Reflection on Arms Stretched Out

“Jesus called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it” (See Mark 8:27-38, NRSV).

I am sure the title of this blog entry and the Gospel quote might seem a little odd to some. Jesus is calling us to carry our cross, to give up our lives and follow Him. Yet, I titled the blog post as about the arms outstretched.

The mysticism of the Cross is that our God in the Person of Jesus stretched out His arms and embraced us. God’s love is so profound, so complete, that Jesus held nothing back.

St. Julian of Norwich wrote, “Christ carried us within him in love and travail, until the time of his passion. And when all was completed and he carried us so for joy, still all this could not satisfy the power of his wonderful love” (Canticle R Enriching Our Worship 1, p.40).

The contemplative experiences the love of God in such a way, that we know that love is more than a theological thesis. It is known in the depths of our hearts. Contemplation is an encounter with the loving arms of God stretched out, while we embrace that love in whatever comes our way. It will not always come in something warm and fuzzy. It happens because God’s grace has moved within us to stretch our arms to embrace the challenges we are given in the here and now.

Taking up our crosses is about faithfulness. Carrying our crosses is not about being perfect. Carrying our cross is God’s holy love forever outstretched for us to embrace God at any time, any where and in anyone.

“Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p. 15).

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer, p.100).

Are you ready to carry your cross, knowing that the arms of Jesus are forever outstretched for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Longing and Sighing

“Everything I long for is laid out before you, my Lord; my sighs aren’t hidden from you” (Psalm 38:9 The Common English Bible).

Psalm 38 is one of the great lamenting Psalms. In the words is a deep concern for The Psalmist’s relationship with God. The author is feeling abandoned and betrayed. The Psalmist is being brutally honest.

The verse I chose for this blog entry comes from a very firm faith. A faith that recognizes all that is going on. Yet, the Psalmist is aware that God knows us so very well, that our longing and sighs are never far from God’s goodness.

As many of my readers know, I live with autism. It is a condition that challenges every aspect of my life. Finding the right combination of words in any given social situation is like playing the Battleship game. Finding people who affirm me in recognizing that I will never outgrow autism is very difficult. I can only learn to manage myself. But, I cannot do it on my own. I need therapists and good caring people around me to help me. In my false-sense of self, I might like to not be affected by loud noises that most cannot hear. I would love to be able to manage relationships without the fear of sensual overload. The fact is, I am what I am. Even if others don’t understand autism, it is still how God reaches me in the most wondrous of ways. It is because of my autism that Benedictine Contemplative Monastic Life is my path toward a deeper awareness of God’s love for me.

St. Julian of Norwich wrote, “When we contemplate God we are made like unto God” (All Will Be Well: 30 Days with a Great Spiritual Teacher, p.87).

The Contemplative seeks union with God by listening to God’s grace lead us to deeper sense of self awareness. Our deepest longing to know God within our hearts, with the sighs for healing and mercy are always in the very heart of God in the here and now. God wants us to reach out to God from the depth of who we really are, and not who we or anyone else would prefer us to be. Sometimes the very affirmation we need, comes from someone who helps us see how much God loves us in the here and now.

“What is not possible for us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply with the help of his grace” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.18).

Do you believe that your longing and sighing are laid out before God?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Opening the Heart

“Say to those who are fearful of heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God'” (Isaiah 35:4 NRSV).

To this day, my very favorite words in the entire Rule of St. Benedict are, “Listen, my son, to your master’s precepts, and incline the ear of your heart. Receive willingly and carry out effectively, your loving father’s advice,,,,,” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, p.1).

Life is full of uncertainties. Seasons change. We change. The people in our lives come and go. Who we are today; is different than who we were five years ago.

What is amazing is that it takes a huge change in our lives for us to wake up and pay attention to what is really going on inside of us. Nothing shakes up our lives quite like the death of someone close to us. When that someone is gone, we realize all the things we should have said or done. We remember things about the other person that made us so complete, but, may not have given it much thought while they were still with us. It is during a year of grieving that we experience the he healing of things within ourselves that we did not know were broken.

Our false-sense of self tells us that we must have everything figured out with all our ducks in a row. If we do not have it all together, we are doing something wrong. As long as we listen to our false-sense of self, our hearts will not be stilled and opened to listen to God. If we live with the idea that our heart are all our own, God cannot find a home there.

St. Julian of Norwich wrote, “And then our Lord opened my spiritual eye, and showed me my spirit in the middle of the heart. I saw the soul as wide as if it were an unlimited realm.”

The God-Life of contemplation tells us that God is present and speaking in the whole of ourselves, if only we will “incline the ear of the heart.” God invites us to experience the fullness of God’s life-giving grace; to give us hope where everything seems so hopeless. Our hearts full of fear from the things behind us, and of the things yet to come are restless. We need to embrace the presence of God within our hearts in the here and now.

What is God saying to your fearful 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 me support this 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 Out of the Depths

“Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord; Lord, head my voice; let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication” (Psalm 130:1. The Book of Common Prayer, p.784).

St. Julian of Norwich once wrote,

“Pray inwardly even if you do not enjoy it. It does good, though you feel nothing. Yes, even though you think you are doing nothing” (The Breath of the Soul: Reflections on Prayer by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.83).

In the Ninth Conference on Prayer in The Conferences by St. John Cassian, St. Isaac identified three kinds of prayer. 1. Supplication. 2. Intercession. 3. Thanksgiving. The kind of prayer envisioned by the Psalmist comes from the depths of the heart. The prayer of supplication means a recognition of our helplessness. In that helplessness, we know that God is our only hope.

Prayer is about deepening our relationship with God. Prayer that strengthens our intimacy with God is not about getting something we want. It is about letting go of what we are holding on to. It is the act of turning ourselves over to the will of God, without wanting to control the outcome.

Contemplative prayer is a search for union with the God-Life within us and all around us. It leads us from the depths our hearts, to the awareness that God is interacting with us in the here and now. God’s mystery can be experienced, but, not explained. God’s presence is tangible, yet unattainable by our senses.

Jesus is our Bread of Life and Cup of Salvation. Through Jesus, the depth of our hunger is known and acknowledged. Through Jesus, what we long for is worth the longing. “For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation” (Psalm 62:1, The Book of Common Prayer, p.669).

“We must know that God regards our purity of heart and tears of compunction, not our many words ” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, Chapter 20 Reverence in Prayer, p.48).

Are you in touch with God from the depths of yourself?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you feel led to buy me some coffee, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.

Reflection on Bread of Heaven

“Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:24-35, NRSV).

Bread is fundamental to our lives. Bread contains the sustenance and substance to nurture our body.

Bread is a perfect beginning point for Contemplative prayer. All of the elements of creation are present in the making of bread. The sun, soil, rain, seed, flour, sugar, salt, and eggs. The farmer who plants the seeds to grow the wheat, and harvest it. The merchant. The baker. Heat for baking. All of these have their origin in God’s goodness. Those who do the work are co-creators with God.

In The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 39 The Proper Amount of Food; he instructs the Community to have “a generous pound of bread” to be prepared for the meals of the day. The Desert Mothers and Fathers prepared a single loaf of bread to be used for the day.

God brings together everything that is good to give us life. Jesus, the Bread of Life, is the life of God in our common humanity who feeds us with the fullness of God. God knows all that is good and holy within us. God knows that we need help to draw closer to the Holy One through what is tangible. God gives us what we need to nourish and sustain our faith and life. God wants us to search for union with God with what is right in front of us in the here and now. We may not see God with our physical eyes or human logic. It is only by faith that we can reach out to grasp with the whole of ourselves, the God-Life that will transform us by that “amazing grace” to live into our true selves in Christ.

How is God the Bread of Heaven nourishing your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you feel led to buy me some coffee, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.

Reflection on Be Still and Wait

“Be still before the Lord, and wait for him” (Psalm 37:7, Common English Bible).

These words are disturbing to us who live in the 21st Century. We are always multitasking. We have plans that need to be written into our calendars. There is always something else we need to be doing. We live in the age of wait for nothing.

These words are disturbing, because by ourselves and of ourselves; we do not really know how to be still and wait for God. To be still is to let go of ourselves, and trust in God to meet us in our poverty of spirit. To wait for God means to let go of our own sense of time; to let God’s timing become our ultimate desire.

Contemplative prayer leads us to see what is beyond the visible; to grasp the One who is invisible and cannot be grasped. Any vision of God is tangible, but, can only be experienced, but, not explained. To be still and wait for God is to yield our emptiness into our faith, with trust in God to teach us within the whole of ourselves; though, what we learn is limited.

Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB in her book, The Breath of the Soul: Reflections on Prayer wrote,

“one of the most consistent themes in mystical literature is the clear notion that the Mystic is not seeking spiritual escape from the life of the world. The mystic, history records in one life after another of them, is simply seeking God”(p.89,90).

“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 St. Benedict in English, p.18).

What do the words “Be still before the Lord, and wait for him” mean for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Time Alone

[Jesus] said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while” (See Mark 6:30-34,53-56).

Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB in her book Illuminated Life:Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light uses the following quote from the Desert Mothers and Fathers.

“One of the elders said, ‘Just as it is impossible to see your face in troubled water, so also the soul, unless it is clear of alien thoughts, is not able to pray to God in contemplation'” (p.105).

Jesus tells us that withdrawing to recollect ourselves is very important. We do not have to be out there doing everything, all the time. On the contrary, over busyness can be a way of avoiding things that are very important.

Life is so full of disappointments and losses. Everyday we experience something that reaches the wounds we have within ourselves. Sometimes we can even overdo being helpful to others and not pay attention to what God is saying to ourselves.

“Sitting in our cell requires patience to not run from ourselves or flee back into the world of distraction and numbness. It means being fully present to our inner life without anxiety. Interior peace comes through sitting in silence, through attentiveness and watchfulness ” (Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated & Explained, p. 120).

God grants us the grace of Contemplative Prayer so that we may know our true selves from God’s perspective. We are too caught up in what we should be doing, saying and understanding. We think it is all up to us. God sees us as loved completely without exception. God knows every fiber of our being. God has planted within us God’s loving desire to love God more deeply today, so that tomorrow we may love God even more than today.

“What, dear brothers, is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us?” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English. The Prologue, p.16).

Are you finding time to be alone with God?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you feel led to buy me some coffee, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so much.