Reflection on St. John the Baptist

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel”(See Luke 1:57-80 NRSV).

The Church celebrates today the birth of one of the most influential people of Desert spirituality. St. John the Baptist personified the vocation of solitude. It is more than fair to say, that the Monastic tradition of living in the silence and solitude of the desert has St. John the Baptist as our pioneer.

The desert life of St. John the Baptist was to “prepare the way of the Lord.” He accepted the unfavorable way of life. He abandoned the lure of wealth and power. His desert life was how he unlocked the mystery of the God that he and all of humankind was awaiting. John the Baptist knew that he was chosen by God for something so amazing, that he let go of everything that could tie him down. St. John the Baptist chose the freedom of solitude, to know the God that was to become the very essence of God’s presence in every human person.

“Like the Forerunner, you were intended for Christ,,,,,,, because the on,y reason for your existence on earth is to love and glorify Jesus” (The Hermitage Within: Spirituality of the Desert. Translated by Alan Neame., p.19).

Contemplation is the gift of God’s grace to grow in purity of heart. Contemplation is about letting go of all our pretenses so that we are liberated to experience the wonder of God. Contemplation is the grace of self awareness; that God is at work in ourselves and the world us in the mystical experience of which our human senses can neither comprehend or describe.

“As long as I am content to know that [Christ] is infinitely greater than I, and that I cannot know Him unless He shows Himself to me, I will have peace, and He will be near me and in me, and I will rest in Him” (Thomas Merton. Thoughts in Solitude, p.109).

“This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up,your own will, once and for all, and armed with the noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, The Prologue, p.15).

“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).

How are you called to be a forerunner for God in your daily life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on the Potter

Clay

Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8 NRSV).

As we begin the Season of Advent, I found these words from the Prophet Isaiah speaking to me.

During this season of hope, peace, love and joy we are waiting to remember the arrival of the Incarnate Word as a vulnerable, innocent child.  The season is full of endless chatter, holiday parties, shopping, holiday musak, and end of the year thank yous.  The radio plays the old song Silver Bells with the words “and above all this bustle; you’ll hear…”   But, at what point do we stop for a little solitude and silence to contemplate this great Season of Advent?  What will it take for us to “listen, and incline the ear of our heart” (Prologue of St. Benedict’s Rule), as we wait in joyful expectation of God’s Love in revealed in the human flesh?

The words from Isaiah tell us that God is the potter and we are the clay.  These words are echoed in the old hymn “Have Thine own way, Lord.  Have Thine own way.  Thou art the potter, I am the clay.”  When we meditate on these words, we are immediately confronted by our false-sense of self.   The self that must be approved and approving, happy no matter what, self absorbed and self centered.  God came to us in Jesus Christ, because God is the potter.

God sees in us just how beautiful we are and how gorgeous we can be.  If only we will spend some time in quiet contemplation of viewing ourselves from God’s perspective as a people destined for greatness by letting go in humility our understanding of who we think God is.  We must let God reveal God’s Self to us, so that God can mold, shape and prepare us to become beautiful vessels that bless the world one hundred times over.

“The second degree of humility is that a person love not his own will nor take pleasure in satisfying his desires, but model his actions on the saying of the Lord, “I have come not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, Chapter 7 On Humility, p.24).

Will you allow God to mold and shape you during this Advent Season?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Advent Reflection: Forgive as We Forgive

Lord's Prayer

 

“Assuredly, the celebration of Lauds and Vespers must never pass by without the superior’s reciting the entire Lord’s Prayer at the end for all to hear, because thorns of contention are likely to spring up.  Thus warned by the pledge they make to one another in the very words of this prayer: Forgive us as we forgive (Matt 6:12)”.  (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English and Latin, Chapter 13: The Celebration of Lauds on Ordinary Days. p.209).

One of the more difficult things about beginning to live with a new spouse/partner is getting used to each others habits and routines.  Everything from how one wipes their feet before they walk in the door to where they leave their dirty laundry just drives us crazy.

In a Monastery, the number of different personalities is multiplied by more than six.  In some of the larger Monasteries there can be over 100 Monastics in one community.  The members live on top of each other 24/7.  Old, young, new and the long timers are all in one place.

St. Benedict included the chapter about Lauds and more specifically the words in The Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive as we forgive” because of human nature and the unavoidable consequence of conflict within the community.  Such conflict has the ability to bring division and harm to the wider community.  So, St. Benedict wants to take care of the initial “cut” if you will, before the poison from the wound infects the entire house.

So many things happen in our lives.  Things that are not our fault.  Other times we may have been a little short with someone. If you are like me, there are times in which I think about no one else but myself.

Among the most important persons we need to forgive is ourselves.  Forgiving ourselves is a very important piece of the Contemplative life of prayer and mysticism.  Failing to forgive others and ourselves is very toxic to our relationship with God and those around us.  If we can’t even forgive ourselves; we become our own worst enemy.

A few years ago when I was contemplating what I wanted to do in terms of a church vocation, I was led into a deep experience of the Holy  with the words, “Forgive as we forgive.”  As I walked through my mind with God down the list of people I needed to forgive, God began speaking to my heart concerning all the things I was still holding myself guilty of.  The Holy Spirit and I went through many instances where I blamed myself for things I was not responsible for; yet, I was still punishing myself with a guilt that was not even mine.  It was an experience that set me free from prisons I did not even realize I was keeping myself locked up in.

As we prepare to welcome the Christ Child at the celebration of the Nativity, we recall that Jesus came among us in the midst of our human messes.  Through Jesus, God came to tell us, “It is okay. I am here as one like you, to walk with you.”  Jesus journeys with us to help us forgive ourselves and others.

What do the words, “Forgive as we forgive” mean for you this Advent and Christmas Seasons?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Visit us at: http://www.cos-osb.org

Advent Reflection: God Is With Us

Nativity

 

“Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name, Emmanuel”  Meaning “God is with us.” (Matthew 1:23, RSV).

There is a lot going on around us.  Preparations for the celebration of Christmas.  Shopping.  Wrapping.  Writing out Christmas cards.  Choirs preparing for the Christmas Eve service.  Organists preparing their pieces with the additional instruments.  Clergy writing sermons, making their holiday rounds for the shut ins, etc.  People are volunteering for the local soup kitchens to serve a Christmas meal for those who are in need.

As we journey through Late Advent to the celebration of the Nativity, we are comforted by the words, “God is with us.”

There are many for whom the Christmas holidays are anything but comfortable and joyful.  Many of us have painful memories of family who are no longer with us.  Last year I was in a year of grief when my mother passed away November 22, 2015.  I was never so happy to see January 2nd arrive.  Perhaps there are families with members in the military who are far from home.  What does “God with us” mean for them?

Whether our lives are in some kind of happy order or not, the mystery that we can celebrate is that God is with us.  God is with us and we are loved beyond our wildest imaginations.  We are loved and viewed by God as God’s beloved in Christ, God’s Beloved Son.  God sees what is in our hearts.  God cares about what is happening, including, but not limited to those moments when our faith is shaken or weakened.

God is with us.  God is here seeking union with us and calling us to seek union with God.

How are you celebrating or longing for the words “God is with us”?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Visit http://www.cos-osb.org to learn more about The Contemplatives of Subiaco-Order of Saint Benedict.

Advent Reflection: Waiting, Hungry and Empty

emptyspace

 

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7, The Book of Common Prayer, p. 633).

A very wise spiritual director once told me that it is better to pray while feeling physically hungry.  His reasoning for this is that when we are hungry and wanting physically it is a reminder that we “do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).   There is also the famous words from the Beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God” (Matthew 5:3).  Matthew 5:6 is just as important. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

The inspiration for writing about waiting and being hungry came from a blog post by The Episcopal Bishop of Minnesota, the Rt. Rev. Brian Prior.

The Advent season invites us, dare I say challenges us, to NOT fill our waiting space. I know that sounds incredibly inefficient at best and uncomfortable at worst. However, when we allow our waiting space to be an empty place, in my experience, God’s grace begins to seep into our souls. I believe this is because God is always patiently waiting for us to empty our space in order to provide us with grace. And it is only that grace which will truly fill us, heal us and make us whole.

It is hard for me to write words better than those.  So instead of writing more I will conclude this blog with the following question.

Are you allowing an empty place in yourself while waiting for God alone to fill you this Advent?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

“What, my dear brothers, is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us?” (The Rule of St. Benedict, The Prologue, vs.19).

 

 

Advent Reflection: Prepare the Way

a-long-path

 

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: Rest for A While

AnselmPrayerPhoto

 

Insignificant man, escape from your everyday business for a short while, hide for a moment from your restless thoughts.  Break off from your cares and troubles and be less concerned about your tasks and labors.  Make a little time for God and rest a while in him. (Proslogion by St. Anselm of Canterbury. The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume 1 Advent and Christmas Season, p.192).

I could not be happier that today’s Office of Readings includes a piece of writing from St. Anselm of Canterbury.  I just love it when my name’s sake shows up.  lol

One of my yearly traditions is that I do not decorate my apartment with a Christmas tree or other holiday favorites until after the 17th of December.  I avoid listening to Christmas Carols until Christmas Eve.  I avoid the stores and long lines as much as I possibly can.  I like to celebrate Advent as I believe it should be.  Advent is a wonderful Season that gets robbed of it’s significance because of the holiday rush. That is why I believe that this reading from St. Anselm about taking some time out for God is so timely.

Advent is a wonderful time for contemplative prayer.  It is a great opportunity to withdraw from our busy lives and “make a little time for God and rest a while in him.”  We look for God in the dazzles our minds with all that is magnificent; and of course God is there.  It is important that we offer our prayer to God wherever we are; as I wrote about in yesterdays blog post.  It is equally essential to take some time with the Holy One and breathe in God’s holiness and breathe out all that stuff that crowds up our interior space that keeps God and us at a distance that is not there.  In contemplative prayer and the mystical experience, God becomes the center of our being looking to live in a holy union in the wholeness of who we are.  After all, God is the One who loves us beyond our imagination.

Are you making time for God to rest in God for a while?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB