Reflection on St. Benedict

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“There was a man, Benedict, who was revered for the holiness of his life, blessed by God both in grace and name.  While yet a boy, he showed mature understanding and possessed a strength of character far beyond his years, keeping his heart detached from sinful worldly pleasures.  While still in the world, he was in a position to enjoy all that the world had to offer; but, seeing how empty it was, he turned from it without regret” (Dialogs of St. Gregory the Great).

The year was 1993.  I was in my senior year of college.  I was facing a massive change in my life after graduation.  Where would I go?  What would I do?  What would happen to all the friendships I made?  As intriguing as these questions were, I knew that there was something in my heart that was yearning for a sense of direction.  I didn’t want to graduate from college without something to begin anchoring my spiritual life to.

That Fall, I visited Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham, Massachusetts.  I was introduced to Saint Benedict and his Rule.  When I first read The Rule, the first thought I had was “Is this guy crazy or what?”   Once I started to read The Rule, and experience the hospitality of the monks there, I knew something changed in my life.  I would never be the same.

Twenty three years since, my life has experienced many twists and turns.  Many successes and failures.  Yet, any time I felt like my life was going on a wrong path, The Rule of Saint Benedict time and again has redirected me to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thomas Merton in his book The Rule of Saint Benedict: Initiation into the Monastic Tradition wrote;

“The Purpose of the Rule is to furnish a framework to build the structure of a simple and pure spiritual life, pleasing to God by its perfection of faith, humility, and love.  The Rule is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. and it is always to be seen in relation to its end.  This end is union with God in love, and in every line of the Rule indicates that its various prescriptions are given us to show us how to get rid of self love and replace it by the love of God: (p.6).

Saint Benedict, his life and Rule, shows us how to live the contemplative life by being open to God’s Providence and listen to God “with the ears of the heart” (Prologue of The Rule).  If a mystical experience is to happen, it begins with letting go of all that holds us back.  It is a letting go of the many things we attach ourselves to, and see the power of God illuminating us with grace and “the inexpressible delight of love” (Prologue of The Rule).

Whoever your favorite Saint is, who’s spirituality you are drawn to and whatever draws you closer to God; it begins with letting go.  As Saint Benedict wrote in The Rule, Chapter 72, “Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.”

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

Lent Reflection: I Am Resurrection and Life

Reflections

 

Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’  She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’ (John 11:25-27 NRSV).

Jesus gives new hope to Mary and Martha in today’s Gospel story.   They already demonstrated their courageous faith.  Their belief in who Jesus was, enabled them to believe that if Jesus had been there when Lazarus was dying, He could have prevented his death.  Mary and Martha’s faith and hope in Jesus was evidence of their openness to more than what they saw by sight.  Jesus responds by proclaiming that He is the resurrection and the life, and follows His claim up by raising up Lazarus’ body.   I believe that all of what we read about in John’s Gospel today is faith becoming visible and tangible.  There are new opportunities, because faith opened the flood gates.

This is where the contemplative experiences the presence of Jesus in which no words are necessary.  As contemplatives, we know that all we have to do is crack open that barrier just a little, and The Holy Spirit will gush in the holiness of God in abundance.   If we believe just a little bit that Jesus can change what is right in front of us into a moment of resurrection and life; we will experience this new life in the mystical moment of God’s grace.

In chapter 35 of The Life and Miracles of St. Benedict, is the story of how he was standing at the window of his monastery before the night office.  He was so deep in his watching, that he had the experience of a great light through which he could see all the world in that one moment of light.  The mystical experience was so transparent for St. Benedict, that he saw the soul of Germanus ascending into heaven.  Just a little bit of openness and watching, and Benedict saw resurrection and life in front of his eyes.

What is the barrier you are willing to open just a little, so that Jesus can be resurrection and life for you?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See http://www.cos-osb.org

Lent Reflection: St. Benedict & Death

Benedict Leaving

 

“Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English. Chapter 4:47. p.184).

The above quote from Chapter 4 On the Tools of Good Works in The Rule hits us square in the face with a reality that will happen to all of us.  Just as the ashes we receive at the beginning of Lent; Benedict gives us these words to remind us of our mortality.  Benedict tells us to face this reality and do what God gives us to do in the here and now.   He tells us to remember that we will die everyday as one of the tools for good works, so that we will make good use of everything we have been given to use. Especially the sacrament of time.  We are not going to be on this earth forever.  We are given time and tasks to do. We have been given those tasks because of God’s love for us.  God wants us to do what we are to do in the here and now in response to that great love.

Today, we commemorate the day that Saint Benedict “raised his hands to heaven and yielded his angelic spirit into the hands of his Creator.”

St. Benedict spent his life seeking union with God through a life of continuous prayer in relationship with God and others.  The Rule of St. Benedict which is a combination of The Rule of the Master, with texts borrowed from The Conferences and Institutes by St. John Cassian, and Benedict’s own additions; was his way of passing on the wisdom he learned from his life experience.  It has been used, revised and adapted for the past 1500 plus years as a guide for monastics and non-monastics alike.

At the point in which Benedict handed over his spirit, he was able to surrender his entire self into the hands of God because of his trust and devotion to God.  He made use of the tools God gave him to accomplish God’s will.  As St. Gregory the Great wrote in The Dialogues “Benedict could not have lived in any other way, than what he taught.”

Our contemplative prayer and mystical experience happens when we live with the awareness  of God’s Presence in the ordinary tasks of life.  Washing dishes.  Cleaning our homes.  Doing our job well.  Attending to the relationships God has entrusted us with.  Consoling the sorrowful, clothing the naked and welcoming the stranger.

What are you doing with the tools and time that God has given you in the here and now?

What do the words “Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die” say to you?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See http://www.cos-osb.org

Lent Reflection: Hiding Place

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You are my hiding place, O Lord.  (Psalm 32:8. The Book of Common Prayer, p.624).

Thomas Merton in his book Thoughts in Solitude wrote, “There is no greater disaster in the spiritual life than to be immersed in unreality.”  The unreality he wrote about can be an addiction we are not taking care of.  Or, a conversation with a friend or spouse that we have been avoiding.  It can and most often is the unreality of our life with God within ourselves.  How do we know what our relationship with God is really like if we don’t spend time with God as our hiding place?

Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB in her book Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light wrote, “Silence frightens us because it is silence that brings us face to face with ourselves.”

In the midst of a noisy world full of radio, television, the internet, iPhones and iPads; our God is missing us.  God is missing being closer to us in moments of solitude and silence so that we may embrace God as our hiding place; where God is waiting to embrace us.  In God who is our hiding place, our imperfections do not matter.  Our health in mind, body or spirit does not matter.  All the questions and frustrations, broken relationships and desires can be found in a nice crowded closet when we spend time away for a little while with God who is our hiding place.

In God our hiding place, we can enjoy the mystical experience of contemplating God’s perfect and holy love.  The Holy One who gave us Jesus our Redeemer (who Himself sought out moments of solitude), enters into the crowded places and spaces of our lives while we are hidden away with God, while God “creates a clean heart” in us.  In God as our hiding place, we surrender all; and seek only union with the God who has already found us.

Are you spending time in silence and solitude with God as your hiding place this Lent?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See http://www.cos-osb.org

Lenten Reflection: A Clean Heart

God and the Heart

 

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:11. The Book of Common Prayer, p.657).

The Psalmist in Psalm 51 is pleading with God for mercy and forgiveness.  It is a recognition of our human mortality.  We are sinners who need God’s grace and healing.  Psalm 51 is about emptying the dirt of our personal and spiritual self and depending completely on God to redeem us.  Is it any wonder why in The Rule of St. Benedict he prescribes that Psalm 51 (50 as St. Benedict used the Grail Psalms in which they were all one number behind our current English version) be used every day during Matins (or Lauds)?   Esther de Waal in her book A Life-Giving Way: A Commentary on The Rule of St. Benedict writes, “The act of acknowledging my weakness and failure is not a morbid dwelling on sin but a turning in confidence to the God who sees a humble and contrite heart and is there to rescue me just as he rescued his people in the past” (p.79).

So what about a clean heart?  The contemplative understands that Psalm 51:11 is a deeply prayerful desire in our heart by God’s initiative that lets go of everything we are holding on to in there; and trusting in God’s view point of our hearts; to make them a clean space for God alone.  When we let go of all the stuff that weighs us down and crowds us in and put our trust in the Holy Spirit; God resides in there because the space has been cleaned out and made ready for the one who gives our hearts all that we need.  Our hearts are made clean and ready to be occupied by its Creator and Redeemer.

What do you need let go of for God to come into your clean heart this Lent?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See, http://www.cos-osb.org

Christmas Reflection: Receiving and Responding to the Word

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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.  What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.  (John 1:1-5 NRSV).

“But to all who received him, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.  And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of the only son, full of grace and truth.  (John 1:13,14 NRSV).

I want to wish everyone a most blessed and holy Christmas Season.  What a joy it is to share this reflection with you.

The beauty and wonder of this Christmas Eve/Day/Night catches all of our human senses.   We find ourselves caught up in the wonder of God’s love born in Jesus Christ.  The Word made flesh.  The Word that is spoken, written is born into our living and troubled humanity.

The romantic and cozy feeling of Christmas is a bit of a disillusionment. Oh we sing and read those beautiful words of the Angels: “Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth.”  However,  Jesus was born into our human messes.  He came in very dark times with a lot of violence, poverty and helplessness all around Him.  God was born as a vulnerable child into our poverty as one so helpless to tell us that God walks with us as one of us.

The Word came to us in grace and truth so that we who open our hearts to listen to His voice and accept Jesus are given the power to become children of God.  God revealed to us through Christ God’s perspective of all of us being God’s Beloved, with whom God is well-pleased.

God coming to us in the Incarnate Word is the wondrous mystical experience we can breath in and out in our Contemplative and Centering Prayer.  Christ comes to lead us to a deeper awareness so that we may seek union with God.  As we search for that union, God reveals to us through Christ that God has already found us.

May the Word who comes among us on this Christmas Eve/Day/Night, fill your hearts and lives with the love with which He taught us to love God. one another and ourselves.

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Visit The Contemplatives of Subiaco-Order of Saint Benedict at: http://www.cos-osb.org

Advent Reflection: God Is With Us

Nativity

 

“Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name, Emmanuel”  Meaning “God is with us.” (Matthew 1:23, RSV).

There is a lot going on around us.  Preparations for the celebration of Christmas.  Shopping.  Wrapping.  Writing out Christmas cards.  Choirs preparing for the Christmas Eve service.  Organists preparing their pieces with the additional instruments.  Clergy writing sermons, making their holiday rounds for the shut ins, etc.  People are volunteering for the local soup kitchens to serve a Christmas meal for those who are in need.

As we journey through Late Advent to the celebration of the Nativity, we are comforted by the words, “God is with us.”

There are many for whom the Christmas holidays are anything but comfortable and joyful.  Many of us have painful memories of family who are no longer with us.  Last year I was in a year of grief when my mother passed away November 22, 2015.  I was never so happy to see January 2nd arrive.  Perhaps there are families with members in the military who are far from home.  What does “God with us” mean for them?

Whether our lives are in some kind of happy order or not, the mystery that we can celebrate is that God is with us.  God is with us and we are loved beyond our wildest imaginations.  We are loved and viewed by God as God’s beloved in Christ, God’s Beloved Son.  God sees what is in our hearts.  God cares about what is happening, including, but not limited to those moments when our faith is shaken or weakened.

God is with us.  God is here seeking union with us and calling us to seek union with God.

How are you celebrating or longing for the words “God is with us”?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Visit http://www.cos-osb.org to learn more about The Contemplatives of Subiaco-Order of Saint Benedict.