Lenten Reflection: Take Up the Cross

Cross

 

Then [Jesus] said to them all, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23 NRSV).

The Season of Lent takes us all through a journey of meditating on the Cross.  The day after Ash Wednesday, The Episcopal Church takes us to the Gospel of Luke 9:18-25 where we find the words I have quoted above.  The words, “deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” seem to strike all of us a little differently.  Each of us have a different kind of cross, in a unique place where God intersects with us.

As Christians we believe that it was on the Cross that God reconciled with humankind through Jesus Christ.  We also believe that God identified with every form of human suffering when Christ gave Himself for us on the Cross.

Thomas Keating tells us in The Mystery of Christ: The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience that on the Cross, Jesus even gave up His relationship with God.  When Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Psalm 22:1), He gave up his relationship with God, his Father, and embraced that relationship through faith alone.  Jesus had to cling to God with purity of heart; as in, seeking union with God for God’s sake, looking for nothing else in return.  Such is why Jesus is exalted through His humility.  (See Philippians 2:5-11).

Our contemplation on what it means to deny ourselves and take up our cross challenges us to seek union with God with a total abandonment of everything else and to only want God.

The two most important words during Lent and/or any form of contemplative prayer are, “let go!”  Letting go is a great way to deny ourselves and take up our cross.

How is Jesus asking you to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him?

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Ash Wednesday: Examine Me, O God

Beginning Lent

 

Examine me O God and know my heart, test me and discover my thoughts, and lead me in the way everlasting.  (Psalm 139:23,24. The New Zealand Prayer Book, p.591).

Going to the doctor can be scary.  We know that we may not feel too good.  We make the appointment.  We arrive and get checked in.  The triage team gets our weight, takes our vitals, double checks our information.   When the doctor finally comes in to see us and asks us what is going on, we may respond with “Oh I am fine.”  At the moment of wanting to begin the process of getting the treatment to help us feel better (we hope); some of us immediately begin running away from whatever it is; because we do not want the physician to mess with us.  The ill condition could be something we have put up with for a very long time.  Just because the doctor prescribes a treatment program, does not mean we are all sold on following it to feel better.

The Season of Lent is about allowing ourselves to be examined by God.  It is a forty day opportunity to let God look deep within us; and hopefully with our cooperation taking a look at what has been going on.  “Now is the time of our salvation.,” writes St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:2.   I can be a procrastinator making excuse after excuse of why another time to spend with God on the shape my soul is in; just not this one.  The Season of Lent is a time of grace, so that God and I (we) can do it together.  It is time to make the decision to get to this thing called being a Christian and do it seriously and without a divided heart.

St. Benedict devotes one chapter in The Rule to a single season in the Church Year.  Chapter 49 is about the observance of Lent.  St. Benedict writes tells his monks that they are to add a little extra to the usual amount of prayer, reading and fasting to “look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing.”

What is it that you spiritually long for as you begin the observance of Lent?

What are you inviting God to examine with you in your heart during Lent?

Lent is about remembering that what is there to be examined and cleansed, is something God knows about before we do.  God wants to know if we are ready to contemplate seeing it from God’s point of view, and letting God love us there.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

The Presentation as Renewal

PresentationTemple

Be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature created after the likeness of God in righteousness and true holiness.  (Ephesians 4:23-24.  The New Zealand Prayer Book. p.662)

The date of February 2nd, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple has several meanings in the Liturgical Year.  Today marks 40 days since we celebrated the Nativity of Christ on December 25th.  Eight days from today is already Ash Wednesday; the beginning of Lent.  The Presentation can be thought of as our “bridge” between Christmas and Lent.  Today, we make the turn towards recalling the events of the Death and Resurrection of Christ.

When I read the short verse for the Presentation from The New Zealand Prayer Book, the idea of it being a day for renewal struck me.  The Christmas event and the events of the Easter Triduum are about renewal.  So, I was surprised to learn to think of the Presentation as also being about renewal.

In The Rule of St. Benedict, his many texts throughout its many chapters point us to multiple opportunities to start over.  We begin by “listening with the ears of our hearts.”  We begin each day, each of the various hours of the day with the Divine Office.  Each Office is a new beginning at the specified time of the day.  Humility is the opportunity to ascend by our acts of humility, or descend by our attitudes of arrogance.   Yet, at the end of the twelve steps of humility, we are challenged to start over from step one.

The Presentation invites us to contemplate beginning again from the point of pureness of heart, obedience out of love and the sacrifice of our hearts as we search for union with God.   We all walk away from these yearly feasts and tread out a bit further away from what the Gospel of Christ calls us to.  In the Presentation, we are invited back to our sacred temples of prayer and repentance and receive the blessing of God to start over again.  We are “renewed in spirit” and “put on the new nature” so that we move forward with the love of Christ as our guide and goal.

How is God calling you to contemplate how you are being renewed today?

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB