Reflection on the Potter

Clay

Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8 NRSV).

As we begin the Season of Advent, I found these words from the Prophet Isaiah speaking to me.

During this season of hope, peace, love and joy we are waiting to remember the arrival of the Incarnate Word as a vulnerable, innocent child.  The season is full of endless chatter, holiday parties, shopping, holiday musak, and end of the year thank yous.  The radio plays the old song Silver Bells with the words “and above all this bustle; you’ll hear…”   But, at what point do we stop for a little solitude and silence to contemplate this great Season of Advent?  What will it take for us to “listen, and incline the ear of our heart” (Prologue of St. Benedict’s Rule), as we wait in joyful expectation of God’s Love in revealed in the human flesh?

The words from Isaiah tell us that God is the potter and we are the clay.  These words are echoed in the old hymn “Have Thine own way, Lord.  Have Thine own way.  Thou art the potter, I am the clay.”  When we meditate on these words, we are immediately confronted by our false-sense of self.   The self that must be approved and approving, happy no matter what, self absorbed and self centered.  God came to us in Jesus Christ, because God is the potter.

God sees in us just how beautiful we are and how gorgeous we can be.  If only we will spend some time in quiet contemplation of viewing ourselves from God’s perspective as a people destined for greatness by letting go in humility our understanding of who we think God is.  We must let God reveal God’s Self to us, so that God can mold, shape and prepare us to become beautiful vessels that bless the world one hundred times over.

“The second degree of humility is that a person love not his own will nor take pleasure in satisfying his desires, but model his actions on the saying of the Lord, “I have come not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, Chapter 7 On Humility, p.24).

Will you allow God to mold and shape you during this Advent Season?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.net

Reflection on Our Identity

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And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40. NRSV).

All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say, I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matthew 25:35). (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English. Chapter 53:1, p.73).

What is it about these words that disturb us?

These are the words used for the commemoration of St. Martin of Tours every November 11.  St. Martin had a mystical vision of Jesus.  He saw Jesus wearing the half of the cloak he gave a needy person.  St. Martin of Tours served Jesus, because he knew Jesus intimately within himself.  He had reached the summit of contemplative prayer.  St. Martin saw the vision of Jesus in mystery, that he looked at in the flesh.  He knew who he was in himself, and who Jesus was in the other.

The Contemplative perspective of God’s glorious presence seeks us out, to respond by seeking union with God within ourselves; and from ourselves in to others.  How?  Not entirely sure.  However, unless we see Christ within ourselves who is hungry, thirsty, naked, in prison, the stranger, etc, we will not see Christ within others who experience the same things; figuratively, literally or spiritually.  This wonder is as mystical experience that we may contemplate how much God thinks of us, sees us and wants for us and from us.

On this Christ the King Sunday, we are called to see Christ in one another and “*listen, incline the ear of the heart” so that we may hear what Christ has to say to us in the other; that others in turn might hear Christ in and through us.  While some may interpret this as evangelism, I suggest that it is much deeper.  It is beyond mission.  It is a relationship with Christ that is so deep, so important and yet so tender and giving; that the Holy Spirit is the communicator looking for who takes God’s love seriously enough to let go of the labels and our false-sense of self; to see Jesus in us as we are, so that we may know Christ beyond ourselves.

Do you know your identity in Jesus Christ, the King?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.net

*The Rule of Saint Benedict, the Prologue.

 

Reflection on Our Ability

OpenBible

 

Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven will be as when a man, going on a journey. summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.”  (Matthew 25:14 NRSV).

There are some who are going to be surprised by what I am beginning this blog reflection with.  I am a disabled man.  I have Asperger’s Syndrome (also known now as an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, ASD).  I have other mental health issues and physical limitations.  I walk with a cane.  I require a handicapped parking placard.  I use a motorized cart when I go grocery shopping.   I was declared disabled in 2011.  It ended my long and beloved career as a church musician and organist.  I have lost a lot of my energy and ambition to do many of the things I was once able to do.  It is a struggle to adjust.  It is difficult for me to tell someone else that I need their help.   I know what it is to have had abilities to do things that I wanted and needed to do without thinking much about it; to this point in my life when I have to think a little bit longer to do just about anything).

What does this Gospel of Matthew have to say to me and all of us when Jesus said in the parable, “He entrusted his property…….to each according to his ability”?   Quite frankly I am tired of the guilt trips I have gotten because folks think my talents are being wasted or not used.   They have been used.  God did God’s work through me for the long years I did what I did.  But, the time has come for me to let it all go, and take what God has given me in this moment, in the here and now and let God use me according to my ability.

That is why I now live a Benedictine Monastic life as a hermetical.   I am not part of any community per say at this time.  But, I am still who I am called to be, and entrusted by God with God’s property to cooperate with God’s grace with the abilities I now have.

These words from Matthew are about letting go of what we want to do, or want to have to do what we think we should do.  These words tell us to allow God to draw us all into a deep, contemplative awareness of God, and find God’s opportunity for us in the mystery of God’s perspective of each of us.  God sees each of us through the lens of the love of Jesus Christ and the power of God’s Holy Spirit.   God sees the great potential we have in the work God has given us to do in the here and now.  God does not expect us to jump through hoops if we don’t have the legs and muscles to be able to do so.  God calls us as we are, with what abilities God has given us to seek union with God, in the purity of heart; by which we seek God for God’s sake alone and not what God can do.

The first step of humility, then, is that we keep ‘the reverence God always before our eyes (Ps. 35:2)’ and never forget it.  (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr. Joan Chittister, p.79).

What is God entrusting you with according to your ability.

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

see  http://www.cos-osb.net

Reflection on Blessed

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“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3. NRSV).

There is a big misconception that has been going on way too long.  It is the thinking that there is only one to four ways to experience contemplative prayer and mysticism.  Sitting is solitude and silence is probably the greatest way to experience contemplative prayer.  Lectio Divina is best done when we are quietly reading the Scriptures and going through the methodical progression of Lectio (reading), Meditatio (Meditate), Oratio (prayer) and Contemplatio (Contemplation).  This too is true.  Using a routine prayer form such as using Prayer Beads, or the Prayer Rope, or even walking through a forest, are great ways to enter into union with God in prayer.  All of these are amazingly good ways to practice contemplative prayer.

The biggest misconception is that contemplative prayer is about us.  It happens because of something we must do; and if we do not do it and experience some kind of emotional and/or spiritual ecstasy, then we must be doing something wrong.

Contemplative prayer that opens up the possibility of a mystical experience is about God’s grace meeting us where we are, and seeing in our hearts the yearning desire to find union with God.  A yearning search that is there by God’s initiative waiting for us to accept the opportunity to let God be God, and get ourselves out of the way.  Contemplative prayer is not about being perfect.  It is about God reaching us within the whole of ourselves, seeing us as we are, where we are, and us experiencing how blessed we are to be so poor in spirit, that God brings the Kingdom of God to live within us.

Jesus’ invitation to “seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33 KJV) is God seeing us from God’s perspective.  Our deep desire to experience God from the depths of ourselves is in the here and now; even if we are depressed, in despair and wondering where God is.  God is in the wondering.  God is in the searching.  The God we are searching for and wondering about, has already found us.  In Jesus, God has told us that we are blessed because we are poor in spirit.  God also told us that the Kingdom of Heaven is ours; not just in the world to come, but in the here and now.

“We believe that the divine presence is everywhere and that in every place the eyes of that Lord are watching the good and the wicked (Proverbs 5:3)”.  (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English. Chapter 19:1).

Do you know in the whole of your being, that God sees you as being blessed?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

 

 

Reflection on Our Eyes

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“Turn our eyes from watching what is worthless; give me life in your ways.” (Psalm 119:37, The Book of Common Prayer, p.766).

A very wise spiritual director once told me that the reason our lives do not make more significant progress is because of how much attention is paid to nonsense.

Think of what a different world we could live in if the tabloids went bankrupt because no one stopped to read and buy their nonsense in checkout lines.

The world we live in with its lure of wealth, power, fame and the widespread heap of nonsense keeps our eyes on what is worthless.  Our false sense of self keeps us focused on what is worthless.

The Psalmist recognizes that by ourselves, we are powerless to change the direction of our interior vision.  When we try to do everything, thinking that we can do it all; we are keeping our eyes on what is worthless.  Nonsense just consumes us.

In contemplative and centering prayer, God draws us into the depth of God’s Self.  In God’s extravagant love and mercy, we are whole and complete.  In God’s way is that life that leads us into a deeper relationship with our true self; our eternal truth that is God’s goodness and graciousness poured into our hearts “through the one who has loved us” (See Romans 8:37).  In God’s way of life, we are drawn into the mysticism of God’s perspective of us in the holiness of Jesus who is God’s face revealed in the Word.  When we trust in God to turn our eyes away from what is worthless, God teaches us God’s way of life that fills us with a sense of purpose with the hope seeking union with God in purity of heart.

“What, dear brothers, is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us?  See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life.  Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the Gospel as our guide, that we may deserve to see him who has called us to his kingdom (1 Thess. 2:12).” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, p.161).

Where are your eyes focused?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

Reflection on God Our Portion

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“I cry out to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” (Psalm 142:5: The Book of Common Prayer, p.798).

I am drawn to the words, “You,,,,are my portion in the land of the living.”

The world around me tells me that I will never be satisfied unless I own the biggest, the fastest, the most pleasurable.   Some around me have a larger portion then I do. I probably have a larger portion than others in some things.  Consumerism says that unless I have the biggest portion of everything, I am missing something in life.  The weight loss consumer market shames me and others by telling us that unless we buy their products to make us look more like the status quo our lives are worthless.

In Chapter 34 of The Rule of Saint Benedict entitled Distribution of Goods According to Need, he quotes from Acts 4;35.  “Distribution was made to each as he had need.”  In the rest of the chapter,  Benedict offers advice for those who need more and those who need less.  He is telling us that God knows our needs better than we do. Benedict’s Rule is a balance between strictness and flexibility.   He recognizes our need to honor God in one another, but leaves the decision of what to work on up to us individually.

The Psalmist and St. Benedict are reminding us that God is our portion who provides for each of us from the fullness of God’s Self in grace and love.  Our false sense of self says we never have enough, or makes us guilty if we have too much because of circumstances beyond our control.  As we submit ourselves to God through contemplative prayer we are drawn into the mystical experience that God’s Truth is all we need.  In God is our true selves.  In God is our sense of love and acceptance of where we are.  In God is our grace to let go of ourselves and find strength and endurance to keep following the path to where God wants us to be.  After all, God is our portion in the land of the living.

How is God your portion in the land of the living?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

Reflection on Contemplating Forgiveness

Lord's Prayer

Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. (Taken from Matthew 18:21-35, NRSV).

I have to begin with saying that I often dislike sermons based on this Gospel parable.  Jesus does sound a little like he is being mean.  What makes me feel that way?  Answer.  My false sense of self.

Admittedly, I have my father’s stubborn streak within me.  I struggle a lot to admit that I have made a mistake, offended someone or had a hard time forgiving someone else who may have hurt me.  What makes me feel this way?  Answer.  My false sense of self.

My false sense of self lies to me.  It tells me that unless I am correct about everything; I am not loved.  It tells me that unless I settle the score; I am useless.  It tells me that unless I get everything my way; I am without hope.

To contemplate God’s forgiveness means that I have to let go of it all.  If i am going to experience the mystical presence of God, I have to give it all up and trust in God, and not get everything right on my own terms.  Yet, I am still faced with a false sense of self here.  Who am I to believe  that if I don’t do all the letting go and giving up, that God’s enlightening presence cannot do wonderful things in and through me?  What if I am still hanging on to having to be right about letting go and giving up, is me holding on to a false sense of self?  The answer.  I need God to help me let go and to give it up.  Jesus said in John 15:5b “apart from me, you can do nothing.”

Here those words from the Prologue of Saint Benedict’s Rule apply. “Listen!  Incline the ear of your heart.”  Contemplation of God’s work of grace in forgiveness begins when we listen to God within ourselves even with everything in us that needs redemption.  God reveals God’s Self to us in what is messy and imperfect.  The Nativity and the Cross are our claim to God’s work in our stinky and brutal messes.  They reveal that God is closest to us, giving us God’s light and love even when we have emotions about memories that we cannot overcome.  When we have pieces that do not fit together, God is still seeing us from God’s perspective as God’s Beloved with whom God is well-pleased.

I have to wonder if our biggest barrier to forgiving others, is because we need God’s help to forgive ourselves.  Even seventy-seven times.

What is your contemplative experience with God in those places where it is difficult to forgive?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org