Reflection on Entrust

OpenBible

 

“I entrust my spirit into your hands; you, Lord, God of faithfulness–you have saved me” (Psalm 31:5 The Common English Bible).

As part of my preparation for this blog entry, I looked up the word “entrust” in the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary.  Here are the two definitions.  1. To confer a trust on; especially: to deliver something in trust to.  2. To commit to another with confidence.  The definition of entrust suggests giving something of tremendous value to another without question of the other’s ability to treasure it as much as we do.   To entrust something we value to another, we are making ourselves and what we value vulnerable.  In effect, we are giving with the hope of it being returned safely.  Yet, we are  relinquishing our sense of control over the final outcome.

Our spirit is where our sense of eternal truth lies.  It is from the very depth of ourselves.  Our spirit is where we find our true-sense of self.  We pray and place our hope for the salvation of our souls in Jesus the Risen and Ascended Christ who is our faithful Redeemer.   Jesus has taken our wounded humanity into the presence of the Holy One to intercede on our behalf.  In Jesus, everything that is good and not so good is in the heart of the God of love.  A few days from now we will celebrate the great Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit comes to us in abundance.  Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O. in his book Centering Prayer: Renewing An Ancient Christian Prayer Form wrote that the Holy Spirit is our Spirit given to us at our Baptism. (See page 10).

The Psalmist in Psalm 31 is lamenting what is happening.  The author finds that they are surrounded by the worst of the worst.  The only thing that Psalmist can do is turn to God and “entrust my spirit to you, my Lord. God of faithfulness.”  The last words of this Psalm verse are their affirmation of their God who has already saved them.

In his book The Eremitic Life: Encountering God in Silence and Solitude Fr. Cornelius Wencel, Er.Cam wrote,

“In contemplative prayer, a person can start to appreciate through faith how great and unfathomable God’s mystery is and how much it surpasses all human attempts of understanding it” (see page 182).

The contemplative engages themselves in the work of daily entrusting their spirit into God’s hands.  Contemplative prayer is daring to let go of controlling what happens to what it is we entrust to God’s hands; and entrusting God with what the outcome will be.  We don’t have to know what the conclusion will be.  We only have to entrust that the God who saves us in the mystery of Jesus the Christ will help us to remain a part of the story in the here and now.

“The path you must follow is in the Psalms–never leave it”  (The Rule of St. Romuald).

“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 St. Benedict in English, p.15).

Abba Nilus said, “Do not be always wanting everything to turn out as you think it should, but rather as God pleases, then you will be undisturbed and thankful in your prayer” (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated and Explained by Christine Valters Paintner PhD, p.61).

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well” (St. Julian of Norwich).

What are you entrusting God with in your life today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See The Community of Solitude

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Reflection on Burning Hearts

Emmaus

 

They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:32-35 NRSV).

It is amazing that so many little things will grab our attention. Our attention is drawn to things that cause our interior hearts and eyes to pay attention to things that are passing away and cannot satisfy our desire.  When such things are idolized for the sake of themselves, they draw our attention from the One who loves us beyond what our deepest comforts can sooth.

In the Gospel narrative, Jesus suddenly walks along side these Disciples who are grieved by what happened.  In the course of the conversation, He tells them about Himself from the Prophets and the Psalms.  But, they did not recognize Him until He broke bread with them.  The Disciples’ question, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” is an important question.  Are we, like them so drawn into our false-sense of self that we cannot hear Jesus, the Word speaking within the whole of ourselves?  What is the problem?

“It was said of Abba Agathon that for three years he lived with a stone in his mouth, until he had learnt to keep silence” (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated & Explained by Christine Valters Paintner, PhD. p.119).

God wants to speak to us so we can clearly hear God.  We can hear God very clearly when we are silent within ourselves.  A silence that lets go of external and internal noise.  A silence that draws us into our burning hearts that long to listen to God speaking to us through the Scriptures while we are fed by the breaking of the bread, who is Christ Jesus Risen from the dead.

“Listen, and incline the ear of your heart.  This is advice from a father who loves you.” (Prologue to the Rule of Saint Benedict).

“Sit in your cell as in Paradise.  Put the whole world behind you and forget it” (From the Short Rule of St. Romuald).

Is your heart burning within you to listen to God in silence?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See The Community of Solitude

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Reflection on The Wilderness

MonkCell

 

“And the Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness .  He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”  (Mark 1:12-13 NRSV).

Thomas Keating in his book The Mystery of Christ: The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience wrote the following words.

“The Biblical desert is not so much a geographical location–a place of sand, stones or sagebrush– as a process of interior purification leading to the complete liberation from the false-self system with its programs for happiness that cannot possibly work.” (p.40).

The wilderness can be a place of solitude and silence; as well as a state of prayer and contemplation.  As we spend time in our wilderness of silence and solitude, we see the best and the worst of ourselves.   Everything about us that is visible and invisible is inescapable. Thomas Merton once wrote, “For although God is right with us and in us and out of us and all through us, we have to go on journeys to find him.”  Searching for union with God includes meeting Jesus where He meets us in our temptations with God’s grace to redeem and transform us.  Amma Sarah said, “The greatest thing we can do is to throw our faults before the Lord and expect temptation to our last breath” (Daily Readings with the Desert Fathers, p.72).

When we spend some time alone with Jesus in our wildernesses of silence and solitude and pray Lectio Divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture), Contemplative and Centering Prayer,  God will always come and graciously help us along.   When we stop for a while and in silence, let God in and let go of our false-self system, Jesus will show us how to search for union with God, even when we are at our worst.

The Psalmist wrote, “Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long” (Psalm 25:4 The Book of Common Prayer, p.614).  The best way to learn the truth from the God of our salvation is to spend some time with Jesus in the solitude of our wilderness and to learn from what He did as well as what He said.

“Therefore our life span has been lengthened by way of a truce, that we may amend our misdeeds.  As the Apostle says: Do you not know that the patience of God is leading you to repent (Rom 2:4)?” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English, p.18).

Have you journeyed with Jesus into your wilderness lately?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See: The Community of Solitude

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Reflection on Jesus and Solitude

Seeking

“In the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:35. NRSV).

If Jesus who was God among us, needed to withdraw in solitude and spend time in prayer, what makes us think we do not?

More times than not, the person(s) who make a prayerful relationship with God most difficult, is ourselves.  We allow ourselves to be so taken up with things that can only get us so far; while our relationship with God gets its own compartment to be opened for our convenience.  Though we may place God in a chest to be hidden and forgotten, God never places us in anywhere else but as “the apple of God’s eyes.”

Time spent in solitude, praying the Psalms with God in the cell of the whole of ourselves is how God gets to occupy us.  When we spend time in Centering Prayer and Contemplative Prayer, we seek union with the God who is already within us; calling to us to love God and be with God; never to let ourselves be so consumed by anything to the point where God becomes nothing more than another phone app to be used and set a side.  When we spend time with God in silence and solitude, the seed is planted for a new tree of life to grow from within us, that becomes the very Essence from which we live all of life.

“Benedictine Spirituality is a sacramental spirituality.  It holds all things,,,,,, as sacred.” (Joan Chittister, The Monastery of the Heart: An invitation to a Meaningful Life, p.115).

“1. Sit in your cell as in paradise.” (The Rule of St. Romuald).

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to the love of Christ, and may he bring us all to everlasting life.” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English. Chapter 72:11,12).

Have you taken time in solitude lately to spend time with God?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See: The Community of Solitude

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Reflection on Dry Ground

dry-land

 

“O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a barren land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1. The Book of Common Prayer, p.670).

The image above is a field of cracked dry land.  It seems endless.  It seems hopeless.  Very little if any can grow on it.  There is no water to nurture or sustain life on this fractured land.

Our lives are often like broken, dry land.  The heat of life’s many experiences bares down on us and seems to dry up the moisture needed to sustain us.  We grow tired and feel helpless and useless.  Our lives and even our faith cracks and our souls cry out for some kind of relief.

The Psalmist feels the same way.  The Psalmist knows that the only hope one has of recovering is to seek God as one’s God, eagerly as one is.  Thirsty, fainting, barren, cracked open.  The point of the Vow of Stability in Monastic Spirituality is to seek stability in our relationship with God as we are; not as we wish we were, or others might like us to be.  We seek stability in Christ by taking the masks off and letting go of every sense of hopelessness that tells us that there is no way that God can make use of us in our present circumstances.  Benedictine-Camaldolese spirituality of solitude and silence, tells us that it is in this very moment with our lives as they are, is where God has us, and works God’s will through us.

As I spent time meditating on these words in contemplative prayer today, I experienced a mystical moment in which I saw what appeared to be God’s water of new life gushing out to fix the cracks in the dry land.  While the water was flowing over the cracks, the cracks were not being filled, and the land was not refreshed.  I asked the Holy Spirit what was happening.  I got the feeling that God’s waters do not always fill all the cracks and completely mends us together, because God still has plans for us through our cracked and wounded lives.  If God washes over all the cracks and dry spaces, God may not be able to heal other wounds that we have yet to trust in God to mend.  Sometimes what remains broken, is another opportunity for God to bring healing to us at another point in God’s timing.  What I found myself needing to let go of, is my desire to control what I think God should do about every crack in the dry lands of my life.   Though I may think of them as wounds that can do no further good for me or others,; God still has work to do in and through my brokenness to bring me to a greater life of holiness and wholeness.  In the end it is not up to me what God does with my cracked and dry land.  I have to surrender that into God’s hands.

In God’s care and Providence, our brokenness is something God can do many wonderful things yet to be experienced.

“What is not possible to us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of His Grace.” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English. The Prologue, verse 41, p.18).

“1. Sit in your cell as in Paradise…  7. Sit like a baby chick, content with the grace of God, who, unless its mother gives it something, knows nothing and has nothing to eat.” (From The Short Rule of St. Romuald).

What are you letting God do with the cracks and wounds in your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See: The Community of Solitude

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Reflection on the Spirit

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25 NRSV).

Exactly how do we define our identity?

I have written before about labels, our false-sense of self and our true selves. The times we are living through, puts labels on top of labels, on top of labels. The labels by themselves only describe many things about us. When we cling to labels and put all of our identity into the labels, we hand over our dignity and our true selves to an idol. We deprive the very essence of what makes us who we really are to something that does not satisfy our interior thirst for God. We forget what the Redemption by Jesus Christ of ourselves, has given us.

Basil Pennington in his book Centering Prayer: Renewing An Ancient Christian Prayer Form wrote;

“He [The Holy Spirit] is our Spirit, the Gift given to you at Baptism to be your very own spirit; ask Holy Spirit through the words printed in these pages to “teach spiritual things spiritually.” (p. 10).

Contemplative prayer can be thought of as a journey of our spirit in search of union with God, The Holy Spirit to be a “new creation in Christ.” (See 2 Corinthians 5:17-18). The Holy Spirit gives new life to who we are, because of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ, the Word of God. We only need to spend some time in solitude and silence to live into the Holy Essence (Spirit) who is our essence and well-spring of our new life in Christ. There in is our strength in times of weakness, our hope when we are in despair, our victory when we have lost everything.

“And finally, never lose hope in God’s mercy.” (RB:1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English. Chapter 4 The Tools for Good Works, p. 29).

What identity are you living by?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See The Community of Solitude

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Reflection on God Alone

Seeking

“For God alone my soul in silence waits, truly, my hope is in him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.  (Psalm 62:6-7.  The Book of Common Prayer, p.669).

I wish I had the faith the Psalmist must have had when these words were written.  The author had many things going on around him.  He had a lot of enemies it seems.  Yet in the middle of what must have been going on, he found this faith in him that he knew that his soul in silence waits for God, and that God was his only salvation who could fill him with the courage he needed to face the turmoil he was experiencing.

When we speak of silence and solitude in the Monastic life, we are not only talking about exterior tranquility and seclusion.  When we finally do put aside what is going on around us, and spend time in a quiet withdrawal, we find ourselves with that much more noise and the crowds within us.  Plans we haven’t made.  Phone calls we didn’t return.  The emotions we feel after being disappointed.  The relationship (s) that were interrupted by death or a break up.  All of these and our feelings of self inadequacy find their way of shaking us and keeping us from that peace of God.  Much of all this comes from our indulging with our false-sense of self.  Somehow we internalized that everything is up to us.

Centering prayer is sitting quietly and using a word or phrase while we journey to our center and be with God alone in solitude.  In Centering Prayer, we don’t push the things going on in our life aside.  We accept them as they are, and let them go.  When God is so present with us, everything else becomes something we acknowledge is there, but we don’t cling to them.  We let them go.  Because now we know and are experiencing that “For God alone our souls in silence waits, truly our hope is in God.”   Centering prayer opens our interior selves to the contemplative experience of God’s mysterious love and transforming grace.  When we allow ourselves to be with God alone and center ourselves on God, we are brought into a perfect union with God by which God is all we are seeking, for the sake of God alone.  Everything else becomes irrelevant.

The Brief Rule of St. Romuald

1. Sit in your cell as in paradise.
2. Put the whole world behind you and forget it.
3. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish.
4. The path you must follow is in the Psalms never leave it.
5. If you have just come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will you cannot
accomplish what you want, take every opportunity you can to sing the Psalms in your
heart and to understand them with your mind.
6. And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.
7. Realize above all that you are in God’s presence, and stand there with the attitude of
one who stands before the emperor.
8. 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.
“Listen readily to holy reading, and devote yourself often to prayer.” (RB:1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English, Chapter 4 On the Tools for Good Works, verses 55-56. p.28).
Have you spent anytime in silence while your soul waits for God alone lately?
Amen.
Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS
Peace be with all who enter here.