Reflection on the Annunciation and the Desert

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.” (See Luke 1:26-38 NRSV).

I think that we tend to over romanticize the Annunciation. It is a beautiful story without question. The story might bring us the hope that God will do something amazing with us, as God did with Mary. If the narrative of the announcement to Mary does not make us uneasy about following her to a desert of uncertainty, then we may have missed the most mystical purpose of the day.

I am experiencing the most unusual of Lenten observances. In addition to living with autism, I am also living with chronic back pain because of a T-12 lumbar disk protrusion. I require the use of a wheelchair when I go to doctor appointments or anywhere a long walk is needed, because the pain in my back is just too intense to walk with just a cane. I am going to appointments for physical and aquatic therapy to help strengthen my back muscles. But, the process is slow. I am in a year and season where I am uncertain about pretty much everything. Nothing is as it used to be.

I am sure that Mary’s life as it was proceeding at the time was stopped dead in its tracks by the Angel Gabriel’s announcement. She would be traveling in a desert with things being very out of order for the rest of her life. Mary has a faith I certainly do not have. Upon hearing the Angel’s words, she trusts herself and her way forward to God’s will.

Contemplative prayer is anything but, about certainty. That which is mystical is not so neatly fitted together to make perfect logical sense. It is a journey into the desert with Jesus through which we will see ourselves and our lives exactly as they are. There are no illusions, but, our false-sense of self. In the desert everything is unfamiliar, yet, starkly visible and inescapable. Contemplative prayer works best when we let go; little by little; and search for union with God in the things that are what they are. Through faith and trust in God’s love, we will be led to where we go from here.

“Abba Moses asked Abba Silvanus, ‘Can a man lay a foundation every day?’ The old man said, ‘If he works hard he can lay a new foundation every moment.'” (Desert Fathers and Mothers:Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, by Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, p.57).

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

What is your desert time like this Lent?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone you know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, please visit my website here.

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Reflection on Being A Seeker

“Hearken to my voice, O Lord when I call; have mercy on me and answer me. You speak in my heart and say, ‘Seek my face.’ Your face, Lord, will I seek.” (Psalm 27:10-11 The Book of Common Prayer, p.618).

The foundational spirituality of Benedictine Monasticism is to seek union with God through a life of continuous prayer. St. Benedict would have learned about seeking God from reading about the Desert Monastics like St. Antony and St. Moses who passed the spirituality on to St. John Cassian. That being said, the famous motto of Benedict Ora et Labora (pray and work) are the means to seeking union with God. Benedict taught his Monastics that prayer is essential to living a holy life, but that prayer was to be integrated with one’s everyday life and work.

The Season of Lent is a season of prayer and work. We take time during this holy time for more silence so that we may seek the face of God as the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 27. We invoke God’s mercy by letting go and seeking union with God with what is in front of us. While time in silence is important to our growth, what we are working towards is the interior silence within our own cell (the heart). St.Moses wrote, “Sit alone in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.” St. Isaac of Turin wrote,

“A swimmer plunges into the water stripped of his garments to find a pearl: a monk stripped of everything goes through his life in search of the pearl–Jesus Christ; and when he finds him, he seeks no longer for aught existing beside him” (Seeking God; The Way of St. Benedict, Original Edition by Esther de Waal, p.25).

Contemplation is seeking union with God through the life we have, not the life we want. The way forward to finding God’s will and holiness is being made in whatever situation or place we find ourselves in at this moment. We can spend a whole day looking for a reason why, but, we will still come back empty and hungry. “O God , you are my God; eagerly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you,,,,” (Psalm 63:1).

Are you seeking God in your life at this very moment?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone who know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, please visit my website link here.

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

Reflection on Blessed Trust

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.  (See Jeremiah 17:5-10 NRSV).

Is it not a shame sometimes that human beings cannot trust God the way nature does? Nature is a tremendous reflection of what God’s grace is like. Nature in the trees and water receives their being from God, do what they were born to do. They have their way of crying out for what they need. Whatever God’s desire for the trees might be, the trees never seem to waiver in their dependence on God to supply what they need.

Our problem with trusting in God is based on our own sense of what we think we need. We get so caught up in the arrogance of our false-sense of self, that we blindfold ourselves to where and what God has for us. God has already created and redeemed us to have all that we need. In Jesus, God knows and shares in our many trials, sorrows and challenges. Our Christian Faith tells us who God is and what God does; that is not the problem. The issue is, do we trust in God in a relationship of searching for union with God from the whole of ourselves?

Contemplation is our opportunity to take in the presence of God right in front of us. Abba Moses wrote those famous words, “Sit in your cell, your cell will teach you everything.” Our cells are where God has us; right here, right now. This is the place and moment to trust in God. Our hour of giving over our fear in the midst of many obstacles is before us. Sr. Joan Chittister in her book Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light wrote, “Learning to notice the obvious, the colors that touch our psyches, the shapes that vie for our attention,,,,, is the beginning of contemplation” (p.22).

Trusting in God is like a tree planted near a stream. God has provided the stream that is the living waters of our Baptism. God has called us God’s Beloved with whom God is well-pleased. God wants to know if we are willing to trust God to do the rest.

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

By God’s help, will you put your trust in God?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on the Gift of the Heart

When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. (See Matthew 2:1-12 NRSV).

Christina Rossetti wrote in verse 4 of her hymn In the Bleak Mid-Winter,

“What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a wise man, I would do my part; yet what can I give him–give my heart.” (See The Hymnal 1982, #122).

The gifts of the shepherds and wise men represent the giving of what they treasured most. Whatever they treasured; how ever much they valued what they had; finding the Word Incarnate was the empowerment for the Magi to offer their precious gifts to Jesus. They gave up the comfort of wherever they came from, and they searched without giving up until they found what their hearts desired.

Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB in her book Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light wrote, “To be contemplative I must put down my notions of separateness from God and let God speak to me through the universe into the pores of my minuscule life” (p.43).

In The Rule of St. Benedict, he tells us at the beginning of the Prologue to “incline the ear of the heart” where our essence is. Our essence is the source of our eternal truth. We can offer our heart, our essence to help us search for union with The Word who was with God, and was God. When we offer that most precious of personal treasure as a gift to be used by the Holy Spirit; the sky is the limit. The sky becomes so dazzling, that there might be a star showing us the way to the Light of God.

What is the treasure you are offering to God on this Epiphany?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on Prepare the Way

“….the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” (See Luke 3:1-6 NRSV).

The Second Sunday of Advent features one of the best Biblical figures on the subject of desert monasticism; St. John the Baptist. His life, message and ministry creates a splendid example of contemplation and mysticism. Not to mention his humility when St. John the Baptist later said, “he must increase, as I must decrease.”

To prepare the way for God to come, we must begin with putting all else aside for a little while. Many probably will not walk out into a desert physically or geographically. We can if we will spend some time in silence and solitude, let go of everything that holds us down in Centering Prayer. Just spending time letting all our thoughts go and settle for nothing, not even warm fuzzy spiritual feelings; and just be with God. St. John the Baptist shows us how to allow ourselves to lose what we cling to go so we can repare the way for God to be all that matters. In so doing, our experience of God, becomes a window for Jesus to make Himself known to the world around us.

“Your hidden life speaks to the world, but only gives light in so far as it fuses with concentrated love. The Forerunner was a peerless witness to Jesus Christ, being charged with the mission to point him out: ‘Here he is’, “Ecco’.” (The Hermitage Within: Spirituality of the Desert, by A Monk, translated by Alan Neame, p.21).

Contemplative prayer is the work of God’s grace to prepare the way for God the Holy Spirit to make within us a residence for Jesus. In the Prayer of St. Anselm taken from his work, the Proslogion, we pray “Let me seek you in my desire, let me desire you in my seeking. Let me find you by loving you, let me love you when I find you.” The desire is the pathway we are preparing to journey on. It is the love of God we have yet to find, in the love of the God who has already found us. This is the Mysticism we contemplate during this season of Advent. It is the mystery that we long for that comes to us in the celebration of Christmas.

“Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on the way, with the Gospel for our guide, that we deserve to see him who has called us to his kingdom (1 Thess 2:12). (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.16).

How are you preparing the way for Jesus during this season of Advent?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on God’s Will

I want to do your will, my God. Your instruction is deep within me. (Psalm 40:8 The Common English Bible).

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

How do we actually know what God’s will is? It is easy to read a particular passage of Scripture, interpret it and from there decide what God’s will is. Does that mean we really know what God’s will is?

God’s will is as much a mystery as any other aspect of God’s movement in our lives. The vastness of space, the depths of the oceans of the world, the strength of the mountains all sing to our God. Yet, nothing is so big, so indestructible that prevents God from being so madly in love with each of us, so as to want us to love God back.

To want to do God’s will means letting go of the assumption that we understand what God wants of us from our own perspective. Contemplative Prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit that allows us to just be with God, and to want nothing more than God for the sake of God alone. God has already planted God’s will and instruction deep within us, in our desire for the God who desires us. God sees with us the person that God loves and has redeemed in Jesus the Christ.

During this season of Advent, we are watching and waiting to celebrate the mystery beyond all human logic. God saw God’s goodness in all of humankind, and came to us as one of us in the Incarnate Word. God’s will has been given to us, to “listen and incline the ear of the heart.” God’s will is not found in beating ourselves up for what we have not done, or should have done. God’s will is in the truth of God in and through the life of Jesus, that brings us to the eternal truth about who we are in God’s heart.

“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 life and faith, we shall run the way of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with 5e inexpressible delight of love” (RB 1989: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.19).

What does wanting to do God’s will mean for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on the Path of Life

“You will show me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy, and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16:11. The Book of Common Prayer, p.600).

In a society of having a GPS to help us find our way to places familiar and unfamiliar; the idea of waiting for God to guide us to the path of life seems old school. Aside from waiting, wanting God to show us the path of life means we have to let go of our own perspective of what that path must be.

A contemplative is always open to seeing ourselves from God’s perspective. We spend time in silence and solitude because we need to refresh for ourselves where God may be directing us. We need time in our cells with God to help us see what is really there that keeps us from seeing God’s path of life. We become so entrenched in our false-sense of self, that we cannot know how God views us.

If we read the words of Psalm 16, the Psalmist knows that God is our best protector. God is the greatest we can hope for or want. Even during the night, God is speaking to our hearts and holding us from falling. God wants us to share in God’s joy and pleasures. We are the “apple of God’s eyes.” God finds God’s greatest joy and pleasure in each of us. God wants us to enjoy God’s joys and pleasures from the very heart of our loving God. God sees in us, not the labels that we are given or give ourselves. God sees our path of life that draws us to our eternal truth, that is God’s truth. We were created out of love. We have been redeemed by God’s love. God’s love is our path of life, to take us to God’s joys and pleasures that is each of us in the bosom of God’s being.

“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 faith, we will run in 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).

Are you letting God show you the path of life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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