Reflection on Dry Ground

dry-land

“O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a barren land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1. The Book of Common Prayer, p.670).

The image above is a field of cracked dry land.  It seems endless.  It seems hopeless.  Very little if any can grow on it.  There is no water to nurture or sustain life on this fractured land.

Our lives are often like broken, dry land.  The heat of life’s many experiences bares down on us and seems to dry up the moisture needed to sustain us.  We grow tired and feel helpless and useless.  Our lives and even our faith cracks and our souls cry out for some kind of relief.

The Psalmist feels the same way.  The Psalmist knows that the only hope one has of recovering is to seek God as one’s God, eagerly as one is.  Thirsty, fainting, barren, cracked open.  The point of the Vow of Stability in Monastic Spirituality is to seek stability in our relationship with God as we are; not as we wish we were, or others might like us to be.  We seek stability in Christ by taking the masks off and letting go of every sense of hopelessness that tells us that there is no way that God can make use of us in our present circumstances.  Benedictine-Camaldolese spirituality of solitude and silence, tells us that it is in this very moment with our lives as they are, is where God has us, and works God’s will through us.

As I spent time meditating on these words in contemplative prayer today, I experienced a mystical moment in which I saw what appeared to be God’s water of new life gushing out to fix the cracks in the dry land.  While the water was flowing over the cracks, the cracks were not being filled, and the land was not refreshed.  I asked the Holy Spirit what was happening.  I got the feeling that God’s waters do not always fill all the cracks and completely mends us together, because God still has plans for us through our cracked and wounded lives.  If God washes over all the cracks and dry spaces, God may not be able to heal other wounds that we have yet to trust in God to mend.  Sometimes what remains broken, is another opportunity for God to bring healing to us at another point in God’s timing.  What I found myself needing to let go of, is my desire to control what I think God should do about every crack in the dry lands of my life.   Though I may think of them as wounds that can do no further good for me or others,; God still has work to do in and through my brokenness to bring me to a greater life of holiness and wholeness.  In the end it is not up to me what God does with my cracked and dry land.  I have to surrender that into God’s hands.

In God’s care and Providence, our brokenness is something God can do many wonderful things yet to be experienced.

“What is not possible to us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of His Grace.” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English. The Prologue, verse 41, p.18).

“1. Sit in your cell as in Paradise…  7. Sit like a baby chick, content with the grace of God, who, unless its mother gives it something, knows nothing and has nothing to eat.” (From The Short Rule of St. Romuald).

What are you letting God do with the cracks and wounds in your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on the Spirit

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25 NRSV).

Exactly how do we define our identity?

I have written before about labels, our false-sense of self and our true selves. The times we are living through, puts labels on top of labels, on top of labels. The labels by themselves only describe many things about us. When we cling to labels and put all of our identity into the labels, we hand over our dignity and our true selves to an idol. We deprive the very essence of what makes us who we really are to something that does not satisfy our interior thirst for God. We forget what the Redemption by Jesus Christ of ourselves, has given us.

Basil Pennington in his book Centering Prayer: Renewing An Ancient Christian Prayer Form wrote;

“He [The Holy Spirit] is our Spirit, the Gift given to you at Baptism to be your very own spirit; ask Holy Spirit through the words printed in these pages to “teach spiritual things spiritually.” (p. 10).

Contemplative prayer can be thought of as a journey of our spirit in search of union with God, The Holy Spirit to be a “new creation in Christ.” (See 2 Corinthians 5:17-18). The Holy Spirit gives new life to who we are, because of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ, the Word of God. We only need to spend some time in solitude and silence to live into the Holy Essence (Spirit) who is our essence and well-spring of our new life in Christ. There in is our strength in times of weakness, our hope when we are in despair, our victory when we have lost everything.

“And finally, never lose hope in God’s mercy.” (RB:1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English. Chapter 4 The Tools for Good Works, p. 29).

What identity are you living by?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Trusting and Rejoicing

MountainImage

“I have trusted in your faithful love.  My heart will rejoice in your salvation.” (Psalm 13:5. Common English Bible).

Have you ever noticed how nature can do and be so many things, yet it all holds together?  Leaves change color.  Grass can be green and turn brown.  Water can be cold or warm.  Water can be calm, or water can become chaos without warning.  Snow falls, then melts.  Plants grow and wither.  Nature’s many parts and facets cooperate with each other, with a strong trust in God.

If we spend some time meditating on these words from Psalm 13, we could be drawn back through our memory to times that were unnerving and unpredictable.  There was a lot of things we once did, yet we managed to come through it to this point in time.  If the place where God has us in the here and now is in chaos, it is a moment of grace.  God is revealing God’s Self in what makes sense, and in what couldn’t make any sense if we tried.  God is calling us and loving us with a faithful love.  All God asks of us, is that we trust God.

In Contemplative Prayer, God meets us where we are and draws us through the Holy Spirit into a deeper awareness of God’s presence.  In that moment of Grace, we can see ourselves from God’s point of view.  We are in the company of the Holy One who knows us better than we know ourselves, and loves us beyond any description or conclusion.  We can trust in God’s faithful love, and rejoice in God’s salvation.  God is present to us in the here and now, and through what is happening to transform us.   What is invisible becomes tangible.  What cannot be experienced through our human senses, is closer to us than the smallest cell of our bodies.

“Listen carefully, and incline the ear of your heart.”  (Prologue of The Rule of Saint Benedict).

Abba Paul said, “Keep close to Jesus.”

Are you open to trusting God’s faithful love, and rejoicing in God’s salvation?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on God Alone

Seeking

“For God alone my soul in silence waits, truly, my hope is in him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.  (Psalm 62:6-7.  The Book of Common Prayer, p.669).

I wish I had the faith the Psalmist must have had when these words were written.  The author had many things going on around him.  He had a lot of enemies it seems.  Yet in the middle of what must have been going on, he found this faith in him that he knew that his soul in silence waits for God, and that God was his only salvation who could fill him with the courage he needed to face the turmoil he was experiencing.

When we speak of silence and solitude in the Monastic life, we are not only talking about exterior tranquility and seclusion.  When we finally do put aside what is going on around us, and spend time in a quiet withdrawal, we find ourselves with that much more noise and the crowds within us.  Plans we haven’t made.  Phone calls we didn’t return.  The emotions we feel after being disappointed.  The relationship (s) that were interrupted by death or a break up.  All of these and our feelings of self inadequacy find their way of shaking us and keeping us from that peace of God.  Much of all this comes from our indulging with our false-sense of self.  Somehow we internalized that everything is up to us.

Centering prayer is sitting quietly and using a word or phrase while we journey to our center and be with God alone in solitude.  In Centering Prayer, we don’t push the things going on in our life aside.  We accept them as they are, and let them go.  When God is so present with us, everything else becomes something we acknowledge is there, but we don’t cling to them.  We let them go.  Because now we know and are experiencing that “For God alone our souls in silence waits, truly our hope is in God.”   Centering prayer opens our interior selves to the contemplative experience of God’s mysterious love and transforming grace.  When we allow ourselves to be with God alone and center ourselves on God, we are brought into a perfect union with God by which God is all we are seeking, for the sake of God alone.  Everything else becomes irrelevant.

The Brief Rule of St. Romuald

1. Sit in your cell as in paradise.
2. Put the whole world behind you and forget it.
3. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish.
4. The path you must follow is in the Psalms never leave it.
5. If you have just come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will you cannot
accomplish what you want, take every opportunity you can to sing the Psalms in your
heart and to understand them with your mind.
6. And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.
7. Realize above all that you are in God’s presence, and stand there with the attitude of
one who stands before the emperor.
8. Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God,
like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him.
“Listen readily to holy reading, and devote yourself often to prayer.” (RB:1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English, Chapter 4 On the Tools for Good Works, verses 55-56. p.28).
Have you spent anytime in silence while your soul waits for God alone lately?
Amen.
Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB
Peace be with all who enter here.

Reflection on Thirsting

ThirstyDeer

“Just like a deer that craves streams of water, my whole being craves you, God.  My whole being thirsts for God, the living God. When will I come and see God’s face?” (Psalm 42:1,2 Common English Bible).

What do you find yourself thirsting for these days?  Peace?  Wealth? Popularity? Narcissism? Being noticed and liked?  Personal satisfaction with everything and/or everybody? Our various addictions or obsessions?

All of us in one way or live with the illusion that we need to be satisfied by something exterior.  Being satisfied is not a terrible thing, as long as we do not seek satisfaction for the sake of itself.  When what we desire to satisfy us becomes what we desire to possess for the sake of itself, that is when we are thirsting for something much deeper within our whole being.

There is something to be said for spending time in prayer while being physically hungry or thirsty.  In so doing, we fulfill the words of Jesus in His temptation. “People won’t live only by bread, but by every word spoken by God.” (Matthew 4:4 Common English Bible).  When we bring our hunger and thirst into our contemplative and/or centering prayer we acknowledge for ourselves what the Psalmist wrote. “My whole being thirsts for God, the living God.”  By letting go of all that keeps us attached with our false-sense of self, we are able to follow Jesus through the Holy Essence of God into our own essence to search and find that perfect union with God.  God’s love gives the sweetest tasting water turned into wine to satisfy our thirsting souls, and gives new life to ours.

“Prefer nothing to the love of Christ.” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries. Chapter 4: The Instruments of Good Works, p.15).

“4. The Path you must follow is in the Psalms–never leave it.” (From The Short Rule of St. Romuald).

What is it that you are thirsting for today?

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Peace be with all who enter here.

Reflection on Come and See

Serenity

 

When Jesus turned and saw (John’s Disciple) following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. (John 1:38-39. NRSV).

A certain brother came to Abba Moses in Scetis, seeking at word from him, and the old man said to him, “Go and sit in your cell and your cell will teach you everything.” (Daily Readings with the Desert Fathers, p. 64).

Our problem is that we spend too much time seeking God in all the wrong places.  We, like the disciples come looking for Jesus and ask where He is staying.  Jesus’ reply to them and us is “come and see.”  God is indeed everywhere around us.  The things we do, the people we see and the things we use all have an element of God’s work.  But, these are not ends in and of themselves.  They are not beginnings and stopping points.  They are merely tools for the trade.

Jesus wants us to search for union with God, with purity of heart.  To seek God for the sake of God alone, because of who God is; not what God can do.  To begin the search, we must first go into the heart of ourselves in solitude and silence and allow God to transform us from our sacred space on outward.

The point of Contemplative Prayer, of Centering Prayer is to live in the Presence of God in the here and now, by finding where Jesus is staying within us.  We must first take the important step of letting go of all that keeps us from asking Jesus “where are you staying?”  When we hear Jesus call us from within, we are drawn into the mystical experience of the joy of God having found us to united us to an intimate and new life-giving love.

“The first step of humility is to keep the consciousness of God before us at all times, and never forget it.” (The Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 7, On Humility, paraphrased).

Have you asked Jesus “where are you staying” from your heart, so He can say to you “come and see?”

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Reflection on Replanted Trees

tree-word-river-22

“The truly happy person(s),,,,, are like a tree replanted by streams of water which bears fruit as just the right time and whose leaves don’t fade.  Whatever they do succeeds.” (Psalm 1:1a, 3.  The Common English Bible).

The Benedictine Vow of Conversion of Manners (also called Conversion of Life) is directly related to the other two which are Stability and Obedience.   Stability is a grounding of oneself into God and those with whom one shares their life.  All the masks come off.  We are made stable by letting go of our defenses and trusting in God to guide us forward.  The Vow of Conversion is about allowing the God to whom we have vowed stability to change us by the manners of others around us.   Obedience is about our response to God out of love, not fear. (See 1 John 4:18)

A tree that can no longer bear fruit dries up in the parched soil in which it is rooted.  It’s branches and trunk can become very hallow.  At that point there are two options.  Tear down the tree and burn it, or, uproot it and replant it by streams of water.  When option two is used, the tree can be nourished and made healthy again.  The branches and trunk fill in with new life, nurtured by the moisture.  The leaves can grow on the tree once again, and delicious fruit that can feed people and/or animals.  There is new life in the tree, and it is happy once again.

God really does want us to be happy people.  God knows that life can really stink because of a job we no longer enjoy, the death of a loved one and the grief we experience, the loss of becoming disabled.  God knows all of these things.  Often when we are grieving or unhappy, God is there helping us to heal things that we did not even know were wounded.  However, we cannot grow in a deeper relationship with God through our suffering and sadness if we don’t allow God to uproot us from where we are, and replant us by streams of living water; flowing from the grace of God.

Contemplative prayer becomes more powerful when we let go of ourselves as best as we can, to let God uproot us from our dryness.  God wants to draw us into the wondrous mystery of God’s loving mercy that is so amazing, that the only thing that matters is God.  When we spend time in solitude and silence, we can accept where we are and turn ourselves over so that the Holy Spirit can move us to a life-giving state of being; where God can draw us into our true-selves, and find God’s truth waiting for us there.

“See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life.” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English. The Prologue. p.16 vs. 20).

Will you allow God to replant you by God’s living stream, so you can be a truly happy person today?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB