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

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Reflection on Wonderful

Reflections

“Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14).

No one limits the power of God in our lives more than ourselves.   Each of us have the ability to let God in or shut God out.  Letting God in means turning ourselves over to God’s will.  It requires us to do a lot of letting go so that God make us in to that “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) .

Contemplative prayer opens us up to the possibility of encountering God in the least suspected of places and moments.  In our silence and solitude we confront the noise within us; those conflicting and contradictory things that take up so much space.  It is amazing that when we sit in silence with the T.V., the iPhone, iPad, Smart Phone, computer, radio, etc turned off that we realize just how much noise is going through our bodies and minds.  We are restless.   We are not really centered.  It seems as if our interior is like at traffic jam on a hot muggy day with all the horns beeping loudly and it is as if we will never go anywhere.  It is in these very moments when the God we are seeking union with, has already found us and is speaking through the chaos.   The tensions in our bodies, the argument that we cannot forget, the addiction that plagues us or our families; God is in the middle of them loving us unconditionally and accepting us where we are.

The image I chose for this post has snow top mountains.  Other mountains are clear and dry.  It is in the reflection in the water, that everything that is beautiful in itself shows even more profoundly.  In the image reflected in the water, is a wonder that we cannot adequately describe.  All we know, is that it is mysterious, majestic and calls us to a renewed vision of the world.

In contemplation there is nothing too wonderful for God that the Holy One cannot accept and transform.  No room is too small.  No issue within ourselves that is too confining for God; that God’s perspective of us cannot be renewed and reworked into that wonder that seemed impossible for us; but is never too complicated for God.  God “traces our journeys and our resting places and (is) acquainted with all my ways” (Psalm 139:2).

“Let us get up then, at long last, for the Scriptures rouse us when they say; “It is high time for us to arise from sleep” (Rom 13:11).  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)”. (RB: 1980 The Rule of Saint Benedict in English, Prologue vs 8-10, p. 15-16).

Is anything too wonderful for God in your life?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org .

Reflection on Save Us From The Time of Trial

Lord's Prayer

“Save us from the time of trial.”

I have had for many years now a real problem with the words, “And lead us not into temptation” in the traditional version of The Lord’s Prayer.  The words do not seem appropriate.  I am glad that the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer have given us the words, “Save us from the time of trial.”

These words should disturb us a bit.  It seems that God does not always save us from the time of trial.  Ask anyone who is suffering from cancer, bullying, dementia, being stalked or grieving the loss of a loved one if they feel as if they are being saved from the time of their trial.  Were the many Coptic Christians who have been killed over the past two months saved from their time of trial?  How about the martyrs?  How about Jesus’ moment of trial?

At Matins this morning, I read the following words from Resurrecting Easter: Meditations for the Great 50 Days by Kate Moorehead.

Resurrection is born out of the pit of death and despair. Moments of pain, moments of darkness and abandonment are the greatest moments to glorify God.

Jesus never promised us that we would not have moments of trial.  Jesus Himself faced his trials. At one point, he was condemned at a trial and sentenced to death.  Did God save Jesus from His moment of trial?  Yes.

In the Person of Jesus, God walks through our times of trial with us.  God helps us during the times of trial to learn new things about ourselves.  God helps us to draw closer to Jesus through The Holy Spirit in those times of trial, so that we may be given a greater insight into our relationship with God and others.  Whatever our trial is, we must believe that what is happening will not prevent God from bringing us to where God wants us.

As contemplatives, our “work” of grace is to search for union with God in all things, in all places and at all times; including, but certainly not limited to our times of trial.  It is in those moments, that we find God who has already found us.

“The fourth step of humility is that in obedience under difficult, unfavorable, or even unjust conditions, his [the monk’s] heart quietly embraces suffering and endures it without weakening or seeking escape. For Scripture has it: Anyone who perseveres to the end will be saved (Matt 10:22), and again, Be brave of heart and rely on the Lord (Ps26[27]:14)” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, Chapter 7;35-37, p.197).

How and where do you find God helping you from your time of trial?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

Easter Day Reflection

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After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’ So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’(Matthew 28: 1-10 NRSV)

Alleluia. Christ is Risen.

The Lord is Risen indeed. Alleluia.

Imagine what the experience of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary must have been like.  They took the risk of going to the tomb of Jesus full of sadness that carried over from Good Friday.  The earthquake must have been frightening enough.  But, to see angels and hear them say, “He is not here; for He has risen…” ; who would not be a bit skeptical?

Every Easter when I read and hear those words, I get goose bumps along with joy and relief.  It is a bit like years ago before there were cellphones or internet to talk with people in other countries; when suddenly we would get a phone call from a relative we had not heard from in years.  There is a sense of “They are way over there, and we can talk to them here.”  The difference here, of course, is that the Risen Jesus is very close by.  I am sure for Mary and Mary hearing the news was something they may have questioned for a little bit, but eagerly went to tell the Disciples.

In The Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 49 The Observance of Lent, he wrote that we do the acts of self-denial and fasting, “and look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing’ (RB:1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, p.253).

This is the holy Easter we have been longing for.  If this Easter fills us with joy; imagine what it will be like when we finally see the face of the Risen Jesus in Heaven.   On the other hand, what the contemplative does is looks for the Risen Christ in everything and everyone around us.  To be a contemplative, means to seek the face of the Risen Christ in those ordinary moments of life.  In our work.  In our families.  In our neighbor.  In our communities.  In those moments of deep personal suffering.  In that moment when we could leap for joy because of a new born child or a birthday present.  In all of these instances, the Risen Christ who only three days earlier identified with all of our human suffering in His crucifixion.  In His Resurrection, Jesus tells us and shows us that human suffering has met its match.  It is not a power unto itself for the sake of itself.  Jesus does not take it away.  Jesus walks through it with us, and raises us up in newness of life.

How are you experiencing the Resurrection on this Easter Day?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

Advent Reflection: Prepare the Way

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This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.” (Matthew 3:3. NRSV).

About twenty years ago I was visiting with my spiritual director.  I was at the beginning of my vocation discernment.  I was excited, scared and anxious about where God might be leading me.  During the session, I said to my spiritual director “I know that God’s grace will be there when I find whatever it is that God has for me.”  My spiritual director looked at me with some concern and said, “God’s grace is in the here and now.  If you do not learn to look for God’s grace right here where God has you, you will not know God’s grace in what is yet to happen.”

The figure of St. John the Baptist is mind boggling.  Yet, for contemplatives he is just the kind of example we can look to.  When the Desert Mothers and Fathers began to create their communities in Egypt, they took the model of St. John the Baptist and made much of it a very important part of their monastic way of life.

St. John the Baptist recognized his role as the one to prepare the way by calling the people of his time to repentance.  We too are prophets who are called to prepare the way for Jesus to come into our lives in the here and now, so that we may respond to God’s grace with joy and obedience.   We are not told to prepare the way for tomorrow, or even at the celebration of the Nativity.  We are told to prepare the way now with what is before us at this moment.

As contemplatives, our time in silent prayer is about opening ourselves up to what God is doing in our ordinary lives.  As we listen, we are preparing the way for Christ to speak to our hearts so that we may cultivate the life of Jesus and make His way our way of life.  We are invited to read and meditate on the Word, and to pray that we may grow closer in relationship with God so as to be drawn into God’s presence in the here and now.  It is God in us that prepares the way so that we can also prepare the way of the Lord in our relationships, our work, our families and communities.

How are you preparing the way of the Lord this Advent?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Advent Reflection: Lift, Trust, Wait

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To you Lord I lift up my soul; my God I have put my trust in you; you are God my Saviour; for you have I waited all day long (Psalm 25:1,4 The New Zealand Prayer Book, p. 568).

One of the many themes of the Season of Advent is “waiting.”

Waiting is a lost art in our “get it right now” society.

Just press an icon on our iPhone (or Smart Phone) and we can make a call, check a text, play a game or find out how far Paris, France is from where we are standing.  I grew up in the age of having to own a telephone, a phone book, waiting for several days, maybe a week for a piece of mail and needing to know how to read a map.  Is it any wonder that we are society growing more impatient everyday?

The Advent themes of watching and waiting is best described in the Daily Office of Vigils.  Also known in The Rule of Saint Benedict as the “Night Office.”  After Compline (Night Prayer) the Monks slept until they were woken about 2am for the Night Office of Vigils.  The purpose of the Office was and still is to be watchful for the coming of Christ at any hour of the day or night.  In the Second Letter of St. Peter chapter 3 vs. 10 we read, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”  In the Gospel of Matthew chapter 24:44 Jesus said “Therefore, you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”  The Monks rise to lift up there souls to God in the singing of the Psalms that they may put their trust in God and be ready to receive the Holy One they are waiting for.

God invites us in this Season of Advent to lift up our souls to God, to trust God as our Savior.  It is God’s grace reaching out for us from God’s perspective to seek union with God wherever we are, whatever we are doing.  Whether we are praying, working, relating, helping, or being quiet; God is searching for union with us in that moment.

How are you lifting up your soul to God; to trust in God for Whom you are waiting?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

 

 

Reflection on Seeking and Finding

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Jesus said to Zacchaeus, “Today, salvation has come to this household because he too is a son of Abraham.  The Human One came to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19:9-10. Common English Bible).

I am continuing to read through Walking in Valleys of Darkness: A Benedictine Journey Through Troubled Times by Fr. Albert Holzt, OSB.

Today, I read his section on Seeking God in which he uses the Gospel story of Zacchaeus in Luke 9:1-10.

Zacchaeus was a ruler among tax collectors.  He wanted to see Jesus.  Zacchaeus was a very short man.  So, he climbed a sycamore tree to get a glimpse of Jesus as He walked by and the crowds around Him.  When Jesus saw Zacchaeus in the tree, He called him to come down so that Jesus could have supper at his house.  Those around Jesus were critical of Him because He chose to go to the house of one who as so despised by them.  When Jesus went to Zecchaeus’ home, and he said the words found at the top of this blog post.  Holtz points out that Zeccaeus climbed that tree because he was seeking Jesus.  What he discovered is that Jesus was seeking him just as much as Zeccaeus was seeking Jesus.

As Fr. Holtz wrote,

While it may look as if Christ was eating at Zecchaeus’s table, the play on the verb “to seek” points to a deeper reality: Zacchaeus was now eating at Jesus’ table, being nurtured by the intimacy of God’s forgiving love.  Jesus had successfully sought out the seeker.

We can seek union with God through any number of means.  Work.  Prayer.  Routines of Liturgical prayer such as the Offices and the Eucharist.  Relationships.  While all of these are important in and of themselves; what is even more so is that we can learn from the Gospel story of Zeccaeus is that God is seeking union with us.   If we will allow ourselves to be found by our God who is seeking us: we will find the God with Whom we are seeking union with.

“Seeking his workman in a  multitude of people, the Lord calls out to him and lifts his voice again: is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to seek good days?” (The Rule of Saint Benedict. The Prologue v. 14).

How are you seeking and being found by God in your life?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB