Reflection on the Potter

Clay

Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8 NRSV).

As we begin the Season of Advent, I found these words from the Prophet Isaiah speaking to me.

During this season of hope, peace, love and joy we are waiting to remember the arrival of the Incarnate Word as a vulnerable, innocent child.  The season is full of endless chatter, holiday parties, shopping, holiday musak, and end of the year thank yous.  The radio plays the old song Silver Bells with the words “and above all this bustle; you’ll hear…”   But, at what point do we stop for a little solitude and silence to contemplate this great Season of Advent?  What will it take for us to “listen, and incline the ear of our heart” (Prologue of St. Benedict’s Rule), as we wait in joyful expectation of God’s Love in revealed in the human flesh?

The words from Isaiah tell us that God is the potter and we are the clay.  These words are echoed in the old hymn “Have Thine own way, Lord.  Have Thine own way.  Thou art the potter, I am the clay.”  When we meditate on these words, we are immediately confronted by our false-sense of self.   The self that must be approved and approving, happy no matter what, self absorbed and self centered.  God came to us in Jesus Christ, because God is the potter.

God sees in us just how beautiful we are and how gorgeous we can be.  If only we will spend some time in quiet contemplation of viewing ourselves from God’s perspective as a people destined for greatness by letting go in humility our understanding of who we think God is.  We must let God reveal God’s Self to us, so that God can mold, shape and prepare us to become beautiful vessels that bless the world one hundred times over.

“The second degree of humility is that a person love not his own will nor take pleasure in satisfying his desires, but model his actions on the saying of the Lord, “I have come not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, Chapter 7 On Humility, p.24).

Will you allow God to mold and shape you during this Advent Season?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.net

Reflection on Blessed

st.benedictstainedglass

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3. NRSV).

There is a big misconception that has been going on way too long.  It is the thinking that there is only one to four ways to experience contemplative prayer and mysticism.  Sitting is solitude and silence is probably the greatest way to experience contemplative prayer.  Lectio Divina is best done when we are quietly reading the Scriptures and going through the methodical progression of Lectio (reading), Meditatio (Meditate), Oratio (prayer) and Contemplatio (Contemplation).  This too is true.  Using a routine prayer form such as using Prayer Beads, or the Prayer Rope, or even walking through a forest, are great ways to enter into union with God in prayer.  All of these are amazingly good ways to practice contemplative prayer.

The biggest misconception is that contemplative prayer is about us.  It happens because of something we must do; and if we do not do it and experience some kind of emotional and/or spiritual ecstasy, then we must be doing something wrong.

Contemplative prayer that opens up the possibility of a mystical experience is about God’s grace meeting us where we are, and seeing in our hearts the yearning desire to find union with God.  A yearning search that is there by God’s initiative waiting for us to accept the opportunity to let God be God, and get ourselves out of the way.  Contemplative prayer is not about being perfect.  It is about God reaching us within the whole of ourselves, seeing us as we are, where we are, and us experiencing how blessed we are to be so poor in spirit, that God brings the Kingdom of God to live within us.

Jesus’ invitation to “seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33 KJV) is God seeing us from God’s perspective.  Our deep desire to experience God from the depths of ourselves is in the here and now; even if we are depressed, in despair and wondering where God is.  God is in the wondering.  God is in the searching.  The God we are searching for and wondering about, has already found us.  In Jesus, God has told us that we are blessed because we are poor in spirit.  God also told us that the Kingdom of Heaven is ours; not just in the world to come, but in the here and now.

“We believe that the divine presence is everywhere and that in every place the eyes of that Lord are watching the good and the wicked (Proverbs 5:3)”.  (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English. Chapter 19:1).

Do you know in the whole of your being, that God sees you as being blessed?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

 

 

Reflection on Our Eyes

Eye

“Turn our eyes from watching what is worthless; give me life in your ways.” (Psalm 119:37, The Book of Common Prayer, p.766).

A very wise spiritual director once told me that the reason our lives do not make more significant progress is because of how much attention is paid to nonsense.

Think of what a different world we could live in if the tabloids went bankrupt because no one stopped to read and buy their nonsense in checkout lines.

The world we live in with its lure of wealth, power, fame and the widespread heap of nonsense keeps our eyes on what is worthless.  Our false sense of self keeps us focused on what is worthless.

The Psalmist recognizes that by ourselves, we are powerless to change the direction of our interior vision.  When we try to do everything, thinking that we can do it all; we are keeping our eyes on what is worthless.  Nonsense just consumes us.

In contemplative and centering prayer, God draws us into the depth of God’s Self.  In God’s extravagant love and mercy, we are whole and complete.  In God’s way is that life that leads us into a deeper relationship with our true self; our eternal truth that is God’s goodness and graciousness poured into our hearts “through the one who has loved us” (See Romans 8:37).  In God’s way of life, we are drawn into the mysticism of God’s perspective of us in the holiness of Jesus who is God’s face revealed in the Word.  When we trust in God to turn our eyes away from what is worthless, God teaches us God’s way of life that fills us with a sense of purpose with the hope seeking union with God in purity of heart.

“What, dear brothers, is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us?  See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life.  Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the Gospel as our guide, that we may deserve to see him who has called us to his kingdom (1 Thess. 2:12).” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, p.161).

Where are your eyes focused?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

Reflection on God Our Portion

st.benedictstainedglass

“I cry out to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” (Psalm 142:5: The Book of Common Prayer, p.798).

I am drawn to the words, “You,,,,are my portion in the land of the living.”

The world around me tells me that I will never be satisfied unless I own the biggest, the fastest, the most pleasurable.   Some around me have a larger portion then I do. I probably have a larger portion than others in some things.  Consumerism says that unless I have the biggest portion of everything, I am missing something in life.  The weight loss consumer market shames me and others by telling us that unless we buy their products to make us look more like the status quo our lives are worthless.

In Chapter 34 of The Rule of Saint Benedict entitled Distribution of Goods According to Need, he quotes from Acts 4;35.  “Distribution was made to each as he had need.”  In the rest of the chapter,  Benedict offers advice for those who need more and those who need less.  He is telling us that God knows our needs better than we do. Benedict’s Rule is a balance between strictness and flexibility.   He recognizes our need to honor God in one another, but leaves the decision of what to work on up to us individually.

The Psalmist and St. Benedict are reminding us that God is our portion who provides for each of us from the fullness of God’s Self in grace and love.  Our false sense of self says we never have enough, or makes us guilty if we have too much because of circumstances beyond our control.  As we submit ourselves to God through contemplative prayer we are drawn into the mystical experience that God’s Truth is all we need.  In God is our true selves.  In God is our sense of love and acceptance of where we are.  In God is our grace to let go of ourselves and find strength and endurance to keep following the path to where God wants us to be.  After all, God is our portion in the land of the living.

How is God your portion in the land of the living?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

Reflection on Consuming the Word

OpenBible

 

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16, NRSV).

There is an old saying,  “You are what you eat.”  In that case, many of us are pork, beef, chicken, vegetables and more.  As human beings we are always searching for something new to eat.  I look up new recipes all the time.  It is also true that when we eat something we like, we savor it.  We can’t seem to get enough of it.

Psalm 34:8 reads “Taste and see that the Lord is good…”

Our biggest obstacle to searching for God is our false-sense of self.  The notion that everything must bring us some kind of pleasure.  Nothing should challenge us to re-evaluate ourselves and what our hungry souls are really longing for.

The writer of Jeremiah is acknowledging that finding God’s words is such an immense delight, that he knows that God is calling him to something greater.  God satisfies more than just our hungry heart.  God’s words fill us with more than warm fuzzy feelings.  God gives us a revelation of God and ourselves that defies human logic and emotional sensations.  God fills us with a love when God’s truth in the Holy Spirit meets our wounded souls, and our search for union with God finds a place within our own spiritual truth.

In God’s words we can contemplate the wonder of God’s amazing love and faithfulness as we turn ourselves over in obedience to the One who has given all to redeem us.  The words will shake us up and call us to a conversion of life.  They will lead us to know with the Prophet that we too are called by our God who longs for us to find our true selves in Christ who calls us each by name.  Can anything be more wondrously mystical than that?

“What page of the inspired books of the Old and New Testaments is not the truest guides for human life?” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, chapter 72:3, p.296-297).

Have you found and eaten God’s words in your life?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

Reflection on The Storms

Stormy Lake Ontario

“But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’” (See Matthew 14:22-33 NRSV).

There are a lot of storms around all of us these days.  Whether they are natural or human made, storms are scary.  They have a double nature of beauty and ugliness.  Storms are a good example of the uninvited guest that shows up to a dinner party and just won’t take the hint that they are not wanted.  Nevertheless, storms show up when we least expect and/or want them to be there.

Storms also mirror life in the sense that they are there, and they need to be lived through; even if we don’t like what happens after.

In today’s Gospel Reading from Matthew, we can take comfort that the Disciples of Jesus are as scared of the storm as we are of the ones in our lives.  Jesus changes the narrative and the outcome when He tells them “Take heart, it is I.  Do not be afraid.”   Incidentally, did you know that the words “do not be afraid” appear 365 times in the Bible?  I think there is a good reason for that.

Storms like a clear day with not a cloud in the sky, present us with the opportunity to contemplate the Presence of God.  In the best of times and the worst of times; God is looking for us to seek union with God, as God tells us, “do not be afraid.”   God calls us into relationship with God in all aspects of life.  The extraordinary and the ordinary.  The ups and the downs.  In either case, God is present.  The Holy Spirit is speaking to us.  It may be waiting for the still small voice that Elijah heard.  It may be like Peter beginning to sink, so that Jesus could reach out to him, pull him up and strengthen his faith. It may be similar to the storm that kept Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica talking about holy things just before her soul was lifted up into heaven.

Jesus is always walking with us on the  path of our storms and calling us into a mystical union with God.  It is God’s invitation for us to let go of our false-sense of self and find God’s revelation in what is real, true and holy.

“And finally, never lose hope in God’s mercy.” (RB:1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, Chapter 4 On the Tools of Good Works, p.185).

Are you seeking union with God during the storms of your life?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

Reflection on Wonderful

Reflections

“Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14).

No one limits the power of God in our lives more than ourselves.   Each of us have the ability to let God in or shut God out.  Letting God in means turning ourselves over to God’s will.  It requires us to do a lot of letting go so that God make us in to that “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) .

Contemplative prayer opens us up to the possibility of encountering God in the least suspected of places and moments.  In our silence and solitude we confront the noise within us; those conflicting and contradictory things that take up so much space.  It is amazing that when we sit in silence with the T.V., the iPhone, iPad, Smart Phone, computer, radio, etc turned off that we realize just how much noise is going through our bodies and minds.  We are restless.   We are not really centered.  It seems as if our interior is like at traffic jam on a hot muggy day with all the horns beeping loudly and it is as if we will never go anywhere.  It is in these very moments when the God we are seeking union with, has already found us and is speaking through the chaos.   The tensions in our bodies, the argument that we cannot forget, the addiction that plagues us or our families; God is in the middle of them loving us unconditionally and accepting us where we are.

The image I chose for this post has snow top mountains.  Other mountains are clear and dry.  It is in the reflection in the water, that everything that is beautiful in itself shows even more profoundly.  In the image reflected in the water, is a wonder that we cannot adequately describe.  All we know, is that it is mysterious, majestic and calls us to a renewed vision of the world.

In contemplation there is nothing too wonderful for God that the Holy One cannot accept and transform.  No room is too small.  No issue within ourselves that is too confining for God; that God’s perspective of us cannot be renewed and reworked into that wonder that seemed impossible for us; but is never too complicated for God.  God “traces our journeys and our resting places and (is) acquainted with all my ways” (Psalm 139:2).

“Let us get up then, at long last, for the Scriptures rouse us when they say; “It is high time for us to arise from sleep” (Rom 13:11).  Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice from heaven that every day calls out this charge; “If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts (Psalm 95)”. (RB: 1980 The Rule of Saint Benedict in English, Prologue vs 8-10, p. 15-16).

Is anything too wonderful for God in your life?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org .