One cannot explain spiritual growth for the lay person as easily as one can for the religious simply because the Rule of Benedict, or any rule is objective. Therefore, if one is obeying a simple command, or following carefully the duties of the day in a reflective and humble manner, a religious can somewhat judge by conscience the inner workings of the Holy Spirit. The layperson does not have a rule as such, except, perhaps the Beatitudes and the guidelines in the epistles on love. The point is rather complicated by the fact that the active life has to be lived in an life where things are out of our control-there is no rule.
One thing I noticed was that unless there is contemplation and reflection behind action, the action is useless in and of itself. In other words, caritas, that is love, must inform everything we do. I am to do a series on some of the things I learned about the ability, the skill to pray and work, moving towards contemplation and meditation in the lay life.
If my readers remember the series on the Pope's encyclical on love, I tried to highlight the need to move naturally from one stage to the next. In the monastery, the focus allows one to move quickly in a shorthand manner to accomplish the stages of the purgative, illuminative, and finally, unitive stage. As lay people, you and I can move as well into these stages by allowing the sufferings in our lives to be real and effective. We do not avoid suffering, but accept it as a mortification in order to become humble and pliable to God's Will. In the next few weeks, I shall try and make some progress in showing the connections between the monastic spirituality I experienced and our way of life.
Why do I want to do this? Because we are all called to perfection in order to see God. Only the perfect are allowed into the presence of God.
In the next post, I shall try and explain how the purgative state, which is obvious in the monastic life, happens more organically in the lay life, but cannot be ignored if the benefits of sufferings are to lead us to the next levels.