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

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Reflection on Waiting and Hoping

“So now, Lord, what should I wait for? My hope is set on you” (Psalm 39:7 The Common English Bible).

Waiting for anything these days is a lost art. Twenty nine years ago email was a very new thing. There was no Amazon. No way to buy a plane ticket online. Returning a phone call still meant waiting until you got home. Due to technology and consumerism that makes things so convenient; we can set our waiting time on our schedule for nearly anything.

The Psalmist seems to be at the end of their rope. “So now, Lord, what should I wait for?”

The false-sense of self says that what we wait for has to have a conclusion to our liking.

The Prophet Isaiah wrote, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (see Isaiah 55:6-11).

To be a contemplative, one must be constantly living a prayerful life; because we know that God must become all we are wanting. Searching for union with God is the foundation of Benedictine spirituality. Benedict would have learned this from the writings of St. John Cassian, who learned from the Desert Mothers and Fathers.

Abba Moses asked Abba Sylvanus, ‘Can a man lay a new foundation everyday?’ The old man said, “If he works hard, he can lay a new foundation at every moment.” (Daily Readings with the Desert Fathers, p.30).

As contemplatives, the answer of what should we wait for is for God alone. God is present and speaking to our hearts. We just need to spend time in silence and solitude so we can listen carefully to God speaking to us through what is happening in our lives. Our experiences, our emotions, our relationships and our challenges are part of God working God’s plan in our lives. We need to let go of wanting to determine the outcome. Our prayer and work are to be listening and responding in faith and hope that God will become all that we truly desire. The prayer of St. Anselm ends with “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.” (Saint Benedict’s Prayer Book for Beginners, p.118).

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

What are you waiting for?

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 Enticed by God

RunnerLight

 

“O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed…..” (Jeremiah 20:7 NRSV).

Out of curiosity, I looked up the word “enticed”.  The synonyms for enticed are allure, attract, lure, tempt.

The Contemplative has been on a journey that began when she/he discovered an enticement within them.  Something was empty and hungry.  As the contemplative opens oneself to the presence of God, one discovers the mystery that one has been enticed by the Holy Spirit.  The lure within the contemplative was there by God’s initiative.  It allures the contemplative into something much deeper than austere practices and the practice of religion by itself.  The practice of religion certainly helps, but, it is something on the surface that can only do so much. We know that when we are hungry there is something about the aroma of bread being baked that seems to make our mouths water and warms our soul.  This is poor example, but close enough to what the contemplative experiences as God entices us in our hearts.

“The contemplation of God is arrived at in numerous ways” (The Conferences of St. John Cassian.  Conference One: On the Goal of the Monk).

God has many ways of attracting our attention.  Through our moments in solitude, walks or jogs along the beach and in the ordinariness of life; God is there, enticing us in ways that “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).    All we have to do is take one small foot step in faith with a little trust in the Holy Spirit; and God will do the rest.

“First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to him most earnestly to bring it to perfection” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English. Prologue vs 4. p.15).

How is God enticing 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

Advent Reflection: Contemplate the Ordinary

RestfulWaters

 

Contemplation is not the stuff of charlatans, telepathists, and magicians.  Contemplation is about very basic, very real things.  It is about seeing God in everyone, finding God everywhere, and responding to all of life as a message from God.  Contemplation is not a road show of visions.  It is not spiritual snake oil. It is not an exalted state of being.  It is simply consciousness of the Ultimate in the immediate. (Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB.  Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light).

I am really not able to write more or better than Sr. Joan Chittister wrote so eloquently in the quote above.  Instead, I want us to reflect for a while on what does the quote have to do with Advent?

In many ways, our most sacred text known as the Holy Bible is misleading due to the many stories of miracles and extraordinary events.  Before my readers get too worked up about what I just wrote concerning Sacred Scripture; I want us to continue to ponder what Sr. Joan wrote above.  She is attempting to help us understand that contemplative prayer is about our relationship with God in the ordinary here and now.  We want God to send us some magical bolt of lightening that takes all of our problems away.  We want to use contemplative prayer and often centering prayer as a way to escape the reality of what is around us.  However, God is seeking union with us, so that we may seek union with God in what is happening in front of us, or around us at this very moment.

In this Season of Advent, we are focusing on awaiting the arrival of our Savior to rescue us. We long for Christ to come in glory and take us away from the violence and misery we are witnessing in our world.  There is another piece of Advent that is just as important.  The God we are waiting for and seeking, has already come to us in Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh.  God who is one with us in Christ is still among us in The Holy Spirit.

In the same book of Sr. Joan’s that I quoted above, I now conclude this reflection with the following quote.

Genuine Spirituality is not spent escaping from life to live in a mental state of unconcern or other worldliness.  Contemplatives do not seek “visions.” They simply seek to know God, the God present in them and around them, in others and in everything, in Goodness and Truth, in universal love and universal peace.  To contemplatives God is not a magic trick.  God is the very breath they breathe.

How are you contemplating the presence of God in the here and now this Advent?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Lenten Reflection: Purity of Heart

St.JohnCassian

 

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8 NRSV).

Every leap year on February 29th, The Episcopal Church commemorates my favorite Monastic Saint after St. Benedict.  St. John Cassian.  The Spirituality of St. Benedict and The Rule, and much of the Spirituality of the Western Church came from St. John Cassian.

St. John Cassian spent a great deal of his time with the Desert Mothers and Fathers learning about how they searched for holiness by withdrawing from worldly distractions.  St. John Cassian integrated their wisdom as to be lived out in community.  Benedictine Spirituality borrows from Cassian.   The Benedictine model of community is best understood as “Growing into who we  are through our relationships with others” (Benedictine Values at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN).

We are now deep into Lent.  We are turning the corner between Ash Wednesday towards Holy Week and Easter Day.  We are continuing to fast and in acts of self-denial as we approach the Easter Triduum.  It is so easy for all of us to forget why we are doing what Christians do during Lent.

In the first of The Conferences, Chapter VII, How Peace Ought to Be Sought, Abbot Moses tells us that if we are fasting, praying vigils, prayerfully reading Scripture and praying without purity of heart being our goal; then we will not find peace we.  If we are doing all of those things and not caring about our neighbor, then all the things we do will bring us no fulfillment.  Purity of heart is nothing more than seeking the other for the sake of the other and not wanting anything else in return.

Thomas Merton wrote “The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves and not to twist them to fit our own image.”

How is God calling you to purity of heart?

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB