Archive for September, 2012

Christ In us The Hope of Glory –

Deepening the Spirituality of our Prayer Life

Christ In Us The Hope of Glory

Do you not know that…

… those of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Rom. 6:3)

… as many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Gal. 3:27)

… it is no longer [you] who lives, but it is Christ who lives in [you]. And the life [you] now live in the flesh [you] live by faith in the Son of God, who loved [you] and gave himself for [you]. (Gal. 2:20 )

… your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?
     (1 Cor. 6:19)

… God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col. 1:27)

My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

One of the things that keeps many of us christians  from realizing God’s plan and purpose in our lives is our lack of understanding of who we are in Christ, and our concomitant responsibility to seek the Father’ desires and purposes in and through our prayer life to the furterance of His Kingdom and, thus, for His Glory!

Knowing who we are in Christ

Yes, Paul was right to ask…”Do you not know that you were baptized into Christ and that you are not your own?”. He was right to ask because today most of us still  cannot answer those questions affirmatively. For us christian moderns, our faith is basically  what you might call  an “intellectual assent”; we believe in the concepts proposed by our religious creed, but not in the  spiritual reality behind them. Because we have not experienced them in the spirit, we cannot truly say that we KNOW (and I mean really know), by faith, that Christ in truly in us and that we are not our own and, thus, that we are here, not to serve ourselves or our own desires, but to be totally yielded to the Spirt of Christ that is in us, so that He may live again through us to bring forth the Father’s Kingdom!

Why is it that we have no problem believing in “Christ” as our saviour in Heaven, but shirk at extending that belief to a Christ who is “IN US”? All Christians need to come to the point where we can say that “… I am crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who Lives but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). Not only is the Spirit of Jesus in our Inner Man (ie., our spirit) , but,it is the work of the Holy Spirit to conform (ie., transform) our Outer Man (ie., our soul) into His image (cf., Rom. 8:29).

Our responsibility to walk in His Spirit!

Yes, the Holy Spirit is given us to conform us to Christ but we won’t let Him, because we insist on retaining control of our lives in all areas, including the spiritual, thus quenching the work of the Spirit in us! We resist Him every step of the way! And when we pray it is always out of our self-centered desires for self-fulfillment instead of the Servant Spirit of Christ that is in us! Why else then, do we resist the Spiritual Gifts the Spirit offers to us (cf., 1 Cor. 12 ff.) — is it not because we, unconsciously, do not want to cede control to the Spirit of the Living God that is in us?

What the Father desires is that, in cooperation with the Spirit working in and through us, we, each day, walk in the Spirit, and live in the Spirit as Jesus Himself. Yes, this is a tough process because, in order to do so, we have to die each day to our self-centered orientation and let the Spirit of Jesus take over more and more of our lives. Just as John the Baptist said… “I must decrease that He might increase”!

Once you have begun the process of transformation by yielding yourself totally to Jesus as YOUR Lord and submitting to the empowerment and leading of His Holy Spirit then your personal prayer life becomes of utmost importance.  Because it is only through intimate spiritual face-to-face dialogue with the Divine that you can truly understand His guidance and directions to accomplish His specific will for your life! This is what REAL prayer is all about! This is the type of prayer with the Father that Jesus sought at the end of each day and it this is the type of prayer we all need to seek after if we are to truly cooperate with His Holy Spirit as He conforms us to the Spirit of Christ that is in us through baptism!

The importance of Spiritual depth in our prayer life

Praying In the Spirit

Praying in the Spirit

By seeking the face of the Lord daily in a more intimate, spiritual way, as we pray, we move the focus of our prayers from ourselves and our needs to what the Father desires to accomplish through us so that truly HIs will may be done in the daily circumstances of our lives. When we do so we free the Spirit of Jesus that is in us to  work in us and through us to bring forth the Kingdom in  the everyday activities of our calling (whatever that nay be) so that everything we think, say, or do emanates from His Presence within us! Praised Be His Holy Name!

In that same vein, I had previously mentioned to you, that the foundational prayer that Jesus gave His disciples,which we call  the “Our Father” was really a prayer of personal dedication for a disciple.  In order to give you an example of what we miss when we glibly recite prayers without fully understanding their spiritual meaning, I will go over a meditation of the meaning of the first few phrases of the Our Father (Matt. 6:9-10):

1.     Our Father…
When we invoke God as: “Our Father”, we are asserting, in faith, a personal relationship to God that was unthinkable under the Old covenant. In fact, they tried to stone Jesus because He implied that God was His Father. So when He tells His disciples to address His Father as their “Father”, He is also telling them that, if they are in Him, they are invited into the same intimate and personal relationship He has with the Father, and that, it is under invocation of this relationship, that they are to pray!

2.     Who art in Heaven. Hallowed be thy Name….
Jesus also tells them, that in invoking the Father, we are not to forget who the Father is, and that we must retain and reverence Him as the one who exists beyond all that exists. We reverence Him the most by keeping HIS NAME HOLY. It is only in His Name that we can can operate as His Children, here in this world and it is only because we are His children that we can invoke His Name as Our Father..

3.    Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.
In this phrasing the disciple dedicates himself/herself to the Father by accepting His Kingship over themselves. These words, which are usually misunderstood by us, really mean, “Let your Reign (Kingdom) be established in me so that Your Kingdom may be manifested in this world, in me and through me, so that in this way your will may be done here on earth as it is in Heaven!”  (See my previous article on “Living in the Kingdom NOW”)

Now, let me be clear, most of us, when we pray this prayer, don’t even realize that these words are meant as a dedication of ourselves as disciples not only of the Father but of Jesus. That is one of the reasons our lives are in such disarray. In a way, the criticism Jesus made of the Pharisees also extends to us: “these people do indeed honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me”(Matt. 15:8).

In order to rectify this tendency in ourselves, it is necessary that we discover the spiritual depth behind prayer. For that reason I present to you, as a postscript to this article, an ancient method of prayer that permits the Holy Spirit to open us up to the sprirual life behind the Word and how to pray the scriptures in such a way that that spiritual life may flow into us and from us to the Glory of His Name!

In conclusion …

Although this is only one of many spiritual disciplines through which the Lord may lead us to a closer, more intimate relationship with the Divine, it is a doorway to spiritual understanding and scriptural meditation with very ancient roots within the church from the times of the early church fathers. It is usually called Lectio Divina (Divine Reading). There are several variations of this discipline. The Version I am presenting here is that practiced at the St. Andrew’s Benedictine Monastery in Valyermo California (http://www.saintandrewsabbey.com/). I have placed as a postscript ( see below) an excerpt on “Lectio Divina” from their alternate website (http://www.valyermo.com/). It is taken from a side margin at that site to which I now refer you, if you feel led by the Sirit to continue further along this path.

May God inspire you  with His Spirit as you seek His Face in prayer and may He through prayer draw you closer and closer to Himself.
Shalom aleichem! (Peace be with you!)
Your Fellow Pilgrim in Christ Jesus… Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2012] )

Related Links

I Stand at the Door and Knock !

Bearing Fruit Through Prayer

Praying as Jesus Prayed (Part 1)
Praying as  Jesus Prayed (Part 2)

Our Father: It all begins with Relationship

Becoming Children of God

Prayer of the In ward Man: Praying in the Spirit

Postscript …

by Fr. Luke Dysinger, O.S.B.
LECTIO – Divine reading/listening
– THE ART of lectio divina begins with cultivating the ability to listen deeply, to hear “with the ear of our hearts” as St. Benedict encourages us in the Prologue to the Rule. When we read the Scriptures we should try to imitate the prophet Elijah. We should allow ourselves to become women and men who are able to listen for the still, small voice of God (I Kings 19:12); the “faint murmuring sound” which is God’s word for us, God’s voice touching our hearts. This gentle listening is an “atunement” to the presence of God in that special part of God’s creation which is the Scriptures.
– THE CRY of the prophets to ancient Israel was the joy-filled command to “Listen!” “Sh’ma Israel: Hear, O Israel!” In lectio divina we, too, heed that command and turn to the Scriptures, knowing that we must “hear” – listen – to the voice of God, which often speaks very softly. In order to hear someone speaking softly we must learn to be silent. We must learn to love silence. If we are constantly speaking or if we are surrounded with noise, we cannot hear gentle sounds.

– THE PRACTICE  of lectio divina, therefore, requires that we first quiet down in order to hear God’s word to us. This is the first step of lectio divina, appropriately called lectio – reading.

1.  Lectio – Reading
– THE READING  or Listening which is the first step in lectio divina is very different from the speed reading which modern Christians apply to newspapers, books and even to the Bible. Lectio is reverential listening; listening both in a spirit of silence and of awe. We are listening for the still, small voice of God that will speak to us personally – not loudly, but intimately. In lectio we read slowly, attentively, gently listening to hear a word or phrase that is God’s word for us this day.
2. Meditatio – meditation
– ONCE WE have found a word or a passage in the Scriptures that speaks to us in a personal way, we must take it in and “ruminate” on it. The image of the ruminant animal quietly chewing its cud was used in antiquity as a symbol of the Christian pondering the Word of God. Christians have always seen a scriptural invitation to lectio divina in the example of the Virgin Mary “pondering in her heart” what she saw and heard of Christ (Luke 2:19). For us today these images are a reminder that we must take in the word – that is, memorize it – and while gently repeating it to ourselves, allow it to interact with our thoughts, our hopes, our memories, our desires. This is the second step or stage in lectio divina – meditatio. Through meditatio we allow God’s word to become His word for us, a word that touches us and affects us at our deepest levels.
3. Oratio – prayer
– THE THIRD step in lectio divina is oratio – prayer: prayer understood both as dialogue with God, that is, as loving conversation with the One who has invited us into His embrace; and as consecration, prayer as the priestly offering to God of parts of ourselves that we have not previously believed God wants. In this consecration-prayer we allow the word that we have taken in and on which we are pondering to touch and change our deepest selves. Just as a priest consecrates the elements of bread and wine at the Eucharist, God invites us in lectio divina to hold up our most difficult and pain-filled experiences to Him, and to gently recite over them the healing word or phrase He has given us in our lectio and meditatio. In this oratio, this consecration-prayer, we allow our real selves to be touched and changed by the word of God.
4. Contemplatio – contemplation
– FINALLY, WE simply rest in the presence of the One who has used His word as a means of inviting us to accept His transforming embrace. No one who has ever been in love needs to be reminded that there are moments in loving relationships when words are unnecessary. It is the same in our relationship with God. Wordless, quiet rest in the presence of the One Who loves us has a name in the Christian tradition – contemplatio, contemplation. Once again we practice silence, letting go of our own words; this time simply enjoying the experience of being in the presence of God.
Private Lectio Divina
– CHOOSE a text of the Scriptures that you wish to pray. Many Christians use in their daily lectio divina one of the readings from the Eucharistic liturgy for the day; others prefer to slowly work through a particular book of the Bible. It makes no difference which text is chosen, as long as one has no set goal of “covering” a certain amount of text: the amount of text “covered” is in God’s hands, not yours.
-PLACE YOURSELF in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent. Some Christians focus for a few moments on their breathing; other have a beloved “prayer word” or “prayer phrase” they gently recite in order to become interiorly silent. For some the practice known as “centering prayer” makes a good, brief introduction to lectio divina. Use whatever method is best for you and allow yourself to enjoy silence for a few moments.
– THEN TURN to the text and read it slowly, gently. Savor each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that somehow says, “I am for you today.” Do not expect lightening or ecstasies. In lectio divina God is teaching us to listen to Him, to seek Him in silence. He does not reach out and grab us; rather, He softly, gently invites us ever more deeply into His presence.
– NEXT TAKE the word or phrase into yourself. Memorize it and slowly repeat it to yourself, allowing it to interact with your inner world of concerns, memories and ideas. Do not be afraid of “distractions.” Memories or thoughts are simply parts of yourself which, when they rise up during lectio divina, are asking to be given to God along with the rest of your inner self. Allow this inner pondering, this rumination, to invite you into dialogue with God.
– THEN, SPEAK to God. Whether you use words or ideas or images or all three is not important. Interact with God as you would with one who you know loves and accepts you. And give to Him what you have discovered in yourself during your experience of meditatio. Experience yourself as the priest that you are. Experience God using the word or phrase that He has given you as a means of blessing, of transforming the ideas and memories, which your pondering on His word has awakened. Give to God what you have found within your heart.
– FINALLY, SIMPLY rest in God’s embrace. And when He invites you to return to your pondering of His word or to your inner dialogue with Him, do so. Learn to use words when words are helpful, and to let go of words when they no longer are necessary. Rejoice in the knowledge that God is with you in both words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity.
– SOMETIMES during lectio divina one will return several times to the printed text, either to savor the literary context of the word or phrase that God has given, or to seek a new word or phrase to ponder. At other times only a single word or phrase will fill the whole time set aside for lectio divina. It is not necessary to anxiously assess the quality of one’s lectio divina as if one were “performing” or seeking some goal: lectio divina has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God by praying the Scriptures.

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

The four movements of Lectio divina: read, meditate, pray, contemplate.

In Christianity, Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Catholic practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s Word. It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied, but as the Living Word.[1]

Traditionally Lectio Divina has 4 separate steps: read, meditate, pray and contemplate. First a passage of Scripture is read, then its meaning is reflected upon. This is followed by prayer and contemplation on the Word of God.[2]

The focus of Lectio Divina is not a theological analysis of biblical passages but viewing them with Christ as the key to their meaning. For example, given Jesus’ statement in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you” an analytical approach would focus on the reason for the statement during the Last Supper, the biblical context, etc. But in Lectio Divina rather than “dissecting peace”, the practitioner “enters peace” and shares in the peace of Christ.[3] In Christian teachings, this form of meditative prayer leads to an increased knowledge of Christ.[4][5]

The roots of Scriptural reflection and interpretation go back to Origen in the 3rd century, after whom St. Ambrose taught them to St. Augustine. The monastic practice of Lectio Divina was first established in the 6th century by Saint Benedict. It was then formalized as a 4 step process by the Carthusian monk, Guigo II, in the 12th century. In the 20th century, the constitution Dei Verbum of Pope Paul VI recommended Lectio Divina for the general public. Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the importance of Lectio Divina in the 21st century.

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