Reflection on A Contemplative Advent

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. Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love, for they are from everlasting. (Psalm 25:4-5, The Book of Common Prayer, p.614).

Among my many social challenges I experience because of autism is knowing when, who and how to ask for help. It happens because of being overwhelmed by too many options in my brain at one time. Over the past seven years since I was first diagnosed, I have had to learn that the sooner I tell those closest to me that I am overwhelmed by my options and need help, the less overwhelmed I will be. I will get the help I need, when I accept my vulnerability and entrust what I need from the right people.

Advent is a season of waiting and watching for God in the Person of Jesus. We look forward to the return of Christ in glory. We want Jesus to come and change this world of violence and chaos to how we think things should be. The season of Advent leads us to remembering that God did something so profound in the Incarnation. In the book Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, one of the contributors Karl Rahner in The Divine Dawning wrote,

“No, you took upon yourself our kind of life, just as it is. You let it slip away from you, just as ours vanishes from us. You held on to it carefully, so that not a single drop of its torments would be spilled. You hoarded its very fleeting moment, so you could suffer through it all, right to the bitter end” (p.71,72).

If we want a contemplative experience of Advent, we must “begin again.” We begin by praying with the Psalmist that by ourselves, we do not know how to find God’s truth and know God’s compassion. The contemplative looks for the mystery of God in our humility and vulnerability as life is in the here and now. In our suffering and messy lives the Advent of Christ is already happening. When we let go, and allow God to teach us the way of truth, salvation and compassion; the Holy One comes and makes a home within us. It is a very limited experience, and so we continue to cry; Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, Chapter 72, p.95).

What are you waiting for Jesus to do for you this Advent?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Desire

MountainImage

O Lord, you know all my desires, and my sighing is not hidden from you. (Psalm 38:9. The Book of Common Prayer, p.637).  

We do not have to look very hard around us to know that we live in a time of instant gratification being on steroids.  Our computers, iphones, ipads and such can keep us tuned into everything from our favorite video games to social media and more.  As marvelous and amazing as these things are, there is still a deep void that cries out from within our hearts that longs to be filled by more than instant gratification can possibly satisfy.

The words from Psalm 38 are dangerous words.  They require us to let go of the things that bring us instant gratification, so that we may allow the God who wants to love us so deeply can truly fulfill our ultimate desire.  God brings us the fulfillment of desire that calls for us to abandon ourselves to give ourselves over to what is infinite and comes in God’s sweet time.  The desire to know beyond a shadow of doubt, that we are loved in ways that our minds could not possibly comprehend.  When we open ourselves to the God who knows all our desires and has heard our sighing even more that we can feel or utter; we risk being displaced by the Holy Spirit to be touched by things that we cannot see or explain, but calls us to a deeper love of God and our neighbor.  We can only know within ourselves that there is some thing or someone there, that touch cannot satisfy.  Our emotions may be engaged, but no feeling can actualize enough to say exactly what it is or surmised by any human logic.

In Contemplative Prayer and the mystical experience of the Holy One, we experience a glimpse of how much God desires us.  After all, the desires are there by God’s initiative not ours.  The sighs are not hidden from God, because those sighs are reaching out to our God who hears them as clearly as a sparrow in spring calling out for its mate.  It is that same creative and redemptive love through which Jesus gave His life on the Cross, and rose again from the dead so that we might experience such love from God’s perspective.  All we “know” is God, because God is all that matters.  The fulfillment of our desires for the One for whom our sighing is really meant.

May all of us grow in love and trust for our God who knows our desires, and hears our sighing.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

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

O God, Eagerly I Seek You

Serenity

O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.  Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place, that I might behold your power and your glory. (Psalm 63:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer, p.670).

Just before I began writing this blog post, I did a search on Google for an image of searching.  The only images I could find were copied and pasted images of a Google search engine. LOL.   So, I settled for what I used above the Scripture verse for today.  I chose it because the verse from Psalm 63 speaks of searching for God eagerly with a firm faith that God is the One who quenches our thirsting souls.  The picture is of a person sitting on a dock looking out at a foggy body of water, with very little visibility.  What inspires me is that the one sitting there views all of it with beauty and hopeful expectation.

We do not always get to chose the moment or environment in which to search for God.  Most circumstances are beyond our control.  Yet, those moments are opportunities to search for God beyond what we can see or understand; so that God can give us a new perspective.  Each opportunity for a new perspective widens our vision of God in what is invisible.  It is experienced and lived; even if it isn’t something that can be touched or comprehended.

Today, right where we are, whatever we are doing or experiencing; God is searching for us more than we are for God.  Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB often writes, “We are seeking God, who has already been found.”  God is already deep in our hearts, longing to be loved and held; only to become the most pure expression of who we really are.  God’s Beloved, with whom God is well pleased.

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

What Cannot Be Seen, Heard or Conceived

Mystery

1 Corinthians 2:6-10, 13-16 (NRSV)

Among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the human heart conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him” —

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

In our age of brilliant technological advances such as the smart phone, computer and internet; it seems that everything and anything is visible.  Social media networks like Facebook and Twitter are awesome for keeping in touch with friends.   They are also an incredible way to make new friends and to be part of just about any topic one can come up with.   Yet, for all the good that is therein, one cannot ignore that it becomes that much more difficult to control our curiosity to uncover things that in some ways are better left mysterious.

That which is unseen, unheard or hardly conceived leads to a deeper awareness of our relationship with God and others.  The Holy Spirit “searches the depths of God.”  In the Spiritual Life, there is always a new depth to be encountered and explored.   There is always a new truth for us to be led into regarding the truth we have always known.

God invites us today, to see with the eyes of faith that whatever we cannot see, hear or conceive has yet to be God’s newest revelation to us who love God.  It is so awesome and powerful, that it is best that it be hidden until God chooses to make it known to us.  All we are asked to do is walk by faith and trust in God’s holy will for us.

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