Lent Meditation:Bread and The Word

jesus_praying_temptation

 

Jesus replied, “It’s written, people won’t live only by bread, but by every word spoken by God” (Matthew 4:4. Common English Bible).

Jesus’ journey in the desert is a perfect model for contemplative prayer. The Desert Mothers and Fathers made the journey of Jesus their own.  They left behind everything else and searched for union with God out of their poverty.  This is why Lent gets its theme of wandering in the desert fasting, praying and acts of self-denial.

In the desert we loose all illusions of power, ownership, fame, fortune and that sense of knowing where we are going.  There is no corner store.  No internet network connection.  No Facebook.  No case with bottled water.  The only thing about wandering in the desert is that we are alone.  We will face ourselves as we are.  We will experience the best of ourselves and see the worst of ourselves.  In the desert, we will learn Who it is that we ultimately depend on for the necessities of life.

Lectio Divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture) is about letting Jesus the Bread of Life, the Word of God speak in the depths of our heart and change our lives.  I think this is at the heart of the temptation in which Jesus is tempted to turn the stones into bread.  It isn’t about being hungry, nor is it an excuse for ignoring those who are hungry.  Living the life of a Christian is about seeing God present and working in every aspect of life.  A life lived as a contemplative (or the interior life), recognizes that everything we are, everything we use, everything around us and in us is God interacting with us in Jesus, the Word.  The Word is speaking. Calling.  Loving.  Inviting.  Forgiving.  Molding and shaping us to live into the mystery of what Jesus said in John 15:5, “without me you can do nothing.”

How are you listening more closely to every word spoken by God this Lent?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

“What is not possible for us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of his grace” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English.  Prologue, vs. 41, p.165).

http://www.cos-osb.org

 

 

Reflection on Saint Antony

Anthony

 

“Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21-22. NRSV).

Saint Antony (or Anthony), is one of the great Desert Fathers.  He had wealth, property and family.  When he heard the words of the Gospel of Matthew quoted above, he immediately set aside all he had and entered into a very austere life of prayer and meditation.  He was a great example of the word Monk as meaning “one” with God.

As time has moved forward, and dispersed Monastic Communities have been begun and flourished in which the members can be married, have jobs and live in their own homes; the question comes up about how we live into the words of Jesus that moved St. Antony.   Very few of us today would close up our bank accounts, divorce our spouses and put our family members into another person’s hands to be left there never to be seen again.  Does that necessarily mean that we are failing to live into the words of Jesus?

The answer at issue here, is not whether we have and/or make use of what God gives us.  It is how much we allow these things to possess us to the point in which we separate them from our relationship with God and others around us.  Most of us, including myself are glued to our phones, computers, jobs, seeking the applause of the crowds and wanting our false sense of self to feed our egos.

The message of Jesus, St. Antony and St. Benedict is simplistic, just not simple.  Are we willing to contemplate in silence and solitude, so that we seek union with God through all of the things God gives us to be used (not possessed by us) to serve God and others?   If you are like me, knowing that in my mind and living it from the heart are not simple by any measure.  Jesus, St. Antony and St. Benedict are not saying it is simple; they are saying that it is possible.  It is possible to live in relationship with God and others to find the mystical presence of the Holy in ourselves, others and the things we are loaned so that God is part of everything around and about us.

In the Prologue to the The Rule of Saint Benedict*, he wrote,

“This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord.”

At the end of the same Prologue, Saint Benedict* wrote,

“Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run 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.”

How are you being challenged to give up what you value to follow Jesus more closely today?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

*The quotes from The Rule are taken from the RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English and Latin, Published by The Liturgical Press, pages 157 and 165

Advent Reflection: Prepare the Way

a-long-path

 

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.” (Matthew 3:3. NRSV).

About twenty years ago I was visiting with my spiritual director.  I was at the beginning of my vocation discernment.  I was excited, scared and anxious about where God might be leading me.  During the session, I said to my spiritual director “I know that God’s grace will be there when I find whatever it is that God has for me.”  My spiritual director looked at me with some concern and said, “God’s grace is in the here and now.  If you do not learn to look for God’s grace right here where God has you, you will not know God’s grace in what is yet to happen.”

The figure of St. John the Baptist is mind boggling.  Yet, for contemplatives he is just the kind of example we can look to.  When the Desert Mothers and Fathers began to create their communities in Egypt, they took the model of St. John the Baptist and made much of it a very important part of their monastic way of life.

St. John the Baptist recognized his role as the one to prepare the way by calling the people of his time to repentance.  We too are prophets who are called to prepare the way for Jesus to come into our lives in the here and now, so that we may respond to God’s grace with joy and obedience.   We are not told to prepare the way for tomorrow, or even at the celebration of the Nativity.  We are told to prepare the way now with what is before us at this moment.

As contemplatives, our time in silent prayer is about opening ourselves up to what God is doing in our ordinary lives.  As we listen, we are preparing the way for Christ to speak to our hearts so that we may cultivate the life of Jesus and make His way our way of life.  We are invited to read and meditate on the Word, and to pray that we may grow closer in relationship with God so as to be drawn into God’s presence in the here and now.  It is God in us that prepares the way so that we can also prepare the way of the Lord in our relationships, our work, our families and communities.

How are you preparing the way of the Lord this Advent?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Reflection on Stillness and Waiting

Serenity

 

My soul truly is still, and ‘waits for’ God: from ‘whom comes’ my deliverance. (Psalm 62:1, The New Zealand Prayer Book, p.256).

In our contemporary world of high speed internet, automatic teller machines and microwave ovens: the notion of remaining still and waiting seems like ancient history.

The practice of silence, solitude, being still and waiting are gifts of God to us to center ourselves on the One who gives us life and hope.  These gifts do not come in packages to be unwrapped or emails to be opened.  They come through the constant, yet, changing rhythms of daily life.  Within our ordinary moments of life, God is calling to us to pause, be still and wait for God to deliver us.

Saint Antony of the Desert once wrote, “He who sits alone and is quiet has escaped three wars: hearing speaking, seeing: but there is one thing he must continually fight: that is, his own heart.”

It also bears repeating that Saint Benedict picks up on this very theme when he begins the Prologue of The Rule with the words, “Listen to the masters instructions.  Incline the ears of your heart.”

The Psalmist, St. Antony and St. Benedict by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit urge us to give God the opportunity to make our souls still and wait for God to be our Deliverer.  We can give God that opportunity in our personal time of prayer in solitude.  We can also seek union with God in stillness through our relationships with others; even when they are not so peaceful.

How and where are you finding time to still your soul and wait for deliverance from God?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB