10 THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT LAY CISTERCIANS

What follows is my Lectio Divina on Philippians 2:5 that I had at 2:30 a.m. one night last week. I just happened to remember it and thought it might be of interest to you, it was to me.

Lay Cistercians are laity who choose to follow Cistercian spiritual principles and the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by Cistercian statutes and conventions. In this blog, I shall give you what I consider 10 bits of information you may not have known before and an link for you to find out more about it on the Internet.

  1. Lay Cistercians are not monks or nuns. None of us live in a monastery and we are not consecrated religious, we are baptized laity who seek to love God with all our heart, all our mind, and all our strength and our neighbor as our self by following the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by Cistercian order (Trappist) in it statutes and constitutions. https://www.ocso.org/resources/law/constitutions-and-statutes/
  2. Each Cistercian monastery has, at its head an Abbess or a Abbot who represents Christ to those monks or nuns who pledge vows of stability (stay in one monastery for the rest of their life) and obedience (the Abbess or Abbot represents Christ). http://archive.osb.org/cist/
  3. After two years in formation as a Novice, Lay Cistercians make promises in three separate years as a Junior Lay Cistercian. In the fifth year, Lay Cistercians who choose to do so, apply to the community for permission to take final promises or Final Profession to lead the Cistercian Way of prayer, conversion of life, silence, solitude, work, prayer and community, for the rest of their lives. These Lay Cistercians are called Professed Lay Cistercians and wear a large St. Benedict medal each day for the rest of their lives. In addition, they promise to meet monthly at the Gathering Day at their monastery for prayer, Eucharist, formation as Novices, Juniors and Professed Lay Cistercians. https://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/2013/05/on-being-a-lay-cistercian-2/
  4. Lay Cistercians seek God in everyday living wherever they live by practicing Cistercian prayers and seeking Cistercian charisms to move from our false self (the World) to our new self (the Spirit). https://www.msmabbey.org/lay-associates
  5. Lay Cistercians are part of a larger group called the International Lay Cistercians. https://cistercianfamily.org/lay-groups http://www.citeaux.net/wri-av/laics_cisterciens-eng.htm
  6. Lay Cistercians follow the spiritual guidance of the Abbot or Abbess who represents Christ. They serve at the pleasure of the Abbot or Abbess and make promises, not vows before this person. I wrote out my promises which I made before the Abbot and the Lay Cistercian community at a formal ceremony in Abbey Church. https://cistercianfamily.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/2014Star-of-the-Sea-HR.pdf
  7. Each Lay Cistercian group is autonomous based on what the Monastery permits. https://cistercianfamily.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/2014CLC-Spencer-HR-2013.pdf
  8. Lay Cistercians are expected to make an annual retreat at the Monastery Retreat Center. This is a silent retreat and stresses contemplation and approaching God with humility and seeking mercy.
  9. There is an Internet Lay Cistercian group called “Conversi” for those who live too far away from a Monastery to attend the monthly Gathering Days. https://cistercianfamily.org/laygroups/conversi-an-on-line-community/
  10. Some Lay Cistercian groups (Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) have auxiliary groups in different parts of Florida. All of these daughter groups belong to the main Lay Cistercian group in Conyers, Georgia. There is an Ecumenical Lay Cistercian group attached to the Holy Spirit Monastery group, composed of other faith families. They follow the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by the Cistercians at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. They become Novices, make Junior promises and may apply for Final Profession before the Abbot. https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org

Of course, thee is much more to being a Lay Cistercian than this. One gentleman asked me what I do as a Lay Cistercian. I told him that I put myself in the presence of Christ every day through Morning Offering at 4:30 a.m., then Eucharist, Lectio Divina, Rosary, appreciation of the role of Mary as Patroness and Role Model of humility and obedience to God’s will, reading Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict every day, reciting the Liturgy of the Hours (Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer), writing my blog on Lay Cistercian spirituality as a result of doing all of this. In all the above, all I do is place myself in the present of the Sacred and wait. I try to keep my talking and thinking at a minimum and wait for the Holy Spirit to speak. It is my hope that I become what I approach in Faith. Some days are better than others.

Brother Michael, O.S.C.O. taught us that we should pray when and as when can. There is no sin attached to not doing these practices, but there is grace and God’s energy for those who do all or part of them. St. Benedict says, “that in all things, God be glorified.” That’s not bad.

For more information, you can Email me at michaelconrad005@gmail.com

CHAPTER 4: DISTRACTIONS AND BAD THOUGHTS DURING CONTEMPLATION

Posted on May 20, 2019 by https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org

This might seem like an odd topic for Lectio Divina, but, I assure you, it is very real, embarrassingly real. It is real because none of us practice prayer and hopefully contemplation without distractions and trying to avoid bad thoughts. That it is not just the tomfoolery of a broken-down old Lay Cistercian, St. Benedict in Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict states:

46 Yearn for everlasting life with holy desire.
47 Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die.
48 Hour by hour keep careful watch over all you do,
49 aware that God’s gaze is upon you, wherever you may be.
50 As soon as wrongful thoughts come into your heart, dash them against Christ and disclose them to your spiritual father. 51 Guard your lips from harmful or deceptive speech.

The Holy Spirit presented me with these thoughts in the hopes that I might be smart enough to assimilate them into my Lay Cistercian spirituality and The Cistercian Way. I share them with you because I was asked to do so. All of these thoughts are my own interpretation (as I listened to Christ while on a park bench in the dead of Winter) and do not reflect any Lay Cistercian or Cistercian points of view.

When I think of these tools for good works that St. Benedict suggested for his monks to move from self to God, they all demand action. If I am to expand the capacity for God “capacitas dei” in my inner self, I must struggle with what the World sets forth as part of my human nature verses what Christ bids us do to become fully human (Adam and Eve before the Fall and not after it). Unfortunately, all us us, including Christ and especially his body, the Church (that includes me), live in what St. Paul calls The World (after the Fall). Living in the World has consequences, such as pain, suffering, being ruled by our emotions, temptations to do evil and not good, thinking we are god. I bring this up because it is at the root of why, when any of us pray (that includes Pope all the way to me, who sits in the Tax Collectors’ seat in Church and will not raise his eyes to the heavens but keeps repeating, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me), we experience distractions and sometimes downright obscene thoughts. I must struggle to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) Christ had temptations. Temptations are just choices between good and evil, between what the World says is god and what God say is God. If you don’t know the difference, then you may have already been seduced by the Dark Side and not even realize it.

GEORGE

My good friend George Unglaub, 83, who just died during Holy Week this year, asked me why we always have the most disturbing and pornographic thoughts while we attend Eucharist or sit before the Blessed Sacrament in contemplation of Christ. George, bless his soul, was a convert to the Church Universal. He was a proud Marine (Semper Fi, George!) and a crusty, old man who would never tire of telling people of how he saw Jesus in the Chapel at Good Shepherd Church, Tallahassee, Florida. A daily communicant and frequent participant in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When I asked him why he went to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Congers, Georgia with his wife Vanessa, also received into the fullness of the Faith of the Universal Church a year ago, why he want to daily Eucharist at Good Shepherd, and why he wore out our priests going to Reconciliation, he simply said, “That is where I see Jesus.” Those who knew the no-nonsense George knew he actually did see Jesus. What a great inspiration of Faith for all us us who wax and wane with trying to master our emotions. George told me he would never master the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, in the sense that once you have them you can forget them. What he said was, he needs Jesus EVERY DAY to keep his focus. What he could do is use these gifts of the Holy Spirit to help him each day to see Christ. He was passionate about this. I mean passionate. I bring up George as one of the answers to having bad or evil thoughts during extremely spiritual times.

AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION.

You know the Lord’s Prayer. But do you know how archetypal it is? Original Sin, which seeks to explain the human condition of decay and corruption, is the very reason we have these thoughts. God gave Adam and Eve two gifts after they were thrown out of the Garden of Eden (Heaven) to help us live in this world without becoming animals. Animals don’t go to Heaven (unless you take them there). We can’t go to Heaven (unless Christ we accept that we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father.) Nothing personal! What does it profit you to be a physician, a nurse, a teacher, an entrepreneur, a retiree, or anything else, for that matter, if you miss all the helps God gives you to claim your heritage and you can’t see Jesus. Salvation was won a a great price, Christ’s own life, given for the redemption of all of us so that we can claim adoption. Those who recognize Jesus is Lord recognize their birthright. Those who do not I recommend to the mercy of Christ and say, as he did, “Father, Forgive them for they know not what they do.” That is God’s decision as he sits on the Throne in Heaven “from whence he will judge the living and the dead.” Christ helps those who believe in him, even in the face of thinking bad, evil, or obscene thought while we pray, because that is the way life is. We have a choice, to choose our false self or new self, according to Cistercian spirituality that I read in the late Dom Andre Louf’s book,The Cistercian Way. (Dom is the title for the Abbot of a Monastery. It comes from Dominus, or Lord, and means the Abbot takes the place of Christ for those in his pastoral and spiritual care.) The whole idea of a Monastery, and also for Lay Cistercians, is to “see Jesus each day” as George was so fond of saying. He loved the monastery, although by his own admission, he did not understand all this talk about God. I don’t either.

FIRST GIFT: Reason

When you look out at all of the species of living on earth (many of them extinct), which of them knows that they know? Animals and plants share life with us, but with a difference. Humans alone know that they know. Why do we, of all species, so far in all of physical reality, know that we know, have awareness that raises us up from being animal to being spiritual apes? Something does not come from nothing, as St. Thomas Aquinas points out. (See my three books entitled, Spiritual Apes for more ideas about this theme. http://www.amazon.com/books/dr. michael. f. conrad)

This is where the book of Genesis comes into play. These ancient oral traditions are finally written down to pass on their heritage and to answer fundamental questions. Why is there pain? Why do we have only seventy or eighty years, then we die? Is that all there is? What is the purpose of life? What is the purpose of my life? What is love and how can I lose it? Why does everything corrupt (everything)? There is someone to come who will redeem us from our collective fault, the human condition that in all cases leads to death. Christ, came to give us life, life forever. Reason is the gift from God that allows us to choose.

GIFT TWO: Freedom to Choose

If reason is a gift from God for us to eventually claim our inheritance that Adam and Eve lost through poor choices, they the second gift is that very freedom to choose, one that got us into trouble in the first place. The Old Testament is a record of how God loved the Israelites and even established a convent, but it is also an account of how that people moved away from God (e.g. worshiping the Golden Calf, worshiping gods of stone and iron). Nothing has changed in the New Testament. Christ came to take away the sin of the World (Original Sin) to we could once more have adoption as sons and daughters of the Father. Read Romans 5:12-21. St. Paul writes that the Old Testament is fulfilled by Christ, the Second Adam. But, there is a catch to the price of redemption–the effects of Original Sin are still there, even if the sin is removed through Baptism. What Baptism did was to give those of us who want to “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5) This is probably the long way of answering Georges’s question about why he has all those terrible thoughts during the most sacred times. This second gift is one that God give us, not to take away temptation, but to give us the choice of grace (what God wants) and sin (what I want). Cistercians call that transformation from self to God. I find that there is an interesting caveat to this process. Death is conquered by Christ but we still must die. Sin is forgiven through Reconciliation, Eucharist, Personal Petition, but we are prone to sin over and over, each and every day. We are not sin-centered, if we choose God but love-centered. We do not want to live our lives by putting at its purpose the exception to love, sin. Sin means we missed the boat, that God tells us how to love authentically, we don’t get that by following The World. Sin, with temptations to do what the World thinks is good, is a choice we make, one won with the blood of Christ shed on the Cross. How great is that love of Christ for us! I am not so naive to think that I can change the world, however, I can change my world by trying to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5). Some days are better than others. 

As part of my daily Lay Cistercian promises, I try to approach God through Christ each day, asking the Holy Spirit to guard me from the temptations of the World and give me the grace to choose life, and fulfill my adoption heritage. Here are some temptations that George and I discussed about how Satan tempts us to move off the center (sin) and eat of the tree of good and evil (Genesis 2-3). You might have experienced some of these of none of these. They all are a result of Original Sin. We must choose life and not death. We must renounce ourselves and follow Christ (Chapter 4:10) and discipline our body, St. Benedict bids his monks. This man knew human nature more then most psychologist and psychiatrists in our age can even approach. He use what was real in the physical universe, the mental universe, which opens up the spiritual universe, not to take away our choice, but to give us the framework where we can move from our false self (Seven Deadly Sins) to move toward God (Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit). Everyone has temptations and not all temptations are evil (choosing Cheerios for breakfast or Wheaties). The archetypal temptations I refer to are at the core of what it means to be human and are those that make us human and not whales or Aardvarks. We have the freedom to choose good or evil, just as Adam and Eve did. As long as we live, there will be temptations we have to seduce us to do good and what is best for us verses what God knows is best for us, even if it seems comfortable. Temptations are choices we make and all choices, remember, have consequences. If we come to a fork in the road, Yogi Berra is said to have said, take it. That the fruit of the tree in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2-3) is good and evil bespeaks the intensity and authenticity of this first great Mystery of Faith, how God made us, we are good, yet we are prone to sin. After the Fall from Grace there was no other option to love, but Christ (Romans 5)  came to give us options once more. Once more, we have choices. We are not just big cups full of grace waiting to go to Heaven automatically. Like Adam and Eve, we must make choices that affect our here and now but also our there and then. Human reason can help us know what is good or bad, but pride and vanity may cloud our vision because we listen to our own ego rather than to Christ, the sign of contradiction to the World. The problem for most of us is, who tells us what is good and evil. Here are some of the issues we have over choice and who gives us that North on our compass with which we measure ourselves. 

TYPES OF TEMPTATION

Physical temptation— In the physical universe, our based for survival, we share the laws of nature with animals, plants, chemicals, physical matter, energy, and time. We must be authentic in this universe and not disobey its laws. As part of it, humans also have urges and survival needs, just like other animals. Animals go through periods when they are fertile and the sexual hormones want species to copulate. When humans act like animals, we call that sin–you are not acting your nature.

Human temptations to sex are the most understandable for humans because we came from animal nature by God’s mercy, and it is important to note that we still have those urges. These can be triggered by looking a someone from either sex and feeling urges to copulate. Having thoughts of an extremely erotic nature during the holiest of times is not sinful. This is a temptation. Sin is when you do not, as St. Benedict says, dash them against Christ and disclose them to your spiritual father (your confessor later one). Sin is allowing Satan to tempt you, just like Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Physical temptations are those that we hold in common with all other living things. It is primarily, but not exclusively sexual because that is the dominant drive in all animals, and humans are part of that.

Mental temptations —Mental temptations are far more serious than those stemming from our animal nature. The difference is the gulf that exists been all living things and humans. God made all that lives, Adm He made from the “adama,” the Hebrew word for the earth. No wonder humans are dirty, but they are not evil.  Adam means earthy. Say what you want about evolution, Adam and Eve were given two gifts all other living things don’t have: reason and the ability to choose (the image and likeness of God). Humans can choose to propagate outside of seasons or periods, although the period of fertility females have is a remnant of our belonging to the physical universe. The mental universe is one that uses reason and the ability to choose good of evil to discover meaning. What is the reason we have reason? I think it has to do with our purpose in life which is to discover the meaning of love? Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37. And why is it important to discover love? If we are to rise above the other life forms on earth, if we are to be authentically human, we must know the meaning of love. As Erich Fromm states in his book,The Art of Loving, humans are not born with knowing how to love. They must learn it. Depending on what they use as meaning, love can be destructive or allow us to go to the next level of our destiny, the spiritual universe. Human temptations come from our human emotions and needs. Anger, Jealousy, Murder, Stealing, Adultery and Fornication, Coveting other women or men, and Coveting the riches of other people are all examples of human temptations. These sins are against other persons, the Church Universal, and

Spiritual temptations— As you might have already guessed, humans can have temptations based on the spiritual universe. These temptations present a choice of what God thinks is authentic (Spirit) and what we think is authentic (the World). Sin means we choose us rather than God. Read Galatians Chapter 5. Spiritual temptations are: 

  • not offering incense to other gods,
  • not respecting the name of the Lord, and
  • not keeping holy the Sabbath.
  • They include falling away from the Church because you chose the World over God, losing your Faith,
  • disrespecting your spiritual heritage,
  • falling away from the Faith because of anger with the Church,
  • hatred for a priest or nun that taught you in school, 
  • and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (the only sin that is unforgivable).
  • Spiritual sins are the most grievous.
  • These sins are against God, Christ, the Holy Spirit.

Temptations are not sins. They are choices. You have reason for a reason, remember? The problem is not that you are free to choose or not, but what you choose. What you choose can either be from God or not. All of this is compounded by the fragmenting of religion into thinking that each person is their own god, their own church, their own pope. Truth is one and sincerity is not substitute for the way, the truth and the life. Not all religions are religious and teach what comes from Christ. From the very beginnings of the early Church, there has been confusion over who Christ is and is he God or not. This is a struggle that still exists today. Look up Wikipedia on the subject of heretics (with the usual caveat that Wikipedia is not completely accurate historically).https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_movements_declared_heretical_by_the_Catholic_Church

THE THREE TEMPTATIONS OF CHRIST

No discussion about temptation can be complete without bringing up the three choices Christ was given in the desert. Christ was like us in all things but sin. If it is true that we learn how to love with our whole heart by learning from Christ, it is also true that the three temptations of Christ were inserted in Scriptures to teach us how to combat temptation and its source.  Here are some of my ideas.

The New Testament fulfills the Old Testament and moves it to a deeper level. It does not dump the tradition but transforms it to help us grow deeper with the help of the Holy Spirit.

The three temptations of Christ have been written to show that God is tempted to eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, the same tree of which Adam and Eve ate. Jesus, the second Adam, shows us the temptations that lead to pride and our fall from grace, if we eat. These three temptations are not designed to test his human nature, but rather to see how the young Christ (young in human nature) responds as God. The first part is the choice, the second part is how God answers the Devil, just as he did in the Garden of Evil. These three temptations are not those you or I would have, which leads me to think that they were meant to give the readers insights into how God wants his followers to treat being tempted. In the first temptation, that of hunger of the body, Satan uses human need for food, one of the basic needs, as Abraham Maslow sets forth in his heirarchy of needs, and offers Jesus the choice to  (remember, there are consequences to our choices). Remember, Christ had just finished forty days and forty nights (something I find astonishing). The Devil wanted to test the young Christ (young in human nature) to see if his humanity would betray his divinity. Jesus answers the Devil as both God and Man by refocusing hunger to the hunger the heart has for God and that only that bread of life will bring fulfilment as human being. Of course, we learn from this temptation that the Real Presence in the Eucharist is the food that is the Bread of Life. Again, the human nature is tempted but the divine nature responds to this temptation by moving it from the realm of the World to the realm of the Spirit, or the spiritual universe. Jesus hits an out of the park home run.

The second temptation is one that tests human vanity. His humanity is tempted to use his divnity to keep his body safe (also one of Abraham Maslow’s needs) (https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-maslows-hierarchy-of-needs-4136760) so that he can save people. Again, the human nature is tempted but the divine nature responds to this temptation by, once more, moving it from the realm of the World to the realm of the Spirit, or the spiritual universe. To overcome temptation from the World, we learn we must choose to live in the Spirit. Lay Cistercians call that moving from the false self to the new self. It is done with an act of choice, and, this choice has consequences. Home run two.

We come to the last temptation, or the Devil’s last chance to pitch. Two strikeouts so far. God 2 and Devil 0. Here is the pitch. It is a fastball. Worship me at god, says Satan, and you can have it all. It is identical to the temptation in Genesis 2-3. Wham! A triple home run. Jesus, fully human, fully God hit it out of the park.  

When those temptations come to pull you away from God, Christ tells us to do what he did and say” “Away with you Satan! Workshop the Lord your God, and serve only Him.”  This is what I told George that I try dash my bad thoughts against Christ and tell my spiritual director of my struggle. It is what I do when those bad thoughts and emotions well up within me. To battle Satan, only the sword of justice and truth can banish him from your thoughts (I ask the Warrior Angel Michael to be my protector using his flaming sword). None of this will prevent you from having wandering thoughts, but it will help if you call upon the name of the Lord to protect you from evil. That is one of the reasons I wear the St. Benedict medal I received when I made final promises as a professed Lay Cistercian. Some days are better than others.

Matthew 4 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) The Temptation of Jesus 4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’” 11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

CELIBACY AND COMMITMENT AND TEMPTATION

Once, I was talking to a group of Roman Catholic priests about sexuality and mental health. The topics were many and quite explicit, such as “I have sexual feelings a lot and have the urge to procreate with females, any females,  to fulfill these needs. Am I not entitled to fulfill my needs? I have these thoughts even during the holiest parts of the Eucharist or while praying Lectio Divina.” Having been a celibate priest for sixteen years, in my pride, I thought I could address it. I did so by saying that the urges all males have and the material instincts women have come from God and are good. We share those urges to procreate with all living things. What God made is good. Celibacy is a commitment or choice of ways to love Christ and serve the Church. It does not make sense to the World and its secular thinking of self-fulfillment. Celibacy, like a marriage commitment is a way to live our your life with Christ as your center. Having urges to propagate is natural and normal. Celibacy is a free act of the will, although people at the time don’t know what the consequences of that promise will be in ten to twenty years. “Do you think that, just because you are celibate or a consecrated religious, you are not going to be subject to what all living things have as their primary needs, i.e. security, procreation, eating? I don’t think so,” I told them, “So then, how can you be fully human and still be celibate?” I said. The purpose of life is not celibacy nor even marriage. Married couples have temptations to procreate (men) and fulfill the need to be love by another.. It is love, but authentic love is not without struggle and automatic. That is why Faith, even as a gift from God, may be lost or weakened without daily taking up our cross and following Christ. We must learn love. We learn it by doing what The Master taught us as handed down through the centuries. Celibacy and marriage are acts of love that can make us fully human. Both Celibacy and Marriage doesn’t make sense without the example Christ gave us to love one another as Christ loves us. We will always have urges to dominate others, steal, murder, hate, fornicate, commit adultery, homosexual acts, acts with animals. Remember, we come from animal instincts. What Christ gave us was salvation from our false self (Seven Deadly Sins) to be transformed by our true self (Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit). We don’t deny our authentic urges for safety, propagation, self awareness, belonging, and to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father. Temptation means we are presented with authentic love (through, with and in Christ) and unauthentic love (The World tells us what is important). We have the ability to choose to choose the way, the truth and the life.

Being a Lay Cistercian is all about affirming the choices that I think God has given us through Christ. God gives us choices in the Ten Commandments and the Church gives us choices in marriage and holy orders. We are defined by these choices. It is not just that we are free to choose, which all humans are, we are defined by what we choose. Because the World only gives us choices that cater to our false self, we are challenged to choose what is bad for us over what is good for us. Temptations simply point out the fact that we are human and have reason, but also that, like Genesis, we have a choice of the knowledge of good and evil. What we do next is sinful or not. Here are some ideas I offered to the clergy.

  • Realize that your mind can entertain any sort of thought or temptation of a sexual nature, of drinking alcohol, or living a life of clericalism (being celibate but not following Christ). Matthew 22.
  • Realize that your commitment is one of struggle, one impossible to achieve with the values of this World. Only Christ gives us the meaning of true love.
  • Realize that temptations to do evil in thoughts or with others means you are struggling with the deepest of human conditions. Being a Lay Cistercian, a monk, or a nun, will not shield you from temptation or sin, but it will help you to dash your unhealthy choices against Christ and have someone you can help you move from self to God. 
  • Realize that you are not defined by other priests or nuns who made horrific choices. Don’t confuse the aberration with the commitment, despite the greed, detraction and calumny of lawyers.
  • Realize that you are in a titanic struggle for good and evil within you.
  • Realize that, once you put on the helmet of salvation and the breastplate of Faith, you are at war with the World and it temptations for self gratification.
  • Realize that others will sustain you in time of intense temptation, if you reach out. Christ is always there.
  • Realize that, if you wear a St. Benedict medal and pray with humility and openness to the will of God, this will remind you of the prayer on the medal (see the inscriptions below). This resource is lifted from Wikipedia:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Benedict_Medal I recommend you wear the St. Benedict medal, not as magical talisman to prevent the Devil from seducing you, although it is that. Rather, I like to think of it as a rubber band wrapped around my wrist to make me conscious that, when we are lead into temptation, Christ is there to protest us from the Devil, who goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 

The medal’s symbolism

Saint Benedict Medal, front.

On the front of the medal is Saint Benedict holding a cross in his right hand, the object of his devotion, and in the left his rule for monasteries.[3] In the back is a poisoned cup, in reference to the legend of Benedict, which explains that hostile monks attempted to poison him: the cup containing poisoned wine shattered when the saint made the sign of the cross over it (and a raven carried away a poisoned loaf of bread). Above the cup are the words Crux sancti patris Benedicti (“The Cross of [our] Holy Father Benedict”). Surrounding the figure of Saint Benedict are the words Eius in obitu nostro praesentia muniamur! (“May we be strengthened by his presence in the hour of our death”), since he was always regarded by the Benedictines as the patron of a happy death.[3][10]

On the back is a cross, containing the letters C S S M L – N D S M D, initials of the words Crux sacra sit mihi lux! Non [Nunquam?] draco sit mihi dux! (“May the holy cross be my light! May the dragon never be my overlord!”).[3] The large C S P B stand for Crux Sancti Patris Benedicti (“The Cross of [our] Holy Father Benedict”). Surrounding the back of the medal are the letters V R S N S M V – S M Q L I V B, in reference to Vade retro satanaVade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas!(“Begone Satan! Never tempt me with your vanities! What you offer me is evil. Drink the poison yourself!”) and finally, located at the top is the word PAX which means “peace”.[3][10]

Saint Benedict Medal, back.

Latin AbbreviationLatin TextEnglish TextLocation
PAXPAXPeaceTop
C S P BCrux Sancti Patris BenedictiThe Cross of [our] Holy Father BenedictFour quadrants made by centre cross
C S S M LCrux Sacra Sit Mihi Lux!May the holy cross be my light!Center cross, vertical bar
N D S M DNon [Nunquam?] Draco Sit Mihi Dux!“May the dragon never be my overlord!”
“Let the devil not be my leader.”
Center cross, horizontal bar
V R SVade Retro Satana!“Begone satan!”
“Get behind me satan”
Clockwise around disk
N S M VNunquam Suade Mihi Vana!“Never tempt me with your vanities!”
“Don’t persuade me of wicked things.”
Clockwise around disk
S M Q LSunt Mala Quae Libas.“What you offer me is evil.”
“What you are showing me is bad.”
Clockwise around disk
I V BIpse venena bibas!“Drink the poison yourself!”
“Drink your poisons yourself.”
Clockwise around disk
  • We are adopted sons and daughters of the Father, but we are not orphans.
  • Wearing the blessed medal of St. Benedict is not magic or illusion, but it does remind me to call on the name of the Lord to help me in time of trouble.
  • Christ came to save us from having no choices except our own selves.
  • Christ came to save us from having our only option as being what the World thinks is true.
  • Christ came to save us from being our own god, our own church.
  • I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, says Christ our Master, follow me, love one another as I have loved you. That “as I have loved you” is the kicker.
  • We have reason to know the truth and the truth will make us free. That is not always easy to do and we fail the test of covenant many times in our lives. When we fall down, we have Christ reaching out his hand to help us back up. How many times? Seventy times seven time. 
  • I think it is important not to be defined by sin or by the exception to the Rule. Christ alone is the Rule.

I. THE MODERN TEMPTATION TO BE GOD

The news media is full of politicians falling all over themselves to proclaim what is moral, what is just, what is the way. Christ is no where to be found. Our temptation is to take the easy way out rather than doing what is right. The easy, political way is to stand for everything which is to stand for nothing. The political way is to say, “personally I am against it, but politically, I support abortion to get elected.” Hatred and detraction of others is normative. The temptation here is to think you are god, if you are politician (any party, any level of governing). Humility is no where to be found. If you take the time to measure any political message against Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict, make your own decision as to what is right or not. You have reason for a reason. No wonder that authentic religion is degenerate and mocked by those whose god is their own ego. No principles against which we must be accountable to God. Politicians are only accountable to the electorate. The temptation here is to think that there is no God, only the party platform, much of which is atheistic in assumption. The temptation for all of us is to think that all this garbage thinking will make us more human, more loving, more compassionate, and more merciful. You have reason for a reason. You also have choices for a reason, and, remember, we are defined by our choices. I choose not to be seduced by the false prophets of politics of any party. I choose not to give up my faith by burning incense before the altar of Democratic Party, Republican Party, or any groups that denigrates the teachings of Christ. The price for my redemption was too high for me to sell my birthright for a pitiful handful of silver. This might seem radical thinking, but all politics seems to me to be meaningless and bankrupt of values, based on relativistic and individualistic ideas. Power and hatred seems to be the platform of some parties. How would you evaluate what comes to you as political news based on Galatians 5:

The Works of the Flesh 1Live 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, 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 gentleness, 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.

II. TEMPTATION TO BE YOUR OWN CHURCH

There is a confusion of tongues, like the tower of Babel, in our age. Religions contradict each other and hold assumptions that cannot possibly be true, if there is but one truth. The temptation here is to follow false prophets and false gods, the modern equivalent of offering incense to the bust of Caesar as god in Apostolic times. There have always been individuals who, with itching ears, have falsely proclaimed the teachings of the Master. Sincerity is no excuse for heresy. You have a choice. As the knight in the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade movie says, “choose wisely.” After all, you have the ability to reason and the freedom to choose what is either good or evil for you. There are consequences to your choice. Just because you have the freedom to choose whatever you want does not mean that what you choose is the truth. 

Here are some Scripture passages for your reflection and contemplation.

Matthew 26:40-42 New International Version (NIV)

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.

1 Corinthians 10:13[Full Chapter]
No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

Matthew 24 NRSVCE – The Destruction of the Temple Foretold – Signs of the End of the Age

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”Jesus answered them, “Beware that no one leads you astray.For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah!’[a]and they will lead many astray.And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet.For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines[b]and earthquakes in various places:all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

SUMMARY POINTS

  • Unless you are comfortably in the grave, you will have temptations throughout your lifetime.
  • Temptation are not good or bad, they are the presentation of choices that may be good or bad for you.
  • Humans have reason for a reason and the ability to make choices that are good or evil
  • Good and evil is either defined by God (Commandments, Beatitudes, Scriptures. Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit) or by you (The World, Seven Deadly Sins)
  • Celibacy doesn’t mean you won’t have sexual thoughts or temptations to break your vows; marriage doesn’t mean you won’t have sexual thoughts or temptations to break your vows; being single doesn’t mean you have a free pass to commit fornication or adultery or living together outside of marriage.
  • Quit complaining about how difficult celibacy is or how marriage limits your sexual appetites. When God accepted you as an adopted son or daughter, he said it would be difficult to follow Him verses the World. He has given us Himself to help us, not to take away our temptations or our failures, but to assure us of God’s mercy and forgiveness, with the condition that we forgive others as well.
  • Temptations of bad or evil thoughts demand action. You can dash them against Christ and give into what they promise you.
  • You must choose God or choose the World. The World promotes self fulfillment and self-gratification; Christ promotes self-denial and transformation from your false self to your true self.
  • Christ is the Principle against which all is measured. He teaches us the meaning of authentic love, not what the World chooses. He save us from death and promises life…Forever. 
  • The gauntlet of life is fraught with many trials and “thorns of the flesh” that would seduce us from following the way, the truth, and the life. We don’t always make right choices. We have the Sacrament of Reconciliation to ask for God’s grace in helping us with temptations and to confess our love for Christ once more, to commit to making all things new once more.
  • All choices have consequences. The problem with consequence is you may not feel their effects in this lifetime, but you will be accountable for what you do. Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict counsels us to have a fear of Hell (See Chapter 4 at the beginning of this blog).

You are not me; I am not you; God is not you; and you, most certainly, are not God. –Michael F. Conrad

Praise to the 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

unsels us to have a fear of Hell (See Chapter 4 at the beginning of this blog).

You are not me; I am not you; God is not you; and you, most certainly, are not God. –Michael F. Conrad

CONTEMPLATION IS…

This morning in my meeting at Good Shepherd Catholic Church, Tallahassee, Florida, I was joined by two wonderful persons who were seeking God through contemplation. In my attempts to fumble around to describe to them what contemplation is, I came up with these ideas that you might find interesting. As a Lay Cistercian in process of moving from self to God, Contemplation means…

  • opening the mind to explore the heart
  • exploring the heart means, learning to be still in silence and solitude
  • learning to be still in silence and solitude means you meet Christ on the level of being, not human requirements
  • meeting Christ on the level of being means you discard all human conventions of communication and listen
  • listening to Christ means you must be humble and obedient to the Father, as Christ was
  • being meek and humble of heart means you can approach God  with Christ as your mediator without burning up your nerve endings 
  • you must be tamed to follow Christ authentically (…it is only with the heart that one sees rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye. –The Little Prince)
  • being tamed means you are constant and consistent in your approach to Christ each day (another word for prayer and being present to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament)
  • you want to be with the one you love
  • Cistercian practices allow each of us to approach the heart of Christ and wait in our own way
  • waiting for Christ is emptying oneself to be able to fill up in us that which is Christ (capacitas dei)
  • Capcitas dei (making room for Christ in my cluttered heart) means moving inside our soul with silence, solitude, work, prayer and community
  • Moving inside our soul is the meaning of contemplation
  • When speaking of contemplation, it is always just the beginning
  • The Holy Spirit is the height and the depth, the width of all human attempts at contemplation.

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 POWER OF DISCERNMENT

As I approached the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) with my petition and desire to be one of them, several professed members told me that our class of applicants would have to go through a period of discernment so that the community could see and hear our resolve also so that we would be able to know in our hearts if our motives were sustainable. I had been somewhat familiar with the concept of discernment before this, but had never had occasion to apply it to my own self.

One of my Lectio Divina meditations ended up with me thinking about discernment. My core is Philippians 2:5 for each Lectio Divina prayer (since 1962). In my meditation (inching toward contemplation), I was helped by the power of Christ sitting next to me on a park bench in the dead of Winter. Being the dead of Winter, I was cold and did not want to linger onto what Christ was saying. This “dead of Winter,” I noticed was not Winter at all, although I could feel the uncomfortable sting of the cold on my body. It was more like a voice telling me not to listen to Christ and to seek the warmth and comfort of a nice, warm living room with a roaring fire and toasty warm sheepskin slippers to keep my tootsies warm. This existential tug at my thoughts is always a good sign that I am doing the right thing by struggling to keep my focus on what Christ is trying to show me and tell me. In this case, he was explain to me about discernment. Here is what I can remember from this encounter.

DISCERNMENT: The Refiners Fire

One of my favorite television shows is Forged in Fire, the hour-long television show about four blacksmiths who must craft iconic weapons from whatever the producers choose. Judges then determine which smithy is the winner. Blacksmiths must use fire to heat and treat the iron to make it the shape they want and to make it hard enough to withstand two or three tests.
https://www.history.com/shows/forged-in-fire/season-6

Discernment is like that show. The Scriptures, Malachi 3, speaks of discernment to prepare the coming of the Lord in these words: 3 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.[a] Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

Not only do smithies have to know the metal they are forging, they must use a refiners fire to shape the metal into another form. Discernment is a lot like that. You are the metal. God uses fire to share you into something. The difference in this case is, you must be willing to be shaped into what God wants you to be. Discernment is a test of your metal to determine if you are capable and have the capacity to transform yourself.

A person might not be capable of being a Lay Cistercian because of the strict observances they endure, while living in the midst of chaos (the World). They may be capable of being a Dominican or Franciscan lay person. This in no way implies one of better than another, but I can say one is different from another, one is more appropriate for me than some other form of spiritual practice. Christ is the center and each of us must discern how we have in us the mind of that Christ Jesus and what that means. For me, I have been tried in the anvil of Cistercian Spirituality as a Lay person and have both been chosen by the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) and have promised to keep the Cistercian Way as best I understand it, until such time I die and receive the reward for my labors.

ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT DISCERNMENT When I use the word “discernment” it is important for you to know my assumptions. These are the unspoken or hidden meanings I use whenver I use the word. You will have a different set of assumptions. Knowing our assumptions provides for less confusion and more enlightenment.

ASSUMPTION ONE: Discernment is a voluntary period of time you use to see if you are able to meet the requirements of whatever set of values you wish to use as the center of your life.

ASSUMPTION TWO: Discernment exists in two phases: one phase has you living the set of practices to see if you have the resolve to meet set requirements; the second phase is one where you make a choice to use these practices to help you move from self to God.

ASSUMPTION THREE: If you find, for example, the Lay Cistercian requirements and lifestyle not to your liking, for any reason, there is no failure in backing off from its approach and trying something (or even nothing) else.

ASSUMPTION FOUR: My purpose for discernment is to try or practice how to move from self to God using silence, solitude, work, prayer and community.

ASSUMPTION FIVE: It takes humility an obedience to God’s will to maintain your discernment without it deteriorating into being all about you and what you need from Christ. If you know what I am talking about, you know about the meaning of dying to self and allowing Christ to rise in your heart.

CAUTION: If I truly have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5), what is important is how contemplation or any other spiritual methodology allows me to sit next to Christ on a park bench in the dead of Winter and wait for the Lord to stop by. Read the Scriptures to get a flavor for community discernment of what is from God and what is not.
1 Corinthians 1 Salutation

1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord[a] and ours:Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.I give thanks to my[b] God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of[c] Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.Divisions in the Church10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters,[d] by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters.[e] 12 What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God[f] that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. Christ the Power and Wisdom of God.18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 2For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters:[g] not many of you were wise by human standards,[h] not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one[i] might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in[j] the Lord.”

Clearly, everything depends upon and is centered on God and not our own will. When someone comes to me to talk about how they don’t like this or that about Lay Cistercian spirituality, I think of what Paul says and re-direct them to reflect on what God wants of them. The big caveat of discernment is trying to separate your will from God’s will. It takes time to see the different. For me, I used the crucible of the Lay Cistercians to sllow the refining fire of Christ to burn away my dependence upon my will.

MY TWO TYPES OF DISCERNMENT

Specific— I have undergone discernment several times recently. One time was when I took the whole series of instruction with the intention of being Anglican (St. Peter’s in Tallahassee). At the time I was angry at the Church for keeping me from being Laicized (two states of membership– clergy and laity). Like any person who let his emotions dictate his behavior, I played the blame game. I actually was in discernment for the complete series of instructions to be an Anglican (over one year). The people there were just wonderful to be. If it was just up to the people and their goodness, I would be an Anglican (or Baptism, or Methodist) today. Being in discernment, I was tried by fire on the anvil of time. More and more, I would think about Christ and less and less about what I should do. For me, the choice was clear after about a year of discernment. Despite being denied membership in the Church Universal for sixteen years, I pressed onward one more time, this time successfully. I petitioned the Magisterium of the Church and was granted Laicization by Pope Benedict XVI. Shortly afterward I applied for discernment with the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist).

Lay Cistercian Discernment

Every two years, the Lay Cistercians at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) admit novices for a two year period of official discernment. Before that time, we were encouraged to attend monthly meetings at the Monastery, conducted by Professed Lay Cistercians on some externals of the commitment expected. These four or five sessions were followed by mixing up one Gather Day with other Lay Cistercians to get a flavor of what we do each month at our meetings. In March, we had a Lay Cistercian retreat with just the prospective novices. The stress was on contemplation and prayer (both in public and in private) to begin to seek God through doing Cistercian practices and receiving charisms (humility, obedience, hospitality, trying to live the Rule of St. Benedict as one who does not live in the Monastery. In May, we were received as Lay Cistercian novices (two years) of seeing if we could not only know God but love God with all our minds, our hearts and all our strength then love our neighbor as ourselves. I use the word specific, even though it was a year and a half for the informal discernment then two years for the formal discernment focused on the Cistercian Way.

Lifetime — This type of discernment incorporates the specific type but actually lasts the rest of whatever time we have left. This is what I promised when I made my lifetime profession of Faith as a Professed Lay Cistercian. Discernment for me means Lectio Divina each day (more than once, if I am a good boy), Eucharist daily, Rosary daily, Reading Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict every day in the hopes that one day I may become what I read, Reciting the Liturgy of the Hours (Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and Compline) each day. I didn’t start off with these practices but they grew into what they are now, gradually and almost imperceptably . That took over three years of being faithful to the Cistercian practices and attending the montly Gathering Day at the Monastery.

THE GENESIS CONUNDRUM

Whenever I read Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule, even as a professed Lay Cistercian, I am trust back into the discernment mode to make a choice of God’s will or my will. Struggling in the World is never easy, it was not easy for Adam and Eve either, but that is our human condition in which we find ourselves. Genesis is an eloquent commentary on the human condition. Read Chapters 2 and 3 right now. There are four different traditions written here, all coming from different periods of time. http://www.usccb.org/bible/genesis/1/

I love the Book of Genesis and the layers of depth just keep coming and coming up in my Lectio Divina, In my understanding, Genesis seeks to answer the most fundamental questions we human face:

  • What does it mean to be human?
  • If God is so good, why am I so miserable in my life?
  • Why do I have pain with suffering? Why must I work for a living?
  • Why must I die?”
  • Why do little children suffer and die, if God is so loving?
  • How can I see God?
  • What is my purpose in life?

Discernment must take into account all of these assumptions underlying Genesis, all the caveats, and look at reality with Faith informed by reason. Christ is the not only the answer to our discernment, he also helps us focus on the questions we must ask to walk through the minefield of false prophets and theologies.

What is discernment?

Whenever you discern the spiritual practices of a way of spirituality, you must seek God in these ways to approach God (Dominican, Ignatian, Franciscan, Cistercian, Benedictine, Augustinian) realizing that Christ is the center of your bulls-eye target and these practices are only tools to help you reach out to God. Practices are not as important as the practice to move from self to God.

CHARACTERISTICS OF DISCERNMENT

Here are some of the things I have discovered about discernment, I might add, after the fact.

  • Discernment takes a long period of time, sometimes a very long period of testing to beat out the old self so that there is “capacitas dei,” (room) for God.
  • Discernment is forged in fire. Sometimes the World wins and seduces us with fear we arn’t good enough (we arn’t) or smart enough (we arn’t) or holy enough (we arn’t) or strong enough to do with by ourselves (we arn’t). What is left in the crucible of life is what we have to offer up to the Father through the Son in union with the Holy Spirit.
  • We are not shaped into the sign of Faith (the cross) by God without going from one form to another. This takes a beating to achieve. Some call this transformation. This means we deny ourselves each day and take up our crosses (each of us has different weights and shapes) and follow Christ. St. Benedict in Chapter 4 of his Rule states: “Renounce yourself in order to follow Christ (Matthew 16:26 and Luke 9:27.”
  • Discernment is placing your heart next to the heart of Christ and listening with the the “ear of the heart” (Prologue of St. Benedict’s Rule. No words are needed, no prayers are necessary, no petitions to help you with this or that is warranted. The Blessed Sacrament is the place where that can happen right now. Discernment will allow you to be hungry to stand before the Throne of the Lamb and proclaim his praises for ever and ever. The power of discernment has nothing to do with human values. God is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever and ever. 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
  • Discernment is learning to get rid of your demons replacing them with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Each day! Slowly and unrelentingly! The more you fill our heart with Christ, the less there is of the World to keep you from loving others as Christ loves us.
  • Discernment is about fidelity. The fidelity of the Lord endures forever, says the Psalmist. If you only think about the one you love once a week, it is a sign that love is lacking something. The same can be said for Faith.
  • You will know you have chosen the right path when you want to become what you have discerned.
  • You will know you have chosen the right path when you would sell all you have, give it to the poor and want to follow Christ with all your heart, your mind, and your strength.
  • True discernment is like an iceberg. What you think you know about God is the top sicking above the water. What there is left to explore is the part beneath the surface.
  • Discernment is all about doing. You do practices to see, not if God fits into your schedule, but do you fit into His (of course none of us ever do fit completely this side of Heaven). Discernment is about not giving up with your road get rocky. Just because you road is rocky doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road. Christ’s road was rocky as He walked his way to Golgotha carrying his cross.
  • Remember that Satan goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. He would like nothing better than to see you throw down your cross because you got splinters or because it was too heavy. It is a sure sign of discernment that you recognize the Satanic (not Titannic) struggle that is always going on in the World and the Spirit because of Original Sin.



GROWING DEEPER IN FAITH

If Lent is a time of cultivating the ground of our spirituality, to include watering our Faith with the renewal of our Baptismal covenant with God and our commitment to sustain our Faith, then Easter is the the product of God’s grace in us. (Matthew 25:36) The analogy of the fig tree becomes important for the realization that Faith must grow to be productive.

Each year, Easter rolls around and each year, I dutifully trudge to Eucharist on Holy Thursday, sometimes on Good Friday, and Easter Eucharist. I don’t remember much about those early experiences of Lent and Easter, but I do know that I wanted to be close to Christ through living his life and experiencing his love in the events of the Church Liturgical year. To those who say they can’t see Jesus, I can only offer my own experience of having in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) on this Lent and Easter, 2019.

WE LIVE IN THE NOW

We live in the now but we remember the past. Our memories can retain those events and encounters that were significant. Humans have reason for a reason, as well as free will. All of us have free choice, but our choices define who we are. There are good choices and bad choices. Genesis is a story about Adam and Eve (the archetype of us) and the choices we make. If we make bad choices, and we may not even know what is good or bad, then we must live with the unintended consequences. God, like the loving Father He is, doesn’t want us to choose certain activities because he knows what leads to authentic love and what is not authentic. He wants to save us from going down the wrong path while we live. “The wages of sin is death.” The meaning here refers to the death of the Spirit rather than physically dying. Some accept that while others do not.

Because we live in the now, we can learn from out mistakes, like I can learn from all the times I did not love God with all my heart, my mind, and my strength. In Lent, I recognize who I am by daily reciting Chapter 4 of the Rule of Benedict each day. Easter is a time when I rise with Christ to new life once again. If I don’t renew my Baptismal commitment frequently, like all else in life, it passes into the past to be forgotten and without impact on making all things new through Christ. Only Christ can make all things new in the Church and in my personal expression of Faith. This Easter was a time when I was conscious of the now, more so than in past years. I think that was due to the time I took (in the now) to be present to Christ during Lent. Easter is the product of my cultivation of the ground of my being, my re-directing my efforts to loving God with all my mind, my heart and my strength and to try to love my neighbor as myself. It is the act of lifting up my mind and heart to be near the heart of Christ in the now of each moment I think about it, that is important. Faith is something I must struggle to cultivate every day. As a Lay Cistercian, I found that my practice of contemplative prayers in Lectio Divina daily, Eucharist daily, Rosary daily, Liturgy of the Hours daily and reading Chapter 4 of the Rule of Benedict daily, puts me in the presence of Christ. This is a way that I grow deeper in my Faith and not be captive of a Faith that is dead.

FIVE LEVELS OF SPIRITUAL AWARENESS

I use five levels of spiritual awareness. I know St. Augustine comments on these five and they are not original to me, but I use them to grow deeper in my Faith.

Whenever I do my Cistercian prayers or go to our Gathering Day at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) each month, I try to be conscious of the now and what it going on. Here are the levels that I use to tell if I am growing deeper in Christ and moving from self to God.

In the beginning, says St. John, in Chapter 1 of his Gospel, was the Word. What word? Let it be! Yes! The Word is God. The Word became flesh and living among us. The Word give us energy.

LEVEL ONE: Say the Word (Lectio)

LEVEL TWO: Pray the Word (Oratio)

LEVEL THREE: Share the Word (Meditatio)

LEVEL FOUR: Be what you say, pray and share. (Actio)

LEVEL FIVE: There are no words to describe the Word. (Contemplatio)

I try to make the now meaningful to me by realizing that this is the way I approach Christ with others. I try to read, not just for getting the words correct but using the words of Liturgy of the Hours, for example, as prayer and maybe leading to contemplation (no words are needed).

One thing I have found that is interesting about these five levels is that I don’t say to myself, “You missed Level Four.” I don’t even think about these steps until later on. I just do them. Yet, I am growing, inch by inch, deeper and with more awareness of Christ each time I try to grow from self to God.

EXERCISE:

Read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict each day for thirty days. Pray that you become what you read. That’s all you need do. It is not as easy as you might think.

uiodg

EXSULTET JAM ANGELICA, TURBA COELORUM…

You may not have heard of this Gregorian Chant melody. It is the Pascal Story, the WHY of why the Resurrection of Christ is at the center of our Faith. Easter is a time when we get to affirm that Resurrection Enigma (see my previous blog). Listen prayerfully to the English Plain Song. This is a listening blog, a feast of music with which you may appreciation the Resurrection of Christ.

HISTORY: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/exsultet-iam-angelica-turba

TEXT: https://media.musicasacra.com/pdf/exsultet.pdf

ENGLISH PLAIN SONG: http://www.ccwatershed.org/video/37323663/?return_url=/liturgy/

OTHER MEDITATIVE SONGS FOR INSPIRATION ON THE FEAST OF THE RESURRECTION
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVowLNuV4Zk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pppexz-KKig
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPlK5HwFxcw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJCEGU7LX2s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79M0P74d6ZA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dp_llY3uyy4

May the presence of our Blessed Lord be before your mind, on your lips and in your heart.

THE RESURRECTION ENIGMA

Blessed Easter.

What follows is an excerpt from my newest publication, The Resurrection Enigma: A Lay Cistercian reflects on five consequences the Resurrection of Christ has for living Forever.

St. Paul, as you will read, states that, if the Resurrection is false, our Faith is useless. I took those ideas and applied them to my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5). What follows is what the Holy Spirit presented to me. It is amazing what thoughts come into my mind when I keep my mouth shut and open my heart to the Spirit. Here are five consequences of the Resurrection, followed by an excerpt from one of them.

The Resurrection of the Dead

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?  13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised;  14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain, and your faith has been in vain.  15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.  16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised.  17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins.  18 Then those also who have died[e] in Christ have perished.  19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (Emphasis mine)

20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.[f]  21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being;  22 for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.”

FIVE CONSEQUENCES IF THERE IS NO RESURRECTION

To even begin to discuss the Resurrection, the Mystery of Faith, something that we can only vaguely describe, we will need to examine these five themes and probe the consequences.

  • Our Need to Live Forever
  • Our Need to Fulfill Our Destiny
  • Our Need for Adoption as Sons and Daughters
  • Our Need to Love as Christ Loved us
  • Our Need to Make All Things New

The first statement to consider is why there is that nagging desire in the human heart to live Forever.

The second discussion is related to the Six Thresholds of Life or the six questions all humans must ask and answer correctly to enter the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth and in the next life.

The third statement looks at the Resurrection as the joyful confirmation that we are indeed adopted sons and daughters of the Father and what that means in my short lifespan. You are not alone in your adoption but part of the Church Universal. Heaven is your birthright, once again. Lost by Adam and Eve (our archetypal parents) the Resurrection proclaims our inheritance once again.

The fourth discussion is what type of love satisfies the human heart. Our hearts, says St. Augustine, are restless until they rest in Thee (Christ).

The fifth statement looks at our need to make all things new and how the Resurrection of Christ enables us to do so in this life and in the next.

V.     Our Need to Make All Things New

We live in a human condition where everything is dying and whose default is corruption. All of creation began, exists, then dies and loses energy. The Book of Genesis is an archetypal account of that condition and how humans must live with the consequences of knowing that their existence is limited to seventy or eighty years.  Is Genesis real? The question is: If Genesis describes how human nature possessed then lost its innocence, how individuals live in a condition of imperfection and eventually death, how there is hope for the future, then the Resurrection is that event which restores the original life intended for us from the beginning. Resurrection is the promise of Christ to restore the Garden of Eden, to unlock the Gates of Heaven to humans, and to allow us to make all things new while we await our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father.

The Resurrection Enigma is at once a recognition of our frailty but also that we can move beyond death but only with our guide to the Kingdom of Heaven, Christ.

In prior discussion, we talked about nature and how human nature was elevated to the point that we were accepted as adopted sons and daughters of the Father. So, how do we keep our focus on our destiny and the promise made to us by Christ that those who are faithful will be with him in Paradise? 

SEVEN GIFTS FROM GOD TO SUSTAIN OUR FAITH

In each age, the Church Universal takes the message of Faith, Hope and most especially Love and allows us to experience it where we are and as we are. Sustaining our Faith is one of the critical struggles we have, especially after the death of our charismatic leader, Christ. Not one person after Christ can ever fill his shoes. What we weak and sinful members can do is walk in his footsteps. These are not footsteps that we make up ourselves but ones laid down through the centuries, ones that countless people have followed, often without any notoriety or fame. Only those declared as Saints (those who have walked the path of righteousness and have put Christ as their center) are worthy to be trail guides on our journey through life.

We are saved by Faith, says Saint Paal in Ephesians not by good works, yet ironically, it that Faith does not produce good works in us, that Faith is ineffectual. Remember the time that Jesus could not work wonders because of their lack of Faith? The point here is that God shows his mercy on humans by sending us a Gift, Jesus Christ. It is only through, with, and in Christ that we receive grace to call God Abba, Father. It is only through Christ that we are saved.

Faith and Belief

Faith is not the same as belief, although some people use it that way. As you can read below, we are saved by grace through Faith, a gift from God, and not by anything we do to earn it. That grace is energy. Humans, by themselves, cannot approach the Father. It is only through, with, and in Christ, God’s only Son, that we dare to call upon the name of the Lord. Belief is our calling upon God to be merciful to us, for we are sinful and in need of grace. Faith produces good works, much like the Sun produces both heat and light. Faith comes from God; belief is a human response to Faith. We have not earned the right to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father, but Christ has purchased this for us with his life, death, and resurrection. Without the resurrection, death would be the end instead of the beginning. It takes Faith for us to believe, Faith that does not come from us but by our being one with Christ in the glory of God the Father. It is a sign of contradiction that good works alone will not get you to Heaven (Matthew 25:36ff) but that you can’t get to Heaven without them. There are only three types of works: good works, bad works, and no works. One of these is the result of Faith. God helps sustain our Faith by gifts (grace) shared and poured out through the local Church and its Pastor. God knows what we need to resist tempation, keep our minds on having in us the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5).

Saint Benedict’s Chapter 4 of his Rule sets forth for his monks what he calls the tools for good works. Properly understood (in the 6th Century) the were ways to approach Christ by having in them the mind of Christ Jesus. These tools produce the charisms of humility, obedience, hospitality, preferring nothing to the love of Christ. They increase the capacity of God in each of us according to our individual Faith. Good works are always the products of Faith, not Faith itself, of which we have been gifted by God.

From Death to Life

2 You were dead through the trespasses and sins  2 in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient.  3 All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.  4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us  5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ[a]—by grace you have been saved—  6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—  9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast.  10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (emphases mine)

Once more, God, in his wisdom, gives us what we need to be with him and claim our inheritance bought by the blood of the Lamb of God. These are gifts given to the Church to distribute to each of us in every age. They are what we need to maintain our Faith in the face of Original Sin.

Baptism –In the gift of Baptism, God made all things new in us by taking away the sin of the World (Original Sin of Adam and Eve) and giving us the mark on our souls that says we are a pilgrim in a foreign land. 

Confirmation —

With the gift of Eucharist, the community of believers offers praise and glory to the Father through that same Christ that took on our human nature. As the Lamb of God, Christ offers himself again and again to the Father as a sacrifice. The Body of Christ must be nourished with Christ’s own body and blood so that each of us can live in the foreign land and sustain ourselves against the decay and corruption of the World. The Resurrection is all about knowing, loving and serving God with all our hearts and mind and strength so that we can fulfill the destiny that awaited Adam and Eve but which they squandered.

Eucharist –To sustain the Body of Christ, God gives us the gift of Eucharist. What a brilliant idea to give each us in every age the same body and blood the same humanity and divinity the Real Presence. Christ remains the same today, yesterday and tomorrow.  The brilliance of this gift is that it happens at each age. To put it another way, Eucharist is the Real Presence because it sustains the Baptismal covenant with each person when they are. Christ is present, not as a memory to be remembered, like we think of our parents after they have died, but is the same Christ that walked the earth in his time, healing, teaching, blessing, doing the will of the Father. St. Paul says it this way in Hebrews 13:7-9 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

“7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.  8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings; for it is well for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by regulations about food,[a] which have not benefited those who observe them.”

Eucharist is Christ. Christ gave us of Himself in each age so that we might sustain our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father. Only God’s grace can help us move from two universes (physical and mental) to three universes (physical, mental, spiritual) in our approach to reality. These seven gifts from Christ help to give us that very life of God, not by any works or belief on our part, but by Faith. Whenever you see the word Faith, think of what God gives to us to help us get to Heaven (our ultimate destiny). 

If there is no Resurrection, there is no Christ present with us today because Christ died on the cross and that was that. There is no life after death, there is no promise of living Forever with the Father as adopted sons and daughters. Indeed, as St. Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins.  18 Then those also who have died[e] in Christ have perished.  19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

A Living Hope

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,  5 who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  6 In this you rejoice,[a] even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials,  7 so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  8 Although you have not seen[b] him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Without the Resurrection, there is no Eucharist. Without the Eucharist, there is no Real Presence, no heart of Christ against which we hope for future adoption. Without the Resurrection, all we have is the earth, and the World corrupts absolutely.

One of, if not the strongest urge for all living things is procreation. It becomes a little more confusing when you think of organizations that seek to propagate themselves so that they can survive each age. Gone are the Ceasars of Rome, gone the way of Ozymandias. Listen to the poetry of Shelley on the futility of power.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46565/ozymandias

Power is fleeting, fame a flickering flame blown by the wind. The Word of the Lord endures Forever, from age to age.

Reconciliation: Making All Things New  Both Eucharist and Reconciliation are given to the Church Universal to sustain our Baptismal Commitment. In Eucharist, Christ is present in the format of the Last Supper so that He lives Forever. As members of the Body of Christ, we bring Christ present into our hearts so that we can rise with Him, through Him, and with Him to give glory and honor to the Father in union with the Holy Spirit. (Eucharistic doxology)Think about it. Christ gives us of Himself just as He did on the cross, just as He did in the Transfiguration, and as He did at the Last Supper.

In Reconciliation, Christ gives us grace (His own energy) to renew in us our Baptismal Covenant. His is the Real Presence in our hearts as we proclaim our sinfulness and the need for daily renewal. I see what I do as Cistercian practices (Lectio Divina, the Rosary, Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, and reading Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict) as placing me in the presence of the Real Presence so I can receive grace. God is made flesh each time we seek forgiveness for our sins and pledge to love with all our hearts, our mind, and our strength (Matthew 22:36) These two Sacraments are to feed us and make us whole again, not in the sense of Adam and Eve but one with Christ.

Matrimony and Holy Orders — Christ gives to his body on earth the gifts that sustain it in each age. Such gifts are Holy Orders and Matrimony so that we can build up the Body of Christ here on earth in each age. Holy Orders keeps the Body whole, allowing it to make all things new in each age. Matrimony populates the Body of Christ with new members as it slowly crawls through each age. One thing to note. These two gifts are instituted by Christ to give his adopts sons and daughters grace. Grace is the energy of God in each of us and also collectively.

These two gifts are meant to sustain the Church in feeding us and to keep alive our Baptismal covenant.

Anointing of the Sick – Both Anointings of the Sick and Viaticum (preparing your heart to sit next to the heart of  Christ..forever) are gifts that prepare us to meet Christ. Christ wanted the Body of Christ (local community or parish) to help me as an individual prepare for the journey to Forever. We receive both Eucharist and Reconciliation to make our hearts ready to receive the love that Christ has for us. Come, good and faithful servant, share your Lord’s joy prepared for you from the beginning. (John 1:1)

LEARNING AND DISCUSSION POINTS

  • If there is no resurrection from the dead, there is no need to prepare for something that does not exist. 
  • It is important to realize that these gifts fulfill the needs that we have. Sustaining our baptismal promise is key to being One in Christ.
  • The Resurrection enabled us to claim our inheritance. The Resurrection needs sustaining through approaching the heart of Christ with our own heart (together with those around us as well as in union with the Church Universal).
  • Without the resurrection, whatever we do is futile, and we remain in our sins, prisoners of death, hostage to the whims that come with being our own god.
  • The power to make all things new

V.     Our Need to Make All Things New

We live in a human condition where everything is dying and whose default is corruption. All of creation began, exists, then dies and loses energy. The Book of Genesis is an archetypal account of that condition and how humans must live with the consequences of knowing that their existence is limited to seventy or eighty years.  Is Genesis real? The question is: If Genesis describes how human nature possessed then lost its innocence, how individuals live in a condition of imperfection and eventually death, how there is hope for the future, then the Resurrection is that event which restores the original life intended for us from the beginning. Resurrection is the promise of Christ to restore the Garden of Eden, to unlock the Gates of Heaven to humans, and to allow us to make all things new while we await our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father.

The Resurrection Enigma is at once a recognition of our frailty but also that we can move beyond death but only with our guide to the Kingdom of Heaven, Christ.

In prior discussion, we talked about nature and how human nature was elevated to the point that we were accepted as adopted sons and daughters of the Father. So, how do we keep our focus on our destiny and the promise made to us by Christ that those who are faithful will be with him in Paradise? 

SEVEN GIFTS FROM GOD TO SUSTAIN OUR FAITH

In each age, the Church Universal takes the message of Faith, Hope and most especially Love and allows us to experience it where we are and as we are. Sustaining our Faith is one of the critical struggles we have, especially after the death of our charismatic leader, Christ. Not one person after Christ can ever fill his shoes. What we weak and sinful members can do is walk in his footsteps. These are not footsteps that we make up ourselves but ones laid down through the centuries, ones that countless people have followed, often without any notoriety or fame. Only those declared as Saints (those who have walked the path of righteousness and have put Christ as their center) are worthy to be trail guides on our journey through life.

We are saved by Faith, says Saint Paul in Ephesians not by good works, yet ironically, it that Faith does not produce good works in us, that Faith is ineffectual. Remember the time that Jesus could not work wonders because of their lack of Faith? The point here is that God shows his mercy on humans by sending us a Gift, Jesus Christ. It is only through, with, and in Christ that we receive grace to call God Abba, Father. It is only through Christ that we are saved.

Faith and Belief

Faith is not the same as belief, although some people use it that way. As you can read below, we are saved by grace through Faith, a gift from God, and not by anything we do to earn it. That grace is energy. Humans, by themselves, cannot approach the Father. It is only through, with, and in Christ, God’s only Son, that we dare to call upon the name of the Lord. Belief is our calling upon God to be merciful to us, for we are sinful and in need of grace. Faith produces good works, much like the Sun produces both heat and light. Faith comes from God; belief is a human response to Faith. We have not earned the right to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father, but Christ has purchased this for us with his life, death, and resurrection. Without the resurrection, death would be the end instead of the beginning. It takes Faith for us to believe, Faith that does not come from us but by our being one with Christ in the glory of God the Father. It is a sign of contradiction that good works alone will not get you to Heaven (Matthew 25:36ff) but that you can’t get to Heaven without them. There are only three types of works: good works, bad works, and no works. One of these is the result of Faith. God helps sustain our Faith by gifts (grace) shared and poured out through the local Church and its Pastor. God knows what we need to resist temptation, keep our minds on having in us the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5).

Saint Benedict’s Chapter 4 of his Rule sets forth for his monks what he calls the tools for good works. Properly understood (in the 6th Century) the were ways to approach Christ by having in them the mind of Christ Jesus. These tools produce the charisms of humility, obedience, hospitality, preferring nothing to the love of Christ. They increase the capacity of God in each of us according to our individual Faith. Good works are always the products of Faith, not Faith itself, of which we have been gifted by God.

From Death to Life

2 You were dead through the trespasses and sins  2 in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient.  3 All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.  4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us  5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ[a]—by grace you have been saved—  6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—  9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast.  10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (emphases mine)

Once more, God, in his wisdom, gives us what we need to be with him and claim our inheritance bought by the blood of the Lamb of God. These are gifts given to the Church to distribute to each of us in every age. They are what we need to maintain our Faith in the face of Original Sin.

Baptism –In the gift of Baptism, God made all things new in us by taking away the sin of the World (Original Sin of Adam and Eve) and giving us the mark on our souls that says we are a pilgrim in a foreign land. 

Confirmation —

With the gift of Eucharist, the community of believers offers praise and glory to the Father through that same Christ that took on our human nature. As the Lamb of God, Christ offers himself again and again to the Father as a sacrifice. The Body of Christ must be nourished with Christ’s own body and blood so that each of us can live in the foreign land and sustain ourselves against the decay and corruption of the World. The Resurrection is all about knowing, loving and serving God with all our hearts and mind and strength so that we can fulfill the destiny that awaited Adam and Eve but which they squandered.

Eucharist –To sustain the Body of Christ, God gives us the gift of Eucharist. What a brilliant idea to give each us in every age the same body and blood the same humanity and divinity the Real Presence. Christ remains the same today, yesterday and tomorrow.  The brilliance of this gift is that it happens at each age. To put it another way, Eucharist is the Real Presence because it sustains the Baptismal covenant with each person when they are. Christ is present, not as a memory to be remembered, like we think of our parents after they have died, but is the same Christ that walked the earth in his time, healing, teaching, blessing, doing the will of the Father. St. Paul says it this way in Hebrews 13:7-9 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

“7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.  8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings; for it is well for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by regulations about food,[a] which have not benefited those who observe them.”

Eucharist is Christ. Christ gave us of Himself in each age so that we might sustain our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father. Only God’s grace can help us move from two universes (physical and mental) to three universes (physical, mental, spiritual) in our approach to reality. These seven gifts from Christ help to give us that very life of God, not by any works or belief on our part, but by Faith. Whenever you see the word Faith, think of what God gives to us to help us get to Heaven (our ultimate destiny). 

If there is no Resurrection, there is no Christ present with us today because Christ died on the cross and that was that. There is no life after death, there is no promise of living Forever with the Father as adopted sons and daughters. Indeed, as St. Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins.  18 Then those also who have died[e] in Christ have perished.  19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

A Living Hope

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,  5 who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  6 In this you rejoice,[a] even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials,  7 so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  8 Although you have not seen[b] him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Without the Resurrection, there is no Eucharist. Without the Eucharist, there is no Real Presence, no heart of Christ against which we hope for future adoption. Without the Resurrection, all we have is the earth, and the World corrupts absolutely.

One of, if not the strongest urge for all living things is procreation. It becomes a little more confusing when you think of organizations that seek to propagate themselves so that they can survive each age. Gone are the Ceasars of Rome, gone the way of Ozymandias. Listen to the poetry of Shelley on the futility of power.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46565/ozymandias

Power is fleeting, fame a flickering flame blown by the wind. The Word of the Lord endures Forever, from age to age.

Reconciliation: Making All Things New  Both Eucharist and Reconciliation are given to the Church Universal to sustain our Baptismal Commitment. In Eucharist, Christ is present in the format of the Last Supper so that He lives Forever. As members of the Body of Christ, we bring Christ present into our hearts so that we can rise with Him, through Him, and with Him to give glory and honor to the Father in union with the Holy Spirit. (Eucharistic doxology)Think about it. Christ gives us of Himself just as He did on the cross, just as He did in the Transfiguration, and as He did at the Last Supper.

In Reconciliation, Christ gives us grace (His own energy) to renew in us our Baptismal Covenant. His is the Real Presence in our hearts as we proclaim our sinfulness and the need for daily renewal. I see what I do as Cistercian practices (Lectio Divina, the Rosary, Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, and reading Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict) as placing me in the presence of the Real Presence so I can receive grace. God is made flesh each time we seek forgiveness for our sins and pledge to love with all our hearts, our mind, and our strength (Matthew 22:36) These two Sacraments are to feed us and make us whole again, not in the sense of Adam and Eve but one with Christ.

Matrimony and Holy Orders — Christ gives to his body on earth the gifts that sustain it in each age. Such gifts are Holy Orders and Matrimony so that we can build up the Body of Christ here on earth in each age. Holy Orders keeps the Body whole, allowing it to make all things new in each age. Matrimony populates the Body of Christ with new members as it slowly crawls through each age. One thing to note. These two gifts are instituted by Christ to give his adopts sons and daughters grace. Grace is the energy of God in each of us and also collectively.

These two gifts are meant to sustain the Church in feeding us and to keep alive our Baptismal covenant.

Anointing of the Sick – Both Anointings of the Sick and Viaticum (preparing your heart to sit next to the heart of  Christ..forever) are gifts that prepare us to meet Christ. Christ wanted the Body of Christ (local community or parish) to help me as an individual prepare for the journey to Forever. We receive both Eucharist and Reconciliation to make our hearts ready to receive the love that Christ has for us. Come, good and faithful servant, share your Lord’s joy prepared for you from the beginning. (John 1:1)

LEARNING AND DISCUSSION POINTS

  • If there is no resurrection from the dead, there is no need to prepare for something that does not exist. 
  • It is important to realize that these gifts fulfill the needs that we have. Sustaining our baptismal promise is key to being One in Christ.
  • The Resurrection enabled us to claim our inheritance. The Resurrection needs sustaining through approaching the heart of Christ with our own heart (together with those around us as well as in union with the Church Universal).
  • Without the resurrection, whatever we do is futile, and we remain in our sins, prisoners of death, hostage to the whims that come with being our own god.
  • The power to make all thing new does not come from ourselves, but from Christ. If there is no Resurrection, there is no power to do anything.
  • The Resurrection is an enigma to those who do not live in three universes. “To those with Faith, no answer is necessary; to those without Faith, no answer is possible.” (St. Thomas Aquinas)
  • l thing new does not come from ourselves, but from Christ. If there is no Resurrection, there is no power to do anything.
  • The Resurrection is an enigma to those who do not live in three universes. “To those with Faith, no answer is necessary; to those without Faith, no answer is possible.” (St. Thomas Aquinas)

CHAPTER 4: To make peace with one’s adversaries before the Sun sets.

Chapter 4 – The Tools 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 oneself.
3. Then not to murder.
4. Not to commit adultery.
5. Not to steal.
6. Not to covet.
7. Not to bear false witness.
8. To honor all (1 Peter 2:17).
9. And not to do to another what one would not have done to oneself.
10. To deny oneself in order to follow Christ.
11. To chastise the body.
12. Not to become attached to pleasures.
13. To love fasting.
14. To relieve the poor.
15. To clothe the naked.
16. To visit the sick.
17. To bury the dead.
18. To help in trouble.
19. To console the sorrowing.
20. To become a stranger to the world’s ways.
21. To prefer nothing to the love of Christ.22. Not to give way to anger.
23. Not to nurse a grudge.
24. Not to entertain deceit in one’s heart.
25. Not to give a false peace.
26. Not to forsake charity.
27. Not to swear, for fear of perjuring oneself.
28. To utter truth from heart and mouth.
29. Not to return evil for evil.
30. To do no wrong to anyone, and to bear patiently wrongs done to oneself.
31. To love one’s enemies.
32. Not to curse those who curse us, but rather to bless them.
33. To bear persecution for justice’s sake.
34. Not to be proud.
35. Not addicted to wine.
36. Not a great eater.
37. Not drowsy.
38. Not lazy.
39. Not a grumbler.
40. Not a detractor.
41. To put one’s hope in God.
42. To attribute to God, and not to self, whatever good one sees in oneself.
43. But to recognize always that the evil is one’s own doing, and to impute it to oneself.44. To fear the Day of Judgment.
45. To be in dread of hell.
46. To desire eternal life with all the passion of the spirit.
47. To keep death daily before one’s eyes.
48. To keep constant guard over the actions of one’s life.
49. To know for certain that God sees one everywhere.
50. When evil thoughts come into one’s heart, to dash them against Christ immediately.
51. And to m
anifest them to one’s spiritual guardian.
52. To guard one’s tongue against evil and depraved speech.
53. Not to love much talking.
54. Not to speak useless words or words that move to laughter.
55. Not to love much or boisterous laughter.
56. To listen willingly to holy reading.
57. To devote oneself frequently to prayer.
58. Daily in one’s prayers, with tears and sighs, to confess one’s past sins to God, and to amend them for the future.
59. Not to fulfill the desires of the flesh; to hate one’s own will.
60. To obey in all things the commands of the Abbot even though he (which God forbid) should act otherwise, mindful of the Lord’s precept, “Do what they say, but not what they do.”
61. Not to wish to be called holy before one is holy; but first to be holy, that one may be truly so called. 62. To fulfill God’s commandments daily in one’s deeds. 63. To love chastity. 64. To hate no one. 65. Not to be jealous, not to harbor envy. 66. Not to love contention. 67. To beware of haughtiness. 68. And to respect the seniors. 69. To love the juniors. 70. To pray for one’s enemies in the love of Christ. 71. To make peace with one’s adversary before the sun sets. (Emphasis mine) 72. And never to despair of God’s mercy.

These, then, are the tools of the spiritual craft. If we employ them unceasingly day and night, and return them on the Day of Judgment, our compensation from the Lord will be that wage He has promised: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9).Now the workshop in which we shall diligently execute all these tasks is the enclosure of the monastery and stability in the community. 

This reminds me of another phrase, “Don’t let the Sun go down on your anger.” Anger is one of those human emotions that can kill us. It can certainly lead us to kill someone else, as in Genesis when Cain killed Abel.

  • Anger can mean many things, but here are my thoughts. You can add your thoughts later on.
  • Anger is an emotion associated with my false self.
  • Anger is the seedbed for hatred, jealousy, envy, murder, theft, and pride.
  • Anger can be good, as in a “just anger” that Christ exhibited when he drove out the money changers in the Temple.
  • Anger kills grace and weakens Faith.
  • Love and anger are mutually exclusive. If you are a room, there is not room for both anger and love.
  • The more you harbor hatred and anger in your heart, the more difficult it is to differentiate between good and evil.
  • Get rid of anger. Replace it with love.

QUESTIONS THAT NEED TO BE ASKED

  • Why is it important to divest yourself of hatred and other deadly sins before the Sun sets?
  • What does hatred do to your spiritual universe? Can you fall out of Grace? Adam and Eve did.

As a Lay Cistercian trying to move from my false self (seven deadly sins) to my true self (seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit), it takes an act of free will to substitute bad for you with something good for you. It takes God’s own energy (grace) to help you make all things new.

The Sacrament of Penance is one way to not only get rid of those evil thoughts and replace them with God’s own love. Penance means we have a horror of sin and ask God to be merciful to us as we show mercy to others.

The Sacrament of Penance is the best way to seek forgiveness of our sins. Jesus instituted this public prayer of the Church Universal as a means to receive the grace of reconciliation and to make all things new in our hearts. Another way is that we proclaim our need for repentance at the beginning of each Eucharist, Finally, in prayer, we can petition the Father to have mercy on us.

If you want peace in your heart, you must ask for it, realizing that God gives you the peace not you. At the Eucharist, we receive two great gifts each time the Church Universal meets: The actual Body of Christ, and the Peace of Christ. There are seven gifts from Christ to help the Church Universal (and you) to move from self to God. Can you name them?

Read what Scriptures tell us about transforming hatred and anger into love and blessings. During this Lenten season, seek to transform yourself from your false self to your new self (making all things new in Christ). Chapter 4 (above) of the Rule of St. Benedict gives us behaviors that we should be moving towards and some things we should be moving away from. I recommend that you begin any conversion of heart by reading Chapter 4 every day and praying that you become what you read.

Matthew 5 NRSVCE – Concerning Anger2“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister,[e] you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult[f] a brother or sister,[g] you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell[h] of fire. 23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister[i] has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister,[j] and then come and offer your gift. 2Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court[k] with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”

RECOMMENDED ACTIVITY — Read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict (above) each and every day (at least a part of it). Get into the habit of prayer. Pray only that you become what you read. Be silence in your solitude and listen with the “ear of the heart,” as st. Benedict tells us in his Prologue to the Rule.

SEVEN WAYS OF DIVINE LOVE

In wandering in the vast hinterlands of the Internet, I came upon writings of a Cistercian Beatrice of Nazareth, that I would like to share with you. This is not my material, having copied it from another website. I thought it compelling enough to share it with you.
https://amedievalwomanscompanion.com/beatrice-of-nazareth/

Blessed Beatrice of Nazareth

BIOGRAPHY

“-Lived* 1200 – 1268 CE
-Joined the Beguine community in 1207 for schooling. Entered the Cistercian convent in 1208. Founded her own priory in Nazareth in 1236.+
-Became a novice to the Cistercian convent in 1215. Became a nun in 1217. Became prioress of her own convent, Our Lady of Nazareth, in 1237.
-Our Lady of Nazareth, a Cistercian convent founded in 1236.
-Feast day- July 29
Beatrice of Nazareth was born in Tienen , Belgium. While the biography of her life written in the medieval period, The Vita Beatricis, does not give an exact date of birth, it can be assumed she was born around 1200 CE. Beatrice had five older siblings, and was born into a family that was most likely considered middle class. As Roger De Ganck writes, Beatrice’s family was probably “”well-to-do, but not wealthy as has sometimes been asserted” (De Ganck, 1991, xiii).”

“Beatrice’s mother was the first source of her education, but she passed away when she was only seven years old. Afterwards, Beatrice’s father took her to a Cistercian monastery in Florival where she continued her education. After her stay in Florival, she was sent by the Abbess of the Cistercian Monastery in Florival to the Cistercian monastery at La Ramee “to learn how to write manuscripts, especially Choir books .” While at La Ramee, Beatrice met a fellow Cistercian and mystic named Ida of Nivellese , who “helped the young woman in developing her own spiritual life”.
After her stay at La Ramee, she moved to a monastery at Maagdendal, where she was consecrated as a virigin by a bishop, and then moved to Nazareth. At Nazareth, she established her own convent as prioress in 1237, the Our Lady of Nazareth.
Around this time, she composed her most famous work, The Seven Ways of Divine Love. The fact that “she was the author of this work was only discovered by Leonce Reypens in 1925”.”

“Seven Ways of Divine Love”

1.   “The first way is a fierce longing engendered by Love. Before the Soul can overcome every resistance to it, this yearning must develop gradually so that it rules the heart fully, Then She can work in strength and intelligence, with the courage to grow in Love.”

2. ” The Soul is given a second way of love. Sometimes she serves the Lord for nothing, only from love, without reason or reward, even of mercy or bliss.”

3. “The third way of Love is a way of pain and misery. The good Soul may come to this way if She wants to react fully to Love, to follow Love with reverence, service, honour and worship.”

4. “The fourth way of love is sometimes given in great delight, and sometimes in great pains. Love may be pleasantly awakened in the soul and may lift it up with great happiness, so that Love moves in the heart, without any human aid.”

5. “Alternatively, love can be awakened powerfully, arising with overpowering recklessness and great passion. This is the fifth way of love. It is as if She wanted to break the heart of the Soul by brute force, tear the Soul out and lose Herself in the purging fire of Love.”

6.” When the bride of our Lord has made progress and has achieved this greater salvation, She experiences a sixth way of love, closely connected and with higher knowledge” (image of the original 6th way).

7. “The blessed soul still has a more sublime way of love, a seventh way, which gives her much to do within. She is being raised above the human measure of love, above senses and reason, higher than everything of which our heart is capable on its own.”

Full Text (Note: Try the Full Text option. –mc)

“As one develops their love for God and passes through these 7 “ways,” the soul becomes more attuned with God’s form of Divine Love. As the Love heightens, it begins to give the individual the courage to grow closer to God, and begins to lift the soul. In the higher, final stages of love for Beatrice, once one has attuned their love to the love of God, their love begins to transcend the typical “earthly” love, and goes beyond senses and reason. The individual develops a different kind of love, a Divine Love, far above the “human love”. This transcendence requires active participation from the Soul, as the Soul must rule the heart, strive for the Divine connection, and actively lose (herself) in God’s “purging fires of Love”. When this transformation takes place, the Soul has access to not only higher knowledge, but to an entirely different reality. Truly, this level of love is “earth-shattering!”

 Works Cited

Anderson, Andy. Beatrice of Nazarath: Seven Ways of Divine Love. 2001. Web. 22 April 2014.

CNS.edu. Beatrice of Nazarath. Web. 22 April 2014

Dungen, Wim van. On the Seven ways of Holy Love. Antwerp. 2014. Web. 22 April 2014.

Women Philosophers. Beatrice of Nazareth. Web. 22 April 2014.

QUOTES FROM BLESSED BEATRICE OF NAZARETH

https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1P3-883495541/spiritual-friendship-in-the-vita-of-beatrice-of-nazareth

MY COMMENTS

I am always fascinated by lists that Cistercian men and women use to move deeper into union with Christ Jesus. Blessed Beatrice of Nazareth wrote about sevens levels of spiritual awareness. I wanted to share these with you, especially during this Lenten time of reflection and penance; that she lived in the first half of the Thirteenth Century is remarkable in itself. We are so fortunate to have the writings and spiritual guidance provided by these models of spirituality to help us grow deeper from self to God.

UIODG

A SIGN OF CONTRADICTION

The message of Christ does not make sense. Scripture says that it is folly to the Gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews. That is another way of saying you won’t “get” what Christ is saying unless you use the Rule of Opposites. What follows is my Lenten reflections on the folly of God, “O, Happy Fault” (From the Exultet Jam Angelica Turba Choelorum, of the Easter Vigil Hymn).

In my book, Three Rules of the Spiritual Universe, I set forth three rules that apply whenever I look at anything spiritual. These are cross-cutting themes that transcend my notion of three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual), all with different measurements, all distinctly one. http://www.amazon.com/books Type in: Dr. Michael F. Conrad.

  1. THE RULE OF THREES Humans have their reason for a reason. The purpose of life is to look at every day with fresh eyes, even if they are sleepy. Those who are spiritual see with three universes, the physical sight, mental enlightenment, and spiritual wisdom. All truth is one, but with three layers or universes, each quite distinct.
  2. THE RULE OF REVOLVING CENTERS Humans are spiritual animals, but animals nevertheless. While in the physical universe, there is a constant battle between the spirit and the flesh. It is only with spiritual energy from God that humans can consistently and persis- tently keep their centers intact. To aid humans, the Master gives us help, both individually and collectively.
  3. THE RULE OF OPPOSITES What may seem true in the physical universe is just the opposite in the spiritual universe. When you are weak, then you are strong. If you wish to be a leader, you must serve all. If you wish to get to Heaven, you must be as a little child. With this rule, you learn to speak and think spiritually.

When I think of the Mystery of Faith, the compendium of all reality, the way, the truth, and the life for humans, the sign of contradiction that makes sense, I can only do so by applying these three Rules. Science has its rules, its special language. If you look at physical reality, you need to see if with the principles of mathematics, chemistry, and physics. Whenever you ask the question, “What does reality look like,” the answer you get depends upon what assumptions you use to discover what is real, what is true. Similarly, in the spiritual universe (one that makes sense only if you use the Rule of Opposites), answering the question, “What does reality look like” must be answered by Christ, who tells us, then shows us the purpose of life so that we can discover our personal purpose in life. Christ uses parables to explain to those in his age the meaning. Although this is a somewhat long passage, read it in its entirety to get the full import of the meaning of parables and how Christ uses them to teach us about how to love.

Matthew 13 (NRSVCE)

The Parable of the Sower “13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears[a] listen!

”The Purpose of the Parables10 Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets[b] of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 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.

The Parable of the Sower Explained 18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.[c] 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

What is missing? It is you. It is up to each individual to use the parable to use it to his or her advantage. If it is true that “whatever is received is received according to the disposition of the recipient,” then each of us can look at these parable stories and come up with different views, depending on our assumptions. For example, someone who only sees reality in terms of two universes (physical and mental) will not know how to makes sense out of it because the language is not what the World expects but what Christ taught us. Those who hear the word of God, and understands, it bears fruit. Those who do not see or hear (the spiritual universe) will not get it and it remains just a nice story like Aesop’s Fables. To those who can use the Rule of Opposites (using Faith, God’s gift of energy), it can be a transformation from self to God.

THE PARABLE OF THE PRATTLING PUBLICAN

Several weeks ago, I asked one of my colleagues to discern if they wanted to be an active part of the discernment group I was forming to explore the possibility of starting a Lay Cistercian group in Tallahassee, Florida. I told him that discernment meant no commitment, just follow your heart and let it guide your mind. Most of what we do in the World is dictated by following our mind and our heart follows that.

He told me about all the ministries he was doing for the Church and how his wife told him to cut out some of them so he could have a life (she was actually asking if she could have a life). In what must have been a five minute apologia, he told me why he could not join my group. I sensed that he was getting nervous trying to make excuses for why he can’t be a part of it. He walked away, like the rich young man in the account

Matthew 19. The Rich Young Man 16 “Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19 Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “I have kept all these;[b] what do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money[c] to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.”

SEDUCED BY THE SACRED

Later on that day, I reflected back on that encounter and had these thoughts.

  • What if Christ Himself was sitting down in front of me and asked me to follow Him? Would I offer excuses as to why I was too busy to listen to the call? Probably! Maybe in six months? Probably not!
  • In terms of how we all approach such questions that demand an unknown and unseen consequence, this was classic avoidance. It is the classic political ploy of kicking the can down the street.
  • I must always be on guard that I am too busy praying instead of paying attention to what God is asking of me in my prayer. Wait for the Lord in silence, solitude, work, prayer and community. Be still my heart.
  • What is Christ telling each of us as we approach him every day with our prayers? Are we too busy with doing what we consider spirituality to be bothered with what the Holy Spirit is telling us, even when we think we are spiritual and pride ourselves on listening to the voice of the Lord? Isn’t Lent supposed to be a time when we seek silence and solitude away from all those “things” and “activities” we think makes God happy to actually listening to what Christ is telling us now, even if our plate is full, especially if our plate is full, don’t you think?
  • This is a very subtle temptation to choose self over God. It is only when, in humility and obedience, when we hear the voice of the Lord, that we become more like Christ and less like Adam and Eve. The danger in romanticizing the spiritual life with Christ is that we are seduced by the words and fail to listen and then obey what Christ is actually trying to say to us. This may be called the “heresy of action.”
    I thought of the saying I prayed that very morning at Office of Readings (Liturgy of the Hours) in the Invitatory antiphon for Lent, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Take a moment and pray this prayer of the Church Universal below. Think about the Antiphon in terms of the story above.

LENTEN PRAYER TO RE-CENTER OURSELVES ON WHAT CHRIST WANTS AND NOT OUR WILL

Christian Prayer:
Antiphon: 687
Psalm: 820

Lord, open my lips.
— And my mouth will proclaim your praise.

Ant. Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

Psalm 67

O God, be gracious and bless us
and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth
and all nations learn your saving help.

Ant. Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

Ant. Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

Let the nations be glad and exult
for you rule the world with justice.
With fairness you rule the peoples,
you guide the nations on earth.

Ant. Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

Ant. Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

The earth has yielded its fruit
for God, our God, has blessed us.
May God still give us his blessing
till the ends of the earth revere him.

Ant. Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

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

Ant. Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

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

REACHING PERFECTION

I have always had a problem with spirituality until very recently. In the last six years, since I began my discernment as a Lay Cistercian (which I am still doing) into what it means to transform myself from my false self to a new self in Christ, I was under the illusion that those words of Christ, to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect, were to be taken literally. Back then, that translated into doing more prayers, more penance, more good works, and more love. Matthew 5:47-48 (NRSVCE)47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,[a] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

My problem was, and to a lesser degree still is, how can I be perfect when I know I live in a condition of Original Sin? For example, when I go to the Eucharist and receive Our Lord in the Bread and Wine, I feel, at the time, that I do reach a little higher toward perfection, but then comes the fall, just like Adam and Eve. As soon as I begin to live my daily routine, there are those little peccadilloes that pull me back to the World. Sometimes I feel like a yo-yo. I think that is all part of striving for perfection. We venerate Mary, the Mother of God, because she was made perfect by God, just like we will be when we make it to Heaven. We venerate all the Saints because they were not perfect, but by renouncing themselves to put on Christ, they all tried to be perfect. Only Jesus and his Mother, Mary were without sin. The rest of us must work to be spiritual, to learn how to love, to use the gifts from Christ to help us become perfect.

I realize that Christ was like us in all things but sin. This takes me to a Lectio Divina I had on perfection while meditating on Philippians 2:5. Perfection is one of those qualities that I seek but know that I will never attain in this life. It is the seeking Christ that is important for me, the daily taking up my cross, the struggle to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5) that is my lot.

  • It takes work to be perfect. Doing nothing actually does nothing to allow you to live in three universes (physical, mental, spiritual) and to receive the energy of God in our hearts.
  • I will never be perfect like Christ. I may only seek to be perfect with Christ.
  • Heaven is a final attainment of that which I sought and struggled for while I live.
  • In Christ, I will reach perfection. I can’t even strive for perfection in two universes (physical and mental) because the World does not believe in renouncing oneself to follow anyone, except itself.
  • This is the importance of being a Lay Cistercian to me. This way of life, the emphasis on the contemplative, helps me to seek God and strive for perfection all the while realizing that I am in need of Christ’s redemption on a daily basis.
  • The Cistercian practices and charisms all help me focus on this striving, Humility and obedience to God’s will are keys to my struggle. I read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict every day so that I might anchor myself in Christ and not in me. I use Chapter 4 as a good example of perfection because when I read them, I see how short I have come in transforming myself from self to God.

During this Lenten season, it is a time of repentance and penance for our past sins. Seeking perfection is a goal, one that can only be reached by having in you the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)

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

SOME DAYS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS

One of the things I have noticed about myself as I try to fulfill the promises I made as a Professed Lay Cistercian, namely to do have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) by praying a daily Lectio Divina, daily Eucharist, daily Liturgy of the Hours (Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, and Evening Prayer), daily Rosary, reading Chapter 4 of the Rule of Benedict every day. The secret of contemplative prayer has not changed since the early challenge of the heart heard by men and women to discover the kingdom of God within themselves. It is passion to be in the presence of the one you love, and to love others as Christ loves us.

While I do try to follow Cistercian practices as much as I can, I also recognize in myself that some days are better than others. I can attribute this to many things, one of which is Original Sin. I am not always sparkling and in peek condition as I approach the Father each day through Christ using Cistercian practices. Some days are better than others. Here are a few lessons I have taken away from my consistent practice of contemplative spirituality. Like an old, worn-out boot, life takes its toll on my physical body as it interfaces with my mental universe. All three universes in which I live (physical, mental, and spiritual) interact with each other.

PRAY AS YOU CAN — Brother Michael, O.C.S.O. told our group that we should pray as we can not as we should. Praying as we should sets goals to attain, i.e., I need to go to Eucharist as a Lay Cistercian. Praying as I can has those same goals but realizes that, if I cannot make the Eucharist through sickness or having doctor’s appointments, I can offer up my prayer intentions in union with all those who are at present. The same thing applies for reciting the Liturgy of the Hours each day. Some days are better than others, but it is the heart that I desire to approach the heart of Christ in praise and glory.

PRAY WHEN YOU CAN — Over my discernment phase to become a Lay Cistercian, I noticed that no one forced me to pray. I gradually grew to a stage where, if I didn’t pray the Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina, Rosary Meditations, Reading Sacred Scriptures, Eucharist, and praying Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict each day, I felt somehow unfulfilled and empty. I begin each day with my Morning Offering, where I take 60 seconds to offer up the whole day to the Father through Christ in union with the Holy Spirit. I center myself on what is my purpose in life, i.e.., to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). I do have a schedule for each day, particularly my prayers and when I should say them, but the important thing is not keeping the schedule to pray but to life my mind and heart to be near the heart of Christ. It is that simple. It is also that difficult.

PRAY IN THE NOW– This sounds trite and somewhat out of sync with today’s default of instant gratification. When you think of it, we don’t live in the past (we recall it) and we don’t live in the future (we anticipate it) but what we do, our activities, how we find meaning for our brief sojourn on earth, the platform for choosing God as our center, and, most importantly, living in three universes and not just two (physical and mental), all happens in the NOW.

  • Is it by coincidence that God tells Moses that his name is “Ege asher Ege,” I am the one who is? Is it by chance that each moment is a choice, one which establishes the priorities of three universes? The classic archetypal choice of Adam and Eve was all our choices of the knowledge of good and evil. They chose poorly, wanting to put their own priorities in place rather than allow God to be God. Christ’s choice was to be human, but even more than that, if you read Philippians 2:5-12, to freely die on the cross in sacrifice for the whole human race, that we might be saved by Faith and live in Heaven.
  • Is is a coincidence that Heaven is not a place but a person, the eternal now, where there is no time, space, matter, but there is energy, the pure energy of God?
  • Is it a coincidence that pure energy is love and it by loving others as Christ loves us that we can use that Faith to produce Love, Forever?
  • Is it by chance that God became one of us in Christ Jesus to show us how to exist in the NOW by transforming it through our daily offering our ourselves to the Father through Christ by means of the Holy Spirit?
  • Is is a coincidence that Christ is the same today, yesterday, and tomorrow? We prepare to live in the NOW Forever by living as we can in the Now on earth.
  • Lay Cistercian spirituality, with silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community helps me to focus on the NOW each day. Each day is a lifetime. I try, but some days are better than others.

It is in the act of trying to become more like Christ each day that we make our lives a prayer, lifting our poor, imperfect bodies, minds and our spirit to be ONE in the NOW of FOREVER.

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 (emphases mine)

CHAPTER 4: A Great Horror of Hell

Each age looks at the principles Christ taught us using the prevalent, collective thinking of the World. Reflecting on Hell is one of those things I don’t like to do but am compelled to do as my Lectio Divina during Lent and whenever I read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict.

I think of it as living in two universes, or a world without God. It is the world described in Genesis 2-3 after the Fall from Grace by Adam and Eve. We take our morality from rock stars and movie stars. Taboo is taking up your cross, denying yourself, and following Christ. We are creatures that seek our own comfort and happiness. How we view what is meaningful in life depends on what our assumptions might be. These assumptions must come from somewhere. Increasingly, I see society drifting towards hatred, jealousy, being mean-spirited, Another way to look at it is the World is that it is our default behaviors, two universes (physical and mental). God inserts Himself into Time in the person of Jesus Christ, being both divine and human in His nature. In my way of thinking, we have freedom to choose, in addition to knowing what to choose (the archetypal sin of Adam and Eve). Adam and Eve chose poorly. Genesis is a classic commentary of what it means to be human and why we are different from all other reality. It is the reason we have reason. It is the reason why we can choose this over that. God tells us in the Old Testament what are good choices and bad choices. The good choices have consequences, being one with God. The bad choices also have consequences, being alienated from God, for lack of a better way to say it. This is Hell.

THE OLD TESTAMENT STRUGGLE TO BE SPIRITUAL

The age in which the Old New Testament was formulated had strict cultural patterns of thinking In the Old Testament, for example, Abram wanted to sacrifice his son, Issac on an altar to please God. In this account, God wanted no part of human sacrifices and so told Abram to sacrifice a kid goat instead, an animal sacrifice. Why do you think this account is so crucial to the covenant relationship between God and Humans? In part, I think it was a shift in behaving and thus in believing that sacrificing your son or daughter to the gods, probably prevalent among all the other tribes of the time, was not right. I am also convinced that the early Israelites became convinced, over time, that their God was true because they won more battles with Him than without Him. He was better than other gods surrounding them. Other gods were real to these early Israelites, reference the Golden Calf which the people worshiped as Moses came down the mountain with the tablets God had carved out of rock. The dynamic of relationship is: God is God and Israel is not God, to sustain the Genesis story of Adam and Eve. God does not have a covenant with Moses, or Aaron, but with the people of Israel as a collective body. The Commandments, for example are rules of behavior by individuals to keep the tribes from killing and cannibalizing each other instead of other foreign enemies. The books of the Old Testament are a testimony to how God is faithful and Israel is not. Read the main theme of all the Psalms and prophets as being like a faithless spouse. Yet, God will not abandon his people, his covenant.

CHRIST COMES TO MAKE ALL THING NEW

Enter the Christ Principle, or that which flows from Him in every way. As God, he takes away the sin (Original Sin of Adam) for those who have Faith, allowing us to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father and heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven. We know that Christ is the same, today, yesterday and tomorrow. We also know that we are not the same. How so?

  • Yet, because of the gift of love (Philippians 2:5-12) Christ can make all things new for us, even as we live out our time on earth.
  • God has given us the gift of reason for a reason.
  • God has allows us free will to choose good or evil for a reason.
  • As we looked at above, Israel often chose evil, but God remained faithful for a reason.
  • Just as humans must breathe oxygen and live in a controlled environment to sustain life, Christ came to give us the capability to sustain the Sacred in us, which makes us able to live in the next realm Heaven. Hell is the choice we make that God has no part in reality, that there is no God, no Heaven, no Sacred.
  • Will the angel of death pass over your house? If you have the blood of the Lamb on your lintel, if you are washed in the blood of the Lamb of God, if you practice humility to have the eyes to see and do the wonderous gifts of the Holy Spirit, you will enter into your inhertance.

As in the Old Testament, God works in each age through the modern Twelve Tribes of Israel, the Church Universal, connected together through the centuries by Christ. Are individuals sinful? All of them. Are they in need of making Christ new in their individual as well as collective lives? Indeed. We are given adoption as sons and daughters for a reason.

The reason is God’s love for us, as evidenced by His giving His only Son for us that we might have life. Read What St. John 3 says.

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”[j]

When St. Benedict tells us in his Chapter 4 of the Rule to have a great horror of Hell and reflect on it, I think of the opposite of love: what it would have been like if there was no Resurrection? What could I look forward to, if I was not an adopted son? That is the true horror of Hell.

I don’t want to be Hell-centric any more than I want to be sin-centered to the exclusion of Grace (God’s own energy in, with, and through Christ to sustain me through the Holy Spirit. My purpose of life is Philippians 2:5, “..have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” You can’t have both Heaven and Hell as your Center any more than hatred and love can exist in the same room. You must choose. I must struggle with the choice. The Old Testament is our reminder that, even if the choices seem irrelevant, God’s folly is greater than the wisdom of humans. The sign of contradiction makes sense only in three universes (physical, mental and spiritual) and just just two (physical and mental).

During this season of penance and asking for God to be merciful to the Church Universal and to me, in particular as a Lay Cistercian, I reflect on Hell as the ultimate result of my not loving others as Christ loves me. I think about the desolation of what it would be like to be human without the concluding chapter of the Book of Life.

I re-energize my commitment to make all things new around me, giving glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit now and forever. To God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen -Cistercian doxology


Mr. McCarrick

As I sit here before the computer, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide me in my search for God, a striking thought keeps infiltrating my consciousness. Earlier in the week, I had read an article in the “Tabloid” press about how the Vatican had defrocked Cardinal McCarrick, former Archbishop of Washington D.C. for his repeated sexual abuse of young boys. Usually, I would have glanced at the article, expressed great sorrow that someone dedicated to Christ had abandoned his calling in the most horrific way, prayed for the victims of the atrocities that they might find peace in their lives, then moved on. The author of this particular article, quite properly, described that Cardinal McCarrick was now Mr. McCarrick. What stood out for me was his description that he was punished by being made a layman, without authorization to celebrate Eucharist. What made me a bit angry was the word, punished by being made a layman, as if that was the most horrific thing that could happen to a Roman Catholic for the most horrific betrayal of his vow of celibacy. What follows is a listing of my thoughts about the whole controversy. These thoughts may be random and might not all be linked together well.

  • Anyone who breaks the law should go to jail or anyone who covers up a crime should be punished.
  • No one is above God’s law.
  • Being made a layman is not a crime nor should it be a punishment for clerics who are not permitted to exercise their ordination. Holy Orders makes an indelible mark on the soul, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchesidek.”
  • Most dioceses have policies and boards in place to deal with accusations of improper sexual advances by a cleric.
  • Clerics are not the only ones who have committed crimes, but they receive the most press.
  • Sexual crimes and cover-ups are not the only crimes committed by clerics, teachers, and their staffs. Fraud, alcohol abuse are also reasons to suspend someone from ministry.
  • Mr. McCarrick has not been “excommunicated” but laicized. Do you know the difference?
  • Being “defrocked” means you have been disciplined and found guilty of some crime and may not practice your ministry.
  • In certain cases, former priests can hear confessions of those who are in danger of death.

There are two states in the Catholic Church. One is a cleric, anyone incardinated into a diocese under a Bishop; and another is a layperson, anyone who practices the Faith in a particular diocese. Both are equally focused on Christ as their center. A variation on that is the consecrated religious vocation and various lay institutions or associations recognized by the Vatican.

The Paraclete Fathers have, as their sole ministry, to help priests recover from mental health issues. Have they been criticized both fairly and unfairly for not doing enough to keep predatory priests from the flock, much like a shepherd who guards his sheep with these priests being the wolves in sheep’s clothing? Some truth to that, but like all fodder for those who want to find fault, there is always plenty to fuel the lust for vengeance, hatred, bias, and conspiracy. Always!

My discomfort, in addition to being humiliated by priests and religious who have not kept their vows, has to do with the statement in the press that Mr. McCarrick is punished by being made a Layman and “reduced to the Lay State”. When is being a Layperson a punishment? When anyone stands before our Father to give an account of our stewardship, the only thing we will be judged on is how well we loved. Matthew 25:36 gives us an accounting of what we will face. All of us are sinners, even the lawyers that trumpet the corruption of the Church, to further their own gain rather than justice for victims. It is not pretty! In fact, I find it downright terrifying.

https://religionnews.com/2015/12/07/spotlight-its-not-just-a-catholic-problem/

In the wake of the revelations of multiple priests being found guilty of sexual crimes against a minor, I offer some thoughts about what are the actual principles which we should strive to keep in mind. I go back to the core principles and values that the compendium of our Faith used in times of crisis, both external and internal.

DON’T JUDGE OTHERS- Christ is the just judge before whom we must give an accounting of our stewardship. No one gets away with anything. It is important to remember that all sins, even those such as sexual abuse, may be forgiven. That does not mean this sin is okay. Each sin has to be atoned or have reparation. That is the meaning of Christ dying on the cross. It is also why each of us must be a penitent man or woman in the face of our sins against both God and each other. Christ has mercy on all of us; we must forgive others as we want God to forgive us.

THE GATES OF HELL WILL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST THE CHURCH –– Because the Holy Spirit is with each of us in each age, what do we think we have joined by being a member of the Body of Christ? It is like the Elks, the Moose Club, a Country Club (if you can pay the fee, you can get it)? This is spiritual warfare between the forces of evil and the forces of light. It always has been that way. It always will be. In the context of Original Sin, the Church Universal (made up of individuals, all on the same level of being sinners) will prevail, but our personal and individual approach may fail. For every Mr. McCarrick, there are examples of exceptional heroism, some even giving their lives for Christ. I would not give my life up for the Church (like the Moose or Elks Club), but I would give it up for Christ as head of the Church Universal. How weak is your Faith in Christ if you are buffeted by the winds of change and misfortune, both internal and external. On what have you based your Faith. Are you a reed shaken by the wind, to bend and perhaps break when times are difficult. They have always been difficult. Thanks be to God that Christ has given us the gifts and His Own energy to help us. Without the energy of God, we fall back on our own devices and the gates of Hell will have prevailed over us as individuals. As the Body of Christ, together, we prevail against the gates of Hell. It is not easy. Just because your road is rocky and you may be a victim, don’t let that keep you from your destiny. All of us are victims of sin, all of us are victims of the failings of someone else. Unless we rise above that, we remain just victims, angry at someone else, and unable to forgive even ourselves.

THE CHURCH MUST BE PENITENTIAL —Here is a great source of knowledge and prayer that re-centers us on what is important, loving others as Christ loves us. I quote the reference in its entirety so that you may experience both its power and significance.
http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/seven-penitential-psalms-songs-of-suffering-servant.cfm

It is important to remember that this is not an academic exercise for other people but meant for each one of us to embrace as part of the humility it takes to take up our cross daily and follow in the steps of The Master. Use the following site as part of your Lenten devotion of penance and mercy.

The Seven Penitential Psalms and the Songs of the Suffering Servant

The Seven Penitential Psalms

During times when we wish to express repentance and especially during Lent, it is customary to pray the seven penitential psalms.  The penitential designation of these psalms dates from the seventh century.  Prayerfully reciting these psalms will help us to recognize our sinfulness, express our sorrow and ask for God’s forgiveness.

Psalm 6









Audio
Reflection
Psalm 32
AudioReflection
Psalm 38
AudioReflection
Psalm 51
AudioReflection
Psalm 102
AudioReflection
Psalm 130
AudioReflection
Psalm 143
AudioReflection

The Songs of the Suffering Servant

Within the Book of the Prophet Isaiah we encounter four poetic sections known as the Songs of the Suffering Servant. The specific identity of this Servant of the Lord remains the topic of scholarly debate. Perhaps it refers to the prophet Isaiah himself, perhaps the entire nation of Israel, or possibly the promised Messiah. Christian faith sees these prophetic utterances fulfilled in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Lord.
In brief:

  • The first song introduces God’s Servant who will establish justice upon the earth
  • The second song, spoken in the Servant’s own voice, tells of being selected from the womb to become God’s mouthpiece and help renew the nation
  • In the third song, we learn of the abuse and derision the Servant endured at the hands of his enemies
  • The fourth song proclaims the salvific value of the Servant’s innocent suffering that will justify many and blot out their offenses. 

Because of the Christian identification of the Suffering Servant with Jesus, the four Servant Songs become a way of encountering the Lord during this Lenten Season. Not only do they give us a sense of the commitment and endurance that characterized his messianic ministry, but they become a way of touching the bruised face of the Messiah, of hearing the resolute determination that sustained him in the midst of trial, and of rejoicing with him in God’s ultimate vindication of his calling and service.

Song 1









Audio
Reflection
Song 2
AudioReflection
Song 3
AudioReflection
Song 4
AudioReflection

uiodg

FORGIVE THOSE WHO HURT YOU

Several years ago, at Evansville, Indiana, a couple came up to me and told me that they were sorry but were changing their membership to another Religion because they observed the Church was too corrupt. I thanked them for their attendance and gave them a blessing. “Before you go,” I said, “tell me where you are going that is free from corruption and sin. I want to join that Church with you.” They did not respond to my question but sheepishly walked away. There was evidently a lot more going on that what they were telling me.

If you think Jesus did us a favor by establishing the Church, think again. He handed the keys of the kingdom to people who had a difficult time to determine who was right, who had authority, whose Gospel was the best, which Apostle was the best. Things haven’t changed much from those first decades after Christ’s death. The Church is Holy, not because any of its members are holy, but because Christ, the head of the Body is Holy.

Here is a writing from St. Polycarp on some of the shenanigans going on in the very early Church as read in the Office of Readings for October 3, 2018.

Second reading
From a letter to the Philippians by Saint Polycarp, bishop and martyr
Let us run our race in faith and righteousness

I ask you all to respond to the call of righteousness and to practice boundless patience. Your own eyes have seen it not only in blessed Ignatius, Zosimus and Rufus, but in others from among you as well, to say nothing of Paul and the other apostles. Be assured that all these men did not run their race in vain. No, they ran it in faith and in righteousness and are now with the Lord in the place that they have earned, even as they were once with him in suffering. Their love was not for this present world;rather, it was for him who died for our sakes and, on account of us, was raised up again by God.

Be steadfast, then, and follow the Lord’s example, strong and unshaken in faith, loving the community as you love one another. United in the truth, show the Lord’s own gentleness in your dealings with one another, and look down on no one. If you can do good, do not put it off, because almsgiving frees one from death. Be subject to one another, and make sure that your behavior among the pagans is beyond reproach. Thus you will be praised for the good you have done, and the Lord will not be blasphemed because of you. But woe to that man on whose account the Lord’s name is blasphemed. Therefore, teach everyone to live soberly, just as you live yourselves.

I am greatly saddened on account of Valens who at one time was presbyter among you; he does not understand the position to which he was called. So I urge all of you to be chaste and honest, to avoid avarice and to refrain from every form of evil. If a man cannot control himself in these ways, how can he teach someone else to do so? If he does not avoid greed, he will be defiled by idolatrous practices and will be reckoned as one of the pagans who know nothing of the Lord’s judgment. Or, as Paul teaches: Do we not know that the holy ones will judge the world?

However, I have never seen of heard of anything of that sort among you, for whom blessed Paul labored and whom he commends at the beginning of his letter. For he boasted about you in all the churches which at that time were the only ones that had come to know God – we ourselves had not yet come to that knowledge.

Brothers, I am deeply sorry for Valens and for his wife; may the Lord grant them true repentance. As for yourselves, be self-controlled in this respect. Do not look upon such people as enemies, but invite them back as frail members who have gone astray, so that the entire body of which you are a part will be saved. In doing this you are contributing to your own spiritual development. (emphases mine)

St. Polycarp (died in 155 AD) is said to have written this sometime around 120-140 AD.  Even in the very early formation of the Church, there are those who betray the community. They say one thing but do another. Valens was a married priest who fell out of grace. St. Polycarp bids us to forgive them and invite them back so that the entire body, of which you are a part, will be saved. Sadly, our own Church does not welcome back sinners with the love that seemed to come from Christ through His Church. We need to do a better job of reconciliation rather than casting out others who have harmed us. We should not condone sin but we also should not condone pride. It is a mark of Holiness in the Church that we can forgive all those who suffer from the effects of sin, perpetrators, victims, the Church Universal. Forgiveness does not mean we condone evil or say it is okay. It does mean we will never forget those marks against our dignity, self-worth, and faith, but that we have moved on facing Christ rather than the past. Easy? Never. It is what makes us holy.

In this Season of Lent, the Liturgy turns our thoughts towards penance for past sins, reconciliation with those who have harmed us and forgiveness others as Christ has mercy on us. Chapter 49 of the Rule of St. Benedict begins by saying that, for monks, Lent lasts all year. When we do deny ourselves of creature comforts for a higher purpose, we transform the NOW into something more meaningful, especially if we do it in the name of Christ.

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

Eh?

It is a sure sign you are getting old when you must worry about getting cataract surgery and being tested for hearing aids. I had both of these done within the last two years. the last one (hearing test) done at the VA Clinic in Tallahassee, Florida on March 18th.

The Audiologist completed the test, a series of three beeps and then you are supposed to hit a button, just like on Jeopardy. You can’t fail the test, so my anxiety was right where it should be. She came in with the results and said I needed hearing aids (free because I am a VA health care patient). Among other things, she told me that I heard men just fine but that when women speak, I could not hear what they were saying. I told her, “That’s just what my wife tells me.” Some things just never change.

That reminded me that hearing is a big part of how we approach God. St. It is no accident that Benedict begins his Rule by reminding us that…”Listen, carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.” Hearing is the physiological process of processing sounds to make sense. We use several different languages in how we discover what is meaningful, in addition to English. There is the language of Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Medicine, All of these languages depend on our hearing.

HEARING IN THREE UNIVERSES

Those of you that have read any of my body of work, may have noticed a crosscurrent theme that runs through all of my thinking. It is that thee are three distinct universes of reality, all one, all a necessary part of reality. Based on three universes (physical, mental and spiritual) of reality, what Christ came to show us makes complete sense, although still a Mystery of Faith. It is a way for me to explain the seeming dichotomy between the World and the Spirit that St. Paul talks about in Galatians 5.

When Scriptures says” …hearing we don’t hear and seeing we don’t see,” I take that to mean what the World thinks is proper, the Spirit has a deeper meaning, one coming from God. At the heart of this way of thinking is Genesis 22–33, where Adam and Eve committed the archetypal sin, i.e., thinking that they are God. To get what I am saying about three universes, let’s look at some of the assumptions people use as a result of being in two versus three universes. The difference is not only profound but has consequences.

ASSUMPTIONS OF TWO UNIVERSES VERSES THREE

  • There is a qualitative difference between the assumptions of two universes (physical and mental) versus three (physical, mental, and spiritual).
  • Two universes are what we live in without God.
  • Two universes are not bad and you can live a good life if you have the proper values.
  • The Center of the two universes is you. The center of three universes is God.
  • Two universes are what we usually term the World. Three universes are what we term the Kingdom of Heaven.
  • Typically, people who only live in two universes cannot see three universes. It takes Faith (a gift from God) to enable you.
  • Three universe thinking is often the opposite of what happens in two universes.
  • It is the sign of contradiction in three universes that does not make sense in two universes. There was a polar shift in reality with the Birth of Christ. What is up is now down in the spiritual universe only. If you want to be a disciple you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Christ.
  • Living in two universes may be good but won’t get you to Heaven.
  • Love in two universes can be authentic, as Erick Fromm points out in his Art of Loving.
  • The Mystery of Faith may only be seen in the spiritual universe, and even then to those with mature listening skills, those who listen with the ear of the heart, for example.
  • Obedience to God’s will and humility are needed to listen with the ear of the heart.
  • You can live in two universes, find meaning, discover love, find success and purpose in life. This universe is good, the platform upon which the spiritual universe rests. Jesus entered two universes (Philippians 2:5-12) but had the mission to give us the option of three universes. Some call that opening the Gates of Heaven for those with Faith, Hope, and most of all Love.
  • To those who live in only two universes, anything to do with three universes doesn’t make sense. Actually, it doesn’t.
  • Examples of things that don’t make sense: God becomes one of us (Philippians 2:5), The Virgin Shall Bear a Child, the greatest is the least, the leader is the servant of all, the Kingdom of God is within you, Christ is present (body and blood, soul and divinity) in the Eucharist, Christ voluntarily gave up his life on the cross; love is denying yourself; love God with all your mind, all your heart, all your strength and your neighbor as yourself; The Church is Holy but all members (except Christ and his mother) are sinful and susceptible to the temptations of Original Sin; If you believe in Christ, the Resurrection and the Life, you will live forever and never die;

WHY DO WE HAVE REASON AND MONKEYS DON’T

  • There is a reason why some do not see nor hear anything in the three universes? Do you know what those reasons are? Discuss them.
  • There is a reason humans have reason, to allow us to approach the Sacred with Faith.
  • There is a reason why Christ had to become one of us and open the Gates of Heaven.
  • There is a reason why we struggle to live in three universes and are pilgrims existing in a foreign land.
  • There is a reason why Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.
  • There is a reason why we need spiritual hearing aids and glasses to both hear and see what is beyond our ability to fully comprehend (The Mystery of Faith).
  • We are adopted sons and daughters of the Father.
  • We need a community to support us in our quest to love others as Christ loves us.
  • We need silence to help us hear through the noise of the World.
  • We need solitude to help us realize that we need to increase the capacity of God in our hearts to make room to love with all our hearts.
  • We need work to take care of the physical mental and spiritual needs, relying on God to be with us as we seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and trust that all things follow from that.
  • We need prayer to approach the energy of God to be able to sit on a park bench in the midst of a cold Winter and years for the heart of Christ to sit next to us.

Finally, we need to keep in mind that in all things, God is glorified. –St Benedict

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

uiodg

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.

uiodg

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.

uiodg

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?

uiodg

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?

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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.

uiodg

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.

uiodg

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.

uiodg

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.

=1&rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_27%3AAndre%20Louf

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?

uiodg

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?

uiodg

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.”

uiodg

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

THREE WAYS TO SEE GOD

This title may be a misnomer. There are many ways to see God and this is a reflection from my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) about three of them that come to mind.

My next door neighbor, now deceased, God rest his soul, was a devout atheist. A good man to be sure. He would say to me how he did not see God anywhere. It was hardly surprising to me since he was a retired physician. and would always disclaim anything he could not see. That was playing in the back of my consciousness as I began to ask myself how I see God as I seek God in daily living.

THE GOD OF THE OLD TESTAMENT

Whenever I pray the Psalms, which is almost every day of the week, nowadays, I am struck by the way the Psalmist approaches God. Although the individual is praying to God for mercy and forgiveness (remember David’s sin), It is Israel as a people who have strayed away from God and are in need of redemption. “O, God, come to my assistance, O Lord, make haste to help me,” we begin each of the Hours of the Liturgy of the Hours.

The Psalms are wonderful poems and prayers from a person who recognizes that they are in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness, each day. They remind me of the presence of God in daily living.

Moses encountered God in the burning bush. Israel as a people encountered God in the various victories or defeats that it suffered on its way to the Promised Land. The Old Testament is all about how Israel was unfaithful to God and had to be punished. Ten of the tribes are called the Lost Tribes of Israel because they were assimilated into cultures that did not know Joseph or his brothers. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ten-Lost-Tribes-of-Israel. The God of the Old Testament works through events such as these.

As a Lay Cistercian, I am just beginning to be re-aware of the importance of God’s manifestation through nature, through events (such as the current crisis of what it means to be a celibate Catholic Priest in today’s society).

In the morning, on the way to Liturgy of the Hours at Good Shepherd parish, I sometimes see the golden light of a morning Sun brush the leaves with its delicate light. It is when I make the connection with God that I become empowered to be an adopted son of the Father. It is when I see God when I look at the young Springtime leaves of trees that makes me appreciate God’s goodness to us. It is when I don’t take nature or people for granted that I become more like God and less like my false self.

THE GOD OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

I have asked myself the question, “What is the importance of Christ becoming human, taking on our nature, being one of us in all things but sin, living in the swimming pool of our human condition?” Philippians 2:5-12 is an eloquent description of what is called kenosis, the emptying of self to take on a new dimension, in this case, human nature. What love must that be? The God of the New Testament existed in the mountain tops, the God of Thunder (El Shaddai), the Lord of Nature. If the God of the Old Testament is one of power and grandeur, to be worshipped in the Holy of Holies, then the God of the New Testament is the person of Christ, one who has humility and obedience to the will of the Father.

The God of the New Testament is Christ showing us how to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father. Jesus shows us the meaning of what it means to be human, what it means to love authentically. We can not only see God in nature, but also through His Real Presence in the Eucharist and in Eucharistic Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

THE GOD OF NOW

It might be too philosophical to say that we just live in a succession of Nows, but it is how I view reality. Each moment presents itself to humans and then slips away. What we do at that moment is conscious or unconscious, but as a 16mm film, each frame is separate. It is only when we run the film through a projector that we have movement. My life is all the film stored up in cans (kept in the recesses of my mind). All of this happens naturally, so we don’t even know it is happening.

TRANSFORMING THE MOMENT

In thinking about how my Lay Cistercian spirituality influences the reality in which I find myself, I can transform the moment by love. Each moment comes and goes and I have choices about what to do with it after it is past. I can only control the moment. I make choices about what is good or bad, about what is meaningful, about my purpose. Sin means I choose an attitude or activity that is not consistent with the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament (Christ) would want. What I put in that moment is important because that is indelibly marked on my soul, like Baptism and Holy Orders. We can’t change it but we can learn from it and the knowledge can help us love others as Christ has loved us. When we ask God for mercy, we are saying that we recognize that past activities were not in keeping with what He has taught us. That is at the heart of what the Psalmist says in his or her prayer from the heart. Because we are the Church of the Old Testament and the Church of the New Testament, seeing and seeking God through nature, through with and in Christ, we bring to the table of the Eucharist all those successions of Nows and transform them, not by anything we can do, but through, with and in Christ. With Christ as our mediator, we transform the Now into something new, a gift that goes from the bounds of our Natural Law to being unlimited and timeless. All of this may seem a little esoteric, but I think of it as just starting each day as the opportunity to seek God in daily living. Using the tools of good works, much like someone at the gym uses exercise equipment, we approach each new day as though it were a lifetime. I try to read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict each day to keep myself grounded in the present but place my hope in God alone. I see God by trying each day to be what I pray.

I see God through the Eucharist and Eucharistic Adoration, by having in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5), through silence, solitude, prayer, work, and community as a Lay Cistercian. I seek to sit on a park bench in the dead of Winter and wait for the coming of the Lord, hoping to have my heart next to His heart. Some days are better than others. This is why each day is not wasted and is linked to every other day. Christ is present yesterday, today and tomorrow.

THE CHURCH AS THE GUARDIAN OF THE NOW

All I know in my lifetime I experience through my senses, through my attitude to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Because I Now exist in the condition of imperfection (Original Sin), I have the free will to choose what is good for me but don’t always do so. Sin is not just an action or a rule that I break as much as missing the mark, straying off what the will of the Father is, aiming but not hitting the bullseye on my purpose in life. This is the context of the Church in each age, trying to love others as Christ loves us.

  • When I say the Word Church, I mean Church Universal, all those who have gone before us in Heaven, all those left on each still struggling to love God with all our hearts, our minds, and our strength and our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37) and those awaiting purification.
  • Church means I am linked with the body of all those who are, who have been, and who will be marked with the sign of Faith. The Church is indeed the guardian of the Now, transforming it by allowing the corporate us to mingle with the individual me.
  • The Church does not exist by and for itself and can not live without its head, Christ.
  • The Church is the body of Christ, we sometimes call it the Mystical Body of Christ.
  • Like the God of the Old Testament, we must always be aware that we have seen God through events and through nature. Like the God of the New Testament, we must keep before us the mind of Christ Jesus.
  • We see God in every day living by transforming our selves to God through Christ. Our challenge is to take up our cross daily and follow Christ. What that looks like depends upon whom you have around you to support and sustain you in your journey. You make your journey alone but with others who share your vision and your Faith.

Far from being an insignificant cog on the wheel of life, I hope that I can live one day what I experience each day. I don’t just belong to the human race, I belong to Christ. That is why conversion of life is so important. What I bring with me to Heaven, what I pack for the journey to Forever is a succession of Nows, all linked through, with and in Christ Jesus to the glory of the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit.

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

LEARNING AND DISCUSSION POINTS

  1. We can see God today through the God of power and might. God is seen in the events that happen to us every day, such as the call of the Church to be holy (be holy as Christ is holy) in the midst of internal turmoil. We keep our hope in God alone.
  2. We can see God today by loving others as Christ has loved us. (Matthew 25:36).
  3. Personally, I see God through silence, solitude, prayer, work, and community as a Lay Cistercian. These practices are not the end result but only the means to place myself on a park bench, in the dead of Winter, waiting with anticipation for the heart of Christ to sit next to me and warm my spirit.
  4. When it comes to achieving perfection, all of us will always be novices, in daily need of conversion of heart and mind and strength to Christ. Some days are better than others.
  5. This is why we can say every day, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.”

uiodg

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.

uiodg

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.

%d bloggers like this: