WHY CHRIST DOESN’T MAKE SENSE

Don’t be fooled by the title. I actually want to talk about the sign of contradiction, God becoming human. When I think about it, one of the reasons God did become one of us, with all our frailties and sinfulness, was to tell and show us how to love as Christ loves us. This is something that we must acquire using the ability to reason and our freedom to choose what we think is good for us. No one chooses something bad or inconvient for themselves. Yet, that is what everyone born of water and the spirit is asked to do, voluntarily. It is not enough that Christ told us how to love others as He loves us, He actually showed us how to do it.

Consider this. When we are born, we come into a world that is imperfect. The default of the world has a beginning and an end, in fact, everything in the physical and mental universes has a beginning and an end. Each human, although saved by the redeeming blood of the Lamb of God, must use their ability to reason to make a choice, in this case to place and sustain Christ as the center of their existence. God won’t make it for us. The transition from the physical and mental universes to a reality that includes physical, mental, and spiritual universes is needed to be able to even understand what Christ is telling us and showing us. Here is my point. If you only look at Christ from the viewpoint of the World (physical and mental universes), nothing He says makes sense.

In recent Lectio Divina meditations (Philippians 2:5), I have been thinking about what it means to be saved (passive)? Saved from what? First, we are saved from our own lack of Faith by Christ coming to show us how to love others as He loves us. God doesn’t need my praise or my prayers, I need it to sustain my relationship with Christ. When I join Christ in the Eucharist, I am an adopted son of the Father, tagging along with Christ who actually sees the Father. This is where the sign of contradiction comes into play. My spirituality only makes sense because Christ first loved me. He tells us, I have chosen you, you have not chosen me. All the believers in the world won’t make Eucharist the Real Presence. Only Jesus can do that. Faith is when I am overshadowed by the Holy Spirit to be able to call God, Abba, Father.

Next, Christ came to save us from just getting our values from the World. Read what Bishop Barron has to say about the World and the Law. https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/video/israel-the-church-and-the-law-part-2-of-2/131/

Our values come from Christ. Christ shows us and gives us tips on how to prepare ourselves to live with Him Forever and not get our circuits fried by the pure knowledge, pure energy, pure love that is God. Here is my point. The Spiritual Universe can only be understood in terms of the sign of contradiction. Everything in the Kingdom of Heaven is the reverse of the World. St. Benedict instituted a School to learn how to love because the word “love” means different things to the World and the Spirit. (Galatians 5). Chapter 4 of his Rule instructs us in how to behave in this spiritual universe, where we are asked to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Christ’s footsteps. I ask you to stop now and reflect on how Christ gives us what we need to know, love, and serve God in this life, so that we can be happy with Him in Heaven.

When the sign of the cross, a symbol of this sign of contradiction is the standard that we carry. We have a tattoo indelibly etched on our spirit, the sign of the cross. Like a tattoo, we can’t get rid of it, but we can ignore it, at risk of losing the gift of Faith.

Read what I Corinthians has to say about the sign of contradiction. Our sign, our standard is the cross of Christ Jesus.

“The Message of the Cross

18For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. 19For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”b

20Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

22Jews demand signs and Greeks search for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,c 24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom,d and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

Wisdom from God

26Brothers, consider the time of your calling: Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were powerful; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly and despised things of the world, and the things that are not, to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast in His presence.

30It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God: our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”e

Read this passage again, very slowly, and think about the sign of contradiction that is Christ Himself (Philippians 2:5-12). I have described this event in terms of a polar reversal. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6Ggs7nUjxA

When Christ died on the cross, and the veil in the Temple was torn in half, there was also a polar reversal in spiritual time. From now on, disciples must not see reality as the World sees it, but as Christ sees it. If you want to be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, you must be the servant of all. If you love those who love you, what merit is that? To be disciples of the Master, you must love those who hate you, do good to those who persecute you, become like a little child. This sign of contradiction is the badge we wear over our hearts and marked on our souls, the cross of a criminal, an outcast, one scorned by his own people.

  • Christ doesn’t make sense because, to be a disciple, we must prefer nothing to the love of Christ (Chapter 4, Rule of St. Benedict)
  • Christ doesn’t make sense because we must die to self to be able to rise with Christ.
  • Christ doesn’t make sense because you must renounce yourself and take up your cross daily and follow Him. (Luke 9:23)
    Christ doesn’t make sense if you don’t believe that the Resurrection of Christ is real.
  • Christ doesn’t make sense because He asks you to be Baptized with water and the Holy Spirit in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
  • Christ doesn’t make sense to those without Faith, folly to the Gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews.
  • Christ doesn’t make sense because God loved us so much to send His only begotten Son to save us from the sin of Adam. (Romans 5 and Philippians 2:5-12)

I have tried to make my Lay Cistercian lifestyle consistent with this sign of contradiction by the daily practice of trying to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5). Some days are better than others. It is the time I try to try to prefer nothing to the love of Christ that is my yearning for Christ. It is one a once a day experience, but rather the whole day is lifted up to the Father in praise and glory through the Son, in the unity of 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

WE ARE DEFINED BY OUR CHOICES.

One of the characteristics of being human is the need to belong. Another one seems to be the need to be spiritual, and why we must struggle to be spiritual, and why we, of all living beings, have the ability to reason. From the very beginning of what we know to be human existence, Genesis 2:17-19 (NRSVCE) “7 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” 19 So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.

It is noteworthy to realize that Adam (Adama, Hebrew: the ground) was made by God and so were all the animals, as you read above. Eve alone was made from a rib from Adam’s side and not from the earth. This suggests that, while all males are dirty by nature, women proceed from human flesh (Adam’s rib) are are not dirty or defiled. Perhaps that is why Mary was selected by God as the Second Eve, this time the mother of the Church Universal.

OUR NEED TO BELONG

From time immemorial, humans have tended to cluster in groups of their own kind (e.g., humans don’t run with baboons, although sometimes you wouldn’t know that by the hatred some political parties have for those who do not agree with them, all contrary to Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict).

The genius of the Book of Genesis is that it recounts what it means to be human. Adam and Eve were created by God. They were made because God needed a gardner for his paradise (Heaven). As the story goes, Adam and Eve confused being gardner or caretaker with being God. In this story, we see two elements that make humans what they are, separate from all other living things. They are the ability to reason, and the ability to make choices. Reason gives us the awareness to choose what is good for us. Genesis relates how Adam and Eve knew that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was forbidden. They wee not to eat of it, but they did. Even though they thought they were doing right or knew that they were disobeying God, they did it hoping God would not know. They wanted to be God.

To be sure we share processes of procreation, safety, sustenance, and survival. One other needs common to other animals is belonging. Belonging, rather than being a Lone Ranger among humans, is how we focus all the other needs. As God says in Genesis, “…it is not good for man to be alone.” God tells Adam and Eve that there are consequences to sin (death, pain, suffering, having to work for their survival, lack of security, and they realized they were naked.

Life outside the Garden of Eden meant that God was not there to tell them what was right or wrong, nor to protect them from the consequences of their mistake. Genesis is describing us in our relationship with God. They still had hope that God would protect them. Indeed, in the Old Testament, through Abraham, Moses, David and the Prophets, God sets us a covenant relationship with Israel and even gave them laws (10 Commandments) and Jewish traditions of sacrifice and governance. But, it is not without consequences for those seeking to live the covenant relationship. Think about this! Israel had to choose between what is right (God’s way) and what was easy. The writings of the Old Testament told of how Israel did or did not keep the covenant. In addition, there was always the hint of one to come to save the people (from their enemies, but more importantly, from themselves). In each age, we have the same choice. The wages of sin, says Scripture, is death. We pay the price for what Adam and Eve did. With Christ, we must still die, but now we are heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven and we are given helps to sustain us on earth while we proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes again.

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

If God is not part of the way you find meaning for your purpose in life, you may be oblivious to the consequences of sin. There are three dimensions to spirituality, the beginning (creation), the re-creation, and the continuation. The Father is Lord of creation; the Son is Lord of re-creation or salvation; and the Holy Spirit is Lord of the Church until the Second Coming of Christ. The Church is all about doing what was won for us by the blood of the Lamb. All three dimensions are separate, yet all three are one.

Every choice we make has a consequence, although most of them won’t kill us. Scripture says in.Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” For me, that sums it up nicely, but there is a catch. Who determines what is sin (missing the mark) and what happens when we do sin? When is something sinful and when is it just part of the everyday routine? Let’s go back to the concept of reality being three universes (physical, mental and spiritual). These three different and separate realms of reality are one. Yet this reality is one into which Christ became human (Philippians 2:5-12).

There are two kinds of humans: those who live in two universes (physical and mental) and those who live in three universes (physical, mental and spiritual). The first kind we call living in the World. This is the place where the purpose of life is to live, learn to love, breed, find meaning, and eventually to die. Not a bad living when compared to the purpose of an animal, i.e., to be born, to live, eat, procreate, get old, and die. The World is limited in that our morality is governed by governments, those in power, and ultimately the individual. Relativism (no one has the truth because everyone can believe whatever they want and what they believe is reality.

The second type of human also lives in the World but is not of it. Because of Faith and their consent to that relationship, humans voluntarily join the Kingdom of Heaven (begins with Baptism and continue on Forever). The consequences of this choice are:

  • you are an adopted son or daughter of the Father,
  • you must love others as Christ has loved you,
  • you must take up your cross (the heavy one, not styrofoam) daily and follow Christ
  • following means doing those things he left us to help give glory to the Father through, with and in Him
  • each day, pledging yourself once more, to have Christ as your savior and redeemer, in humility and obedience to the Holy Spirit
  • to seek God in every situation in which you find yourself
  • you dedicate whatever time you have left to practicing the charisms from which you grow from your false self to your new self In Christ
  • you realize that even though you pray, Faith is necessary to keep you from falling into the archetypal sin of thinking that you are god
  • you don’t presuppose Faith but must fast and pray that you don’t enter into temptation
  • you place your hope in God alone

Here is an unusual thought from my Lectio Divina meditation (Philippians 2:5). Ecclesiastes 3 speaks of a time for everything under heaven. In that context, why did Christ have to become human at any time? Erich Fromm’s book, The Art of Loving, states his premise that we are not born knowing how to love, we must learn it and authentic love is an art. Following this line of reasoning, I thought about one of the reasons, perhaps an unintended consequence, of why Christ had to become one of us was to show us how to love as God loves us. Christ left us but one command, a new one, that bids his followers to love each other as He loves us. The life of Christ, the mission of Christ was to love the Father as his only begotten Son could do (being both divine and human nature). For who want to be his disciples, they must learn how to love. This love is not like the world teaches you, although that love is good. This is the love that transcends all knowing, how to love as God the Son would do for us. I asked myself why Christ would not only tell us what love is but go to all this trouble to show us, even to giving up his life voluntarily on the cross? Christ did not leave us orphans after he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. The Holy Spirit took over, ever so seamlessly, the task of being with the Church or Gathering of those who practice in this School of Love, as St. Benedict organized it in his Rule. The Church, as living Body of Christ on earth, in heaven, and in purification, makes it possible for each one of us individually to learn the art of loving spiritually, as Christ both taught us and showed us. Here is the point that amazes me. Heaven is all about pure love. Without Christ, we could not even entertain the hope of going to be with that same Christ. Yet, through, with and in Him, we are saved from ourselves, given both the words of life (Scriptures) and how to love as Christ Himself loves us. We do this by loving others. And how do we do that? Read Matthew 25: 36ff. In loving others on while we live, we prepare ourselves to live as adopted sons and daughters of the Father in the life to come. None of this makes any sense without Faith. Just as God overshadowed Mary, Mother of God, the Holy Spirit is with each of us each day, our companion on the rough road we each lead towards our destiny, to be one with the One who says, Behold, I gather all things to myself. If that is not Good News, I don’t know what is.

As a Lay Cistercian struggling to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus each day, I call upon the name of the Lord in my Lay Cistercian practices of Lectio Divina, Liturgy of the Hours (www.divineoffice.org), Rosary, Reading from Scripture, writing my blog and writing down what the Holy Spirit tells me (errors and all). All of this I do in silence and solitude, (if my dog, Tucker, allows me), each and every day so that, in calling upon the name of the Lord, I might seek God wherever I find him, and give glory to the Father through, with and in Christ.

Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology



I SAW AND HEARD JESUS YESTERDAY

Yesterday, at 10:15, Easter Sunday, reliving the Resurrection of Christ, I actually saw Jesus. Calm down! I am not a spiritual zealot. You can see Jesus, too, if you go to this website and click on the live stream triangle for the 10:15 Mass on Easter Sunday.

https://www.goodshepherdparish.org/livestream

AT THE CORE CENTER OF MY LIFE IS NOT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

Holy Mother's Center

Before you look for the matches to burn me at the stake, think about this. This was one of my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) during Holy Week. Consider that there are two characteristics that separate humans from all other living things; a)the ability to reason; and b), the ability to choose what is good for us based on that reasoning. The problem is, not everything is good for us. To complicate things even more, the World is composed of those who look at reality with only two universes (the physical one, of which we are a part, along with all living things, and the mental universe. This universe, along with the platform to allow us to exist is called the World. To live in three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual) takes God’s help through Baptism or desire. This is called the Kingdom of Heaven (on earth as well as in Heaven). We have not chosen God, but Christ has chosen us first, from before time existed. What we do as individuals is give our assent or belief to God’s gift of adoption as sons and daughters. Mary, Mother of God, is the archetype of this belief. Read Luke 1-2.

Each of us has, at our core, one principle that informs everything we do and are. God has given all humans reasoning and the ability to choose whatever they want at their center. You must select a center that will propel you beyond death. Today, the Resurrection of Christ from the dead gives each of us a gift beyond all telling. Read the blog I wrote on the Resurrection Enigma. False centers are your spouse or family, your money, power, The Mother of God, and the Church. These are false centers because there can be only one Center, and all others flow from that one principle, the Christ Principle.My personal center is Philippians 2:5. I have had that as my center since 1960. The two choices each human must make are: 1. God as my center guides me down right paths and I fear no evil. 2. I am my own god and whatever I think about life is informed by the World, not God. None of us can serve two masters.

In the Lord’s prayer, we say: Our Father, which are in Heaven, holy is your name; your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. There is another one who wants to be our Master, if we will but bow down and worship him. Our choices from this master are hatred, jealousy, envy, the seven deadly sins. (Galatians 5). We are defined by our choices.

In this context of choosing Christ as the very center, each and every day, there is a battle between the two Masters. I must struggle to choose Christ each day (take up your cross each day and follow me). Christ produces energy for us to endure the toll that this struggle takes on my spiritual resolve to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5) When you look at the stained glass window in Church (building) of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit (Trappist), in Conyers, Georgia, you notice that at the center of Mary’s heart is the heart of Christ. Seek first to put Christ as center, and all else follows. It is not enough for me to just sit back and trust that Faith alone will produce Grace alone. I am not like the Sherman-Williams logo of the earth being covered by paint. The effects of Adam and Eve still pervade every moment while I live. Faith alone will save me from the attacks of the Evil One, but I must work as though everything depends on me and pray as though everything depends on Christ.

My title sounds a bit controversial until you think about it. If I choose Christ as my center, and he is the head of the Church, I must also choose the Church Universal, the living Catholic Church in each age, linked to the Apostles in heritage. What happens, when I choose the Church as my center, and things fall apart or we have a crisis? People fall away from the Church because they have put Church as their center, in the same way as someone puts their spouse at their center. What happens when that spouse dies? You lose your center. Only Christ as my Center means I can profess my Catholic Faith and not worry that this center won’t be there in one hundred years. Far from being alienated by the Church, this thinking puts Christ first and then everything else in perspective. It is a reaffirmation that the Holy Spirit will not let the gates of Hell prevail against it. The Church is not a denomination but the real presence of Christ in each age. As St. Benedict says in Chapter 4 of his Rule, “place your Hope in God alone.”

Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and all else will be given to you, says Scriptures. What say you?

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THE RESURRECTION ENIGMA

On a recent television show, I watched as two of the experts gave opinions about Jesus a) not existing at all or, b) being a deluded young man who fantasized about being the Messiah. In traditional arguments of the Historical Jesus group, they said the Resurrection was made up by his followers.

I am not going to share with you any of my ideas about their denial of the Resurrection. I actually dismiss the Historical Jesus as not knowing what they do not know. It is like arguing with an alcoholic that they are not a drunk. Who cares? I will share with you some thoughts I had as a result of my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) contemplation.

COSMIC CHARM

Humans are different from any other life form that exists. Why is that? How do I know that humans are different from all other life forms, although we share some of the same characteristics? I know because I know that I know. What sounds like gobbledygook is actually one of the first characteristics of human existence, i..e., self awareness. Humans know that we know. Why? Secondly, humans have the ability to choose what is good for them, even if it is bad for them. All humans are defined by their choices and are responsible for what we choose. The question in Genesis 1-2 is, who tells us what is good or bad for us? Only humans are prone to evil and that is due to where they find the answer to what is good for them. The answer to that seeming enigma is either God or you. Because what God has created is good, he shepherds the flock and guides them down right paths, the path we are all destined to take from the moment God spoke that Word (John 1:1). Remember, the freedom to choose is all about choices. We are defined by our choices. The Old Testament is a record of fidelity to God’s Word and infidelity to it, as evidenced by the constant focus on the Prophets on being faithless and worshipping false idols.

Free choice is so important to the human condition that God allows us to make choices that are not hitting the mark of what it means to be human. When we make decisions based on our choice that comes from us (the World), then this is called sin, or missing the mark you should have been aiming for. The choice itself is not evil but what you choose may be. Galatians 5 is a classic Scripture for distinguishing the flesh from the decisions that come from the Spirit. You are free to choose that which comes from the World (the physical and mental universes only) or that which comes from God, the Spirit of Truth (the physical, mental AND spiritual universes). In the Lord’s Prayer, we petition the Father that we act as His will dictates, rather than our own self-idolatry.

In the New Testament, Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. In order to do this Jesus took on our human nature, with our tendency to want to be our own god, and show us how to transform our false self to that of God’s will. If you do not believe in the resurrection of Christ from the dead, then everything we hold true is false and the historical Jesus advocates that won. A note about belief. Belief is the human response to a set of conditions or beliefs in which we place or trust, our hope, and our choices. All the belief in the world won’t make Christ present in the Eucharist. Our belief does not have the power to change water into wine, or even make the dead rise from the cross. We believe it because it comes from Christ. Belief belongs to the World (physical and mental universes only). Faith, on the other hand, comes from God in Christ by means of the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a mystery somewhat known because Jesus revealed it to us, but mostly hidden from our reason, as looking through a foggy glass. The reason we have reason is to be able to move past what the World tells us is meaningful to what Christ says is meaningful. St. Benedict in Chapter 4 of his Rule says ” our way of acting must be different from the world. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/The love of Christ must come before all else.” It is when we abandon ourselves to the will of God that we, paradoxically, have the most freedom of all, because we seek God, the way, the truth, and the life.

THE PARADOX OF FAITH

The ultimate abandonment to God’s will is the Resurrection. Christ voluntarily gave His life to the Father in reparation for the sin of Adam and Eve and restored us to life. Reason alone won’t get you to heaven. Believing in the historical Jesus is nice but like cotton candy. It tastes good and looks good, but has no nutritional value. Without Jesus there is no hope for us beyond the grave. Without Jesus’ resurrection He is not God, just a deluded young man whose followers make up all those stories that have endured to this day.

Of course, the Resurrection from the Dead does not make sense to just human reasoning. It is only by choosing to follow the will of God in Christ with humility and obedience to what He says is good for us, that we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father and heirs of the Kingdom of Forever. This is not easy to do, which is why Jesus instituted a Church to help us in each age. Even though crazy humans in the Church Universal have lead it away from having in them the mind of Christ Jesus, Philippians 2:5), and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it. By all accounts, the Church Universal should have folded many, many times in the past. There was always a reformer to bring us back to Jesus as our sole center. Faith informed by reason can render us at least able to begin to scan the Mystery of Faith and pluck some low hanging fruit.

If there is no Resurrection from the dead, then Christ is not the Son of God. Everything we believe in the Creed is nonsense. All the prayers we say are a waste of time. There is no Faith, Grace, Scriptures, Christ, or Church. All those peoples for twenty centuries have been dupped. There is no Holy Spirit, no Saints, no one exists past their death.

My reply to those who cast doubt on the resurrection is “With Faith no answer is needed. Without Faith, no answer is possible”. –St. Thomas Aquinas

THE WISDOM OF SACRED SCRIPTURE

John 11 describes the resurrection of Lazarus in these words. http://www.usccb.org/bible/john/11

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.i22 [But] even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.”24 Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”j25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,k26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”27* l She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.”29 As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him.30 For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him.31 So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.32 When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”33 When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed* and deeply troubled,34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”35 And Jesus wept.m36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”37But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”

3 8So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.”40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father,* I thank you for hearing me.42 I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.”n43 And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice,* “Lazarus, come out!”44 The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”

Matthew 28 has an account of the actual Resurrection of Christ.

a After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning,* Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.2* b And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.3c His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow.4The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men.5Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.6* He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.7d Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.”8Then they went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce* this to his disciples.9* e And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

The Report of the Guard.*11While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had happened.12They assembled with the elders and took counsel; then they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers,13telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.’14And if this gets to the ears of the governor, we will satisfy [him] and keep you out of trouble.”15The soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has circulated among the Jews to the present [day].

Contemplation helps me to cut through all the dissonance in life to find resonance in, with and through Christ, to the glory of the Father. The resurrection happens every time I hear and accept the words of consecration in the Eucharist and proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes again. The resurrection happens every time I try to place myself on a park bench in the middle of winter and wait for Christ to sit down next to me. The resurrection happens every time I confess that Jesus Christ is Son of God, Savior. The resurrection happens every day I recite the Liturgy of the Hours and offer them up in reparation for my sins and failings and ask for God’s mercy. The resurrection happens when I read Scriptures, especially Philippians 2: 5-12 and also in John 11: Do you see a parallel of Lazarus and Christ’s resurrection and what you do now? My belief doesn’t make the resurrection happen, but the resurrection makes my belief believable.

In history, Julius Caesar lived, was murdered, and we think of his memory. Genghis Khan lived, conquered many peoples, and died but we know him through history. Constantine the Emperor lived, died, and we read about him in books. Sigmund Freud lived, wrote books which we can read and he, also, died. Everyone who ever lived, had a life full of their choices, then they died. Even Christ died on the cross, but with one difference. He gave his life up for the ransom of all humanity and God raised him up on the third day. He lives today just as he lived all those many years ago. Because of the resurrection, we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father and await our inheritance purchased for us by the blood of the Lamb of God. Because of the resurrection, like Christ, our bodies will die but will be resurrected through the energy of God. Some people choose not to believe this, either through pride or prejudice. Those who do believe it move forward with the Hope that the words of Christ are true: “j25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,k26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”27* l She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” (John 11)

Finally, St. Paul states the resurrection in brutal but eloquent terms in I Corinthians 12. “12 Now if Christ is preached as raised up from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ has not been raised either. 14 But if Christ has not been raised, then[b] our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain. 15 And also we are found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if after all, then, the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised either. 17 But if Christ has not been raised, your faith is empty; you are still in your sins. 18 And as a further result, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have put our hope[c] in Christ in this life only, we are of all people most pitiable.”

If we are defined by the choices we make, there can be no more appropriate destiny for a human than to be raised up by God to be an adopted son or daughter of the Father. Without the resurrection, we are just blowing dust from age to age. We are indeed pitiable.

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in THE STILLNESS OF TIME

Sitting before the Blessed Sacrament while thinking about my lectio divina phrase (Philippians 2:5), I realized how much I have changed since I first began this leg of my journey of life, that of a Lay Cistercian. http://www.trappist.net. This was not a mental construct but rather a feeling somewhere inside me. I had consciously taken time to sit in from the Blessed Sacrament and wait. As is my custom, I thought about silence and solitude and recited over and over my Lectio Divina phrase (Philippians 2:5).

My thoughts turned to trying to move through the four levels of Lectio Divina (lectio, meditatio, oratio, contemplation). Over the years, I have moved from consciously and deliberately moving through these four stages to that of doing it as a seamless progression. What is important is the process not keeping or not doing this or that step.

Quitely, in just a whisper, I just sat there in the stillness of time. I realized how important it was for be to be still to my false self so I become more like Christ. Another product of my Lectio was the realization that each day, each day I must begin from zero. I begin my Morning Offering before my toes his the floor as I get out of bed. It takes time to move from my old, false self to newness of life. I must keep the words of St. Benedict before me as he wrote in Chapter 4, Tool for Good Works. This is the daily struggle, the cross that I accept to carry each day. I offer you four outcomes or products from being consistent and faithful to Cistercian practices of Lectio Divina, what I notice about myself now that were not present even a year ago.

  1. STILLNESS: I can sit and look at the blue sky or the fresh greens of Spring trees and grasses and be happy with myself in being able to look without any thoughts of a product. The difference is, as the Jewish Existential Philosopher writes, I allow more and more of reality to just be what God created it to be.
  • “The true meaning of love one’s neighbor is not that it is a command from God which we are to fulfill, but that through it and in it we meet God.” ~ Martin Buber
  • “Our relationships live in the space between us which is sacred.” ~ Martin Buber
  • “To love God truly, one must first love man. And if anyone tells you that he loves God and does not love his fellow-man, you will know that he is lying.” ~ Martin Buber
  • “All actual life is encounter.” ~ Martin Buber

The Stillness of the Mind: The mind must be tamed to make it accepting of spiritual contemplation. How does one tame the mind? In his book, The Little Prince, Saint Exupere gives us a clue. Listen to the clip about how how to tame the heart. Listen also for the final statement about the heart. The mind prepares us to love along with the mind. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d33AQNo8H6U

The emptying of the mind of all extraneous thoughts and preoccupations takes time and practice, it takes taming. For me, the Cistercian practices have become occasions where I leave behind my personal preoccupations and focus just on Christ and not just on Scriptures, although I do that also. I like to focus sitting on a park bench in the middle of a severe winter and waiting for Christ. Isn’t Christ everywhere? Yes, but in this way, I use my reason which God gave me to separate me from being so occupied with my own self to refocus just on Philippians 2:5, the only Lectio Divina I have ever used consistently and every day. The product of all of this is not that I embrace Christ but the realization that He has loved me first. This is the Christ that I don’t make into an image and likeness of myself, but one where I am open to the ontic possibility of the manifestibility of Being itself. I must tame my mind and my heart first to receive what Christ, through the Holy Spirit, wants to share.

The stillness of the heart: Another product of having in me “…the mind of Christ Jesus”, (Philippians 2:5) is my heart is less concerned with what makes me happy than with just being in the presence of Christ.. St. Augustine says,”My heart is restless until it rests in Three.” The stillness of the mind allows me to find and open the door of my hear. St. Benedict calls this, “…listen to the ear of your heart,” in his Prologue to the Rule. What does Christ say is at the core of both the New and Old Testaments? “

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.[a] You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.

Matthew 22:37-40 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

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

The heart has many distractions when trying to contemplate. I can only describe what happens to me as a work in progress. Some days are better than others. As you listened to in the clip from The Little Prince, it is the time you take in taming someone that is precious. As applied to my quest for Lectio Divina and contemplation, it is the time I take with all the distractions and detours that makes it so meaningful. Lectio Divina is not just the actual time you take in prayer, but also everything that leads up to it.

If my life is a journey, it is the time I take along the way to seek God in everyday living that is itself my prayer of abandonment to the will of the Father through Christ by means of the Holy Spirit.

2. EVERY DAY IS A LIFETIME. A product of silence and solitude is my thinking that what I did yesterday to praise the Father does not count for this day, a new day. If I miss a Liturgy of the Hours Morning Prayer one day, no problem. It is what I do that day, whatever it is that compels me to seek God for that day, not that I did or did not do one of the Hours. This behavioral outcome or product has caused me to emphasize my practices more and re-energize my saying Compline as a night prayer. All of us have a spiritual attention span. As a result of my collective moving from self to God, ever so slowly, almost imperceptibly, my attention span in meditation with a view to contemplation, has grown from two or three minutes, to more than an hour or more.

3. SIMPLICITY OF LIFE. I am consciously becoming more simple in my prayer life and in contemplation. Simplicity of life now means I seek first the kingdom of heaven and wait for all that comes after that as God’s will. I have slowed down my life in order to get off the Merry-Go-Round of the World. I find that I used to tell God what I wanted as a result of my praying to Him, such as peace, love, and community. Now I wait for God to tell me what is good for me, the antithesis of Adam and Eve.

4. RETURN TO CLASSIC SPIRITUALITY. One of my favorite books on spirituality is the The SOUL of the APOSTOLATE by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O., Cistercian (Trappist) Abbot of Sept-Fons in Central France. I include it here for your spiritual reading and meditation. https://servusfidelis.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/soul_of_the_apostolate.pdf

I have discovered what is more important than Faith alone. I know a bit more how Faith is not one dimensional but contains layers, the three being One Faith. They are Faith, Hope and Love, and the greatest of these is Love. You cannot have Love without having Faith. Faith comes from the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, Love comes from loving others as Christ has loved us.

1 Corinthians 13 NRSVCE – The Gift of Love – If I speak in the – Bible Gateway

1 Corinthians 13 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,[a] but do not have love, I gain nothing.Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly,[b] but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

I wanted you to read this entire quote because it reminds me of the dynamics at work within the very nature of God. The Father is the Lord of Faith; the Son is the Lord of Love; the Holy Spirit is the Lord of Hope. All three are one. There is only one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism as St. Paul writes in his Epistle to the Ephesians 4,
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

FILLING HOLES, FILLING TIME, FILLING SPACE

As I usually do every morning, I turn on the computer and watch ESPN or one of the variations of Fox Sports. I stay away from major network news, Fox News, etc… because of the hatred, negativity, false or misleading information, and mainly I am tired of people mistrusting one another. The sports program I was watching had a commercial whose premise was: We need something to believe in. The natural conclusion was that Sports is a diversion, filling the void of a bored individual in the home. We all need purpose and the power that comes from knowing that my life is not without meaning.

Even sports programs get boring. How many reruns of basketball, football, and baseball can you stand? Is this what will make us happy and fill the hole in our lives that causes boredom and anxiety? When someone loses a lifetime partner, that is a real hole, not an inconvenience. When the holes in our lives get too much for us to handle, we have options to choose. Remember, God gave us reason for a reason and the ability to choose what is good for us or, conversely, what is bad for us. Here are some options or fillers.

Alcohol, drugs and orgiastic sex: One of my favorite authors is Erich Fromm whose book, The Art of Loving, inspired me to ask the question: What is love? His premise is that we humans must learn to love. It is not infused in our DNA. This comes with the freedom to choose what is good for us, or even those things that are bad for us but we select them anyway. Some of his quotes from http://www.azquotes.com

  • “It takes a moment to tell someone you love them, but it takes a lifetime to prove it.” ~ Erich Fromm
  • “To love somebody is not just a strong feeling – it is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise.” ~ Erich Fromm
  • “Love isn’t something natural. Rather it requires discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn’t a feeling, it is a practice.” ~ Erich Fromm

I bring up Erich Fromm as one who tells us what love will fill our holes and what will not (alcohol, drugs, and orgiastic sex). Fromm’s use of love is a great insight into human nature and the deepest, more intimate emotion we have. It is, however, only what the World thinks of love (physical and mental universe only).

FILLING THE HOLE WITH CHRIST True love comes when we build on our human nature with what Christ came to tell us. He has loved us first. (Philippians 2:5-12) If God is not the builder of the house, we labor in vain who build it. This is the temple of the Holy Spirit. There is someone out there who can make the rough ways smooth and the crooked ways straight. It takes Faith to take a shovel and fill your hole with Christ. It doesn’t cost anything in terms of money, but it will take everyTHING you have.

CONTEMPLATION — Understood properly, contemplation of Christ must be with no strings attached, just unconditional love, like sitting on a park bench in the midst of a cold winter and waiting, longing for Christ to sit next to you, Someone asked me, “But Christ is always with us.” I responded, “Of course he is, but you are not always with Him. In silence and solitude, seek God without human conditions.”

With what will you fill the hole left by the Coronavirus 19?

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contemplative prayer as you wait out the coronavirus19

Today, my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) was about how fortunate I am to have time to focus on Christ and taking time to meditate on various topics and look up things on the Internet to help me do that. Yes, the coronavirus is bad. Yes, I am 79.7 years old and have to take extra precautions. Yes, I am bound to the house in self exile, much like the Fathers of the desert were. I asked myself the question, What would I want you to know and to look up on the Internet to make your time meaningful? Instead of watching movies and television shows to fill up the space, here is what I would recommend, in no order of importance. It is what I am doing.

INTERNET SIGHTS THAT WILL FILL UP ANY TIME YOU HAVE WITH THE LOVE OF CHRIST.

DON’T MISS THIS SITE: If there is one site you should visit and bookmark, it is this one. The text is from 250 AD, a Marian prayer, where it came from and other very valuable things about the Coronavirus around the world. https://aleteia.org/2017/04/29/the-oldest-known-marian-prayer-is-from-egypt/

Here is the Marian prayer that has been in use since well before 250 AD (that is just the papyrus fragment dating).

Latin Text 
Sub tuum praesidium
confugimus,
Sancta Dei Genetrix.
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias
in necessitatibus nostris,
sed a periculis cunctis
libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta
English Text
We fly to Thy protection,
O Holy Mother of God;
Do not despise our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us always
from all dangers,
O Glorious and Blessed Virgin. Amen.
EARLIEST KNOWN MARIAN PRAYER (250 AD)

USCCB: This is a great site and I use it frequently to find out what is going on. There are so many resources on this URL that I want you to access it yourself and just browse around. http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings-audio.cfm

LAY CISTERCIAN SITES WORTH READING:

I am going to go to Confession for the sin of Pride for telling you to read my blog site. https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org

https://laycistercians.org/ This is an ecumenical lay cistercian group.

PRAYING THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS EACH DAY

If you want to practice the most difficult but most rewarding experience in your prayer life, try praying the Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer (two of the seven hours of prayer) each day. The best site for this is http://www.divineoffice.org If you look at the bottom right hand column under “Resources” you will find my blog site.

STUDY THE RULE OF ST. BENEDICT

https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/

WATCH VIDEOS ABOUT ALL THINGS CHRIST

One of the best theologians is Scott Hahn. Look at this website and, by all means, view one of his video clips. http://www.scotthahn.com/

Bishop Robert Barron is another wonderful speaker. Watch his videos. https://www.wordonfire.org/ You can sign up for a free course on evangelization.

HOMILIES

Listen for homilies from your local parish website. Two I like are: https://goodshepherdparish.org/homilies. Listen to anything by Fr. Tom Dillon. https://www.trappist.net/homilies. Trappist homilies you must hear.

READ CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA, ETC…

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/ Read the Fathers and Mothers of the Church in this site. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/index.html

http://www.newadvent.org/library/index.html All the documents of the Holy Father and much more. http://www.newadvent.org/library/almanac_14388a.htm Check out a list of Ecumenical Councils.

CISTERCIAN SOURCES

These resources are just a few of the many resources you can abandon yourself in as you wait out the Cronavirus19. That in all things, may God be glorified. –St. Benedict

PROFOUND LISTENING

As I was trying vainly to describe contemplation to prisoners at the Wakulla Correctional Institution (Annex) near Tallahassee, Florida, I happened to use the words “profound listening.” I reflected on these words in light of the admonition of St. Benedict to his monks in the Prologue to the Rule to listen “with the ear of the heart.” https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/ I have noted a few observations and some recommendations about how to listen profoundly.

PROFOUND LISTENING IS NOT THE SAME AS THE WORLD DESCRIBES. I use this phrase as one of the ways that we communicate with God with Faith alone and He responds to us with grace and enlightenment. Profound listening is not the same as listening to the Nightly News or Fox News. In the stillness of silence and solitude, we sit on a park bench in the dead of winter and listen for the footsteps of Christ approaching. It is this longing for Christ to grace us with his real presence that is a characteristic of listening with the ear of the heart.

LISTENING IN THREE UNIVERSES — Those who know my discombobulated mind know that I think in threes when it comes to all human words. Profound listening exists in three universes, not just two.

Physical Universe— all matter, all energy, time, space, everything on earth that has life, is part of this universe. Humans live on this level. It is the platform on which we realize that we are unlike everything else in the universe. Animals are subject to the Laws of Nature (what happens naturally in the order of things) as are we. What God makes is good, including humans.

Mental Universe– I hold that there is another separate universe called the mental one. Only humans live here, just humans (of course, that may include other sentient life forms on other worlds, if they exist). This is the universe where we use reason to make choices that affect who we are. What is the reason we have reason at all? We are free to make good or bad choices for us. Why? Animals only choose what is good for them according to the Laws of Nature. There are consequences to our human choices. Adam and Eve had the chance to make a choice for good or evil in the archetypal story of Genesis 1-2. God told them not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good or evil or they would die. The snake (Satan) tempted Eve who then tempted Adam to eat of the fruit (sins of vanity and pride and greed). The consequences of sin is death. Romans 6:23[Full Chapter] “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So what restores us to our heritage?

Spiritual Universe — If the first two universes contain what St. Paul refers to as the World, then this last universe completes the first two and is the fulfillment of reality. This universe can be entered only by an act of free will. Also, it is by Faith alone that we can even make such as choice. Our consequences are we still have the effects of Original Sin (death, pain, injustice, false promises, temptations by Satan), but we are now adopted sons and daughters of the Father. We have the Resurrection of Christ with victory over death. We know how, as you read this, we can love others as Christ loves us.

Contemplative prayer puts us in touch with that whole universe that we cannot see, touch, hear, feel, or taste with the World but actually makes sense with the Spiritual Universe. The Christ Code, if you will, is to follow how he acted so that we can walk in his footsteps and avoid the minefield of sin and unbelief. All of this points to the whole spiritual universe being the opposite of what the world thinks is necessary for fulfillment. Christ points out that we must die to self to live life in the Spirit. Some call this the sign of contradiction or a polar reversal of the spiritual world. Contemplation is, using humility and silence with solitude, listening to what God is saying. This is profound listening, hearing what cannot be heard and seeing what cannot be seen. Remember! Without the Resurrection, the ultimate sign of contradiction foretold in the Old Testament, none of this makes any sense whatsoever.

PROFOUND LISTENING IN THREE UNIVERSES

Let’s use the words “profound listening” as seen in three universes.

  • Physical universe: This is the foundation where we live. Hearing is one of our five senses where we can react to our environment and hear language. Animals have their own language. This is good.
  • Mental universe: Listening is taking in signs and symbols (language, science, poetry) to discover meaning, how something is, why something is, and how it is constructed. This is good. On this level, humans alone exist and have the ability to choose what is good for them and choose what may be bad for them.
  • Spiritual universe: Free choice is needed to choose this universe. It is invisible and therefore folly to the Gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews. Profound listening is translating this contraction so that it makes sense. Profound listening picks up the language of God. And what is that? It is loving God with your whole heart and your whole mind, and your whole strength plus loving our neighbor as yourself. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:35ff) Contemplative prayer places you in the presence of the source of the way, the truth, and the life, and bids you to wait.

We have been profoundly blessed with the love of Christ.

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POPE FRANCIS ON PRAYER AND FASTING

Pope Francis on Fasting and Prayer

Here are some penitential practices for all year long.Pope Francis proposes these 15 simple acts of charity as concrete manifestations of love:

  1. SMILE. A Christian is always cheerful
  2. Say THANK YOU for little things (even if you don’t have to).
  3. Remind others how much you LOVE them.
  4. GREET with joy the persons you see every day.
  5. LISTEN to other people’s stories without prejudice, and with love.
  6. STOP to help. Pay attention to whoever needs you.
  7. Try to RAISE the spirits of people around you.
  8. CELEBRATE the qualities or success of others, thus avoiding envy or jealousy.
  9. SORT OUT the things you no longer use or need, and give them to those in need.
  10. Be ready to HELP when you are needed so that others may rest.
  11. GIVE CORRECTIONS with love, do not keep quiet out of fear.
  12. Maintain good relations with those around you.
  13. Keep clean the things you use in the house.
  14. HELP others overcome obstacles.
  15. CALL, and call on, your parents more often.

THE BEST FASTING:

  • Fast on offensive words and transmit only sweet and tender words
  • Fast on dissatisfaction and fill yourself with gratitude.
  • Fast on anger and fill yourself with meekness and patience.
  • Fast on pessimism and be filled with optimism
  • Fast on worries and be filled with confidence in God
  • Fast on laments and take pleasure in the simple things of life.
  • Fast on stress and fill yourself with prayer.
  • Fast on sadness and bitterness, and fill your heart with joy.
  • Fast on selfishness, and be filled with compassion for others.
  • Fast on unforgiveness and vendetta, and be filled with acts of reconciliation and forgiveness.
  • Fast on words and fill yourself with silence and readiness to listen to others.

If we all practice this style of fasting, our everyday will be filled with peace, joy, trust in each other, and life.

MY ANNIVERSARY OF FINAL PROFESSION AS A LAY CISTERCIAN: FIVE LESSONS THAT SHAPE MY LIFE

As I look back on my life, and that is a very long look indeed, I usually reflect on what is good and try to forget all those times (the majority of my life) where I made a fool out of myself or was outright full of myself. To list all those faults and failing would take a book of many chapters and quotes. I won’t bore you with all those details. I will, however, share with you one of my Lectio Divina meditations (Philippians 2:5) that looked at the positive things I have learned and try to keep before my eyes each day, in keeping with my perpetual promises I made as a Lay Cistercian, my anniversary of final profession as a Lay Cistercian. http://www.trappist.net . I share with you this profession of Faith just as I read it two years ago and as I try to live in on a daily basis until I passover to be with Christ.

FINAL PROMISES AS A LAY CISTERCIAN OF OUR LADY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT MONASTERY (TRAPPIST), CONYERS, GEORGIA

I, Michael Francis Conrad, a member of the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, a community of Catholics living in the world, promise to strive for a daily conversion of life as my response to the love of God.

I commit myself to live in a spirit of contemplative prayer and sacrifice in obedience to God’s universal call to holiness, using daily Cistercian practices and charisms of simplicity, humility, obedience to God’s will, hospitality, and striving for conversion of life to move from self to God.

I give thanks to my wife, Young, and my daughter, Martha, for standing with me on my journey. I ask for prayers from the Monastic community of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, and the Lay Cistercian community, to include the  Ecumenical and Auxiliary communities. I place myself in the hands of those already stand before the throne of the Lamb, including Holy Mary, Mother of God, St. Benedict, St. Bernard, the Seven Cistercian Martyrs of Our Lady of Atlas, Father Anthony Delisi and other deceased monks and Lay Cistercians of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, and also Deacon Marcus Hepburn. Finally, I accept the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by the constitutions and statues of the Strict Observance Cistercians as my guide for living the Gospel within the time I have remaining. Ut in Omnia Dei glorificatur.

FIVE LESSONS THAT HAVE SHAPED MY LIFE

Here are the five lessons that have shaped my life.

I. HAVE IN YOU THE MIND OF CHRIST JESUS. This quote from Philippians 2:5 sums up my purpose in life and also the motivation that propels me forward to whatever awaits me when my life will change but not end. I use it as my Lectio Divina quote each and every day. I have tried to use is as far back as September 1962 (I don’t remember the day). It is the North on my compass, the reason for my trying to transform my life from my false self (seven deadly sins) to my true self (seven gifts of the Holy Spirit). It is the reason for my being here on earth for whatever time I have. It motivates me to want to sit on a park bench in the dead of winter and wait for the Lord to come by and grace me with His presence (God, of course, is everywhere). I can’t imagine what I would be without this North on my compass.

II. LOVE OTHERS AS CHRIST LOVES YOU— I went from thinking that having in me the mind of Christ Jesus as meaning I must be in Church as much as I am the Church, the Body of Christ. The Church Universal are all those who have been signed by the blood of the Lamb, and all those whom God deems worthy to be in Heaven. Loving others as Christ loves us means that I don’g judge who goes to Heaven (a subtle form of idolatry) but worry that I am not worthy enough to be an adopted son of the Father.

III. CONTEMPLATION ENTERS THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST — Yes, God’s presence is everywhere, but I am talking about me making an conscious choice to place myself in the presence of Christ in a deliberate prayer. This is a spirituality of one Being, Christ who is both God and Human nature, being invited to have a picnic with me. It is my invitation to Christ to be present to me in a special way, one with no agenda, no hidden needs on my part. I am just want to be present to and with him. Yes, Christ is everywhere, but I am not. What I do in contemplation is sit on a park bench in the dead of winter and ask Christ to grace me with his presence. Even as I sit in silence and solitude before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic adoration, my prayer is for Jesus to have mercy on me for my lack of Faith and to wait until He wants to talk to me. I don’t want to presume on the mercy of God for me.

IV. TRANSFORMATION FROM SELF TO GOD— If my spiritual life is a room, have I cluttered it with so many useless values of the World, that Christ has no room. To make room, I must be humble to admit that I am in need of salvation each and every day of my life. Each day is a lifetime of trying to move from self to God. It is only due to God’s grace or energy that I can even move or transform myself. I have found Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict of particular help in identifying the tools for good works and a list of those attitudes and practices I must perform to move from self to God. Each day, I read Chapter 4 in total or in some part. My prayer for me is that I might become what I pray, moving from pride and idolatry of my false self to that of humility and obedience to the will of the Father.

V. THE PEACE OF CHRIST IN MY HEART — Loving others as Christ loves me has the effect of being one with not only Christ, but also the object of that love in those around me. This is not the peace that the world gives, as Scriptures point out. The Peace of Christ is the result of being in the presence of God in contemplation. The Joy of the Resurrection is the product from having in me the mind of Christ Jesus, without condition, open to the Holy Spirit in humility and obedience to whatever Jesus is telling me. Peace is not the absence of hostility but the presence of love, the real presence of Christ here before me just as he is in heaven sitting on the Throne of the Lamb of God. Faith alone, God’s own energy, enables me to be an adopted son of the Father. Church alone, the Body of Christ, allows me to love others as Christ loves me. It is letting your light shine before everyone so that “..they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” I am called to share that peace of Christ with those around me, those marked with the sign of salvation and those who have not yet accepted Christ. I am called to judge not the motives or hearts of others in the church and let God judge those outside it. This is the peace that is beyond all telling.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology

WONDER IF….

Holy Mother's Center

As I sat musing the state of my world with the introduction of the Coronavirus, I kept wondering what would happen if certain scenarios played out. One such outcome is, this virus would mutate, become airborne, and kill millions of people, including myself. Such a doomsday picture is easily dismissed because I tend not to be a conspiracist, but it is very much a part of my thinking, which brings me to my daily Lectio Divina meditations. What happens as I try to contemplate Christ as I sit on a park bench in the dead of Winter, is very much informed by what happens around me. In no [particular order, here are some of my disjointed thoughts as I now contemplate Philippians 2:5, the only phrase I have used since 1961.

Wonder if there never was a God, no Trinity, no hope for us for the future, what would my world look like? How would I react? Gods would look like me, act like me, think like me. I would just try to lead a peaceful life and then die. That’s all folks! Happy are they who trust in the Lord.

Wonder if the Blessed Mother, ashamed because she found herself pregnant without having intercourse, humiliated before her family and relatives, open to public stoning for her shame, thought of her circumstance and decided to get an abortion? What would my world be without Jesus? What would be the center of my life? No Eucharist. No Resurrection. No Salvation. No Hope. No Holy Spirit. Happy are those hope in the Lord.

Wonder if there is no Resurrection of Christ from the dead to make us sons and daughters of the Father and heir to His kingdom? What would my world look like? No Eucharist. No Liturgy of the Hours. No Lectio Divina. Without Christ as living and true God, none of this make any sense. Happy are they who hear the word of God and keep it.

Luke 16 NRSVCE – The Parable of the Dishonest Manager The Rich Man and Lazarus 19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham.[g] The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.[h] 24 He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27 He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30 He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
No Resurrection means what we are doing is a waste of time. Is it?

Wonder if there is no Real Presence in the Eucharist but it is just a symbol, a mental construct to help us think of Jesus, with no intrinsic power to heal, no life, no truth, no way to the Father? The real presence of Christ is a sign of contradiction. Ii doesn’t make sense to those without Faith, but to those with Faith, no explanation is needed. Blessed are those who believe that the words of Christ are true and let their good works shine before humans so that they can glorify our heavenly Father.

Wonder if there is no Devil, only the hallucinations of old men trying to frighten children with threats of sin and going to hell? No templations! No sin! Only my interpretation of good and evil and if someone does not agree, I kill them (Cain and Abel). There is no good but what I say it is. There is no evil but what I say. Blessed are they who come in the name of the Lord.

Wonder if there was no Adam and Eve? We are just animals with instincts of self preservation and procreation. No love. No morality. No hope. We don’t know that we know. Life has a beginning and an end. No Jesus. No heaven. No way. No truth. No life. All creation bless the Lord for your words to us are light, and in this light we see life.

Wonder if there is no Lay Cistercians? No growing deeper in Christ Jesus. No praising the Father through the Son with the Holy Spirit. No contemplation. No loving others as Christ loved us.

In this Lenten time of penance and reparation for our sins of the past, we join in the passion and suffering of Christ as he, once again, works he way towards death, the death he would conquer by rising from the dead. It is due to Faith that we can even say Jesus is Lord. We must all die to self, a contradiction that is folly to the Pagans and a stumbling block to the Jews, in order to rise again and again with Christ.

How blessed we are through grace to be able to recognize that we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father and heirs of the kingdom. We begin by making that kingdom real on this earth to prepare for living with the Mystery of Faith after we die. Death has no more sting, as we hear in the Exsultet for Easter Vigil. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzJGFIa6R80

Finally, wonder if God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son to free us from physical death, show us how to love one another as Christ loved us, and live life using the tools for good works as found in Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict. How blessed are we to have heard the word of God and try to keep it with God’s grace. Alleluia.

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SeekING GOD AT COSTCO

Several days ago, I found myself looking at a very low tire pressure on my right front tire of my car. It looked like a slow leak. The next day, I went to Costco, Tallahassee, Florida, where I had purchased the tires and told them of the problem. They fixed it in about thirty to forty minutes. I found myself sitting on a bench in the tire department waiting for them to fix a slow leak. They found a screw in the tire but it would be thirty minutes before I could get my car.

Bored, with no magazines to read, I kept looking at the stacks of Micheline and B.F. Goodrich tires in rows on the stack before me. There was a strong smell of rubber. Glancing to the right, I saw three rows of batteries all displayed for customers. Faced with a long wait, I usually try for some form of lectio divina, based on my eight words, “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5). What a queer place to seek God, I thought. What could I possibly see at Costco to remind me of Christ, my center?

The tires I saw reminded me of how Faith wears out and must be maintained and even updated every so often. Faith is one but, unfortunately, I only last until I die in the hope of the Resurrection. The Sacrament of Penance is the check-up to see how my Faith is doing. Sin is a nail in my tire that may cause a slow leak. No wonder the Scriptures tell us that the wages of sin is death. Ever tried to drive a car with only three wheels?

The mechanic is Christ who stops by now and then to ask if everything is okay and to see if I need anything. If my battery is low (they only last so long), then I need a replacement. The battery of my spiritual life is Christ who gives me grace or His own energy to sustain me as I travel down the road towards my final destiny. Christ gives us our spiritual batteries at Baptism(no cost), along with a credit card. There is only one limitation to the card–I must love others as Christ loves us. Everything I do is contained on that card which I will present to Christ as a result of my stewardship on earth. Matthew 25.

Christ tells me that he is the map (the way, the truth and the life) but will not drive the car for me. That, I must do for myself (but he will sit in the front seat and be a passenger). “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.”

This is only a brief snippet of what I thought about in my Lectio meditation. In this very simple setting of the World, I managed to transform myself just a tiny bit from my false self to my true self, an adopted son of the Father.

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KERNELS OF FAITH

If Faith is the infinite storehouse of God’s goodness for us as adopted sons and daughters of the Father, then Belief is how we take the kernels of Faith and dispose them to those around us. For those who consciously seek God where they are, the “capacitas dei” or ability to hold Faith is a constant quest. I must decrease, He must increase. Using contemplative spirituality, we do that by practices that allow Christ to be in us. We put ourselves in a state of mind, or lifetime thinking for some, where we sit and wait for the Holy Spirit, through the real presence of Christ, to overshadow us as God did to the Blessed Mother. This is a conscious act, in keeping with our ability to reason and to make choices that have consequences for us. Faith is not a one time shot at grace and forgiveness of sins, but just the beginning of our lifetime struggle to have in each of us the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)

Our Faith must be informed by reason, not that we can ever completely know the mind of God, but we can know what we can know. Most of those who live in darkness (two universes of the physical and mental only) do not get the wisdom of God for us. What we do in our Lay Cistercian practices is to seek God’s mercy on a daily basis, always praying for God to have mercy on us, in need of daily Faith. I receive kernels or drips of Faith in my seeking God each day. To be exposed to the totality of who God is would fry my neurons for I am not created to be God, but, like the angels, to seek God in the short time span I have left.

Faith is like drinking concentrated orange juice, too strong to drink by itself, it needs the water of my Belief to water it down. This water is contained in my personal cup of salvation, one that Christ gave me at Baptism. I will present it to Christ when I die. He will look at the cup and see how full of grace it is. Grace only comes from God, belief is my assent to my overshadowing, my doing what Christ aaught us: love one another, as I have loved you. Every day, in every way, that is mindset that I try to maintain. Lay Cistercian practices help keep me focused on how much I need Christ each day just to maintain the grace in my cup. The Church, (the assembly of Faithful in heaven, those still on earth, and those awaiting purification), is a living, dynamic Body of Christ now, in each age. Church is a gathering of those who, suffering the effects of Original Sin, proclaim he death of the Lord until he comes. This gathering is one in centering themselves around Christ, Son of God, Savior; it is holy because Christ, the head is holy; it is catholic because it is not limited to any denomination or religion, but open to all who call upon the name of the Lord; it is apostolic because the teachings of Christ were handed on from the Apostles to allow this gathering in each age to love God with all their hearts, all their minds, and all their strength and their neighbor as themselves. (Matthew 22:36)

Kernels of Faith are contained in the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. They are ratified by the Ecumenical Councils in each age, the Church Universal at work.What follows are some questions for you to answer in the silence of your heart.

  • If you fall into the duality trap (liberal vs. conservative) in Faith and Belief, what happens when the Pope, elected by the Holy Spirit, says something you think is betraying what you consider to be a dogma of the Faith, such as keeping the tradition of celibate men as priests? Do you stand on Faith or are you standing on J-ello?
  • On what do you fell back in times of uncertainty about all the laws of the church changing, laws, and practices that you have done from your youth, perhaps laws that you have abandoned long ago when you lost your Faith?
  • Is your Faith based on the Church or on Christ? One will get you to Heaven, one will not. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the Church Universal, the living body of Christ, the Head, is not important. If Faith, which comes from God through Christ is important, it is important because it is the occasion for us to give glory to the Father. When we are baptized to newness of life, we are baptized into the Faith of the Church, the collective belief of those in heaven, those on earth still alive, and all those awaiting purification.
  • If you have lost your Faith, what have you lost? I asked a young woman this question several years ago (and I mean several), and she told me she did not think she had lost her faith but the Church has lost its Faith. When Christ told Peter that he was the Rock and on this rock he would build his Church, he did not say we would not wander down false paths in the future, he told him that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. When individuals become their own Church, they can make up anything they want and it will be correct. After all, they are god. We need the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to inspire reformers to reset our sights on Christ.
  • One of the mysteries of Faith is why Jesus entrusted his message of loving others, as he loves us to fragile and sinful people.

One of the charisms of what I have learned from Lay Cistercians is called “conversio morae” or conversion of life to become more like Christ. It is lifestyle change a polar shift in loving and doing because Christ first loved us.

Faith alone is needed for salvation but a dead Faith without the grace from Christ is like a barren fig tree. Belief alone will not get you to heaven any more than good works alone, without Faith, will. Faith is one side of the coin, belief is the other. Remember, both Faith and belief are not just for you, but the whole Church Universal giving praise, honor an glory to the Father through Christ in union with the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

ONE SOLITARY LIFE

I share with you something I have read and re-read over time. It is humbling.

“One Solitary Life

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years, He was an itinerant preacher.

He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself…

While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.

I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.


This essay was adapted from a sermon by Dr James Allan Francis in “The Real Jesus and Other Sermons” © 1926 by the Judson Press of Philadelphia (pp 123-124 titled “Arise Sir Knight!”). If you are interested, you can read the original version .

i have a problem

For the last several weeks, I have been experiencing some very unusual thoughts. I would not say they are bad thoughts, but just persistent. Let me share. For the last month, I have been waking up at night almost always about 2:30 a.m. I have the old man’s problem (I don’t know if old women have this or not) of going to the bathroom and getting back to sleep. That is not the problem I have. I had a problem in 2007 which was cardiac arrest (The Widow maker). That is not the problem I have. In 2014, I was diagnosed with CLL type Leukemia and received nine chemo treatments to flush out a football size mass on the outside of my liver. I am cancer free after five years. That, too, is not the problem I have.

Going back to waking up at 2:30 a.m., I found myself thinking of the center of my life and also the only Lectio Divina I have ever used. (Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:5). What is strange is that I find myself always drawn to thoughts about Christ that I could use in my blog, the one you are reading. This very topic came to me this morning. I began to realize that I have been doing Lectio Divina so many times and with such frequency that I don’t even use the four stages of Lectio (Reading, Meditation, Prayer, and Contemplation.) Just this morning, I was sitting at the table around 10:00 a.m. waiting for the plumber to come and fix our toilet bowl, and I found myself thinking of my Lectio saying. This led to all sorts of ideas, two of which I am going to write down for possible books. The flush of ideas and wonderful thoughts is undiminshed over the last year or so. Is there such a thing as a human not having the ability to process the limitless grace he receives from the Holy Spirit? Well, that is my problem and I am most grateful to have it as a challenge for the future.

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SIMPLICITY of contemplation

One of the characteristics I learned about contemplation as practiced by the Cistercian monks at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit (Trappist) is that of simplicity. Like so many of the attributes that have influenced me, simplicity is one of those hidden gems that are right in front of me but hidden, due to my lack of awareness. Other attributes about seeking God each day where I am, are: balance, silence, solitude, repetition, consistency, When sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I try to use all of these attributes along with the charisms of humility and obedience to Christ.

  • Simplicity is seeking to love God with all your heart, all your mind, all your strength and your neighbor as yourself.
  • Simplicity means not falling into the trap of thinking that all I have to do is pray, pray, pray, multiple times and those prayers will make me holy. This is keeping the letter of the law without the transformative power deep within each time we reach out to the Father with our minds and hearts. Simplicity is the awareness that I must pray as though everything depends upon God but work each day as though everything depends on me.
  • Simplicity is the skill needed to sit on a park bench in the dead of Winter and long for Christ to sit next to you. You don’t presuppose that God will sit down with you just because you asked Him to do so. That is pride.
  • Simplicity is being aware that life on earth must be converted to God time by the “conversio morae” of your life each day.
  • Simplicity of life means each day is its own lifetime. You have control of the now by the choices you make.
  • Simplicity is realizing that God is One, but that One contains all of reality in one moment, beyond space and time that we know.
  • Simplicity is Faith that the words of Our Lord are true, Hope that there is a Resurrection, and Love as a result of our helping others through good works.
  • Simplicity of lifestyle means THINGS are not important. Love is important.
  • Simplicity means you seek to abandon all trappings that would distract you from focusing only on having in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5)
  • Simplicity is continuously evaluating the meaning of the World against the love of Christ.

Seek first the kingdom of heaven and all else will be given to you. I have found this sign of contradiction to be true.

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LINKING life’s lessons

Sometimes, thoughts trickle into my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) reflections from very unlikely places. I have noticed recently that my focus is interrupted by sources, like my wife asking me to take her to Publix or Trader Joe’s. I always take her, or anyone who asks, without hesitation and cheerfully (not saying I am too busy). In what seemed like a nanno second, I recalled the reason I take people where they want to go with never a whimper.

The year was either 1957 or 1958 (you can tell I am feeling my age of 79.7). I was attending St. Meinrad Seminary High School with about 250 other young aspirants to the Roman Catholic Priesthood. The place was St. Meinrad Archabbey and School, http://www.st.meinrad.edu and the occasion was the end of Summer semester. My parents, whom I remember as never complaining because they had to drive 70 miles from Vincennes, Indiana (my home) to St. Meinrad, Indiana, picked me up early one May morning. I had packed all my things and was more than eager to meet them and make the drive home. On the way home, I noticed that there was a new road over some recently dug strip mining countryside. What struck me was the road buckled up and down as well as from side to side, as the land settled from all that mining. We finally made it home. Whenever I come from a big institution like St. Meinrad to my home, and walk in the front door, I am struck at how tiny my home has become That last less than a day and then I adjust to reality. As soon as I entered the door of my home, I realized that I had left some of my clothes and other stuff in my downstairs locker at St. Meinrad. I remember being flush with embarrassment at having to ask my Dad if we could go back and get it. Without such as a deserved comment about my stupidity, he said, “Get in the car, you can practicing driving on the way to St. Meinrad. Let’s have some time together.” My immediate thought was, “What a good Dad I have! I promise that, if I ever get in this situation with another person, I will not seek to put them down but cheerfully take them where they want to go.”

I have never forgotten his life lesson, a transforming type of experience that continues to inform how I act towards others. As my thoughts progressed (remember, all of this happened in less than a second), other life events came to mind, one of which was my introduction to Lay Cistercian spirituality. Although I am a professed Lay Cistercian (five years of fidelity to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus), I will always be a novice at moving from self to God. I am grateful for all of the practices and charisms of the Cistercian spirituality which helps me focus. It is Christ, however, who gives the issue.

META THOUGHTS

All of us are defined by our choices we have made.

Choices we will make are informed by choices we have made.

Unlike other animals, we have both reason and the ability to choose. We learn what is good and bad for us.

Loving others as Christ loves us means we must try to have in ourselves the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)

Heaven is all about linking ourselves with Christ, who is linked with all those who do God’s will.

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A LAY CISTERCIAN REFLECTS ON WEALTH AND HAPPINESS

In a recent Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), the following thoughts emerged. I am still trying to decipher what it all means, but I wish you share it with you.

  • How many rooms do you need in your house?
  • How many cars do you need to drive?
  • How much money in the bank is enough?
  • How many vacations do you need to take to be happy?
  • Can bourbon make you feel better?
  • Do you have an addiction to food, alcohol, soft drinks, potato chips, candy (except chocolate), watching television, eating out, smoking, taking pain pills not prescribed, binging on vitamin pills, reading pornography, putting other people down who don’t believe like you do (whatever that is), wishing you had the wife of another person, wishing your wife would marry someone else, having no relationship with anyone other than yourself, making yourself god, telling falsehoods about people to build up yourself in their sight, having secret girlfriends or boyfriends your spouse does not know about, and having the psychopathology of the average?
  • Do you have a way to make all things new in your life?

These are waste products that come from living a life without dusting or cleaning out your spiritual life. Christ is the broom, but you must sweep your house to make it clean. For a hint, read Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/

Christianity is about doing, doing Christ.

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THE TOWER OF BABEL rEDUX: the INEXPLICABLE race by our race toWARDS ignorance and self delusion

Where I am in my spiritual journey is not where I expected to be at this point in my life. The first part of my life (from birth to my profession as a Lay Cistercian at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), in Conyers, Georgia.) I might characterize as keeping the Laws of the Church. The better I keep the laws, the more I am like Christ. With my introduction to Cistercian spirituality, with its stress on personal prayer and contemplation using silence, solitude, work, prayer, in the context of community, I am slowing moving into a new beginning (that is quite a feat for a broken-down, old temple of the Holy Spirit.) More and more, the word “abandonment to the will of Christ” trickles into my daily Lectio Divina devotions (Philippians 2:5). I say that because Philippians 2:5-12 speaks of abandonment in terms of emptying of self to fill it with something new. This is the new paradigm of my life, the all consuming fire in my heart which only grows in enlightenment and intensity when I sit quietly on a park bench in the dead of winter and get rid of all that the World says is important in relationships or through language. Abandonment to self to be able to have an increased capacity for Christ (capacitas dei) demands focus, sustainability, daily seeking God where I am, and fidelity to prayer and practices of Lay Cistercian spirituality.

The context of my life journey to seek God is my eighty years (so far) of struggling to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). I am not there yet, nor do I ever expect to attain fulness of knowledge and love. Profound love for me comes only from placing myself in the presence of Christ and waiting for my friend to sit down next to be and just be. That being, far from just an object to be encountered one to another person, as Martin Buber states in his theory of being, I-Thou and I -It. http://www.angelfire.com/md2/timewarp/buber.html Contemplation is placing myself in a context where I can have an I-Thou relationship with the being of Christ. How can this happen? As with all mysteries of faith, my awareness is still unfolding, in process of becoming something about which I have no experiences, an abandonment of logic, words, human values of the World, all just to be in the presence of the Real Christ, the pearl of great price. Contemplation has morphed for me into an emptying of self each day to be able to fill up in me what is lacking. It is the ontic possibility of the manifestibility of all being encountered. My reflections about reality are now not formed by language, words, concepts, worldly values, the seven deadly sins, but simply by placing myself purposefully (prayer) in the presence of Being. Notice the upper case “B”?

THE PRESENCE OF BEING AND BEING PRESENT TO BEING

The implication of this approach, gradually revealed through time and patience, are that my being is in the presence of the center of all that is, The Supreme Being, or the person we call God. What happens when we do sit on a park bench in the dead of winter waiting for the Lord as sentinels wait for the dawn, to quote the Psalmist? I actually don’t know, since I am not sure of particulars, but I do get a sense of what it means from the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ, highlighted in the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent. The Transfiguration passages are inserted for a reason, as are all the stories about Christ. This Gospel gives us a glimpse of Christ as he really is. Peter, James and John were overcome by fear when they saw this, as we will be when we gaze upon the face of Christ. We will never see the face of the Father because our human nature can not stand in the presence of God. Yet, we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father and heirs to his kingdom. What can this mean? Christ came to be our intercessor, our good will ambassador with the Father. I am beyond worrying about what all this means. I am content to sit in silence and solitude on a park bench in the dead of Winter and wait for Christ to sit next to me. (Yes, God is everywhere.)

What I think happens is, when I am in the presence of pure energy, pure knowledge, pure love, pure service, Christ alone is my mediator, my mentor. My human nature absorbs energy from the greater nature, divine. No need for words at this deepest level of intimacy. Person to person, but with a difference. The one person is Christ, Son of God, Savior, and the other person is me, sinful, in need of God’s mercy, bound by time and space of the physical and mental universes, but at the same time, unlimited by Christ’s love and care for me. Reflect on the Transfiguration Moment.

Matthew 17 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) The Transfiguration 17 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I[a] will make three dwellings[b] here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved;[c] with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

THE TOWER OF BABEL: At the Root of Original Sin

What follows are my conclusions and reflections on reality as I see it now. Genesis 1-2 tells us about those deep, dark archetypes that lurk in the collective human consciousness down through the ages. When asking myself the question, “Why all the confusion of ideas in our days? Why the mess humans have made of environment, the freedom to choose, and human reasoning?” a clue might be found in Genesis 9:1-9, the story of the Tower of Babel. After Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, there were a series of incidents in Scripture to identify how humans fared after the Fall. First Cain killed Abel, then there was Noah and the Flood, the Covenant with the People, the one people as descendents of Noah and finally, the great flood where God caused a confusion of tongues. Why are these particular stories written for generations to ponder?

All Scriptures are linked together, even if we don’t quite know how it fits together. Brother Michael O.C.S.O. told us in retreat a few years back that Scriptures are love letters from God. He chastises those who break the Law in the Old Testament but he always forgives and has mercy on the people. The Tower of Babel story might well fit the confusion and the self-righteousness of the individual with which we find ourselves in each age, but particularly in this age. The story points out that there is one people and one language but God Himself causes a diversity of tongues so that people could not finish building the city to the heavens. Don’t you find that strange that God doesn’t want humans to complete building the city of God? Like all mythic stories of the collective human consciousness, what is real is hidden behind ordinary, human experiences. The story of Babel could be viewed as the natural progression of cultures and evolution, the way humans spread out from the one seed, Adam and Eve, proliferating throughout the world. This might be true, but might there be a deeper meaning, a fatal flaw in human existence, a darker meaning to the movement of human reasoning and choice than is first perceived. Might this story be a clue to our own absurd obsession of building our own city of God instead of abandoning our wills and following the will of the Father?

In my Lectio Divina, one morning at 2:30 a.m. (yes, I dream my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I came up with the Tower of Babel story as being a perfect paradigm for what is happening today in the world around me. I thought about my being on my favorite park bench in the dead of winter and waiting for Christ to visit. It occured to me that this is like the Tower of Babel story, not just a fairy tale but one that has implications for my own contemplation grow from self to God. I thought about what language I am using to communicate with Christ as I wait. Quite naturally, English. God does speak English, doesn’t he? I want him to come so I can relinquish my responsibility to take up my own cross each day and abandon myself to do God’s will each day. I want to control the agenda so that, if I sit on the park bench and wait for Christ, I am sure he will come and talk to me. After all, he is everywhere and he said, “Come to me all you who are heavily burdened and I will refresh you.” Do you see what I am doing? I am speaking in a language where I control God. I pray, therefore God must respond. God speaks through me if I do good works. The Tower of Babel is the seduction of our mind and will to think that I can build a city of God in my image and likeness. Contemplation means I abandon all things to see Christ where I am and when I am. I use silence and solitude to set myself apart from the World so that I can be present to the source of pure love. Faith alone can allow me the energy to do this. My product is loving others as Christ loves us.

CONFUSION OF TONGUES IN MY REALITY

The more I think about it, the more I can identify those languages that I use in everyday living some of them leading to being one with Christ and others not so much. You may not notice it, but there are a multitude of languages spoken. Language is a set of words with specific meaning known to those who comprehend the assumptions behind those words. I only speak English and don’t consider myself an expert in that language. I like to write my thoughts down in English, but those who don’t speak the language don’t know what I am saying, even if they hear it. Remember Christ telling people that “seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear?” They knew the language that Christ used and the words but were not able to see deeper into the parable.

Here are some types of language:

  • Science has it own language. Within science, physics, chemistry, medicine, mathematics, and geometry, we learn about the physical universe and discover why something is and how it relates to us, eventually helping the race to become better. Scientific thinking is good and should be cultivated, but science is not the only language.
  • French, English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean cultures have their own and sometimes multiple dialects within them.
  • Each culture has its own language. Australian, Israeli, Arab.
  • Each Church has their own language and, what is more important, the assumptions behind the words. These are handed down in the heritage of the Faith family. You can say the word “God” and, even in English, ten different people will have ten different assumptions about it.
  • Christ gave us the way, the truth, and the life. The Body of Christ fumbles its way down the centuries of life trying to always place Christ at the center of reality. Some attempts are better than others.
  • Politics has it own language and set of assumptions.

THE LANGUAGE OF GOD

God doesn’t need a language in the same way he doesn’t need Faith. He is Faith. He is the language–pure love, and pure energy. We need help from Christ (divine and human nature) to show us how to love others as He has loved us. This is the language of contemplation, abandoning self with all the human trappings of fame, fortune, adulation, relationships, and honors for the good we do. God speaks simplicity, silence and solitude in the midst of the complexities of the world

One of the great challenges for me before I pass over to the next reality of heaven is, why is it so difficult for other languages to speak God? Why can’t the great scientists grasp the great mystery of being and are afraid or can’t look at the one place Steven Hawking could not look. Why? He is certainly intelligent enough. He did not speak the language.

THE THREE ARE ONE: The paradox of God.

Reality, in my view, is made up of three distinct universes, the physical, the mental, and the spiritual. Each of them is separate yet inseparable. Each of them contains a language separate from the other. The three are one (sound familiar?). The first two universes, in which we have our platform for discovering the purpose of life and, within that, our particular purpose, has the natural law as its default principle. We call that “The World” because humans begin to value those things that are good but also worship the golden calf of false gods. They make laws which other people follow. I live in this reality and The next reality

My own reflection on reality has led me to explore the language of God using different assumptions. This is what I have garnered from my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) about why so many people don’t see what seems obvious to those with Faith. At this point in my journey, I don’t care if you believe me or not. I do care that you explore the depths of your Faith with the tools of contemplation in Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict. Three dimensions of the language of God stand out for me as I seek God wherever I am.

  1. When you enter the spiritual universe (Baptism), you must choose to do so. This choice ratified the gifts of reason and freedom to choose either good or bad for you (Belief). When you are born of the World, you don’t choose your birth or your parents. If you just live in two universes (physical and mental) you may actually have a fulfilled life but miss the reason you are reading this blog.
  2. Faith alone can save you, but you must pray as though everything depends on God and work in carrying your daily cross as though everything depends on you (and Christ).
  3. In learning the language of God, realize that everything you believe and aspire to is opposite of what the World says is true. No wonder scientists do not have a clue about spirituality, they don’t speak the language. What is that language? Love one another as I have loved you. Think about that. In the spiritual world, the Kingdom of Heaven, God’s playground, everything is upside down, a paradox that can only be understood if you abandon yourself to the World and accept Christ as Lord and Master of the Universe. At a local Panera restaurant, a group of friends was commenting on how useless and fruitless it is to believe without any proof. I told them that I agreed with them that spirituality, and in particular, contemplative Lay Cistercian spirituality, did not make sense. One fellow about dropped his coffee. I went on to explain my notion of three distinct universes all coexisting together seamlessly, undetectable to those who only live in the physical and mental universes.

Have you ever heard of Fermat’s Last Theorem, supposedly unsolvable? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BSFyEIY2BY https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qiNcEguuFSA

If you look at this Youtube blog, you will gain some understanding of why the language of Mathematics is so exciting and valuable to finding out the make up of matter, time, and energy. The more we know about the physical universe, using the tools of the mental universe, the greater humans can discover who they are and what they will become. The problem comes when you introduce spirituality into the mix. The assumption is all universes must use the same language and measurements. All the assumptions of the physical universe and human investigation of what is and how it is are of the physical universe only.

My thinking leads me to think that Jesus came down to show us a third universe, one which would not be understood by those in the Old Testament or the New Testament upon to the present age. He could not describe it as it really is because humans were, and are still, incapable of knowing God as He truly is. We see God through Christ, the Son of the Father. St. Paul sees it as looking through a foggy glass. This spiritual universe is voluntary in keeping with reason and the ability to choose. The spiritual universe is unscientific. My view of the spiritual universe is that when God came to become human (Luke 1) there was a polar shift in time and space. Unlike the polar shifts that have happened to the Earth in times past, the shift is of the whole spiritual universe. Up becomes down, what is logical somehow is the opposite of what makes sense. This is the Christ Code, given to those who have gathered together in the Faith of the Universal Church. This code is not hidden, but is actually there for all to use, if they know how. The World doesn’t know about this code or how to use it. Upon Baptism we are given this code tattooed on our hearts. It is the sign of contradiction, the ultimate paradox that is the cross and the resurrection to new life that keeps reminding us that to gain our life, we must lose it, to be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, we must serve others, to live life fully as a human, we must die to self to rise with Christ to claim our inheritance as adopted sons and daughters of the Father. When people can’t agree on this or that about Christ, I just keep silent and marvel as the confusion of thoughts and tongues.

Before Christ, the World was the norm and Israel was the norm in learning how to love God. Keep the laws of God perfectly and I will be your God. The history of the Old Testament recounts the frustration that the Prophets had with a stiff-necked people who easily turned to stone idols. History records ten of the twelve tribes were assimilated into the general populace of Syria. This indicates, on a rather broad scale, how Israel needed to be whole again, once again with Twelve Tribes, and needing a champion to lead them to the New Jerusalem. Christ came to redeem not only Israel from its folly but to make it whole again. An indication of this is found in the story of the Eleven Apostles, the new tribes of the New Jerusalem. To be whole again, the Israel of God must be whole. The Messiah would be one to restore Israel to the way, with the truth, so they could have life and fulfill its destiny.

The Tower of Babel continues to be real and a stumbling block to each age. The confusion of tongues is not just about a particular language but, in an even deeper sense, a search for what is true. That search is made more difficult because of the confusion of words, but not only the words themselves, but our insistence that we have a right to our opinion and, of course, our opinion is right. Each person becomes a language, a stumbling block to what Christ wants to share with us about loving our neighbor. The big elephant in the room of this age is, everyone thinks they are god. To think otherwise, you must abandon yourself and accept the will of the Father and the humility of Christ. Philippians 2:5-12.

Acts 1 NRSVCE – The Promise of the Holy Spirit –

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” 23 So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place[g] in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

LOOSE ENDS

I discovered an even deeper meaning to Lectio Divina this morning. I got up early and went to feed my dog his cup of dog food, made my usual cup of Kona Roast coffee from Costco, popped in two pieces of whole wheat bread and waited. My dog, Tucker, sat dutifully at my feet looking up at me with those eyes that just begged for food. I went to the computer to begin writing (this very blog), eating my toast and drinking delicious black coffee. Concentrating on my writing, I payed little attention to Tucker but he just sat there looking at me with those eyes that pleaded for just a scrap of toast. Then it hit me. While trying to seek God wherever I am, I was seduced by my own needs for food and failed to see my dog’s plea. This situation is like Lectio Divina, in some respects. I am the dog and Christ is sitting at the computer of life (probably browsing ESPN or Fox News). I sit next to him in silence and solitude, looking mournfully at Christ with those eyes that long for just the scraps from his toast. This scenario is a great comparison to what happens in contemplation– all without words, heart to heart, longing for just one or two scraps from the bread of Heaven. Jesus doesn’t disappoint.

ACTIO

Pope Benedict XVI says that there is a fifth level to Lectio Divina, that of Actio or Do Something as a result of God sitting next to you sharing His Being.

https://www.conceptionabbey.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/lectio-divina-card.pdf

https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org/2018/06/28/lectio-divina-actio/

  • Realize that everytime you say a word as the World uses it, e.g. Peace, there are three levels of meaning.
    • What does it means in the physical world of all matter, time, space and energy (and you)? Peace means resonance not dissonance of being.
    • What does it mean in the mental world of ideas, language, scientific inquiry, poetry, and values? You live in the physical and mental universe because you are born. Here, peace means the lack of conflict or hostility.
    • What does it mean to the spiritual universe? You must have a reservation to get in and know how to use the tools to help you make sense out of the physical and mental universes. You must petition to get into this universe. Reservation is by Faith Only. St. Benedict, in his Chapter 4 of the Rule gives us some helps to maintain our Faith in the midst of the World (Original Sin). Contemplation is profound focus on Christ without words, without agenda, with Hope in the Resurrection, by moving from self to God. Peace as Christ gives it is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of lofe.

MY GOAL IS NOT AS YET ATTAINABLE BUT IT IS WITHIN SIGHT

Philippians 3 NRSVCE –

Pressing toward the Goal12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal;[g] but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved,[h] I do not consider that I have made it my own;[i] but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly[j] call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. 16 Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.17 Brothers and sisters,[k] join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 18 For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. 19 Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship[l] is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humiliation[m] that it may be conformed to the body of his glory,[n] by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.

Praise be the to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who will be, at the end of the ages. –Cistercian doxology

SIXTY SECOND CATHOLIC: aRE YOU WASTING TIME JUST WAITING TO DIE?

Unless you have been hiding under a blanket for the last thirty years, you have probably heard of the New One Minute Manager, Ken Blanchard’s view of leadership. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4VnMmSr0HM I like to think of this blog as the Sixty Second Catholic, the concentrated orange juice of contemplative spirituality. At Baptism, we receive God’s gift of Faith (concentrated orange juice). To make it happen in our hearts, we must add the waters of Baptism and the Holy Spirit to activate Faith. As good as Ken Blanchard’s books are, they won’t get us to Heaven. Faith alone with our good works will do that. (Matthew 25)

The topic is: Are You Just Waiting to Die? Here are some ideas, if this is you.

  • You did not ask to be born but you do have control of how you go out of this life.
  • Don’t worry about heaven or hell. Concentrate on loving Christ as Christ has loved us.
  • Spirituality is not about knowing God, but in knowing, loving, and serving him. (Faith without works is dead, but your works without Faith is idolatry.)
  • Get back with your Gathering (Church) and join ministries that visit the sick, bring Holy Communion to the shut ins and elderly.
  • If you don’t have these ministries, start just one. Visit the widows and widowers plus those too old to attend Eucharist. Make sure you pair up with another person. It is not by chance that Christ admonished his disciples to go out “in twos”. As the Christophers say, “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”
  • Avoid reacting to death as though it won’t come to pass, embrace it and help others in need.
  • Avoid passing the time until you die by watching television, doing Sudoku or reading all the books in your public library. Seek first the kingdom of God and all else will be given to you.
  • Join a spiritual group, such as Lay Cistercians (www.trappist.net), Lay Dominicans, Benedictine Oblates, Franciscan Third Order, and Lay Carmelites, just to name a few. These systems of spirituality will provide you with order, principles of practice, contemplative prayer opportunities, and movement away from self to God. You can’t possibly imagine how joyful that seeming contradiction.
  • Read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict every day. Every day is important. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/
  • If you did nothing but try to become what St. Benedict challenges his monks to do (540 AD), then you would become what you pray. If you become what you pray, you have purpose to your life from now until the end, real purpose, not treasures that rust and moth consumes.
  • Remember, Heaven is God’s playground. If you want to go there you must follow His rules. The only rule is: love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself.
  • Do any of these suggestions and you place yourself on a park bench in the dead of winter and long to have Christ say to you, “Come blessed of my Father, because you have been faithful over a few things, I will put you in charge of many more. Come, share your Lord’s joy.”
  • Faith comes only from God, God’s own energy. Without Christ to be our transformer, our neurons and memories would be fried. Humans cannot look at the face of Christ, but Christ is our brother, making us adopted sons and daughters of the Father with the energy of the Holy Spirit.
  • Abandon your trust in the World. Don’t trust in princes, as the psalmist says. Trust in God alone. Make the leap of Faith from everything depending on you and how much you understand about God to saying, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” Hope is all we have that the words of Christ to us are true. If there is no Resurrection, then the World has won and God has lost the battle of our hearts and minds.
  • Don’t try to prove anything about the Bible to yourself or others. Seek to be present to Christ in silence and solitude, seeking to decrease while praying that Christ will grace you with His real presence.
  • Once in your lifetime, make a retreat at a MONASTERY. http://www.trappist.net, http://www.st.meinrad.edu
  • The foolishness of God is wiser than all the knowledge of all the human minds in the history of our race. Your reward? Not money. Not promotion. Not 77 virgins who wait on pleasing you. Not being the most popular or most read politician. Not being a retired physician without portfolio now. Not being a service member with no framework of meaning. Not being a prisoner who is devoid of Hope in the future. What happens right now, as you are retired, and you think life is over. There is nothing left to live for. There is no Hope.
  • With Faith from God, you will find the purpose of why you are here. With Love from Christ, you will find the purpose of why He came just to tell you how to get to Heaven. With Hope from the Holy Spirit, you abandon all that is of the World and embrace Faith, Hope and Love, and the greatest of these is Love.
  • If you just must binge watch television, look at all ten of these thoughts by Bishop Barron. This is good Lenten penance (besides reading this blog.)
  • https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/blog/bishop-barrons-10-most-popular-homilies/25863/

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

liturgy of the hours:GUIDE TO PRAYING WITH THE CHURCH UNIVERSAL TO THE FATHER THROUGH CHRIST

When I made my promises as a Professed Lay Cistercian at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, I promised to seek God every day where I might be and in whatever venue I might find myself. This is a lifetime promise which I still reflect on and renew at least once per week. In order to maintain my Faith by having in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5), I have devised a spiritual plan of action that includes daily Liturgy of the Hours (Office of Readings and Morning Prayer in the AM and Evening Prayer and Compline in the PM. I began slowly and gradually progressed to four of the seven Hours that is the official, public prayer of the Church. Among other things, that means, even if I pray these ancient prayers in private, it is in union with the Church Universal. I am saved by my Faith in Christ Jesus. The Liturgy of the Hours is not for everyone. It demands substantial commitment that needs sustaining on a daily basis.

Let’s take a look at what the Church Universal is. We can pray the Liturgy of the Hours in private, but it is, along with the Eucharist, a universal prayer of the whole body of Christ, each time.

https://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p123a9p3.

THE CHURCH MILITANT– These are the faithful who are alive now but who are baptized and received the Holy Spirit but who must continue to struggle until death. Christ walks with each of us on our journey, but he won’t let us skip being human. My grace is sufficient, He says. Grace produces God’s energy in us (Faith) and we must do what Christ taught us to be counted as one of his disciples. This Church (assembly) makes Christ present in their bodies daily and joins with Christ to give fitting honor and glory to the Father through, with, and in Christ.

THE CHURCH TRIUMPHANT- Christ made it possible for us to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father. This is the Church of those whose names are written in the book of the Lamb, those judged worthy as they are judged before the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Read Matthew 25.

THE CHURCH AWAITING PURIFICATION: To get Purgatory, you must also think about the resurrection of Christ. If there is no resurrection, what we do is a colossal waste of time (my interpretation). The Resurrection is important because the reason Jesus became human was to be our redeemer. Redeemed from what? If you just live in two universes (physical and mental), you won’t get what I am about to say. It doesn’t make sense. If you live in three universe (physical, mental, and spiritual) then you get that everything in this universe is a sign of contradiction. Up is down. Right is left. This universe begins on earth when we are Baptized (given a reservation to the banquet of Forever by God) and continues on in the Kingdom of Heaven after we die. In order to sustain us in our lifetime, we are given grace by God (we eat the bread of Heaven in the Eucharist) and continue to make all things new by loving others as Christ has loved us. At some point, we all wake up and say, “Wow! Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.” The very early Church had a symbol of this statement by drawing a fish, in Greek, Ichthus. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ichthys This awakening is sometimes termed being reborn. I like to think of it as getting a credit card from Jesus which we can use to love others as Christ loves us. No one gives out the credit card but Christ.

A PARABLE OF WOE: If you think of heaven as a restaurant and you show up for a meal there, what is the first thing the Maitre ‘D asks you? “Do you have a reservation?” If the answer is “YES”, they look for your reservation and escort you to your table. If you answer “NO” you will have to wait for a table to be opened. The second question they will ask you is “Do you have a credit card recognized by the restaurant to pay your bill? Again, you will answer either “YES” and they will seat you at table, or “NO.” If “NO,” and you only have cash, they will escort you out of the building and tell you that you should have called ahead to find out what kind of payment they accepted. They advise you to contact your family or friends and ask them to come down to the restaurant and use their credit card, provided it is one accepted by the restaurant.

QUESTIONS:

  • What is the restaraunt?
  • Who is the Maitre ‘D?
  • Is it important to have a reservation?
  • If you don’t have a reservation, what is the waiting room?
  • Why do you need a credit card issued by the owners of the restaurant? Who owns the restaurant? What is the meaning of credit (available money) on your credit card? Where does that come from?
  • How does this parable help explain or purification for those not judged worthy of heaven but not going to hell? Does it?

WHAT I DO WHEN I PRAY

Prayer is lifting the heart and mind to God. It is seeking God wherever we are and recognizing that God is Master and Lord of the Universe. I do not limit myself to one prayer, but I do have a routine of prayer. Life becomes a prayer of reparation to the Father for the sins and failings of the Church Universal, my own shortcomings, and my prayers for the Church Purgative. 2 Maccabees 12:46 Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA) “46 It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.”

I take five to ten seconds before each of the hours (Liturgy of the Hours, Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and Compline or Night Prayers) to stop and offer this for those written in my book of Life, the Church Universal, my family and friends, in reparation for my sins and to ask for God’s mercy. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12775a.htm

Simplicity is what I strive for in my contemplation and meditation.

I try to mean what I pray, when I pray the Liturgy of the Hours.

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

Liturgy of the Hours: WWW.DIVINE OFFICE.ORG

A favorite site of mine is the URL http://www.divineoffice.org. Divine Office is another name for saying the Liturgy of the Hours, like Lectio Divina is a more in-depth look at contemplation. The purpose of all of these prayers is to “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) In this segment of my Liturgy of the Hours reflections, I want you to be aware of this website because you can actually pray the Liturgy of the Hours using it. The Liturgy of the Hours goes way back in our heritage, back before the time of St. Benedict (c. 540 AD) who wrote a booklet called The Rule of St. Benedict. There are seven prayers that make up the day, Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Mid-day Prayers (3), Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer.

The site is free and you may want to sign up for it. I would encourage you to give them a generous donation to keep them on-line.

My own blog is on the Home page (right side towards the bottom). It is A Lay Cistercian Reflects on Spiritual Reality.

Questions you might want to consider, if you want to grow deeper in Christ Jesus, are:

Am I strong enough in my Faith to commit to daily reading (private or in a group) of the Liturgy of the Hours? I am fortunate to have Office of Readings and Morning prayer as well as Evening Prayer at my Church of Good Shepherd, Tallahassee, Florida.

Can I sustain my Faith on a daily basis? Too busy? Too bored? Too tired? There are a million reasons not to take up reciting the Liturgy of the Hours but only one good one to do it: He must increase and I must decrease (capacitas dei).

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FIVE PITHY SAYINGS THAT PACK A CONTEMPLATIVE PUNCH

I like the word “pithy” because it is not common usage and sounds a bit naughty. As I use it, the word means poignant and concise. It is like drinking concentrated orange juice. Good, but you need to add water to make it taste better.

In my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) last month, while preparing to teach inmates at Wakulla Correctional Institution (Annex) near Tallahassee, Florida, I thought of how I could arrange sayings that I have actually used in helping to shape my comprehension of the contemplative practice of silence, solitude, prayer and work in the context of community. I am far from an expert in anything, much less Cistercian spirituality, but I have gleaned several nuggets that have served me well, so far on my journey to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)

MEAN WHAT YOU PRAY What sounds like a no brainer is actually at the core of your contemplative prayer. Remember! Contemplative prayer is not meditation, but rather, in silence and solitude, just sitting and waiting for Christ to show up. (Yes, I know God is everywhere.)

PRAY FROM BOTH THE HEART AND MIND Prayers of the mind are prescriptive prayers, such as Eucharist, the Rosary, Liturgy of the Hours. You read what is written for you.That is why you must take the initiative to mean what you pray. Pray slowly, deliberately, savour the words

PRAY AS THOUGHT EVERYTHING DEPENDS UPON GOD (IT DOES), AND WORK AS THOUGH EVERYTHING DEPENDS UPON YOU (IT DOES). When you pray, realize that God doesn’t need your prayer, but you need God’s energy to sustain you in prayer. Scripture tells us no one can say Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit.

PRAY AS YOU CAN Brother Michael, O.C.S.O. taught our Lay Cistercian class of Juniors that we should look for ways to pray that are part of every day living. He is trying to lead us to seeking God in daily living where we are. It is an awareness of life itself and how each day is its own beginning and end. As you see above, our work can transform not only ourselves but those around us. Matthew 25.

CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER MEANS YOU SIT ON A PARK BENCH IN THE MIDDLE OF WINTER AND LONG TO SIT NEXT TO CHRIST. I love this photo of a cold day. Why a cold day? For me, this represents the World around me, the effects of Original Sin, that my spirituality will always be contained in a place whose default is the secular state. Because I have the ability to reason and also have the ability to make choices that affect who I am, I must work to keep myself warm as I sit and wait for Christ.

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MOVING FROM SELF TO GOD

REFLECTIONS OF A SEEKER

When reading the book The Cistercian Way, by the late, great Cistercian Abbot, Dom Andre Louf, O.C.S.O., he impressed upon me the need to continuously move from self to God. It is not so much as one action, one time, but a mindset that you have with you all day and every day. I must admit to being a bit confused about how to do this, when I first read about it seven years ago. Since then, the Holy Spirit has been very gentle with me. Gradually, very slowly, I found myself thinking differently and so behaving differently. I tried to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus every day (Philippians 2:5), and I must confess to being more interested to the time I spent on Contemplating the Heart of Christ than just abandoning myself and trusting that Christ would give me what He wanted. What changed for me is that I went from trying to do all those steps in doing Lectio Divina (lectio, oratio, meditatio, and contemplatio) and started praying them naturally. It took time, but daily fidelity to my prayer life and constantly coming back to my center (Philippians 2:5) each and every time actually changed the level of peace in my heart. Peace was not just the absence of conflict (the definition of the World) but the presence of the Love of Christ inside. I could, and can, feel that peace which the World cannot give. What I kept hearing in my ear each day was, all this is a waste of time, you could better spend your time actually helping other people rather than retiring within in silence and solitude to seek God where you are, now. The archetypal drama of Genesis always comes to my mind. Satan is hard at work trying to separate me from the Love of Christ. Today, I am more aware of what is going on.

The Cistercian Way, as I understand it from the monks of Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), is one of simplicity in prayer, seeking God where I am, daily commitment to dying to self so that I can rise to new life in Christ (moving from self to God), and moving from my false self to my true self as an adopted son of the Father to name a few. Those can be just a lot of words, but St. Benedict, in his prologue to the Rule, states that we should “listen with the ear of the Heart.” Here are ten new, behavioral, practices that are the result of my trying to move from my false self to God.

  1. Cistercian charisms (humility) and practices (Lectio Divina) are possible outside of the Monastery setting, but must be adapted to the situation and also the person.
  2. Pray as you can. Brother Michael O.C.S.O. offered this advice to our class. It is profound yet simple. Because of this, I have a schedule of daily prayer activities but am not a slave to the agenda.
  3. The center of my life (Philippians 2:5) is always revolving, a hard target to pin down, yet that is what I have to do every day to keep from spiritual atrophy. Christ is the unchanging center, but Original Sin causes me to have to struggle to keep myself grounded.
  4. Spirituality is a daily battle with the forces of irrelevance and relativism (everyone is correct just because they think it).
  5. I must continuously fight in my battle between the World and the Spirit. I find that I must treat each day as a lifetime. Like a diet, when I fail (and this happens frequently), I must seek God’s mercy and ask for the power of Christ to make all things new, once again.
  6. Silence, Solitude, Work, Prayer and Community are the charisms that I seek to have in my mind and my heart. They help me listen “with the ear of the heart,” as St. Benedict tells us in his Prologue to the Rule.
  7. I am becoming more and more able to sustain longer periods of time in my Lectio Divina. Before, my spiritual attention span was about four minutes.
  8. I find that I am becoming more and more accepting of who I am, who I want to become, and the power of Profound Listening. I like who I am but am fearful of pride in my accomplishments. St, Benedict says, in Chapter 4 of the Rule, that any accomplishments that happen as a result of using the Tool for Good Works, I should give credit to God, while those things that are sinful I should own and seek mercy.
  9. It all depends upon Christ overshadowing me with the Love from His heart and my ability to accept His energy in silence and solitude and with humility.
  10. I look forward to spending time with Christ in Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Rosary, Liturgy of the Hours, Reading Scriptures, sitting on a park bench in the dead of winter and just longing to be in the presence of the Lamb of God.

Spirituality is not the number of prayers I spend with Christ in contemplation but rather my trying to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus each and every day. It is the time that I take throughout the whole day that longs to be in the presence of Christ Jesus. It is the struggle to move from self to God and my awareness that all of this is a result of the love that Christ has for me that enables me to relax, slow down my life, realize who I am in the sight of God, to seek simplicity of purpose, and trust in the Lord.

Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology

CONTEMPLATION: Sharing

THE SIXTY SECOND CATHOLIC:

Here are some of my thoughts from a Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) on sharing. I was thinking, as I always do, about “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5) and h

THE SIXTY SECOND CATHOLIC:

Here are some of my thoughts from a Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) on sharing. I was thinking, as I always do, about “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5) and how we are so blessed to have God share his Son with us. Here are my thoughts.

GOD SHARES LOVE WITH HIMSELF: The essence of God, or God’s center, is the Father loving, loving the Son. This love is so pure that it is a Person, the Holy Spirit. This is revealed to us by Christ, who took on our human to give us a glimpse of what love is.

GOD SHARE LOVE WITH US: If God suddenly appeared as a champion warrior of one race to the exclusion of other humans, it would be suspect. Love is sharing unconditionally with all humans. Christ is the love of God for all humans, a person to bridge the unattainable gulf between divine and human nature. Pontifex Maximus. God shares his essence with humans by sending his only Son, Jesus the Christ, to tell us and show us how to love others as He loves us.

GOD TEACHES US TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER: Philippians 2:5-12. We can eventually come to what love is in the natural world, but it is not enough to bridge the gap so that we can love with the love of God. In the Old Testament, God spoke through Moses and the Prophets to guide the people from slavery to self to freedom from just mouthing platitudes (the Law). He did not come to destroy, but to give us life…Forever. We could not possibly comprehend nor prepare ourselves to exist in the presence of God without help. Through Christ alone, we receive adoption as sons and daughters of God the Father, and we inherit the kingdom. We know what that means through the teachings and parables of Christ.

GOD TEACHES US TO SHARE LOVE WITH ONE ANOTHER. First of all, to love as Christ loves us, we must realize that we are loved by God with the love of God and not as the World defines love. This is God sharing who He is with humans who must struggle with the imperfection of being human and the perfection of Pure Love. He chose us before the World began. Our response is called belief which closes the circle on Faith alone as only mediated through Christ. But, Faith without love is a seed that does not die to self and bear fruit. Loving is sharing this love we received with others, with our whole heart, our whole mind, all our strength and loving our neighbor as our self. (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:36ff)

GOD SHARES HIS LOVE THROUGHOUT TIME THROUGH THE MYSTICAL BODY OF CHRIST God Himself gives us ways to share in His Love. In Baptism, God invites all humans to share in His love (as they are capable) In Confirmation, the Holy Spirit shares enlightenment and grace by overshadowing us throughout our lifetime. In Eucharist, we share the real Christ (God and man) under the appearance of bread and wine. In Penance, we confess our sins and receive forgiveness with our commitment not to sin again with God’s grace. In marriage, we share intimacy with husband and wife to procreate others to share in God’s love. In Holy Orders and Religious Life, we sustain all the above with persons who have given up all to follow Christ. In Anointing and Healing, we proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes in glory by sharing His love. Scriptures are the inspired love letters from Christ to give us grace, pure energy, and enlightenment.

GOD IS PRESENT TO ME IN MY HEART, SHARING LOVE WITH ME AS I HAVE THE CAPACITY TO RECEIVE IT. As an individual, I look at the one I love, Jesus the Christ, and try to move from my Worldly self to that of living in the Spirit. Contemplation helps me to focus on Christ alone. I long to see Christ sitting next to me on a park bench in the dead of winter. My whole focus is on me dying to self so that I can rise to new life in Christ. I wish to grow in humility and obedience to God’s will on a daily basis, seeking fidelity to my Lay Cistercian commitment I made in before Dom Augustine, O.C.S.O., and the Lay Cistercian community of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist).

For those without Faith, all of this is nonsense. For those with Faith, I don’t need to say more.

The blessing I wish you is at the center of my view of reality, “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)

A SPIRITUAL AUDIT

Everyone during tax season seems to be doing an audit (filing taxes), our parish just concluded an audit of their books and procedures. I wondered what it would look like if I conducted an audit on my spiritual experiences today. It would be a snapshot of where I am now in my “capacitas dei” practices of Lay Cistercians of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit (Trappist), not where I was or have been.

Six areas seem to pop out, when I ask the question that Christ might ask of me, “how do you love others, as I have loved you?” Remember, this is an audit of not what we have done throughout our lifetime, but what practices and charisms we use to “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) When we die, we will have accountability to Christ for our entire stewardship, what we have learned about how “to love with our whole heart, our whole mind, and our whole strength and our neighbor as our self.” (Matthew 22:36)

  1. I NOW KNOW A LITTLE MORE OF WHAT I DON’T KNOW. Humility has taught me to look at reality in terms of three separate universes, each a realm of the Trinity. THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE: The Father is Lord of creation and of the mind, imprinting his divine DNA on all that is in this universe. THE MENTAL UNIVERSE: the Son is Lord of the Heart, being a visible sign of an invisible God and allowing us to become adopted sons and daughters of the redeemer and savior and showing us the way as the way, the truth, and the life; THE SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE: the Holy Spirit is Advocate and enabler of those left on earth. The Spirit is not contained by any one religion but favors the righteous and faithful to Jesus’ admonition to die to oneself so as to rise to new life.
  2. PRAYER IS LIFTING THE HEART AND MIND TO GOD. Contemplation is sitting on a park bench, in the dead of winter, longing for Christ to sit with you, just to sit in silence and solitude with your heart next to the heart of Christ. Contemplation is profound listening and feeling the energy of God surrounding you. He has chosen you, you have not chosen Him. Paradoxically, it is only when you respond to this choice that you complete the cycle of Faith and Belief.
  3. UPON ENTERING THE SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE, EVERYTHING IS THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT THE WORLD TEACHES. Love in the world means self-gratification and fulfillment as a human being. Love in the Spirit means you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life, not playing god or being your own church, not a political party, a movie star, or the modern Pharasasees (telling people what to do but not doing it themselves). CONTRADICTIONS: If you wish to be my disciple, keep the commandments. You must love others as I have loved you. The Virgin shall conceive and bear a son and he shall be called Emmanuel. You must die to self to rise to new life.
  4. THE RESURRECTION IS REAL. If there is no resurrection of Christ from the dead, that means there is no Heaven, no Grace, no Faith, no Church, and no Scriptures. It means Christ died, just like you and me, and that is it. Scriptures become fiction. Like you, I always believed in the Resurrection of Christ. We celebrate it every Easter. What has surprised me about my Lectio Divina is how pervasive this event is to my Cistercian spiritual practices. When St. Paul says that, if there is no resurrection from the dead, everything we believe is a waste of time.
  5. THE REAL PRESENCE IS THE PROOF OF THE RESURRECTION. I try to do most of my Lectio Divina praying before the Blessed Sacrament. The assumption here is that the insignificant-looking wafer of bread contains the Real Presence of Christ (humanity and divinity). I use contained in the sense that Christ is not limited to the Bread of Life, but uses it as a way to be present to his adopted sons and daughters. In some religious traditions, it is only a symbol. The gap between those two ways of believing is infinite. All the people who ever live or whoever will live can’t make Christ appear just because they believe it. This is a question of Faith. St. Thomas Aquinas states that when you approach the Real Presence, for those with Faith no proof is necessary, while those who do not have Faith, no explanation is possible. Christ would not leave us orphans. He left us his most treasured possession, Himself. Each time I think about this, I lower my eyes from the heavens and proclaim, “Be merciful to me, Lord, a sinner.” As the song says, “How Great Thou Art.”
  6. TREAT EACH DAY AS A LIFETIME. This might be the biggest awareness of where I find myself today. Like Alcoholics Anonymous, life must be lived a day at a time. Every day, we start again from zero. That is why Christ asked us to take up our cross daily and follow him.
    • DAILY PRACTICES:
    • Say the Lord’s Prayer “give us this day, our daily bread.
    • Read Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule every day. Pray to become what I read.
    • Pray Lectio Divina each day and write down what the Holy Spirit tells me.
    • Pray the Liturgy of the Hours every day, (Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline.
    • Read Thomas Merton’s The Silence of Siloam

I am in a better place spiritually than I have ever been before and I don’t credit it to me but, with the use of Cistercian charisms (humility, obedience, kindness) and practices (Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, Rosary, Sacrament of Penance, Lectio Divina, Spiritual Reading from Scripture), I now just begin to know the meaning of St. John the Baptist’s statement: I must decrease but He must increase. My spirituality has infected my whole well-being.

So. does God test me? I am accountable for my actions, I will be judged according to Matthew 25. I am not worried, I have spent the better part of my life just longing to sit near the heart of Christ and listen profoundly to his Being.

Praise be 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

CANTICLE OF PURE ENERGY

What follows is the Canticle of Daniel’s prayer as the three where praising God in the fiery furnace. At 3:50 A.M., this Saturday morning, I awoke suddenly and started my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5). What came out was Daniel’s Canticle, but with a twist. I was updating it with what I know of Scripture, Science and Existential Phenomenology. Granted, the purpose of all contemplative prayer is to sit next to Christ and have a heart to heart chat. In the silence and solitude of this morning, here are my reflections.

May I suggest that you first read the Canticle from Daniel in Scripture.

Prayer:

Canticle — Daniel 3:57-88, 56

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord.
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord.
You heavens, bless the Lord.
All you waters above the heavens, bless the Lord.
All you hosts of the Lord, bless the Lord.
Sun and moon, bless the Lord.
Stars of heaven, bless the Lord.

Every shower and dew, bless the Lord.
All you winds, bless the Lord.
Fire and heat, bless the Lord.
Cold and chill, bless the Lord.
Dew and rain, bless the Lord.
Frost and chill, bless the Lord.
Ice and snow, bless the Lord.
Nights and days, bless the Lord.
Light and darkness, bless the Lord.
Lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord.

Let the earth bless the Lord.
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Mountains and hills, bless the Lord.
Everything growing from the earth, bless the Lord.
You springs, bless the Lord.
Seas and rivers, bless the Lord.
You dolphins and all water creatures, bless the Lord.
All you birds of the air, bless the Lord.
All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord.
You sons of men, bless the Lord.

O Israel, bless the Lord.
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Priests of the Lord, bless the Lord.
Servants of the Lord, bless the Lord.
Spirits and souls of the just, bless the Lord.
Holy men of humble heart, bless the Lord.
Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael, bless the Lord.
Praise and exalt him above all forever.

Let us bless the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Let us praise and exalt him above all forever.
Blessed are you, Lord, in the firmament of heaven.
Praiseworthy and glorious and exalted above all forever.

MY REFLECTIONS

What does it mean to say, “all you birds of the air, bless the Lord.” How can birds bless the Lord, they don’t have human reason? This bothered me for a long time until I had a Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) one day last year in which I thought about this: a bird blesses the Lord by being what it is, its nature is to be a bird. All creation praises God by being what it is, a creation by God containing his DNA (pure energy). Humans alone have a problem. We don’t act our nature sometimes (Adam and Eve). We have been given the gifts of human reasoning and the ability to choose, even what is bad for us. The Scriptures are stories and love letters inspired by God to help use choose wisely. They chronicle what happens when we stray from the path of righteousness (God’s will). Still, God allows us to choose poorly. With free choice comes the freedom to choose good or evil. Lucifer choose pride when he made the choice. Michael, Gabriel, Raphael all chose wisely. They reaffirmed their resonance with reality while Lucifer fell into dissonance with all that is.

What follows is the result of my Lectio Divina this morning on the Canticle of Pure Energy (God).

Bless the Lord, you time and space.
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
All matter and energy, bless the Lord.
You quarks and muons, bless the Lord.
All H20 on the face of the earth, bless the Lord.
All you five continents, bless the Lord.
All you gravity and anti-gravity, bless the Lord.
Streams and rivers at the bottom of the oceans, bless the Lord. Darkness from light, bless the Lord. Light from darkness, bless the Lord.
Absolute zero, bless the Lord.
All you protons and molecules, bless the Lord.
All you elements of time, bless the Lord.
All Strong and Weak Forces, bless the Lord.
Hypernovas and black holes, bless the Lord.
Tornadoes and Hurricanes, bless the Lord.
All you scientists that seek the truth, bless the Lord.
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
All humans that know that they know, bless the Lord.

O Humans, bless the Lord.
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
All Being, bless the Lord.
I and Thou, bless the Lord
Praise and exalt him above all forever.

Let us bless the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Let us praise and exalt him above all forever.
Blessed are you, Lord, in the firmament of heaven.
Praiseworthy and glorious and exalted above all forever.

THREE UNIVERSE: ONE REALITY

In my view of reality, there is such a thing as pure energy, that is, God is 100% of His nature. The Trinity is so powerful, so beyond the language of humans with just their human nature that St. Thomas Aquinas says we are never able to comprehend God with human reasoning or logic. The Mystery of Faith is that Jesus came to give us parables and stories so that we could use our own frame of reference to just glimpse the greatness of what awaits us. God created humans from all other life forms so that they could have the ability to reason and also the ability to choose that which they reasoned as meaningful and truth. Unfortunately for humans, Adam sinned (missed the point of what it means to be of a human nature) and thus we are burdened to live in a world with death. Everything has a beginning and an end. Everything corrupts and doesn’t last. Chapter 5 of Romans is about Christ being the second Adam and redeeming us from sin (but not its effects). That is why Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. We are adopted sons and daughters of the Father and brother to Christ. We are temples of the Holy Spirit to carry the living Christ to our immediate world by loving others as Christ loves us.

PHYSICAL UNIVERSE:Think about this: why are we able to know that the most powerful energy in the physical universe, the hypernova can obliterate us, but it does not have the ability to know who we are or that we even exist? Why is that?

MENTAL UNIVERSE:Why it is that, of all living things, we have reason for a reason and the ability to choose? Choose what? Why can we go to McDonald’s to order a 2 for 3 dollar meal and my dog can’t? (He can eat it, but not order it or pay for it.) Why is that?Like Adam and Eve, the archetypal first humans, we can also choose to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2-3). Why is that?

SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE: Why is it that Christ alone had to become one of us (Philippians 2:5-12) to show us the way, because reason alone was incapable of grasping the Mystery of Faith? Faith comes only from God; believe comes only from us. They are two sides of the same coin.

These three questions are at the heart of three universe of reality. Not everyone believes in three universes–the spirit (they only believe in the physical and mental universes –the world). For people who only live without Christ as the center of their lives, spirituality and contemplation do not make sense. Actually, they do not. The Spiritual universe is , at its heart, the sign of contradiction:

  • God took on a human nature. It doesn’t make sense.
  • The Virgin shall bear and Son and he shall be called Emmanuel. It doesn’t make sense.
  • If you want to be my follower, love those who hate you and do good to persecute you. It does not make sense.
  • The greatest among you is the servant of all. It does not make sense.
  • I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will never die. It doesn’t make sense.
  • Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you. My flesh is real food. My blood is real drink. This is the Real Presence, the living God present. That does not make sense.
  • If you want mercy from God, you must show mercy. This doesn’t make sense.
  • The Kingdom of Heaven is within you. This doesn’t make sense.
  • If there is no resurrection, then, according to St. Paul, all we do is foolish. That is the greatest contradiction of all.

With the Psalmist, we can proclaim that the folly of God is wiser than all the wisdom of all the people who have, and who ever will live.

Look at the photo of the cup in the window. What are the three universes of reality in this picture? How does Christ fit into the picture of reality?

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CONTEMPLATION: Focus on Christ alone

I must admit to having trouble focusing on Christ, an acquired skill. I can think of Christ for a while, but my spiritual attention span is minutes, if not seconds. What has helped me is my introduction to Cistercian Spirituality, in terms of contemplative charisms and practices.

By charisms, I mean those qualities that put me in touch with my inner self, “The Place No On Wants to Look.” Silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community. Practices are those things which I use to place my heart next to the heart of Christ and just wait. Granted that Christ is everywhere, the problem is, I am not always focused to listen with the “ear of the heart” as St. Benedict writes in the Prologue to his Rule.

What follows are some of my fractured comments of my own struggle with “focus”.

  1. I realize that whatever I attempt and whatever I do must be focused on Christ alone.
  2. To reach contemplation (from meditation), I must, like the grain of wheat, die to self (my worldly or false self) in order to make room for Christ.
  3. Profound listening (with the ear of the heart), takes silence and solitude for me to wipe away the cobwebs of distractions from my focus.
  4. I found that I need a spiritual plan, a paradigm, a framework that allows me to be present to Christ on a daily basis. (Daily is important, if I am to love others, as Christ loves me.) The frequency of contact with the one you love induces habits of behavior to form. Christ is always present, so I must make the effort to take up my cross daily and seek God where I am.
  5. I am a temple of the Holy Spirit. That awareness, not easily grasped except through faith alone, means I am a guardian of the love of Christ to those in the world. I must clean my temple out daily from the corrupting influence of Original Sin.
  6. I realize that, to focus on that which cannot be grasped by mere human effort, I must have humility, daily, to recognize that I need mercy and forgiveness of my lack of faith.
  7. I cannot approach the Father to receive his pure energy, pure love, and pure service, except through Christ, because he is both Divine Nature and Human Nature, who alone can approach the Father. Even in Heaven, we are as one before the Throne of the Lamb (Christ), who sits at the right hand of the Father.
  8. Contemplation helps me sit on a part bench, in the dead cold of winter, and seek to see Christ coming down the snow-filled road. It is the watching and longing for Christ that is important. Contemplation is about feeling that, not just knowing that.
  9. Because God is One, God (the Trinity) visits you through your humanity and sinful nature, not through magic. God is alive, not dead (I might be dead to Christ’s message.) This is our personal redemption each time we proclaim “the death of the Lord until he comes again in glory” (Eucharistic proclamation).
  10. I must avoid the temptation to keep asking God for favors in my meditation, leading to contemplation. If my spouse or children have fallen away from the Christ, there is the temptation to focus on God bringing them back to the Faith of their Baptism. The danger here is, when God doesn’t bring them back, you get angry with God because he did not do what you wanted. I try to separate contemplation from my petitions that are very close to my heart. Now, I just sit in a quiet place (maybe Trader Joe’s, Target), and repeat my center , over and over. It is “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) I let God do the talking and I just listen. I don’t approach God except in openness to whatever comes, open to the possibility of the manifest ability of Being itself. Contemplation is just you and Christ on that park bench, in the cold of winter, and you listen profoundly “…with the ear of your heart.”
  11. Humility, Obedience to what God tells you, Doing what you hear, keeping the room of your being free from spiritual hording, moving from your false self (the World) to your true self (One in the Spirit), joining with community of believers, eating the Bread of Heaven for nourishment while you are in the World, Praying to the Real Presence of Christ, reading Sacred Scriptures, receiving the Peace of Christ (not the absence of conflict but the presence of Love), all are product of the energy that you receive from Christ, if you focus.

SLOW DOWN YOUR PRAYER

This past weekend, I attended the annual retreat for Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), Conyers, Georgia. It was a three day retreat (from Friday evening through Noon on Sunday). The theme was Praying with Mary, a topic of great importance and also of great interest, as I meditate on Philippians 2:5, my personal center for all that exists.

During the next several blogs, I will attempt to write down some of the ideas I gleaned from the retreat. I must confess that my memory is not what it once was and I have trouble remembering what was said in the talks. Please be patient with the foibles of a broken-down, old, Lay Cistercian trying to seek God where he find him each day.

One of my behavioral changes, as I become more in tune with Cistercian spirituality, is the notion of speed. Everything has a beginning and and an end. Everything! My retreat had a beginning and an end. My life has a beginning and an end. When I look at contemplative prayer, most especially the Cistercian practices in which I participated in my retreat, I was struck by the slowness of prayers. The monks take their time in chanting the Divine Office, offering the gift of Christ in Eucharist to the Father, meditating on the life of Christ in the Rosary, and, most noticeably, the silence and solitude of Lectio Divina once daily.

Listen to the Gregorian chant by the monks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbE92dFGG50

Did you notice that they are VERY slow in their singing, pausing frequently. This is deliberate, after all, all they do is praise God as their primary purpose in life.

Here are some of the tips about prayer that I learned from the monks.

  • Pray as you can, not as you should.
  • Say the words as a prayer, not to just get them over with as quickly as possible.
  • Pause between the antiphons and the psalms (Liturgy of the Word), and when reading the Epistles or Gospel at Eucharist, take your time and read it as though you St. Paul and you want your audience to know something about “having in them the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)
  • Pray the Rosary slowly, not to get it over as soon as possible.
  • Use prayer to communicate with God and listen to what He tells you.
  • Listen with “the ear of the heart,” as St. Benedict tells his monks at the Prologue to the Rule.
  • All prayer is God time. God doesn’t live in human time.
  • Don’t forget who you are in relationship to the Father. You can only go through Christ to get to the Father, even if we say we pray “to” the Saints. God is One and so there is no one else to pray to except the NOW, “I am the one who is.” In this sense, since they are before the Throne of the Lamb, we ask the Blessed Virgin and the Saints to join with us in our adoration of the Father through, with, and in Christ, in union with the Holy Spirit.

Praise be 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

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