Reflection on St. Benedict

benedict

 

“There was a man, Benedict, who was revered for the holiness of his life, blessed by God both in grace and name.  While yet a boy, he showed mature understanding and possessed a strength of character far beyond his years, keeping his heart detached from sinful worldly pleasures.  While still in the world, he was in a position to enjoy all that the world had to offer; but, seeing how empty it was, he turned from it without regret” (Dialogs of St. Gregory the Great).

The year was 1993.  I was in my senior year of college.  I was facing a massive change in my life after graduation.  Where would I go?  What would I do?  What would happen to all the friendships I made?  As intriguing as these questions were, I knew that there was something in my heart that was yearning for a sense of direction.  I didn’t want to graduate from college without something to begin anchoring my spiritual life to.

That Fall, I visited Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham, Massachusetts.  I was introduced to Saint Benedict and his Rule.  When I first read The Rule, the first thought I had was “Is this guy crazy or what?”   Once I started to read The Rule, and experience the hospitality of the monks there, I knew something changed in my life.  I would never be the same.

Twenty three years since, my life has experienced many twists and turns.  Many successes and failures.  Yet, any time I felt like my life was going on a wrong path, The Rule of Saint Benedict time and again has redirected me to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thomas Merton in his book The Rule of Saint Benedict: Initiation into the Monastic Tradition wrote;

“The Purpose of the Rule is to furnish a framework to build the structure of a simple and pure spiritual life, pleasing to God by its perfection of faith, humility, and love.  The Rule is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. and it is always to be seen in relation to its end.  This end is union with God in love, and in every line of the Rule indicates that its various prescriptions are given us to show us how to get rid of self love and replace it by the love of God: (p.6).

Saint Benedict, his life and Rule, shows us how to live the contemplative life by being open to God’s Providence and listen to God “with the ears of the heart” (Prologue of The Rule).  If a mystical experience is to happen, it begins with letting go of all that holds us back.  It is a letting go of the many things we attach ourselves to, and see the power of God illuminating us with grace and “the inexpressible delight of love” (Prologue of The Rule).

Whoever your favorite Saint is, who’s spirituality you are drawn to and whatever draws you closer to God; it begins with letting go.  As Saint Benedict wrote in The Rule, Chapter 72, “Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.”

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on Enticed by God

RunnerLight

 

“O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed…..” (Jeremiah 20:7 NRSV).

Out of curiosity, I looked up the word “enticed”.  The synonyms for enticed are allure, attract, lure, tempt.

The Contemplative has been on a journey that began when she/he discovered an enticement within them.  Something was empty and hungry.  As the contemplative opens oneself to the presence of God, one discovers the mystery that one has been enticed by the Holy Spirit.  The lure within the contemplative was there by God’s initiative.  It allures the contemplative into something much deeper than austere practices and the practice of religion by itself.  The practice of religion certainly helps, but, it is something on the surface that can only do so much. We know that when we are hungry there is something about the aroma of bread being baked that seems to make our mouths water and warms our soul.  This is poor example, but close enough to what the contemplative experiences as God entices us in our hearts.

“The contemplation of God is arrived at in numerous ways” (The Conferences of St. John Cassian.  Conference One: On the Goal of the Monk).

God has many ways of attracting our attention.  Through our moments in solitude, walks or jogs along the beach and in the ordinariness of life; God is there, enticing us in ways that “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).    All we have to do is take one small foot step in faith with a little trust in the Holy Spirit; and God will do the rest.

“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 Saint Benedict in English. Prologue vs 4. p.15).

How is God enticing you?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

 

Reflection on 1 Samuel 3:10

Seeking

“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).

Centering Prayer is about sitting in silence and doing some listening.  In Centering Prayer, the contemplative accepts all the things that go through her/his mind and lets them go.  By letting go, the individual is able to gradually be with God as the center of her/his being.  It is a great way to end Lectio Divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture).

1 Samuel 3:10 is a perfect example of what Contemplative and Centering Prayer is.  It happens when we take time from the business of life, and “incline the ears of your heart” to the God who is within.  “Speak for your servant is listening.”  We take some time in meditative silence to let go. Let go. Let go.  What matters most is that we are listening for and to God as people who serve the Holy One.

God speaks in the heart that is craving love, acceptance and peace.  We cannot, however, find those things without turning ourselves over to God.  God speaks to the whole of our being.  God knows us intimately.  “For you created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:12).  The Holy One who created every part of us, sees us a beautiful and holy being, to be recreated into the “new person(s) in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17-18).

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

Can you pray today by saying, “Speak, for your servant is listening”?

Amen

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

 

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 God’s Relationship with God

HolyTrinity

 

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. (2 Corinthians 13:13 NRSV).

Vicki K. Black in her book entitled Welcome to the Church Year: An Introduction to the Seasons of The Episcopal Church, quoted Gretchen Wolff Prichard as she wrote about Trinity Sunday.

As we struggle to understand the “intellectual puzzle” of the doctrine of the Trinity, she suggests, we need to remember that in our worship the concept of the Trinity “serves  rather to draw us into contemplation of God’s experience of God.”  Pritchard reminds us that God’s life is a relationship of love, so that when we draw near to that life in worship, we too, are drawn “ever more deeply into love” (p.116).

Contemplative prayer is by itself a mystical experience.  The contemplative is open to God’s presence in the ordinary of the day.  While contemplative prayer is best experienced in a moment of solitude and silence; the Holy Spirit is certainly not confined to a particular action, at any one moment in time.  The Spirit can invite us to worship God in a great Cathedral, a small oratory, out camping, or in the middle of a struggling relationship.  The Trinity is about God’s relationship with God with us.  The Contemplative seeks to know the fullness of God in relationship; to be opened to the mysterious and tangible God.  God who is unseen is visible in our relationship of seeking union with God.

In The Rule of St. Benedict he wrote,

We believe the divine presence is everywhere and that in every place the eyes of the Lord are watching the good and the wicked (Prov 15:3). But beyond the least doubt we should believe this to be especially true when we celebrate the divine Office (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English, Chapter 19, p.47).

Our relationship with God is in our prayer as we live through life.  The Divine Office reminds us that everything about us, anything going on with us is part of our interaction with God.  As contemplatives, we live into that relationship because our God who loves us completely, is finding us by interacting with us.  All that we must do, is remain open to respond to our relationship with God, the Holy Trinity.

How do you experience the mystery of God in your relationship with God?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

 

Reflection on Rivers of Living Water

MountainImage

 

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39 NRSV).

“Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”

As we meditate on these words look with me for a while at the image I chose for this reflection.  Look with me at how the sky has a few clouds with the mountains so clearly in view.  The greenery and the river full of life; giving life to the entire scene as it flows so peacefully and naturally.  Life flows in and out of what we are seeing in this photo.  Not everything is the same, but, they live with and give life to each other.

At the very end of Chapter 72 in The Rule of St. Benedict, he wrote,

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may Christ bring us all to everlasting life.”

As we conclude the Easter Season on this Day of Pentecost, the Contemplative is confronted with the question of how do we respond to the Risen and Ascended Christ in a way that is life-giving?  God sent us the answer.  The Holy Spirit.  We are not alone.  The Holy Spirit gives those waters within us the life that flows with the experience of God’s Holy Essence.  The Contemplative is drawn into the heart of the living water who is Christ, because God’s Holy Essence whats us “to prefer nothing whatever to Christ.”  The Christ who is present and speaking to our hearts in all aspects of our lives.  Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB wrote in The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, “We must learn to listen to what God is saying in our simple, sometimes insane, and always uncertain lives” (p.300).

Pentecost is our opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to enter into our hearts and lives to renew us.  The Spirit comes to break the dams that we have build up within us because of fear and our false-sense of self.   The Holy Essence of God flows through our souls to bring healing and reconciliation within us, so that we may be God’s witnesses and “renew the face of the earth” (Psalm 104:31).

Are you open to the Holy Spirit and the living waters that are flowing in and out of 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