The Sacrament of the Present Moment

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#set-sacrament-of-the-present-moment

#preached-retreat

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There's the great Dominican medieval mystic Eckhart. This is one sentence from him. No one desires anything so eagerly as God desires to bring us to knowledge of God. God is always ready, but we are not ready. God is near us, but we are far away. God is within, but we are without. God is our friend, but we are estranged. So I think he definitely has this sense that the problem is on our side. All times are sacred. All places are sacred. But we tend to judge lots of them in one way or another not good enough for us, for our place of encounter with God. So it's just this exercise of the sacrament of the presence of God,

[01:08]

this sacrament of the present moment that we want to work on now. This morning we saw the why, but it's not that easy. So this afternoon and tomorrow we want to reflect a bit on the hows. What can help us be more present? Granted that it's lovely to experience every place as a place where God can be encountered, but that don't happen that often in my life. How can I render it more frequent? What are some of the helps? So I'll just sketch some of the helps I've found in my life and read about as helpful to others. Then as I say, tomorrow we'll have an open forum for everyone to share what they find helpful. And also any questions you might have about the theology this morning, if it is that convincing or if it seems problematic. It's better that it be fairly convincing for us if we're going to give ourselves to this endeavor.

[02:10]

So how? Well, I think for most of us there are basic patterns to our life. It's not that every day is totally different from every other day. There are certain times, certain people, certain places that recur. And we can ponder a bit more, especially in a retreat period such as this. What is that pattern? What are the recurring people, places, times? And then just start to work on one or another of these to ponder and meditate. How is that sacramental for me? How have I missed that? And how can I maybe more give time to that? Most of us will have three times a day for eating, for instance. For some of us it's fairly set. Certainly if you're in a monastery, it's quite set. Maybe only two.

[03:13]

But usually for us Americans, we can count on times for eating every day. So how to reflect on them, claim them more as sacramental moment, so that that part of our day, at least when we get to it, becomes more sacramental. Maybe one week we'll work on our mealtimes. Maybe one week we'll work on this person who I regularly encounter, who maybe I don't always experience as sacramental, or I don't always intuit as representing Christ to me, etc. Maybe another time it'll be the doors I go through, or the journeys I take by car, or the recurring task at work. Whatever it be, one way, as I say, is to ponder the pattern, ponder what's regularly there,

[04:16]

and then through reflection, through prayer, to claim it as a more conscious level. And then there's this mechanism in us of habit, which can be bad if it's a bad habit, but it can also reinforce this if it's a good habit. If I get into the habit of raising my consciousness for that particular moment, or event, or place, or person, that will be good, and that will also lead into rendering the more easy of recognizing other times, other places, other moments. We break through that wall of forgetfulness, of alienation, and if we have these little islands of recollection, of centeredness, then it's likely that these are slowly, slowly going to expand. That's the hope. One of our problems is the mind, or the fantasy, or the imagination.

[05:22]

However one characterized that faculty, it can be very flighty. I may be here now, but my mind might be a hundred miles away. I remember our old father, Adaret, used to say, we look so edifying in choir, you know, all these monks absorbed in prayer. If you could go into their heads, it could be that one or two of them were a bit distracted, you know, more on this or that, or regularly coming back, but I think for all of us, we experience what the Eastern religions call the monkey mind, just jumping around from thing to thing. And so that's a problem in terms of this practice of the sacrament of the present moment. The good news, though, is that our body remains here, even with our fantasy, our mind, our imagination is a hundred miles away. It is not able to drag me a hundred miles away.

[06:26]

I may be off with Frodo in the Lord of the Rings movie, and I might be journeying towards the Mount of Doom, etc., but actually I'm right here. So if I can befriend my body a little more, if I can become a little more aware of body, and let body be a kind of a base, home base, that can help. So that when I catch myself thoroughly distracted, the thing then isn't to bash and punish myself for the next 20 minutes, but just to gently come back to where I am, sitting or standing or walking or whatever, and again befriend my body and become aware of the immediate sensations arriving through the senses of the body. That's a humble place to start, but it's a good place. There's this sacred mountain that's very archetypical

[07:29]

for all the great world religions, certainly for the Jewish Christian tradition. You can trace all of salvation history just in terms of key mountains, like Mount Sinai, Mount Carmel, the Mount of the Beatitudes, the Mount of the Crucifixion, Mount Sinai, Jerusalem, the Mount of the Ascension, etc. Well, they're archetypical because there's a mountain within us to become aware of us in different levels. So sometimes it's good to just come back and be humble and start at the base of the mountain, you know, I'm just aware I'm here. I find it a wonderful exercise, for instance, before prayer starts to get there a little early and just to sit there, as we all do, but just become aware of my feet against the floor, you know, and the seat of the chair and the back of the chair,

[08:32]

my hands and my legs or whatever. The body can be this little cell that we return to in which we find our heart, in which we find our spirit. So, claim again the body. This isn't always easy. Some of us are not that reconciled with our body for whatever reason, body image, or maybe we're getting older and we're aware of aches and pains or whatever, but the Christian faith is thoroughly embodied, thoroughly incarnate. It's a platonic temptation, neo-platonic, to just get up in the realm of pure spirit and pure ideas, but the word was made flesh, and we are incarnate. God did not create us as pure angels. So, to claim this body, which is temple of the Holy Spirit, and to get in touch with that.

[09:33]

Here, one can go into yoga practices, one can go into the martial arts, whatever. Dancing, liturgical dancing, whatever. But to claim and befriend the body, this is a great way to advance in the practice of the sacrament of the present moment. We shouldn't say so much practice of the present moment, but sacrament. You actually celebrate a sacrament, so we want to be more celebrative of this, though sometimes it might seem like a hard job. But really, to come back home, first of all to our basic home, which is the body which God created for us, and in which our mind and spirit dwells, that's good. As we get more into the body, we discover this amazing rhythm that's going on all the time, which is our breathing.

[10:33]

That's just a very mysterious, automatic process. But the amazing thing about it is we can render it, we can kind of guide it with our will. We can move in and, for instance, breathe less rapidly, more slowly. We can breathe more deeply. That's a real resource. There's something about slow breathing that's very calming, that helps the adrenaline kind of dissipate. It helps us be quieter. So in that sitting exercise, it's right here in this place that God is, that everything is. The rhythm of the breathing can be a lovely way to get back there. And this can be tied into very ancient practices of breath prayer or prayer of the heart,

[11:36]

sometimes it's called, or Jesus prayer. We can take a little phrase and we can link it up with breathing in and breathing out. In the Eastern religions, this is sometimes called mantra prayer, but it's extremely soothing and calming, and it does help us to be more present, more aware of the sacred of the moment. There's the full prayer of Jesus. It's evolved in the Eastern Orthodox churches of Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner. And some use the full form. We've had here Callistus Ware, a great Orthodox bishop who's written extensively on the Jesus prayer. He says it's absolutely legitimate to shorten it, to render it just a few words. In that form, it's also in the West, in the so-called English spiritual tradition.

[12:37]

I don't know if you know of the Centering Prayer Movement with Father Keating, Father Basil Pennington. They have what they call the prayer phrase. There again, you can say very quietly, also coordinated with the breath, if you wish. Then there is the Christian meditation movement of John Main. It's the same thing. It's sit quietly and repeat one word quietly again and again. They recommend the word, because it's right there. It has the blessing of Scripture and it separates the end of Scripture. It's this invoking God. And in another language, so we don't get all caught up with our brain to start popping around with meditations about it. It's not so much to think about the prayer. It's just this quiet bodily rhythm that's then linked to prayer that helps us ascend the mountain up to the level of the spirit.

[13:39]

God created our body. And then in Genesis, God breathed into this body, God's breath, spirit, ruo. There's something mysterious about breathing, about breath, about spirit. And again, it can help us ascend right to the highest level of the mountain. It's a little exercise that can keep the mind busy. So it's less apt to fly around here and there in the other place. You know, if you're caught in a traffic jam and you're just bumper to bumper sitting there and you don't have great meditations to come up with and you're tired of the news on the radio or something, just quietly sing a prayer. It might be the Hail Mary. It might be this repetitive prayer that doesn't want to be magical, that doesn't want to force God to be with us, but just wants to calm us and enable us to be more here now.

[14:45]

When one's walking, one can say such a prayer, et cetera. And then become aware of one's walking. We'll get into this. Meditation walking. Or become aware of one's traveling in a car or in a bus or in a train. It doesn't have to be just frenetic, I was there, now I immediately have to get to the next place as quickly as possible and this interim time is just a grunge. No, whether it's a fixed place, standing, sitting, lying down, whether it's movement, it can take on a certain rhythm and we can become aware of the body in that context and we can acknowledge the body is sacramental in St. Paul's terms. It's the temple of the Holy Spirit. It's sacred. So wherever we are, we're going to have the body there. And so if we can claim the body, reverence the body,

[15:48]

acknowledge the body as sacred, and again, in this, if we can have some bodily practices, tai chi or yoga or karate or whatever, this could be very helpful. Yoga. And especially as we get into something like breathing prayer. This is very ancient. It goes way back. We don't know when. Time immemorial in Hinduism, Buddhism, the mantra goes way back in the Christian tradition. The 7th century abbot, John Climacus, out there in the monastery on the Sinai, St. Catherine's, a monastery that's still there. It's gone through all these centuries. He wrote this Ladder of Divine Ascent. There's some pretty strange things in it, beautiful things. Thomas Merton wrote a lovely review of the book. He says there's a couple of lines, though,

[16:48]

that make the whole book tremendous significance in terms of spirituality, in terms of what it can mean for us, etc. It's in Step 27, number 61. It's a little tiny one-liner. Let the remembrance of Jesus be present with each breath, and then you will know the value of quiet. It's very packed, and there's some technical stuff there. But the remembrance of Jesus, there's a footnote here. This patristic expression denotes the Jesus prayer and not the simple remembrance of the name of Jesus. So let this prayer to Jesus, in Jesus, through Jesus, be present with every breath, and then you will know quiet or stillness. The Greek term there is hesikia, which means a little bit of everything. There's a wonderful text in the Psalms, Be still and know that I am God.

[17:49]

And then there's Elijah at the mouth of the cave, and he discovers God not in the flashing of the lightning or the thunder or the earthquake. He discovers God in the still, small voice, where the latest translation has the sound of sheer silence. Well, if we get into this rhythmic, quiet prayer, we can come to know the value, the experience of this stillness, which is a privileged way to celebrate this sacrament of the present moment. I use the little phrase Jesus, Spirit, Father. I like the whole Trinitarian thing. And I just unite Jesus and Spirit with the breathing in and Father with the breathing out. And a very simple prayer, but it brings in the whole of the gospel and the whole of Christian faith, etc.

[18:51]

It surrounds us with this Trinitarian mystery that I find very helpful. Everything is Trinitarian. We're Trinitarian. We often don't think about the mystery of the Trinity, but everything has this Trinitarian shape. Everything comes from the Father, Mother Creator, through the Word and the Spirit. Remember, God doesn't just improvise creation, but it's according to God's wisdom, according to God's logos, God's wisdom. And remember, in that Spirit that gives life to everything, the Spirit that's hovering over the waters and brings forth all this multitude. So everything that comes to us every day comes from the hand of the Father through the Word and the Spirit. Everything that comes to us in every moment is coming from this great Trinitarian source. And then we want in that place to receive this with gratitude

[19:53]

and through Christ in the Spirit offer it back to God, the Source, the Creator, the fulfillment of all things. Not to cling to things, this is mine, but to offer it all back up. As we get into this Trinitarian cycle, we're living the whole thing. We're living all of salvation history and the whole of the sacramental. And as I say, I find a little prayer like that helpful. But you can come up with whatever form is helpful and maybe change it from one week to another. Though they do say the time comes when it's good to just settle into one form for longer term. But it might be a Jesus mercy or my God I love you or whatever it be. But you might try this as a way to claim more and celebrate more this sacrament. Because again, it's a sacrament that we celebrate within our body, embodied,

[20:53]

and then in our spirit. It's not that the mind is demonic, the mind is wonderful, it just tends to be a little too hip-hoppy, too flighty. So if we can gently move from the body to the spirit, the spirit is that kind of summit of our being that's more intuitive, more just aware of the mystery. We're often not even in touch with the spirit. Many moderns think we're just a mind in the body. This model of the human person has been called the computer in the ape. And much of human life is just this wild pendulum and swing between the analytic thinking mind that wants to know everything and dominate everything, and then at the free moments when work's over and you get into the body and you go out and you party

[21:55]

and you drink and get wild, etc. Then the next morning you have to struggle back to the computer and get back to the computer mind kind of thing. The more ancient model of the human person, and it's right there in Scripture in 1 Thessalonians, sees us as triadic, as three dimensions, and the spirit is quite as different from the mind as the mind is from the body. In this respect, also, we are Trinitarian. So to be more aware of the spirit, often we're just oblivious to the spirit. A great psychiatrist who's also a wonderful Methodist spiritual writer, Gerald May, he's written a lot of books on spirituality, he says at this highest level there's a sense in which we're always praying, we're always reaching out to God. Not at a conscious level, it's in this cloud of unknowing. Like Mount Sinai was crowned with a cloud,

[22:56]

Moses had to enter into it. So at this level, we're not aware of what's happening, even if it's us, even though it's the kind of supreme level of our existence, except some moments. Some moments we're just overwhelmed with awe and we're aware of that dimension in us that is reverence, is aware of the mystery, is just wanting to glorify God beyond words kind of thing. And so the thing is to ascend to that level a little more and more so that even when the mind is distracted, we might be aware, well, that's not our whole being. We're not just totally caught off into Never Never Land or into the past or the future. But we're aware that somehow at the same time, there's this yearning, there's this reaching out. Gerard May says, each one of us, there's this yearning for love

[23:59]

with a capital L. There's this yearning for peace with a capital P, for home with a capital H. We come in faith to give the name of all this to the kingdom of God, to our beloved God, etc. But even pre-faith, this is in every person. And we live it out in our frenetic life in all kinds of wrong ways. But this is the deep source of our energy, of our searching, of our every endeavor. And if we can get in touch with that, again, highest point, then we're really at the level of the sacramental because that's where we are really one with God. God is there. And as we can more and more be aware that we are with God and let that happen, even if it's at a mysterious, ineffable level, then wherever we are,

[25:00]

we'll be all right. At least in the Gospel of John, it appears that Christ also, when he's walking about or speaking or discoursing, but somehow there's a highest point that's always cleaving, to go back to the homily today, cleaving to God the Father. Or to turn it all upside down, if that helps, because geography is very relative here, it's the deepest roots of our being. Or if it's more helpful, it's the center most center of our being. Our Father Bruno loves that language. The author of The Cloud of Annoyance says use whatever language you want. The idea is it's getting away from the more peripheral, more distracted, more anxious, more dissipated, more that dimension of us to a more intuitive, more unitive, more serene dimension of our being

[26:02]

and sometimes of our experience. And as we're more in touch with that, then we can be more celebrative again of God present wherever we are and whenever we are. Again, according to Gerald May, this goes on continually. This is just a constant of our existence. And so when we sometimes offer up prayers, we're not doing something terribly artificial. We're giving voice to this yearning within that would always like to be able to pray without ceasing, to praise God without ceasing, etc. So something to think about. So the bottom line of this is that the basic sacred place that each one of us wants to claim in a way of real humility of us is our self, body, mind, and spirit. And then we can nourish the mind with good reading,

[27:03]

hopefully with scripture and good stuff and not just junk. And we'll see later, we can get into spiritual reading in a more ordered way that will render the mind more helpful and more a part of our effort to celebrate every present moment. But ourselves, this is the basic sacred place. St. Teresa of Avila says, what a sad thing it is when a person is not at peace with themselves, when they don't go within and find rest there, when there's anxiety, when there's a restlessness and they have to rush out and be elsewhere. That's the basic first movement of alienation, of distraction. And indeed, of addiction. I go within, I find an emptiness there. I find a deep primordial fear,

[28:05]

maybe of death. I find guilt, whatever it is. Well, it's better to work through that to find the point where I am at peace within myself. If I am at peace within myself, then this sacrament of the present moment becomes a piece of cake, really. Because wherever I am, I'm aware that the sacred is. If we're going to acknowledge that I am a sacred place, then I need to acknowledge that, well, then other people also are a sacred place. Every other person. Usually it works the other way. Usually we can honor and revere other people and love other people and know that God loves other people. At least in some part of our psyche, more than we can accept ourselves or think that God loves us, think that we're lovable, etc. So it works both ways. But sometimes we get into

[29:05]

a very narcissistic self-love thing. But we also want to remember that therefore every other person I meet is a living icon of Christ, is a living icon of the feminine dimension of God, is a sacred place to be revered, to be reverenced. That's what we've so much lost in our very violent society. How much violence in the usual movie or TV program, etc. People just being bashed. It's kind of entertainment, you know. Well, if we get to this point of awe and reverence, then we move beyond that. There's an amazing passage in Brothers Karamazov, the famous classic, where Zosimov, who's this holy abbot,

[30:06]

he's being confronted by this very anti-religious, drunk, old, objectionable man. And who's cursing him in front of others, etc. And Zosimov just at a certain point prostrates himself before this drunken, loud person who is just totally floored by this. You could understand if Zosimov would scream back or hit him with his staff or something. But what is this all about? But Zosimov is going beneath the unfortunate, distressful disguise and recognizing that, no, also this is a child of God. And this calls the other person back to a kind of reverence for Zosimov and for himself. That kind of thing. Mother Teresa, who says she receives Christ as much when

[31:08]

she's nursing to a leper who's dying in the streets of Calcutta as when she's receiving hosts. It's the same body of Christ. So we want to work on that. And we can really make this an exercise. Who's the person who I least recognize as Christ-like, who I meet regularly? Jesus commands us, love your enemy. Love doesn't mean we have to agree with them. Doesn't mean that we have to feel all kinds of empathy for them. We have to like them. Love means we have to will their good. The love of benevolence. We have to pray and hope that they do reach eternal beatitude and that in this life they're as happy as possible, which means as in the Lord as possible. We don't want malevolence towards others. This is the opposite. We want benevolence.

[32:08]

And that's the love of enemy. So if I can exercise that love of benevolence actively towards others, that's again this way of celebrating the present moment. With some people I might feel very spiritual and prayer comes easy. With other people I'm just on my guard. Okay. But somehow also with those other people, that's a very special moment. And to prize that. Scripture is filled with these moments where enemies become friends. Where Paul, before his conversion, who was part of the stoning of Stephen, the great enemy of Christianity, becomes the great apostle of Christianity to the Gentiles, that kind of thing. So to work on the acknowledgement, the reverencing of every person as sacred place.

[33:10]

And again, we can say this week I'm going to work on my relation with X person. And actively go out and at least we can always pray for them. Pray that God not just punish them and send them to hell. That's not quite it. But that God brings them to serenity and joy and fulfillment. Here you can do a whole psychological thing about often the people that push our buttons the most. There's something about them that's really inside us. And we're just projecting on them our anger. I remember I was in this monastery and this one monk just rubbed me the wrong way. There was enough room to walk in the room and I was angry, I was indignant. How dare he exist? And then I had this dream about him. And I don't even remember the content of the dream. But he was there in a rather positive, benevolent light.

[34:12]

And part of the psychotherapeutic theory of dreams is that when we dream of someone, it's really some dimension of our psyche. So it struck me, my God, that guy is somehow inside me, is somehow a part of me. And from that moment on, it was difficult for me to be so hostile to him. I started feeling a certain compassion, you know. He's just that target for dimensions in me that I haven't fully worked with, acknowledged, integrated. So there's all that. Teresa said we should have some real difficult type person in each community. It's good for everyone. It helps us. You know, if everyone is just so sweet and kind and acknowledging how great we are, we don't grow that much. But if someone's kind of rubbing against us and challenging us, etc., that's helpful. In my pasha, we had this pretty rough character here

[35:18]

who said that his vocation was to be the cross for the rest of us. And we thought he was very good at it. Actually, he's a very holy person and he's now living in strict solitude. And he's not one of the recluses here, but you just have to appreciate that there's all kinds of people out there and it is somehow all providential. And again, whoever is here before me, that somehow God can work through that. God, again, may not will what they say to me, what they do to me, etc., but God does will my good in and through them in all kinds of creative ways if I can just find out how, that kind of thing. So to work on that, God in me and God in others. Eucharist. Usually we're pretty good, we Catholics and Episcopalians,

[36:19]

about recognizing that Eucharist is a sacramental moment. Eucharist is when we want to be present, where we're a little more committed to focusing and attention. And that's as it should be. Eucharist is this very special moment that where all kinds of things are happening, but the culminating moment of salvation history of Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection is rendered present for us and involves us. And our deepest journey of communion with God in Christ is realized in this very material, incarnate way of eating, etc. And when we receive the Eucharist, because we're all members of Christ, we commune with all of us, etc. So certainly Eucharist is sacrament, and that moment is sacred. So to the extent that we're more focused there,

[37:22]

that renders us more focused with other moments. But the other moments are there, and we have to go out of the church sooner or later. Other moments that are a reflection of Eucharist, a little image of Eucharist, are our meal moments. We started out briefly referring to them. Probably three times a day we do eat. And that shouldn't be just, you know, feeding the face. That shouldn't be just pushing it down and running, fast food kind of thing. This is a pretty unfortunate aspect of modern American life. I was privileged to be some 11 years in Italy, and there the meal is very special, and they know it. And you sit down, and you sit down with others, and you enjoy, and it's celebratory, and you're not entirely sure when you're going to get up. It's not, well, I'll give 20 minutes to this, if I'm taking my time. Because people might start sharing in unusual ways.

[38:25]

There might be arguments. There might be very important discussions, whatever. But you leave time for the meal, and you recognize and you appreciate that it is certainly sacramental. The meal is a very important time. And it hits us, so to speak, on all kinds of levels. It hits us certainly on the level of the body. We need to feed the body. It hits us, therefore, in our solidarity with all those people who have planted the seed, who have cultivated, who have harvested, who have gathered, etc., etc. Once I'm into eating, there's this immediate network of connections. And to avert to that, to give thanks to the farmer and the farm worker out there, etc., then just the humanity of the meal and the sacred depth of the meal.

[39:28]

I think many of us tend to say a grace at the beginning of the meal, but it can be just an automatic kind of thing, you know. But if we say it seriously, you know, bless this feud, bless God, bless our being together. Pray for those who have less. This is a sacramental moment. Dorothy Day at one point wrote that she'd like to have the time to go through Scripture and find all the meals. Again, Salvation History can be treated in terms of mountains. It can also be treated in terms of very important meals. As you enter the front entrance of the church, there's that mysterious big icon. Looks like three angels around the table. Well, that's that early meal of the mysterious man-angels who come to visit Abraham and Sarah. And in the great tradition of Eastern hospitality, Abraham and Sarah immediately come out and offer the full meal.

[40:29]

And these angels declare that Abraham and Sarah will be with child. So these guests at the meal table bless Abraham and Sarah beyond their wild imagination. Well, Christian tradition has always seen that as a kind of a prefiguring of Holy Trinity. In each one of our meals, that's also Trinitarian. Again, we receive these gifts from God, our good creator, through the word and the spirit. We offer them back up. We offer the fellowship up here, right here in the meal, et cetera. But to claim all this. And so there's that early meal. There's the manna in the desert where Israel is fed. There's therefore the Paschal, Passover meal to celebrate liberation. There's Cana, it's the very first sign of our Lord, the wedding feast. That's a meal, that's a real meal that at least in Europe can go on

[41:30]

for hours and hours and hours. There's the multiplying of the loaves. There's the Last Supper. Then there's Emmaus, where Christ is recognized in the breaking of the bread. And every one of our Eucharists wants to bring all that together. But every meal should also. So if for this next week we work on our meal moment, maybe just breakfast or maybe just supper, but work on that as a homework assignment to acknowledge that as sacramental and to reverence that moment and be a little more there and not just stuffing down the food. That can be a real resource. That would mean if we claim those three moments every day that at least in the morning, noon, and evening we're dedicating some time to being centered, to being aware, mindful, to being in God's presence also

[42:30]

as we're in the presence of everyone else there. So it's that kind of work. Why don't we do this next one and then take our break and then come back tomorrow. And again, other methods, other spaces. I've noticed various others there we can discuss tomorrow. But there's the Word of God. We usually when we hear Scripture read in church, we know this is a special moment. I should be listening to this. I shouldn't just be pondering the budget or my schedule for tomorrow or there's something special here. As indeed there is. We believe that the Spirit is in those words and the Spirit is in there in a mysterious way to be capable of speaking to each one of us in our very unique situation today. So to listen to that Word, to hear it, to meditate it.

[43:31]

In Saint Benedict's rule, he gives hours every day for the monks to do spiritual reading, to just ponder Scripture, read it aloud. And it became a little more formulated in the later Middle Ages, these four steps to call spiritual reading. First I just read it. And the early monks and nuns, they didn't speed read. They took it very slowly. They even read it aloud so it would be kind of a proclamation to the ear also. It would be kind of music. And they'd even memorize good chunks of it. Then the meditating stage there. Okay, here's the Word. What does it have to do with me, my life? How does it reveal Christ to me? How does it reveal how our community should be? How does it reveal how I should react to certain events, etc.?

[44:32]

To bring it home, it's all well that it's written in that sacred page, but if it doesn't involve me, if I don't get into that page somehow, then it's not a saving word for me. If I've been meditating it enough, there's going to be all kinds of motives to pray that I may do this more and that less, and I may be more united to Christ, and for all those who are hurting, etc., etc. The final step is word into silence, where I just take all that thought and that prayer and just rest in God. Be still and know that I am God. There are four steps to getting deeper into Scripture. That's one way to do it. There's all kinds of ways to do it. But to utilize that, to spend more time with Scripture. Don't just hear it at church at Sunday and then immediately forget it.

[45:35]

But how does this word nourish me, hopefully? Maybe read Scripture daily in this reading, meditating, praying, contemplating way. This is a sacramental moment. The word is an essential part of the Eucharistic celebration because the word tells us why we're there, what we're doing. It's the word that presents the salvation history that culminates in the paschal mystery of Christ, that culminates thus in Eucharist for us. So the word is an integral part to the sacrament of Eucharist. So the word should be an integral part to our sacramental life daily. If we're nourished by the word, we're going to be helped. The Father said, we very well know that we've got to feed the body. Well, maybe we have to feed the mind

[46:35]

and the spirit also. And Scripture, or a good, good book on spirituality, this will feed us at the level of mind and spirit the way we know we have to be fed bodily. As we apply this to the word, capital W, then we can start applying the same dynamic to if we read a good book of spirituality, if we read a fine poem, if we see a serious film, a serious play, if there's an event that happens in our life, how do we read that in depth? How do we meditate that? How do we pray it? How do we enter in contemplation with that? This becomes a pattern for doing spiritual reading or Lectio for whatever comes to us and recognizing it as God's word to us. Origen, one of the first wonderful early fathers,

[47:37]

he said that what is Scripture? It's this extended love letter that God has written to each one of us. And we should read it the way a spouse reads a love letter that's been addressed from the beloved, you know, with reverence and gratitude and astonishment and this kind of thing. And he says no one else has a right to read love letters. It's a very intimate thing. So no one who is not a person of the faith should be allowed to read Scripture. It's just very intimate stuff between God and us, between God and the church. And because between God and the church, so also between God and each one of us personally. So again, if we can claim the word, then we can hear various words coming to us that might also be words of life, that we recognize that God is speaking

[48:38]

at least through these words daily. And maybe also events daily. And that also helps us in our celebrating of the present moment. And that also helps us

[48:53]