Reflection on Broken to Ashes

ashes

“The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:18.  The Book of Common Prayer, p.657).

Almost anything including the human body can be burned and/or broken into ashes.  It is a stark reminder that nothing is permanent.  Everything and everyone eventually passes beyond our sight and becomes dust and ashes.

As we begin the Season of Lent on this Ash Wednesday; it is a good time to begin searching within ourselves to discover what is broken within and/or about us.  Psalm 51:18 and Ash Wednesday tell us that it is okay if we are broken.  God loves us and in Jesus redeems us as broken people.

“Lent is a good moment for a spiritual stocktaking; a pause, a retreat from life’s busy surface to its solemn deeps.  There we can consider our possessions; and discriminate between the necessary stores which have been issued to us, and must be treasured and kept in good order, and the odds and ends which we have accumulated for ourselves.”  (Lent with Evelyn Underhill, Second Edition. Ash Wednesday taken from the School of Charity, p. 15).

Praying to God from the whole of ourselves in Contemplative and/or Centering Prayer is our chance to take off the masks by which we think we are hiding things from God.   Our sins and brokenness keeps us from a deeper relationship with God, only because we hang on to them within our false-sense of self.   In The Rule of Saint Benedict he tells us,

“we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times.  This we can do in a fitting manner by refusing to indulge in evil habits and by devoting ourselves to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and self-denial.  During these days, therefore, we will add to the usual measure,,,” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English. Chapter 49, p.71).

Notice that Benedict tells us that a good way to observe Lent is not just by self-denial, he also suggests adding on to the usual amount.  Letting go is important, of course, but it must be accompanied by adding something that takes us to our true-selves.

During these days of Lent, we can offer our broken and contrite hearts to God; and let Jesus transform us to search for union with God within our essence; possessed by the Holy Spirit.  This is not only contemplative, it is mystical.  God sees our brokenness as opportunities for growth, not impediments to God’s grace.

4. The path you must follow is in the Psalms–never leave it. (From St. Romuald’s Brief Rule).

Have you considered offering God your broken and contrite heart during this Lent?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See The Community of Solitude.

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

Reflection on Contemplative Listening

Transfiguration

 

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” (Mark 9:7 NRSV).

My blog readers know from the title of this reflection what I am going to use from The Rule of Saint Benedict.  So, here it is.

“Listen, my son, to your master’s precepts, and incline the ear of your heart.” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, p.1).

Listening is essential to contemplative living.  To listen as a contemplative requires the seeker to be silent.  Silence in solitude opens us up to letting go of all that we cling to, so that we can “incline the ear of the heart” to hear God more clearly.

The Transfiguration is more than what is described in the Gospel texts.  It is about Jesus showing us what happens when our humanity infused with God the Incarnate Word becomes One with the God who always was and ever shall be.  The disciples’ fear in the presence of such splendor is more than understandable.  The cloud and the voice that follows what happens is for the disciples so that they may let go of their fear and hear God more clearly in Who Jesus is.

“Their exterior and interior senses were quieted by the awesomeness of the Mystery manifested by the voice out of the cloud.  Once their senses had been calmed and integrated into the spiritual experience which their intuitive faculties had perceived, peace was established throughout their whole being, and they were prepared to respond to the guidance of the Spirit.” (The Mystery of Christ: The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience by Thomas Keating, p.44).

Contemplative listening in solitude and silence makes us docile to the Holy Spirit.  It involves a surrendering of our egos and fears of what was and may be, to the God who knows us more intimately than we know ourselves.  The Transfiguration is a symbol of the magnificence of what God wants to do in us through Contemplative and Centering Prayer.  When we leave ourselves totally available to the Presence and Power of God through the vulnerability of contemplative listening, we can and will listen to God’s Beloved who tells us that in Jesus, we too are God’s beloved.

“Abba Nilas said, ‘The arrows of the enemy cannot touch one who loves quietness; but he who moves about in a crowd will often be wounded.” (Daily Readings with the Desert Fathers, p.38).

Have you spent some time in silent listening recently?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See: The Community of Solitude

If you feel led to buy me some coffee, please click on the Benedictine Coffee mug at the bottom of the right sidebar.

Reflection on Jesus and Solitude

Seeking

“In the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:35. NRSV).

If Jesus who was God among us, needed to withdraw in solitude and spend time in prayer, what makes us think we do not?

More times than not, the person(s) who make a prayerful relationship with God most difficult, is ourselves.  We allow ourselves to be so taken up with things that can only get us so far; while our relationship with God gets its own compartment to be opened for our convenience.  Though we may place God in a chest to be hidden and forgotten, God never places us in anywhere else but as “the apple of God’s eyes.”

Time spent in solitude, praying the Psalms with God in the cell of the whole of ourselves is how God gets to occupy us.  When we spend time in Centering Prayer and Contemplative Prayer, we seek union with the God who is already within us; calling to us to love God and be with God; never to let ourselves be so consumed by anything to the point where God becomes nothing more than another phone app to be used and set a side.  When we spend time with God in silence and solitude, the seed is planted for a new tree of life to grow from within us, that becomes the very Essence from which we live all of life.

“Benedictine Spirituality is a sacramental spirituality.  It holds all things,,,,,, as sacred.” (Joan Chittister, The Monastery of the Heart: An invitation to a Meaningful Life, p.115).

“1. Sit in your cell as in paradise.” (The Rule of St. Romuald).

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to the love of Christ, and may he bring us all to everlasting life.” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English. Chapter 72:11,12).

Have you taken time in solitude lately to spend time with God?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See: The Community of Solitude

If you feel led to buy me some coffee, please click on the Benedictine coffee mug at the bottom of the right sidebar.  Thank you so much.

 

 

Reflection on Being Received

Receiving

“Abba James said, ‘It is better to receive hospitality than give it'” (Daily Readings with the Desert Fathers, p.42).

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

I have experienced today the most amazing revelation.  It began when I read the words of Abba James quoted above.  As I spent time meditating on these words, I found myself drawn to the words in St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries.   The words I was particularly drawn to were, “to receive hospitality..” and “to be received as Christ.”

Through these words, I felt the Holy Spirit disturbing my ego.  When I think of receiving in hospitality, I place the entirety of the responsibility on myself.  Everything is up to me to do to impress the guest by drawing attention to me.  I might like to think that I am being so humble and doing the receiving.   When I exercise hospitality with myself as the sole giver in the encounter, I become self-centered.  I won’t let myself be disturbed or confirmed by God in the guest.

These words from Abba James and Saint Benedict, tell me that it is Christ in the other that is receiving me in hospitality.  When I meditated on it in this way, my attention is no longer on myself exclusively.  Now I have to open the whole of myself, let go of my ego, my need to control and decide; and let Christ in the guest receive me.  Christ becomes my center, as I place myself in Jesus’ care.  Christ comes to me in the guest to receive me, so that I may serve Him in the other.  Christ comes and receives me not only to help me with the things in my life that need conversion, but to bring me conversion by affirming His love for me; to live with thanksgiving the gifts God gives me.  I can give myself over to Contemplative Prayer and experience the Mysticism of knowing and viewing myself from God’s perspective.  This is what Contemplative Prayer and Mysticism are essentially about.

As we are celebrating the Presentation of Christ in the Temple today; it is a good idea to spend some time in solitude and silence.  As we do, perhaps we need to see Jesus receiving us as the guest, and offering Himself for us.  I believe that this is the “Light” that Simeon saw as this Jesus whom he waited for his entire life finally came to present Himself to God.  Christ came and brought His Light to receive our human condition and transform the darkness into the Light of God’s manifestation.

Are you open to being received by Jesus today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See: The Community of Solitude

If you feel led to buy me some coffee, please click on the Benedictine mug at the bottom of the right sidebar.   Thank you so much.

Reflection on Dry Ground

dry-land

 

“O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a barren land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1. The Book of Common Prayer, p.670).

The image above is a field of cracked dry land.  It seems endless.  It seems hopeless.  Very little if any can grow on it.  There is no water to nurture or sustain life on this fractured land.

Our lives are often like broken, dry land.  The heat of life’s many experiences bares down on us and seems to dry up the moisture needed to sustain us.  We grow tired and feel helpless and useless.  Our lives and even our faith cracks and our souls cry out for some kind of relief.

The Psalmist feels the same way.  The Psalmist knows that the only hope one has of recovering is to seek God as one’s God, eagerly as one is.  Thirsty, fainting, barren, cracked open.  The point of the Vow of Stability in Monastic Spirituality is to seek stability in our relationship with God as we are; not as we wish we were, or others might like us to be.  We seek stability in Christ by taking the masks off and letting go of every sense of hopelessness that tells us that there is no way that God can make use of us in our present circumstances.  Benedictine-Camaldolese spirituality of solitude and silence, tells us that it is in this very moment with our lives as they are, is where God has us, and works God’s will through us.

As I spent time meditating on these words in contemplative prayer today, I experienced a mystical moment in which I saw what appeared to be God’s water of new life gushing out to fix the cracks in the dry land.  While the water was flowing over the cracks, the cracks were not being filled, and the land was not refreshed.  I asked the Holy Spirit what was happening.  I got the feeling that God’s waters do not always fill all the cracks and completely mends us together, because God still has plans for us through our cracked and wounded lives.  If God washes over all the cracks and dry spaces, God may not be able to heal other wounds that we have yet to trust in God to mend.  Sometimes what remains broken, is another opportunity for God to bring healing to us at another point in God’s timing.  What I found myself needing to let go of, is my desire to control what I think God should do about every crack in the dry lands of my life.   Though I may think of them as wounds that can do no further good for me or others,; God still has work to do in and through my brokenness to bring me to a greater life of holiness and wholeness.  In the end it is not up to me what God does with my cracked and dry land.  I have to surrender that into God’s hands.

In God’s care and Providence, our brokenness is something God can do many wonderful things yet to be experienced.

“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, verse 41, p.18).

“1. Sit in your cell as in Paradise…  7. Sit like a baby chick, content with the grace of God, who, unless its mother gives it something, knows nothing and has nothing to eat.” (From The Short Rule of St. Romuald).

What are you letting God do with the cracks and wounds in your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See: The Community of Solitude

If you feel led buy me some coffee, please click on the mug at the bottom of the right side bar.  Thank you very much.

Reflection on God Alone

Seeking

“For God alone my soul in silence waits, truly, my hope is in him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.  (Psalm 62:6-7.  The Book of Common Prayer, p.669).

I wish I had the faith the Psalmist must have had when these words were written.  The author had many things going on around him.  He had a lot of enemies it seems.  Yet in the middle of what must have been going on, he found this faith in him that he knew that his soul in silence waits for God, and that God was his only salvation who could fill him with the courage he needed to face the turmoil he was experiencing.

When we speak of silence and solitude in the Monastic life, we are not only talking about exterior tranquility and seclusion.  When we finally do put aside what is going on around us, and spend time in a quiet withdrawal, we find ourselves with that much more noise and the crowds within us.  Plans we haven’t made.  Phone calls we didn’t return.  The emotions we feel after being disappointed.  The relationship (s) that were interrupted by death or a break up.  All of these and our feelings of self inadequacy find their way of shaking us and keeping us from that peace of God.  Much of all this comes from our indulging with our false-sense of self.  Somehow we internalized that everything is up to us.

Centering prayer is sitting quietly and using a word or phrase while we journey to our center and be with God alone in solitude.  In Centering Prayer, we don’t push the things going on in our life aside.  We accept them as they are, and let them go.  When God is so present with us, everything else becomes something we acknowledge is there, but we don’t cling to them.  We let them go.  Because now we know and are experiencing that “For God alone our souls in silence waits, truly our hope is in God.”   Centering prayer opens our interior selves to the contemplative experience of God’s mysterious love and transforming grace.  When we allow ourselves to be with God alone and center ourselves on God, we are brought into a perfect union with God by which God is all we are seeking, for the sake of God alone.  Everything else becomes irrelevant.

The Brief Rule of St. Romuald

1. Sit in your cell as in paradise.
2. Put the whole world behind you and forget it.
3. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish.
4. The path you must follow is in the Psalms never leave it.
5. If you have just come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will you cannot
accomplish what you want, take every opportunity you can to sing the Psalms in your
heart and to understand them with your mind.
6. And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.
7. Realize above all that you are in God’s presence, and stand there with the attitude of
one who stands before the emperor.
8. Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God,
like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him.
“Listen readily to holy reading, and devote yourself often to prayer.” (RB:1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English, Chapter 4 On the Tools for Good Works, verses 55-56. p.28).
Have you spent anytime in silence while your soul waits for God alone lately?
Amen.
Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS
Peace be with all who enter here.

 

Reflection on Thirsting

ThirstyDeer

 

“Just like a deer that craves streams of water, my whole being craves you, God.  My whole being thirsts for God, the living God. When will I come and see God’s face?” (Psalm 42:1,2 Common English Bible).

What do you find yourself thirsting for these days?  Peace?  Wealth? Popularity? Narcissism? Being noticed and liked?  Personal satisfaction with everything and/or everybody? Our various addictions or obsessions?

All of us in one way or live with the illusion that we need to be satisfied by something exterior.  Being satisfied is not a terrible thing, as long as we do not seek satisfaction for the sake of itself.  When what we desire to satisfy us becomes what we desire to possess for the sake of itself, that is when we are thirsting for something much deeper within our whole being.

There is something to be said for spending time in prayer while being physically hungry or thirsty.  In so doing, we fulfill the words of Jesus in His temptation. “People won’t live only by bread, but by every word spoken by God.” (Matthew 4:4 Common English Bible).  When we bring our hunger and thirst into our contemplative and/or centering prayer we acknowledge for ourselves what the Psalmist wrote. “My whole being thirsts for God, the living God.”  By letting go of all that keeps us attached with our false-sense of self, we are able to follow Jesus through the Holy Essence of God into our own essence to search and find that perfect union with God.  God’s love gives the sweetest tasting water turned into wine to satisfy our thirsting souls, and gives new life to ours.

“Prefer nothing to the love of Christ.” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries. Chapter 4: The Instruments of Good Works, p.15).

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

What is it that you are thirsting for today?

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

At this time, I would like to make a very exciting announcement to my blog readers.

I have just been admitted to continue my Monastic Formation with the non-canonical and ecumenical Community of Solitude.  They/we are a Benedictine-Camaldolese Community that uses the tools of Solitude, Silence, Community and Witness.  The Community follows The Rule of St. Benedict, and The Rule of St. Romauld, through the influence of the Scriptures and The Desert Mothers and Fathers.  This is why you now see the CoS designation added to the OSB following my name.

I am equally excited to inform you that this blog and my work with the Facebook group Christian Contemplation and Mysticism are now a part of my own Witness with and for the Community of Solitude.

Along with this information, I must also announce that the previous project I began called The Contemplatives of Subiaco/Order of St. Benedict including the website ends effective immediately.   It would be unethical of me to be a member of one Community while trying to establish another one to compete with the Community of Solitude.

Peace be with all who enter here.