Fidelity to God also inspires devotion to neighbour, a devotion which consecrated persons live out not without sacrifice by constantly interceding for the needs of their brothers and sisters, generously serving the poor and the sick, sharing the hardships of others and participating in the concerns and trials of the Church.
The Paschal Mystery is also the wellspring of the Church's missionary nature, which is reflected in the whole of the Church's life. It is expressed in a distinctive way in the consecrated life. Over and above the charisms proper to those Institutes which are devoted to the mission ad gentes or which are engaged in ordinary apostolic activity, it can be said that the sense of mission is at the very heart of every form of consecrated life.
To the extent that consecrated persons live a life completely devoted to the Father cf. Lk ; Jn , held fast by Christ cf. Jn ; Gal and animated by the Spirit cf. Lk ; Acts ; , they cooperate effectively in the mission of the Lord Jesus cf. Jn and contribute in a particularly profound way to the renewal of the world. The first missionary duty of consecrated persons is to themselves, and they fulfil it by opening their hearts to the promptings of the Spirit of Christ. Their witness helps the whole Church to remember that the most important thing is to serve God freely, through Christ's grace which is communicated to believers through the gift of the Spirit.
Thus they proclaim to the world the peace which comes from the Father, the dedication witnessed to by the Son, and the joy which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Consecrated persons will be missionaries above all by continually deepening their awareness of having been called and chosen by God, to whom they must therefore direct and offer everything that they are and have, freeing themselves from the obstacles which could hinder the totality of their response.
In this way they will become true signs of Christ in the world. Their lifestyle too must clearly show the ideal which they profess, and thus present itself as a living sign of God and as an eloquent, albeit often silent, proclamation of the Gospel. The Church must always seek to make her presence visible in everyday life, especially in contemporary culture, which is often very secularized and yet sensitive to the language of signs.
In this regard the Church has a right to expect a significant contribution from consecrated persons, called as they are in every situation to bear clear witness that they belong to Christ. Since the habit is a sign of consecration, poverty and membership in a particular Religious family, I join the Fathers of the Synod in strongly recommending to men and women religious that they wear their proper habit, suitably adapted to the conditions of time and place. Where valid reasons of their apostolate call for it, Religious, in conformity with the norms of their Institute, may also dress in a simple and modest manner, with an appropriate symbol, in such a way that their consecration is recognizable.
Institutes which from their origin or by provision of their Constitutions do not have a specific habit should ensure that the dress of their members corresponds in dignity and simplicity to the nature of their vocation. Since the demands of the apostolate today are increasingly urgent, and since involvement in temporal affairs risks becoming ever more absorbing, it is particularly opportune to draw attention once more to the eschatological nature of the consecrated life.
The unique treasure of the Kingdom gives rise to desire, anticipation, commitment and witness. In the early Church, the expectation of the Lord's coming was lived in a particularly intense way. With the passing of the centuries, the Church has not ceased to foster this attitude of hope: she has continued to invite the faithful to look to the salvation which is waiting to be revealed, "for the form of this world is passing away" 1 Cor ; cf. In fact it has constantly been taught that the consecrated life is a foreshadowing of the future Kingdom.
The Second Vatican Council proposes this teaching anew when it states that consecration better "foretells the resurrected state and the glory of the heavenly Kingdom. Those who have dedicated their lives to Christ cannot fail to live in the hope of meeting him, in order to be with him for ever. Hence the ardent expectation and desire to "be plunged into the Fire of Love which burns in them and which is none other than the Holy Spirit",an expectation and desire sustained by the gifts which the Lord freely bestows on those who yearn for the things that are above cf.
Col Immersed in the things of the Lord, the consecrated person remembers that "here we have no lasting city" Heb , for "our commonwealth is in heaven" Phil The one thing necessary is to seek God's "Kingdom and his righteousness" Mt , with unceasing prayer for the Lord's coming. This expectation is anything but passive : although directed towards the future Kingdom, it expresses itself in work and mission, that the Kingdom may become present here and now through the spirit of the Beatitudes, a spirit capable of giving rise in human society to effective aspirations for justice, peace, solidarity and forgiveness.
This is clearly shown by the history of the consecrated life, which has always borne abundant fruit even for this world. By their charisms, consecrated persons become signs of the Spirit pointing to a new future enlightened by faith and by Christian hope. Eschatological expectation becomes mission, so that the Kingdom may become ever more fully established here and now. The prayer "Come, Lord Jesus! Those who vigilantly await the fulfilment of Christ's promises are able to bring hope to their brothers and sisters who are often discouraged and pessimistic about the future. Theirs is a hope founded on God's promise contained in the revealed word: the history of humanity is moving towards "a new heaven and a new earth" Rev , where the Lord "will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away" Rev The consecrated life is at the service of this definitive manifestation of the divine glory, when all flesh will see the salvation of God cf.
Lk ; Is The Christian East emphasizes this dimension when it considers monks as angels of God on earth who proclaim the renewal of the world in Christ. In the West, monasticism is the celebration of memory and expectation: memory of the wonders God has wrought and expectation of the final fulfilment of our hope. Monasticism and the contemplative life are a constant reminder that the primacy of God gives full meaning and joy to human lives, because men and women are made for God, and their hearts are restless until they rest in him.
Mary is the one who, from the moment of her Immaculate Conception, most perfectly reflects the divine beauty. Mary's presence is of fundamental importance both for the spiritual life of each consecrated person and for the solidity, unity and progress of the whole community". Mary in fact is the sublime example of perfect consecration, since she belongs completely to God and is totally devoted to him. Chosen by the Lord, who wished to accomplish in her the mystery of the Incarnation, she reminds consecrated persons of the primacy of God's initiative.
At the same time, having given her assent to the divine Word, made flesh in her, Mary is the model of the acceptance of grace by human creatures. Having lived with Jesus and Joseph in the hidden years of Nazareth, and present at her Son's side at crucial moments of his public life, the Blessed Virgin teaches unconditional discipleship and diligent service.
In Mary, "the temple of the Holy Spirit,"all the splendour of the new creation shines forth. Consecrated life looks to her as the sublime model of consecration to the Father, union with the Son and openness to the Spirit, in the knowledge that acceptance of the "virginal and humble life"of Christ also means imitation of Mary's way of life. In the Blessed Virgin Mary, consecrated persons also find a Mother who is altogether unique. Indeed, if the new motherhood conferred on Mary at Calvary is a gift for all Christians, it has a specific value for those who have completely consecrated their lives to Christ.
They, like John, are called to take the Blessed Virgin Mary to themselves cf. Jn , loving her and imitating her in the radical manner which befits their vocation, and experiencing in return her special motherly love. The Blessed Virgin shares with them the love which enables them to offer their lives every day for Christ and to cooperate with him in the salvation of the world.
Hence a filial relationship to Mary is the royal road to fidelity to one's vocation and a most effective help for advancing in that vocation and living it fully. In the episode of the Transfiguration, Peter speaks on behalf of the other Apostles: "It is well that we are here" Mt The experience of Christ's glory, though completely filling his mind and heart, does not set him apart but rather unites him more closely to the "we" of the Apostles. This dimension of "we" invites us to consider the place which the consecrated life occupies in the mystery of the Church.
In recent years, theological reflection on the nature of the consecrated life has deepened the new insights which emerged from the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. In the light of that teaching it has been recognized that the profession of the evangelical counsels indisputably belongs to the life and holiness of the Church.
This means that the consecrated life, present in the Church from the beginning, can never fail to be one of her essential and characteristic elements, for it expresses her very nature. This is clearly seen from the fact that the profession of the evangelical counsels is intimately connected with the mystery of Christ, and has the duty of making somehow present the way of life which Jesus himself chose and indicated as an absolute eschatological value. Jesus himself, by calling some men and women to abandon everything in order to follow him, established this type of life which, under the guidance of the Spirit, would gradually develop down the centuries into the various forms of the consecrated life.
The idea of a Church made up only of sacred ministers and lay people does not therefore conform to the intentions of her divine Founder, as revealed to us by the Gospels and the other writings of the New Testament. In the Church's tradition religious profession is considered to be a special and fruitful deepening of the consecration received in Baptism, inasmuch as it is the means by which the close union with Christ already begun in Baptism develops in the gift of a fuller, more explicit and authentic configuration to him through the profession of the evangelical counsels.
This further consecration, however, differs in a special way from baptismal consecration, of which it is not a necessary consequence. In fact, all those reborn in Christ are called to live out, with the strength which is the Spirit's gift, the chastity appropriate to their state of life, obedience to God and to the Church, and a reasonable detachment from material possessions: for all are called to holiness, which consists in the perfection of love. But Baptism in itself does not include the call to celibacy or virginity, the renunciation of possessions or obedience to a superior, in the form proper to the evangelical counsels.
The profession of the evangelical counsels thus presupposes a particular gift of God not given to everyone, as Jesus himself emphasizes with respect to voluntary celibacy cf. This call is accompanied, moreover, by a specific gift of the Holy Spirit, so that consecrated persons can respond to their vocation and mission. For this reason, as the liturgies of the East and West testify in the rite of monastic or religious profession and in the consecration of virgins, the Church invokes the gift of the Holy Spirit upon those who have been chosen and joins their oblation to the sacrifice of Christ.
Young people, the faith and vocational discernment
This can clearly be seen from the history of the consecrated life. As for priests who profess the evangelical counsels, experience itself shows that the Sacrament of Holy Orders finds a particular fruitfulness in this consecration, inasmuch as it requires and fosters a closer union with the Lord. The priest who professes the evangelical counsels is especially favoured in that he reproduces in his life the fullness of the mystery of Christ, thanks also to the specific spirituality of his Institute and the apostolic dimension of its proper charism.
In the priest, in fact, the vocation to the priesthood and the vocation to the consecrated life converge in a profound and dynamic unity. Also of immeasurable value is the contribution made to the Church's life by religious priests completely devoted to contemplation. Especially in the celebration of the Eucharist they carry out an act of the Church and for the Church, to which they join the offering of themselves, in communion with Christ who offers himself to the Father for the salvation of the whole world.
The different ways of life which, in accordance with the plan of the Lord Jesus, make up the life of the Church have mutual relationships which merit consideration. By virtue of their rebirth in Christ, all the faithful share a common dignity; all are called to holiness; all cooperate in the building up of the one Body of Christ, each in accordance with the proper vocation and gift which he or she has received from the Spirit cf.
Rom The equal dignity of all members of the Church is the work of the Spirit, is rooted in Baptism and Confirmation and is strengthened by the Eucharist. But diversity is also a work of the Spirit. It is he who establishes the Church as an organic communion in the diversity of vocations, charisms and ministries.
- Seeking the Peace of Christ: Christianity and Peacemaking.
- Nuclear Juggernaut: The transport of radioactive materials (Energy and Infrastructure Set).
- The Challenges and Opportunities of Young People in the World Today.
- Learn more about the Immigrant and Civil Rights Initiative:.
- POST-SYNODAL APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION VITA CONSECRATA?
- Reflections on the Readings for the Sundays in Advent and Lent;
These vocations are also at the service of one another, for the growth of the Body of Christ in history and for its mission in the world. Everyone in the Church is consecrated in Baptism and Confirmation, but the ordained ministry and the consecrated life each presuppose a distinct vocation and a specific form of consecration, with a view to a particular mission.
For the mission of the lay faithful, whose proper task is to "seek the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God",the consecration of Baptism and Confirmation common to all members of the People of God is a sufficient foundation. In addition to this basic consecration, ordained ministers receive the consecration of ordination in order to carry on the apostolic ministry in time.
Although these different categories are a manifestation of the one mystery of Christ, the lay faithful have as their specific but not exclusive characteristic, activity in the world; the clergy, ministry; consecrated men and women, special conformity to Christ, chaste, poor and obedient. Within this harmonious constellation of gifts, each of the fundamental states of life is entrusted with the task of expressing, in its own way, one or other aspect of the one mystery of Christ.
While the lay life has a particular mission of ensuring that the Gospel message is proclaimed in the temporal sphere, in the sphere of ecclesial communion an indispensable ministry is carried out by those in Holy Orders, and in a special way by Bishops. The latter have the task of guiding the People of God by the teaching of the word, the administration of the sacraments and the exercise of sacred power in the service of ecclesial communion, which is an organic communion, hierarchically structured.
As a way of showing forth the Church's holiness, it is to be recognized that the consecrated life, which mirrors Christ's own way of life, has an objective superiority. Precisely for this reason, it is an especially rich manifestation of Gospel values and a more complete expression of the Church's purpose, which is the sanctification of humanity.
The consecrated life proclaims and in a certain way anticipates the future age, when the fullness of the Kingdom of heaven, already present in its first fruits and in mystery,will be achieved, and when the children of the resurrection will take neither wife nor husband, but will be like the angels of God cf. The Church has always taught the pre-eminence of perfect chastity for the sake of the Kingdom,and rightly considers it the "door" of the whole consecrated life.
She also shows great esteem for the vocation to marriage, which makes spouses "witnesses to and cooperators in the fruitfulness of Holy Mother Church, who signify and share in the love with which Christ has loved his Bride and because of which he delivered himself up on her behalf". In this perspective, common to all consecrated life, there are many different but complementary paths. Men and women Religious completely devoted to contemplation are in a special way an image of Christ praying on the mountain.
Consecrated persons engaged in the active life manifest Christ "in his proclamation of the Kingdom of God to the multitudes, in his healing of the sick and the suffering, in his work of converting sinners to a better life, in his solicitude for youth and his goodness to all". Consecrated persons in Secular Institutes contribute in a special way to the coming of the Kingdom of God; they unite in a distinctive synthesis the value of consecration and that of being in the world.
As they live their consecration in the world and from the world,"they strive to imbue everything with an evangelical spirit for the strengthening and growth of the Body of Christ". For this purpose they share in the Church's evangelizing mission through their personal witness of Christian living, their commitment to ordering temporal affairs according to God's plan, and their cooperation in service of the ecclesial community, in accordance with the secular way of life which is proper to them.
A particular duty of the consecrated life is to remind the baptized of the fundamental values of the Gospel, by bearing "splendid and striking testimony that the world cannot be transfigured and offered to God without the spirit of the Beatitudes". The consecrated life thus continually fosters in the People of God an awareness of the need to respond with holiness of life to the love of God poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit cf. Rom , by reflecting in their conduct the sacramental consecration which is brought about by God's power in Baptism, Confirmation or Holy Orders.
In fact it is necessary to pass from the holiness communicated in the sacraments to the holiness of daily life. The consecrated life, by its very existence in the Church, seeks to serve the consecration of the lives of all the faithful, clergy and laity alike. Nor must it be forgotten that consecrated persons themselves are helped by the witness of the other vocations to live fully and completely their union with the mystery of Christ and the Church in its many different dimensions.
By virtue of this mutual enrichment, the mission of consecrated persons becomes more eloquent and effective: this mission is to remind their other brothers and sisters to keep their eyes fixed on the peace which is to come, and to strive for the definitive happiness found in God.
In the consecrated life, particular importance attaches to the spousal meaning, which recalls the Church's duty to be completely and exclusively devoted to her Spouse, from whom she receives every good thing. This spousal dimension, which is part of all consecrated life, has a particular meaning for women, who find therein their feminine identity and as it were discover the special genius of their relationship with the Lord.
A moving sign of this is seen in the New Testament passage which portrays Mary with the Apostles in the Upper Room, in prayerful expectation of the Holy Spirit cf. Acts We can see here a vivid image of the Church as Bride, fully attentive to her Bridegroom and ready to accept his gift. In Peter and the other Apostles there emerges above all the aspect of fruitfulness, as it is expressed in ecclesial ministry, which becomes an instrument of the Spirit for bringing new sons and daughters to birth through the preaching of the word, the celebration of the Sacraments and the giving of pastoral care.
In Mary the aspect of spousal receptivity is particularly clear; it is under this aspect that the Church, through her perfect virginal life, brings divine life to fruition within herself. This virginal love is the source of a particular fruitfulness which fosters the birth and growth of divine life in people's hearts. Following in the footsteps of Mary, the New Eve, consecrated persons express their spiritual fruitfulness by becoming receptive to the Word, in order to contribute to the growth of a new humanity by their unconditional dedication and their living witness.
Thus the Church fully reveals her motherhood both in the communication of divine grace entrusted to Peter and in the responsible acceptance of God's gift, exemplified by Mary. God's people, for their part, find in the ordained ministry the means of salvation, and in the consecrated life the incentive to make a full and loving response through all the different forms of Christian service.
In the episode of the Transfiguration, the Synoptic Gospels, with varying nuances, point out the fear which overcomes the disciples. Their fascination at the transfigured face of Christ does not prevent them from being fearful before the divine Majesty which overshadows them. Whenever human beings become aware of the glory of God, they also become aware of their own insignificance and experience a sense of fear.
Such fear is salutary. It reminds man of God's perfection, and at the same time urges him on with a pressing call to "holiness". All the sons and daughters of the Church, called by God to "listen to" Christ, necessarily feel a deep need for conversion and holiness. But, as the Synod emphasized, this need in the first place challenges the consecrated life. In fact the vocation of consecrated persons to seek first the Kingdom of God is first and foremost a call to complete conversion, in self-renunciation, in order to live fully for the Lord, so that God may be all in all.
Called to contemplate and bear witness to the transfigured face of Christ, consecrated men and women are also called to a "transfigured" existence. The Final Report of the Second Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops made a significant observation in this regard: "Holy men and women have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult circumstances throughout the Church's history.
Today we have a tremendous need of saints, for whom we must assiduously implore God. The Institutes of Consecrated Life, through the profession of the evangelical counsels, must be conscious of their special mission in today's Church, and we must encourage them in that mission". The Fathers of the Ninth Assembly of the Synod of Bishops echoed this conviction: "Throughout the Church's history, consecrated life has been a living presence of the Spirit's work, a kind of privileged milieu for absolute love of God and of neighbour, for witness to the divine plan of gathering all humanity into the civilization of love, the great family of the children of God".
The Church has always seen in the profession of the evangelical counsels a special path to holiness. It is not by chance that there have been so many consecrated persons down the centuries who have left behind eloquent testimonies of holiness and have undertaken particularly generous and demanding works of evangelization and service. In Christian discipleship and love for the person of Christ there are a number of points concerning the growth of holiness in the consecrated life which merit particular emphasis today. In the first place, there is the need for fidelity to the founding charism and subsequent spiritual heritage of each Institute.
It is precisely in this fidelity to the inspiration of the founders and foundresses, an inspiration which is itself a gift of the Holy Spirit, that the essential elements of the consecrated life can be more readily discerned and more fervently put into practice. Fundamental to every charism is a threefold orientation.
First, charisms lead to the Father, in the filial desire to seek his will through a process of unceasing conversion, wherein obedience is the source of true freedom, chastity expresses the yearning of a heart unsatisfied by any finite love, and poverty nourishes that hunger and thirst for justice which God has promised to satisfy cf. Consequently the charism of each Institute will lead the consecrated person to belong wholly to God, to speak with God or about God, as is said of Saint Dominic,so that he or she can taste the goodness of the Lord cf.
Ps in every situation. Secondly, the charisms of the consecrated life also lead to the Son, fostering an intimate and joyful communion of life with him, in the school of his generous service of God and neighbour. Thus the attitude of consecrated persons "is progressively conformed to Christ; they learn detachment from externals, from the tumult of the senses, from all that keeps man from that freedom which allows him to be grasped by the Spirit".
As a result, consecrated persons are enabled to take up the mission of Christ, working and suffering with him in the spreading of his Kingdom. Finally, every charism leads to the Holy Spirit, insofar as it prepares individuals to let themselves be guided and sustained by him, both in their personal spiritual journeys and in their lives of communion and apostolic work, in order to embody that attitude of service which should inspire the true Christian's every choice.
In fact it is this threefold relationship which emerges in every founding charism, though with the specific nuances of the various patterns of living. This is so because in every charism there predominates "a profound desire to be conformed to Christ to give witness to some aspect of his mystery". This specific aspect is meant to take shape and develop according to the most authentic tradition of the Institute, as present in its Rule, Constitutions and Statutes. Institutes of Consecrated Life are thus invited courageously to propose anew the enterprising initiative, creativity and holiness of their founders and foundresses in response to the signs of the times emerging in today's world.
This invitation is first of all a call to perseverance on the path of holiness in the midst of the material and spiritual difficulties of daily life.
- United Methodist Women - United Methodist Women: What We Do.
- Capaz de Matar (Spanish Edition);
- Sign Up for Our Newsletter.
- Le croci di pietra e altri racconti (Italian Edition)?
- Faith and Vocation, Discernment and Accompaniment!
But it is also a call to pursue competence in personal work and to develop a dynamic fidelity to their mission, adapting forms, if need be, to new situations and different needs, in complete openness to God's inspiration and to the Church's discernment. But all must be fully convinced that the quest for ever greater conformity to the Lord is the guarantee of any renewal which seeks to remain faithful to an Institute's original inspiration. In this spirit there is a pressing need today for every Institute to return to the Rule, since the Rule and Constitutions provide a map for the whole journey of discipleship, in accordance with a specific charism confirmed by the Church.
A greater regard for the Rule will not fail to offer consecrated persons a reliable criterion in their search for the appropriate forms of a witness which is capable of responding to the needs of the times without departing from an Institute's initial inspiration. The call to holiness is accepted and can be cultivated only in the silence of adoration before the infinite transcendence of God: "We must confess that we all have need of this silence, filled with the presence of him who is adored: in theology, so as to exploit fully its own sapiential and spiritual soul; in prayer, so that we may never forget that seeing God means coming down the mountain with a face so radiant that we are obliged to cover it with a veil cf.
Ex ; in commitment, so that we will refuse to be locked in a struggle without love and forgiveness. All, believers and non-believers alike, need to learn a silence that allows the Other to speak when and how he wishes, and allows us to understand his words". In practice this involves great fidelity to liturgical and personal prayer, to periods devoted to mental prayer and contemplation, to Eucharistic adoration, to monthly retreats and to spiritual exercises.
There is also a need to rediscover the ascetic practices typical of the spiritual tradition of the Church and of the individual's own Institute. These have been and continue to be a powerful aid to authentic progress in holiness. Asceticism, by helping to master and correct the inclinations of human nature wounded by sin, is truly indispensable if consecrated persons are to remain faithful to their own vocation and follow Jesus on the way of the Cross. It is also necessary to recognize and overcome certain temptations which sometimes, by diabolical deceit, present themselves under the appearance of good.
Thus, for example, the legitimate need to be familiar with today's society in order to respond to its challenges can lead to a surrender to passing fashions, with a consequent lessening of spiritual fervour or a succumbing to discouragement. The possibility of a deeper spiritual formation might lead consecrated persons to feel somehow superior to other members of the faithful, while the urgent need for appropriate and necessary training can turn into a frantic quest for efficiency, as if apostolic service depended primarily on human means rather than on God.
The praiseworthy desire to become close to the men and women of our day, believers and non-believers, rich and poor, can lead to the adoption of a secularized lifestyle or the promotion of human values in a merely horizontal direction. Sharing in the legitimate aspirations of one's own nation or culture could lead to embracing forms of nationalism or accepting customs which instead need to be purified and elevated in the light of the Gospel.
The path to holiness thus involves the acceptance of spiritual combat. This is a demanding reality which is not always given due attention today. Tradition has often seen an image of this spiritual combat in Jacob's wrestling with the mystery of God, whom he confronts in order to receive his blessing and to see him cf. Gen In this episode from the beginnings of biblical history, consecrated persons can recognize a symbol of the asceticism which they need in order to open their hearts to the Lord and to their brothers and sisters. Today a renewed commitment to holiness by consecrated persons is more necessary than ever, also as a means of promoting and supporting every Christian's desire for perfection.
To the degree that they deepen their friendship with God, consecrated persons become better prepared to help their brothers and sisters through valuable spiritual activities such as schools of prayer, spiritual exercises and retreats, days of recollection, spiritual dialogue and direction. In this way people are helped to grow in prayer and will then be better able to discern God's will in their lives and to commit themselves to the courageous and sometimes heroic demands which faith makes of them.
Consecrated persons "at the deepest level of their being It is to this holiness that they bear witness". The fact that all are called to become saints cannot fail to inspire more and more those who by their very choice of life have the mission of reminding others of that call. Like the three Apostles in the episode of the Transfiguration, consecrated persons know from experience that their lives are not always marked by the fervour which makes us exclaim: "It is well that we are here" Mt But it is always a life "touched" by the hand of Christ, a life where his voice is heard, a life sustained by his grace.
Obviously, the Master's encouragement is addressed to every Christian. All the more does it apply to those called to "leave everything" and thus to "risk everything" for Christ. This is particularly true whenever one descends from the "mountain" with the Master and sets off on the road which leads from Tabor to Calvary. It is a theme particularly dear to the spirituality of the consecrated life and well expresses its meaning.
It inevitably includes everything that pertains to the mysterium Crucis. But this difficult "exodus journey", when viewed from the perspective of Tabor, is seen to be a road situated between two lights: the anticipatory light of the Transfiguration and the definitive light of the Resurrection. From the standpoint of the Christian life as a whole, the vocation to the consecrated life is, despite its renunciations and trials, and indeed because of them, a path "of light " over which the Redeemer keeps constant watch: " Rise, and have no fear ".
During his earthly life, the Lord Jesus called those whom he wished in order to have them at his side and to train them to live, according to his example, for the Father and for the mission which he had received from the Father cf. We have more than started. We will not stop. The event featured several guest speakers, including Dr. Mireille Twayigira, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, and two sisters who are refugees from Homs, Syria, and work with Jesuit Refugee Service helping others forced to flee violence in their homeland.
Among the presenters at a panel discussion was Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization that sponsored the "Nuns on the Bus" tour in the United States. Sister Simone Campbell right speaks during the Voices of Faith gathering. To read the full text of Fr. This exhortation is a recurring theme in the Pope's speeches and is in line with a call for renewal in education which dates back to Mer et Monde: 20 years of international solidarity and a look into the future.
June 28, — This summer, Mer et Monde is highlighting two important events. First, its 20th anniversary, a significant milestone for an international solidarity organization. Mer et Monde also celebrates the work of Mireille Chilloux, who is retiring and leaving her position as Executive Director. In an interview, she shares plans to operate within English Canada and with indigenous communities across the country. Also known as the carmelite posture or the tailor's position.
Place the knees on a blanket, the tips of the toes slightly covering each other, then sit in the hollow of the heels. The knees can be together or spread out. Many beginners use a cushion in this posture which they slip between the heels and the buttocks. This makes the position less painful.
You can also use a small stool, or a wooden cube to sit on. For those who find it hard to use one of the above postures, it is certainly possible to meditate on a chair. Do not lean back, but sit on the front edge, legs perpendicular to the floor, the feet parallel, soles firmly placed flat, or cross the ankles, with the knees always lower than the pelvis, otherwise the vital center is not freed up. Every way of sitting requires a time of apprenticeship at the beginning. Our body, deformed by false attitudes which our sick spirit enforces upon it, will suffer in the first few months.
A whole reconditioning must take place. The joints will hurt, but this suffering must not be useless. Accepted and felt from within, it will become the junction of the body and the soul and take its place on the Way to the unity we seek. Soon this effort to sit in meditation will become more agreeable, will easily last longer, and will be taken without effort.
It will have become second nature, or rather an opportunity for our true nature to express itself fully! As soon as we are seated, we will feel our whole being relax, and a sensation of well-being set in. To the absolute immobility of the body will quickly correspond a surprising calm of the spirit and of the emotions. It becomes a true recollection in the deepest sense of the word. And eventually, this posture will reveal itself not only as that which is most restful, but as that which is most regenerative: open to the mysterious forces of Being, we will leave our meditation with a new vitality.
The way of holding one's hands is very important. They are in a way the prolongation of our consciousness. We can place them in different ways, of course, but you will notice, confirming thousands of years of experience, to what extent inner attention is increased when the fingers of the left hand rest on the fingers of the right hand, or vice versa if you are left handed. The thumbs, placed horizontally, lightly touch each other and form with the fingers a sphere, the symbol of the celestial world; the forearms rest on the top of the thighs, the sides of the hands in contact with the abdomen.
It is most important that the shoulders fall normally in perfect relaxation, the elbows supple. The whole creates a large cup, symbol of the inner cup, ready to receive that which must die and give birth to new forms of being. The magnetic field of this microcosm which is our body is thus closed by the hands and the feet: the energy can then circulate freely. They are to remain, if possible, partly closed during meditation. This will seem difficult for those who are in the habit of closing them, but one can get use to this quickly.
The masters say that there is practically no progress when we meditate with our eyes closed. Moreover, sleep can often take over, along with distractions of all kinds and daydreaming. Maintaining contact with the exterior world helps to stabililize the body. So, with your eyes half open, eyelids relaxed, a neutral look placed on a point approximately a yard ahead, we fix our gaze on nothing, letting our attention go inward. This is the most essential aspect of sitting in meditation. To sit up straight usually means for most of us sticking out the chest and holding in the stomach because we have lost our center of gravity and live on the surface of ourselves.
This posture is taught in all the armies of the world and those other barracks we call schools. For violence is only possible whether in scholastic competition or under gunfire when we are expulsed from our Self toward the small and frightened self, where eliminating the other becomes the law of survival. We must therefore rediscover the right posture with our center of gravity in the stomach. The simplest way, once seated, with our hands properly placed, is to lean forward, then reconstruct the vertical position from its base, beginning at the level of the coccyx, rising one vertebrae at a time.
Coming to the head, we then pull the spinal column up and let it sit on itself, vertebrae on vertebrae, without sinking toward the bottom or becoming rigid at the top. The spinal cord is straight but supple. The neck is a crucial area. If it leans forward or backward too much, it breaks the continuity of the vertical position and inhibits the descent into the self. In order to keep it in line with the spinal cord, you simply need to bring in the chin a little and not lose the contact between the top and back of the head and the ceiling or sky.
Rooted in the sky, rooted in the earth, such is our constitution as human being. It is this rooting in the earth which we must now work with. The vertical position rests on a foundation. As long as it is not solid, the rest is very fragile. Taking root in the earth depends entirely on a letting go at the top: we must first release and relax in depth in the neck and shoulders at the beginning of each expiration. This letting go of oneself is automatically followed by a great movement of confidence toward the lower: at the end of the expiration, we are literally sitting in our belly, which in its turn expands, relaxes, and roots itself deeper and deeper.
If the expiration is gently but firmly directed toward the lower parts, without any effort, the lower stomach will easily free itself. In prolonging the expiration at the end of its normal course, the abdominal inner wall is lightly tensed, which allows us to feel a force in the entire pelvic region. This stability of the whole is now unshakeable, in its center of gravity, and the whole person can now relax from top to bottom. The proper vertical position is not rigid like a broom handle, but supple in a way which allows the spinal cord to gravitate around a fine point from which life arises.
There is a simple way to find it which consists in moving back and forth several times with the whole of the spinal cord, in rhythm with our breathing. The movement diminishes progressively and stops of its own in a space of several millimeters without ever losing either its vertical position nor the contact of the head with the sky. In this little space, this mysterious point, we feel a true well-being, a life which invades the whole body from its center. If we are too far forward or backward, rigid at the top or slumped toward the bottom, everything is dead, as each person will quickly discover.
To believe that all this puts too much importance on the physical would be to hold to a deadly dualism of body and soul. It is true that centuries of spiritual ideologies and theological concepts have not helped us to live in the humility of our body! Yet it is through the body that I am: my body is myself, my way of being in the world. Even in the least gesture I can perceive something of my interiority, just as, inversely, any gesture, attitude or action has a profound influence on my inner universe and can become an occasion to shape me on the Way.
The body therefore always expresses either a right way of being there, or a false way of being there. It is false when it inhibits, by all the tensions in the upper part of the body, the contact with Being and the possibility for Its manifestation; it is right when it allows a letting go of the dominating self and an openness to the fullness of Being.
If the exercise of the right attitude is properly followed, it leads to a "whole evolution of the person which signifies much more than a new way of holding oneself," writes Durckheim. Anchoring oneself little by little in a deeper foundation brings about a fundamental change. It expresses itself in a new way of seeing and accepting the world, in bearing suffering, in a new way of living The Hara, the belly, opens an access to Being.
We are conformed to our essential being and fulfill it. We can take on the habit of living from this deeper center, whatever the circumstances, and it eventually becomes intolerable to give ourselves over again to the palpitations of the little surface self. We only enter into the right attitude through the proper tension of the whole person through the body which we are. Right tension means a harmonious relationship between tension and relaxation.
This is where we can best observe the difference between the body which we are and the body which we have. There is a great gulf between saying "I have tension in my arm" and "I am tensed in my arm. These are two different visions of what it means to be human and everything changes radically according to which one we are inspired by. Consider the enormous revisions in medicine and education under these new relationships!
A tension in one part of the body is always a blockage on the inner Way, for it reveals a personality distortion, a contraction of the self on acquired positions or a subconscious desire to affirm ourselves against our fears and insecurities. These kinds of tensions are innumerable, as varied as the circumstances of life and the people we come upon. A trifle can throw some people into the most tenacious contractions: obsession, unappeased desire, resentment, irritation Everyone takes their own particular poison.
But whatever the tension, even the slightest one, it affects the entire person and inhibits transformation. Most of the time, it is an ensemble of tensions, more or less latent, sometimes very old, but constantly maintained, which forms the enclosure of a self forever preoccupied, centered in the top part of the body, far from any liberating confidence and begetting an utterly petrified existence.
To relax a part of the body always means to let go of everything which is the expression of a person centered only on the egocentric self, and results in an increasing release from captivity as the contact with one's essential being is rediscovered. This contact is a slow but incessant maturation which is never fully completed. Inasmuch as I have learned to let go of all the tensions and fixations within, I witness the birth of a new form which must immediately be protected from the temptation of a new hardening through a letting go forever renewed.
That is how I enter into the wheel of metamorphosis where this maturation is characterized by a permanent transformation of forms which die and are reborn in the great movement of life, along the rhythm of the breath. If we live this process consciously, we are in this vivifying harmony of tension-relaxation which is the secret dynamism of all existence, carrying it to its ultimate realization through the manifestation of Being in all our attitudes. Nothing will then stop us on the Way and each moment which presents itself is for us THE best occasion for progress.
Life only takes on meaning in and through this continual maturing. Right attitude, proper tension and breathing form a whole, interpenetrating each other in a growing fusion which engages the whole person on another level. Though they must be treated here separately, it must be understood that relaxation, as with these other actions, is not an exercise of the body which would do some good for the spirit but an entirely other requirement; only experience will confirm this.
The techniques of relaxation are many. To receive a sensation in its pure state, without interpretation, creates an immediate disconnection in the nerve centers, silencing the soul and the body. Psychosomatic research has obtained surprising results, healing neurosis of all kinds and even some paralysis.
This is the scientific resurgence of the ancient but formidable intuitions of the Desert Fathers who came through the silence of body and soul to that "inviolable sovereign liberty" John Cassian. What does this mean for us? Once in sitting position, perfectly Still, become conscious of your breathing for a few moments.
Breathe slowly and deeply. Then go through the whole body, from head to toe, by feeling from within one part then another and relax each place as you breathe out. This may seem difficult at first since the ability to feel in this way is completely atrophied in some people. But the capacity for interior perception refines itself very quickly and deepens at every session. Even if we feel nothing right away, the process of relaxation brings benefits from the very first attempt. This does not mean jumping quickly from one part of the body to another, but going to each part, from its surface to its depths, from exterior toward interior, and remaining there We begin with the head.
I feel my scalp like a hood Simply feeling Releasing the eyebrows In breathing out, feel the nose One can feel in a certain way the relaxation which expiration brings to the eyes. Feel your cheeks from within Relax all the many little muscles in the contour of your lips Relax the jaws. Keep the lips together. The result of this relaxation of the forehead, eyes and jaws is an almost invisible smile. It is a smile that we see on the face of saints and sages, and also on the face of the dead for they have finally completely let go. This interior smile must not leave during the whole meditation.
Good relaxation of the tongue also affects the whole organism. Be sure that it is not tensed against the palate. Feel your tongue Relax the throat, for it is often knotted up by anxiety or simply because we never cease speaking to ourselves. Let go! Upon expiration, go to the back of the neck, that area so important for our interior development. It is there that the enormous tensions of our arrogant self go to crystallize, along with the tensions of the self which continually seeks to protect itself.
You can feel this like a board between the shoulders or through a stiff neck as the Bible calls it. Let go of yourself from that false protection, open all that part of the top of the backbone right between the shoulders. Feel the relaxation Then relax the shoulders by trying to feel them deeply from within, in all their length and breadth. This does not mean pushing them down mechanically, but simply letting go of yourself in the shoulder.
Now feel the weight of the arms slide gently toward the elbows right into the forearms and the hands. Repeat the movement several times. Feel your arms getting heavier and heavier, warmer and warmer as they relax completely. Let go of yourself in the hands, inside the hands Afterwards, feel the two arms at the same time, from the neck to the hands like a big circle, always heavier and more relaxed with each expiration Then, without ever sinking down, relax your back. On every expiration, feel the whole back dialate, relaxing on both sides of the spinal cord Do the same in the chest.
Feel it breathe It is as if it opened in the center and everything expands and relaxes more and more. Feel it Now feel the circumference of the belly area. Let it expand, becoming larger and larger, like the foundations of a pyramid. Let go of the lower stomach region It is heavy, as though filled with lead, expanding Feel the sitting position, the muscles of the buttocks Then, as with the arms, feel the weight of the legs slide slowly toward the knees, through the calves, to the very ends of the feet Feel your legs becoming heavier and heavier, warmer and warmer, relaxed Repeat this movement several times, as needed.
Advocacy and Education
You can focus on each leg individually, as with each arm. This might be easier for beginners. Some practitioners relax only the right arm and this relaxation, when it is well done and done completely, acts by osmosis on the rest of the body, revealing our interior unity. Once you have gone through your body, feel it all at once, from within. Relax completely as you breathe out, always in perfect immobility and with good posture. This exercise of relaxation can be done systematically at the beginning of each meditation.
With the beginner, this will take perhaps fifteen or twenty minutes; but as you progress, it will only require a few moments. You need to begin with this effort, if you can, for our attention is in direct proportion to relaxation and it is this alone which allows the focus of our entire being.
We now come to the doorway of meditation. The ways of approach are many. One must seek, experiment, and eventually everyone find his or her path, guided by their own inner force. Once we have attained a certain depth and well-being, the exercise of relaxation can become meditation. It must not be reduced to a simple technique. As experience will show, it leads nowhere to consider the different parts of one's body from the exterior as objects and seek to relax them! We must develop the habit of entering into our body with all our consciousness, remain in the heaviness of our members a long time without resistance; there, we must taste the body that we are, perceive with all our being the profound change which slowly enters into our way of being present: the absence of boundaries, the exclusion of the dominating self, the unusual warmth of the body, the feeling of a mysterious Force which carries us and sustains us, the impression of total surrender.
I no longer belong to myself and yet I am more myself than ever, intensely recollected in myself and yet connected to the whole universe This is an openness of our entire being to that which transcends it infinitely, as though we had responded to the secret but permanent invitation of the breath of the Spirit in the depths of our heart: "Ephatha, be opened" Mark Indeed, the depth of each sensation is a recreation of oneself, a veritable march toward liberty, that is, the awakening of the person beneath the ashes of the little self.
Far from a simple muscular release, relaxation opens the doors of the inner mystery and offers the body as a place of covenant with God. The body is meant for the Lord Do you not know that you are a temple of God? But, if it is true that our body is the sanctuary of the divine Presence, we can say with saint Gregory of Palamas that we are "flesh of His Flesh and bones of His bones We do not encounter him in abstractions or words: "Do not heap up empty phrases" says the Christ Mtt , "Touch me! If he has in fact come out of the insurmountable Abyss which "no eye has seen, nor ear heard," it is precisely in order to become flesh and to assimilate himself to us so that we might "see His Majesty with our own eyes" 2Peter , "hear him with our own ears" Mtt and 16 , "touch him with our hands" 1John , feel him with our whole being and let ourselves be seized by Him.
This meditation through feeling goes from the exterior toward the interior, from our surface toward our depths. The sensation is ephemeral: it appears and disappears, lasts only a fraction of a second, but like the wave is linked to the immense depths of the entire ocean. So too is the sensation linked to the infinite of our inner consciousness and, if we remain within it, leads us into the sensation of the Divine As fire penetrates iron, the latter keeps its substance but becomes and realizes the fire which inhabits it and literally trans-figures it.
This marvelous parable used for the first time by saint Macarius the Elder resonates through the Christian tradition, from East to West. Today as yesterday, Christ invites us to climb the holy Mountain and enter with him into the divine fire. Meditation concretely opens the path. We are born by receiving the first breath and die by giving up the last. Life is in the breath; it is the breath of life. Beneath our words is hidden the sin of division and the preeminence of the rational in our culture: soul, breath, wind, Spirit-so many different expressions, yet they are all contained in the Hebrew term ruah.
The Bible has no complexes in speaking of breath, in opening at the same time the door to an abyss of mystery. And reciprocally, in speaking of Spirit, it does not fear expressing by that term the One who animates the very least breath in the nostrils of humanity! We are far from these fundamental realities because we only see things in fragments, outside of their totality, reducing everything to a function.
We have made of the most vital act, breathing, an institution by which we provide ourselves with air! While in fact it is the great movement of life which gives itself and recovers itself, a perpetual movement of transformation which, in one beat, gives birth to a new form of being and, in another, lets die the particular forms of our little conceited self. It takes much practice to really understand that it is not we who breathe, but that Life breathes in us without our doing anything about it. When we feel this for the first time, it is one of the most striking experiences of the great Force which inhabits us and maintains us in life without our intervention.
We live only because the breath of God penetrates us constantly, as it penetrates all that exists; there is not a cell in our body which is not animated by this creative and vivifying Presence. Breathing can become a place of ineffable exchange, filled with Love. We must become conscious of this in meditation, not by fixing or analyzing, which would create a distance, but in joining with this movement of life, letting ourselves be seized by it, to be able to really hear in silence how each of our expirations, depending on how much we surrender ourselves in it, leads us to the hidden sources of our deeper being and there re-creates us in a new inspiration.
This death-birth, this incessant movement, will progressively lead us into an indescribable fullness, and if we are faithful to it, essential being will invade us with its presence. Correspondingly, inspiration is not a simple physical process, pumping in air, but a column of light, a kind of liberty in plenitude, which gives itself back as soon as it has reached its summit.
Breathing goes from one pole to the other and encompasses the whole person. We discover through this experience a growing joy as we begin to feel our belonging to the Great Life which calls us into existence, maintains us in it, and can transform us com1pletely. In this potential is found our true freedom! Cut off from our roots, we live only from our artificial autonomy and no longer have this original confidence which gives Life.
The self, always on the defensive, protects itself from all risks and tragedies: it surrounds itself with a thousand-and-one securities. So it is with our breathing. We seek to do it on our own instead of receiving it in a spontaneous and natural arising. We then appropriate it to ourselves, raise it toward the upper part of the body in the sphere of willfullness, and reduce it to being a little air pump. The diaphragm, this great mediator of deep breathing, falls into immobility and atrophies.
Our center is displaced toward the head and our breathing now comes only through the clavicle, the ribs, and the auxiliary muscles. This unconscious blockage of our breathing in the upper part of the body is of the same order as all the tensions and contractions which we have already mentioned: it is a distortion of the whole person, cut off from his or her depths. It is an obstacle on the inner Way, which only an always renewed letting go can overcome. When we first observe our breathing, it is easy to see how difficult, if not impossible, it is at the beginning not to let our will, our self, interfere in an area which should not be under its dominion.
The rhythm is soon broken, becomes irregular, often to the point of suffocation! This is when we become conscious of the unnatural blockage of our breathing. This is already a first step, even if it is humiliating. But it will be a long road to rebuild the bridges broken off from the deeper layers of our being, to rediscover the roots with this part of ourselves that is beyond the grasp of our will. The letting go must be such that all intervention of the willful self has to be eliminated, so that breathing can be done of its own, without resistance.
In awaiting this event, which will be a giant step on the Way, we unconsciously continue to restrict our expiration, to stop it before it is completed, and to want to keep in a residue of air. This clearly reveals our fear of death, of expiring, and of sinking definitely into the anguish of annihilation. This fear of releasing the final breath inhibits us from waiting for a new inspiration to be given to us and receiving it with gratitude, freely, as a gift of love.
We take it in lustfully, possessing it, "doing" it, instead of letting it be done. This is a manipulation of the movement of life and an obstacle to transformation. Simply consenting to expiration already represents a prodigious state of inner freedom; we give ourselves over, consciously and completely, to our death. The quality of each inspiration depends on the depths of'our giving over of self, that is, on the capacity to become a new creature and to be utterly transformed. For most of us, only the final expiration will be perfect and will crown all the others, as the letting go and surrender of self will be complete.
We then enter into the Life. Our breathing is not an isolated function, but the expression of the whole person. A person's way of breathing expresses his or her general attitude toward life. This means that no breathing exercise will free us from inner blocks and be transforming if we do not radically change our attitude toward ourselves. I am my breathing. But to become conscious of it, other than from the exterior as an object, we cannot use our ordinary consciousness. Life is only discovered by living it from within.
An Outline of Faith (Catechism) | Church of the Epiphany
This means that the self must die and let go-and with it our habitual consciousness-in order to give birth, through meditation, to a new form of consciousness which, instead of observing and ascertaining, experiences life and breathing from within. We then know our breathing because we are literally born with it! We are our breathing in the true sense of the word, and to the extent that this inner perception becomes communion, it will profoundly transform us.
This birth opens us to our origin, there where we become ourselves and enter into genesis John 3. Here we can receive and feel the power which comes from the depths of our being and understand to what extent we are strangers to ourselves. Opaqueness then gives way to transparence; the essential being awakens and becomes the true source of our blossoming. Our center is no longer in the head but in the depths.
It is a consciousness-cup, intuitive, receiving, and perceiving everything with all the fibers of our being. Persons who live in this way find themselves on the Way, in a new vital impulse, a joy and freedom which lets them feel their belonging to transcendental reality. The sensation, then the experience, of Being are now possible, thanks to the death of the little dominating self. We are there at the heart of all life: death-birth. This is the secret heartbeat inscribed in the essence of all creation and animating every living creature in a becoming which is always renewed.
The different phases of this transformation are manifested in the rhythm of each breath. When breathing is no longer deformed by all our tensions and can evolve naturally in a good relaxation of the body, its relationship is three-to-one. Expiration has three phases, the third one being situated between expiration and inspiration. Its profound significance is that which we have described and which must now be lived consciously during meditation: 1 letting go - 2 giving oneself - 3 surrendering; then inspiration: 4 rebirth.
These are the four stages of the movement of metamorphosis, which are lived as a single impetus seizing our whole being, body-soul-spirit, to liberate it of all that inhibits its transparence and to allow the advent of the Wholly Other. With every turn of the wheel, each breath contains the whole density of the Way, which stretches across all of life and never ceases to deepen, to reveal its mystery, to allow new discoveries.
In other words, the practice of meditation is a permanent exercise, a global attitude in daily life, where each occasion reveals itself as the best one to advance on the Way. Meditation is the only place where is fashioned the tool of continual vigilance, that which Durckheim called "the state of critical watchfulness. Indeed, we do not know "the day or the hour" when Being will visit us, and we must watch continuously that nothing hinders its coming.
This kind of "watchfulness" arouses in the experience of the present moment such a keenness, an acute sensitivity toward that which is false and blocks our advance on the Way, that it immediately provokes a letting go, through which all meditation begins. After going through the body to relax it from head to foot, feel yourself for several moments throughout your body all at once. When the body is perfectly still, become conscious of how it breathes, the slow and deep movement of the diaphragm which comes and goes. Be a passive witness to it.
Seek to enter with your consciousness into the expiration, to unite with it in a way, consenting to it more and more, accepting it. The letting go takes place at the beginning of each expiration and occurs especially in the nape and the shoulders, the upper part of the body, during the whole length of the meditation. Let go in the shoulders. All our tensions are ultimately crystallized in this area where we are fixed and settled in our self. Let go. At the beginning of the expiration, you might say "let go" or "I am letting myself go" as you feel it happen.
We all know the exceptional power of a word repeated during relaxation. It increases that which we seek to obtain. But after several weeks or months of regular practice, a certain inner maturity will make us understand that we no longer need the expression. We will prefer to live in silence, in a simple contemplation of our breathing. It is important to repeat that we must not let the shoulders fall, but let oneself go in the shoulders, let go of oneself as a person centered and contracted in this upper part of our body, letting go of all that blocks our inner evolution.
This letting go is a true death to a particular I in order to live more fully. It is a burial, a journey through our inner desert, sometimes long and painful like all the Easters where we leave one way of life for another. But between the two we must undertake the journey, letting go until we are utterly stripped, until we have reached the realization of the beatitude of "the poor in spirit" Matthew This is to become a poor person, whom Meister Eckhart described as "one who needs nothing, knows noth ing, and has nothing.
Nothing to give, nothing to take. Only to be here in all simplicity, yet wealthy with inexhaustible possibilities, being poor in the true sense of the word. All religious experience tells us this: to be absolutely nothing is to be everything. When we possess something, this something will keep all else from entering.
Meister Eckhart expressed this in a wonderful way:. For God did not intend for this man to have in him a place reserved for [God's] action, since true poverty of spirit requires that man be empty of God and of all his creation so that, if God wants to act in the soul, it is the man himself who must be the place in which [God] acts. This is what God would like. For if God once found a person as poor as this, he would take responsibility for his own action, because God then acts in himself. It is here, in this poverty, that man recovers the eternal being which he once was, which he is and will be forever.
Is not Mary the prototype of such a person? She is full of grace because she has responded fully to the call which resonates throughout the Bible, from the days of Abraham-"Go, leave your country" Genesis -to the rich young man "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess" Matthew Only a complete letting go creates the unique condi tion for entering the kingdom, and no one can become a disciple of Christ without renouncing everything Luke For "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven" Matthew With this first step, we enter into this call in an intimate way.
I must first feel in a very realistic way what is occurring in my body when I begin to let go of my security systems in which I have settled. This is what our father Abraham felt when he took his first step into the burning sands of the desert in order to leave everything behind. Consciousness descends from its pedestal to enter further into the depths of being, accompanying expiration which ends in the lower stomach.
The tensions and contractions in the body reveal a lack of confidence and fear in the face of life. They are the traces of innumerable repressions, sexual and otherwise, the sign of a closure to the cosmic and universal forces which inhabit and transcend us. From that perspective, is it an exaggeration to say that a contracted stomach is a major obstacle on the interior Path? So you must let your lower stomach expand: it relaxes, takes root more and more in the earth with its weight, and allows the hara, the center of gravity, to take shape.
As we have said, the abdominal wall can be slightly stretched and the expiration gently but firmly directed toward the lower parts without any effort. To do this, prolong the first two or three expirations. The sensation of being in our hara, of feeling this force, comes very quickly and progressively engenders a new attitude in us.