Reflection on St. Stephen

While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.” (See Acts 6:8-7:2, 51c-60 NRSV).

“Good King Wenceslas looked out

On the feast of Stephen

When the snow lay round about

Deep and crisp and even

Brightly shone the moon that night

Though the frost was cruel

When a poor man came in sight

Gath’ring winter fuel.”

Yesterday was the First Day of Christmas. On Christmas Eve, we sang hymns of the peace that the Christ Child would bring. There was the hope of “peace and goodwill toward all people.” On the Second Day of Christmas, we remember St. Stephen being stoned. Is today’s commemoration of St. Stephen a contradiction to the Nativity of Jesus, or is it a wake up call for the soul?

I continually repeat the opening words of The Rule of St. Benedict because it contains the most important words that Christians would do well to internalize. “Listen, my loved one, and incline the ear of the heart.” The arrival of Jesus Christ, the Word, holds us spell bound by its beauty and simplicity. The simplicity is that in Jesus, God makes God’s Self vulnerable. God came in Christ to become vulnerable as one of us, and with us. Vulnerability brings a risk without knowing what the end result will be.

Listening to God within the wholeness of ourselves makes us vulnerable to letting go of our false-sense of self; to find our true self in the fullness of Christ’s revelation. Christ is revealed as the Light in the midst of our darkness. The darkness may be a grudge we are holding. It might our reluctance to accept what is and letting go of what we wish things were. That darkness may be a pain we will not allow ourselves to experience with God’s compassion embracing us so that we can heal through it.

Contemplative prayer and mysticism in this Feast of St. Stephen is to know that God is always present and interacting with us and in us in any situation we find ourselves in.

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39. NRSV).

Will you spend time in silence and solitude to let the Christ Child inside your vulnerable heart today?

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 blog 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 My God is My Lamp

God My Lamp

You, O Lord, are my lamp; my God, you make my darkness bright (Psalm 18:29 The Book of Common Prayer, p.604).

Sometimes the word darkness gets a bad reputation.  It comes from the belief that nothing good happens at night while it is dark.  There is some truth to the concept if you believe that darkness is where faith ends.  As Christians, faith does not end with darkness.  Christ Jesus is our Light of hope.  At the Great Vigil of Easter the newly lit Easter Candle is processed into the church as we chant, “Christ our Light.  Thanks be to God.”  Among the reasons that Monastics of various orders celebrate Vigils and/or for some Matins, is because it is symbolic of watching for Christ our Light to come and scatter our darkness.

There is no doubt that we are living through times that can be described as dark.  As Christians, we must live with faith and hope that Christ continues to “make our darkness bright.”  St. Benedict in The Rule quoted John 12:35 in The Prologue.  “Run while you have the light of life, that the darkness of death may not overtake you.” (RB 1980, p.16).  It was not enough for St. Benedict to use the word “walk” that ordinarily begins the Bible verse.  He believes that there is too much urgency to walk.  So, instead, Benedict tells us to “run.”

The words from Psalm 18:29 are an acknowledgement of God’s relationship with us in our dark moments.  It is a testimony of what the Psalmist has experienced combined with heartfelt faith and anticipation of what God will do in the future.  As Christians, we need to live into this relationship of God being our lamp who makes our darkness bright.

In Contemplative prayer is the experience of the Light that pierces the deepest darkness, through which God provides for us an awareness of God’s presence that calls, heals and gives us hope.

May we be attentive to God as our lamp and light.  May that faith shine through us and around us.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Your Light Shall Rise

LightinDarkness

“your light shall rise in the darkness” (Isaiah 58:10b, NRSV).

The Prophet Isaiah is telling God’s people of all the things God wants to be able to do through them.  Our lives are not an island unto ourselves, however much we might like things to be otherwise.  We share our lives with the poor, the lonely, the sick, the discouraged and those who are different than we are.  God challenges us to do more than just fast and pray, but to use those things to respond in reverence and love to the presence of God in others around us.

The few words from Isaiah “your light shall rise in the darkness” spoke very powerfully to me today.  Through these words, I hear the Holy Spirit wanting to make a change in my life that is so profound that the light within me rises from the darkness.  If that light rises in my life, it is because I accepted God’s call within myself to respond in love to be roused from my slumber “to translate into action, God’s holy teachings” (The Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue 35).

Lectio Divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture) is about more than knowing this truth in my mind.  I have to allow God to transform me in my heart (that is the whole of myself) so that it becomes more and more the way I live.  God is very patient with me, but calls me to take a step toward a transparent way of living the Gospel.

May God continue to transform you and me so that we may all respond to God in our hearts; that our light will rise out of the darkness and illuminate the world around us with the love of Christ.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

A Light to Enlighten

Lit Candle

Lord, you now have set your servant free to go in peace as you have promised;  For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, whom you have prepared for all the world to see:  A Light to enlighten the nations, and the glory of your people Israel.  (The Song of Simeon Nunc dimittis, The Book of Common Prayer, p.120).

These wonderful words of Simeon found in Luke’s Gospel 2:29-32 sing of freedom, peace, light and glory.  Simeon waited in the Temple for the arrival of God’s promise to him.  He remained in prayer and anticipation that what God gave him in faith, would become what he saw.  His ears were tuned in to hear the voice of God.  He awaited the Light that would enlighten.

As we all face our dark moments, this Canticle of Simeon is a prayer encouragement to believe that the Light that enlightens will one day become visible for us.  Persistence in prayer is willing to keep praying and being open to the grace that helps sustain us.  The Holy Spirit wants to stretch our hearts so that the Light of God that will enlighten our souls will show throughout all our lives.

May we follow the example of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in obedience to God on this Feast of the Presentation, and remain vigilant in prayer as we await God’s Light to guide us into a greater experience of God’s presence.  May that Light shine through us and be a sign of hope for others who live in “darkness and the shadow of death.”

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Those Who Seek the Lord Lack No Good Thing.

Seeking

Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. (Psalm 34:10b. RSV).

I just looked up a definition of the word seek.   The definition I would like us to focus on for this Simple Reflection is seek as, “an attempt or desire to obtain or achieve (something).”   Someone who seeks something (or someone) does so with an intense amount of attention on what it is they are wanting to find.  When a seeker is seeking they tend to avoid all other distractions so that they can focus on discovering what is hidden.

When it comes to the Spiritual Life, seeking God is like looking for a lost set of keys while they are already in your hand.  God has already been found.  Seeking God is the foundation of Benedictine Spirituality.  All other parts of Benedictine Spirituality including the infamous Ora et Labora (pray and work), are a means towards seeking God.  We pray and work, work and pray; so that we may seek a deeper union with God in and through all things.

The photo above the verse from Psalm 34:10b represents that seeking God is not necessarily a matter of us doing something.  The man who is sitting there in the dusk seems tired and worn out.  There is darkness in his life, but there is a great reflection and revelation through what remains visible.  There is still so much beauty and possibility around him.  Whatever he may be lacking, he is lacking no good thing.  There is still hope for him.  There is still hope for all of us.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

The Dawn From On High

TheDawnFromOnHigh

Many thanks to Rebecca Otto for allowing me to use this photo this morning.

In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace. (The Song of Zechariah Benedictus Dominus Deus.  Canticle 16. The Book of Common Prayer. p.92).

I will always remember when I prayed Matins for the first time on an Easter Sunday morning in 1994.  I was a young soon to be college graduate.  I had been discerning during my Senior year about becoming a Catholic; which I did in 1995.  In 2010 I was received as an Episcopalian.  Since I had first visited Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham, MA in November 1993; I had begun a regular routine of praying The Liturgy of the Hours.  On that Easter morning, I read those incredible words from St. Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 18:5-6, “I know you are looking for Jesus the crucified, but he is not here.  He has been raised, exactly as he promised.”  As I was reading those words, the Easter sun came out.   I felt a rush of light, a warmth, a sense of faith.  It was as though the Holy Spirit gave me a kiss of hope.   I have had this experience on numerous occasions when I have prayed the words from the Song of Zechariah that I used below the picture featured above.

Among my current practices is to pray Matins at 5:00am on Weekdays, 5:30am on Saturdays and 6:00am on Sundays.  Among the reasons is to celebrate the hope of God in the remaining hour of the darkness of night as it gives way to the light of the dawn.  It is a reminder that darkness and death are not a finality.  They are only a transition.

Many of us are walking through times of darkness.  Our lives are overshadowed by our jobs, relationships, families and the ins and outs of daily life.  We are confronted with the reality of violence, sickness, poverty and despair.  It seems that the light of faith is elusive.

Our God of compassion and infinite mercy though veiled from our physical sight; remains ever present and showing through the light of the dawns of our lives.  “The darkness is not dark to God.  The night is as bright as the day.  To God, light and darkness are both alike” (Psalm 139:10, 11 paraphrased).   The light of God shines into our life as life actually is; including the snow, the ice and the cold.  All that is will be illuminated by God’s abiding presence.  All of us may be equally assured that Jesus Christ who is God’s perfect revelation of God’s Self is walking with each of us as we make our way toward God as God directs our path “into the way of peace.”

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Darkness is Not Dark to You, O Lord

LightPiercingDarkness

If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me, and the light around me turn to night,”  darkness is not dark to you, O Lord; the night is as bright as the day; darkness and light to you are both alike. (Psalm 139:10,11. The Book of Common Prayer,. p. 116).

There are many contradictions (or paradoxes if you prefer), that inspire thought and devotion.  One of those is darkness and light.  Western philosophy historically, has suggested that there is nothing good about night time, because of the darkness.  How many crime shows on TV show depict an assailant operating in the dark?

For Monastics, darkness has a very different meaning.

The office of Vigils [or Matins] consecrates the hours of the night, creating a spirit of expectancy.  In the quiet hours before dawn, the stillness around us pervades our minds and hearts.  We wait prayerfully for the coming of the Lord as we watch and long for the coming of dawn.

We watch because it is characteristic of lovers to watch for the return of the beloved. (Monastic Practices. Charles Cummings, OCSO, p. 132).

Darkness is an opportunity to wait with faith and anticipation to what God will do.  Darkness is not to God, because light and darkness are both alike.  What human beings cannot see or do in the darkness; God can do things in any shade of darkness or light that can go unnoticed.  The hymn writer Natalie Sleeth wrote: “There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.”

Darkness can be more than what we see.  Darkness can be any pain or suffering.  Darkness can be in the shape of an addiction that is too difficult to talk about and/or face.  Darkness can be in the form of a sick child or a relationship coming to an end.  Yet, even in those dark moments God is our one hope that brings light into that darkness.  Even if the illness is not healed, the lost lover does not return, or the individual with the addiction falls again and again.

If we ever needed a symbol of a darkness through which God gave the greatest light to the world, look not further than the Cross.

Cross

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB