Reflection on God’s Treasure

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:44-45 NRSV).

We are all living through a time with a lot of death around us. The COVID-19 pandemic has killed way too many people. We have been experiencing and grieving the death of the way our lives used to be before this international crisis. It is a painful time we are living through.

In the midst of the sickness and chaos, Jesus talks about His Kingdom being like a treasure hidden in a field, and a pearl that is so precious, that the owner sells everything they have to get the pearl. If you are feeling the grief and anger that so many of us are experiencing; it is perfectly understandable that our response to Jesus would be, “ Oh yeah? Then, when is enough, enough?” Whenever we draw a conclusion on God as to what is happening, we are cutting God and ourselves short.

“Try to enter your inner treasure-house and you will see the treasure-house of heaven. For both the one and the other are the same, and one and the same entrance reveals them both. The ladder leading to the kingdom is concealed within you.” (St. Isaac of Syria, in Kadloubovsky and Palmer, Writings from Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart, p. 30).

God’s greatest treasure is already and always within us. God has blessed us with our eternal truth within our essence. As Christians, we know that God gave Jesus as the Redeemer of our souls. God’s act of salvation on our behalf is because of how much God treasures us. We are the pearl that God sold everything to get for God’s Self. Even with all the muddy ness of a global pandemic, death and losses, there is always love deep in the heart of God that reaches out for us, in the very depths of who we are. In our tears, sadness, hopelessness and broken lives, God calls us to search for union with God who is ever present and hurting within us. God may not make things what we want them to be tomorrow or next week, but, in Jesus, God walks with us through it all.

As contemplatives, we know that the challenging times we are living through are a time in the desert. It is in this desert time, that everything that we really are is inescapable. We are hungry and thirsty. We are freezing from the darkness of isolation. We are overheated from news flashes going by with the rising number of new infections, and we can only do so much. In our desert experience, we cannot ignore our need for God to be our shepherd. So, we must do what St. Romuald wrote in his short rule. “Sit in your cell as in paradise.” We need to spend time with God in our cell (our hearts) with everything we are feeling, no matter how ugly we think it is, and allow God in God’s Grace to meet us there and be our nourishment and thirst quencher by faith and trust alone.

“In God’s goodness, we are already counted as God’s own…”

“The person who prays for the presence of God is, ironically, already in the presence of God.” (Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB. The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, p.5-6).

Do you see yourself and your neighbor as God’s treasure during this time of global pandemic?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Learning Wisdom

And yes, you want truth in the most hidden places; you teach me wisdom in the most secret space (Psalm 51:6, The Common English Bible).

Each of us has within us a sacred space. It is in the whole of who we are. In that sacred space there is our soul and our spirit.

Our souls are where our emotions are. In our souls, we experience joy and sorrow. We feel healing and pain in our souls. Many of the personal conflicts we have, have a lot to do with what is going on in our souls. In addition to these, our souls often have our false-sense of self. Each of us encounters hunger and thirst. The feelings of abandonment and isolation. These happen in part because of the messages we receive from our parents, society, the ups and downs of life, and any number of things. In our souls, we often want to be first in line. We want to be comfortable or celebrated.

Our spirit on the other hand is where our eternal truth (our essence) is. Our true selves are in our spirit. God’s Holy Spirit longs more than we know, to grant us the union with God that we seek; so that God’s wisdom can heal our souls and lead us to a divine intimacy with the God who loves us beyond our wildest imagination.

Psalm 51, the mercy plea of David, helps us remember that we are always somewhere between what is good and not good. God is our merciful Savior and is always willing to bring forgiveness to our souls. What we really need is for God to teach us God’s wisdom in our secret and sacred spaces. Most of the work of contemplative prayer in the Christian Tradition is about the interaction of God with us in our sacred and secretive spaces. We spend time in silence and solitude to allow God to talk with our souls, so that God can help us to live into our essence. Our eternal truth is where Jesus, the Wisdom of God is speaking to help “heal the sin sick soul” (Taken from the Gospel hymn There is a Balm in Gilead).

God knows the wounds within our souls. God knows how much we are all hurting in this time of social distancing and the innumerable deaths because of the coronavirus. In that brokenness, God is teaching us God’s wisdom in new and powerful ways. This time of uncertainty, is our time in the desert with Jesus. God will teach us wisdom in our secret and sacred space; but, we have to be silent so we can listen to God in our eternal truth; our essence.

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

Will you let Jesus teach you wisdom in your secret and sacred space during this time in the desert?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on A Prayerful Heart

Give ear, O Lord to my prayer, and attend to the voice of my supplications. In the time of my trouble I will call upon you, for you will answer me. (Psalm 86:6-7. The Book of Common Prayer, p.710).

The great Desert Father Antony once wrote, “Just as fish die of they stay too long out of water, so the monks who loiter outside their cell or pass their time with men of the world lose the intimacy of inner peace. So like a fish going to the sea, we must hurry to reach our cell, for fear that if we delay outside we shall lose our interior watchfulness.”

Christine Valters Paintner in her book Desert Fathers and Mother’s: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings wrote, “The Greek word nepsis means “watchfulness.” It refers to a kind of calm vigilance in daily life, staying attentive and aware to the inner movements of the heart, watching one’s thoughts, and noticing patterns that arise. This inner attention, conducted with compassion, is the grace of the desert way.” (Pages 8-9).

The cell that Antony is writing about is our hearts. The heart in Christian spirituality is “the whole of ourselves.” The Psalmist is writing to ask God for help in times of trouble. The Psalmist knows the troubles that have been, and those ahead require God’s help to work through them.

We are living through some very difficult times. The coronavirus along with the excessive violence has everyone including me experiencing what seems like endless pain and confusion. We are inundated by the fast paced media that is bombarding our sensory awareness to overload.

The Psalmist and the Desert Monastics tell us to return to our cells (our hearts) and spend time in the presence of God in silence and solitude to reclaim our true sense of self. Contemplative prayer and mysticism calls us to embrace the peace of God that leads us to an awareness of what is really happening with in the heart of who we are. Let us remember that Jesus is walking with us through the events of the present time; and the Holy Spirit is teaching us from deep within our hearts. We do not have to understand anything. What we must do is let go of trying to determine a conclusion to the ongoing experience of God’s extravagant love that is transforming us “from glory into glory” in the here and now.

“How much more important, then, to lay our petitions before the God of all with the utmost humility and devotion.”

“The function of times of prayer, then, is not to have us say prayers; it is to enable our lives to become a prayer outside of prayer, to become ‘pure of heart,’ one with God,,,,” (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, Joan Chittister, p.132).

Are you setting time aside in your life to listen to God within the whole of yourself?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Easter in the Desert

“The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation .” (Psalm 118;14. The Book of Common Prayer, p.761).

Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

It hardly seems like Easter. Minnesota, where I live is getting a snow storm as I write this blog entry. Yet, the snow falling on Easter seems to fit. Many of us are used to being in our churches on Easter. Our churches are usually so crowded that extra chairs must be put out to accommodate the overflow. People go to Easter Sunday services while wearing the best spring clothes. It is always so wonderful when the sun is shining with nice warm weather on Easter.

Easter in the Year 2020 is not at all like what we are used to. The coronavirus is even preventing families from gathering for Easter dinner with relatives they have not seen since Christmas. Some people are rightly worried about those who are sick and suffering. Many are grieving the loss of those they love. How can we contemplate the mystery of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ with everything upside down?

The Desert Monastics lived their lives in such a way, that they were always in a world that was upside down from how many people functioned. The Mothers and Fathers of the Desert gave over everything that was considered “normal” for an unusual way of life through which they searched for a deeper union with God.

Christine Valters Paintner in her book Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings wrote,

“The paradox in the spiritual life is that this journey through destruction is necessary to reach any kind of resurrection or new life beyond it. We are rebuilt and reshaped through this process. We must fully surrender ourselves to the awfulness of it. We must stay present with how we feel compassion to ourselves in the process. We must learn to no longer feel victim to our suffering, but to instead discover a kind of inner fierceness that allows us to look death in the eye without flinching” (p.50).

The Easter experience of Resurrection is not without the pains of Good Friday. The victory of new life is always preceded by letting go of what is familiar, preferred and desired. Unless we spend time in contemplative prayer before the Cross, we will miss the mysticism of the empty tomb on Easter.

The chaos of the coronavirus can be overcome, by recognizing the inevitability of loosing everything as we have known them to be, and giving ourselves over to a new way of living for a whole new beginning.

Jesus and His Resurrection are our strength and our song, and Christ has become our salvation by the wondrous love of God.

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may Christ bring us to everlasting life.” (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.298).

Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Preparing the Wilderness of the Heart

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” (See Matthew 3:1-12 NRSV).

When we think of the wilderness, we tend to associate it with an external landscape. It is a place we might go (or be set out) on a journey to or through. Whether it is a destination we go to of our own choosing, or by a misplaced sense of direction; the wilderness (or the desert) is a perfect symbol of what can happen with our interior self.

St. John the Baptist saw himself as the forerunner of Christ. He had such a clear sense of who he was, and what his purpose in life was, that he separated himself from everything to live into his true self. St. John the Baptist knew that God was the One he wanted to give his life to. He was able, therefore, to search and be the “voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord…”.

In the book entitled The Hermitage Within: Spirituality of the Desert, Alan Neame writes a fascinating translation of St. John the Baptist’s Wilderness.

“You are more than the Bridegroom’s friend. Your soul is truly the Bride, and you will make the outpourings of the mystic marriage-song your own: “‘I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.'” (See the Song of Solomon 6:3). (P.19).”

St. Moses the Black wrote “Sit in your cell. Your cell will teach you everything.”

The cell and the wilderness in the spirituality of the Desert Mothers and Fathers represents the heart and the environment we are in. Our hearts need times of silence and solitude so that we can prepare a way for God within us. Our cells are so often lost in the wilderness of our false-sense of self that is so cluttered with the junk that suffocates our souls. God wants to walk with us in the wilderness of our cells to show us God’s true love and grace within our essence, that is our eternal truth. Advent is the time in which we journey with St. John the Baptist to contemplate our relationship with God and ourselves to find healing and reconciliation through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice that everyday calls out this charge: If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts (Psalm 95:8).” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.15,16).

What does the wilderness of your heart look like today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Visit my website about my ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

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

Reflection on God’s Love and Home

Jesus said to Judas (not Iscariot), “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (See John 14:23-29 NRSV).

What does loving God so that God can make a home with us look like? How can we keep the word of Jesus in a world that challenges us to give everything over to technology and innovation. The Bible itself has been given over to commercialism and theological debates. It is quite difficult for us to make our hearts into a space for the word and Jesus without us being open to the movement of God the Holy Spirit to reveal a new relationship with God that is living and growing.

“Abba John gave this advice, ‘Watching means to sit in the cell and be mindful of God. This is what is meant by ‘I was on watch and God came to me. ‘” (John the Dwarf, Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, by Christine Valters Paintner, p.11).

The “cell” for the Desert Monastics meant the heart. The famous saying of St. Moses the Black is applicable here. “Sit in your cell. Your cell will teach you everything.” Our hearts are so cluttered with anger, resentment, and our egos. So long as we give our hearts to our false-sense of self, we cannot hear God’s word clearly. When we run from what is in our hearts, we cannot experience God’s healing grace.

“Openness is the door through which wisdom travels and contemplation begins.” (Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light, Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB., p89).

Contemplation unlocks our hardened hearts. The mystery of God’s love comes to us through the Scriptures, through nature, through where we are in the here and now. Contemplation brings us into that relationship with God that can be experienced, but not explained. In contemplative prayer, our senses knows that God is present, real and tangible. When we “incline the ears of our hearts” to God in moments of solitude and silence, Jesus the Word will come to love us and make a home with us. God’s Love will transform us from the inside out. We will live from our eternal essence with God’s Holy Essence.

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all to everlasting life. ” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.95).

Will you let Jesus make a home for God in your own heart?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Please visit my website or more information about my ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

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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.

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 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

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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.