O God, Make Speed to Save Us

St.JohnCassian

O God, make speed to save us.  O Lord, make haste to help us. (The Book of Common Prayer, p.117).

In The Conferences by St. John Cassian, The Tenth Conference on Prayer, Abba Isaac said of the words above:

Not without reason has this verse been selected from out of the whole body of Scripture.  For it takes up all the emotions that can be applied to human nature and with great correctness and accuracy it adjusts itself to every condition and every attack.  It contains an invocation of God in the face of any crisis, the humility of a devout confession, a consciousness of one’s own frailty that assurance of being heard and confidence in a protection that is always present and at hand, for whoever calls unceasingly on his protector is sure that he is always present.  It contains a burning love and charity, an awareness of traps, and a fear of enemies.  Seeing oneself surrounded by these day and night, one confesses that one cannot be set free without the help of one’s defender. (Boniface Ramsey 1997, Newman Press, Page 379).

It is amazing how the things that we do out of a routine affect us without being aware of the good it is doing us.  After praying The Offices day in and day out, the verse by which we begin Morning or Evening Prayer just rolls off our tongues.  Abba Isaac wrote about the power of these words from the days of the Desert Fathers and Mothers.  They faced physical dangers far more severe than anything we can imagine.  Today, in that same part of the world in which St. John Cassian would have lived, the Coptic Christians still face massive persecution for their faith.

God never said that we would have to face all of our trials, temptations and challenges alone.  God promised that God would be with us.  God will come ever more closer to us, however, when we call upon him with our lips and hearts open to accepting God’s abiding presence.  Jesus will always come and sup with us, when we open our doors to Him in faith.

O God, make speed to save us.  O Lord, make haste to help us.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Advent Reflection: Keeping Watch in Prayer and Hope

Hope

‘When we live with hope we do not get tangled with concerns for how our wishes will be fulfilled.  So, too, our prayers are not directed toward the gift, but toward the one who gives it.  Our prayers might still contain just as many desires, but ultimately it is not a question of having a wish come true but of expressing an unlimited faith in the giver of all good things.  You wish that…. but you hope in ….

In the prayer of hope, there are no guarantees asked, no conditions posed, and no proofs demanded.  You expect everything from the other without binding the other in any way.  Hope is based on the premise that the other gives only what is good.  Hope includes an openness by which you wait for the promise to come through, even though you never know when, where, or how this might happen” (With Open Hands, by Henri J.M. Nouwen, p73).

This time of the year, children in the thousands are sitting on Santa Clauses’ lap in houses, schools and malls telling him what they want for Christmas.  It is a wonderful and humbling sight.  Children with their eyes a glow with expectation and wonder.  There is an unspoken poverty of spirit at work.  A child knows that they are somewhat helpless to get what they want unless they ask for it.

On the other hand, the childlike behavior of only liking the other so long as we get what we want, lingers on into adulthood.  We live in a very “get it your way” kind of culture.  Technology and corporate investments make it possible year after year to get more, bigger, better, faster and most convenient.  Can many of these be answers to prayer?  Yes they can.  However, we can also innocently nurture in our subconscious a relationship with God that is based primarily on getting what we want through prayer.  In the quote I used above, Nouwen wrote of praying with hope in God the Gift-Giver, so that we are liberated to let go of our own will as if it is our only true end.  If we have our hope in God with purity of heart, we are contented with allowing God to be enough.  We accept with thanksgiving the answer God gives to our prayers; whether or not we get what we want.

If we need an example of God giving us the best of God’s Self so that we can have hope in God; look no further than the mystery we will celebrate on Thursday, December 25th.  I think that is a very good reason to have faith and hope that God will always do what is best for us.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Advent Reflection: Keeping Watch, Forgive as We Forgive

Lord's Prayer

“Assuredly, the celebration of Lauds and Vespers must never pass by without the superior’s reciting the 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 as we forgive (Matt 6:12), they may cleanse themselves of this kind of vice” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, pages 42-43).

St. Benedict was a very wise and practical man.  He knew that there would need to be some strictness in establishing the monastery as the “school for the Lord’s service” (RB 1980, Prologue vs.48).  At the same time, Benedict made provisions for human weakness to avoid the occasion of murmuring as much as possible.  However much he wanted to avoid it, he also knew that a monastery with more than two Monks in it, would most likely have some kind of contention going on.  It usually takes two (or more) to tango.  To be sure that the members of the community kept in mind who it was that they were there to serve, he asked that the Lord’s Prayer be said during at least two of the Offices.  As Episcopalians and/or Anglicans, we recite it at all four of our Offices.

I think I can speak for most people when I write that all of us know how to assert ourselves to get what we want. If you are like me, you know when to assert yourself, you just are not always good at backing off when enough is enough.

It is easy to pray the Lord’s Prayer at an Office or Mass and feel like we have done our duty. If doing our duty stops at saying the prayer itself, then, we miss the point of saying it at all.  We pray the words: “Forgive as we forgive” to invoke God’s help with both in equal measure.  We acknowledge our poverty of spirit in that we need the mercy of God for ourselves.  Having said that, we also need to admit our poverty in spirit by asking God’s help to forgive those who hurt us.  The words from The Lord’s Prayer afford us the opportunity to pray for our own healing and for the healing of others.

As Advent is drawing to its close in only five days, it is a good time to spend some time in silent prayer going through our memories of those we have injured, and asking God for the strength to forgive those who have hurt us.  Do not be surprised if the “other” you need to forgive is most often, yourself.  God is more than able to help you do that.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Seek! Knock! Find!

Knocking

“So I say to you, ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened” (New King James Bible.  Matthew 11:9).

It is much too easy to interpret these words of Jesus recorded in Matthew as referring to God, the mighty vending machine. At the same time, we all know what it is to put some coins into a vending machine and not get what we wanted.  We may walk away from the vending machine angry that it took our money and did not give us what we asked; but, I don’t know of anyone who holds a grudge against a vending machine.  I have met my share of people who hold a grudge towards God because they did not receive what they asked in prayer.  In some cases, their feelings were legitimate.  I knew of one woman who just could no longer believe in God because in her mind, God took her husband.

The purpose of prayer is not to get what we want.  Prayer deepens our relationship with God and one another.  The best answer to prayer we can receive is the grace of God through faith.  The grace of God that holds us up when life is too complicated.  The grace of God to accept whatever answer we get; even if it is something we cannot understand.  We do not have to understand anything.  In fact, in most situations we cannot understand it.  All we can do is embrace it as our cross that helps us to follow the Lord’s will as we ask, seek and knock so that we may be guided towards God’s will more and more.  God’s answer to us in prayer, may be to rely more on God as our only source, and let “things” go.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB