Reflection on My God is My Lamp

God My Lamp

You, O Lord, are my lamp; my God, you make my darkness bright (Psalm 18:29 The Book of Common Prayer, p.604).

Sometimes the word darkness gets a bad reputation.  It comes from the belief that nothing good happens at night while it is dark.  There is some truth to the concept if you believe that darkness is where faith ends.  As Christians, faith does not end with darkness.  Christ Jesus is our Light of hope.  At the Great Vigil of Easter the newly lit Easter Candle is processed into the church as we chant, “Christ our Light.  Thanks be to God.”  Among the reasons that Monastics of various orders celebrate Vigils and/or for some Matins, is because it is symbolic of watching for Christ our Light to come and scatter our darkness.

There is no doubt that we are living through times that can be described as dark.  As Christians, we must live with faith and hope that Christ continues to “make our darkness bright.”  St. Benedict in The Rule quoted John 12:35 in The Prologue.  “Run while you have the light of life, that the darkness of death may not overtake you.” (RB 1980, p.16).  It was not enough for St. Benedict to use the word “walk” that ordinarily begins the Bible verse.  He believes that there is too much urgency to walk.  So, instead, Benedict tells us to “run.”

The words from Psalm 18:29 are an acknowledgement of God’s relationship with us in our dark moments.  It is a testimony of what the Psalmist has experienced combined with heartfelt faith and anticipation of what God will do in the future.  As Christians, we need to live into this relationship of God being our lamp who makes our darkness bright.

In Contemplative prayer is the experience of the Light that pierces the deepest darkness, through which God provides for us an awareness of God’s presence that calls, heals and gives us hope.

May we be attentive to God as our lamp and light.  May that faith shine through us and around us.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Reflection on The Path of Life

Pathways

You will show me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy, and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore. (Psalm 16:11 The Book of Common Prayer, p.600).

All the news, politics and information are going wild these days.  It seems to suck all of the oxygen out of our lives.  It is easy to become confused, frustrated and depressed.

Among our many problems is that we can give ourselves over to a type of spiritual sleep walking without thinking about it.  We pray.  We read the Scriptures.  We attend Mass and read holy books.  We experience these things, because we are taken off of the path that leads to life, fullness of joy and pleasures from God’s goodness.

These words for Psalm 16:11 tell us to let go and let God by faith and trust to point us to God’s path of life.  A life that is full of God’s joy as God shares with us God’s pleasures.  We are invited into the experience of contemplative prayer with the opportunity to center ourselves on what is really important.  It is not our labels, political positions or confusion that shows us where to go or what to do.  It is God’s unconditional love that invites us to journey with the Risen Christ as He reveals the holiness of God in our broken and wounded world.  As we follow the path of life that God shows us, we experience the joys of God as God’s pleasures are shared with and by all of us who are God’s children.

May we take some time to spend in silence and solitude with God, so that we may once again be redirected to the way God wishes for us to go.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Reflection on the Holy Spirit and Prayer

Seeking

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. (Romans 8:26. NRSV).

It is very easy to think that when we pray it is all up to us.  We may sit down with the intention to pray, and then not know what we are to say, think or ask for.  The reason this happens is that we forget that the desire to pray is in and of itself an act of God’s initiative.  We are just responding to God with the desire God gave us.  That desire is there to draw us into a deeper relationship with God from our heart.  Remember, when we use the word “heart” in Christian spirituality we are talking about the whole of ourselves.

The best news we can receive today is that the work of prayer is done by the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the very essence of God that seeks union with our own essence.  We cannot know how to do this of our own accord.  The Holy Spirit makes intercession for us as God’s grace flows into our souls bringing healing and reconciliation.  Such an experience allows us to center ourselves on God’s view of us and let go of what draws us away from this deepening awareness of God all around us.  We are so important to God, that God lives in a loving and life-giving relationship with all of us in the deep sighs of the Holy Spirit.  We are never alone or without help.

This can easily be summed up in the words taken from The Rule of St. Benedict chapter 20 “Reverence in Prayer.”

Whenever we ask some favor of a powerful man, we do it humbly and respectfully, for fear of presumption.  How much more important, then, to lay our petitions before the Lord God of all things with the utmost humility and sincere devotion.  We must know that God regards our purity of heart and tears of compunction, not our many words. (RB 1980, p.48)

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Reflection on Easter Psalm

Hope

I called to the Lord in my distress; the Lord answered me by setting me free.  The Lord is at my side, therefore I will not fear; what can anyone do to me? (Psalm 118:5-6, The Book of Common Prayer, p.761).

Praying the Psalms throughout the day in the Divine Office allows us to empty our emotions in our prayer.  The Psalms span the full array of human emotions from praise to lament, happiness and despair, hope and chaos.

Psalm 118 is the Easter Psalm used on Easter Day and is prayed throughout the Easter Season at various points.  It is a Psalm of thanksgiving, God’s mercy, triumph and hope.

If we read the words I chose for this reflection as coming from the mouth of Jesus before the Crucifixion and after the Resurrection; they must have given Him great strength.  Jesus knew what it was to only rely on God in the midst of rejection, disorder and isolation.  He also relied even more on His relationship with God until the moment of His death during which Jesus handed even that over.   No wonder Jesus can claim that the Lord came to help Him in the time of distress.

All of us live in the midst of some kind of distress and chaos.  Life throws plenty of curve balls at us.  It is easy to lose our sense of direction.  These words from Psalm 118 tell us that if we trust in God and know that God is on our side, what can anyone really do to us?  We too can find new life in the midst of old things passing away.  If we live with an awareness of God, knowing that we are loved beyond measure there is nothing that God cannot accomplish in our lives.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Reflection on St. Anselm

AnselmPrayerPhoto

“For I do not seek to understand so that I may believe; but I believe so that I may understand.  For I believe this also, that ‘unless I believe, I shall not understand.” (Isaiah 7:9)  (The Proslogion by St. Anselm of Canterbury.  Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works, Oxford Classics, p.87).

The commemoration of St. Anselm of Canterbury is celebrated only every few years on April 21st.  It is often over taken by either Holy Week or Easter Week.  This year, however, we get to celebrate him on his feast day.

As I was approaching the end of my Postulancy to be Clothed as a Novice in May of 2013, I thought a great deal about what name I would ask for.  Anselm was at the top of my list.  I have many reasons for this choice.  The prayer in the image above that sums up Benedictine Spirituality so beautifully is one of those reasons.  The other reason is that beginning in 1997 to 2000, Fr. Anselm Atkinson, OSB who is now Abbot Anselm of Pluscarden Abbey in Scotland was my very wise spiritual director.   I cherish the many things he taught me as we worked together.

Anselm was a scholar and an intellectual.  He was a great teacher and writer of the Christian Faith.  Yet, as the above quote states, what he thought was worthless without the element of faith.  Faith and wisdom were among his many guiding principles.  His writings can lead us into the contemplative vision of God through his deep humility.  I can only hope that some day I will gain just a piece of that wisdom.

I could write many thoughts for reflection on St. Anselm, and they would all have their legitimacy.  However, I think it is best to conclude this blog by letting St. Anselm do that for us.

“While I am here on earth let me learn to know you better, so that in heaven I may know you fully; let my love for you grow deeper here, so that there I may love you fully.  On earth then I shall have great joy in hope, and in heaven complete joy in the fulfillment of hope.” (From the Proslogion by Saint Anselm, The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume II, p.1775).

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Reflection on The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me

JesusSynagogue

Jesus unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” (Luke 4:17b-18a NRSV).

As the Church leads us through the Easter Season to Pentecost, we are reading about the Holy Spirit.  In this Gospel reading we join Jesus in the synagogue as He reads from this scroll, these words from the Prophet Isaiah.  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.”  In these words, Jesus is leading us into a deep meditation and contemplation of how God sees us through the person of Jesus.

The same Spirit that was upon Jesus is also upon each of us.  The Holy Spirit is also known as The Holy Essence of God; meaning that the source of divine truth in the heart of the Christ follower, leads us into a deeper relationship with God in our own essence.  As we seek union with God, we find that we meet the good news of Jesus in the poverty of our own spirit leading us to purity of heart.

If you are like me, you are a very long distance walk before arriving at having purity of heart.  The last thing most of us want is to seek union with God for the sake of God alone.  We want a relationship with God to get only what we want out of it.  That in and of itself is our poverty of spirit.  That is why we need the message that Jesus is anointed with the Spirit to bring good news to the poor one in each of us.

As we contemplate on how much God loves each of us that God anoints us with the Spirit to hear and respond to the good news that Jesus brings; may we also be open responding to the poor in and around us.  That would in thought, word and deed be very good news.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Easter Reflection: Believing by Not Seeing

St. Thomas

Thomas answered Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:28-29, NRSV).

This ending to the the reading from John seems so contradictory.  Thomas just recognized Jesus when he touched His hands and feet, and answered “My Lord and my God!”  Somehow, Jesus’ response seems harsh.

Every year when we read this Gospel text on the Second Sunday of Easter, in some church, some where one of the hymns sung is, “We walk by faith and not by sight.”  Is that really what Jesus means in His reply to Thomas’ proclamation that Jesus is his Lord and God?

Thomas’ experience of the Risen Christ is the experience of contemplative prayer.  It is not what we touch and see; it is how we respond to what is beyond our senses.  Contemplative prayer is about how God touches us with God’s grace and leads us from the mere physical to the mystical.  In contemplative prayer what seems illogical, becomes possible and tangible in ways that cannot be touched or felt; only believed and experienced by faith.  It changes our lives because we encounter the Holy One who transforms us to see what God sees.

Do we believe because of what we see?

Do we believe so that what we don’t see becomes visible in the unexplainable, yet is very real?

Thomas answered, “My Lord and my God!”

What will our answer be?

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB