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

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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

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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.

Reflection on Possessions

Then Jesus called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:38-44 NRSV).

In a Benedictine community, the notion that we “own” anything is unacceptable. In The Rule of St. Benedict, he charges the monastery cellarer to “regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.55). Later in Chapter 33, on Monks and Private Ownership, Benedict quotes from Acts 4:32 writing “All things should be the common possession of all” (p.56). Things and people in a Benedictine community are on loan and not ends in themselves.

We live in a society of consumerism on steroids. The holiday shopping commercials are already in full swing. The better the gift, the less expensive the deal, the more stuff accumulated and the more stuff possesses us. Our false-sense of self becomes more inflated, thinking our security is found in what we own.

In her book Praying with Benedict, Katherine Howard wrote, “The cure for our insecurity is not the accumulation of material goods, but trust in God” (p.101).

The contemplative is always searching for the One who is invisible in what is visible. A contemplative lives in the simplicity of learning that God loans what we use to us, out of God’s abundance. We seek union with God because God is always generous in the revelation of God’s Self disclosure in Jesus the Christ. God sees us from the perspective of being loved, as God gives to us from the fullness of Who God is. God wants us to let go of all that possesses us, so that God is all we desire. The contemplative searches for God with purity of heart. A purity that comes from our essence, that is our eternal truth of who we are in relationship with God. It is in God that we lay the foundation of our true selves.

Abba Moses asked Abba Silvanus, “Can a man lay a new 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, p.57).

Are you searching for union with God through the things in your 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 much.

Reflection on Removing the Stone

Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” (See John 11:32-44).

Mary and Martha had a good reason for putting a stone at the entrance of Lazarus’ tomb. There was already a stench because his body was decaying. Jesus did not see the stone or the stench as an obstacle to what God could do; but, first the stone had to be removed. The entrance needed to be cleared so that the power of God could do something amazing.

So many of us have good reasons for putting up stones at the entrances of our hearts. We have experienced our hearts being hurt by others or by things we do to ourselves. Many of us have stones at the entrances of our hearts, because of events that are not of our own doing. The death of someone close to us. A disability. An addiction. A relationship that ended . Jesus can meet us in our hearts to do the work of healing and reconciliation, but, we need to be willing to take the stone away, and let God in.

Contemplative prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit as we let go of all of the obstacles we put in God’s way. Lectio Divina (The prayerful Reading of Scripture) is a way of letting the Holy Spirit help us move those stones that we use to keep God away. The whole of ourselves needs a lot of healing and reconciliation, as our souls need redeeming. The stench of everything that is just not right in our lives is something God wants to bring God’s compassion and mercy to. We have to let go, and we have to do it as we are ready. God will wait with us, and love us without exception of what we decide to do about the stones in front of our hearts. The mystery of contemplation is that God is always reaching out for us, and speaking through what is happening with us. “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37 NRSV).

“Sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything ” (said St. Moses the Black).

“What is not possible for us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply with the help of his grace.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.18).

What is your response to Jesus’ request to take away the stone from the entrance to your heart?

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 Eye, Ear and Heart

St.BenedictStainedGlass

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (See 1 Corinthians 2:9 NRSV).

St. John Cassian in The Conferences, quoted Abba Moses who said, “Whenever the gaze strays even a little, we should turn back the eyes of the heart into the straight line towards [God].”

Christine Valters Paintner in her book, Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, Annotated & Explained wrote, “We often move through life skimming the surface with our eyes.  Our eyes become tired and blurry and we no longer see the sacred shimmering before us” (see pages 32-33).

In The Rule of St. Benedict, he quotes the words of 1 Corinthians 2:9 at the end of Chapter 4 On The Tools for Good Works.  St. Benedict invites us into contemplation that what God does with what we have is beyond anything we can grasp with our human senses.  When we let go of being the ones that must always determine the outcome of something we do or say; God’s plans for us still remain mysterious.  Yet, they are all that much more wonderful than anything we can “ask or imagine.” (See Ephesians 3:20, 21).

Anything that may be going on in our lives at this very moment, is an opportunity to let go and to love and trust in God.  Whether what is happening is something that goes as we had hoped for or not; God’s plans for us are extravagant.  In contemplative prayer we “listen to God with the ear of the heart.”  We do not have to have everything defined so neatly and perfectly.  Letting go of that desire is so very challenging, because we like things delivered to us perfectly wrapped up in a pleasant surprise.  God opens up our hearts to what God has for us, because of God’s love for us, and God’s desire in us is to love God with everything we have and are.  God’s mysticism is for us to open our hearts to thankfully receive; and to live into so that the world can be transformed and renewed by God’s Holy Spirit.

Where in your life are you experiencing God showing you amazing things?

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 keep this ministry going, please scroll to the bottom of the right side bar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug.  Thank you so veyr much.