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

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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

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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 Listening: Yup Again!

I will listen to what the Lord God is saying, for he is speaking peace to his faithful people and to those who turn their hearts to him. (Psalm 85:8 The Book of Common Prayer, p.709).

When we read those famous first words in the Prologue of The Rule of St. Benedict notice that he is talking about the ear of the heart, as opposed to the physical ear. “Listen, my child to the masters instructions, and incline the ear of your heart.” Benedict returns to the subject of listening throughout the Prologue. He quotes from Psalm 95, “If today you hear God’s, harden not your heart.” “Listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 2:7). “Come and listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Psalm 34).

St. Benedict would have leaned about listening from the Desert Mothers and Fathers. In particular St. Moses, who famously said, “Sit in your cell. Your cell will teach you everything.”

Listening to God involves a continuous letting go. Our cell is our interior self, as much as it can be a physical space. Listening to God so that we can hear God speaking peace to us, is strengthened in time spent in silence and solitude; but we must nurture our interior self by remaining open to God at all times. Each moment and encounter is a contemplative experience, if we will only listen for God in our hearts. In her book, Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light, Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB wrote, “Everything in life is meant to stretch me beyond my superficial self to my better self, the Ultimate Good who is God” (p.24).

Are you listening to God in the here and now?

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 Mouth and Heart

Desert

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, Lord, my rock and redeemer” (Psalm 19:14.  The Common English Bible).

One day, while I was doing Lectio Divina on the words of Psalm 19:14 in The Common English Bible, I found myself disturbed by the words “and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, Lord my rock and redeemer.”  As I meditated on these words I found myself needing to reword the quote from this Psalm.   “May the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, my Lord, my rock, my redeemer; so that the words of my mouth may also be pleasing to you.”   If what I am meditating on in my heart is to be pleasing to God, then I must do what scares me the most.  I must relinquish control of what I think I know will be pleasing to God within my heart to begin with.  I must let God teach my heart what is pleasing to God.   How can I please God in the meditations of my heart, if I do not let God teach me what pleases God?

I recently began reading an incredible book entitled Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, Annotated & Explained.  The annotations and commentary are written by Dr. Christine Valters Paintner.   As I have been thinking of what I was going to write in this blog reflection today, I came across some words that she wrote that express so beautifully, what I am writing about.

“The desert journey isn’t about embarking on a long and arduous struggle to find God at the end of the road. Desert spirituality is about looking for God right in the midst of wrestling with ourselves.  God in the heart of the struggle, and so we are to stay there with the holy presence until the treasure is revealed” (From the Introduction, p. XXIX).

If we are to embark on a mystical journey with God, then we must begin by letting go of thinking that we must have the answers for everything that is going on with us; inside and out.  Searching for union with God in the deepest recesses of our whole self, is an excursion with the God who knows us better than we know ourselves.  When we are in our cells in solitude with God, there is no pretending that our human brokenness is not there.  We must face it, and let God walk through it with us; so that we can by God’s grace, let it go.  Only then, can the meditations of our heart be pleasing to God who is our rock and redeemer; and from our mouths will come what is pleasing to God and beneficial for the world around us.

“The blessed space of quiet discernment and contemplative understanding manifests itself when we are quiet enough to listen to the still, small voice guiding our path forward” (Teresa Pasquale Mateus, Ashes and the Phoenix; Meditations for the Season of Lent, edited by Len Freeman, p56).

“Go sit in your cell, and your cell will teach your everything.” (Abba Moses).

“Listen and incline the ear of your heart” (Prologue, The Rule of Saint Benedict).

When you meditate with God in your heart, what do you hear God saying to 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 much.

Reflection on Come and See

Serenity

 

When Jesus turned and saw (John’s Disciple) following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. (John 1:38-39. NRSV).

A certain brother came to Abba Moses in Scetis, seeking at word from him, and the old man said to him, “Go and sit in your cell and your cell will teach you everything.” (Daily Readings with the Desert Fathers, p. 64).

Our problem is that we spend too much time seeking God in all the wrong places.  We, like the disciples come looking for Jesus and ask where He is staying.  Jesus’ reply to them and us is “come and see.”  God is indeed everywhere around us.  The things we do, the people we see and the things we use all have an element of God’s work.  But, these are not ends in and of themselves.  They are not beginnings and stopping points.  They are merely tools for the trade.

Jesus wants us to search for union with God, with purity of heart.  To seek God for the sake of God alone, because of who God is; not what God can do.  To begin the search, we must first go into the heart of ourselves in solitude and silence and allow God to transform us from our sacred space on outward.

The point of Contemplative Prayer, of Centering Prayer is to live in the Presence of God in the here and now, by finding where Jesus is staying within us.  We must first take the important step of letting go of all that keeps us from asking Jesus “where are you staying?”  When we hear Jesus call us from within, we are drawn into the mystical experience of the joy of God having found us to united us to an intimate and new life-giving love.

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

Have you asked Jesus “where are you staying” from your heart, so He can say to you “come and see?”

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB