Reflection on the Annunciation and the Desert

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.” (See Luke 1:26-38 NRSV).

I think that we tend to over romanticize the Annunciation. It is a beautiful story without question. The story might bring us the hope that God will do something amazing with us, as God did with Mary. If the narrative of the announcement to Mary does not make us uneasy about following her to a desert of uncertainty, then we may have missed the most mystical purpose of the day.

I am experiencing the most unusual of Lenten observances. In addition to living with autism, I am also living with chronic back pain because of a T-12 lumbar disk protrusion. I require the use of a wheelchair when I go to doctor appointments or anywhere a long walk is needed, because the pain in my back is just too intense to walk with just a cane. I am going to appointments for physical and aquatic therapy to help strengthen my back muscles. But, the process is slow. I am in a year and season where I am uncertain about pretty much everything. Nothing is as it used to be.

I am sure that Mary’s life as it was proceeding at the time was stopped dead in its tracks by the Angel Gabriel’s announcement. She would be traveling in a desert with things being very out of order for the rest of her life. Mary has a faith I certainly do not have. Upon hearing the Angel’s words, she trusts herself and her way forward to God’s will.

Contemplative prayer is anything but, about certainty. That which is mystical is not so neatly fitted together to make perfect logical sense. It is a journey into the desert with Jesus through which we will see ourselves and our lives exactly as they are. There are no illusions, but, our false-sense of self. In the desert everything is unfamiliar, yet, starkly visible and inescapable. Contemplative prayer works best when we let go; little by little; and search for union with God in the things that are what they are. Through faith and trust in God’s love, we will be led to where we go from here.

“Abba Moses asked Abba Silvanus, ‘Can a man lay a foundation every day?’ The old man said, ‘If he works hard he can lay a new foundation every moment.'” (Desert Fathers and Mothers:Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, by Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, p.57).

“And finally, never loose hope in God’s mercy ” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, Chapter 4 On the Tools for Good Works).

What is your desert time like this Lent?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone you know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, please visit my website here.

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Reflection on Being A Seeker

“Hearken to my voice, O Lord when I call; have mercy on me and answer me. You speak in my heart and say, ‘Seek my face.’ Your face, Lord, will I seek.” (Psalm 27:10-11 The Book of Common Prayer, p.618).

The foundational spirituality of Benedictine Monasticism is to seek union with God through a life of continuous prayer. St. Benedict would have learned about seeking God from reading about the Desert Monastics like St. Antony and St. Moses who passed the spirituality on to St. John Cassian. That being said, the famous motto of Benedict Ora et Labora (pray and work) are the means to seeking union with God. Benedict taught his Monastics that prayer is essential to living a holy life, but that prayer was to be integrated with one’s everyday life and work.

The Season of Lent is a season of prayer and work. We take time during this holy time for more silence so that we may seek the face of God as the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 27. We invoke God’s mercy by letting go and seeking union with God with what is in front of us. While time in silence is important to our growth, what we are working towards is the interior silence within our own cell (the heart). St.Moses wrote, “Sit alone in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.” St. Isaac of Turin wrote,

“A swimmer plunges into the water stripped of his garments to find a pearl: a monk stripped of everything goes through his life in search of the pearl–Jesus Christ; and when he finds him, he seeks no longer for aught existing beside him” (Seeking God; The Way of St. Benedict, Original Edition by Esther de Waal, p.25).

Contemplation is seeking union with God through the life we have, not the life we want. The way forward to finding God’s will and holiness is being made in whatever situation or place we find ourselves in at this moment. We can spend a whole day looking for a reason why, but, we will still come back empty and hungry. “O God , you are my God; eagerly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you,,,,” (Psalm 63:1).

Are you seeking God in your life at this very moment?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone who know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, please visit my website link here.

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 Blessed Trust

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.  (See Jeremiah 17:5-10 NRSV).

Is it not a shame sometimes that human beings cannot trust God the way nature does? Nature is a tremendous reflection of what God’s grace is like. Nature in the trees and water receives their being from God, do what they were born to do. They have their way of crying out for what they need. Whatever God’s desire for the trees might be, the trees never seem to waiver in their dependence on God to supply what they need.

Our problem with trusting in God is based on our own sense of what we think we need. We get so caught up in the arrogance of our false-sense of self, that we blindfold ourselves to where and what God has for us. God has already created and redeemed us to have all that we need. In Jesus, God knows and shares in our many trials, sorrows and challenges. Our Christian Faith tells us who God is and what God does; that is not the problem. The issue is, do we trust in God in a relationship of searching for union with God from the whole of ourselves?

Contemplation is our opportunity to take in the presence of God right in front of us. Abba Moses wrote those famous words, “Sit in your cell, your cell will teach you everything.” Our cells are where God has us; right here, right now. This is the place and moment to trust in God. Our hour of giving over our fear in the midst of many obstacles is before us. Sr. Joan Chittister in her book Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light wrote, “Learning to notice the obvious, the colors that touch our psyches, the shapes that vie for our attention,,,,, is the beginning of contemplation” (p.22).

Trusting in God is like a tree planted near a stream. God has provided the stream that is the living waters of our Baptism. God has called us God’s Beloved with whom God is well-pleased. God wants to know if we are willing to trust God to do the rest.

“The first step of humility is to keep the reverence of God before us at all times, and never forget it” (The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 7 on Humility).

By God’s help, will you put your trust in God?

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 Possessions

Then Jesus called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:38-44 NRSV).

In a Benedictine community, the notion that we “own” anything is unacceptable. In The Rule of St. Benedict, he charges the monastery cellarer to “regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.55). Later in Chapter 33, on Monks and Private Ownership, Benedict quotes from Acts 4:32 writing “All things should be the common possession of all” (p.56). Things and people in a Benedictine community are on loan and not ends in themselves.

We live in a society of consumerism on steroids. The holiday shopping commercials are already in full swing. The better the gift, the less expensive the deal, the more stuff accumulated and the more stuff possesses us. Our false-sense of self becomes more inflated, thinking our security is found in what we own.

In her book Praying with Benedict, Katherine Howard wrote, “The cure for our insecurity is not the accumulation of material goods, but trust in God” (p.101).

The contemplative is always searching for the One who is invisible in what is visible. A contemplative lives in the simplicity of learning that God loans what we use to us, out of God’s abundance. We seek union with God because God is always generous in the revelation of God’s Self disclosure in Jesus the Christ. God sees us from the perspective of being loved, as God gives to us from the fullness of Who God is. God wants us to let go of all that possesses us, so that God is all we desire. The contemplative searches for God with purity of heart. A purity that comes from our essence, that is our eternal truth of who we are in relationship with God. It is in God that we lay the foundation of our true selves.

Abba Moses asked Abba Silvanus, “Can a man lay a new foundation every day?” The old man said, “If he works hard he can lay a new foundation every moment” (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, by Christine Valters Paintner, p.57).

Are you searching for union with God through the things in your life?

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 much.

Reflection on Removing the Stone

Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” (See John 11:32-44).

Mary and Martha had a good reason for putting a stone at the entrance of Lazarus’ tomb. There was already a stench because his body was decaying. Jesus did not see the stone or the stench as an obstacle to what God could do; but, first the stone had to be removed. The entrance needed to be cleared so that the power of God could do something amazing.

So many of us have good reasons for putting up stones at the entrances of our hearts. We have experienced our hearts being hurt by others or by things we do to ourselves. Many of us have stones at the entrances of our hearts, because of events that are not of our own doing. The death of someone close to us. A disability. An addiction. A relationship that ended . Jesus can meet us in our hearts to do the work of healing and reconciliation, but, we need to be willing to take the stone away, and let God in.

Contemplative prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit as we let go of all of the obstacles we put in God’s way. Lectio Divina (The prayerful Reading of Scripture) is a way of letting the Holy Spirit help us move those stones that we use to keep God away. The whole of ourselves needs a lot of healing and reconciliation, as our souls need redeeming. The stench of everything that is just not right in our lives is something God wants to bring God’s compassion and mercy to. We have to let go, and we have to do it as we are ready. God will wait with us, and love us without exception of what we decide to do about the stones in front of our hearts. The mystery of contemplation is that God is always reaching out for us, and speaking through what is happening with us. “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37 NRSV).

“Sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything ” (said St. Moses the Black).

“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).

What is your response to Jesus’ request to take away the stone from the entrance to your heart?

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 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

If you feel led to buy me some coffee to help keep this ministry going, please scroll to the bottom of the right side bar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug.  Thank you so veyr much.

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.