Reflection on Arms Stretched Out

“Jesus called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it” (See Mark 8:27-38, NRSV).

I am sure the title of this blog entry and the Gospel quote might seem a little odd to some. Jesus is calling us to carry our cross, to give up our lives and follow Him. Yet, I titled the blog post as about the arms outstretched.

The mysticism of the Cross is that our God in the Person of Jesus stretched out His arms and embraced us. God’s love is so profound, so complete, that Jesus held nothing back.

St. Julian of Norwich wrote, “Christ carried us within him in love and travail, until the time of his passion. And when all was completed and he carried us so for joy, still all this could not satisfy the power of his wonderful love” (Canticle R Enriching Our Worship 1, p.40).

The contemplative experiences the love of God in such a way, that we know that love is more than a theological thesis. It is known in the depths of our hearts. Contemplation is an encounter with the loving arms of God stretched out, while we embrace that love in whatever comes our way. It will not always come in something warm and fuzzy. It happens because God’s grace has moved within us to stretch our arms to embrace the challenges we are given in the here and now.

Taking up our crosses is about faithfulness. Carrying our crosses is not about being perfect. Carrying our cross is God’s holy love forever outstretched for us to embrace God at any time, any where and in anyone.

“Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p. 15).

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer, p.100).

Are you ready to carry your cross, knowing that the arms of Jesus are forever outstretched for you?

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.

Reflection on Longing and Sighing

“Everything I long for is laid out before you, my Lord; my sighs aren’t hidden from you” (Psalm 38:9 The Common English Bible).

Psalm 38 is one of the great lamenting Psalms. In the words is a deep concern for The Psalmist’s relationship with God. The author is feeling abandoned and betrayed. The Psalmist is being brutally honest.

The verse I chose for this blog entry comes from a very firm faith. A faith that recognizes all that is going on. Yet, the Psalmist is aware that God knows us so very well, that our longing and sighs are never far from God’s goodness.

As many of my readers know, I live with autism. It is a condition that challenges every aspect of my life. Finding the right combination of words in any given social situation is like playing the Battleship game. Finding people who affirm me in recognizing that I will never outgrow autism is very difficult. I can only learn to manage myself. But, I cannot do it on my own. I need therapists and good caring people around me to help me. In my false-sense of self, I might like to not be affected by loud noises that most cannot hear. I would love to be able to manage relationships without the fear of sensual overload. The fact is, I am what I am. Even if others don’t understand autism, it is still how God reaches me in the most wondrous of ways. It is because of my autism that Benedictine Contemplative Monastic Life is my path toward a deeper awareness of God’s love for me.

St. Julian of Norwich wrote, “When we contemplate God we are made like unto God” (All Will Be Well: 30 Days with a Great Spiritual Teacher, p.87).

The Contemplative seeks union with God by listening to God’s grace lead us to deeper sense of self awareness. Our deepest longing to know God within our hearts, with the sighs for healing and mercy are always in the very heart of God in the here and now. God wants us to reach out to God from the depth of who we really are, and not who we or anyone else would prefer us to be. Sometimes the very affirmation we need, comes from someone who helps us see how much God loves us in the here and now.

“What is not possible for us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply with the help of his grace” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.18).

Do you believe that your longing and sighing are laid out before God?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you would like to buy me some coffee to help me 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 Opening the Heart

“Say to those who are fearful of heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God'” (Isaiah 35:4 NRSV).

To this day, my very favorite words in the entire Rule of St. Benedict are, “Listen, my son, to your master’s precepts, and incline the ear of your heart. Receive willingly and carry out effectively, your loving father’s advice,,,,,” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, p.1).

Life is full of uncertainties. Seasons change. We change. The people in our lives come and go. Who we are today; is different than who we were five years ago.

What is amazing is that it takes a huge change in our lives for us to wake up and pay attention to what is really going on inside of us. Nothing shakes up our lives quite like the death of someone close to us. When that someone is gone, we realize all the things we should have said or done. We remember things about the other person that made us so complete, but, may not have given it much thought while they were still with us. It is during a year of grieving that we experience the he healing of things within ourselves that we did not know were broken.

Our false-sense of self tells us that we must have everything figured out with all our ducks in a row. If we do not have it all together, we are doing something wrong. As long as we listen to our false-sense of self, our hearts will not be stilled and opened to listen to God. If we live with the idea that our heart are all our own, God cannot find a home there.

St. Julian of Norwich wrote, “And then our Lord opened my spiritual eye, and showed me my spirit in the middle of the heart. I saw the soul as wide as if it were an unlimited realm.”

The God-Life of contemplation tells us that God is present and speaking in the whole of ourselves, if only we will “incline the ear of the heart.” God invites us to experience the fullness of God’s life-giving grace; to give us hope where everything seems so hopeless. Our hearts full of fear from the things behind us, and of the things yet to come are restless. We need to embrace the presence of God within our hearts in the here and now.

What is God saying to your fearful heart today?

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 me 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 What Satisfies

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are they who trust in Him” (Psalm 34:8 The Book of Common Prayer, p.628).

“[Abba Poeman] said, ‘Do not give your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart.'”

“Satisfaction doesn’t always mean happiness. For me, to be satisfied means a sense of rightness in the experience, a fullness that comes when I recognize how I have been truly present to the moment. When we are satisfied, we feel we have ‘enough.’ I feel satisfied when I don’t let life just slip by unnoticed’ (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, Annotated & Explained. Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, p.30,31).

God is so present to us in the here and now. We are often so focused on ourselves and what we want that we make ourselves oblivious to God’s presence. This moment is where God is. This moment is filled with God satisfying us in so many ways. God is calling to our hearts to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” This means letting go of our false-sense of self; to allow God to fill us with a love that gives and gives again. The goodness of God meets us in the here and now to satisfy us in the little things as well as the bigger things.

St. Julian of Norwich wrote, “Nothing less than God can satisfy us” (All Will Be Well: 30 Days with A Great Spiritual Teacher, p.16).

To be a contemplative, we need to open ourselves to being satisfied by God through something as small as a hazelnut. A piece of bread and a sip of wine. God is present in our wanting and longing; beckoning us to search for union with the God who has already found us. God is already offering us God’s Self to satisfy and delight us.

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

God wants you to taste, see and be satisfied by God’s goodness in the here and now. Will you let God satisfy you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you feel led to buy me some coffee, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.

Reflection on Out of the Depths

“Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord; Lord, head my voice; let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication” (Psalm 130:1. The Book of Common Prayer, p.784).

St. Julian of Norwich once wrote,

“Pray inwardly even if you do not enjoy it. It does good, though you feel nothing. Yes, even though you think you are doing nothing” (The Breath of the Soul: Reflections on Prayer by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.83).

In the Ninth Conference on Prayer in The Conferences by St. John Cassian, St. Isaac identified three kinds of prayer. 1. Supplication. 2. Intercession. 3. Thanksgiving. The kind of prayer envisioned by the Psalmist comes from the depths of the heart. The prayer of supplication means a recognition of our helplessness. In that helplessness, we know that God is our only hope.

Prayer is about deepening our relationship with God. Prayer that strengthens our intimacy with God is not about getting something we want. It is about letting go of what we are holding on to. It is the act of turning ourselves over to the will of God, without wanting to control the outcome.

Contemplative prayer is a search for union with the God-Life within us and all around us. It leads us from the depths our hearts, to the awareness that God is interacting with us in the here and now. God’s mystery can be experienced, but, not explained. God’s presence is tangible, yet unattainable by our senses.

Jesus is our Bread of Life and Cup of Salvation. Through Jesus, the depth of our hunger is known and acknowledged. Through Jesus, what we long for is worth the longing. “For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation” (Psalm 62:1, The Book of Common Prayer, p.669).

“We must know that God regards our purity of heart and tears of compunction, not our many words ” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, Chapter 20 Reverence in Prayer, p.48).

Are you in touch with God from the depths of yourself?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you feel led to buy me some coffee, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.

Reflection on Entrust

OpenBible

“I entrust my spirit into your hands; you, Lord, God of faithfulness–you have saved me” (Psalm 31:5 The Common English Bible).

As part of my preparation for this blog entry, I looked up the word “entrust” in the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary.  Here are the two definitions.  1. To confer a trust on; especially: to deliver something in trust to.  2. To commit to another with confidence.  The definition of entrust suggests giving something of tremendous value to another without question of the other’s ability to treasure it as much as we do.   To entrust something we value to another, we are making ourselves and what we value vulnerable.  In effect, we are giving with the hope of it being returned safely.  Yet, we are  relinquishing our sense of control over the final outcome.

Our spirit is where our sense of eternal truth lies.  It is from the very depth of ourselves.  Our spirit is where we find our true-sense of self.  We pray and place our hope for the salvation of our souls in Jesus the Risen and Ascended Christ who is our faithful Redeemer.   Jesus has taken our wounded humanity into the presence of the Holy One to intercede on our behalf.  In Jesus, everything that is good and not so good is in the heart of the God of love.  A few days from now we will celebrate the great Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit comes to us in abundance.  Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O. in his book Centering Prayer: Renewing An Ancient Christian Prayer Form wrote that the Holy Spirit is our Spirit given to us at our Baptism. (See page 10).

The Psalmist in Psalm 31 is lamenting what is happening.  The author finds that they are surrounded by the worst of the worst.  The only thing that Psalmist can do is turn to God and “entrust my spirit to you, my Lord. God of faithfulness.”  The last words of this Psalm verse are their affirmation of their God who has already saved them.

In his book The Eremitic Life: Encountering God in Silence and Solitude Fr. Cornelius Wencel, Er.Cam wrote,

“In contemplative prayer, a person can start to appreciate through faith how great and unfathomable God’s mystery is and how much it surpasses all human attempts of understanding it” (see page 182).

The contemplative engages themselves in the work of daily entrusting their spirit into God’s hands.  Contemplative prayer is daring to let go of controlling what happens to what it is we entrust to God’s hands; and entrusting God with what the outcome will be.  We don’t have to know what the conclusion will be.  We only have to entrust that the God who saves us in the mystery of Jesus the Christ will help us to remain a part of the story in the here and now.

“The path you must follow is in the Psalms–never leave it”  (The Rule of St. Romuald).

“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 St. Benedict in English, p.15).

Abba Nilus said, “Do not be always wanting everything to turn out as you think it should, but rather as God pleases, then you will be undisturbed and thankful in your prayer” (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated and Explained by Christine Valters Paintner PhD, p.61).

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well” (St. Julian of Norwich).

What are you entrusting God with in your life today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you feel led to buy me some coffee, please scroll to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug.  Thank you so much.

Reflection on Wounds

Crucifixus

“Packs of dogs close me in, and gangs of evildoers circle around me; they pierce my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones.” (Psalm 22:16 The Book of Common Prayer, p.611).

There are many ways of looking at the Passion and Death of Jesus on the Cross.  They are each unique and have something to contribute to the whole.  Jesus’ death was a terrible event.  It was ugly.  It was bloody.  In Jesus’ betrayal, trial, and crucifixion is the experience of every form of human suffering that can be imagined or experienced.   Christ’s Death on the Cross is the confirmation of our faith that God is with us in whatever is happening to us.  God’s extravagant love is poured out for all  humankind in this amazing act of obedience.

The Contemplative looks upon the wounds of Jesus on this Good Friday and sees in them a way into the depth of God’s loving goodness.  The cry of anguish, helplessness and a willingness to accept where God had Jesus in what was so vicious and cruel.  Yet, love for His Father and all of us was Jesus’ sole objective.  St. Julian of Norwich wrote in A Song of True Motherhood “Even when all was completed and he carried us so for joy, still all of this could not satisfy the power of his wonderful love.” (Canticle R. Enriching Our Worship 1, p. 40).   The very reality that all of humankind has many many problems are mysteriously represented and accepted by God, as Jesus hangs on the Cross between eternity and time with His arms outstretched; is God’s arms of love ever ready to embrace all of us.

When we open ourselves to experience the love of Christ on the Cross within our wounds we discover what Abba Pambo said, “If you have a heart, you can be saved.”  Christine Valters Paintner in her book Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated and Explained writes, “The desert elders saw the heart as the center of our being  where we encounter God most intimately” (See pages 26-27).   As Contemplatives, we can always meditate on the wounds of Jesus, our wounds and those of humankind from our interior selves.  When we surrender in obedience to the grace of God through Jesus Christ; the transformation of our own lives and those of the world around us becomes possible so long as we get ourselves out of the way.

“Brothers, now that we have asked the Lord who will dwell in his tent, we have heard the instruction for dwelling in it, but only if we fulfill the obligations of those who live there.  We must , then, prepare our hearts and bodies for the battle of holy obedience to his instructions.  What is not possible to us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of his grace” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English, The Prologue, p.18).

How do you see the wounds of your life in the light of the wounds of Christ on the Cross?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you feel led to buy me some coffee, please scroll to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug.  Thank you so much.