Darkness is Not Dark to You, O Lord


If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me, and the light around me turn to night,”  darkness is not dark to you, O Lord; the night is as bright as the day; darkness and light to you are both alike. (Psalm 139:10,11. The Book of Common Prayer,. p. 116).

There are many contradictions (or paradoxes if you prefer), that inspire thought and devotion.  One of those is darkness and light.  Western philosophy historically, has suggested that there is nothing good about night time, because of the darkness.  How many crime shows on TV show depict an assailant operating in the dark?

For Monastics, darkness has a very different meaning.

The office of Vigils [or Matins] consecrates the hours of the night, creating a spirit of expectancy.  In the quiet hours before dawn, the stillness around us pervades our minds and hearts.  We wait prayerfully for the coming of the Lord as we watch and long for the coming of dawn.

We watch because it is characteristic of lovers to watch for the return of the beloved. (Monastic Practices. Charles Cummings, OCSO, p. 132).

Darkness is an opportunity to wait with faith and anticipation to what God will do.  Darkness is not to God, because light and darkness are both alike.  What human beings cannot see or do in the darkness; God can do things in any shade of darkness or light that can go unnoticed.  The hymn writer Natalie Sleeth wrote: “There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.”

Darkness can be more than what we see.  Darkness can be any pain or suffering.  Darkness can be in the shape of an addiction that is too difficult to talk about and/or face.  Darkness can be in the form of a sick child or a relationship coming to an end.  Yet, even in those dark moments God is our one hope that brings light into that darkness.  Even if the illness is not healed, the lost lover does not return, or the individual with the addiction falls again and again.

If we ever needed a symbol of a darkness through which God gave the greatest light to the world, look not further than the Cross.



Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Seek! Knock! Find!


“So I say to you, ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened” (New King James Bible.  Matthew 11:9).

It is much too easy to interpret these words of Jesus recorded in Matthew as referring to God, the mighty vending machine. At the same time, we all know what it is to put some coins into a vending machine and not get what we wanted.  We may walk away from the vending machine angry that it took our money and did not give us what we asked; but, I don’t know of anyone who holds a grudge against a vending machine.  I have met my share of people who hold a grudge towards God because they did not receive what they asked in prayer.  In some cases, their feelings were legitimate.  I knew of one woman who just could no longer believe in God because in her mind, God took her husband.

The purpose of prayer is not to get what we want.  Prayer deepens our relationship with God and one another.  The best answer to prayer we can receive is the grace of God through faith.  The grace of God that holds us up when life is too complicated.  The grace of God to accept whatever answer we get; even if it is something we cannot understand.  We do not have to understand anything.  In fact, in most situations we cannot understand it.  All we can do is embrace it as our cross that helps us to follow the Lord’s will as we ask, seek and knock so that we may be guided towards God’s will more and more.  God’s answer to us in prayer, may be to rely more on God as our only source, and let “things” go.


Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God


The heavens appear to be too complicated for a simple reflection.  All of the matter, energy and elements that make up what is millions of light years away can hardly be comprehended by us tiny human beings.  Yet, their complexity is exactly why they are perfect for a simple reflection.

Thomas Merton in writing about The Rule of St. Benedict in his book Initiation into the Monastic Tradition writes extensively about our false sense of self.   Our false sense of self is what causes us to think that our whole essence is about knowing everything, being comfortable with everything and/or being approved of, etc.  While the technological advances of the last decade are nothing short of miraculous; their detriment is in how much they can aid us in being entrenched into our false sense of self.  The remedy that St. Benedict offers us, Thomas Merton tells us, is in Chapter 7 of The Rule, on humility.  Humility is about seeing ourselves as we really are, and living more deeply into a bonded relationship with God and others.  This kind of humility is to help us to learn that even in the midst of conflict and difficulty, our one constant reality worthy of our devotion and reverence is God.

The heavens show us the glory of God that is in our darkest moments, through which the beauty and wonder of God’s will for us shines through in both small and great ways.  We may not be able to name every item in the heavens, but what we are able to see helps us know that we are not the center of the universe.  In fact, we are one very small being.  Yet as the Psalmist writes:

“When I look up at your skies, at what your fingers made–the moon and the stars that you set firmly in place–what are human beings that you think about them; what are human beings that you pay attention to them?  You’ve made them only slightly less than divine, crowning them with glory and grandeur” (Psalm 8:3-4 The Common English Bible).


Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

The Spring and The Stream


When Thomas Merton writes of “the spring and the stream” he uses an effective image to illustrate this [the desert and the market place].   Unless the waters of the spring are living and flow outward, the spring becomes only a stagnant pool.  If the stream loses contact with the spring which is its course, it dries up. Contemplation is the spring of living water; action is the stream that flows out from it to others.  But the water is of course the same in both. This is equally true for us.  If action is out of touch with an interior source of prayer it eventually become arid and barren, and we find ourselves the victims of busyness, frenetic over-activity.  But conversely, if our prayer becomes cut off form action it is cut off from life. Here is the equilibrium of contemplation and action.  (Esther de Waal.  Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality. p.106).

The quote above from Esther de Waal’s book is from one of many she wrote about Benedictine Spirituality.  Whether one wishes to enter a monastic community for vowed life or oblation, one of the authors you will be directed to is Esther de Waal.   The imagery she uses to explain things is outstanding.  The quote above is only one of many that I could chose to write about.

The world in which we live is so full of division and separation.  Us vs. them.  Rich or poor.  Win or lose.  Work or play.  It is a world of either or.  Esther de Waal introduces the reader to St. Benedict’s Spirituality of contradictions working in harmony with one another.  Benedictine Spirituality is about both/and.  Just as the spring needs the stream, so the stream needs the spring.  The earth needs both water and dry land.

Our spiritual lives are made more simple when we accept contradictions as a means towards a holier life.  What is on the surface lives because of what is below.  Our life as Christians who follow Jesus are made more transparent as we allow Him to speak to our interior life.  What we listen to in the silence of our hearts as the Holy Spirit speaks, finds its meaning in what we do.  The two are not separate.  They work in concert with each other.  Just like the spring and the stream.


Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Listen. Incline the Ear of the Heart


Of all the words in The Rule of St. Benedict, these two are most important.   “Listen….. incline the ear of your heart.”  They are also the most challenging.

I think we all know how easy it is to say: “I am listening” when someone calls our attention to the fact that we are not.  Perhaps our spouse is nagging us about that something we have been putting off.  Suddenly, she/he will say: “Are you listening?”  In our defense we reply: “Of course.”   Yet, deep in our hearts we know that we are only saying that we are listening.  What we have really done is turned off our hearts.  We’ve heard the nag before.  We just don’t want to hear it again.  We are hearing them, but not really listening.

St. Benedict knows how easy it is to listen with only our physical ears.  St. Benedict wants us to take listening to God to a deeper dimension.  Whenever we talk about “the heart” in Christian Spirituality, we are referring to the whole of self.   St. Benedict tells us to listen by inclining the whole of ourselves so that we can receive the loving message of God without tuning God out.  Yes, there is some effort on our part being requested here.  How sincere are we about making that effort?

How do we know that someone we love has actually listened to us?   Because they make an effort to change.  The barriers that were there while it appeared that we were talking to a brick wall, are now down.  The dust and mortar are all gone.  A heart that was stone cold and immovable, is changing and revealing a new way of life.

St. Benedict wants us to remove those barriers that keep us from listening to God.   He tells us of the way back to God through the “labor of obedience.”  When we incline the ear of our hearts; which means we make the effort on our part to really pay attention to God, the healing and reconciliation of broken relationships is closer to us than we had previously thought.   We can live more simply, and contemplate God’s wonders.

Let us listen to God today by inclining the ear of our hearts.  Our loving God has awesome things to tell us.


Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Let Us Contemplate God

“Let us contemplate God in our thoughts and with our mind’s eye reflect upon the peaceful and restrained unfolding of His plan; let us consider the care with which He provides for the whole of His Creation”  (Pope Clement in a Letter to the Corinthians, The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume IV,. p.439).


There are many things we can contemplate.  The mountains that are so high that our eyes cannot grasp their actual size.  The sky that seems so close is really so far away from us.  The land with its trees so green and grass so graceful.  The rivers and streams with their living and moving waters and all that is alive in them.

All of these things have their beauty and ability to capture our imaginations.  Yet, none of these things come close to the opportunity to contemplate God.   In these brief words by Pope Clement, we are invited to think with the eye of the mind how much God must love us all.  All of this resonates with what St. Benedict wrote in the Prologue of The Rule.  “Listen to the Master’s instructions.  Incline the ear of your heart.”   These words and the reflection by Pope Clement invite us to a renewed view of things from God’s point of view.   Seeing things from the point of how God sees them is the goal of contemplative prayer.  In contemplative prayer, we see through the eyes of faith passed what is created by viewing all things from the perspective of the Creator.   Our view even then will be very limited, because our vision is impaired by the fact that we need God’s perspective to see more completely what is veiled from sight   The great gift in contemplative prayer is that we receive through faith God’s grace for a singular moment in time what is known and understood beyond time and space.  Yet, it pierces the most stubborn of hearts.   It releases all the anger we use to limit ourselves, and liberates us to live into our true selves with simplicity and hope.

Today, may we contemplate God.


Br. Anselm King-Lowe, n/OSB