Reflection on the Whole Heart

“I will give thanks to you , O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I will sing your praise.” (Psalm 138:1 The Book of Common Prayer, p.793).

There are twelve chapters in The Rule of St. Benedict in which Benedict lists what Psalms are to be prayed at the various Offices.   He quotes from the Psalms in any number of chapters including the Prologue.  In the short Rule of St. Romuald, he writes about the importance of the Psalms for those who observe an Eremitic version of Benedictine Monasticism as Camaldolese.  The Desert Mothers and Fathers prayed all 150 Psalms twice a day.  The importance of the Psalms in the life of Christians cannot be over emphasized.

When we pray the Psalms, we pray with the entire Church in the past, present and future.  Praying the Psalms allows us to open ourselves to the Presence of God.  God knows all of our emotions and allows us to offer them and everything about ourselves to God by praying the Psalms while surrendering ourselves to God.

What might it mean to give thanks to God with our whole heart?

When we use the word “heart” in Christian Spirituality, we are talking about the whole of ourselves.  To give thanks to God with our whole heart implies holding nothing back.  Whatever is good and wonderful we offer in thanksgiving to God with our whole selves.  Whatever is in pain, suffering or sadness, we offer in thanksgiving to God with our whole selves.   Praying the Psalms is our assurance that whatever is happening within our whole selves, we can turn ourselves over to God who loves us where we are.  When we do God draw us closer to God’s Self who walks with us in mystic journey of redemption.

When we pray Lectio Divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture) we spend time meditating on a word or sentence that moves us.   In his book Thoughts in Solitude Thomas Merton wrote the following words with regards to meditative prayer.

“In meditative prayer, one thinks and speaks not only with his mind and lips, but in a certain sense with his whole being.  Prayer is not just a formula of words, or a series of desires springing up in the heart–it is the orientation of our whole body, mind and spirit to God in silence, attention and adoration.  All good meditative prayer is a conversion of our entire self to God.” (Shambhala Pocket Classics version 1993, p.44).

Offering our whole selves to God in thanksgiving leads us to contemplation.   God who entered into our human nature in Jesus the Word, became one with all our human experiences.  Jesus offered every aspect of humanity from joy to excruciating suffering to the very heart of the love of God.  When we pray the Psalms and offer our whole hearts to God with all the masks off, our prayer, becomes the prayer of Jesus as God receives with unconditional love all that we have to offer God.

What does giving thanks to God with your whole heart mean for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-Cos

See The Community of Solitude

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Reflection on Listening and Serving

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Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’ (1 Samuel 3:10 NRSV).

Yes!  Another blog post from me about listening.  When it comes to the contemplative relationship with the Holy Spirit the matter of listening cannot be over emphasized.  Our present culture has us listening to the internet, television and radio at length.  We hear the messages of consumerism over and over again, telling us to buy what is bigger, better and my favorite the “new and improved.”  We give ourselves to these things without discerning their long-lasting impact on our spiritual life.

The Camaldolese-Benedictine tradition makes use of three important tools to grow closer to God.  Solitude, silence and Hesychia.  Hesychia is best explained as what Jesus taught in Matthew 6:6.  “But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Abba Antony once said, “Just as fish die if they stay too long out of water, so the monks who loiter outside their cell or pass their time with men of the world lose the intensity of inner peace.  So like a fish going toward the sea, we must hurry to reach our cell, for fear that if we delay outside we shall lose our interior watchfulness.” (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated & Explained by Christine Valters Paintner, p.9).

The reading from 1 Samuel  to listen for God with the attitude of a servant.   A servant who is ready to rise and follow where God leads us.  The listening being referred to here is what St. Benedict wrote about in the Prologue of The Rule.  “Listen.  Incline the ear of your heart.”   St. Benedict later reminds us of the words we pray everyday at Matins from Psalm 95. “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

“It was said of Abba Agathon that for three years he lived with a stone in his mouth, until he learned to keep silence” (Paintner, p.119).

As contemplatives, we spend time in silence and solitude letting go of exterior and interior noise, so that we may listen to God more attentively.  God desires more than we can imagine to draw us deeper into God’s divine love.   God knows us better than we know ourselves.  When we take time to listen to God within us, we can experience a true conversion of heart and life.  We can then pray the words in Psalm 32:8 in The Common English Bible with a greater confidence in God’s grace.  “I will instruct you and teach you about the direction you should go.  I’ll advise you and keep my eye on you.”

Are you setting time aside in your daily life to listen with the ear of your heart to God?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See The Community of Solitude

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Reflection on Visitation

Luca della Robbia-visitation

Image Above Made by Luca della Robbia.  See Artway.ea

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’ (Luke 1:39-45 NRSV).

The Visitation is an excellent narrative to lead us into contemplation of what is written in Chapter 53:1 in The Rule of Saint Benedict.  “Let all guests be received as Christ..”   Following Mary’s experience of the Angel Gabriel announcing that she would be the Mother of the Incarnate Word, she leaves to visit with Elizabeth.  When Mary greets Elizabeth the child in her womb who is John the Baptist leaps for joy.  Elizabeth and her child knew the experience of Christ coming to them through Mary.  Jesus though He had barely been conceived in the womb of Mary was so real to Elizabeth and John the Baptist that their lives were changed with a joy that needed no words.

The Visitation story is also a great way to meditate on what Abba James said.  “It is better to receive hospitality than to give it.”  When Mary arrived to visit Elizabeth, the experience Elizabeth had within her, came from receiving Mary in hospitality and being received in hospitality by Jesus present in Mary.

In her book Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seeker’s of Light, Sr. Joan Chittister on the topic of Lectio Divina wrote,

“Contemplation is not a private devotion; it is a way of life.  It changes the way we think.  It shapes the way we live.  It challenges the way we talk and where we go and what we do.  We do not “contemplate” or “not contemplate.” We live the contemplative life.”

The experience of Jesus receiving us, invites us to receive Him in a profound moment of conversion.  It is a way of life that leads us to seeking a deeper union with the God-life who has entered into our human condition and reclaimed us as holy unto God.  Jesus invites us into the mystery of this holy way of life to accept Him and respond with the joy that leaps within our true selves that gives us new life and in turn “renews the face of the earth” in the Holy Spirit.

“Realize above all that you are in God’s presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor.  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” (From the short Rule of St. Romuald).

What change are you experiencing within yourself as Christ is coming to you today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See The Community of Solitude.

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Reflection on the Spirit of Truth

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“I have much more to say to you, but you can’t handle it now.  However, when the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you in all truth” (John 16:12,13 The Common English Bible).

The moment we tell ourselves that we know the truth of God with nothing more to learn; what we are in effect saying is that we are satisfied with being lost in ourselves.  Just the notion that we think that our knowledge and experience of God is an end in and of itself, suggests that we have lost hope and disregarded faith.  When we limit our knowledge of the truth about God to ourselves, we are giving in to our false-sense of self.

The Holy Spirit leads us into our true self by guiding us again and again into a new experience of God.  Every fresh encounter with God’s Spirit of truth is a moment of rebirth.  Contemplative prayer helps us to open our hearts to a fresh breath of the Holy Spirit that unlocks our eternal truth in the Light of God’s Incarnate Word who is Jesus the Christ.

Abba Poeman once said, “So when people hear the word of God frequently, their hearts are opened to the fear of God.”  St. Benedict picks up on this same idea in the Prologue of The Rule when he wrote, “Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice from heaven that every day calls out this charge: If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts (Psalm 95)” (See RB:1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.16).

An encounter with the Holy Spirit of God’s truth begins with silence and listening.   When we take some time in solitude with the God who is “I AM” the Holy One leads us to “incline the ear of our heart.”  As we listen in silence and solitude Holy Spirit does the work that Jesus promised us, which is to lead us to a deep and profound truth through which we experience the Resurrection of new life with God.

“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” (From the Rule of St. Romauld).

Are you letting the Holy Spirit continue guiding you into all truth?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See The Community of Solitude

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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-CoS

See The Community of Solitude

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Reflection on Abiding in God’s Love

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Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love” (John 15:9 NRSV).

I have a fascination with the power of water.  When we ponder the ocean and the waves; I am amazed at how the weather can change what those waves do within seconds.  Yet, the ocean and its waves are never separated.  Sr. Joan Chittister in her book The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century on page 81, she quotes a story from the Desert Monastics.  I am going to paraphrase the story by writing that just as the ocean and the wave are not one, but not two; so are those who seek union with God and abide in God’s love.

The Gospel quote above is from Jesus’ talk with His disciples as He prepares to leave them.  Jesus is telling them to abide in God’s love and share that love with each other.  Just as the ocean and the wave are not one, nor two: so the love of God is not one, but not two in those who abide in God’s love.

My problem when I read “abide in God’s love” is that I am drawn back to my false-sense of self.  I think abiding in God’s love is all about me and is therefore up to me.  I forget that the desire in my heart to abide in God’s love is there by God’s initiative.  Whatever level of desire I have within me to abide in God’s love, it is the job of the Holy Spirit to teach me how to do that.  Abiding in God’s love challenges the contemplative to let go and abide in God’s love by simply searching for the One who has already found us.  Abiding God’s love is a mystical experience in that it draws us to a love that is beyond explanation, expression or description.  It defies any limitation on our part.  It is the Opus Dei (the Work of God0 through prayer, meditation, silence and of course living.

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

The meeting of two loves that are present and open to each other is a necessary condition for prayer to come into existence.  It is in contemplative prayer that the hermit touches Christ’s presence most intensely.  This presence has nothing to do with static persistence.  Just the opposite, Christ’s presence is ever new, amazingly fresh and full of unknown potential.  Through our tranquil abiding in Christ, we can understand better His presence as a gift given to the Father as well as to mankind (see page 154).

Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation.  It is bound to be narrow at the outset.  But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love. (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.19).

Abba Antony said, “I no longer fear God, I love him; for love casts out fear.”

What does it mean for you to abide in God’s love?

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 to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug.  Thank you so much.

Reflection on the Vine and Branches

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“I am the vine, you are the branches.  Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (See John 15:1-8 NRSV).

What measurements do we use to determine our growth?  The world around us appears to to weigh our growth on how successful we are, or how much money we have, or how much stuff we own.  Our society around us bases our maturity and fulfillment from a false-sense of self.

In our Gospel verse, Jesus is telling us that our growth is a matter of  God and our relationship with Him.  Jesus who is the Incarnate Word is the vine that is rooted in God.  Jesus knows each of us so completely and intimately.  Everything we are and can become is based on our decision to abide (or remain) in Jesus the vine.  The potential of our true-selves is because how we live into our relationship with Jesus the Christ.  Jesus, the Risen One has taught us the fullness of God’s love through the Paschal Mystery.  God finds each of us redeemed and given new life through Jesus, the vine.  In Jesus is our present moment full of life and purpose.  It is a contemplative vision to know God’s perspective of us.  God sees each of us with so potential in the here and now.

Over these past few months, I have been learning that my many challenges because I am on the Autistic Spectrum, are opportunities for me to let go and allow God to use those challenges to draw me closer in relationship with God.  As difficult as my many social interactions can be, my ASD becomes the intimate connection with Jesus, my vine.  Through a life of solitude, silence and prayer, my disabilities become an important part of God’s work in and through my life.  I only have to put my faith and trust in God with everything I can do and anything I cannot; and let God take care of the rest.  It is a learning process.  Jesus is more than happy to keep being my greatest teacher using The Rules of St. Benedict, St. Romuald and the Camaldolese-Benedictine tradition as important parts of my learning process.

“Agree you hastening toward your heavenly home?  Then with Christ’s help, keep this little rule we have written for beginners” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 73, p.95-96).

“If you have come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want, take every opportunity to sing the Psalms in your heart and understand them with your mind” (From the Rule of St. Romuald).

“It was said of Abba John the Dwarf that he withdrew and lived in the desert at Scetis with an old man of Thebes.  His abba, taking a piece of dry wood, planted it, and said to him, ‘Water it every day with a bottle of water, until it bears fruit.’  Now the water was so far away that he had to leave in the evening and return the following morning.   At the end of three years the wood came to life and bore fruit.  Then the old man took some of the fruit and carried it to the church saying to the brethren, ‘Take and eat the fruit of obedience.'”  (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated & Explained by Christine Valters Paintner, PhD,. p.103).

How are you growing in your relationship with God?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See The Community of Solitude

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