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

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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

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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

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Reflection on Psalm 23

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The Lord is my shepherd.  I lack nothing.  He lets me rest in grassy meadows; he leads me to restful waters; he keeps me alive.  He guides me in proper paths for the sake of his good name.  Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger because you are with me.  Your rod and your staff–they protect me.  You set a table for me right in front of my enemies.  You bathe my head in oil; my cup is so full it spill over!  Yes, goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the Lord’s house as long as I live.  (Psalm 23 Common English Bible).

Psalm 23 is probably the single most well known and loved of all the Psalms.  And for good reason.  This is a Psalm of comfort and consolation at funerals time and time again.  It is used often enough that most of us can say it by memory from the original King James Version.

I invite you to join me for a contemplative look at this Psalm. The words on the surface may appear to take us from a moment of chaos to those peaceful meadows and calm waters.  If we think on these words from our minds alone and with our false-sense of self, we will miss the opportunity to meditate on them in our hearts.  Jesus the shepherd comes when we feel that we are lost, weary, restless, in darkness and feasting before our conflicts and makes them into opportunities for God to do wondrous things in us.  In the words of this Psalm, God offers us the truth of what the Resurrection is for the contemplative.  Our lives in their current state are not an end in and of themselves.  The Contemplative searches for union with the Risen Christ where the world sees hopelessness and despair.  The contemplative seeks the mystery of God’s unfolding grace as God takes all that is difficult, painful and confusing and uses them to draw us closer to God’s boundless love and tender mercy.

Yesterday, was the commemoration of St. Anselm who’s name I am so honored to have as my Religious Name.  I read the following words in The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume II on page 1775 written from the Proslogion by St. Anselm, and I believe they speak very eloquently of what Psalm 23 may say to us from a contemplative perspective.

“O God, let me know you and love you so that I may find my joy in you; and if I cannot do so fully in this life, let me at least make some progress every day, until at last that knowledge, love and joy come to me in all their plenitude.  While I am here on earth let me learn to know you better, so that in heaven I may know you fully; let my love for you grow deeper here, so that there I may love you fully.  On earth then I shall have great joy in hope, and in heaven complete joy in fulfillment of my hope.”

“When we have used [the tools of good works] without ceasing day and night and have returned them on judgment day, our wages will be the reward the Lord has promised; What the eye has not seen nor the ear heard, God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor 2:9).” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.29).

“The path you must follow is the Psalms” (From the Short Rule of St. Romuald).

What is your experience of Christ as your good shepherd?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

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Reflection on God our Fortress

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“The Lord is a fortress protecting my life.  Should I be frightened by anything?” (Psalm 27:1b Common English Bible).

The past few days have been very stressful for me.  My autistic spectrum disorder along with my generalized anxiety disorder have really been doing a number on me.  I had a lot going on.  It was difficult for me to think clearly and calmly.

My daily Lectio Divina yesterday and today took me to these words from Psalm 27.  As I meditated on these words, I experienced the Holy Spirit speaking to me through my anxiety and the words of the Psalmist.  The Psalmist is proclaiming faith in God who is their light, salvation, fortress and protector of life.  As I spent my time in silence and solitude yesterday, my experience of contemplative prayer was that God was my fortress protecting me through my anxiety.

When I read these words today, I got the sense that God had demonstrated once again that God is faithful to God’s words.  Today, I can take joy in what God did to protect my life and bring me a sense of peace.

As contemplatives, it is important that we see our moments of discouragement and disorder as moments to search for union with God.  God’s grace is more powerful than our circumstances.  Even when the circumstances do not produce what we had hoped for.  God is our strongest and most powerful deliverer as God is always present in whatever is happening.

“Silence, so understood, is an introduction to contemplative dialogue of prayer, in which the word and deep silence alternate with each other” (The Eremitic Life: Encountering God in Silence and Solitude, by Fr. Cronelius Wencel, Er.Cam. p.110).

“A certain philosopher question the holy Antony, ‘How can you be content, father, without the comfort of books?’ He replied, ‘My things and whenever I wish to read the words of God, it is in my hand.'” (Daily Readings with the Desert Fathers, p.77).

“That is why the Lord said in the Gospel: ‘Whoever hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who build his house upon rock; the floods cam and the winds blew and beat against the house, but it did not fall: it was founded on rock’ (Matt 7:24-25). (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue, p.17,18).

How is God being your fortress and protecting your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

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Reflection on Burning Hearts

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They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:32-35 NRSV).

It is amazing that so many little things will grab our attention. Our attention is drawn to things that cause our interior hearts and eyes to pay attention to things that are passing away and cannot satisfy our desire.  When such things are idolized for the sake of themselves, they draw our attention from the One who loves us beyond what our deepest comforts can sooth.

In the Gospel narrative, Jesus suddenly walks along side these Disciples who are grieved by what happened.  In the course of the conversation, He tells them about Himself from the Prophets and the Psalms.  But, they did not recognize Him until He broke bread with them.  The Disciples’ question, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” is an important question.  Are we, like them so drawn into our false-sense of self that we cannot hear Jesus, the Word speaking within the whole of ourselves?  What is the problem?

“It was said of Abba Agathon that for three years he lived with a stone in his mouth, until he had learnt to keep silence” (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated & Explained by Christine Valters Paintner, PhD. p.119).

God wants to speak to us so we can clearly hear God.  We can hear God very clearly when we are silent within ourselves.  A silence that lets go of external and internal noise.  A silence that draws us into our burning hearts that long to listen to God speaking to us through the Scriptures while we are fed by the breaking of the bread, who is Christ Jesus Risen from the dead.

“Listen, and incline the ear of your heart.  This is advice from a father who loves you.” (Prologue to the Rule of Saint Benedict).

“Sit in your cell as in Paradise.  Put the whole world behind you and forget it” (From the Short Rule of St. Romuald).

Is your heart burning within you to listen to God in silence?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

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Reflection on Learning

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“The Lord is good and does the right thing…” (Psalm 25:8a. Common English Bible).

In a world full of events and stories among the many challenges for Christians is to avoid seeking definitive conclusions.  We have been taught that all stories must have an ending.  What is more, we want to be able to decide or control how that ending will happen.

These words from Psalm 25 are our prayer to ask God to continue teaching us what God’s paths are.  We need to let go of insisting that we have learned everything.  There is a letting go of us feeling that we must always have control over what God has to teach us based on what we have always known or understood.

Contemplative prayer that leads us into the Mystical experience of God never looks for a conclusion beyond God’s Self.  Seeking union with God requires us to let go little by little so that by the purification of hearts we can let God be enough.  The contemplative is open to letting God help us to gut what foundations we have laid by our own standards.  The contemplative turns ourselves over to let God help us to build from the new foundation of God’s transforming grace.   In Christian Contemplation and Mysticism we are always in the process of learning God’s goodness and the “right things” God does.  In humility, we are ready to learn from God and never settle with what we have learned.

“Abba Moses asked Abba Silvanus, ‘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..'”  (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated & Explained by Christine Valters Paintner, PhD. p.57).

“With this conclusion, the Lord waits for us daily to translate into action, as we should, his holy teachings” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English.  The Prologue, p.18).

“And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words [of the Psalms] once more” (From the Short Rule of St. Romuald).

Are you willing to keep learning God’s ways?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See The Community of Solitude

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