Reflection on the Light of the World

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. (See John 9:1-41 NRSV).

The current crisis of the coronavirus can make us feel like we have gone blind. We once had a life with our families, careers, gathering of friends and our church communities. The COVID-19 global crisis has brought a screeching halt to everything we once knew and did. It can leave us feeling as if we are walking around life in the darkness. Many of us might feel as if we are putting our hands out in front of us , looking to touched something or someone that is familiar to us so we can relocate our life as it was.

In the Gospel narrative, the one who was without sight from birth only knew how to stretch out his empty hand. He was searching for a friend’s hand to help him know a life he might have never known. A life of hope to be able to know what others knew, and could help him connect in some way with a hope filled with light and hope for better things to come.

When Jesus reached out to him, He proclaimed that as long as he was in the world, He was the light of the world. He made a muddy mess of mud and put them on the man’s eyes. The individual washed his eyes and could finally see the world that he had only dreamed to see. As the story continues, he worships the One who gave him sight, only to see that Jesus was in a different kind of darkness.

The times we are living through are difficult for contemplatives as they are for anyone. There is nothing simple about the virus and what it has done to the world as a whole. The most powerful way contemplatives can benefit the world during this dark time, is to cling to Jesus as the Light who is still in this world by the faith of us who know Him from the inside out. A contemplative never seeks escape from what is in the here and now, but, searches for union with God through what is happening in the here and now. Jesus is shining as the Light in the darkness of the chaos. The contemplatives see the story of their lives in what is occurring, only to find Jesus as the guide through the unfamiliar moment.

“Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God and our ears to the voice from Heaven that everyday calls out this charge: If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts (Ps.95:8).” (The Rule of St. Benedict in English).

How is Jesus the Light in this time of darkness for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on the Word at Home

“The Word became flesh and made His home among us. We have seen His glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, The Common English Bible).

I am using The Common English Bible for this reflection, because I am drawn to the words “and made His home among us.” These words disturb me. I am so comfortable hearing the words of John 1:1-18 as the cozy doctrine of the Incarnation. As long as I kept them in my mind to the hearing of this Gospel every Christmas, they never make the journey from the head to the heart.

When I spend time with these words in Lectio Divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture) the Holy Spirit tells my heart that Jesus is coming to make His home within me at this moment. I am in a bit of a panic attack, because I am so attached to enjoying my interior home where my ego has its own room. My false-sense of self has given my ego a run of the home in me. Jesus, the Word wants to make a home in me? If that happens, I will know just how much God knows me in my total vulnerability. I will experience the reality of the words of Psalm 139:1.

“Lord, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar.”

I/we must remember that contemplative prayer is at its climax when we let go of everything, including our high expectations and open ourselves to experience Emmanuel “God with us.” God comes so that we can see ourselves from God’s perspective. Jesus comes to make His home in us, because God loves us so completely because of who we are, as we are and desires to make our hearts a most beautiful holy abode for God-Self. God wants to plant the seed of God’s Holy Spirit in our hearts so that a wondrous garden with every beautiful kind fruit can grow. Those many weeds within us that need to die and be pulled, will help us to be transformed into that “new creation” (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-18) rising up with Jesus in the Resurrection.

“Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for He is going to say, ‘I came as a guest, and you received me.'” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries. Chapter 53 On the Reception of Guests, p.73).

How are the words “The Word became flesh and made His home among us” speaking to your heart?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Visit my website to learn about my ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

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Reflection on St. John

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (See 1 John 1:1-9 NRSV).

St. John the Evangelist is my very favorite of the Apostles and New Testament contributors. The beginning of John’s Gospel with the words “In the beginning was the Word….” is beyond profound. The three letters attributed to St. John and Revelation are so beautiful.

On this text from 1 John, St. Augustine of Hippo wrote,

“Life itself was therefore revealed in the flesh. In this way what was visible to the heart alone could become visible to the eye, and so heal men’s hearts.” (The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume I Advent and Christmas Season, p.1267).

The Johannine communities that gave us these words from the Apostle tell us about what they have personally witnessed. The love of Jesus, the Word made visible and tangible. It was more exciting than yesterday’s news story that had come and gone. The love of God in Christ was transforming them from the inside out. The love they experienced was so powerful, that they had to write about it.

This reading from First John leads us into contemplation. When John and his community experience the love of the Word, they move into what Thomas Keating wrote about in his book The Mystery of Christ: The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience,

“The revelation of being loved by God characterizes the first stage of contemplative prayer. It enables us to see God in all things” (p.73).

St. John reminds us that we experience the transformative power of Christ when we let God into our hearts. St. Benedict tells us in the beginning of The Rule. “Listen carefully to the master’s instructions, and incline the ear of your heart.” Once we let go of our false-sense of self, and let God’s desire for us, feed our desire for God; it is then that we will find God by loving God; that we will be led by the Holy Spirit to love God when we find God. Contemplative prayer and the mystical experience help us to begin again, as we open our hearts to the experience of Jesus the Word made flesh by the faithful witness of those who have come before us.

Where are you looking to find Jesus today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Humility

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. (See John 6:1-21. NRSV).

David G.R. Keller in his book, Oasis of Wisdom: The Worlds of the Desert Fathers and Mothers wrote,

“The path towards God begins with the recognition of our own limitations and an awareness of our total dependence on God. In order to take the first step, we must know who we are in relation to God” (p.134).

The quote I am using from St. John’s Gospel comes from the narrative where Jesus feeds the multitudes. When the people want to take Him by force “He withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.” Jesus “who, being in the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God, something to be used for his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant..” (Philippians 2:6,7 NIV). Jesus is more concerned about withdrawing to recollect Himself in silence and solitude. Jesus reclaims who He is.

Humility is the most challenging way for Christians to live. Our society around us encourages achievements to become better and bigger. The more money we make, the more successful we are. Being in the spotlight creates models for our children to aspire to. Greatness feeds our false-sense of self. The attitude is unless we are on the top of the world, we are nothing. Jesus, shows us that nothing could be further from the truth.

Contemplative prayer helps us to live into our true selves. We “recognize our limitations.” We rediscover that we are poor in spirit, and that we will find God by letting go of who we think we are. The God-Life becomes a life of fruitfulness when we listen to Jesus when He said, “Without me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). In humility we seek union with God for the sake of God alone, God gives us everything we need. Our poverty of spirit in contemplation is the key that unlocks the power of the Holy Spirit; who guides us to purity of heart.

“Let me seek you, O God, in my desire, let me desire you in my seeking. Let me find you by loving you, let me love you when find you” (From the Prayer of St. Anselm of Canterbury, Saint Benedict’s Prayer Book for Beginners, p.118).

“The first step of humility, then, is that we keep ‘the reverence of God before our eyes’ (ps.36:2)’ and never forget it” (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.79).

What does humility mean in your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Contemplating Forgiveness

Lord's Prayer

Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. (Taken from Matthew 18:21-35, NRSV).

I have to begin with saying that I often dislike sermons based on this Gospel parable.  Jesus does sound a little like he is being mean.  What makes me feel that way?  Answer.  My false sense of self.

Admittedly, I have my father’s stubborn streak within me.  I struggle a lot to admit that I have made a mistake, offended someone or had a hard time forgiving someone else who may have hurt me.  What makes me feel this way?  Answer.  My false sense of self.

My false sense of self lies to me.  It tells me that unless I am correct about everything; I am not loved.  It tells me that unless I settle the score; I am useless.  It tells me that unless I get everything my way; I am without hope.

To contemplate God’s forgiveness means that I have to let go of it all.  If i am going to experience the mystical presence of God, I have to give it all up and trust in God, and not get everything right on my own terms.  Yet, I am still faced with a false sense of self here.  Who am I to believe  that if I don’t do all the letting go and giving up, that God’s enlightening presence cannot do wonderful things in and through me?  What if I am still hanging on to having to be right about letting go and giving up, is me holding on to a false sense of self?  The answer.  I need God to help me let go and to give it up.  Jesus said in John 15:5b “apart from me, you can do nothing.”

Here those words from the Prologue of Saint Benedict’s Rule apply. “Listen!  Incline the ear of your heart.”  Contemplation of God’s work of grace in forgiveness begins when we listen to God within ourselves even with everything in us that needs redemption.  God reveals God’s Self to us in what is messy and imperfect.  The Nativity and the Cross are our claim to God’s work in our stinky and brutal messes.  They reveal that God is closest to us, giving us God’s light and love even when we have emotions about memories that we cannot overcome.  When we have pieces that do not fit together, God is still seeing us from God’s perspective as God’s Beloved with whom God is well-pleased.

I have to wonder if our biggest barrier to forgiving others, is because we need God’s help to forgive ourselves.  Even seventy-seven times.

What is your contemplative experience with God in those places where it is difficult to forgive?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

 

 

Lenten Reflection: Ashes, Dust and Humility

Ashes and Dust

 

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.  (Ash Wednesday Liturgy.  The Book of Common Prayer, p.265).

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday with these chilling words.  Ashes and dust are a reminder of our immortality.  They also remind us that our like our origin; our destiny is not in our control alone.  The idea that we are dust and that we will return there seems harsh and depressing.

This past Sunday, The Rev. Barbara Mraz preached at St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in St. Paul.  Her sermon was entitled, “Remember What the Creator Can Do With Dust.” Deacon Mraz spoke about how the Creator uses what we consider as useless to connect us to one another and contribute to their common good.  Lent is not so much about drudgery and misery.  It is about bringing ourselves back to the basic reality, that we were all created out of God’s extravagant love and redeemed by a love no less than extravagant.  We return to that place and remember that “thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy.” (Prayer of Humble Access, The Book of Common Prayer, p. 337).

When I read St. Benedict’s Chapter 7 On Humility in The Rule, there are three steps that really do shake me at the core of my false-sense of self.  Step 4 says that we are to be obedient to our Superior even “difficult, unfavorable, and even unjust conditions” with a “quiet heart”.   In Step 6, he says that the Monk is content with the lowest and most menial treatment.”  Benedict writes regarding Step 7 that I am to regard myself as “inferior” to all.   My false-sense of self tells me that I am to be liked, preferred, approved of, to have everything I want and only then will I be truly happy.  The false-sense of self is fueled if you will, by the many wounds within our souls.  Benedict wrote about these steps so that we would know our place.  We are neither completely above or below anyone.

When we accept our place as “ashes and dust” it dose not mean to loathe ourselves in low self-esteem.  Such would further empower our false-sense of self.  It means that when we are at our lowest; there is no limit to what God can do with us.  When we open our hearts to God in contemplative prayer as “ashes and dust” the foot print made by others on us means that we have helped someone along their way.  We have the opportunity to help God plant a new seed in someone’s journey of faith.  The rain moistens us to prepare the way for new growth and hope for those in despair.  We are not useless dust and ashes.  We are in our Essence; in our true-selves seeking union with the Holy Essence of God.

What does God want to do in your life as you know yourself as ashes and dust?

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB