I find that my Lectio Divina meditations tend to group themselves in clusters of topics. My center is always the same: “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) This current cluster is about what is important in my spiritual travels each day and what is not. Here are some examples.
I DON’T WORRY ABOUT MY FUTURE ON THIS EARTH. That doesn’t mean I don’t plan to make whatever time I have left as convenient for my survivors as possible. Do your best and forget the rest, my Dad always said to me.
I DON’T WORRY ABOUT DOING LECTIO DIVINA AT A CERTAIN HOUR. I have written about making a schedule to reduce my retirement to watching the plastic flowers grow on my shelf. That was about ten years ago. Now, I don’t worry about schedules. The transformation just happened due to constantly and consistently doing Lectio Divina each day at 10:00 a.m. Now, I do Lectio several times a day, and it may be while I am sitting in the bathtub, waiting for my wife to shop at Costco or Trader Joe’s, and even while watching my favorite movies about Jesse Stone starring Tom Sellick. I have moved from following a schedule as part of a habit of behavior to assuming the whole day as my timeframe and seeking ways to match whatever comes my way to the Christ Principle. Some days are better than others.
Monks follow a schedule for their day of prayer and work that in all things God be glorified. As a Lay Cistercian, my schedule is whatever faces me during the day and how I use the Christ Principle to link whatever it is to Christ. How I don’t worry about. I just do it and wait for the Holy Spirit to overshadow me as I am open to the energy of God (capacitas dei) within me.
I DON’T WORRY ABOUT WHO GOES TO HEAVEN. I do worry that I continue to fulfill my promises to the Abbot of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), the ones I made to Christ in the presence of those gathered in his name (monks, Lay Cistercians, friends). Promises are only as good as my ability to sustain my resolve to put them at my center. Christ Principle is my center. I interpret everything else in terms of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, alive now just as He was at the Last Supper.
As the Gospel from last Sunday’s Gospel (21 Sunday in Ordinary Time) suggests that not everyone will accept the, everyone is entitled to the banquet. Still, not all will accept the conditions of the host of the banquet– you must have a wedding garment. Read the passage in silence.
Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said,
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,
he said to them, “Does this shock you?
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending
to where he was before?
It is the spirit that gives life,
while the flesh is of no avail.
The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.”
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe
and the one who would betray him.
And he said,
“For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father.”
As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
This vignette into the teachings of Jesus confirms what I have long felt was true, namely, that Jesus’ words were not accepted by many because they demanded too much, at least from the viewpoint of those receiving those words. The Scriptures point out that “many of his disciples returned to their former life and no longer accompanied him.” I think the same is true today. It is only with the grace of God (Faith) can we can call God Father. This is not limited to those who belong to the Roman Rite of the Catholic Universal Church. All humans have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, but not all will accept this challenge and will turn away because it is too hard.
If you take the time to read Gaudium and Spes, the Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, this provides a wonderful context into which the question of who goes to heaven is approached.
In a recent Lectio Divina meditation at 4:00 a.m., the Holy Spirit presented me with a story or parable about who goes to Heaven. Some believe only Roman Catholics go to Heaven, and the idea that there is no salvation outside the Church. Before I share that story, here are some of my assumptions about Extra Ecclesia, nulla salus (outside the Church, there is no salvation.)
The Christ Principle saves all humanity (all humans regardless of sex, race, belief, religion, non-belief, un-belief) from just being human. The next step in our evolution as humans is to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father and fulfill our humanity in Heaven.
Individually, each person exists on earth to discover and answer the six questions that propel us to our intended destiny. These are: What is the purpose of life? What is the purpose of my life within that purpose? What does reality look like? How does it all fit together? How to love fiercely? You know you are going to die, now what? Depending on what we select as answers, we can solve The Divine Equation and claim our inheritance.
These questions are beyond human capability to be answered based on just the physical and mental universes of reason and free choice. God provides us with both the questions and the answers that will propel us to fulfill our humanity. The Christ Principle is the way, the truth, and the life we must lead to move to the spiritual universe, in addition to the physical and mental universes.
There is a problem. The spiritual universe is the opposite of the physical and mental universes, which is called the World. The spiritual universe is the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, now and throughout each age.
In the reading above, people left Jesus because his sayings were hard; they could not accept Christ’s proposal. That saying was so hard and incredibly against reason and what the mind says is true, how we should proceed, and the life we lead. Read this passage in John 6 that is as true this very day as it was when Christ uttered it.
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”a52The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”53Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.54 Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.b58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”59These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/6
Christianity is the easiest to believe if you don’t have to do what you say you believe. Of the people who say they believe in Christ, it runs the gamut of Jesus is a philosopher or prophet to Jesus is present (transubstantiation) in the Eucharist (no longer bread and wine but the living Jesus.) This is the shibboleth of the Catholic Universal Church. Many people leave Christ because it is so incredible to believe and a hard saying, so they walk away.
What happens to people when they have part of the Faith but not the whole, let’s say 30%? People believe that Jesus is Lord but don’t have the fullness of Christ’s coming to give us gifts to help us get to Heaven.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU CHOOSE. IT HAS CONSEQUENCES
Once, a very wealthy man threw his retirement part for his company. He would retire and leave all of his stock to people who had worked for him all these years. He decided to surprise them by throwing a banquet of the ten best foods he had ever tasted to share them with them, then surprise them with the announcement of the stock.
Everyone received an invitation to the banquet. No exceptions. All they had to do is bring their invitations to the banquet hall, enter, eat their fill of whatever they wanted, then receive the reward from the owner.
Some employees received the invitation but did not like the owner and decided not to attend because he made them angry with all his wealth they thought he should have shared with them. Others did not take time to open the invitation, just looking at who sent it and thinking it was a plea for money. Still, others were too busy to attend to anything their employer threw and made excuses that they would be out of town. About two in ten people accepted the invitation to attend and showed up at the appointed time.
The owner had planned to share with them the ten most succulent dishes he had ever eaten. It was a sit-down banquet complete with the best of wines, served by waiters on the finest dishes. To make it easy on people, the owner told them as they entered the hall that they did not have to eat all the dishes but only those that they would choose. No questions asked.
As the waiters brought out each course, the guests would either each course or refuse it. As it turned out, only less than one hundred forty-four persons tasted all 10 dishes and shared their employers’ gifts. Others ate from one dish to nine dishes but were amazed at how good the taste was. Some said they did not like a dish because of its appearance; others wanted to avoid calories and did not eat it; some were vegans and held their noses when the meat dishes were brought out.
When the banquet had concluded, the owner got up to make a speech. He thanked the employees for their contributions to the company and said that he had an announcement. He said he was retiring and was giving the company to those who had shared the banquet with him, each according to the number of dishes they had eaten. And, he added, this will be what you eat after your die…forever.
Many are called, but few are chosen. Those chosen have to choose to eat what comes from the Master’s table, not what they would like to eat.
What is the meaning of the parable of the retiring executive?
Who are those who chose not to attend? What was their reward?
Why were all not given an equal share in the shares of the company? Does that have any application to today?
In my search for God each day, I do a lot of “What Iffing.” I should refine that statement to say, “In my search for God each day, when I use only the world as my center (money, fame, fortune, adulation, pleasure, being god, thinking that I am the center of the universe), I can’t lift myself up to the next level of our evolution, that of the spiritual universe, by my own power. I don’t have that kind of energy.
In Baptism, God chooses me and lifts me up from my rationality to that of an adopted son (daughter) of the Father. God has the power (Faith) and I concur (Belief) each day. In particular, I use the Cistercian practices and charisms as part of my way to see Jesus every day in many ways that hitherto were there, but I just was not aware of them.
Christ came to give us a way to give praise and glory to the Father through Him. By ourselves, no one approaches the Father, at least no human can give adequate glory because we just don’t have the capacity nor the capability to give God divine glory. Only Christ can do that because he is the Messiah, having both divine and human natures.
Having human reasoning and the ability to choose what I reason is good for me, I am defined by the choices (or lack of them) as I race through the inexorable journey of humanity from Alpha to Omega, from that which has a beginning to that which has an end, to Heaven.
My “What iffing” comes into play when I ask questions along the pathways of my life about what is central to all that is. When I have in me the mind of Christ Jesus as My Christ Principle (Philippians 2:5), I don’t have to worry about anything. This is seeking first the kingdom of heaven right now, and then all things follow in the appropriate order. Here are three examples:
What if…a meteorite was to fall on earth and take out nearly all life forms? It doesn’t matter.
What if…your friends call you names for being a follower of Jesus in the Catholic Church? It doesn’t matter.
What if…someone tells you to join the Taliban or they will cut off your head? It doesn’t matter (this one is the ultimate sacrifice).
The only thing that matters is the Christ Principle. All is contained in that one center.
Here are some fractured thoughts that I had while trying to reposition my thoughts to that of having in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5).
Too many times, I find I ask questions that are either the opposite of what exists or that require wrong answers. Wrong questions only generate wrong answers. What follows are wrong questions.
This is one of my favorite clips for sayings. Wrong questions give wrong answers.
When someone says to me, “I don’t believe in God,” I sometimes respond by saying, “That is the wrong question to ask. What you should be asking is why a God with pure energy, pure knowledge, pure love, and pure service, would believe in you, being a puny and insignificant lifeform?”
Why does a good god allow Bambi in the forest to die at the hands of greedy hunters?
If god is so good why does He allow people to have cancer and suffer terribly?
Why does god allow people to rape, pillage, plunder, cut off heads, be priest pedophiles, and defraud the poor like some televangelists who preach a god that just lines their pockets?
A good god wouldn’t permit evil, or He wouldn’t be good, not so?
Why is the god of Scripture one who punishes those who don’t believe in him. Isn’t freedom supposed to be without constraints?
If god is so powerful, why can’t he stop those who hate him from doing so?
Why doesn’t god stop hurricanes or buildings from collapsing, or flash flooding, or other natural catastrophes?
What are some wrong questions in your life? Christ is the right answer but also the right question. I am the way, the truth, and the life. Either that is true or it is not. If it is true, do you act on it? If it is not, who cares?
We all have taken a trip somewhere, even if it is just to go to Trader Joe’s and buy some delicious root beer drink. Not all trips or vacations are pilgrimages. Muslims celebrate their faith in pilgrimage by visiting Mecca. Catholics pilgrimage to the Vatican to restore their faith or to some other shrine, such as Lourdes. http://www.etstours.com/tours/category/5af07f024c5b614854ef099a/
What is the difference between a pilgrimage and a vacation? Both give rest to the mind and heart. Only a pilgrimage stresses the words of Christ:
The Praise of the Father.25n At that time Jesus said in reply,* “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.26Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.27All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.ohttps://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/11#:~:text=28*%20%E2%80%9CCome%20to%20me%2C,will%20find%20rest%20for%20yourselves.
The Gentle Mastery of Christ. 28* “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,* and I will give you rest.29*p Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.30For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/11#:~:text=28*%20%E2%80%9CCome%20to%20me%2C,will%20find%20rest%20for%20yourselves.
A pilgrimage is a journey, one of mind and heart, one that may or may not have several stops along the way to think about how Jesus loves us so much that he gave his life for the ransom of many. These sites are holy ones, not like going to Las Vegas to see Cirque du Soleil.
Over a period of four or five blogs (at eight one years of age, I lose my precision but not my reason–so far), I will share with you three or four stops that my group made. Pilgrimages are most effective when you have others to join you so you might allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you through them. I had one partner, Peter Cowdrey, Good Shepherd Parish, Tallahassee, Florida, share these ideas.
ST. MEINRAD ARCHABBEY: Jennifer’s story
You don’t know Jennifer. I didn’t have the pleasure of her company until August 6, 2021, when we stopped by St. Meinrad Archabbey to visit my classmate, Father John McMullen, O.S.B., also 81 years of age. Father John and I grew up in Vincennes, Indiana, together and entered St. Meinrad High School. This was a key stopover in my pilgrimage, perhaps the last time we will see each other this side of the parousia. Who knows.
After breakfast, Peter and I were waiting to attend the Eucharist at Abbey Church at 11:00 a.m. and had some time to kill (a better word might seek God) and went to the Book Store. Because of COVID, there were not yet many visitors to the Archabbey, so we had the place all to ourselves. Jennifer was an employee of the Book Store. Peter and I had a wonderful chat with her, and she shared a story that I will pass on to you. My point is: The Holy Spirit speaks to each of us sinners every day. On the pilgrimage, we were attuned to listening to the Holy Spirit with the “ear of the heart,” as St. Benedict says in the Prologue to his Rule. This is the story Jennifer shared with us over her iPhone.
I recently read a list of “Best Of” restaurants. That list prompted me to think back to the URLs that are sites I can’t live without (actually, the only thing I can’t live without is Jesus). I offer them with comments and in no particular order of importance. These are a few Internet sites I want to take to heaven with me as I pack for the journey to forever.
BEST LIVE STREAMING DAILY EUCHARIST PLUS MORNING PRAYER AND EVENING PRAYER OF LITURGY OF THE HOURS https://www.saintmeinrad.org/connect/live-video/
BEST CISTERCIAN HOMILIES: Cistercian homilies from Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) https://www.trappist.net/homilies
BEST LIVE STREAMING LOCAL PARISH HOMILIES: https://www.goodshepherdparish.org/homilies
BEST YOUTUBE ON THE EUCHARIST AND REAL PRESENCE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzCPu_lEhe8
BEST YOUTUBE ON THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cx43CrSMni0
BEST YOUTUBE ON SIN AND SUFFERING: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9WNWplC_zI
BEST YOUTUBE ON THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wG4VF0jU568
BEST YOUTUBE ON CHANGE FROM SELF TO GOD
Hell is not the opposite of Heaven, but rather the absence of it. If that is so, and the kingdom of heaven is right now for us to absorb into our human nature, then would it not be true that hell is also right now? Right or wrong, that is the topic of my Lectio Divina presented to me by the Holy Spirit. So, what does all this mean as I make my way down the rocky road of existence until I die? Is Hell just a place where those who die in alienation from God live forever, a place of eternal fire? Probably. I had this next thought as I contemplated that Heaven is right now, and we accumulate all those good actions and thoughts and take them to Heaven with us.
St. Benedict says in Chapter 4 of the Rule to:
41 Place your hope in God alone.
42 If you notice something good in yourself, give credit to God, not to yourself,
43 but be certain that the evil you commit is always your own and yours to acknowledge.
44 Live in fear of judgment day
45 and have a great horror of hell.”
Contrast Chapter 4 and what is Heaven on Earth with what is below.
SOME EXAMPLES OF HELL ON EARTH
Living with someone who hates your God, your Church, your practice of Lay Cistercian precepts yet not responding in anger to their anger towards you.
Chapter 4: 29 Do not repay one bad turn with another (1 Thess 5:15; 1 Pet 3:9).https://christdesert.org/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/
30 Do not injure anyone, but bear injuries patiently.
31 Love your enemies (Matt 5:44; Luke 6:27).
32 If people curse you, do not curse them back but bless them instead.
33 Endure persecution for the sake of justice (Matt 5:10).
Seeing clergy and professed Catholics who say one thing but do another. This would lead those weak in their Faith to disown Christ or make up a Christ based on their own imperfect image and likeness.
59 Do not gratify the promptings of the flesh (Gal 5:16);https://christdesert.org/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/
60 hate the urgings of self-will.
61 Obey the orders of the abbot unreservedly, even if his own conduct–which God forbid–be at odds with what he says. Remember the teaching of the Lord: Do what they say, not what they do (Matt 23:3).
Hatred for others who do not practice religion as you think it should be done. Coveting evil in your mind and so in your heart for others while professing to love others as Jesus loved us. Hell is in your heart, and your bad works betray what your center is. Having a choice between what is easy and right (Abortion, Marriage, Social Justice not based on race). Laughing at chastity if you are a clergy or consecrated religious, and placing sex at your center instead of love that Christ told us to have for one another.
62 Do not aspire to be called holy before you really are, but first be holy that you may more truly be called so.
63 Live by God’s commandments every day;
64 treasure chastity,
65 harbor neither hatred
66 nor jealousy of anyone,
67 and do nothing out of envy.
68 Do not love quarreling;
69 shun arrogance.
70 Respect the elders
71 and love the young.
72 Pray for your enemies out of love for Christ.
73 If you have a dispute with someone, make peace with him before the sun goes down.
74 And finally, never lose hope in God’s mercy.https://christdesert.org/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/
Living as though you are god and the center of all reality. Morality is what you think it is. There is no denying yourself to follow Christ. God is dead (and so are you to the Way, the Truth, and Life).
10 Renounce yourself in order to follow Christ (Matt 16:24; Luke 9:23);
11 discipline your body (1 Cor 9:27);
12 do not pamper yourself,
13 but love fasting.
14 You must relieve the lot of the poor,
15 clothe the naked,
16 visit the sick (Matt 25:36),
17 and bury the dead.
18 Go to help the troubled
19 and console the sorrowing.
20 Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way;
21 the love of Christ must come before all else.
The struggle to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) is the kingdom of heaven at this very moment, moment to moment, if you will. Failure to see Jesus through faith, hope and love, is the beginning of hell on earth. Hell on earth may not be full of fire and brimstone or the absence of God. The effects of Hell will be our judgment before the Throne of the Lamb. We will measure ourselves against pure energy (none of us, even if we are saved and sanctified), can stand in the presence of the Light without Christ to help us.
Later on, Satan will claim those who have declared themselves to hate God. He will take them to Hell and thus begins the torment of having the chance to have it all, be happy with God in heaven, as our final step of evolution in human nature. The Devil will stand one inch away from our face (like a Drill Seargent) and laugh at us for making the wrong choice…forever. When you do evil in your laugh, you will have heard the Devil’s laugh.
Hell is real. It happens right now for those who do not recognize the Christ Principle as transforming them from their false self to their true self. May God have mercy on all of us, those marked with the sign of the cross and those who still have a chance to proclaim Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Normally, I would give you some thoughts about a subject from my Lectio Divina. No one has ever accused me of being normal, so I will just share with you the magnificent homily from Bishop Barron on Mary. How biblical. These insights have caused my faith to increase by having more of Christ in me and less of my sinful self. I share it with you without comment.
As I wabble down the ever shorter path to my next portal in life, passing from life to death, I become more aware of how the Scriptures are pertinent to who I am now and how the words of Scripture feel as well say or read them. It is particularly true when I read the Psalms during the Liturgy of the Hours. These words inform my need for intellectual stimulation and the desire in my heart to be one with Christ. Saint Augustine said it so well: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” More and more, as I sit on a park bench in the dead of winter and wait for Christ to sit next to me, the thought of my heart resting next to the heart of Christ is the joy that I have never experienced before. This heart-to-heart can happen anytime, such as when I go to Walmart to pick up my heart medication or sitting alone in the silence and solitude of Good Shepherd Chapel in Eucharistic Adoration. The effect is the same–I begin to experience what it means to share my Lord’s joy.
As I continue to make sense of what life throws at me each day, one thing is constant, in a world beset by hatreds, jealousies, envies, factions, false gods, and those seeking their own pleasure at all costs. I have discovered the Christ Principle, the very energy of God, although I neither know what that is nor am I capable of any rational definition. I can only attempt to describe what I feel when I am allowed to sit next to Christ on that park bench and just be what my nature intended. I realize ever more clearly that God doesn’t fit into my agenda nor preconceived notions of what I need, but rather, as an adopted Son (Daughter) of the Father, I can only sit in the presence of Christ and hope that the Holy Spirit answers my prayers to have mercy on me, a sinner. I sit on that park bench every time I have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) when I realize that I must make an effort on my part to be present to Christ because He is always present to me. Eucharist becomes an occasion of joy for me as I feel the presence of Christ (based on the capacitas dei or extent to which Christ grows in me and my false self shrinks). All occasions to practice the Cistercian practices that lead to the charisms of humility, true obedience to the will of God, openness to the Holy Spirit in all I meet, discernment of evil where it exists, and my attempts to flee from it, all these are foretastes of heaven. Heaven begins each day as I seek God in whatever way He presents Himself. I can’t hide from the Hound of Heaven. Read the poem by Francis Thompson. It is a masterpiece. anymore.https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/english/currentstudents/undergraduate/modules/fulllist/second/en227/texts/thompson-hound.pdf
If joy, in the human sense, is good, then how do we deal with suffering, discomfort, death, cancer, heart problems, alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness, intermittent explosive disorder (https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17786-intermittent-explosive-disorder#:~:text=Intermittent%20explosive%20disorder%20is%20a,of%20proportion%20to%20the%20situation), or when love hurts to give it to others? Fortunately, we have the Saints to help us with examples of how to cope. We have the very life of Christ itself that gives us the energy to overcome the “thorn of the flesh,” as Saint Paul describes it in II Corinthians. Read this challenging passage and try to FEEL what St. Paul is telling you through the Holy Spirit. Commentaries I read suggest that “thorn in the flesh” most likely describes pain that comes from dealing with difficult people, as in “pain in the butt.”
Christ is our role model for love that hurts. I keep going back to my favorite Scripture passage. Read Philippians 2:5 with the idea of feeling what Christ felt for us as he knew he was to suffer, die, and rise from the dead in expiation for the sins of us all. Can we do no less?
Plea for Unity and Humility.*
did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped.*
taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness;*
and found human in appearance,e
becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.*
and bestowed on him the name*
that is above every name,g
every knee should bend,*
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,h
Jesus Christ is Lord,*
to the glory of God the Father.
When beginning to practice meditation before moving to the deeper reality of contemplation, there are some dangers along the way. My latest Lectio Divina Meditation (Philippians 2:5) led me to an unlikely YouTube scene of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The scene has to do with Harry standing before a mirror being fixated on his mother and father, just sitting there, sitting there, sitting there. Here is the YouTube in question. The mirror is called The Mirror of Erised. Look at it, as I did, as a good visual of what it means to stand before this mirror and gaze at it. When we use our reason and free choice to process what comes from the Holy Spirit, we can stand before The Mirror of Erised, if we are not careful.
Everything looks perfect in the mirror. Professor Dumbledore just happens to find Harry looking at the mirror and tells him what it is about. You think you are seeing something the way it should be or how you would like it to be. Alas, looking at this mirror has a result that it does not produce knowledge or truth.
Professor Dumbledore tells Harry that the danger of looking at this “what if” mirror might be that people waste their lives looking at the wrong image. He goes on to say that the danger is seeing things that you want them to be rather than as they are. The consequences of looking at this Mirror of Erised is that you fail to see the contemplative mindset as it is in the real world of every day, and, instead, view an idyllic picture of yourself of just what you can see in the mirror. The danger of falling into the trap of contemplative practice where you are the center is like the Mirror of Erised.
The Mirror of the Christ Principle shows you who you are in relation to who Christ is. The practices we do are good works as set forth by Saint Benedict in Chapter 4 of his Rule. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/
These rules are there to help us see only Jesus in our personal Mirror of Erised and how we might become more like Christ and less like us. Contemplation is not about me at all. It is about how I can be present to Christ so that He increases in me and decreases. Prefer nothing to the love of Christ, St. Benedict challenges us to become. Don’t be fooled by the fixations the world has to offer. Taking up our cross each day means we must lift that cross (through, with, and in Christ Jesus) ourselves. The road to our destiny in Heaven is not idyllic or smooth and effortless. Just because you find your road is rocky doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road. Stay away from the Mirror of Erised in your contemplative practice.
All living things need food and water to survive, in addition to the right environment. I have learned much from following the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by the councils and constitutions of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance (OCSO) and further interpreted by Lay Cistercian spirituality. As a professed Lay Cistercian I know that I need the waters of Baptism and the food of Christ Himself in the Eucharist and Sacrament of Penance to move forward from my old (false) self to my new self. I must discipline myself to seek God not only in the times that I pray, but also all the times I look out at nature and whatever comes my way. That in all things, St. Benedict counsels, may God be glorified.
I am sitting at my desk in my office, placing myself in the presence of God on this Saturday morning, wanting to just be present to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Seeking God each day means I transform the NOW, which is the only time in which I have a freedom to choose to do God’s will or my own, into being resonant with who Jesus is. With this mindset, everything becomes an occasion of grace rather than an occasion of sin.
God is a NOW person. “I am the one who is” says God to Moses. Moses had to process what that means. In fact each person born of woman must process what that means. Jesus, being one of us, also had to learn how to love as a human (the divine nature is love itself). That nexus is one of the questions I plan to ask Jesus: “How does your human self feel being joined as one with your divinity as the Son of God?”
My reflections on the NOWness of God come as I look out the window of my office and notice the Japanese Orange tree in my front yard, Satsuma oranges I think they call them. By the grace from the Holy Spirit, I am aware that all things are connected with each other with the golden thread of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. As I ponder the goodness of God in nature, I think of how the tree begins just with orange blossoms and then buds, then small oranges. The final product takes time to ripen. It reminded me of my own Faith that the words of Christ to me become flesh through Christ but also through my awareness that God is the Lord of Creation, the Lord of Salvation, and the Spirit of Truth, right before me, as I look out at this tree.
Faith ripens every so slowly and inexorably as long as I am attached to the vine of Christ. I am totally dependent on Christ for my growth from false self to true self, but if I choose not to move forward, my growth stops. By myself, I don’t have the divine energy needed for my branch of the vine to thrive. Feel the passion and energy of St. Paul as he challenges the Athenians to see Jesus.
Paul’s Speech at the Areopagus.22Then Paul stood up at the Areopagus and said:*
“You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious.23For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To an Unknown God.’* What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you.24The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands,h25nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything. Rather it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything.26He made from one* the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions,27so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us.i28For ‘In him we live and move and have our being,’* as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’29Since therefore we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the divinity is like an image fashioned from gold, silver, or stone by human art and imagination.j30God has overlooked the times of ignorance, but now he demands that all people everywhere repent31because he has established a day on which he will ‘judge the world with justice’ through a man he has appointed, and he has provided confirmation for all by raising him from the dead.”k32When they heard about resurrection of the dead, some began to scoff, but others said, “We should like to hear you on this some other time.”33And so Paul left them.34But some did join him, and became believers. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the Court of the Areopagus, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.https://bible.usccb.org/bible/acts/17#:~:text=27so%20that%20people%20might,’
As Baptized members of His body, the Vine, we are the branches, or orange tree fruit. Our fruit ripens as long as we remain connected to the Vine. Seeking God each day through Lectio Divina and Eucharist Adoration are just a few ways we ripen our faith and keep our fruit from rotting.
I admit to not taking the notion of Messiah more seriously than it deserves. Not brought up in the Jewish tradition, I just accept that Jesus is Lord and go on about my business. But, as of late, my Lectio Divina meditations (Philippians 2:5) have been trending towards a deeper penetration into the notion of Jesus as Messiah. It all began several years ago (who is counting, when you are over 80 years old?) and I asked the question, Why do we have Scriptures at all? It is just to prove that Christianity is correct and other religions are wrong? Is it so that I can justify my faith through reading about historical and literary sources? Scriptures were written by many different people over the centuries. Why? St. John’s Gospel 30:30-31 gives us a peek at why. It says:
As when brushwood is set ablaze,
or fire makes the water boil!
Then your name would be made known to your enemies
and the nations would tremble before you,
2While you worked awesome deeds we could not hope for,*
3such as had not been heard of from of old.
No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen,
any God but you
working such deeds for those who wait for him.a
4Would that you might meet us doing right,
that we might be mindful of you in our ways!
Indeed, you are angry; we have sinned,
we have acted wickedly.
5We have all become like something unclean,
all our just deeds are like polluted rags;
We have all withered like leaves,
and our crimes carry us away like the wind.b
6There are none who call upon your name,
none who rouse themselves to take hold of you;
For you have hidden your face from us
and have delivered us up to our crimes.
10. The Messiah did not come to dominate but to show us how to be meek and humble of heart, the opposite of what the world sets forth as meaningful. Christ is the sign of contradiction and as such makes sense as the Messiah. You can’t teach that to people, as is evidenced by the fact that Jesus had to become one of us to rescue us from our ignorance with the knowledge, love and service that come from the Trinity.
I agree with St. Thomas Aquinas that God is “essentially unknowable.” Beneath that statement lies several assumptions:
I thought about the notion of a Divine Equation during one of my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) while asking myself the series of questions around “If God did use science and mathematics to formulate all reality, then why did he not communicate the reality in which He exists in terms of mathematics, physics, chemistry, the four (maybe five) forces of matter, the cosmological notions of resonance and dissonance, to name a few anomalies?”
Unity in the Body.1* I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,a2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love,b3striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:c4* one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call;d5one Lord, one faith, one baptism;e6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.fhttps://bible.usccb.org/bible/ephesians/4
One of the concepts with which I have had to explore in my Lectio Divina meditations is the notion of linkage. If God is One, everything in reality (physical, mental, and spiritual universes) is linked together. How is a question any human has a problem with because we live in a reality of space and time? We don’t have infused knowledge (direct knowledge from God), but we have to do it the hard way, to learn within the time span of the seventy or eighty years we have on earth? Thankfully, knowledge is cumulative, and we can learn from our mistakes, the propositions that did not prove to be true, and the new research we do base on new technology and the evolution of physics and the sciences. Looking at the bigger picture, all types of languages develop in response to new realities. Science and the physical sciences seem to be the new exciting frontier of knowing. Each of the sciences has its own language and assumptions. There is such a thing as theoretical physics and mathematics in addition to just functional math. My reflections led me to realize that all these languages could be the modern Tower of Bable.
Tower of Babel.*1The whole world had the same language and the same words.2When they were migrating from the east, they came to a valley in the land of Shinar* and settled there.3They said to one another, “Come, let us mold bricks and harden them with fire.” They used bricks for stone and bitumen for mortar.4Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky,* and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.”5The LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the people had built.6Then the LORD said: If now, while they are one people and all have the same language, they have started to do this, nothing they presume to do will be out of their reach.7Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that no one will understand the speech of another.8So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.9That is why it was called Babel,* because there the LORD confused the speech of all the world. From there, the LORD scattered them over all the earth.https://bible.usccb.org/bible/genesis/11
My purpose in using the Tower of Babel as it relates to the modern proliferation of ideas and exciting possibilities is to show that it is important for contemplative thinking to keep a perspective on what is happening in our age. The World with its modern languages of science, philosophy, psychology, and nationalities might be compared to the confusion of tongues. Everything, in reality, is linked to everything else. The only principle that actually draws all peoples and reality to Himself is the Christ Principle. All things flow to him, from him, as the center of all that is.
The Coming of Jesus’ Hour.*20Now, there were some Greeks* among those who had come up to worship at the feast.n21* They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”o22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.p23* Jesus answered them,q “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.24* Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat;r but if it dies, it produces much fruit.25Whoever loves his life* loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.s26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.t27“I am troubled* now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder. Still, others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. 31 Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world* will be driven out. 32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”z33He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.34So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever.* Then how can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?”a35Jesus said to them, “The light will be among you only a little while. Walk while you have the light so that darkness may not overcome you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where he is going.b36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of the light.”chttps://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/12
The reason I keep opening myself to the Holy Spirit each day, through Lectio Divina and other Lay Cistercian practices is to place myself in the presence of Jesus. I learn so much about all things are linked together through, with, and in Christ that I find myself longing to be in His presence as much as I can. And, after all, isn’t that one of the definitions of loving others as Christ loved us?
St. Benedict teaches his monks that the monastery is a School of Charity or Love where we can learn how to love others as Christ loved us. It takes a lifetime to master the Art of Contemplative Practice.
In one of my Lectio Divina meditations, the Holy Spirit prompted me to think of this School of Love as part of how I view my time since I made profession as a Lay Cistercian of Our Lady of Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), Conyers, Georgia, but with a slight twist (The Holy Spirit is always giving me ideas but with his own sense of humor.). In this case, I am to meditate on being a Lay Cistercian as a School of Art, not only a School of Love. This is what I thought about.
A School of Art, as I thought about it, has Master teachers, ones to whom aspiring students gravitate because they want to be like them. Christ is my Master teacher of this School of Lay Cistercian Art. As an apprentice (novice) student, I just know I want to be more like Christ and less like my false self imprinted with decades of what the World says is meaningful. In this school, I must learn to take off the old habits of self-indulgence, pride, envy, power, unauthentic sexuality, hatred, jealousy, factions, judging others’ motives, or if they will go to heaven or not, basically the seven deadly sins. Read what Bishop Barron has to say about the seven deadly sins but also the seven helpful virtues. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vt4aMtCNwCI This moves from my false self (the World) to my true self as an adopted son (daughter) the Father. It takes work to do this, always dying to self to prefer nothing to the love of Christ (St. Benedict Chapter 4 of the Rule).
Every day, and I stress every day, I must convert myself from one born under the influence of Original Sin to one saved through the merits of Christ’s death on the cross. A school of any kind is a place where we focus our attention and seek to improve our skills to meet whatever goal we have. The School of Art is not an end in itself, but a means whereby each student meets the Master and leans those unique skills or practices that lead to becoming more like Christ the Master Artist and less like the past apprentice.
When I signed into this Lay Cistercian School of Art, Jesus gave me some tools to help me learn to see Him in everyday living. The problem with a virtual school is that it is invisible. The problem with invisibility is you can’t see anything. To make Himself real, Christ gave this student instructors, monks that teach us, fellow Lay Cistercians who are fountains of the Holy Spirit on Gathering Day and through linking our minds and hearts through prayer centered on Christ. I can see Jesus with my mind and heart by presenting myself to God in Cistercian practices and seeking the charisms of silence, solitude, work, prayer in the midst of a community of those gathered together in the name of Christ.
Jesus is the paint brush with which I must paint what I see in my mind and heart. What I see is not just scenery but how Christ infused all reality with life, the truth, as the way. From my Baptism, which took away my Original Sin, I must face the consequences or effects of that sin of Adam and Eve, but now I have a canvas on which to paint what I see about the Kingdom of Heaven around me each day. When I get up, I don’t worry about filling up the hole of time to be productive. I am a painter, and whatever comes my way, I paint, much like what St. Benedict said: “That in all things, God be gloried.”
I wrote a poem of what being a painter with the brush of Christ means to me.
The Poem of My Life
I sing the song of life and love…
…sometimes flat and out of tune
…sometimes eloquent and full of passion
…sometimes forgetting notes and melody
…sometimes quaint and intimate
…often forgetful and negligent
…often in tune with the very core of my being
…often with the breath of those who would pull me down,
shouting right in my face
…often with the breath of life uplifting me to heights never
…greatly grateful for the gift of humility and obedience to The One
…greatly thankful for adoption, the discovery of new life of pure energy
…greatly appreciative for sharing meaning with others of The Master
…greatly sensitive for not judging the motives of anyone but me
…happy to be accepted as an aspiring Lay Cistercian …happy to spend time in Eucharistic Adoration
…happy and humbled to be an adopted son of the Father
…happy for communities of faith and love with wife,
…mindful that the passage of time increases each year …mindful of the major distractions of cancer and cardiac arrest
…mindful of my center and the perspective that I am loved
moreover, I must love back with all the energy of my
heart and strength, yet always falling a little short
…mindful of the energy I receive from The One in Whom I
find purpose and meaning in the Mystery of Faith…Forever.
To The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, be glory, honor, power, and blessings through The Redeemer Son, in unity with the Advocate, the Spirit of Love.
From The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, I seek hope that His words about the purpose of life are true, that He is the Way that leads to life…Forever.
With The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, I seek the fierce love so I can have in me the mind of Christ Jesus, my purpose in life, and my center…Forever. “That in all things, may God be glorified.” –St. Benedict
God gives each human a canvas of life when they are born. In Baptism, Christ gives us not only Himself as a brush (transubstantiation) but is our teacher on how to paint what we see (transformation). Christ uses, in my case, the Cistercian practices and charism to help me practice my craft. Christ won’t paint my canvas for me, but he showed me the canvas of his being, with the sign of contradiction placed on my soul at Baptism. The paint I must use is good works (Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict) that come from Christ. Jesus is real for those who use Faith alone as the pure energy come down from the Father through Christ and is present now in the Holy Spirit.
I don’t worry if my painting is perfect. I am certainly not perfect. I paint what I see. I try to see Jesus each day in all the various ways life embraces me. Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, all I can say is: “Be it done to me according to your word.” When I paint something on the canvas, I don’t just look at it and forget it, like a nice sunrise or how the wind blows on my body during a hot, Florida July day. Everything I take the time to paint on my canvas of life with the brush of Christ I can take with me to heaven. After all, it is my picture.
If you think the Holy Spirit doesn’t have a sense of humor, then you will not appreciate this blog that I wrote down for my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5).
I like to focus these end days (of my life) on how all things move into and out of the Christ Principle. This is a recent appreciation of my Lay Cistercian growth from self to God. When I do Lectio Divina and there is slightly more of God than before, I think of my life in terms of what presents itself to me each day. I had just finished watching a Korean television show on how to make chocolate cake (I love Korean television, maybe because my wife is in Korean.), but somehow that I can’t explain what the Holy Spirit told me,
“Do you know that your life is like that Korean factory that makes chocolate cake?” Now you see why I say the Holy Spirit has a sense of humor.
It has troubled me for some time that I realize my march from false self (the dissonance of Original Sin) to my true self (resonance with the Christ Principle) has to begin each day. Each day, as Jesus had predicted, I must anew take up my cross and seek God as I find Him in whatever comes my way. I kept asking the Holy Spirit to take this cross away from me.
“Just let me believe in God one time,” I pleaded, “and I won’t have to suffer each day to struggle to have to place God’s will over my human inclinations of self-righteousness and self-indulgence.”
What I got back with the Holy Spirit is classic. The Spirit said to me that each day if I sit down on the park bench in the dead of winter and wait for Christ to sit next to me, it is the struggle that Christ had before he entered into his passion and death. “Let this inconvenience pass from me. It is too difficult each day. Some days I don’t even believe or feel that you even care about me, Holy Spirit.”
“My grace is sufficient,” said the Holy Spirit. “When you are depressed or bored with the struggle to be free of the corrupting effects of this world, that is when I am with you the most in your mind and in your heart.”
“Let me help you by using something every day to explain your suffering and frustration. You just watched a television show about baking a cake. Think about this.”
“If your whole life was a cake that you were going to bake, you add ingredients that will make it taste good and become what a chocolate cake should be, not so?”
The Holy Spirit continued, “Each day, you add to your cake from your choices to do God’s will versus what the World says are good ingredients. I give you what makes your cake presentable to God the Father. Christ served up the cake and all of us have a piece of it. I mean the Whole Church Universal, too. Remember the story of the five barley loaves and two fishes? Same thing.”
“Getting back to the Korean cake, you see them putting in ingredients (no talking needed) to the mix that is already there. Each day, you add the flavors of the day to the mix, provided you tied them together for the praise and glory of the Father through Christ.”
“As a Lay Cistercian, your cake began with you adding just a bit here and there and stirring vigorously. It took you many years to keep adding ingredients to the mix. Humility, Obedience to God’s will and not your own, avoidance of the presumption that God fits into your plan and not vice versa. You made an act of Faith in the power of God when you wrote down your Lay Cistercian final promises. Your cake becomes tasty to God because you take that time each day to create life anew. That is why you must seek God daily, using Cistercian practices and charisms. There are ways for you to see God, but only if you have the power that comes from pure energy, our energy we share with you as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father.”
“Relax and just look for ways to be present to whatever comes your way. Know that God is with you as you struggle. Like Christ, the suffering he made for your ransom of many is part of what love is all about.”
That in all things, God be glorified. –St. Benedict
There is a controversy in the Church over the use of the Latin language in the Mass. As usual, almost everyone misses the point. This points out a phenomenon that has plagued the Church all the way back to Moses and the Ten Commandments. Remember the story of the Golden Calf and the Israelites, so easily flipped over a God they could not see for a mere statue of gold? This story contains the seeds of what is going on today and has taken place ever since Pentecost. Humans tend to mess up things with the Holy Spirit. They may even think they are correct but be in heresy, the bliss that comes from thinking God speaks through you alone.
GOD SPEAKS THROUGH THE PROPHETS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT– If you do any reading at all about Scriptures, you come to realize that the prophets were those cursed, to tell the truth to Israel, what they did not want to hear. When individuals who are not anointed to speak for God do so, thinking that God speaks through them, Israel strays from the truth. The ten lost tribes of Israel are a case in point. Over time, they listened to the local gods and false prophets and were eventually assumed into what is now Syria. Once again, the Genesis Principle was at work. This question is “Who is God, you or God?” The people (church) decided that they knew better than God and suffered the consequences of their choice. One Faith, One Lord, One Baptism, but there is only One Pope, who is elected to head the Church.
GOD SPEAKS THROUGH THE APOSTLES IN THE TIME OF CHRIST– It is no secret in Scriptures that the Apostles and disciples did not get the message of Jesus before his passion, death and resurrection. It took the Holy Spirit to enter the upper room (Where else would those frightened to death hide?) and breathe the spirit of truth, showing them and the future church the way and how to live a life that focuses on loving others, even those who don’t love you in return. The Holy Spirit released those He overshadowed (first of all the Blessed Mother) from the bondage of sin and allowed them to approach the Father only in, with, and through Christ. Humility and obedience to the will of God as authorized by Peter, the Apostles, and Ecumenical Councils, helps individuals to focus on the basics and not get hung up on what clothes should be worn at Eucharist, what language should be spoken, or how some peripheral teaching goes out of fashion. Christ alone makes all things new. Christ alone is the supreme authority, and he has given that authority to fallible and mistake-prone individuals charged with leading the Church Catholic (those still on earth) through the minefields wrought by pride and disobedience to the whim of the many.
One Faith, One Lord, One Baptism, but there is only One Pope, who is elected to head the Church.
GOD SPEAKS IN EACH AGE THROUGH THE TEACHINGS OF THE HOLY FATHER
Scripture teaches us that the Holy Spirit will not let the gates of Hell prevail against it. Jesus said nothing about some magical incantation to ward off the effects of Original Sin or to combat evil in all its insidious forms. What he did say was that his grace is sufficient for individuals. To be present in each age, Jesus designed the Church to have one person with the primacy of honor and authority over His flock. The Good Shepherd handed over the crux to Peter (not the obvious choice because he was a braggart, sought the favor of Christ, and betrayed him three times). The paradox of God shows itself again and again: Jesus chose the weakest person to be the chief shepherd of his whole flock (Church Militant) on earth, while Jesus is the head of the Church Universal in Heaven. One Faith, One Lord, One Baptism, but there is only One Pope, who is elected to head the Church.
The question is not, “Does the Pope have authority to lead the Church in matters of faith and morals?” but rather “Do you trust the Holy Spirit to overshadow the successor of St. Peter, not to be free from error, but to use the power to bind and lose to the benefit of this age?”
Would Jesus marvel at our lack of faith in his words?
Isn’t the Holy Spirit everywhere? Next time you travel with anyone in the car or truck, try this contemplative practice.
Ask those in the car to think of one idea only as you read this passage. Read Scriptures from Philippians 3:5-12 outloud (not the driver), then wait for three minutes. Have each person give what they received from that passage. One thought only.
For the second time, read the same quote. This time, think of what love Jesus might have had to give up his life for the ransom of many. What ransom?
For the third time, listen between the words. What is God telling you right now, in this car about what it means to love others as He loved you.
Usually, my tastes in television movies and sitcoms goes from following Jason Statham movies to that of Father Brown Mysteries. I came across a television series entitled Lucifer. I thought it would be about the usual fodder fed by sensationalists to sell movies.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yK5lZTPHozs
I did watch one episode of Lucifer. It turns out those who wrote the script thought of Lucifer as a bad boy punished by God, his father to punish people who go to Hell. Lucifer wants a change of venue and comes to earth to lead a life worthy of the Devil. It is so far apart from who the Devil is and does, that I found it rather amusing, as least for one session. Lucifer, his Dad (God) and Mum (Mum) plus Michael and few other demons make up this tale of romance, love, with a twist of Mount Olympus and Ozzie and Harriet thrown in the mix (somewhere). If you were in a group to design what Lucifer actually is you would end up with an agnostic’s view of the whole God thing. Significantly enough, there is no Christ mentioned anywhere (at least I could not find Him).
If this is what the Kingdom of Heaven is, then the hell with it. These thoughts influenced my Lectio Divina a few days ago. Here are some random ideas about the Devil, Hell, and Lucifer the television series.
In my reality, Lucifer is not the son of God, but a spirit created to be of service to God.
The Devil is a fallen angel. He chose to be jealous of God rather than to submit to His will. It is archetype that all humans must face on a daily basis.
Hell is not the opposite of Heaven, but the absence of it.
Hell is the frustration of knowing you missed the boat and freely chose something you thought was good (Adam and Eve) but it turned out to be a complete shell game.
There are various types of punishments in Hell. What terrifies me most is that it is permanent, that Lucifer will be in my face forever shouting at me, taunting me with the thought that I could have had it all but chose Him instead. He will laugh at me mocking my decision and how he tricked me from my rightful heritage as a son (daughter) of the Father to chose hatred, envy, lust, factions, lying, jealousy, false gods, and other humilitations I have yet to conceive.
The Devil does not have the power to make us do anything. He can only suggest.
The more I keep hatred and those tendencies of my false self as central to my Faith, the Devil has me. It is only when I die to false self and redeem myself with Christ Jesus that I move from hatred in my heart to that of love. Each day, I must begin from zero. This is conversio morae (conversion of life) at the heart of my Lay Cistercian approach to loving others as Christ loves me.
I am not fixated on Hell but on the prize for which Christ paid the price with his passion, death and resurrection (ascension). The price I must pay is to seek God each day with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my strength. Some days are better than others.
Christ left us several ways to make all things new in our hearts each day. Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Meditation on Scripture, Spiritual Reading from the Saints, all help to keep us focused in having in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5-12)/
One characteristic of love is to want to share what is critical with those whom you value most. I wanted to share an aspect of prayer that is part of our Benedictine/Cistercian/Carthusian heritage. I came across this YouTube of a Cistercian monastery, one which you can see and hear how they created space to lift up the voice and thus the spirit to the Father through Christ Jesus.
I am struck by how these Cistercian monks actually build a way for the mind to aspire to what is higher. I attached this photo. The Abbey Church is devoid of color and its glass is clear. The whole theology of light and space lifts the heart and mind to God without any effort. The walls are designed for echoes. How stunning! Cistercian architecture is minimalist but austere and without color, no statues or stained glass windows portraying a story about Jesus. I asked one of the monks at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit about that, and he told me that I needed to supply the color in my mind and heart. As St. Benedict says in Chapter 4 of the Rule, “Prefer nothing to the love of Christ.”
Just “listen with the ear of the heart.”
Notice the blue color. The monks had to receive special permission to use color in their windows due to the intense Georgia heat in the Summer. Normally, Cistercians’ windows are clear.
BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX,
Parable One: The Story of the King’s Son
Once upon a time, there was a rich and powerful king, God the almighty. And he caused Man,
whom he had created, to become his son. And because he was a delicate boy, he delegated Law
and the Prophets to be his guardians, and he gave him other tutors and masters during the
predetermined time which preceded his adulthood. He issued instruction to him and cautioned him.
He established him as the master of Paradise, showing him all the treasures of his glory and
promising them to him if he remained faithful. And lest any benefit should be lacking, he endowed
Man with free will so that his choice of good should be voluntary rather than forced.
With the possibility of good and evil before him, Man became dissatisfied with the good things
which were his and he was incited with a desire to experience evil as well as good. So he left the
paradise of good conscience. Until then he had knowledge only of good things; now he sought
novelties beyond his experience. He left aside his Father’s laws and guardians, and rejecting his
Father’s prohibition, he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Unhappy now, he hid himself and fled from the face of the Lord. The silly boy began to wander
through mountains of conceit and through valleys of curiosity; through fields of indiscipline and
woods of sexual excess; through the dark groves of fleshly delight and through the rough seas of
Observing the wanton wanderings of the boy, now without guide or guard, and far from his Father’s
house, the ancient villain drew near to him. Full of wicked wiles, he handed him the little apple of
disobedience. And then, having won his consent, he turned against the poor boy. He threw him
down to earth and to the level of earthly desires. To prevent his getting up, he bound his feet (that
is, the affections of his mind) with the stout chains of worldly concupiscence, and did the same to
the activity of his hands and to the eyes of his mind. He set him in the ship of false security and
with the powerful aid of the strong wind of flattery he conveyed him to the distant Region of
When the boy arrived in this land which was not his own he was offered for sale to all who passed
by. He learned to tend pigs and to eat their husks. He unlearned all that he had previously learned
and he had to learn to do the work of slaves, of which he had no knowledge. He was crushed in
that prison of despair where the wicked walk around. In that mill where the wicked wend their
ways he was forced to work, with his only gain a bad conscience. Alas!
Next to reading Holy Scriptures, a Lay Cistercian is encouraged to read from Cistercian heritage that comes from monks and nuns from the time of St. Bernard to the present This past Sunday, our monthly Gathering Day for Lay Cistercians of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia (Trappist), our topic was a parable written by St. Bernard himself. I must admit, having read some of St. Bernard’s more challenging pieces, this was a shock. Come to find out, St. Bernard wrote this parable to explain the essence of the monastic experience to people like me. I have attached this parable for your spiritual reading.
I was never very good at academics in school, having the curse to have a slow mind that seems to dwell on how things fit together rather than their composition. I seem to gravitate toward the bigger picture. The problem is that the bigger picture kept getting bigger and bigger. As I look back on eighty-plus years of mostly being too full of myself to focus on Christ, I have developed a passion for trying to make all things new in Christ. My center, Philippians 2:5, informs each day as I try to do God’s will and not my own.
Of the many ideas presented to me by the Holy Spirit, I try to use my penchant for linking all things together with Christ. It makes sense (or more accurately more sense) for me than the view of reality presented by the World: you are born, you learn, you procreate, you eat, you discover the meaning of love, you wonder about what can solve that hole in your heart that seeks something to bring all things together, you die.
I don’t speak for the Holy Spirit. I speak of principles because that is what the Holy Spirit placed before me to see how I would use my talents to make sense out of it. I ask the Holy Spirit to speak to me and listen through all the distractions brought on my Original Sin.
THE VALUE OF PRINCIPLES IN SEEKING GOD EVERY DAY
Some things change every day, and some do not. Principles are such focal points that do not change, but they moderate anything going into them and coming out of them, much like a black hole in science or the US Constitution in political discourse. Principles are those ideas or values we place at the center of our way of thinking against which illuminates all the reality against which all that is. My personal center is Philippians 2:5, with which I begin each Lectio Divina meditation and against which I measure myself in Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict each day. I always come up short when measuring myself against the Christ Principle, which is why I try to convert my false self into the true self as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father. Conversatio morae (conversion of life) is a mindset that helps put my Lay Cistercian practices into perspective. Daily conversion from my false self to my true self is only possible with the energy source from God, not from me nor anything in the world. I get this energy by being in the presence of God in the Cistercian practices and living the charisms (humility, obedience, hospitality, mercy). It is not so much that I demand that God touch my heart as much as it is that I listen with the ear of my heart to what the Holy Spirit directs. The divine energy flows from that which is divine to that which is human, not vice versa. God doesn’t need any human energy to be God. The Psalmist says:
“Listen, my people, I will speak;
Israel, I will testify against you;
God, your God, am I.
8Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you,
your burnt offerings are always before me.
9I will not take a bullock from your house,
or he-goats from your folds.
10For every animal of the forest is mine,
beasts by the thousands on my mountains.
11I know every bird in the heights;
whatever moves in the wild is mine.
12Were I hungry, I would not tell you,
for mine is the world, and all that fills it.f
13Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of he-goats?
14Offer praise as your sacrifice to God;g
fulfill your vows to the Most High.
15Then call on me on the day of distress;h
I will rescue you, and you shall honor me.”
The energy of God comes from divine nature, not human. There are three principles that God has given to humans whereby they can interpret The Divine Equation and move from their false self to their true self. Here are the three principles that are sources of power that humans marked with the sign of contradiction may claim to propel them to heaven, their destiny, and the final stage of human evolution.
THE GENESIS PRINCIPLE- God inspired the sacred authors (who may not have to know the extent of what they wrote) to identify the first principle of God’s energy, life itself. Here is some thought for your meditation:
Don’t get tripped up by how long it took God to create the world.
God is the author of all life, all matter, all physical energy, all time.
What God made is good, or, another way of saying that, “There was resonance.” Resonance is being what God created as part of nature.
In the case of humans, at some point in their evolution, God selected two persons to be endowed with human nature and the freedom to choose good or evil.
Genesis is the archetypal story for ordinary humans to see how human choice affected how they lived their lives.
God made Adam ( from the soil) and Eve (from Adam’s side) to be pleased and to enjoy The Garden of Eden (Heaven) forever. Because they had reasoned, they had the opportunity to make choices. This choice is the metaphor of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and God said don’t eat of this tree for you will surely die. Everything to this point was in resonance with what it should be according to God’s will.
Something happened that caused this relationship to terminate. Since Adam and Eve are our first progenitors with human reasoning and the freedom to choose what is right, they represent humanity. Saint Paul says it well in Romans 5.
Humanity’s Sin through Adam.12 Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned*—13 for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law.i14 But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.jhttps://bible.usccb.org/bible/romans/5
With God is resonance; that is, everything acts its nature. With Adam and Eve, they made a poor choice, and sin entered the world. This is the beginning of dissonance and the fundamental premise for the rest of the Old Testament until the restoration of this collective dissonance by Adam and Eve is redeemed. Again, St. Paul continues in Chapter 5 of Romans.
Grace and Life through Christ.15But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many.16And the gift is not like the result of the one person’s sinning. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal.17For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ.18In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all.k19For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous.l20The law entered in* so that transgression might increase but, where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more,m21so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.nhttps://bible.usccb.org/bible/romans/5
This first principle is one where all reality begins to be. The principle of life from which all flows and into which all converge is one of resonance. As described in the Pentateuch, the Genesis principle is a series of stories about the consequences of that Original Sin as history unfolds. Although God did not abandon his people, Israel, there was still dissonance between them. They would never have been able to be made “righteous,” as St. Paul says above unless God Himself would become human and restore resonance once more. This leads me to think of the next principle, The Christ Principle.
THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE
The act by God to become one of us is similar to one of the first principles, that of life. This next evolution of our redemption comes as the person of Jesus Christ, both divine and human. God once more intervened in space and time to re-create us in the image and likeness of Christ. The Christ Principle is that from which all things flow, and into which all reality converges. According to Philippians 2:5-12, Christ saved us from just living and dying by paying the price of our redemption. That word, redemption, is significant because the Hebrew word is gaal. https://biblehub.com/hebrew/1350.htm It means a kinsman goes to the pawnshop and buys back the pawn ticket to redeem that which sold. This kinsman is Jesus, who is both divine and human, and he must pay the price to repurchase us. The price for our redemption is to complete the act of love which Adam and Eve destroyed by their one choice. This price is to suffer and die on a cross, to offer his life as a ransom for the many. It is the ultimate sign of contradiction that God would submit to such indignity. If you haven’t already, read Philippians 2:5-12.
I have heard that Jesus is Lord and Savior. That meaning depends a lot on my ability to learn from books and theologians all the scholarship of the ages. I am more and more aware of how my teacher is not a book but the Holy Spirit. My capacity to know more about Jesus has morphed into my capacity to be more in the image of the likeness of God. Simply put, to love others as Christ has loved me.
Savior means Christ paid the price of emptying himself of his humanity (death) so that all humanity could be restored to resonance with God.
Savior means Christ saved me from just living in the physical and mental universes of the World, to open up the spiritual life to those who choose to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father.
Savior means Jesus is the way for humans to traverse the rocky road of life by giving his very flesh and blood to eat and to make all things new for those who love him.
Savior means Jesus is Messiah, Son of God. (John 20_30-31)
Savior means Jesus is not only the WHY and WHO that completes The Divine Equation but also the authentic answers that cause continuous resonance in a world corrupted by Original Sin.
THE PRINCIPLE OF TRUTH
There is only one truth. Humans have struggled over what the truth is since the story of the Tower of Babel. It doesn’t help that each individual human has the power to say YES or NO to anything. In the Genesis Principle, God allowed Adam and Eve to choose good or evil freely. With choices comes the consequences of that choice. In the Christ Principle, God chose to become human (Jesus Christ) to give each of us a chance to complete the original plan of God, for all of us to be together in heaven. Still, humans make poor choices, some sinful (against God’s advice on making it through the minefield of life without being destroyed), others just dumb.
It all comes down to me. I live seventy or eighty years ( I am 80+ and very lucky). During that time, I have a chance to be an adopted son or daughter of the Father, to know my purpose in life, to know what reality looks like, to use my reason and ability to choose to see how all fits together, to learn how to love fiercely, and to prepare to live forever.
This last principle is just for me, and all others who are human. The Holy Spirit, the Truth, informs my reasoning when I am humble of heart and seek God daily in my heart.
These three principles are God, intervening in the human condition.
These principles are persons.
God the Father is the Genesis Principle, the principle from which all life exists, THE LIFE.
God the Son is the Christ Principle, the principle to reconnect humans and the divine, THE WAY.
God, the Holy Spirit, is the Principle of Truth, the principle for humans to rise above mere human knowledge, love, and service to have in them the very energy of God, as they have the capacity to receive it. (Capacitas dei)
My Lay Cistercian practices allow me to place myself in the presence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit and listen with “the ear of my heart.”
THE CHRIST IMPERATIVES Here are some of the commands that Jesus gave to us to help us to convert our lives from the World to the Spirit.
• Seeking perfection? Listen to me for I am meek and humble of heart. Matthew 11:28-30
• Thirsty? Drink of the living waters! John 7:37.
• Hungry? Eat the food that gives eternal Life! John 6:33-38.
• Bewildered? Believe in the Master! John 3:11-21.
• Without hope? Be not afraid! John 13:33-35.
• Lost? Find the way. John 14:6-7.
• Tired because of the pain? Be renewed! John 15:1-7. • Afraid? Find peace! John 27-28.
• Afraid to believe? Believe! John 11:25-27.
• Without a family? Listen! John 10:7-18.
• In darkness? Walk in the light! John 8:12.
• Spiritually depressed? Be healed! John 5:24
Welcome, good and faithful servant, into the Kingdom, prepared for you before the World began.
Being a faithful follower of the Master is the easiest thing to talk about but the most challenging thing to do. As a Lay Cistercian, trying to convert my Life daily to be more like Christ and less like me, I find these imperatives like beacons on the stormy waters of living in a world influenced by Original Sin. Spirituality is work and a struggle because we live in a foreign land, one whose default is not a conveyor belt to get to Heaven. Heaven is not automatic. If it was, why be spiritual at all, just sit back and sin bravely.
It is Christ who has shown us the way, given us love as the gold standard, taught us how to love because he has loved us first, by his passion, death, and resurrection. It is this Faith that conquers the World, it is this Faith, that of the Universal Church (those who have died and are in the peace of Christ, those who live on earth and struggle with the conversion of Life, and those purifying themselves). Christ wanted us to live out our moving from self to God amid the community of Faith. This community has the Mystery of Faith as its core. These imperatives help us as a community as we approach the Sacred.
The core imperative is: love one another as I have loved you. I pray that I am what I hope to become in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Praise to the Father and 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
Somehow, this made its way into my Lectio Divina meditations (not contemplation) for this morning. I have so many wonderful and inspiring thoughts from the Holy Spirit about linking all reality with the Christ Principle. Even thoughts about where my classmates are somehow part of this one reality, One Lord, One Faith, and One Baptism. This is a picture of my high school graduating class from Central Catholic High School, Vincennes, Indiana, in 1958. I am not in the picture because I attended St. Meinrad Minor Seminary High School in St. Meinrad, Indiana. I signed up for a blog from my hometown in Vincennes, Indiana, for my high school class, and where are they now? My point is when I look at these photos of my classmates and ask the question, “Where is everybody?” At 80 years of age, I know that I am just a broken-down, old Lay Cistercian Temple of the Holy Spirit, but where are the rest of my classmates?
Where is everybody?
My point is, some are dead and some still living out the few years they have left. Where are they now? A lifetime of success, failures, making money, going broke, having children, being married or divorced are some of the choices we all make that define who we are? Why is that? Like one of those link roller traps that I use to clean up the dog hair from my Yellow Lab, Tucker, my choices are irretrievably linked to who I am. Some choices are bad for me and some good. St. Benedict, in Chapter 4 of the Rule, puts it this way.
41 Place your hope in God alone.
42 If you notice something good in yourself, give credit to God, not to yourself,
43 but be certain that the evil you commit is always your own and yours to acknowledge.
44 Live in fear of judgment day
45 and have a great horror of hell.
Again, where is everybody? If they are still alive on earth, is Christ a part of their purpose in life, their personal center? If they are dead, where are they? Wherever they are, alive or dead, their choices in life will carry with them forever. As one still living, I pray for my family, teachers, and all those I have threaded with the Golden Thread of the Christ Principle each day, if not just for a fleeting moment in my Morning Offering.
May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of Christ, rest in peace, now and forever. Amen
What would be your answer to the following four questions that I received from the Holy Spirit during my last two Lectio Divina meditations? I don’t have answers as much as further questions about these ideas. I want you to think about them in the recesses of your heart and ponder them, rather than do the usual, which is write them down and forget them.
The Similes of Salt and Light.*13i “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.*14You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.j15Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.k16Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.lhttps://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/5
3. Do you know what Jesus looks like? Why not? He is the most important person in my life and the Christ Principle with which all reality makes sense, so why don’t we have a photo of Him? Actually, that is the wrong question to ask. Wrong questions give wrong answers. I think the correct question is: in my lifetime of seventy or eighty years have I learned how to see Jesus, using all the ways He has left to His disciples to see him? I used Lay Cistercian practices that are part of the Cistercian spiritual system. When I place myself in the presence of God by invoking the Holy Spirit, I see Christ there, not physically but spiritually. My heart is transformed by the heart of Christ to move from dissonance to resonance in the depth of my being. Prayerfully read St. John’s Gospel and try to see Jesus.
Last Supper Discourses.1* “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith* in God; have faith also in me.2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?3* And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.a4Where [I] am going you know the way.”*5Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”6Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth* and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.b7If you know me, then you will also know my Father.* From now on you do know him and have seen him.”c8Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father,* and that will be enough for us.”d9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?e10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.f11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.g12Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.h13And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.i14If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.
The Advocate.15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.j16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate* to be with you always,k17the Spirit of truth,* which the world cannot accept because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.l18I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.*19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live.m20On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.n21Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”o22Judas, not the Iscariot,* said to him, “Master, [then] what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?”p23Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.q24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.25“I have told you this while I am with you.26The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you.r27Peace* I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.s28* You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’t If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I.29And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.u30I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world* is coming. He has no power over me,31but the world must know that I love the Father and that I do just as the Father has commanded me. Get up, let us go.vhttps://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/14
If you cannot see Jesus in your neighbor, those who hate you, those who calumniate against you, those who are sick, the mentally suffering, why not? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jN1JsYA1SQ
4. If you love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself? Matthew 22:36. If you really believe that with all your heart, what are you not doing now that you should love others as Christ loves us.
My last couple of Lectio Divina’s has centered on how my Lectio (Philippians 2:5) influences resonance. I don’t take credit for this way out of thoughts as they apply to Holy Scripture. They just come, and I take them down for you to decipher.
In thinking about how I might more fully “Have in me the mind of Christ Jesus,” the thought came to mind that everything is tied together in ways we either know about or don’t yet perceive. My focus on Lectio Divina has been around two or three themes:
1. The Divine Equation, or how to make sense of what clearly doesn’t make any sense.
2. How does it all fit together, and what principle ties all of reality together, even if we don’t comprehend it all.
3. What is powerful enough to cause cosmic resonance of matter and ideas and free will?
I. THE DIVINE EQUATION: My lifelong ambition, which I still pursue, is to continue to see how all reality fits together into one while maintaining the integrity of three distinct and separate universes, all existing at the same time. For many, many years, I have struggled to comprehend or master the mystery of the Blessed Trinity: One God, with three persons, The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. What I failed to grasp until quite recently is that The Trinity is not only the sign on my soul placed there by Baptism, but it is also the template by which I look at all reality and try to peel off the layers of meaning with the tools I have acquired in my lifetime. The Church Universal is the toolbox of many ways others have tried to “Have in them the mind of Christ Jesus.” I have the accumulation of all that wealth of trial and error all the way back to Christ, the Principle into which all reality has meaning, and from which we all can use as the way, the truth, and so live a life authentic for our human species. I can reason for a reason and free will, which allows me to even choose what is inauthentic. If I was just a human, I only have the reasoning and free choices of the world (physical and mental universes) to determine what is true. What does not make sense to the world makes perfect sense when applying the Christ Principle to reality.
When I enter the spiritual universe at Baptism with a free choice of my will, although I face a lifetime of trying to love others as Christ loved us, everything is the opposite of what the world promises with health, happiness, meaning, and fulfillment. The Second Reading for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time just popped out at me this Sunday as I listened to it (thankfully, our parish, Good Shepherd, Tallahassee, Fl) has two large screens with all the writings displayed so that an old Lay Cistercians like me can read it. Read this inspirational passage from St. Paul in II Corinthians, and remind yourself why the Scriptures were even written down so that you could hear and come to believe that Jesus is Lord.
Brothers and sisters:https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/070421.cfm
That I, Paul, might not become too elated,
because of the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The Holy Scriptures are there for people in each age to take the Christ Principle that comes from God (The Divine Equation) and apply it to their daily lives as they move down their seventy or eighty years of life if they are lucky. The Church in each age does not make up new doctrine or anything but Christ Himself left us. The Church helps those of each age to see Jesus now. Read the Conclusion of St. John’s Gospel and “listen with the ear of your heart .”
Conclusion.*30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book.s31But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.thttps://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/20
When you are signed with the mark of the Trinity, all the words you say, where you find meaning and purpose, how all things are, how all things fit together, and the meaning of love is the opposite of what the world says. That is why our faith is “folly to the Gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews.” In the passage from II Corinthians above, St. Paul says…”when I am weak, then I am strong.” The assumption here is that with the Christ Principle, everything is as it should be, consistent with who God is and with the natural law.
II. HOW ALL THAT IS FITS TOGETHER Given that you can accept the Divine Equation as a way to look at one reality with three distinct universes, then the next step is to unravel the six thresholds of life that ask the key questions everyone must ask and answer correctly before they die. They are:
I have been romancing these questions and possible answers for the past twenty-one years. Using Lectio Divina and the Holy Spirit’s help, sixty-five books plus my blogs are the results of just sitting in the presence of Christ and listening. The problem was, the World cannot provide either the questions or the answers because what is true in the spiritual universe is the opposite of what the world says is true. In The Divine Equation, these six questions must be answered using correct or authentic solutions. Since both the questions and the authentic answers are from God, only He has the answers. That is one of the reasons Jesus, Son of God, took on our pitiable nature, to show us the way, to explain that the truth in contradiction from God is more real than that of the World, and allow us to be adopted sons and daughters with the life that lasts not only while we live on earth but continues in Heaven forever.
Yet, with all its seeming complexities, The Divine Equation is accessed by a humble act of Faith through belief in the Christ Principle just with one Yes, as did the Blessed Mother when she said, “Be it done to me according to your Word.” With just one act of love, Christ said to His Father on the cross, “into your hands, I commend my Spirit.” With this seemingly insignificant action, all reality changed. The debt to God was paid back (Goel in Hebrew) when a family member (The Trinity) bought back that which was pawned by Adam and redeemed by Christ. Prayerfully read this passage from Romans in its entirety (I suggest three times), pausing to drink in the life-giving words from the Word.
Faith, Hope, and Love.*1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace* with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,a2through whom we have gained access [by faith] to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.b3Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance,4and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope,c5and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.d6For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly.7Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.*8But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.e9How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath.f10Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life.g11Not only that, but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Humanity’s Sin through Adam.12* Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world,h and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned*—13for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law.i14But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.j
Grace and Life through Christ.15But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many.16And the gift is not like the result of the one person’s sinning. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal.17For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ.18In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all.k19For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous.l20The law entered in* so that transgression might increase but, where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more,m21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.nhttps://bible.usccb.org/bible/romans/5
As a Lay Cistercian trying to place me in the presence of Christ and listen to the Holy Spirit, I try to remind myself of the five levels of spiritual awareness when listening or reading the word of God in all my Cistercian practices (Eucharist, Lectio Divina, Rosary, Reading Scripture, Praying in the silence and solitude of my inner self, Eucharistic Adoration).
Because God’s nature is divine when our human nature is just in the presence of such pure energy, we are transformed into what is greater through no power we have but through the power of the Holy Spirit to lift up our false selves to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father. What we can do is to recognize what is going on (reason) and align our wills with that of God’s (thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven). This is the resonance that only I, as a human, can give to God, the only thing God does not have (nor does he require it to be God), but it completes the dissonance of Adam and Eve.
What is God’s will?
To love others as Christ loved us.
To prefer nothing to the love of Christ. (St. Benedict, Chapter 4, Rule)
To deny oneself, pick up our cross daily, and do what Jesus did.
To die to our false self and rise with Christ to new life.
To make all things new each day through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
To daily ask God for mercy in the Morning Offering and seek to give mercy to those we not only love but to those who wrong us and hate us for Christ’s sake.
To seek God each day in whatever comes our way.
To see Jesus in the Eucharist and adore Him in Eucharistic Adoration.
To read Scriptures as love letters from God on how to “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.”
To realize that I am loved by Christ as a brother and friend and that I am an adopted son (daughter) of the Father.
To see Jesus when I encounter the Holy Spirit in my fellow Lay Cistercians on Gathering Day and in watching Bishop Barron’s YouTubes.
To be grateful that Jesus has allowed me to offer my cardiac arrest (2007), Leukemia (2014), pacemaker implantation (2020), and ongoing health problems as a torn in the flesh and realize that “my grace is sufficient” for anything that I face.
To give glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who will be at the end of the ages. –Cistercian doxology
To experience the joy that has no human counterpart whenever I join with others in proclaiming Jesus is Lord, to the glory of the Father.
To be vigilant against the wily attacks of the Devil, who is like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.
To be proud to wear the mark of the cross on my forehead, on my lips, and in my heart.
III. WHAT IS POWERFUL ENOUGH TO CAUSE COSMIC RESONANCE IN THE MIDST OF ORIGINAL SIN?
Jesus caused resonance with the Resurrection and Ascension to the Father.
I am powerful enough to cause cosmic resonance when I offer my obedience to the Father that “what is done in Heaven be done on earth.”
With the Christ Principle, I am powerful enough to identify the elements of the Divine Equation, although I may not have all the pieces in place.
With all this pure energy flowing here and there, it is good to remember that God is still God, and I am just one who calls upon the Lord to be saved.
In the following YouTube musical meditations, listen “with the ear of your heart.” Block out words and just sit on a park bench in the dead of winter and wait for your heart to prepare the way for the Lord. Just listen.
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. –Cistercian doxology
55 Listen readily to holy reading,https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/
56 and devote yourself often to prayer.
57 Every day with tears and sighs, confess your past sins to God in prayer
58 and change from these evil ways in the future.
This passage is from the Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 4, lines 57-58. In the smugness of my thinking I know it all about God, the Holy Spirit reminds me several times a day how far I actually am from “Having in me the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) As my awareness of the practices and charisms of Cistercian spirituality slowly sink in because of my presence to Christ through the Holy Spirit, nuggets of inspiration rain down on me, most of which I let pass me by, but this morning I happened to grab one because it was actually an emotional experience that I have been having for the past ten (or is it eleven) years. Allow me to share this with you.
Of late, I have been focusing on seeking God every day as the possibility of the manifestibility of all being encountered. End of the world? Nothing changes. COVID 19? No problem. It is what it is, and I must integrate it into the worldview that makes up who I am. The accumulated life experiences allow me to grow in capacity for having God increase while my false self decreased. This is conversatio morae or conversion of life. It is at the center of my personal purpose in life, but it is also the central purpose in reality– to change from where I am to where I want to be, and that being more than I was before. I have the ability to reason, something all other animal species do not have. Is this just a freak accident of nature that humans slipped through the barrier holding back animality from rationality? Maybe? But just maybe it is God’s DNA to move towards being more than we were before that humans latched onto in their desire to survive. I know that I have reason and the freedom to make choices about what lies before me. Choice defines who I am. Bad choices mean bad views of who I am and false paths that lead to uselessness. “The wages of sin,” says Scripture, “is death.” Spirituality is all about choices. Basically, I see two choices: do what my heart tells me is right for me, what is logical, what love is, what makes me happy now, what society tells me is of value, or, do what my heart tells me what is right, based on my choice to “Have in me the mind of Christ Jesus.” The center for this last choice is outside of me, and I make a conscious decision not to listen to my heart or emotions but rather to confess that Jesus is Messiah, Son of God, Savior, so that I might come to believe in his name and have life forever. (John 20-30-31).
Consistent with human nature, not all my choices are good ones (based on God’s love) nor are all of them bad ones (based on my own sinfulness). Again, St. Benedict points out in Chapter 4:
41 Place your hope in God alone.https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/
42 If you notice something good in yourself, give credit to God, not to yourself,
43 but be certain that the evil you commit is always your own and yours to acknowledge.
The gap between who I am and who I want to become in Christ Jesus is at the heart of conversion each day. This brings me back to the first quote: “7 Every day with tears and sighs confess your past sins to God in prayer 58 and change from these evil ways in the future.” Even those choices I made to convert myself from the evil I commit and laid at the feet of Christ to ask for mercy, I don’t get rid of those in my lifespan. I am forgiven and may think that I have converted myself to Christ, but there is a problem. I still have the residual of that imperfection, that false self in my mind, and I can’t get rid of it. It is part of who I am.
What being a Lay Cistercian and following the Rule of St. Benedict and Cistercian practices and charisms to the best of my ability based on not being in a monastery or following a schedule of prayer and penance has taught me is to continue to repent for past sins and failings as part of my conversio morae. I find myself using these past failures and sinfulness to motivate me to change from my present evil ways to Christ’s through the Holy Spirit. I share my experiences during the past ten or so years when looking at past sins and failures.
That I am a failure is no surprise. Only Jesus and the Blessed Mother were free from Original Sins but allowed themselves to experience the effects of the sin of Adam. The accumulated failures and sins we have to make up who we are, along with all those times we rise above our animal and secular nature to complete the will of God on earth as it is in Heaven. I have been waking up at night shouting, “No! No!” When I processed this, I thought about a real person I encountered in the past and how terrible I treated them. I wanted to tell them how sorry I was for being so boorish and unchristlike. This was not just a bad dream; I actually felt remorse and sorrow for treating various people, and I asked them to forgive me.
The Psalmist in Psalm 42 captures me groaning and remorse better than I can.
For the leader. A maskil of the Korahites.*
2As the deer longs for streams of water,a
so my soul longs for you, O God.
3My soul thirsts for God, the living God.
4My tears have been my bread day and night,c
as they ask me every day, “Where is your God?”d
5Those times I recall
as I pour out my soul,e
When I would cross over to the shrine of the Mighty One,*
to the house of God,
Amid loud cries of thanksgiving,
with the multitude keeping festival.f
6Why are you downcast, my soul;
why do you groan within me?
Wait for God, for I shall again praise him,
my savior and my God.
7My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I remember you
From the land of the Jordan* and Hermon,
from Mount Mizar,g
8*Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your torrents,
and all your waves and breakers
sweep over me.h
9By day may the LORD send his mercy,
and by night may his righteousness be with me!
I will pray* to the God of my life,
10I will say to God, my rock:
“Why do you forget me?i
Why must I go about mourning
with the enemy oppressing me?”
11It shatters my bones, when my adversaries reproach me,
when they say to me every day: “Where is your God?”
12Why are you downcast, my soul,
why do you groan within me?
Wait for God, for I shall again praise him,
my savior and my God.
This groaning (No! No!) is my conversio morae, confessing my past sins and failings to God and asking for mercy. To receive mercy, I make amends for my insensitivities and rude treatment of people that is not consistent with “Love others as I have loved you.” The Lay Cistercian way of life, seeking God daily and praying for forgiveness and mercy, is a way I have found that channels my energies to long to be in the presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit.
When I experience these bouts of imperfections from the past, my continuous prayer is one asking God to be merciful to me, a sinner. I say it over and over and over. I ask the Holy Spirit that I require help and the energy of God. I rest in the peace of Christ, that which is not the absence of conflict as the world sees it, but the presence of God and other believers.
Conversio morae are converting the present and including those sins and failures of the past that are part of who you are.
Conversio morae is at the heart of the Heart of Christ as practiced in Lectio Divina.
I only have responsibility for converting one person each day and that is me.
Mystical Death and Resurrection.*1If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.a2Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.b4When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.
Renunciation of Vice.*5Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly:c immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry.*6Because of these the wrath of God* is coming [upon the disobedient].d7By these you too once conducted yourselves, when you lived in that way.8But now you must put them all away:* anger, fury, malice, slander, and obscene language out of your mouths.e9Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practicesf10* and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.g11Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian,* slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.h12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,i13bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.j14And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.k15And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.l16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.m17And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.nhttps://bible.usccb.org/bible/colossians/3
Read the Scriptures from Collossians 3 and measure that against the controvery of whitholding receiving Holy Communion from selected officials who do not follow the teachings of the Church Universal.
When I read these passages and thought about it, this is what I received from the Holy Spirit. A caution: I do not speak for the Holy Spirit nor do I content that what I received, I received correctly because of my sinfulness and imperfections. My Lectio Divina meditations are shaped around the one passage from Philippians 2:5, “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” You make your own judgements.
In the end, fifty to one hundred years from now, no one will remember anything about these things, or the truth will be so distorted that no one will even remember the names involved. What does remain in Christ in each age in the Church Universal with it guardian and advocate the Holy Spirit helping others pick up the pieces left from others’ abandoning Christ’s way, truth and life, in favor of their choices to do what is easy rather than what is difficult.
May God have mercy on all of us as we stumble our way to forever.
If would be nice, if you want to talk to the Holy Spirit all that you need to do is make a phone call or Email. For humans, that would be nice, but the Holy Spirit is not limited to human convention. Instead, there is an interior way to access the Holy Spirit, one over which you have no control but never the less one which works every time. You simply sit in the presence of Christ in the silence and solitude of your heart and wait.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that you need to find some bat cave somewhere to seek silence and solitude. The cave where you should look is in your heart, the one place humans fear to look. The one place where the presence of Christ dwells just for you. Christ is everywhere, that is true, but when you take the living Lord into your heart in the Eucharist, you become like that which is greater. Divinity is greater than humanity, just like humanity is greater than animality, and animality is greater than the physical world of gases and the periodic table. Accessing Christ and the Holy Spirit is what any spirituality or spiritual system is about (Dominican, Jesuit, Cistercian, Basilian, Benedictine, Carthusian, Franciscan, Augustinian, to name but a few).
I would like to share with you several types of Lectio Divina practices that I have done and still do in my quest to “have in me the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)
I. TRADITIONAL LECTIO DIVINA Brother Michael, O.C.S.O., our instructor in the Juniorate of Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), taught us about Lectio Divina in one of his classes. Among the many insightful ideas he shared was that Lectio does not need to be limited to the four steps of Guido II, (lectio, meditatio, oratio, and ultimately, comtemplatio). https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org/2017/08/26/guidos-ladder-to-heaven/ Brother Michael told our group that Lectio can be done in bursts, or one set, or other ways to place yourself in the presence of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let me offer you some YouTube videos on Lectio Divina.
Be conscious that any of this practices are useful to allow you to access the Sacred. They are not ends in themselves.
II. EXPANDED LECTIO DIVINA — Pope Benedict XVI expanded the four steps of the normal ladder to include a fifth one, Actio or action. This approach, which I use the most, takes Lectio from being just an interior transformation to include an external one. As Scripture says:
14You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.j15Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, giving light to all in the house.k16Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. lhttps://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/5
I try to write down as many of my Lectio Divina meditations as I can remember. This is my ACTIO part of Lectio Divina.
III. LECTIO DIVINA SERIES OF MEDITATIONS –– Another way that I have been using, as of late, is taking my Lectio Divina (always Philippians 2:5) and doing a series of Lectio over four or five days all clustered around a theme. If you access my blog site https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org, you will be able to read my Lectio experiences for the last two weeks, all centered around the theme of The Divina Equation. These blogs are like chapters in the book I am writing about The Divine Equation and how the Christ Principle is central to discovering resonance in reality. Resonance means everything fits together according to its nature. Sin is a word that I use to describe dissonance or something that does not fit into God’s will for us.
IV. LECTIO DIVINA USING JUST ONE SCRIPTURE PASSAGE –– Lectio Divina is a method of reading Scripture that takes a passage from any biblical text and slowly reads and rereads that sentence or phrase to discover the depths of the meaning. I use only one passage from Scripture, which I have practiced, sometimes more successfully than others, since 1964. My personal center of life is Philippians 2:5 “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” Over the years, I close my eyes, think of myself on a park bench in the middle of winter, and just wait. If I talk, God cannot, so I try to keep my mouth and heart still and silent. Jesus and the Holy Spirit, our two Advocates, have been with me all along. It is I who must wait for my heart to be open to the coming of Christ in humility and truth.
V. LECTIO DIVINA IN A GROUP– This is a new modification for me. If there is a group of three or four people, I would ask someone to come up with a Scripture passage (sentence or phrase) and then have the group meditate on that Lectio for five to fifteen minutes. Listen with the ear of the heart, as St. Benedict advocates in the Prologue to his Rule. Then, share what the Holy Spirit is prompting you to say, or just say nothing or pass. It is like a Quaker prayer meeting. The one who identified the Lectio leads the group in prayer to activate what they have experienced in their minds, on their lips, and in their hearts. Another fifteen minutes takes all this and just waits for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Retire in silence.
Lectio Divina is not limited to Benedictines or Cistercian spirituality, far from it. If you Google Lectio Divina, you will see many URLs from Jesuits, Methodists, Franciscans, and many more spiritual methodologies. All good, all with the purpose of accessing the Holy Spirit and Jesus.
GOALS FROM NOW UNTIL THEN
I have compiled a list of several things I want to accomplish before I move realities. Here they are in no order of importance. I have a bucket list (hopefully one without holes.) Do you remember the song about the hole in the bucket? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijc1eJVR9Qw
One of the things that keep my mind from atrophying is to write down my Lectio Divina experiences so that you might read them. Whatever I link to the honor and glory of God, I can take with me to heaven, be it a sunset, the fresh smell of rain, the relationships I make along the way.
Pray for me through, with, and in Christ to the glory of the Father.