and charisms (humility and obedience) is how important obedience is to Faith. If we follow Christ, obedient to death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-12), we walk the path of righteousness and truth, echoing the words of our Master, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Next time the word or the subject of obedience comes up, think of it as being in either two universes (physical and mental) “The World” or three universes (physical, mental and spiritual) “The Spirit.  This is important because, if you live in the Spirit, you may not also choose the World as the basis for your thinking. Each of these two worlds has characteristics when you think of or use the word “obedience.”

READINGS FROM THE HOLY SCRIPTURES

Take a moment and look up the following passages from Holy Scriptures that point to the dichotomy between The World and the Spirit. I recommend that you use the Rule of Threes to help you read Scripture, especially if you stand vigil before the Blessed Sacrament.

  1. Read each quote separately and very slowly from beginning to end. Don’t rush it. Stop at the end of the reading and close your eyes. Did anything strike you as significant about obedience, our focus, or was anything odd to you?
  2. Once more, read the verse once again, this time pausing at the end of each sentence. In silence and solitude, think about obedience and what this one sentence means, then go on to the next. Do not hurry the Spirit. Think of the words as you would a choice, juicy steak, or a tempting bowl of fresh, vegetable soup. Taste and see how good the Lord is.
  3. One more time, read the same passage. This time, do not have any thoughts or trends in mind. Read it with your mind open and cherish what it tells you in your heart. After a period of five to ten minutes, write down what comes to your mind in the space provided after each reading. Think about obedience and how you can become what you have just read.

Romans 5:11-13 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Adam and Christ

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned—  13 sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law.

Galatians 6 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

Bear One Another’s Burdens

6 My friends,[a] if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted.  2 Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill[b] the law of Christ.  3 For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves.  4 All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride.  5 For all must carry their own loads.

6 Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.

7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.  8 If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.  9 So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.  10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

1 Corinthians 2 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

Proclaiming Christ Crucified

2 When I came to you, brothers and sisters,[a] I did not come proclaiming the mystery[b] of God to you in lofty words or wisdom.  2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.  3 And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.  4 My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom,[c] but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power,  5 so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

The True Wisdom of God

6 Yet among the mature, we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish.  7 But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.  8 None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  9 But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,

nor the human heart conceived,

what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.  11 For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God.  12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.  13 And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.[d]

14 Those who are unspiritual[e] do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.  15 Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.

16

“For who has known the mind of the Lord

so as to instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.

Galatians 5 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

5 1 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

The Nature of Christian Freedom

2 Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you.  3 Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law.  4 You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.  5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.  6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working[a] through love.

7 You were running well; who prevented you from obeying the truth?  8 Such persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.  9 A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough.  10 I am confident about you in the Lord that you will not think otherwise. But whoever it is that is confusing you will pay the penalty.  11 But my friends,[b] why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.  12 I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters;[c] only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence,[d] but through love become slaves to one another.  14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  15 If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

The Works of the Flesh

16 Live by the Spirit, I say and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.  17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.  18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.  19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness,  20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions,  21 envy,[e] drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The Fruit of the Spirit

22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,  23 gentlenesses, and self-control. There is no law against such things.  24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.  26 Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.

Here are some reflections that I have had about the World and the Spirit when I think of two universes or three, then look at obedience.

Characteristics of the World are:

  • Confined to thinking only of the physical reality and mental reality that reflects on the physical reality for meaning and purpose; only in the past and the present.
  • Seeks the default of the only source of power and meaning, in reality, the individual. The Power of the most powerful energy in the universe, the supernova can’t even be measured against the power of the simplest human mind that knows it. For what supernova knows that it knows? What supernova has the capacity for love? What muon or nuclear fission knows how to live forever? Similarly, of all the life forms that exist, any human mind posses the power of human reasoning that can’t be measured against any living organism, plant, or animal. We are spiritual apes. The power of the least in the kingdom of heaven can’t even be measured against the power of anyone possessing human reasoning on earth. The World will not accept the Mystery of Faith, accessed in part through humility and obedience to God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.
  • Obedience means I am limited to only human experiences, gained over a lifetime of trial and error, with many missteps to determine what is true, what is good, what is real. I must obey that which I can experience with my mind and the collective wisdom down through the ages. What is good is good for me. What is real is real for my limited time on this earth. What is true is, with all its emphasis on love and meaning, limited to mere human endeavor, good, to be sure, but it is limited.

Characteristics of the Spirit are:

  • Unconstrained by the physical and mental universes, three universes of the Spirit use both of them (physical and mental) to explain the past by looking at the present that to point towards the future can we can only approach and not define.
  • Seeks the default of the source of power, in reality, the Mystery of Faith, for lack of a more precise definition. In fact, we can’t define it, only approach its Being. Our human intelligence that knows more than all the matter and time of the physical and mental universes can’t know the spiritual universe except through foggy glass. We get some of it because Christ told us what was on the other side of the glass. That is the Faith of the Mystery of Faith. That is the Mystery that eludes people who cannot see with the heart, only with the mind. My Lay Cistercian practices and charisms, especially obedience, has to lead me to deeper penetration of reality, one which makes sense to me, one which I hope to live in Forever. See my depiction of the Mystery of Faith in the photo above. We enter this universe through Faith with humility and obedience to God’s will as our companions throughout the rest of our lives. Our heritage in this universe is adoption as sons and daughters of the Father, undeserved and sustained only by denying oneself and joining our hearts with the heart of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)
  • Obedience, in the spiritual universe (which also includes the physical and mental one) always points to an Omega point in the future. Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., scientist and philosopher, call it the point to which all reality evolves, the Omega Point. Obedience in this universe has a Being giving us the ability to live beyond our mortal deficiencies, the effects of Original Sin. Initially, in the Garden of Eden, God intended us to live Forever to tend reality as a steward of all reality. Instead, because of sin, we inherit the effect that we as humans cannot overcome. Jesus came to save us from our own doing, and in so doing had to become one of us. Philippians 2:5-12. Obedience, far from being limiting and binding our human nature to the slavery of self, frees us to seek the adoption and heritage originally intended for Adam and Eve and restored by Jesus Christ. The kingdom of heaven is within you.

I had a young lady ask me, when standing in line to order coffee at Starbucks, why the Catholic Church would be going against women as to deny them equal rights? She said anyone should not be subject to another in obedience, that is slavery, and we have come through unfortunate experiences of that in recent times.

This is a classic example of seeing obedience in two universes or in three. Yet, living in three universes is what we are actually called to do. It is the sign of contradiction: you pledge obedience to God’s word not your own, the working of the Holy Spirit through the heritage of the Church. You will be influenced by Original Sin and the temptations to be your own god. Without the charisms of humility and obedience to God’s will, life appears normal in the external but lacks the spiritual dimension.  Did you notice that war that exists between the Spirit and the Flesh (the World) in the passages you just read? If you are genuinely a member of the spiritual universe, you will feel the struggle to be spiritual, you will realize that what you are called to do may sometimes be at odds with the World, that you are in a battle between two universes and three universes, that you have the freedom to make the choice, but if you make a choice, you must have the help of God (Faith) to bring you home, and the Faith of the Church Universal to sustain you as you attempt to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil.2:5) each and every day. And what happened to that college student I met in Starbucks and asked about my old view of obedience? She just told me I was living in La-La land and had no clue what the World was about and walked away. I smiled and ordered a Coffee Venti without milk.

St. Benedict (ironically, living c. 540 a.d.) wrote, in Chapter 4 of his Rule, that his monks should obey the abbot, but in cases where the abbot does not practice what he preaches, they should do what he says and not what he does. St. Benedict was wise to the foibles of human nature. He also says “Your way of acting should be different from the World’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else.” If you take this admonition seriously, you live in three universes and not two. Obedience and humility become means to achieving the purpose of life, the Shema Yisrael (Deuteronomy 6:5), loving God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself.(Matthew 22:37ff)

Our permissive and increasingly secular societies (worldwide) vote about morality. Sometimes they are correct, other times, they fall far behind the trends of our heritage. Not all religions reflect the same beliefs. Be careful when you hear the word, Obedience. The Devil goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.

That in all things, may God be glorified.  –St. Benedict

WAYS TO APPROACH THE MYSTERY OF FAITH WITHOUT FRYING YOUR NEURONS A Lay Cistercian reflects how to approach the Mystery of Faith for those who wait before the Blessed Sacrament.

What follows is excerpted from my latest book, WAYS TO APPROACH THE MYSTERY OF FAITH WITHOUT FRYING YOUR NEURONS: A Lay Cistercian reflects how to approach the Mystery of Faith for those who wait before the Blessed Sacrament. I have added Internet resources so that this may become a journaling retreat on the mysterious topic of The Mystery of Faith.

THE CONFESSION OF A WEAK MIND

As one who seeks to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5), with various degrees of success, I am at peace with the mystery of faith being beyond my ability to know it at all. Christ has helped me to begin to transform myself from self to God by placing my energies on what I can do rather than what will always be beyond my ability to define it and then move on to the next challenge.

St. Meinrad Archabbey and School of Theology

I think about my time at St. Meinrad School of Theology, especially in 1962, when I was angry with myself that I could not comprehend the mystery of Faith–the Trinity. It just did not make sense. Can you imagine someone just beginning their spiritual journey even trying to grasp the depths of who God is? I was trying to do this with my feeble mind and my own human reasoning. Shades of Adam and Eve! It was a particularly hot day in September, one Indiana is noted for, that I decided to trudge up four flights of stairs to the chapel (located on the very top of the Seminary. I was angry with God, thinking that He made all of this theology stuff so difficult to know. I just sat there and tried to empty my mind (not a difficult thing for me to do then or now) of my anger and frustration. “Just help me a little bit, Lord,” I said.  What must have been thirty minutes passed and no help? No revelation from Heaven. No burning bush of Moses with God giving me divine knowledge. No satisfaction that God answered my prayer, a sure sign of my pride and lack of humility. Immediately, I noticed that it was very hot in that upper chapel. I got up to leave and made a double genuflection (on both knees bowing profoundly as is customary before exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. I got up and happened to look at the clear glass window high up in the chapel. My mouth dropped open in astonishment. High up in the chapel the light came into the window but there was something I had not noticed before. There was a diffusion of light spectrum colors from that light. In one second, I knew about as much of the Trinity as I was ever to learn. I realized that the Trinity was beyond my human ability to define it except through experiences that I have had, such as relationships between my parents and me. In that one instant, I knew that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were only representations for my mind to grasp what love is. In that one instant, I knew why Christ had to become one of us to show us how to love and to ask us to love others as he loves us (Philippians 2:5-12). In that one instant, it all made sense and I knew that I did not have to struggle to try to comprehend with human reasoning that which was pure energy, pure knowledge, and pure service. In that one instant, my heart was next to the heart of Christ with no assumptions on my part. In one instant, I knew that I would learn more about spirituality on my knees than in the classroom. I knew for certain that is was acceptable not to know everything but to continue to approach pure love for the rest of my life in peace and joy.

LEARNING POINTSThe Mystery of Faith is at the core of what we know as reality and all the reality that we can know. Humans minds are not equipped to go there.

  1. We can approach that which is unapproachable (like moving into the Sun in the physical universe) only with, in, and through Jesus, who is the Son of the Father, the Lord of Creation.
  2. Just as you must learn how to love, so you must learn how to love others as Christ loves us. We call that the art of spirituality.
  3. Lay Cistercian practices and charisms come from the daily practice of trying to love others as Christ loves us.
  4. St. Benedict formed the first School of Love and many monastic orders have used its Rule to help them focus on having in them the mind of Christ Jesus. (Phil 2:5).
  5. If you don’t take your spiritual development seriously, like you would your family, your work, your finances, don’t be surprised if you do not find love.
  6. It takes struggle, effort to practice the art of spirituality. We live in a condition called Original Sin, where the effects of the sin of Adam and Eve was death, working for your bread, disease, temptation to do evil instead of good, and struggle to perform practices consistently and conscientiously.
  7. The art of spirituality is making all things new in your life…until you die.
  8. You are responsible for your stewardship to Christ. If you just say you believe but don’t love others as Christ loved you, you will answer for it. Matthew 25:31-46.
  9. The art of loving is part of the art of spirituality.
  10. It is not the person who knows the most who will penetrate the Mystery of Faith but rather those who realize that it is a cloud of unknowing in this life, and are okay leaving it at that.
  11. You can only approach the Mystery of Faith as a human, but can appreciate it and receive its effects, if you sit on a park bench in the dead of Winter and long for Christ to stop by and share His heart with yours.

Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to 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. –Cistercian doxologyWe can know part of the Mystery of Faith, the part that we humans can access through tradition, faith informed by reason, our

THE MYSTERY OF FAITH PRODUCES WHAT IT SIGNIFIES

In the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, we adore the Father through the Son with the power of the Holy Spirit. In the Eucharist, we receive Jesus Christ, both God, and Man, into our hearts to help us adore the Godhead. In adoration of the Blessed Sacrament contains the totality of the mystery of faith, hidden under the appearance of bread. As a Lay Cistercian, all I can do is approach the mystery of faith with humility and openness to the Holy Spirit. I do so most often in silence and solitude. I realize that, when I stand in the presence of the totality of all that is, I can only absorb energy from God according to my capacitas dei. This I why adoration before the Blessed Sacrament not only energizes my spirit (lower case s) but puts me in the presence of the Holy Spirit (upper case S).

It is wonderful that Christ made himself present to each age through the Church in Eucharist and our prayer.  The effects of being in the presence of Christ is that we hope to become more like Him and less like us. Cistercian prayers and practices have been an eye-opener to me on just how powerful the Mystery of Faith is. This is not like the power of our Sun, but more like the power of the Son of God, unmeasurable, unknowable with mere human reasoning, approachable with love as Christ loved us.

THAT WHICH THE WORLD CANNOT CONTAIN OR EVEN FATHOM HAS IS SUBJECT TO THE SINFUL AND INCONSISTENCIES OF HUMANS.

Humans, with the archetypes of Adam and Eve (Genesis 2-3) are not evil, but sinful, and need constant Faith from God to sustain us in a world whose default is Original Sin. As a Lay Cistercian I must continuously convert my life from my false self to my true self. I must try to make all things new in me each day. I must use my abilities to reason, along with constantly asking for God’s mercy, to make sense of what the world presents as meaningful.

One of the astonishing aspects of God is that he entrust the holy to the unholy and sinful individuals. Even as Moses was coming down off Mr. Sinai with the Ten Commandments, the Israelites were worshipping the Golden Calf, or David sent Uriah the Hittite to his death so he could marry Bathsheba. Ten of the twelve tribes of Israel will be assumed into their enemies with only two surviving. Matthew’s chronicle of the lineage of Jesus contains many rascals and villains (Matthew 1:1-16). Peter denied Christ three times and Judas hanged himself. The pattern is clear. Jesus entrusts his Church to both saints and sinners. The main thing to remember is, the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.

In our time, there has been a proliferation of thinking about what Jesus meant and what he passed down to us. We are in a struggle between the forces of darkness who wish to derail the bark of Peter with violent storms that threaten our very belief about the Church. Remember, there is a difference between what you believe about the Church and the Faith of the Church. One comes from God, the other comes from your understanding of what you believe God is telling you. People who believe in Christ made in their own image and likeness will not have Faith in the Real Presence. That does not mean they are bad persons as much as ones with limited abilities to stand before the Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament and give praise to the Father and 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.  –Cistercian doxology

 WHY THE MYSTERY OF FAITH IS SO MYSTERIOUS

We don’t actually know why the Mystery of Faith is so mysterious. If we knew that, it wouldn’t still be a mystery, clouded from our knowing. It is precisely because it is mysterious, beyond knowing, beyond all telling, the cloud of unknowing, that I know that it must be real. Consider these thoughts. It is the ultimate sign of contradiction.

MY REFLECTION

God wanted humans to share in the love that is God. It is the love that only exists within the divine nature of God. The problem is, humans would never be able to love God by themselves nor share back who He is because humans have only human reasoning and human senses that limit responses, and recently acquired at that. Humans have only developed their capability to discover meaning recently in their awareness that they know that they know. In the fullness of time, human’s collective reasoning developed to such a condition, that they began to seek answers for love outside of themselves. The Greeks developed a family of gods to mimic what they saw around them. These gods lived in Olympus, the heavens and were quite distinct from humans because they were immortal, and some gods, the Father of the gods, Zeus, even had relations with mortals and had a child from this union, e.g. Perseus.

As Erich Fromm, author of the popular book, The Art of Loving says, humans don’t know how to love without practice and help. My book, Learning to Love: A Lay Cistercian reflects on the art of learning to love as Christ loves us, is my attempt to set forth that spirituality is also an art that must be learned. Part of this learning is to confront the Mystery of Faith, our ultimate purpose for all humans and what steps we can take to access that which cannot be accessed, to know that which is unknowable, to love that which cannot be loved by human love.

Christ is not only just someone who lived historically but is actually the key, the capstone that holds the monument of reason that we call Faith, together. This key is a person, but not just a starry-eyed Jew sitting on a hillside looking up at the stars and reflecting on his morality. The key to unlocking the gate of Heaven is God’s key. We don’t have the code. The good news is, Jesus shared the code with us. Some people today would have you believe that Jesus’ ego was so great that he wanted to be a messiah. Think about that. God’s plan was to prepare people on earth to be able to receive what could not be received, that God loved them. The Old Testament is the record of that relationship. Philippians 2:5 is the next chapter is the drama of salvation. Any human, then and now, could not stand before God and take in the full force of the love God has in the Trinity. We don’t have either the capability nor the capacity to do so.

 

Christ had to be God and human to talk to us about love and give us an invitation to join God. The language Christ used was metaphors and examples from nature, culminating in using himself as the key to open the door to true infinity and happiness with God. I am the way, the truth, and the life, Christ says. Christ never wrote a book but others around him did. John 20:30-31 says: “The Purpose of This Book

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.  31 But these are written so that you may come to believe[a] that Jesus is the Messiah,[b] the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”

The purpose of life becomes Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37. To love God with our whole heart, our whole mind, and all our strength and to love our neighbor ourselves. That is the purpose of life, but how do we humans make the jump from being human to something more, something that will allow us to stand in the presence of Love itself without frying our neurons. God made Christ his only Son to be human to tell us and more importantly, to show us, that we can indeed exist in Heaven without being afraid.

  • The problem Christ was, he died. Now what? Because Christ is God and human, his human body died but his divinity was unable to die. This resurrected body ascended into to Heaven to prepare a place for us. Read John 16:5-15. Christ left the Spirit of Truth for those to follow, and that includes us, to prepare ourselves to live forever with God in pure happiness.
  • We approach the Father only through the Son with the energy of the Holy Spirit. Not only that, we claim adoption as sons and daughters of the Father with Christ as our brother, our mediator in Heaven, one who will allow us to survive in a place where no human can approach God without God’s own love to help us. Forever.
  • I know that the Mystery of Faith is looking through a cloudy glass, like the one you see here. I know that I know but I also know that what there is to know might be part of the divine nature of God Himself and is the cloud of the unknowing. I accept that I don’t know. The great St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P., when asked at the end of his life to explain his contemplations on God said that everything he had learned about God up to now was so much straw, compared to what there is to know about God.  In the first part of this book, I wanted you to read the thinking of some people who tried to comprehend the Mystery of Faith. Ultimately, you are not me; I am not you; God is not you; and you, most certainly, not God. –Michael F. Conrad

THE MYSTERY OF FAITH: MY SUMMARY  THOUGHTS

Write down your thoughts about the Mystery of Faith and how you can to practice standing vigil before the Blessed Sacrament.

  1. The Mystery of Faith is real, just not a reality that can be accessed fully by humans.
  2. Christ became one of us to help us move closer to approaching the Father, as He does by fulfilling the will of God.
  3. Christ is God and also human. As God, Christ is the fullness of the Mystery of Faith. As a human, Christ shows us how to approach the Father through parables, activities are written down in Scripture and practiced through the Church in each age.
  4. The Mystery of Faith contains the knowledge of God, pure nature, 100% of his nature, which, by the way, is Divine (we don’t have a clue what that means except for what Christ told us and showed us). We have neither the capacity nor the capability to approach that with mere reason. It takes Faith informed by reason to realize that we are never able to fully comprehend the Mystery of Faith, only appreciate the love that God must have for us to make us adopted sons and daughters. That is why we cannot access the Mystery of Faith but only approach it and try to become more like God and less like our selves.
  5. Scientific explanation pales in comparison to what reality actually is. They still think reality is made up of two universes (the physical one they can see and the mental one that allows them to know more and more about what is around us).
  6. It is okay not to be able to see the totality of all that is. It is not okay to stop trying to seek the Mystery of Faith in all its subtleties.

As a Lay Cistercian, being in the presence of the Real Presence is at the core of my prayer life. I know that I must approach the Mystery of Faith each day in all its dynamic element, one of which is the Blessed Sacrament. My hope is that this book is the occasion for you to move away from your old self and closer to Christ. That in all things, may God be glorified. –St. Benedict

 

THE ART OF SPIRITUALITY

THE ART OF SPIRITUALITY

I have excerpted some ideas about the great Mysterium  Fidei, the Mystery of Faith, from my most recent book entitled, YOU JUST MADE YOUR PROFESSION AS A CATHOLIC, NOW WHAT? A Lay Cistercian reflects on ten exercises you need to sustain Christ in your heart. 

It all began with me when I read Erich Fromm’s book about The Art of Loving. His premise is, you are not granted infused knowledge on how to love, you must learn it. Just like Faith, which you get at Baptism, but you must do something with it to use it as God intended, (Matthew 25:36)  Where you learn it and how you learn it shapes who you are and what you become. In the same way, I reasoned, you must learn how to love in the spiritual universe. You get adoption of being a son or daughter of the Father which gives you the graces and energy needed to learn what it means to love others as Christ loves us. The Art of Spirituality, or How to Love as Christ loves us, has several characteristics. Here are just a few, based on a Lectio Divina meditation I had (Phil. 2:5). The Art of Spirituality means:

  • Realizing that God gives you the gift of Faith but that you must actualized it by doing something with it. Adam and Eve wanted a free ride.
  • The ability to approach the Mystery of Faith with Christ and learn how to love.
  • You recognize that Church Regional and Church Local and Lay Cistercians is a school for learning how to love as Christ loves us.
  • You practice seeing the Eucharist as the Real Presence of Christ, the food you must eat to sustain the Art of Spirituality.
  • You see with the eyes of Faith and listen with the ear of the heart (St. Benedict, Prologue).
  • You realize there are two dimensions, both important but one is greater than the other: the realm of the mind and realm of the heart.
  • Seeking the kingdom of heaven first, and realizing that everything else is second.
  • You have a yearning or longing in your heart to sit on a park bench in the dead of Winter waiting for Christ to pass by.
  • You look for ways to go into the place the late Stephen Hawking could not look, deep in your soul to contemplate on the love Christ had for each of us.
  • You begin to see how all things fit together as one.
  • You realize the importance of loving fiercely and begin to practice it for the rest of your life.
  • You read the Prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 4, 5, 7 in the hopes you can become what you read.
  • You look forward to contemplation on loving others as Christ loves us as you sit before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration.
  • You seek to use the realm of the mind to help you open up your heart to sit next to the heart of Christ and just be.
  • You use silence, solitude, prayer, work, and community to move from self to God.
  • You realize that solitude can be external (you are alone) or internal (you search for meaning and purpose within you). The kingdom of God is within you.
  • You don’t worry about others going to Heaven or not making it. You take responsibility for your own actions and seek mercy for you and others. (Matthew 25:36) “I am not you; you are not me; God is not you; and you, most certainly, are not God.” –Michael F. Conrad, Ed.D.
  • You don’t learn what love is in five minutes. You can’t learn about love without people. You won’t learn about what it means to love others as Christ loves you without knowing what Christ showed us about how to love.
  • God has a problem. We can’t go to Heaven and exist on that level without some help. The help is Jesus Christ. How we do that is to love others as Christ loves us. God takes care of the rest, so much so, that He made you an adopted son or daughter through Faith.
  • You can’t sustain your Faith as a Catholic (old or new) without love. You cultivate love by serving others. You nurture love by loving your neighbor as yourself. Faith is tied ups inexorably with hope and love, and the greatest of these, because it is a product of Faith is love.
  • You don’t learn spirituality overnight. It takes practice. Putting yourself in the presence of Christ takes spiritual muscles so you won’t wimp out and give in to your spiritual attention level (two minutes in most cases). How will you sustain yourself in Heaven for all eternity if you can’t watch with Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane for a few minutes? The Apostles had trouble. You must build up your Faith just like you do your stamina when you go to the gym and work out. It is called prayer and it comes from God through Christ. The Art of Spirituality depend upon you to make it happen, you don’t get a free ride like Adam and Eve tried to do in the Garden of Eden.

THE MYSTERY OF FAITH

The Art of Spirituality is the first book of my three book series entitled, Spiritual Apes: Our Journey to Forever. (You can order this book from this blog in the STORE tab,) I had originally titled it, The Art of Spirituality, but changed it later. It uses the premise that Spirituality is an art to be learned and not an infused mindset where we don’t have any responsibility for our behaviors or how well we love others as Christ loves us.

As a Lay Cistercian, I appreciate the Cistercian spirituality that allows me to focus on Christ through practices and charisms that move me from my false self to my true self. Daily conversion of mores or morals is a key component of being a Lay Cistercian. We do that by being present to the one we love through Eucharist, through Liturgy of the Hours, through Lectio Divina, by meditating and contemplating before the Blessed Sacrament, through reading and reverencing Scriptures, by trying to become what we read in Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict. These charisms, when practiced with Christ, also allow me to grow in  humility, obedience to God’s will, stability in location, and place my heart next to the heart of Christ and then wait. You can’t believe how wonderful waiting for Christ is. Anticipation, longing and seeking Christ produces energy and grace in me. I don’t get this automatically, but must work to place my heart next to Christ. The results of Original Sin is, like Adam and Eve, we don’t get anything without working for our bread. No free lunch but the lunch is free, if that makes any sense.

The Art of Spirituality has, at its center the Mysterium Fidei, the mystery of faith, the cloud of the unknowing, the compendium of all that was, is, and will be. It is the pure energy of God, pure knowledge, pure love, resulting in pure service. The Trinity is the nuclear fission of spirituality. It produces more energy that it is. We share in that energy because of Christ, our mediator with the Father, our brother because we are adopted sons or daughters of the Father, with the Holy Spirit because we do in our sinful lives what Christ told us to do, to love others as He loves us.

The pure energy of God is unapproachable by any human, but Christ is our way, the truth, and the life, because he is  both God and human and the only door through which we must pass to fulfill our destiny as human beings.

The reason we even have an art of spirituality is to approach the Father as Christ showed us. There is a mental component to this art where we learn how to do God’s will for us, and there is a component of the heart where we learn to love others as Christ loves us. I view the Art of Spirituality, in my case as a Lay Cistercian, as the way which is Christ. The truth is how I use Cistercian prayer, in silence and solitude, to approach God (The Mystery of Faith) and receive love and peace from Christ so I can pass it on.

SOME CRAZY THOUGHTS ABOUT THE MYSTERY OF FAITH

  • We say it every time we attend Eucharist, the prayer of the Church Universal. It is the proclamation of “The Mystery of Faith” that accompanies the priest making Christ present under the appearance of bread and wine. What do we respond? “When when eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes again.”
  • The ancient prayer of the Last Supper, the ultimate Thanksgiving sacrifice of the people of God to the Father through, with and in Christ in union with the Holy Spirit, is a mystery indeed. It doesn’t makes sense just with reason, but with faith informed by reason, it becomes clearer. Do you see the photo of the window and the glass at the beginning of my reflection? The mystery of faith is what is behind the foggy window. I can’t quite make it out, but know that something is there. Why is that?
  • We are not made for heaven but for earth an even then for up to 100 years of age, if we are lucky, or, in some cases, unlucky. Everything we know has time and various configurations of matter. We can view the immensity of the universe, or look at the sub-atomic world of particles, yet the mystery of Faith is beyond our knowing (in the sense of defining).
  • Science assumes that there is only one physical universe and we access it though our minds (physical and mental universes). We want to define matter and time with the ever-expanding toolkit of modern mathematics and physical plus other sciences. Defining means we can control what we define and discover what is true from what is conjecture. All of this is good. Science, in the sense of the scientific methodology is not somehow false. Quite to the contrary. The basis of science is wonder at what is, why it is, how it is. Is that all there is?
  • The art of spirituality is about using measurements to describe reality that include physical, mental, and spiritual universes. This expands reality using assumptions that are seemingly at odds with each other. Science and Faith seems to be incompatible. The mystery of Faith means there is a reality out there we humans are unable to comprehend with out existing intelligence. It is a sign of contradiction to those who do not use the assumptions of the art of spirituality.
  • With mere human knowledge, I will not be able to define the mystery of faith It see spirituality as a window but one where the light is off. I can’t make out anything or even know anything is on the other side of the glass.
  • With faith informed by reason, I realize that mere human intelligence cannot begin to comprehend who God is. It took Christ to become one of us to give us very simple steps (love one another as I have loved you). We know what spiritual love is because Christ showed us. Using humility and obedience to God will, we can see what is on the other side of the glass, but it is murky or fogged up. We can see that there are images there but can’t quite make them out. Christ tells us there is something beyond the foggy window. He give us Himself in Eucharist to provide the energy to endure in this lifetime and live in the next. He is with us when we keep trying and fail to love with all our hearts, our minds and our strength and our neighbor as ourself. He makes all things new while we live so that we have a frame of reference on how to live after we die.
  • Here is a thought that will knock your socks off. With human knowledge, the human intellect, the combined knowledge of all of us that have gone before us, those who are with us not, and also those who are to come, we could never define the Mystery of Faith. Why? The knowledge involved is pure knowledge, 100% of the divine nature, of the God who is, who is now, and who is to come. The Mystery of Faith is the cloud of the unknowing, awaiting our entry into Heaven where we shall see him face to face (with Christ’s help). This is why the picture you see at the beginning of this piece is so representative of me. I am the cup standing in the simplicity of the silence and solitude of my heart. I can see something through the foggy glass, but can’t quite see it. Heaven is when I can see the love that I have struggled to have in my mind face to face. No matter what my situation in life, love is my purpose, specifically Philippians 2:5.  The most I can hope for is to sit on a park bench in the dead of Winter and long for Christ to stop by and be with me as I approach the Mystery of Faith. It is best not to worry about explaining or defining great Mysteries like Eucharist, The Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the seeming contradiction of a Church that is holy yet run by sinful humans, the first of whom was St. Peter.
    • As the fox says to the Little Prince, in the book, The Little Prince, one of my favorite reads,   “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery
    • “Nothing can match the treasure of common memories, of trials endured together, of quarrels and reconciliations and generous emotions. It is idle, having planted an acorn in the morning, to expect that afternoon to sit in the shade of the oak.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery
    • “If you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery
    • “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery
    • https://www.azquotes.com/author/12890-Antoine_de_Saint_Exupery

CONFESSION OF A WEAK MIND 

As one who seeks to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5), with various degrees of success, am at peace with the mystery of faith being beyond my ability to know it all. Christ has helped me to begin to transform myself from self to God by placing my energies on what I can do rather than what will always be beyond my ability to define it and then move on to the next challenge.

Image result for st. meinrad school of theology

I think about to my time at St. Meinrad School of Theology, in 1962, when I was angry with myself that I could not comprehend the mystery of faith–the Trinity. Can you imagine someone just beginning their spiritual journey even trying to grasp the depths of who God is? I was trying to do this with my  feeble mind and human reasoning. Shades of Adam and Eve! It was a particularly hot day in September, one Indiana is noted for, that I decided to trudge up four flights of stairs to the chapel (located on the very top of the Seminary. I was angry with God, thinking that He made all of this theology stuff so difficult to know. I just stat there and tried to empty my mind (not a difficult thing for me to do then or now) of my anger and frustration. “Just help me a little bit, Lord.” I said.  What must have been thirty minutes passed and no help. No revelation from Heaven. No burning bush of Moses with God giving me divine knowledge. No satisfaction that God answered my prayer, a sure sign of my pride and lack of humility. Immediately, I noticed that it was very hot in that upper chapel. I got up to leave and made a double genuflection (on both knees bowing profoundly as is customary before exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. I got up and happened to look at the clear glass window high up in the chapel. My mouth dropped open in astonishment. High up in the chapel the light came into the window but there was something I had not noticed before. There was a diffusion of light spectrum colors from that light. In one second, I knew about as much of the Trinity as I was ever to learn. I realized that the Trinity was beyond my human ability to define it except through experiences that I have had, such as relationships between my parents and me. In that one instant, I knew that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were only representations for my mind to grasp what love is. In that one instant, I knew why Christ had to become one of us to show us how to love and to ask us to love others as he loves us (Philippians 2:5-12). In that one instant, it all made sense and I knew that I did not have to struggle to try to comprehend with human reasoning that which was pure energy, pure knowledge, and pure service. In that one instant, my heart was next to the heart of Christ with no assumptions on my part. In one instant, I knew that I would learn more about spirituality on my knees that in the classroom.

LEARNING POINTS

The Mystery of Faith is at the core of what we know as reality and all the reality that we can know. Humans minds are not equip to go there. We can approach that which is unapproachable (like moving into the Sun in the physical universe) only with, in, and through Jesus, who is the Son of the Father, the Lord of Creation.

Just as you must learn how to love, so you must learn how to love others as Christ loves us. We call that the art of spirituality.

Lay Cistercian practices and charisms come from frequent practice of trying to love.

St. Benedict formed the first School of Love and many monastic orders have used its Rule to help them focus on having in them the mind of Christ Jesus. (Phil 2:5).

If you don’t take your spiritual development seriously, like yo would your family, your work, your finances, don’t be surprised if you do not find love.

It takes struggle to practice the art of spirituality. We live in a condition called Original Sin, where the effects of the sin of Adam and Eve was death, working for your bread, disease, temptation to do evil instead of good, and struggle to perform practices consistently and conscienciously.

The art of spirituality is making all things new in your life…until you die.

You are responsible for your stewardship to Christ. If you just say you believe but don’t love others as Christ loved you, you will answer for it.  Matthew 25:31-46.

The art of loving is part of the art of spirituality.

It is not the person who knows the most who will penetrate the Mystery of Faith but rather those who realitze that it is a cloud of unknowing in this life, and are okay leaving it at that.

You can only approach the Mystery of Faith as a human, but can appreciate it and receive its effects, if you sit on a park bench in the dead of Winter and long for Christ to stop by and share His heart with yours.

Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to 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. –Cistercian doxology

THE SMELL OF SIN

It might seem like an anomaly to say that sin can have a smell. I must be the only one who thinks this but I can smell hatred, I can smell what is rotten. I can see what decays and is not sustaining of good morals. That is not to say I am the center of all morality, Jesus is that, but I can detect rotten fruit from good fruit.

You realize, don’t you, that I am not speaking of the physical and mental universes, which I use my reason, my senses, my environment to tell what smells, what looks evil, what feels bad. I speak of smelling in the spiritual universe (physical, mental and spiritual universes).  If all of us can smell what is evil, see what is evil, and know what it is, why do we humans keep making fools out of ourselves in the name of freedom of choice.

Some people can smell evil, some cannot. Have you had the exprerience of smelling a rotten potato in a bag. Gag!  If we seek to love God with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our strength and our neighbor as ourself, then what is not that smells, sometimes just a whiff and sometimes downright repulsive. You know the sayings from Scripture that point to something not being quite right.

John 15 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

Jesus the True Vine

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes[a] to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed[b] by the word that I have spoken to you.

Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Next time you watch the nightly news of any channel, see if you can smell hatred, calumny, falsehood, detraction, lying, and evil. Am I the only one who smells this?
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SIXTY SECOND CATHOLIC: Serving Two Masters

Scripture tells us we cannot serve two masters. This is the classic “either-or” dichotomy. You can do both. You must choose one. Jesus uses this dilemma is describing choices. I think this is worth an examination. There are probably many of these choices that go unnoticed because we are not tuned into what the Holy Spirit is telling us. Here are six such dichotomies and my reflections.

God and Money. 24* “No one can serve two masters.m He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

  1. Either you are god or God is God. You are god when you don’t love others as Christ loves you. All sin is rooted in this deception. It is one of the three temptations of Christ and is certainly at work in today’s Church, where the forces of evil try to seduce the faithful and those with weak faith to abandoning Christ because some of his followers are corrupt. As I said once before, show me a denomination that is without sin and I will join that body immediately. So far, no one measures up.
  2. Either you are a church or the Church Universal is the Body of Christ. One of the unintended consequences of the Protestant Reformation was not a continuity of doctrine, practice, or prayer but just the opposite. Each person became his or her own church. If you don’t like the way the Church does things, start your own. If you disagree with the Catholic Church to the point where the accidentals become the essentials, you are your own Church. If you are your own Church, you have a fool for a pope.
  3. Either you have faith that Christ is present in the Eucharist and the Blessed Sacrament, body and blood, soul and divinity, and is real food, or you do not. St. Thomas Aquinas said about Christ present under the appearance of bread,” To those who have no faith, no answer is possible; to those who have faith, no answer is necessary.” There are two types of Catholics, according to how I view reality, those who truly believe in the Real Presence, and those who just believe that we make Christ present when we think about him in our hearts. If I would ask you the question, “What do you see?” when you look at the Blessed Sacrament or the Eucharistic prayer, your answer would tell me if you have the foundation needed to approach the Mystery of Faith.
  4. Either you believe that there are two universes or you believe that there are three. The latter means you can “listen” with the ear of the heart (St. Benedict’s Prologue to his Rule), or you just live in the World (two universes, physical and mental).

YOU HAVE THE FREEDOM TO CHOOSE GOOD OR EVIL 

In this dichotomy, one will lead you to heaven and one will not. An Orthopedic Surgeon told me one time that I was wasting my life as a Lay Cistercian, chasing spiritual windmills that don’t do anything but take up time. I asked him which profession will get us to heaven? Of course, his assumptions are that neither one will because there is no heaven, no hell.

Professor Dumbledore tells Harry Potter, in the Chamber of Secrets movie about the choices we make.

“[The sorting hat] only put me in Gryffindor,” said Harry in a defeated voice, “because I asked not to go in Slytherin…”

“Exactly,” said Dumbledore, beaming once more. “Which makes you very different from Tom Riddle. It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

Read Philippians 2:5-12. Jesus became one of us, astoundingly, to give us that choice of good so that evil would not be the default in each age. That is the Good News. Christ not only give us the choice of what is good but tells us he is the way, the truth, and the life. Our life is all about discovering what that means. What that means is all about love (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37). Love is all about loving others because Christ first loved us. I have been honored to be selected by the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Georgia, to join them in this search.

As the Knight says to Indiana Jones,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0TalLrtZ24

You are not able to choose Christ if there are no choices. There are consequences to all our choices, good ones and bad one. We may not seem them at once, but they are there. The wages of sin are death. The choice of Christ is everlasting life. Choose wisely.

Praise to the Father and to the Son and to 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. –Cistercian doxology

 

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MAKING RETIREMENT MEANINGFUL: Do you have the discipline to love others as Christ loves us?

You have heard of those who retire and then, very soon after retirement, they die unexpectedly. We do not know the day nor the hour when we will die but we can do something about living fully in retirement. Far be it to tell you what to do, but I can share with you my reflections as a Lay Cistercian on what I do. You can take what you need from the table of the Lord and feed yourself, somewhat like a buffet. One of the dishes at the table is having a schedule to your life. Routine is the key for seniors to survive and even thrive in what might seem like the chaos that the World presents are meaningful.

As a Lay Cistercian, I find it helpful to have a plan of spirituality, in my case contemplative Cistercian spirituality, to help me focus on having in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) I retired three times, went back to work three times, and now, at the age of 78.2 years of age, I need something in my life to give me meaning, fulfillment and, most of all, hope that there is something on the other side of death. something that Jesus promised us as adopted sons and daughters of the Father. I do this in the context of communities of Faith, those of my Lay Cistercian colleagues, and those at my faith community of Good Shepherd parish in Tallahassee, Florida.

I just finished writing a manuscript for a book on contemplative spirituality (my 51st) since 2000.  You can see all of them on ww.amazon.com/books/dr. michael f. conrad The book is entitled MAKING RETIREMENT MEANINGFUL: A Lay Cistercian reflects on six questions retirees must answer in their search for meaning and fulfillmentI wrote it for those who retire to give them a perspective that will lead to fulfillment beyond anything that could ever imagine. The World can give it. It is all about love, and we know what love is because Christ first loved us.  

My point is, what follows comes from this book. Here I am at 78 and still cranking out iceas for others to read. I don’t even know if anyone reads this stuff. I don’t care. I am compelled to write day in and day out, in season and out of season. I made the big mistake of opening up the spikot of the Holy Spirit and now I can’t shut it off. I attend Gathering Day at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Georgia as much as I can. It is a five hour trip (one way).  My daily Lectio Divina takes the form of writing down what I hear the Holy Spirit telling (just as I am doing right now) and putting it on a blog or in a book for parishes to use to help them establish a contemplative approach to prayer. Do I always have good ideas? Wrong question. Do I promote my work with others? Wrong question. I don’t have money to sustain this apostolate unless I take it from my meager funds, and even then my spouse does not want me to spend any money at all on it. But, I must. Although I am retired in the view of the World, I am very much alive in the realm of the Spirit and shall probably die trying to get my last ideas on paper for you to read. Do you see what sustains me in my retirement? It is trying to love God with all my heart, all my mind, and all my strength and my neighbor as myself. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37) I try to love others as Christ loves us. I identify with St. Paul in Philippians 3:7-16. I read the Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 4 every day, in hopes that I might become what I read. Each new day is a new opportunity to practice listening with the ear of the heart (Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict). It is a transformation from the mind to the heart, using the heart of Christ as my source of pure energy, pure love, pure service.

MY SYSTEM OF SPIRITUALITY TO HELP SUSTAIN MY CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE

You need to get a schedule and a system of spirituality in which you discover meaning in retirement. The following pages are samples of the horarium (hourly agenda) I use to organize my day as a Lay Cistercian. I must tell you that I am retired and have time to devote to the practice of how to love as Jesus did. Not everyone has the great opportunity I have, to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and Rosary in the parish. If I don’t keep it, no big deal, but it is an anchor. I off you an example of what I have used to design a system of spiituality for my particular needs. Being a Lay Cistercian, when looking at a way to practice contemplative spirituality, I am mindful of the following characteristics:

  • Each day, I must try to use it routinely as a habit. The practice of contemplative spirituality is just that, each day, at the same time, without fail, to do what you say you are going to do. I can look back on my week and examine my couscience to see how well I did. There is no sin attached to doing or not doing it. It is how much time and attention I give to sitting next to the heart of Jesus. If I am to deny myself and take up my cross daily and follow Christ, then I must daily practice the exercises that give me the srength to do that.
  • Each day, I must pray as I can. The great advice from Brother Michael, O.C.S.O. is so simple yet so profound. I now pray as I can, when I can, where I can, and how long as I can.
  • Each day, I must seek a balance between my prayer life and my work. My work, being retired, is to devote time to writing my blog and books that help parishes to use contemplative prayer as a way to move away from my false self closer to Christ.
  • Each day, I try to increase the “capcitas dei” trying to make room for Christ. I do this by not watching hateful television news shows of all networks, or reading the Tabloid-obcessed major newpapers and magazines who spew hatred, falsehood, hopelessness, and secular values that make those, who are seduced by the siren call of making themselves into god.

 My Center: Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus. –Philippians 2:5

Five or Six Practices to support my center: These are Cistercian charisms and practices.

Silence—When I think of silence, I think of lack of worldly noise. But, it is more than just lack of external noises, like television,children playing, going to work, and traveling in a car. For me, I tryto be conscious that all these sounds give glory to the Father throughthe Son, in union with the Holy Spirit. I try to make a space where I can reflect on my center with some degree of privacy. Silence ofmy heart helps me sustain the other Cistercian charisms andpractices and so grow in fierce love.

Solitude— Solitude, for me, means carving out a space and quiet time to focus on how to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus.For the Cistercian monks, solitude means carving out a time and space that permits them to focus on loving God with their whole heart, whole soul and whole mind without external distractions. For the Lay Cistercian, we also concentrate on fashioning a little prayer nest but we live in the secular world and therefore embrace all the distractions as part of our prayer to the Father. St. Benedict says, “That in all things, God be glorified.”

Prayer—Prayer is lifting the heart and mind to God. As a Lay Cistercian, I actively put myself in the presence of God using prayer, both public and private. Even if I sometimes feel that prayer is repetitious and rote, I have noticed that the more I try to grow deeper using prayer, rather than fighting the externals, the more peace there is in my spirit. It is resting my heart in the heart of Christ that helps me love fiercely.

Work—Work as the world sees it is a means to make money. Work with a spiritual approach is transforming the ordinary tasks of the day into those that give glory and praise to the Father. Work is prayer, if offered up as praise and glory to the Father.

Community—Lay Cistercians gravitate towards communal gatherings to refresh the soul and to transform themselves deeper in the mind and heart of Christ Jesus. Even though there is great distance between us, we link together as one in our commitment to each other because we are all linked through the mind and heart of Christ Jesus. Sharing Christ with each other nourishes the Spirit in me.

  1. My spiritual goals for the rest of my life
  2. 1 Take up your cross daily and follow Christ. The cross in this case is being consistent in spiritual practices. Although there is no penalty attached for not preforming them, the more you want to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus, the more you will have what you wish for. Take what comes your way and transform it through Christ Jesus.
  3. Solitude in the midst of community. Community here means a support and sustaining faith group, such as Lay Cistercians of Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Ga. and Good Shepherd faith community at daily Mass and Liturgy of the Hours, with its ministries to the poor, the sick and those in need. Where two or three gather in my name, says the Master, there I am also.
  4. Work to share my writings and adult learning about Cistercian spiritual practices.
  5. Be open to the possibility of the manifestibility of all being! What seems like a mouthful of marbles is actual a way of saying that I will be more conscious of loving God with my whole heart, my whole mind, and my whole soul and my neighbor as myself.

Spiritual Practices I use to sustain my center:

These practices are little nests I carve out of my routine, not because I need the discipline but because they place me in direct contact with the mind and heart of Christ.

Eucharist – The Sacrament of unity with God through Christ Jesus with the Holy Spirit as Advocate. This is the bread of Heaven. This is the pure energy of God for my transformation. This is my destiny in one prayer of gratitude with the community of believers.

Lectio Divina—This ancient, monastic practice allows me to growing deeper in spiritual awareness, there are four steps. Read (lectio); Meditate (meditatio); Pray (oratio); Contemplate (contemplatio).

Meditation and Spiritual Reading: This practice give me a time to focus on Scriptures, Spiritual Readings about how to grow deeper in Christ Jesus.

The Rosary: Meditations on the life and purpose of Christ Jesus One of my favorite practices is this mantra-like prayer to help me meditate on the highpoints in the life of Jesus.

Liturgy of the Hours: This practice, refined by St. Benedict in 580 AD in his Rule of St. Benedict, organizes the monks to pray the Psalms seven times a day. I pray the Psalms at least twice a day. The key is consistency and prayer in common, if possible. It is the prayer of the Catholic Church every hour of the day, every day of the week, giving praise, honor and glory to the Father through the Son in union with the Holy Spirit.

Eucharistic Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament: I believe that Jesus Christ is present, body and blood, soul and divinity, under the appearance of the bread. This is an ancient practice and one of the most revered of all practices. If this is indeed the living Christ, why would you not want to visit? This takes fierce love to practice.

Reading Chapter 4 or some part of  the Rule of St. Benedict every day. By reading Chapter 4 each day, I hope to become what I read.

How I organize my daily practices:

Horarium: (This is the default schedule of my spiritual practice.)

4:00 a.m. Rise

4:10 a.m. Silent Prayer

Morning Offering and Dedication of the Day

Monday: In reparation for my sins and

those of the Church, those on my prayer

list

Tuesday: For all family, friends, teachers,

those on my prayer list

Wednesday: In honor of the Sacred Heart

of Jesus, Immaculate Heart of Mary, and

St. Joseph, those on my prayer list

Thursday: For all Lay Cistercians, Monks

of Holy Spirit Monastery, Monks of St.

Meinrad Archabbey, priests and religious

of Diocese of Evansville, Monks of

Norcia, Italy and those on my prayer list

Friday: For an increase in grace to love

God with all my heart, all my soul, all my

mind and my neighbor as myself.

Saturday: For all deceased, an increase in

my faith through the Holy Spirit and for

those on my prayer list.

Sunday: To give praise, honor and glory

to the Father through the Son my means

of the Holy Spirit, the God who is, was,

and is to come at the end of the ages

4:30 a.m. Liturgy of the Hours: Readings or writing in private (optional)

5:00 a.m. Exercise (Monday through Friday)

6:30 a.m. Breakfast:

7:40 a.m. Liturgy of the Word at Good Shepherd

            Office of Readings and Morning Prayer in common

            Rosary in common

9:00 a.m. Holy Mass: In common (Sunday at 8:00 a.m.)

1:00 a.m. Exercise at gym: (Monday through Sunday)

11: 15 a.m. Work: Writing, Blog, Special Projects

12:00 a.m. Watch Colin Cowherd on television FX1

2:00 p.m.Work: Writing, Blog, Special Projects

4:30-5:30 p.m. Adoration before Blessed Sacrament in common

            Lectio Divina and Meditation in private

            Liturgy of the Hours: Evening Prayer in common

5:30 p.m. Supper

6:00-8:00 p.m. Exercise, Work, Read.

8:00 p.m. Liturgy of the Hours: Night Prayer in private (optional)

8:30 p.m. Work: Continue writing, Blog, Special Projects

WHAT I HAVE NOTICED ABOUT MYSELF SINCE MAKING A SCHEDULE AND KEEPING IT

  • I don’t always keep the schedule perfectly, but I always have it as a North on my compass of daily practice.
  • I look forward to spending more time with Christ and less time with television, newspapers, listening to hateful news, and other distractions that the world has to offer.
  • You don’t need to fill in the daily schedule all at once. Pick out just one prayer practice (e.g. Lectio Divina) and try it every day for 30 days. At the end of that time evaluate yourself on a) your daily prayer; b) what you experienced by sitting next to the heart of Christ.
  • I look forward to meet Christ in Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, Rosary,

MY RECOMMENDATION FOR THOSE WHO RETIRE

  • Revisit your spiritual heritage with fresh eyes.
  • Sit  on a park bench in the dead of Winter and wait for Christ to pass by. Feel the heart of Christ beating, transforming your false self to your true self.
  • Realize that you are an adopted son or daughter of the Father and the implications of that for your next leg of the journey.
  • Pass on your spiritual heritage to those you love. Of course, if it is worth nothing, don’t pass it on, just give them your money and property.
  • Get a schedule and practice loving others as Christ loves us.
  • Join others in a community of faith.

Praise be the Father and 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. –Cistercian doxology

NOTA BENE: If you are retired and bored with what the World offers as exciting, I need some help in moving all this foward.

THE SIXTY SECOND CATHOLIC: Don’t get too cocky.

Here are some thoughts about our preoccupation with exclusivity and elitism.

  • Is there something beyond gender, male and female?
  • Is there something beyond political status, such as king, senator, congressman, citizen?
  • Is there something beyond race, color, nationality, or tribe?
  • Is there something beyond being Democrat, Republican, or whatever?
  • Is there something beyond youth, teen, young adult, adult?
  • Is there something beyond  career?
  • Is there something beyond marriage and non married?
  • Is there something beyond pope, bishop, priest, deacon, various ministries, laity?
  • Is there something beyond the body?

Yes. It is called Heaven. As a Catholic, you belong to the Church Universal (those in Heaven, those awaiting their judgment on earth, those awaiting purification). Don’t worry about who is going to Heaven. That is pride. Worry about you loving God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37). Put another way, seek first the kindgom of Heaven and all else will be given to you besides.

The Purpose of the Law

19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring[i] would come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained through angels by a mediator. 20 Now a mediator involves more than one party; but God is one.

21 Is the law then opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law. 22 But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ[j] might be given to those who believe.

2Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring,[k] heirs according to the promise. (emphases mine)

As a Lay Cistercian trying to convert my life each day to be more like Christ, I am beginning to see trials and tribulations as I walk down my path as opportunities to practice love, such as loving those who wish you were dead, can’t stand the sight of you, and ridicule your God. That is not easy. It is an opportunity for grace not a test of good verses evil.

Perspective is the key in this case. If you seek to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5), you will not judge others but ask for mercy for them and you. You will not try to second guess the Holy Spirit and make up your own sexual morality but try to focus on being a temple of the Holy Spirit (although with some cracks showing).

Check out the immensity of space and time in this Youtube video, but realize that reality is the Mystery of Faith, beyond what the mind of man can conceive.

Refrain from being seduced into belonging to a group that does lead you to Heaven.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to 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. –-Cistercian doxology

FUN WITH THE PSALMS

FUN WITH THE PSALMS

I love to recite the following Psalm, #136, mainly because it is fun to say over and over, like a mantra.  These Psalms with their responses are perfect for two choirs of people alternative sides. I share with you Psalm 136, Liturgy of the Hours, which I recited today in choir at my parish community of Good Shepherd, Tallahassee, Florida.

Psalm 136 (NRSVCE) 

God’s Work in Creation and in History

1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

2  O give thanks to the God of gods,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

3  O give thanks to the Lord of lords,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

4  who alone does great wonders,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

5  who by understanding made the heavens,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

6  who spread out the earth on the waters,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

7  who made the great lights,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

8  the sun to rule over the day,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

9  the moon and stars to rule over the night,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

10 who struck Egypt through their firstborn,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

11  and brought Israel out from among them,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

12  with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

13  who divided the Red Sea[a] in two,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

14  and made Israel pass through the midst of it,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

15  but overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea,[b]

for his steadfast love endures forever;

16  who led his people through the wilderness,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

17  who struck down great kings,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

8  and killed famous kings,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

19  Sihon, king of the Amorites,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

20  and Og, king of Bashan,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

21 and gave their land as a heritage,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

22  a heritage to his servant Israel,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

23  It is he who remembered us in our low estate,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

24  and rescued us from our foes,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

25  who gives food to all flesh,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

26 O give thanks to the God of heaven,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

MY POEM OF STEADFAST LOVE

I am going to write out my own version of Psalm 136 using the model above. After you read what I wrote, I would like you to write your version.

A prayer of Thanksgiving to God for first loving us

Praise be to the God of Mystery and Love

for his steadfast love endures forever.

Praise be to the Son of the Father

for his steadfast love endures forever.

Praise be to the Holy Spirit of life and love

for his steadfast love endures forever.

He gave humans the highest gift, that of himself

for his steadfast love endures forever.

He showed us how to love with all our hearts, our minds, and our strength

for his steadfast love endures forever.

He shared His Real Presence for us to grow in Faith and Love

for his steadfast love endures forever.

He loved us with fierce love and asked us to love others as He loved us

for his steadfast love endures forever.

He is our intercessor with the Father, our way, truth and life

for his steadfast love endures forever.

He showed the depth of his love at the Last Supper when he offered himself along with us to the Father as a living sacrifice of praise and bid us do this in memory of Him

for his steadfast love endures forever.

Blessed be the God of Israel for He has set us free from the limitations of our human nature to love fully

for his steadfast love endures forever.

Praise be to  God, the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages

for his steadfast love endures forever.

Thanks be to God that he leads us not into temptation without His own love to help us

for his steadfast love endures forever.

Praise be to Jesus Christ, who gives us access to the doorway to the Heavenly Kingdom

for his steadfast love endures forever.

Praise be to Christ for whom the martyrs and saints longed to be found worthy of redemption

for his steadfast love endures forever.

Praise be to the God of mercy who makes all things new in us

for his steadfast love endures forever.

YOUR POEM OF STEADFAST LOVE

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Praise be to the Father and 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.  –Cistercian doxology

 

 

 

 

THE CHRIST IMPERATIVES

Here are some of the commands that Jesus gave to us in order to help us to convert our lives from the World to the Spirit.

  • Seeking perfection? LISTEN TO ME, FOR I AM MEEK AND HUMBLE OF HEART. Matthew 11:28-30
  • Thirsty? Drink of the living waters! John 7:37.
  • Hungry? Eat the food that gives eternal life! John 6:33-38.
  • Bewildered? Believe in the Master! John 3:11-21.
  • Without hope? Be not afraid! John 13:33-35.
  • Lost? Find the way. John 14:6-7.
  • Tired because of the pain? Be renewed! John 15:1-7.
  • Afraid? Find peace! John 27-28.
  • Afraid to believe? Believe! John 11:25-27.
  • Without a family? Listen! John 10:7-18.
  • In darkness? Walk in the light! John 8:12.
  • Spiritually depressed? Be healed! John 5:24

Welcome, good and faithful servant, into the Kingdom, prepared for you before the world began.

 Being a faithful follower of the Master is the easiest thing to talk about but the most difficult thing to do. As a Lay Cistercian, trying to convert my life daily to be more like Christ and less like me, I find these imperatives like beacons on the stormy waters of living in a world influenced by Original Sin. The reason spirituality is work is that we live in a foreign land, one whose default in not a conveyor belt to get to Heaven. Heaven is not automatic. If it was, why be spiritual at all, just sit back and sin bravely. It is Christ who has shown us the way, given us love as the gold standard, shown us how to love because he has loved us first, by his passion, death and resurrection. It is this faith which conquers the World, it is this faith, that of the Universal Church (those who have died and are in the peace of Christ, those who live on earth and struggle with  conversion of life, and those  purifying themselves). Christ wanted us to live out our moving from self to God in the midst of the community of Faith. This community has the Mystery of Faith as its core. These imperatives help us as a community as we approach the Sacred.

The core imperative is: love one another as I have loved you. I pray that I am what I hope to become in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Praise to the Father and to the Son and to 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.  –Cistercian doxology

 

 

FAST AND PRAY, THAT YOU MAY NOT ENTER INTO TEMPTATION

One of the ways to approach the Sacred is to follow a daily routine. Some people call it a habit. Do this every day for 30 days. If you are unable to do so, you might want to consider if your spirituality needs to go to the gym.  What follows is my exercise to move from self to God. I recommend the following practices every day.

DAILY INTENTIONS

Place this aide on your mirror. When you wake up, offer everything you do today as glory to the Father and for the grace to do God’s will, through Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Monday: In reparation for my sins and those of the Church, those on my prayer list

Tuesday: For all family, friends, teachers, classmates from St. Meinrad Seminary, those on my prayer list

Wednesday: In honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Immaculate Heart of Mary, and St. Joseph, those on my prayer list

Thursday: For all Lay Cistercians, Monks of Holy Spirit Monastery, Monks of St.Meinrad Archabbey, priests and religious of Diocese of Evansville, Monks of Norcica, Italy and  those on my prayer list

Friday: For an increase in grace to love God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind and my neighbor as myself.

Saturday: For all deceased, an increase in my faith through the Holy Spirit and for those on my prayer list.

Sunday: To give praise, honor and glory to the Father through the Son by means of the Holy Spirit, the God who is, was, and is to come at the end of the ages

READ CHAPTER 4 OF THE RULE OF  ST. BENEDICT

One way to not enter into temptation is to put yourself in the presence of God and wait.  Reading the Tool of Good Works, Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict helps me to set before my mind what I need to become to love Christ as He loves us.

Every day!

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THREE TALES OF WONDER FROM HURRICANE MICHAEL

I wanted to share with you that, thanks be to God, I made it through the Category 4 Hurricane named Michael.  If you follow this blog, and I can’t say that I know anyone who does, you will know that my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) always links this passage with events that come into my mind. Ideas come into my meditation, prayer and contemplation from events that have happened to me. I was without power during Wednesday through Saturday of the Hurricane, October 10 to 14.  It was pitch black at night with no television to lean on or lights to count on. I began to get anxious as all my crutches were taken away from me and I was left by alone with myself (but certainly not by myself).  What follows are three Lectio Divina meditations I did in the dark. I wrote them down so I would not forget them. I call them tales of wonder, because I had trauma to deal with but I used Philippians 2:5 and Cistercian charisms of simplicity, silence and solitude to combat the darkness, both without and within.

SILENCE IN THE MIDST OF CHAOS AND DEVESTATION

Well, here I sit at my kitchen table in Tallahassee at 7:00 p.m. on October 11. Hurricane Michael (my wife says it was well named for me) has passed by on Wednesday, October 10, sidestepping Tallahassee by a hundred miles. The storm actually came over the Panhandle at Panama City and went inland over Marianna, Florida. It went parallel to our city, or I would not be writing this Lectio Divina for you. We were very fortunate whereas others lost everything on the coast.

Being the weak person that I am, I began to complain about the lack of light, the lack of air conditioning, and was reminded that I sounded like the Israelites at Massah and Meriba in Exodus 15-16.  I thought to myself that Original Sin is alive and well in Tallahassee, even in a Hurricane.

Right now, there is an eerie calm outside with cloudy skies. It helps that the temperature outside is 55 degrees F.  With no electricity, there is no air conditioning, so the cooler temperature is a blessing at night.

We received no damage to our properties, although lots of limbs and branches fell. In short, we dodged the bullet. Life has a way of presenting us lessons to be learned about pride and who is all-powerful. It certainly is not the human being.

In this context, I tried to clear my mind of the horror around me and sought solitude and silence on the park bench in the dead of Winter, just waiting and longing for the coming of the Lord. This is interesting. My mind wanted to steer me away from thinking about Michael and  all the trouble and inconvenience I was experiencing. I was tempted to push Michael out of my mind so that I could do real Lection Divina and empty my thought like Dom Andre Louf recommends in this book, The Cistercian Way.  I found myself talking with Christ about the Hurricane and what it could teach me. Rather than ask the false question about why a good God allows Hurricanes to happen and cause suffering to innocent people, my mind went to asking the right question, what does this teach me about how to love others as Christ loves me? From that moment on, there was enlightenment in the darkness, perspective in the midst of horror and deprivation of human comforts. I learned a great lesson from the silence of chaos.

No matter what the event or human experience, in Lectio Divina I must apply the purpose of my life to it to find meaning and resolution. (Philippians 2:5) I need to set up the scenario and then let Christ give me whatever he wants me to do. In this way, I do not control the agenda, nor do I avoid controversial topics I experience in my life (such as Hurricane Michael, my Leukemia (CLL type) and cardiac arrest.

The Psalmist bids us to trust in God alone. He is our Hope. Not Hurricanes, not popes, not bishops, priests or deacons, not spouses or children. Not in Princes or Kings. I learned a great lessons for me in that I move from the realm of the mind to that of the heart. I experience what silence and solitude is, real pitch black silence and solitude, but I also know how to put it in perspective using Philippians 2:5 and letting the healing Word made flesh make my flesh new again…and again…and again…Forever.

LIVING IN THE DESERT OF ABSOLUTE SILENCE

Being without lights or electricity is a new experience for me. I don’t have control over anything. I can’t stop the darkness from descending, I can’t turn on the lights or see my book, The Cistercian Way, by Dom Andre Louf, without lights. Any lights are not conducive to reading, but here I go again, complaining like the Israelites did when God did not give them food or drink in the desert of Sinai. They complained, even though they saw God’s works. I read this in the initiatory of the Liturgy of the House as I was sitting at my table trying to occupy my mind with prayer of the Church Universal. It helped.

My second Lectio Divina was about what inspired monks and nuns to become hermits and live in the desert. I could never have imagined what absolute silence and blackness is, being one who suffers from sensory overload on many levels. After an hour of focusing on Christ any way He wants to be present to me, in total darkness except for a single candle to pierce that night, I think I can almost feel what monks and nuns felt with they followed St. Benedict’s admonition in Chapter 4, “your acting must be different from the World’s ways; the love of Christ must come before all else.” All else, in my current experience is darkness, silence, solitude, wrestling with my own thoughts about how to get rid of extraneous ideas of Hurricane Michael.

In the silence of Hurricane Michael, I discovered just a tiny bit of what might have motivated the hearts of St. Benedict, St. Bernard, St. Romuald, St. Bruno, St. Dominic, St. Francis, Saint John of the Cross, Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta.

It might hae been just a nanosecond of enlightenment but it lite up the room for me in a way no light ever could. It is by denying your false self that you find your true self. This denying self means trusting that God will give you what you need to sustain your Faith in times of spiritual hurricanes. This denying means that I have to learn to embrace my experiences and transform them from what the World projects is meaningful to what Christ bid me do: love others as I have loved you. I didn’t just have a mental accent of Faith but one of the heart, too.

With Christ as the way, the truth and the life, there is no phenomenon that we cannot overcome.

EMBRACE WHAT YOU HATE

Hurricanes have a way of calling to mind who we really are before God. Mother Nature always wins in these types of confrontations with humans. All humans can do is to transform the occurence into something that has meaning for our purpose in life.

I hate the darkness. I can’t sleep well, am anxious in the dark, even during the daytime, when there is no electricity. I can’t see where I am going in the darkness. I am fearful of stepping on the cats. I am always tripping on runners and rugs I can’t see in the dark. I hate the darkness.

Isn’t that what contemplation and Lectio Divina is all about, facing the darkness of the World within and transforming it with the light and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit with Christ’s Real Presence? Because of Hurricane Michael, I now know that I can face the darkness within with Christ as my light, my way my mediator with the Father.

As one who aspires to practice Cistercian Way by practices and especially charisms, we do it by doing it over and over, making all things new in our hearts, converting our old self to a new self in Christ Jesus, and invoking the Holy Spirit not to forget this broken-down old temple of the Holy Spirit and reside in me.

Praise to God the Father and 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. –Cistercian doxology

https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org

ARE YOU ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTION?

I love escapist movies (don’t ask me why). Some movies these days stress the supremacy of the Devil over Good. I am thinking of the movie entitled The Last Witch Hunter.  This is not a critique of any of these movies. I like the graphics and special effects in these movies as I overlook the preposterous assumptions they make about what is real, what evil is like, and what is actually real. Fantasy is fantasy. Science fiction is still fiction. Some friends of mine think my belief in God is a fiction of my own mind.

One movie I like is called Seventh Son of the Seventh Son, a fantasy movie about witches, and people who hunt them down.

http://thespooksapprentice.wikia.com/wiki/Seventh_Son_(film)

It get complicated for this old mind, when there are good witches and bad witches. Jeff Bridges plays a character in this movie called Spook, a witch hunter and destroyer. There is a line in this movie that I have adopted as part of my spiritual awareness (remember, I don’t speak for the Catholic Church, Cistercians, or any Lay Cistercians). I am a guy who casts his net out into the sea of life and pulls in the good and the bad. I decide what is good or bad, but how I decide what is good or bad (like Adam and Eve) but with a difference, Christ is my center of all reality (Philippians 2:5). When I decide what is good or bad, it is because Christ first loved us and gave us the way, the truth and the life.  Christ won’t sort out what is good or bad for us, but He does provide the knowledge, love and service to help us do it authentically.  The question that Spook asked that I find so remarkable is “Wrong questions require wrong answers.”  My take-away from this is, I must always be careful to ask the right questions about morality, about purpose in life, about how I treat others with whom I interact.

It is in context that my Lectio Divina (Phil 2:5) is set. I asked myself, what is the right question? What is the wrong question? I looking at how I answer right questions, I have to use assumptions that I have accepted as true for me.

  1. HAVE IN YOU THE MIND OF CHRIST JESUS (Phil 2:5) This simple quote is the very core center of all my endeavours, It is the reason I try to love God with all my mind, all my heart, and all my strength  and my neighbor as myself, (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37) When pull in my nets, which sometimes takes the help of my faith community, I have to sort out good fishes from those who are not good for me, those who are too small from those appropriate to eat. Humility and obedience to God’s will rather than my own comes from my assumption.
  2. DO NOT JUDGE OTHERS . I focus on what I believe and my Faith rather on what others might think of what I hold as true. Faith helps me see in the darkness of my own insuffiencies for this light is not of this world but is the Word made flesh and the light come into the world to help me ask the right question.
  3. SEEK MERCY FOR ALL, ESPECIALLY ME  Christ came to save all of humans, especially me. I must respond by loving others as Christ loves me.
  4. REALIZE THAT THE DEVIL GOES ABOUT LIKE ROARING LION, SEEKING WHOM HE MAY DEVOUER.
  5. LIFE MAKES NO SENSE WITHOUT LOVE. LOVE MAKES NO SENSE WITHOUT CHRIST. There is a logical progression to existence. We need a platform for life.(PHYSICAL UNIVERSE) We need mental abilities for reason and to choose what that reason reveals as meaningful(MENTAL UNIVERSE). We need the mind to access the realm of the Spirit, one of free choices available to us( SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE). Once we enter into God’s playground, we need for Him to help us to know, to love, and to serve in order to live there… Forever. Life is about discovering what is true, the authentic way to being fulling human, and what the purpose for that existence.

  6. CISTERCIAN PRACTICES HELP ME PRACTICE LOVING AS CHRIST LOVES ME. Love can be so abstract and theoretical. It becomes such a mental process that we forget that love means doing something as a result of being something. If you have in you the mind of Christ Jesus, you don’t have to do anything except wait for the Holy Spirit to work, in due time. Cistercian practices of silence, solitude, prayer, work, and community, have helped me focus on both the realm of the mind and the realm of the heart, in my question to move from self to God. I have to practice every day. I have to look on reality as God’s playground, not mine. I have to keep reminding myself that it is not my will that should be done, but that I must first seek God in the world as I see it and experience it, then transform it by converting my own morals to be more like Christ and less like me. That takes work. Because of Original Sin, I must use the two gifts Christ gave each of us to be able to see what we cannot see and hear what cannot be heard, The Eucharist, and Forgiveness and Mercy.

THE RIGHT QUESTION IS ONE THAT HAS THE RIGHT ANSWER. Christ is the way, the truth and the life. We just need to be sure it is Christ’s answer we have and not our own. The Church Universal, through its authentic teaching and practices through the ages, help save us from our own deficiencies., wanting to be God and make our own religion.

Spirituality, to be authentic, must incorporate what is authentic about love, about service to others, about doing to others as we would like it to be done to us. Seeking God where you find Him is a lifetime adventure of discovering what is meaningful from what the World gives and what Christ gives. Our right questions will be right only if they are consistent with who God is. Not all spirituality will lead to the Spirit, but the Spirit will always lead to authentic living and loving. You get to not only choose good from evil but to discern good from evil. Animals and plants don’t have this ability, only humans.

SOME WRONG QUESTIONS THAT PARADE AS GOOD ONES.

The Church is corrupt and its bishops and priests do not practice what they preach, some of them are alcoholics, pedophiles, steal from the poor, and seduce young maidens. Therefore, I can’t continue to abide by this behavior and must leave the Church.

Let’s look at what is really going on. Of course, the Church is corrupt and its people do not practice what they preach, but not all of them. Of course this behavior is wrong. The Israelites worshipped the Golden Calf, even as Moses brought the holy tablets of the Ten Commandments down from Mt. Sinai. This is the template for Church. The sign of contradiction is: I am the Church, you are the Church, we are the Church. We are all sinful and do not do what we say we will do. Grace dwells in us because of Christ. We know what love is because Christ first loved us. We are called to serve others. Don’t confuse the aberration for the principle, the Christ principle. That is called sin and there is no human free from its tentacles, save two.  That is like saying, humans are corrupt so I will leave the human race. Tell me a religion without sin and I will gladly join it. The fact is Christ knew what he was doing by giving the rudder of the Church to Peter, who denied him three times and had wavering Faith.

The solution to this question is not to abandon love, but to embrace it even more fully, only in the context of what St. Benedict says in his Chapter Four of the Rule, “place your hope in God alone.” My faith is not placed in pope, bishop or priests, nor any guru. My faith does not rest on what I see and hear around me in the cacophony of calumniation and detraction that pervades the politics of nations and the church itself. I do not place my trust in Princes, as the Psalmist says, but in God alone. Having done that, I can ask the right question: Do I love God with all my heart, all my mind, and all my strength and do I love my neighbor as myself? (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37) For me, Lay Cistercian spirituality helps me to focus and refocus on Christ Jesus through silence, solitude, prayer and work, in communion and in union with other Lay Cistercians, and Cistercian monks and nuns. “That in all things, may God be glorified.” –St. Benedict

I control my body and can do with it as I please. 

This sounds tantalizing and for those without Faith, quite logical. What is at stake here is modern idolatry. People will defend their positions stating that it is just your opinion and all opinions are equal (they are not). The real question here is: what is God’s to be done on earth as it is in Heaven (Our Father). Don’t confuse the freedom to chose good and evil with whatever you choose must good.

Our Body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit. We defile it when we don’t act our nature, not just a nature that is human but one redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb. God’s laws are the laws of nature. The law of Christ is one: love others as I have loved you. All the teachings of the prophets and our heritage can be summed up in this one command.

You will have to give an accounting of your stewardship one day.  If you are your own god, you are only accountable to yourself.

Being catholic means I go to a service every week (if I am strong) and Midnight Mass (if I am week). There are, in my mind, two types of catholics: cultural Catholics and Eucharistic Catholics.

Cultural catholics are those who go to Church, go through the motions of putting “Catholic” on forms that require some religion, although they don’t know why they are Catholic. Being Catholic, for them, is like joining the Moose, Elks, Rotary, or Kiwanis. These types of members are probably the majority of our membership and don’t believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist or Blessed Sacrament. If you ask them, they will say they don’t believe in the Real Presence but consider themselves Catholic. These are seeds sown on rocky ground that have no roots (although they would disagree with that). These are the ones who first flee the Church when there are bad times or rough patches in how we behave toward one another. They are the majority of members. It is not fair to judge anyone as to their motivation. On the other hand, we will know what is in their hearts by what they say with their mouths.

The other type of Catholic is one that is a Universal Catholic, one who won’t abandon the Church no matter what, but always seeks to make all things new. These Catholics are planted in fertile ground and will bear good fruit. They are the minority (30% of the membership). They will fight to remain Catholic by reforming and renewing first themselves in moving from self to God, then do it with others. These are Eucharistic Catholics who believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, in the Blessed Sacrament and in each other through the Holy Spirit.  They can’t leave the Church because there is nothing else to leave to. Will you leave the human race because Hitler was evil? These Catholics have the possibility of asking the right question: Lord, to whom shall we go, you have the words of everlasting life. These Catholics must pray daily and convert their lives to be more like Christ and less like their false self. Eucharist is core to their way of thinking about reality. Community of believers is an opportunity to experience God the Holy Spirit in each other. Practices are those of denying self to follow Christ and praying that we not enter into temptation.  There is hope in the Resurrection.

Do you ask the right questions?

Praise be to the Father, and to the Son, and to 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. –Cistercian doxology

WOE TO YOU POLITICIANS AND SCRIBES

It is particularly dissapointing to watch any national news program these days. I used to look foward to political debates such as Ted Kennedy and Al Simpson, but no more. Those were the days when you could diagree and then go out and have a Ginger Ale together afterwards. I used to look at Dan Rather, Brett Hume (I still do) and other notable commentators on societal ills with anticipation. I now have only disgust for what I see, so much so, that I refuse to watch any new channel. I now watch those wonderful National Geographic specials on Alaska and FX1 sports channel with First Things First and The Herd with Colin Cowherd. For the last six months or so, I have tuned in to the sports channel to look at the strategies and execution of the NFL, NBA and even NHL. I love it.

Now, only Acrimony, revenge, calumny, detreacions, hatred, jealousy, slander, lying, coveting, envy, lust, power, reign as the norm in politics and what passes for the nightly news and news magazines. There may be some good reporting out there, but I won’t see it or read about it. Who cares?

The Armegeddon of Politicians has replaced working together for the good of the State. Satan must be quite pleased to see all the discord in all political parties run rampant. In politics, hatred beats reason, (I was going to use the word Trump, but then caught myself). Never mind that the government of the people, by the people, and for the people is drifting into slimy, gooey molasses. Never mind that the press (most, but certainly not all) have become tabloid, sensationalist press and television broadcasting has nearly all of its time spend hating, slandering, trying to discredit people and ruin their reputations with unsubstantiaed allegations of sexual misconduct, such as we just witnessed with Supreme Court Appointment, Judge Kavanaugh. The court system is social media and television nightly news and the dull comics that hold court. In our legal system, one must be counted innocent until proven guilty; in the court of innuendo and slander, you are guilty until proven innocent. There are no winners here, only losers. We citizens just sit in the courtroom (our private living room) and watch the circus unfold as commentators, whom we don’t know or care about, pontificate on topics we can’t stop (unless we turn off our television sets. What happened to civil debate which used to tout the various positions? No matter guilt or innocence, the point is to ruin one’s reputation no matter what the cost. Does this bother you, regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum?

I asked myself how should politicians and news outlets act? I offer you the Scriptures from Matthew on Jesus’ tirade against Phasisees and Scribes of his day. What he condemned was the type of behavior that was destructive of others, that was phoney. It applies here. You can substitute the words, “politicians (Pharisees),” reporters (Scribes),” for Scribes and Pharisees.

Matthew 23 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

Jesus Denounces Scribes and Pharisees

23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear,[a] and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students.[b] And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah.[c] 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.[d] 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell[e] as yourselves.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.’ 19 How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; 21 and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; 22 and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup,[f] so that the outside also may become clean.

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. 28 So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, 30 and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. 33 You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?[g] 34 Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, 35 so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.

I was going to give my commentary on this but you can supply your own narrative. I feel ashamed for the United States that, having such a noble document such as the Constitution, we desend into Hell to conduct our ditry business, all the while thinking that what we do is justified and good for our country. The wages of sin is still death.

In the end, all I can do is try not to be like those modern day Pharisees, the politicians and the press. Scriptures tell us, ex  abundantia cordis, cor loquitur, from the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks.

May God have mercy on the United States for being seduced by the Evil One. May God have mercy on all politicians and news people, whose center of their lives has become one of garbage and rotten values, instead of truth and justice. May God have mercy, most of all, on me, one who must try to find love in such a rotten mess. It is not easy. All I can do is try to convert my life each day so that hatred and slander are not part of my heart.

I keep thinking of the words of St. Benedict in his Chapter 4 of the Rule, “prefer nothing to the love of Christ.” Now how does that fit into all that is going on?

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