O God, Make Speed to Save Us

St.JohnCassian

O God, make speed to save us.  O Lord, make haste to help us. (The Book of Common Prayer, p.117).

In The Conferences by St. John Cassian, The Tenth Conference on Prayer, Abba Isaac said of the words above:

Not without reason has this verse been selected from out of the whole body of Scripture.  For it takes up all the emotions that can be applied to human nature and with great correctness and accuracy it adjusts itself to every condition and every attack.  It contains an invocation of God in the face of any crisis, the humility of a devout confession, a consciousness of one’s own frailty that assurance of being heard and confidence in a protection that is always present and at hand, for whoever calls unceasingly on his protector is sure that he is always present.  It contains a burning love and charity, an awareness of traps, and a fear of enemies.  Seeing oneself surrounded by these day and night, one confesses that one cannot be set free without the help of one’s defender. (Boniface Ramsey 1997, Newman Press, Page 379).

It is amazing how the things that we do out of a routine affect us without being aware of the good it is doing us.  After praying The Offices day in and day out, the verse by which we begin Morning or Evening Prayer just rolls off our tongues.  Abba Isaac wrote about the power of these words from the days of the Desert Fathers and Mothers.  They faced physical dangers far more severe than anything we can imagine.  Today, in that same part of the world in which St. John Cassian would have lived, the Coptic Christians still face massive persecution for their faith.

God never said that we would have to face all of our trials, temptations and challenges alone.  God promised that God would be with us.  God will come ever more closer to us, however, when we call upon him with our lips and hearts open to accepting God’s abiding presence.  Jesus will always come and sup with us, when we open our doors to Him in faith.

O God, make speed to save us.  O Lord, make haste to help us.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

The Mustard Seed Tree

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Jesus said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?  It is like a mustard seed, which when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”  (Mark 4:30-32. NRSV).

We live in a society in which the greater our achievement, the more attention we get.  It is not enough to be where we are.  We have to gain more, do more, be more, own more.

In this parable, Jesus tells us that just by putting the smallest effort forward in faith, God can do things in and through us that draws wandering souls into the joy of God’s presence to look at and consider settling into a new spiritual home.

Contemplative prayer and centering prayer only require a little bit of faith, and God will do the rest.  In the calm of interior silence, letting all our thoughts go by us and becoming detached from them; we are able to receive in faith the presence of God in abundance and beauty.  Through the experience of contemplation, we are drawn into a deeper relationship with God, when God gives us God’s perspective through which we are enlightened, inspired and renewed in grace.  The mystical experience we have in God’s holy presence, makes the love of God so real, so wonderful and so plentiful; that no human words, expressions or explanations are adequate.  Yet, the effect it has on our lives is so amazingly powerful, that wandering souls will want to know why we are a little bit calmer, kinder and less stressed by life.  In other words, the Kingdom of God is already here, but not yet.  But, it is one awesome beatific vision.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

What Eye Has Not Seen

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“What eye has not seen, and ear not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love God” (1 Corinthians 2:9. The New American Bible).

St. Benedict uses these words at the end of chapter 4, On the Tools for Good Works in The Rule.  Benedict suggests that “What eye has not seen,,,,” is the “living wage” that God will grant to us when we return those tools on the day of judgement.  What we do not know about such a “living wage” is so incredibly amazing, that there is no part of the human being that can fully grasp the greatness of it.

The Tools for Good Works that St. Benedict wrote about are the corporal and spiritual the works of mercy.  They are those things which any Christian does out of love for God and neighbor.  What is notable in what Benedict is writing about in chapter 4, is that later in chapter 32 concerning the qualifications of the monastic cellarer, he states that the cellarer must “regard all the utensils of the monastery and its whole property as if they were the sacred vessels of the altar.”  It seems to me that whether we utilize the tools for good works or the tools to fix the broken DVD player, Benedict tells us that the God we cannot see is present there.

“Benedictine spirituality is a sacramental spirituality.  It holds all things–the earth and all its goods–as sacred.” (Sr. Joan Chittister, The Monastery of the Heart: An Invitation to A Meaningful Life, p. 115). 

All God asks for us to do today, is to search for God in faith and trust; so that what we cannot see, hear or comprehend is something so beyond our wildest imagination; that only in contemplative prayer can we see it from God’s perspective.   Even in contemplative prayer we will only catch a mere glimpse for a moment in time suspended by eternity.  Yet, it is so awesome and powerful; that no human eye, no human ear, or thought in the human heart can possibly comprehend all the good things God has for us who love God.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

The Answer to Jesus’ Prayer

St.JohnCassian

On the subject of the prayer of Jesus that “we all may be one”, Abba Isaac in the Tenth Conference on Prayer, in The Conferences by St. John Cassian said, “This will be the case when every love, every desire, every effort, every undertaking, every thought of ours, everything that we live, that we speak, that we breathe, will be God, and when that unity which the Father now has with the Son and which the Son has with the Father will be carried over into our understanding and our mind, so that, just as he loves us with a sincere and pure and indissoluble love, we too may be joined to him with a perpetual and inseparable love and so united with him that whatever we breathe, whatever we understand, whatever we speak, may be God (pages 375-376).

I am reading through the Tenth Conference on Prayer in The Conferences by St. John Cassian as part of the Office of Matins.  For those who have never heard of St. John Cassian, you can read about him here.  For the purposes of this blog post, the one thing I will share with you is that the majority of what St. Benedict learned and wrote in The Rule came from the inspiration of St. John Cassian’s Conferences and The Institutes.

The words I just quoted above, sort of leaped out at me at Matins yesterday.  Just the very implication that I might be blessed to be the answer to this prayer of Jesus found in St. John‘s Gospel 17:20-26, speaks volumes to me.  Abba Isaac is telling us how we become the answer to that prayer.  In other words, “when every love, every desire, every effort, every undertaking, every thought of ours, everything that we live, that we speak, that we breathe, will be God,,”.  In these words, is a pure act of faith by letting go.  A letting go of control, desire and every faculty of our being, to be replaced and used by God.   Wow!

What Abba Isaac wrote about is exactly what happens in contemplative and centering prayer.  It is the experience of Mary in the words of the Magnificat.  “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,,,”   The experience of the presence of God is so abundant, that every fiber of our being becomes that presence of God.  Abba Isaac tells us that the grace in contemplative prayer is evident when God becomes the reason we do anything and everything.

Try contemplating that for today.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Not One, Not Two

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Once upon a time, the story begins, some seekers from the city asked the local monastic a question:

“How does one seek union with God”?

And the Wise One said, “The harder you seek, the more distance you create between God and you.”

“So what does one do about the distance?”  the seekers asked.

And the elder said simply, “Just understand that it isn’t there.”

“Does that mean that God and I are one?” the disciples said.

And the monastic said, “Not one.  Not two.”

“But how is that possible?” the seekers insisted.

And the monastic answered, “Just like the sun and its light, the ocean and the wave, the singer and the song.  Not one. But not two.”  (Taken from Wisdom Distilled From the Daily, p. 195. Written by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB).

The wonderful story told to us by Sr. Joan reinforces an inescapable truth about prayer.  Prayer deepens our relationship with God and one another.  I would tend to take what she wrote a step further by writing that not only are we not one, and not two with God; we are also not one, nor two with one another.  Genesis 1:26 confirms that we are created in the image of the Holy Trinity; a Community of relationship through the love of God who is in Community with God’s Self in each of the Three Persons.  In the death and resurrection of Christ, we are redeemed and set free to live into that relationship through our common Baptism.  As prayer is a means for taking such a relationship with God to a deeper level; prayer also deepens our relationships with one another.

Thomas Keating in his book One Mind, One Heart wrote about how through all of the things we attach ourselves to, we move further away from God who is at the center of our being.  Centering prayer is a fantastic means of taking us back to the presence of God who is there waiting for us to spend time with God.  In centering prayer, we are not looking for anything magical or a feeling that will psychologically satisfy us.  Keating recommends that if we experience something that we feel or satisfies our psychological impulses during centering prayer, that we detach our thoughts even from those.  Feelings or emotions (whatever word you want to use) are good in and of themselves, until we begin to identify ourselves on the basis of them.  “I am a happy person.”  “I am a charismatic person, because I feel the Spirit within me.”  What Sr. Joan and Thomas Keating are telling us is that we are not one, not two with God and one another except by the walls we put up to create a distance that God has already removed.

Jesus calls you and I today to live into a relationship with God through that purity of heart that searches for God for God’s sake alone.  Jesus invites us into a deeper contemplation of His presence so with all the obstacles out of the way; including all those labels so that only the love of God and one another radiates from the relationship of community we share together.  What could be more awesome than that?

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Pray From The Heart

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“…when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place.  Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6 The Common English Bible).

I am reading through Thomas Keating’s book Open Mind, Open Heart on the subject of Centering Prayer.  The book is assigned reading for my Formation.  On page 19, Keating wrote, “Prayer in secret seems to be Jesus’ term for what later became known in Christian tradition as contemplation.  These are obviously three movements into deeper degrees of silence.  The third movement takes place when our awareness joins the hidden God in the secrecy where God actually dwells and is waiting for us.”

We tend to think about us waiting for God, but, do we take time to ponder the thought that God waits ever so patiently for us?

In The Rule of St. Benedict, he wrote, “,,,,the Lord waits for us daily, to translate into action, as we should, his holy teaching” (RB 1980: Prologue vs. 35, p.18).  The purpose of closing the door and spending time in silent prayer and contemplation is to allow God to move our hearts.  The Prophet Ezekiel wrote, ” I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.  I will remove your stony heart from your body and replace it with a living one” (Ezekiel 36:26 The Common English Bible).  Physically closing the door of our personal prayer space already begins the process of shutting out the world, and going deeper into our interior selves.  Thomas Keating recommends that we can silence other interior noise by detaching our minds from all the thoughts that are there, and simply letting them be absorbed by the presence of God.  To have a deeper consciousness of God, we need to leave the world behind for a little while to see things from God’s point of view.

When we look at ourselves from God’s point of view in contemplative prayer, and hopefully for the rest of our day; we will be orientated away from judging others or focusing on things that are passing away.  Instead, “our hearts” will “overflow with the inexpressible delight of love” (RB 1980: Prologue vs.19, p.19) so that we may “prefer Christ above all else” (RB 1980: Chapter 72, p.95).

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Wait, Spread, Soar, Run and Walk

EaglesFlight

Those who wait upon God get fresh strength.  They spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind. (Isaiah 40:31. The Message Bible).

We in the 21st Century have forgotten what it was like to only be able to send a message through the postal mail and wait in agony for a response.  Those who are learning to drive today, will never know what it is to have their car break down with no way to contact someone for help because there is no pay phone near by.  Drive through windows, check cards, high speed internet, etc.  Waiting is an antique idea.

Yet, for all that humankind has accomplished, we are still as fragile and broken as ever.  Life still stinks with illness, death, loneliness and grief.  We can have everything the inventors of the last forty years have developed, and not be any closer to personal fulfillment.  We still experience the emptiness that comes from an interior hunger for holiness and wholeness that only God can satisfy.

The Prophet Isaiah tells us that the answer for what we are lacking lies in waiting for God.  Isaiah echoes the Psalmist who wrote, “For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation.  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken” (Psalm 62:1,2 The Book of Common Prayer, p.669).  Our waiting in silence for God, opens a space within us for God to come to renew us.  Like a mother, God comes to give us the strength to spread our wings and fly.  God sends us running on the energy of grace, so that we may walk in “the way” of Jesus’ life as He walks along with us.

Today, God invites us to spend some time waiting upon the Lord in contemplative prayer.  God wants to send us off to our next endeavor in His Name.  Renewed and flying like an eagle; running like a gazelle and walking like a hiker on a new path of unending discoveries.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Who Did God Consult?

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Who has directed the spirit of the Lord, or as his counselor has instructed him?  Whom did he consult for his enlightenment, and who taught him the path of justice?  Who taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding? (Isaiah 40:13-14. Also see Romans 11:34-35. NRSV).

I read these beautiful words during Matins today.  When I did, and as I ponder them even now, I realize how small I really am compared to God.  I don’t think that the sizes of big and small when referring to God is something we can measure by any human standard.  When I write that “I am small compared to God,” I mean that the mind and heart of God are so large in capacity of spirit; that all of my puny skills, possessions, intellect and anxieties are something that God can handle better than I can.  God knows more about me than I do about myself.

If I am able to share any hint of wisdom in these blog posts; if I what I write makes a difference in the heart of another; and if I am so inspired to think or type anything relevant; it is because of the greatness of God who is counseling me.

The greatest gift in Contemplative Prayer is that we do not have to know or understand anything.  We do not have to have conflicts resolved or mysteries unpacked for everyone to understand.  Contemplative Prayer is a gift of God’s favor (as in grace) by which we are consumed by our God who needs no counsel or instruction; and we are given God’s vision and perspective of that which God wants us to see.  In that moment, nothing that we have done or what maybe going on in our lives means a thing.  All God wants to do in that moment, is spend a little bit of eternity with us while we are still in this life and world that is passing away before our very eyes.  So that when we are once again returned to this world, we can live renewed in the Spirit of the Living God.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

With Us, God is Well-Pleased

BaptismoftheLord

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:9-11 NRSV).

Tomorrow, Christians will be celebrating The First Sunday after The Epiphany and The Baptism of the Lord.  Of this great feast, St. Maximus of Turin wrote:

For when the Savior is washed all water for our baptism was made clean, purified at its source for the dispensing of baptismal grace to the people of future ages.  Christ is the first to be baptized, then, so that Christians will follow after him with confidence. (The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume 1, Advent and Christmas Seasons, p.612).

At Christ’s Baptism, our identity as Christians was bestowed on us in the Person and action of Jesus.  Even more so, by the Holy Spirit descending and the voice from heaven that said, “You are my Beloved; with you I am well-pleased.” In God’s own words that proclaimed Jesus, God’s Incarnate Word; as God’s Beloved; with whom God was well-pleased; are also bestowed upon all of us by our common Baptism into the life of Jesus.

It does not matter what we have done in the past.  Those labels that others use to divide and define us, are meant to stamp us out for what we are.  God welcomes us to live into who we are, and who we are to become.

“You are my Beloved; with you I am well-pleased.”

That is just something much too wonderful not to contemplate.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Called by Name

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And he [Jesus] called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. (Matthew 10:1-4 ESV).

I don’t know about you, but every so often I need an affirmation.  I am a Monk in training.  If I am completely upfront with others and myself; when and if I make solemn vows, I will always be a Monk in training.  We all have a lot to learn.

As I read these words from St. Matthew’s Gospel about Jesus calling His Apostles, I am encouraged and affirmed.  Jesus calls them all by name.  Jesus wants to impact the world so much through us, that He calls us each by our name.  Whether we are female or male or any other useless label humankind heaps upon us.  “….. for all of you are one in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Galatians 3:28b NRSV).  Jesus calls us by our name to live into who we are, not what we are.  In Jesus, we are called by name as God’s beloved, with whom God is well-pleased. (See Matthew 3:13-17).

God tells us through the Prophet Isaiah: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (43:1b NRSV).

Today, Jesus calls us by our name to be drawn more deeply into His life.  He wants us to know that we are not alone.  He wants to walk with us through our uncertainty.  Jesus wants to show us how to follow Him through daily life.  St. Benedict tells us how to do that in the very first word of The Rule. “Listen.”

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB