Reflection on Visitation

Luca della Robbia-visitation

Image Above Made by Luca della Robbia.  See Artway.ea

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’ (Luke 1:39-45 NRSV).

The Visitation is an excellent narrative to lead us into contemplation of what is written in Chapter 53:1 in The Rule of Saint Benedict.  “Let all guests be received as Christ..”   Following Mary’s experience of the Angel Gabriel announcing that she would be the Mother of the Incarnate Word, she leaves to visit with Elizabeth.  When Mary greets Elizabeth the child in her womb who is John the Baptist leaps for joy.  Elizabeth and her child knew the experience of Christ coming to them through Mary.  Jesus though He had barely been conceived in the womb of Mary was so real to Elizabeth and John the Baptist that their lives were changed with a joy that needed no words.

The Visitation story is also a great way to meditate on what Abba James said.  “It is better to receive hospitality than to give it.”  When Mary arrived to visit Elizabeth, the experience Elizabeth had within her, came from receiving Mary in hospitality and being received in hospitality by Jesus present in Mary.

In her book Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seeker’s of Light, Sr. Joan Chittister on the topic of Lectio Divina wrote,

“Contemplation is not a private devotion; it is a way of life.  It changes the way we think.  It shapes the way we live.  It challenges the way we talk and where we go and what we do.  We do not “contemplate” or “not contemplate.” We live the contemplative life.”

The experience of Jesus receiving us, invites us to receive Him in a profound moment of conversion.  It is a way of life that leads us to seeking a deeper union with the God-life who has entered into our human condition and reclaimed us as holy unto God.  Jesus invites us into the mystery of this holy way of life to accept Him and respond with the joy that leaps within our true selves that gives us new life and in turn “renews the face of the earth” in the Holy Spirit.

“Realize above all that you are in God’s presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor.  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” (From the short Rule of St. Romuald).

What change are you experiencing within yourself as Christ is coming to you today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on the Spirit of Truth

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“I have much more to say to you, but you can’t handle it now.  However, when the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you in all truth” (John 16:12,13 The Common English Bible).

The moment we tell ourselves that we know the truth of God with nothing more to learn; what we are in effect saying is that we are satisfied with being lost in ourselves.  Just the notion that we think that our knowledge and experience of God is an end in and of itself, suggests that we have lost hope and disregarded faith.  When we limit our knowledge of the truth about God to ourselves, we are giving in to our false-sense of self.

The Holy Spirit leads us into our true self by guiding us again and again into a new experience of God.  Every fresh encounter with God’s Spirit of truth is a moment of rebirth.  Contemplative prayer helps us to open our hearts to a fresh breath of the Holy Spirit that unlocks our eternal truth in the Light of God’s Incarnate Word who is Jesus the Christ.

Abba Poeman once said, “So when people hear the word of God frequently, their hearts are opened to the fear of God.”  St. Benedict picks up on this same idea in the Prologue of The Rule when he wrote, “Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice from heaven that every day calls out this charge: If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts (Psalm 95)” (See RB:1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.16).

An encounter with the Holy Spirit of God’s truth begins with silence and listening.   When we take some time in solitude with the God who is “I AM” the Holy One leads us to “incline the ear of our heart.”  As we listen in silence and solitude Holy Spirit does the work that Jesus promised us, which is to lead us to a deep and profound truth through which we experience the Resurrection of new life with God.

“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” (From the Rule of St. Romauld).

Are you letting the Holy Spirit continue guiding you into all truth?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Entrust

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“I entrust my spirit into your hands; you, Lord, God of faithfulness–you have saved me” (Psalm 31:5 The Common English Bible).

As part of my preparation for this blog entry, I looked up the word “entrust” in the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary.  Here are the two definitions.  1. To confer a trust on; especially: to deliver something in trust to.  2. To commit to another with confidence.  The definition of entrust suggests giving something of tremendous value to another without question of the other’s ability to treasure it as much as we do.   To entrust something we value to another, we are making ourselves and what we value vulnerable.  In effect, we are giving with the hope of it being returned safely.  Yet, we are  relinquishing our sense of control over the final outcome.

Our spirit is where our sense of eternal truth lies.  It is from the very depth of ourselves.  Our spirit is where we find our true-sense of self.  We pray and place our hope for the salvation of our souls in Jesus the Risen and Ascended Christ who is our faithful Redeemer.   Jesus has taken our wounded humanity into the presence of the Holy One to intercede on our behalf.  In Jesus, everything that is good and not so good is in the heart of the God of love.  A few days from now we will celebrate the great Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit comes to us in abundance.  Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O. in his book Centering Prayer: Renewing An Ancient Christian Prayer Form wrote that the Holy Spirit is our Spirit given to us at our Baptism. (See page 10).

The Psalmist in Psalm 31 is lamenting what is happening.  The author finds that they are surrounded by the worst of the worst.  The only thing that Psalmist can do is turn to God and “entrust my spirit to you, my Lord. God of faithfulness.”  The last words of this Psalm verse are their affirmation of their God who has already saved them.

In his book The Eremitic Life: Encountering God in Silence and Solitude Fr. Cornelius Wencel, Er.Cam wrote,

“In contemplative prayer, a person can start to appreciate through faith how great and unfathomable God’s mystery is and how much it surpasses all human attempts of understanding it” (see page 182).

The contemplative engages themselves in the work of daily entrusting their spirit into God’s hands.  Contemplative prayer is daring to let go of controlling what happens to what it is we entrust to God’s hands; and entrusting God with what the outcome will be.  We don’t have to know what the conclusion will be.  We only have to entrust that the God who saves us in the mystery of Jesus the Christ will help us to remain a part of the story in the here and now.

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

“First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to him most earnestly to bring it to perfection” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.15).

Abba Nilus said, “Do not be always wanting everything to turn out as you think it should, but rather as God pleases, then you will be undisturbed and thankful in your prayer” (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated and Explained by Christine Valters Paintner PhD, p.61).

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well” (St. Julian of Norwich).

What are you entrusting God with in your life today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Abiding in God’s Love

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Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love” (John 15:9 NRSV).

I have a fascination with the power of water.  When we ponder the ocean and the waves; I am amazed at how the weather can change what those waves do within seconds.  Yet, the ocean and its waves are never separated.  Sr. Joan Chittister in her book The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century on page 81, she quotes a story from the Desert Monastics.  I am going to paraphrase the story by writing that just as the ocean and the wave are not one, but not two; so are those who seek union with God and abide in God’s love.

The Gospel quote above is from Jesus’ talk with His disciples as He prepares to leave them.  Jesus is telling them to abide in God’s love and share that love with each other.  Just as the ocean and the wave are not one, nor two: so the love of God is not one, but not two in those who abide in God’s love.

My problem when I read “abide in God’s love” is that I am drawn back to my false-sense of self.  I think abiding in God’s love is all about me and is therefore up to me.  I forget that the desire in my heart to abide in God’s love is there by God’s initiative.  Whatever level of desire I have within me to abide in God’s love, it is the job of the Holy Spirit to teach me how to do that.  Abiding in God’s love challenges the contemplative to let go and abide in God’s love by simply searching for the One who has already found us.  Abiding God’s love is a mystical experience in that it draws us to a love that is beyond explanation, expression or description.  It defies any limitation on our part.  It is the Opus Dei (the Work of God0 through prayer, meditation, silence and of course living.

In his book The Eremitic Life: Encountering God ins Silence and Solitude, Fr. Cornelius Wencel wrote,

The meeting of two loves that are present and open to each other is a necessary condition for prayer to come into existence.  It is in contemplative prayer that the hermit touches Christ’s presence most intensely.  This presence has nothing to do with static persistence.  Just the opposite, Christ’s presence is ever new, amazingly fresh and full of unknown potential.  Through our tranquil abiding in Christ, we can understand better His presence as a gift given to the Father as well as to mankind (see page 154).

Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation.  It is bound to be narrow at the outset.  But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love. (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.19).

Abba Antony said, “I no longer fear God, I love him; for love casts out fear.”

What does it mean for you to abide in God’s love?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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