Category Archives: Christian Living

Benedictine Spirituality 6

OBEDIENCE


The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience, which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all. Because of the holy service they have professed, or because of dread of hell and for the glory of everlasting life, they carry out the superior’s order as promptly as if the command came from God himself. The Lord says of men like this: No sooner did he hear than he obeyed me (Ps 17[18]:45); 6again, he tells teachers: Whoever listens to you, listens to me (Luke 10:16).


—Rule of Benedict

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Day 12 – Fear the Lord

Blessed are all who fear the LORD,
who walk in obedience to him.
You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.
—-Psalm 128:1-2


Question– What does it mean to fear the Lord?


Prayer – Lord, help me to see you in all your splendor so that I might worship you day and night. Keep my eyes focused on things of the kingdom so that I may welcome it in my daily life. Amen

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New Seeds of Contemplation 7

We must face the fact that the mere thought of contemplation is one which deeply troubles the person who takes it seriously. It is so contrary to the modern way of life, so apparently alien, so seemingly impossible, that the modern man who even considers it finds, at first, that his whole being rebels against it.

….Thomas Merton

Merton and Dalai Lama

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Giving Up

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The Tasks at Hand

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

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

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

▪▪▪▪Anthony of the Desert

The wise ABBA gives us three distinct tasks that we all must face. We often try to go through the Christian life with ease and lack of complication. Some turn to rules or codes to keep them on the straight and narrow. Others seek super spirituality or spiritual superiority to ease them and comfort them in their Christian walk. The wisdom of the desert tells us that there is a simplicity in these tasks. Let’s just think about what this really means.

The first task as told by ABBA Anthony is not trust our own righteousness. We live in the world and a time that holds our own opinions and conclusions in the highest esteem. The wise father tells us to reexamine this. He goes on to say that we should put our past behind us. We will never repair, fix, or totally rebuild or relive our past. Our calling as Christians is to put the past behind us by filtering it through grace. That being said, we have a tremendous obstacle to overcome. The control of the stomach and the tongue is our greatest challenge. The stomach is representative of the carnal appetite we al

Tasks
l possess and even take pride in at times. The tongue is the agent of that carnal appetite that builds the ego, creates the story, and makes us the masters of our own fate. We can try to lie our way, bluff our way, and allude our way into fulfillment. We are challenged with the task of overcoming self-righteousness.

The journey through this world is full of snares and traps. We create and search for ways to avoid the snares them. A snare is defined as a trap for catching birds or animals, typically one having a noose of wire or cord. As we follow our own ego and self-righteousness, we can be lured into a noose that we can never escape. Desert wisdom instructs us that the answer to this problem is humility. Humility is the ability to give up self and begin a life free from pride and arrogance. Such a life allows us to turn ourselves toward God and his grace and love. Do you hear the call of humility in your life or is it drowned out by the noise and confusion of the world that surrounds you? Developing a sense of humility is a key task to living the Christian life with victory and satisfaction .

The third task is to avoid becoming rabidly, unreasonably, super religious ABBA Anthony tells us that there are people who are beset by asceticism. They have afflicted their bodies with punishing fasts , self-flagellation and other practices that have not truly accomplished the objective of the aesthetic life. They have failed to discern the ultimate reason for all of these practices. Our spiritual practices should be seeking God and trying to develop a relationship with him. It does not matter how many times we fast , how disciplined we are or how much we suffer, our true task is to move closer to God. Being super pious or super religious will not get us there. We must live out the entire gospel in our lives. Discernment of the spiritually appropriate is a task of the Christian life.

The three tasks are:put aside self-righteousness, develop godly humility, and develop mature spiritual discernment. We should look for ways to master these tasks. Always remember that we will never totally master spirituality in this life. Every day we need to seek the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

Merton-30

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”

……Thomas Merton

Prayer

Lord, everyday we strive to come closer to knowing the unknowable, to change the unchangeable and to see the unseeable.

Guide us in the tasks that are necessary to move closer to you. Help us to be patient enough, humble enough and wise enough to stay on the pathway that leads to your kingdom.

These things are only made possible by you and the grace you bestow upon us.

Amen

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New Seeds of Contemplation 3

Contemplation is also the response to a call: a call from Him who has no voice, and yet who speaks in everything that is, and who, most of all, speaks in the depths of our own being: for we ourselves or words of His.

Thomas Merton
Merton at his Hermitage

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Benedictine Spirituality 2


Let the brethren give their advice

with all the deference required by humility,

and not presume stubbornly to defend their opinions;

but let the decision rather depend on the Abbot’s judgment,

and all submit to whatever he shall decide for their welfare.

—– Rule of St. Benedict

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The Best of New seeds of Contemplation 2

Merton 2

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February 3, 2020 · 9:04 am

LORD, I WANT TO BE SAVED

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

…..Anthony of the Desert


The greatest longing of any follower of God is to be saved. Saved from the cares of this life. Saved from the sin that drags us down. Saved from the smothering nature of this world. Anthony abandoned his money and family ties looking to be saved but was soon feeling it was all in vain. His heart told him one thing, but his mind said another. He was stuck and wanted a way out. That scenario is all too familiar to us.

We begin a new year and a new decade, and we want things to go so well. Our resolution to God and ourselves is to leave behind the old and the inadequate. Like Anthony, we resolve to do better. Our heart’s desire is to live with God in our hearts and minds. The cares of the world and the requirements of life get in the way. Our cry to God is –show me the way! Perhaps the way is in front of us. Anthony saw an angelic vision of a man who was simply working. His task seemed mundane and tedious. Upon closer observation the monk noticed something. This man took numerous and brief breaks to pray. He did not allow the tasks of the world to be the sole dominance of his life.

The problem is not whether we will have to do the tasks of the world and live with the world as it is, but how we will respond to this journey? There have been numerous books and articles written on how to be a Monk (Christian) amid our post Christian era. These writers all have good suggestions and disciplines that will bring us closer to a serene relationship with God. I applaud them for their contribution to the conversation. I would suggest that we can note that all of them in one way or another point to the lives of the earliest of the Desert Monastics and Anthony was the first.Post 1

I don’t know why Bendicta Ward chose to make the saying quoted today the first in her book “Sayings of the Desert Fathers.” As I read these sayings once again, it just struck me that this is where it all began. The feeling Anthony was experiencing was the key to finding peace with God. He found that peace by linking the tasks of everyday life to prayer. Perhaps we can say it this way. Work is prayer and prayer is work. Most of us want to put God in one box of our lives and enter that box at prescribed times, but Anthony broke that mold. As he watched the man work and pray seamlessly it was a eureka moment. He realized that prayer is a natural part of life. It is work. Prayer is the work of the Christian but not to the neglect of everything else.

Most of us live driven, divided lives that cause division in our souls. The secret of the monk was to make them one. I don’t have to have a special time or place to pray, but I can be about my task and take time to offer all that I am to God. Your decision may be that you have that time and place that you meet God. If so, I am happy for you. For the many in this world that are looking, I urge you to look to the advice of the old Monk who heard the voice of the angels say, “Do this and you will be saved.” Work is prayer and prayer is work.

 


Prayer

Lord free my heart to be able to recognize you in the simple tasks that I am given every day. Give me the strength to see you when I am happy and to feel your presence when I am down and defeated. Let every day, moment and experience be an experience with you. Allow the tasks of this day to be melded together by your presence. That presence is my solace and salvation. Amen.

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Two Mysteries

“God has to work in the soul in secret and in darkness because if we fully knew

what was happening, and what Mystery, transformation, God and Grace will eventually ask of us, we would either try to take charge or stop the whole process.”

― St. John of the Cross

When we come to truly believe that God is at work in the world we face two mysteries. The first is the pure reality that we can never fully define or explain God. The second is we cannot predict what will be expected of us as followers of this mysterious God.

The First Mystery

God is real but we find that reality impossible to pin down. For God is not tangible but beyond the tangible. God is real but not definable. God is present but never seen. God speaks but we never really hear the voice of God. The essence of God is the mysterious presence. This is the presence that guides us when are lost, comforts us in sorrow and strengthens us in weakness. John of the Cross and other mystics understood and embraced a God that did not give them all the answers. God is this overarching presence that allows us to feel and experience things that are beyond this realm. That mystery is what carries us forward to worship and adore our creator.

Two-Mysteries-Quote

When we are ready to embrace this mystery we can engage God as never before. God then become our partner in all that we experience. We can live with our doubts because we understand that doubt is a vital part of faith. I would venture to say that there is no faith without doubt. Embracing the first mystery allows us to believe.

The Second Mystery

God is not in the business of giving followers a blueprint of their lives. The mystic asserts that we would be very reticent to follow our creator if we had the full scope of what would be expected of us. The sufferings of life are not something we look forward to experiencing. Yet as followers, will will suffer. Some suffering will come as a direct result of following God. In all relationships, there will be some bad days. The mystic tells us these times and events must be a mystery. If we knew everything that would happen to us or be expected of us everyday, it would be impossible to face many of our days.

This second mystery involves our willingness to be believers without knowing exactly what is expected of us. This makes our lives unpredictable but none the less protected. This same God who does not allow us to know what our path will be us gives us the ability to go through every door and rise above anything that befalls us. In the midst of demands and struggles, God guides us, blesses us and makes us stronger. That strength compels us to become vessels of strength to others.


Prayer

Lord, you are the greatest of all mysteries. Your ways will never be totally known to me. My path will never be laid before me like a highway. I live knowing that no matter how winding and crooked my path may be you are always near. Your nearness, though it is a mystery, gives me comfort, strength, and joy.

Amen

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