Reflection on Touching Jesus

“[The woman] said, “If I but Touch his clothes, I will be made well.” [Jesus] said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well…” (See Mark 5:21-43. NRSV).

The Gospel narrative of the sick woman reaching out for Jesus’ clothes is provides an excellent meditation on Contemplative prayer. The circumstances of her illness, puts her in a moment of vulnerability. She is at the edge of life with no where else to go. She had only hope to find faith. She also knew something about Jesus that prompted her to take a risk. Once she touches Jesus’ cloak and she is healed, all she does is walk away, planning to just keep quiet in thanksgiving. Jesus knew something amazing happened. Jesus confirmed the faith of His daughter.

“There is certainly nothing flashy about contemplation:there is nothing in it that can be translated into marketable commodities and subsequently traded for some temporal advantage. Contemplation is entirely gratuitous, pure grace. On God’s part total gift, on ours total receptivity” (Toward God: The Ancient Wisdom of Western Prayer by Michael Casey, p.171).

God’s grace gives the gift of Contemplative prayer and Mysticism because God knows us as God’s Beloved ones. Whether we are at our moment of vulnerability in a good way or not; God takes the initiative to move our hearts toward a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit. A relationship of silence and solitude through which we seek union with God with an openness to the presence of God. A presence that is everywhere, allowing us the mystical of seeing ourselves from God’s perspective ctive of an unconditional love that cannot be explained or described. We just know that love is there, and God’s love is all that matters.

Abba Antony said, “I no longer fear God, I love him; for love casts out fear.” (Daily Readings with the Desert Fathers. By Benedict Ward., p.50).

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring is all together to everlasting life ” (RB 1989: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, Chapter 72, p. 95).

How are you reaching out in faith to God in your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Listening and Serving

St.BenedictStainedGlass

Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’ (1 Samuel 3:10 NRSV).

Yes!  Another blog post from me about listening.  When it comes to the contemplative relationship with the Holy Spirit the matter of listening cannot be over emphasized.  Our present culture has us listening to the internet, television and radio at length.  We hear the messages of consumerism over and over again, telling us to buy what is bigger, better and my favorite the “new and improved.”  We give ourselves to these things without discerning their long-lasting impact on our spiritual life.

The Camaldolese-Benedictine tradition makes use of three important tools to grow closer to God.  Solitude, silence and Hesychia.  Hesychia is best explained as what Jesus taught in Matthew 6:6.  “But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Abba Antony once said, “Just as fish die if 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 intensity of inner peace.  So like a fish going toward the sea, we must hurry to reach our cell, for fear that if we delay outside we shall lose our interior watchfulness.” (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated & Explained by Christine Valters Paintner, p.9).

The reading from 1 Samuel  to listen for God with the attitude of a servant.   A servant who is ready to rise and follow where God leads us.  The listening being referred to here is what St. Benedict wrote about in the Prologue of The Rule.  “Listen.  Incline the ear of your heart.”   St. Benedict later reminds us of the words we pray everyday at Matins from Psalm 95. “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

“It was said of Abba Agathon that for three years he lived with a stone in his mouth, until he learned to keep silence” (Paintner, p.119).

As contemplatives, we spend time in silence and solitude letting go of exterior and interior noise, so that we may listen to God more attentively.  God desires more than we can imagine to draw us deeper into God’s divine love.   God knows us better than we know ourselves.  When we take time to listen to God within us, we can experience a true conversion of heart and life.  We can then pray the words in Psalm 32:8 in The Common English Bible with a greater confidence in God’s grace.  “I will instruct you and teach you about the direction you should go.  I’ll advise you and keep my eye on you.”

Are you setting time aside in your daily life to listen with the ear of your heart to God?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on God our Fortress

Fortress

“The Lord is a fortress protecting my life.  Should I be frightened by anything?” (Psalm 27:1b Common English Bible).

The past few days have been very stressful for me.  My autistic spectrum disorder along with my generalized anxiety disorder have really been doing a number on me.  I had a lot going on.  It was difficult for me to think clearly and calmly.

My daily Lectio Divina yesterday and today took me to these words from Psalm 27.  As I meditated on these words, I experienced the Holy Spirit speaking to me through my anxiety and the words of the Psalmist.  The Psalmist is proclaiming faith in God who is their light, salvation, fortress and protector of life.  As I spent my time in silence and solitude yesterday, my experience of contemplative prayer was that God was my fortress protecting me through my anxiety.

When I read these words today, I got the sense that God had demonstrated once again that God is faithful to God’s words.  Today, I can take joy in what God did to protect my life and bring me a sense of peace.

As contemplatives, it is important that we see our moments of discouragement and disorder as moments to search for union with God.  God’s grace is more powerful than our circumstances.  Even when the circumstances do not produce what we had hoped for.  God is our strongest and most powerful deliverer as God is always present in whatever is happening.

“Silence, so understood, is an introduction to contemplative dialogue of prayer, in which the word and deep silence alternate with each other” (The Eremitic Life: Encountering God in Silence and Solitude, by Fr. Cronelius Wencel, Er.Cam. p.110).

“A certain philosopher question the holy Antony, ‘How can you be content, father, without the comfort of books?’ He replied, ‘My things and whenever I wish to read the words of God, it is in my hand.'” (Daily Readings with the Desert Fathers, p.77).

“That is why the Lord said in the Gospel: ‘Whoever hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who build his house upon rock; the floods cam and the winds blew and beat against the house, but it did not fall: it was founded on rock’ (Matt 7:24-25). (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue, p.17,18).

How is God being your fortress and protecting your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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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

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

 

 

The Importance of Solitude

Anthony

Just as fish die if they stay too long out of water, so the monks who loiter outside their cells or pass their time with men of the world lose the intensity of inner peace.  So like a fish going towards the sea, we must hurry to reach ourselves, for fear that if we delay outside we will lose our interior watchfulness. (St. Anthony the Great).

There are those who have great difficulty with the idea of dispersed monastics, such as The Companions of St. Luke of which I am a Novice Member.  The complication is quite valid in light of a writing such as what I quoted above from St. Anthony.  There are many who admit that they could not live with and/or in a residential monastic community, but the idea of the existence of a community that is non-residential; let alone allows their members to be married/partnered, have every day jobs and pray our Offices on our own; that kind of thing just seems too wrong for many.

The Companions of St. Luke/Order of St. Benedict along with other Christian Communities within The Episcopal Church are part of a New Monasticism.  A Monasticism that views the Vow of Stability for example, as being about finding Stability in Christ and the particular Community we are vowed to.  We observe The Rule of St. Benedict in that we pray the Daily Offices, pray Lectio Divina daily, and we are obedient to our Superiors in what they require of us in terms of our work of Formation, or any other work we might do as requested.  We also seek stability in all of our relationships including but not limited to our spouses, family members, etc.  Incidentally, the Companions of St. Luke/OSB and Communities within The Episcopal Church are joined by a similar Catholic Community such as the Brothers and Sisters of Charity at Little Portion Hermitage founded by John Michael Talbot, also part of the New Monasticism.

One of the requirements I have accepted as a Novice is to seek those moments of silence and solitude. It is a time to turn off all the electronic devices, close the door of my room and center myself, my thoughts and seek the presence of God.  As Thomas Keating wrote in Open Minds, Open Hearts, “God speaks the language of silence.”  In this way, even dispersed monastics are “in the world, but not of the world.”  We give up the pleasures of continual conversation, doing everything to please others to get our own pleasure, a never ending wandering of our own desires and face ourselves in the presence of God.  We do not spend time in silence and solitude to escape ourselves.  On the contrary, we enter into silence and solitude to meet the best and the worst of ourselves in the presence of God; to experience God refining us as silver is refined in the fire.

The need for solitude and silence is not isolated to monastics.  As Christians, we are all inundated with social media, the news media’s endless campaign to over charge our senses, family obligations, work and more.  Contemplative prayer is not impossible with these things going on, but our ability to listen to God becomes quite limited.  It is very important that we take time as Elijah did to listen for the still, small voice of God that speaks not in the earthquake, the fire or the wind; but in the silence of our hearts, stilled by the Spirit’s gentle whisper.

May we remember today and every day to take those moments unselfishly, so that just as two people in love can spend time together and not say a word; God can spend some quiet time with us.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB