Reflection on The Wilderness

MonkCell

 

“And the Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness .  He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”  (Mark 1:12-13 NRSV).

Thomas Keating in his book The Mystery of Christ: The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience wrote the following words.

“The Biblical desert is not so much a geographical location–a place of sand, stones or sagebrush– as a process of interior purification leading to the complete liberation from the false-self system with its programs for happiness that cannot possibly work.” (p.40).

The wilderness can be a place of solitude and silence; as well as a state of prayer and contemplation.  As we spend time in our wilderness of silence and solitude, we see the best and the worst of ourselves.   Everything about us that is visible and invisible is inescapable. Thomas Merton once wrote, “For although God is right with us and in us and out of us and all through us, we have to go on journeys to find him.”  Searching for union with God includes meeting Jesus where He meets us in our temptations with God’s grace to redeem and transform us.  Amma Sarah said, “The greatest thing we can do is to throw our faults before the Lord and expect temptation to our last breath” (Daily Readings with the Desert Fathers, p.72).

When we spend some time alone with Jesus in our wildernesses of silence and solitude and pray Lectio Divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture), Contemplative and Centering Prayer,  God will always come and graciously help us along.   When we stop for a while and in silence, let God in and let go of our false-self system, Jesus will show us how to search for union with God, even when we are at our worst.

The Psalmist wrote, “Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long” (Psalm 25:4 The Book of Common Prayer, p.614).  The best way to learn the truth from the God of our salvation is to spend some time with Jesus in the solitude of our wilderness and to learn from what He did as well as what He said.

“Therefore our life span has been lengthened by way of a truce, that we may amend our misdeeds.  As the Apostle says: Do you not know that the patience of God is leading you to repent (Rom 2:4)?” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English, p.18).

Have you journeyed with Jesus into your wilderness lately?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See: The Community of Solitude

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Reflection on Broken to Ashes

ashes

“The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:18.  The Book of Common Prayer, p.657).

Almost anything including the human body can be burned and/or broken into ashes.  It is a stark reminder that nothing is permanent.  Everything and everyone eventually passes beyond our sight and becomes dust and ashes.

As we begin the Season of Lent on this Ash Wednesday; it is a good time to begin searching within ourselves to discover what is broken within and/or about us.  Psalm 51:18 and Ash Wednesday tell us that it is okay if we are broken.  God loves us and in Jesus redeems us as broken people.

“Lent is a good moment for a spiritual stocktaking; a pause, a retreat from life’s busy surface to its solemn deeps.  There we can consider our possessions; and discriminate between the necessary stores which have been issued to us, and must be treasured and kept in good order, and the odds and ends which we have accumulated for ourselves.”  (Lent with Evelyn Underhill, Second Edition. Ash Wednesday taken from the School of Charity, p. 15).

Praying to God from the whole of ourselves in Contemplative and/or Centering Prayer is our chance to take off the masks by which we think we are hiding things from God.   Our sins and brokenness keeps us from a deeper relationship with God, only because we hang on to them within our false-sense of self.   In The Rule of Saint Benedict he tells us,

“we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times.  This we can do in a fitting manner by refusing to indulge in evil habits and by devoting ourselves to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and self-denial.  During these days, therefore, we will add to the usual measure,,,” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English. Chapter 49, p.71).

Notice that Benedict tells us that a good way to observe Lent is not just by self-denial, he also suggests adding on to the usual amount.  Letting go is important, of course, but it must be accompanied by adding something that takes us to our true-selves.

During these days of Lent, we can offer our broken and contrite hearts to God; and let Jesus transform us to search for union with God within our essence; possessed by the Holy Spirit.  This is not only contemplative, it is mystical.  God sees our brokenness as opportunities for growth, not impediments to God’s grace.

4. The path you must follow is in the Psalms–never leave it. (From St. Romuald’s Brief Rule).

Have you considered offering God your broken and contrite heart during this Lent?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See The Community of Solitude.

If you feel led to buy me some coffee, please scroll down the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug.   Thank you so much.

Reflection on Contemplative Listening

Transfiguration

 

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” (Mark 9:7 NRSV).

My blog readers know from the title of this reflection what I am going to use from The Rule of Saint Benedict.  So, here it is.

“Listen, my son, to your master’s precepts, and incline the ear of your heart.” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, p.1).

Listening is essential to contemplative living.  To listen as a contemplative requires the seeker to be silent.  Silence in solitude opens us up to letting go of all that we cling to, so that we can “incline the ear of the heart” to hear God more clearly.

The Transfiguration is more than what is described in the Gospel texts.  It is about Jesus showing us what happens when our humanity infused with God the Incarnate Word becomes One with the God who always was and ever shall be.  The disciples’ fear in the presence of such splendor is more than understandable.  The cloud and the voice that follows what happens is for the disciples so that they may let go of their fear and hear God more clearly in Who Jesus is.

“Their exterior and interior senses were quieted by the awesomeness of the Mystery manifested by the voice out of the cloud.  Once their senses had been calmed and integrated into the spiritual experience which their intuitive faculties had perceived, peace was established throughout their whole being, and they were prepared to respond to the guidance of the Spirit.” (The Mystery of Christ: The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience by Thomas Keating, p.44).

Contemplative listening in solitude and silence makes us docile to the Holy Spirit.  It involves a surrendering of our egos and fears of what was and may be, to the God who knows us more intimately than we know ourselves.  The Transfiguration is a symbol of the magnificence of what God wants to do in us through Contemplative and Centering Prayer.  When we leave ourselves totally available to the Presence and Power of God through the vulnerability of contemplative listening, we can and will listen to God’s Beloved who tells us that in Jesus, we too are God’s beloved.

“Abba Nilas said, ‘The arrows of the enemy cannot touch one who loves quietness; but he who moves about in a crowd will often be wounded.” (Daily Readings with the Desert Fathers, p.38).

Have you spent some time in silent listening recently?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See: The Community of Solitude

If you feel led to buy me some coffee, please click on the Benedictine Coffee mug at the bottom of the right sidebar.

Reflection on Jesus and Solitude

Seeking

“In the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:35. NRSV).

If Jesus who was God among us, needed to withdraw in solitude and spend time in prayer, what makes us think we do not?

More times than not, the person(s) who make a prayerful relationship with God most difficult, is ourselves.  We allow ourselves to be so taken up with things that can only get us so far; while our relationship with God gets its own compartment to be opened for our convenience.  Though we may place God in a chest to be hidden and forgotten, God never places us in anywhere else but as “the apple of God’s eyes.”

Time spent in solitude, praying the Psalms with God in the cell of the whole of ourselves is how God gets to occupy us.  When we spend time in Centering Prayer and Contemplative Prayer, we seek union with the God who is already within us; calling to us to love God and be with God; never to let ourselves be so consumed by anything to the point where God becomes nothing more than another phone app to be used and set a side.  When we spend time with God in silence and solitude, the seed is planted for a new tree of life to grow from within us, that becomes the very Essence from which we live all of life.

“Benedictine Spirituality is a sacramental spirituality.  It holds all things,,,,,, as sacred.” (Joan Chittister, The Monastery of the Heart: An invitation to a Meaningful Life, p.115).

“1. Sit in your cell as in paradise.” (The Rule of St. Romuald).

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to the love of Christ, and may he bring us all to everlasting life.” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English. Chapter 72:11,12).

Have you taken time in solitude lately to spend time with God?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See: The Community of Solitude

If you feel led to buy me some coffee, please click on the Benedictine coffee mug at the bottom of the right sidebar.  Thank you so much.

 

 

Reflection on Being Received

Receiving

“Abba James said, ‘It is better to receive hospitality than give it'” (Daily Readings with the Desert Fathers, p.42).

“Let all guests who arrive be received as Christ, for He is going to say, ‘I came as a guest, and you received Me'” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, Chapter 53, p.73).

I have experienced today the most amazing revelation.  It began when I read the words of Abba James quoted above.  As I spent time meditating on these words, I found myself drawn to the words in St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries.   The words I was particularly drawn to were, “to receive hospitality..” and “to be received as Christ.”

Through these words, I felt the Holy Spirit disturbing my ego.  When I think of receiving in hospitality, I place the entirety of the responsibility on myself.  Everything is up to me to do to impress the guest by drawing attention to me.  I might like to think that I am being so humble and doing the receiving.   When I exercise hospitality with myself as the sole giver in the encounter, I become self-centered.  I won’t let myself be disturbed or confirmed by God in the guest.

These words from Abba James and Saint Benedict, tell me that it is Christ in the other that is receiving me in hospitality.  When I meditated on it in this way, my attention is no longer on myself exclusively.  Now I have to open the whole of myself, let go of my ego, my need to control and decide; and let Christ in the guest receive me.  Christ becomes my center, as I place myself in Jesus’ care.  Christ comes to me in the guest to receive me, so that I may serve Him in the other.  Christ comes and receives me not only to help me with the things in my life that need conversion, but to bring me conversion by affirming His love for me; to live with thanksgiving the gifts God gives me.  I can give myself over to Contemplative Prayer and experience the Mysticism of knowing and viewing myself from God’s perspective.  This is what Contemplative Prayer and Mysticism are essentially about.

As we are celebrating the Presentation of Christ in the Temple today; it is a good idea to spend some time in solitude and silence.  As we do, perhaps we need to see Jesus receiving us as the guest, and offering Himself for us.  I believe that this is the “Light” that Simeon saw as this Jesus whom he waited for his entire life finally came to present Himself to God.  Christ came and brought His Light to receive our human condition and transform the darkness into the Light of God’s manifestation.

Are you open to being received by Jesus today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See: The Community of Solitude

If you feel led to buy me some coffee, please click on the Benedictine mug at the bottom of the right sidebar.   Thank you so much.