Reflection on the Annunciation and the Desert

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.” (See Luke 1:26-38 NRSV).

I think that we tend to over romanticize the Annunciation. It is a beautiful story without question. The story might bring us the hope that God will do something amazing with us, as God did with Mary. If the narrative of the announcement to Mary does not make us uneasy about following her to a desert of uncertainty, then we may have missed the most mystical purpose of the day.

I am experiencing the most unusual of Lenten observances. In addition to living with autism, I am also living with chronic back pain because of a T-12 lumbar disk protrusion. I require the use of a wheelchair when I go to doctor appointments or anywhere a long walk is needed, because the pain in my back is just too intense to walk with just a cane. I am going to appointments for physical and aquatic therapy to help strengthen my back muscles. But, the process is slow. I am in a year and season where I am uncertain about pretty much everything. Nothing is as it used to be.

I am sure that Mary’s life as it was proceeding at the time was stopped dead in its tracks by the Angel Gabriel’s announcement. She would be traveling in a desert with things being very out of order for the rest of her life. Mary has a faith I certainly do not have. Upon hearing the Angel’s words, she trusts herself and her way forward to God’s will.

Contemplative prayer is anything but, about certainty. That which is mystical is not so neatly fitted together to make perfect logical sense. It is a journey into the desert with Jesus through which we will see ourselves and our lives exactly as they are. There are no illusions, but, our false-sense of self. In the desert everything is unfamiliar, yet, starkly visible and inescapable. Contemplative prayer works best when we let go; little by little; and search for union with God in the things that are what they are. Through faith and trust in God’s love, we will be led to where we go from here.

“Abba Moses asked Abba Silvanus, ‘Can a man lay a foundation every day?’ The old man said, ‘If he works hard he can lay a new foundation every moment.'” (Desert Fathers and Mothers:Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, by Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, p.57).

“And finally, never loose hope in God’s mercy ” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, Chapter 4 On the Tools for Good Works).

What is your desert time like this Lent?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone you know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, please visit my website here.

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Reflection on Being A Seeker

“Hearken to my voice, O Lord when I call; have mercy on me and answer me. You speak in my heart and say, ‘Seek my face.’ Your face, Lord, will I seek.” (Psalm 27:10-11 The Book of Common Prayer, p.618).

The foundational spirituality of Benedictine Monasticism is to seek union with God through a life of continuous prayer. St. Benedict would have learned about seeking God from reading about the Desert Monastics like St. Antony and St. Moses who passed the spirituality on to St. John Cassian. That being said, the famous motto of Benedict Ora et Labora (pray and work) are the means to seeking union with God. Benedict taught his Monastics that prayer is essential to living a holy life, but that prayer was to be integrated with one’s everyday life and work.

The Season of Lent is a season of prayer and work. We take time during this holy time for more silence so that we may seek the face of God as the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 27. We invoke God’s mercy by letting go and seeking union with God with what is in front of us. While time in silence is important to our growth, what we are working towards is the interior silence within our own cell (the heart). St.Moses wrote, “Sit alone in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.” St. Isaac of Turin wrote,

“A swimmer plunges into the water stripped of his garments to find a pearl: a monk stripped of everything goes through his life in search of the pearl–Jesus Christ; and when he finds him, he seeks no longer for aught existing beside him” (Seeking God; The Way of St. Benedict, Original Edition by Esther de Waal, p.25).

Contemplation is seeking union with God through the life we have, not the life we want. The way forward to finding God’s will and holiness is being made in whatever situation or place we find ourselves in at this moment. We can spend a whole day looking for a reason why, but, we will still come back empty and hungry. “O God , you are my God; eagerly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you,,,,” (Psalm 63:1).

Are you seeking God in your life at this very moment?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone who know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, please visit my website link here.

If you feel led to buy me some coffee to help support this ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.

Reflection on Ashes and Dust

“Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (From the Ash Wednesday Liturgy).

After a house or building has burned down, the ash that is left can feel so final. When one’s hopes and dreams for what the building might have given are all over the place with only ashes left; the grief just pours out. When Mt. St. Helen’s in the State of Washington erupted in 1980 a lot of the ashes were taken and molded into sculptures. What seemed like a devastating conclusion, became new opportunities for something beautiful to come from it.

As we begin Lent with this Ash Wednesday, we are reminded of our mortality. Nothing in or about our lives in this world is permanent. There is a beginning and ending of just about everything, including our mortal bodies. The ashes remind us of where we came from, and where our physical bodies will end up. Ash Wednesday brings with it a wonderful irony. Though our bodies are temporary, God’s love is eternal. In Jesus Christ, the Word, we are God’s Beloved. Jesus came to draw us closer in relationship with God through His life, death and resurrection.

In The Rule of St. Benedict, he tells his monastics to observe the Season of Lent “to keep [themselves] most pure and to wash away the negligences of other times” (RB 1980, p.71). I suggest that among those negligences is how much we allow them to fill the hunger within us, that is really a yearning for God. The contemplative is always in touch with that hunger, and seeks union with God to satisfy the longing. The hunger is not an end in and of itself, but a moment of grace to let the Holy Spirit speak to our malnourished hearts.

The ashes today are a reminder that our bodies and this earth are not a conclusion to a story. They are only one part of the story that still has a new chapter to be added. Contemplative prayer moves us to live into the whole story of who we are, and Who we are seeking. Ash Wednesday reminds us of who the Author really is; and what character we are in the whole of story.

What do the ashes on Ash Wednesday mean for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you are seeking Spiritual and Grief Companionship, please visit my website here.

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Reflection on Being Here

Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen. (See Luke 9:28-36 NRSV).

Contemplative prayer happens as we let go. To experience the presence of God, we must take this moment that is full of chaos and uncertainty and entrust ourselves to the will of God. The will of God is always mysterious. The will of God is not known by pulling one passage of Scripture and getting all the warm fuzzy emotions. Sometimes it is not the presence of God we are responding to, it is our emotions in and of themselves. God wants our focus to be on searching for union with God right here, right now.

The Transfiguration is one of the greatest Biblical examples of what contemplative prayer and mysticism are. When we contemplate the presence of God there is a response in us that wants to control the outcome. As we see in the Transfiguration, the fear that takes over the disciples is soon diminished when the voice says, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” St. Benedict knew this to be true when he wrote the words in the Prologue of The Rule of St. Benedict “Incline the ear of your heart.”

Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB in her book, Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light wrote, “Enlightenment is the ability to see beyond all the things we make God to find God” (p.41).

Whether our lives at this point in time are going smoothly, or everything that used to be that no longer is; God is leading us to a moment of listening more intently to Jesus. The Holy Spirit is speaking the Word to our hearts seeking to transform us to live into the Gospel in our everyday lives.

What do you need to let go of, so you can listen to God speaking to your heart?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

I am so very happy to announce the beginning of my Spiritual and Grief Companionship Ministry. If you or someone you know could benefit from my ministry, please visit my website at https://branselmphiliposb.wixsite.com/website

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Reflection on Blessed Trust

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.  (See Jeremiah 17:5-10 NRSV).

Is it not a shame sometimes that human beings cannot trust God the way nature does? Nature is a tremendous reflection of what God’s grace is like. Nature in the trees and water receives their being from God, do what they were born to do. They have their way of crying out for what they need. Whatever God’s desire for the trees might be, the trees never seem to waiver in their dependence on God to supply what they need.

Our problem with trusting in God is based on our own sense of what we think we need. We get so caught up in the arrogance of our false-sense of self, that we blindfold ourselves to where and what God has for us. God has already created and redeemed us to have all that we need. In Jesus, God knows and shares in our many trials, sorrows and challenges. Our Christian Faith tells us who God is and what God does; that is not the problem. The issue is, do we trust in God in a relationship of searching for union with God from the whole of ourselves?

Contemplation is our opportunity to take in the presence of God right in front of us. Abba Moses wrote those famous words, “Sit in your cell, your cell will teach you everything.” Our cells are where God has us; right here, right now. This is the place and moment to trust in God. Our hour of giving over our fear in the midst of many obstacles is before us. Sr. Joan Chittister in her book Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light wrote, “Learning to notice the obvious, the colors that touch our psyches, the shapes that vie for our attention,,,,, is the beginning of contemplation” (p.22).

Trusting in God is like a tree planted near a stream. God has provided the stream that is the living waters of our Baptism. God has called us God’s Beloved with whom God is well-pleased. God wants to know if we are willing to trust God to do the rest.

“The first step of humility is to keep the reverence of God before us at all times, and never forget it” (The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 7 on Humility).

By God’s help, will you put your trust in God?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you feel led to buy me some coffee to help support this ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.

Reflection on The Whole heart

“I will give you thanks with my whole heart…” (Psalm 138:1 The Book of Common Prayer, p.793).

Each time I pray these words, I feel a little guilty. How can I give thanks to God with my whole heart when it is so divided? Can I really give thanks to God from the whole of myself, when I am confronted time and again with how much my whole self is broken? I experience the same feelings when I pray the words to Psalm 9:1, Psalm 57:1 and Psalm 108:1 which reads “My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed….”. Is my heart really fixed on giving thanks to God?

If I lack any sufficiency to give thanks to God with my whole heart by seeing my heart from my own point of view, I will fall short. When I listen to my false-sense of self and try to be the one in control of what I think my whole heart should be, I will be disappointed.

Regardless of the condition of my whole of self, God wants me to give thanks to God with my whole being. Psalm 51:18 reads, “The sacrifice of God is a a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” When I give thanks to God with my whole self along with all that is wounded and broken, God the Holy Spirit makes good use of me.

Contemplative prayer leads to know ourselves from God’s perspective. God sees more in us thank we ever could. Our whole hearts rejoicing and /or weeping when surrendered in faith with thanksgiving for God’s goodness, becomes God’s work of sanctification through the Holy Spirit. Because, within our whole self, is our eternal truth. The “truth that sets us free” (see John 8:31). When our eternal truth seeks union with God’s truth for no other reason than God alone; everything about us becomes beautiful through God’s transforming grace.

“Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice from heaven that calls out this charge: If you hear God’s voice today, do not harden your hearts (Psalm 95:8)” (The Rule of Saint Benedict in English, p.16).

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

If you feel led to buy me some coffee to help support this ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.

Reflection on Release and Recovery

Jesus unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (See Luke 4:14-21 NRSV).

Over the past few months, I have been dealing with some really awful back pain. It is so debilitating that when I have a long distance to walk, I need a wheelchair. After some x-rays and an MRI, I learned that I have a T-12 lumbar disk protrusion in my lower left L1-L-2. I will be working with more doctors about pain management and physical therapy. All of this added to my autism spectrum disorder and other issues have not made life easier. I have to rely on my spouse for help with many day to day care matters. I am being confronted by my sense of mortality. At the same time, I am learning about new strengths that I did not know I have. The grief of loss, is also my opportunity to see some new life that God is raising up in me.

I just started reading a book that could not be timed better. The books title is, Beginning Again: Benedictine Wisdom for a living with Illness by Mary C. Earle. It is by no accident that her first chapter is centered on the very first word of The Rule of St. Benedict, “Listen.” Benedict tells us to incline the ear of our hearts to what God is communicating with us in every aspect of ourselves. God is speaking through what our bodies are experiencing. When our bodies experience any kind of illness, we experience the grief and pain of what we lose, as well as the transformation of the new life within us.

Jesus is the presence and power of God who helps us to see what prisons we put ourselves in. Many of those prisons are where we lock our true selves in because of the labels of our society. Jesus helps us see what we are blind to, such as the message that if our bodies are not completely abled to do everything that we are expected to, we are a failure. God the Holy Spirit speaks to us when we see and embrace this moment when we face and grieve the pain of what was, but no longer is; and listen for what new things God is doing.

Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB in her book Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living The Rule of St. Benedict Today wrote, “The Spiritual life is achieved only by listening to all of life and learning to respond to its dimensions wholly and with integrity” (p. 16).

God is speaking to your heart through what you are experiencing in the wholeness of who you are; right here, right now. What are you listening to God saying to you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you feel led to buy me some coffee to help support this ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.