Reflection on Righteousness and Stumbling

BenVigilsCast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous stumble.  (Psalm 55:24. The Book of Common Prayer, p.662).

The words above spoke to me a couple of days ago during the Office of Diurnum (or Noonday Prayer).

The first part of the verse is beautifully sung in the well known Oratorio Elijah by Felix Mendelssohn.  The melody suggests the freedom from the burden by casting it upon the Lord with complete trust in God’s ability to sustain us.

The second part, “he will never let the righteous stumble” really caught my attention.  The Antiphon before this part of the Psalm is prayed read, “God will never let the righteous stumble.”  After I read those words, I found myself praying about them in Lectio Divina.  I have no reason to expect God to keep me from stumbling.  I am a weak man with the capability to think only of myself and about myself.  I can confess quite openly that I have those times in my life when I find myself caught between what God may want me to do, and what I want to do; only to choose my way with haste.

The answer to this prayer came by way of a book I am reading entitled, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  On page 48, Bonhoeffer writes,

“Can we, with the Psalmist, call ourselves innocent, devout, and righteous?  We dare not do so in so far as we are ourselves.  We cannot declare our virtue as the prayer of our own perverse heart.  But we can and should do so as a prayer out of the heart of Jesus Christ that was sinless and clean, out of the innocence of Christ in which he has given us a share by faith.  In so far as “Christ’s blood and righteousness” has become “our beauty, our glorious dress,”  we can and we should pray the psalms of innocence as Christ’s prayer for us and gift to us.  These Psalms, too, belong to us through him.”

In Chapter 19, The Discipline of the Psalmody, of The Rule of Saint Benedict, he wrote,

“We believe that the divine presence is everywhere and that in every place the eyes of the Lord are watching the good and the wicked (Prov. 15:3).  But beyond the least doubt we should believe this to be especially true when we celebrate the divine office.” (RB 1980, p.47).

What is our point of contemplative prayer here?

God’s perspective of us is through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It is because of this great mystery of our faith as Christians that we can depend on God not letting the righteousness that is ours through Christ stumble with no place else to turn.  We can and should turn to the mercy of God in Christ so that the righteousness which we have gained through Christ Jesus becomes a living reality; even through our common faults.  God seems to know very well what to do with those.

This seems to be one incredible moment of contemplative prayer.

What do you think?


Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

The Transfiguration and Contemplation

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About eight days after Jesus had foretold his death and resurrection, Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”–not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.  (Luke 9:28-36 NRSV).

Last month I visit The Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Dallas, Texas.  The image above is a photo I took of their exquisite Altar with the art work of the Transfiguration behind it.  If you zoom into the image, you will see each of the characters in the Transfiguration narrative depicted as best as they can be.  This image has been attracting me in prayer and contemplation since I first saw it.  Now, here on today’s Feast of the Transfiguration which we commemorate every year on August 6th; I am so excited to share this moment of contemplation with my readers here.  Peter and John are featured in the two side panels, while James is laying on the ground at the bottom, with Moses and Elijah on either side of the Transfigured Christ.   We have two small images of Jesus and the three disciples going up the mountain before and down after.  The three images below it are Elijah being taken up in the chariot of fire, the Trinity Icon and Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on the other side.  Truly an amazing depiction of what we are commemorating today.  Happy Feast Day to this wonderful Parish.

What about the Transfiguration draws us into deep prayer and contemplation?  Is it the white light and Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah?  Is it the voice from heaven?  Are we thinking about the three Disciples, Peter, James and John?  Is the picturesque language of what Jesus might be like in the glory of Heaven after the Resurrection calling to us in wherever we happen to be in our own lives?

In The Rule of St. Benedict, he tells us that “We are already counted as God’s and therefore must not do anything to grieve God by our actions.” (Prologue, vs. 5).

Among the ways in which we can contemplate the Transfiguration, is that God has already counted us as belonging to God through Christ.  Whether we are sturdy on our feet or scared of the reality of the wonder of Christ in our lives; we are all in the presence of God and given a brief glimpse of Jesus through the ordinary things of life.  We have those moments when what God says to us is as clear as can be.  Other times, God is mysterious and we wonder what in the world is going on.  In any case, Jesus is there with us and it is good for us to be with Him.  I believe that the contemplation of God being close to us in Christ is that moment by which we see ourselves and the world from God’s point of view for today.

May we in moments of silence and prayer, be open to see Christ transfigured within our limitations to “behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6) among us in one another.


Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB