Reflection on the Shepherd’s Psalm

 The Lord is my shepherd; 
   therefore can I lack nothing.
  He makes me lie down in green pastures 
   and leads me beside still waters.
  He shall refresh my soul 
   and guide me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
  Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
      I will fear no evil; 
   for you are with me;
      your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
  You spread a table before me
      in the presence of those who trouble me; 
   you have anointed my head with oil
      and my cup shall be full.
  Surely goodness and loving mercy shall follow me
      all the days of my life, 
   and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (Psalm 23. The Common Worship Psalter, The Church of England).

The most famous and beloved of all the Psalms, #23. And well it should be. It is used in spoken or sung form in Divine Offices, Eucharistic Liturgies and of course funerals. There is something very comforting and calming about Psalm 23. Like other Scriptures, however, when we over romanticize Psalm 23, we can easily miss the opportunity to listen carefully to what the Holy Spirit might be saying to our hearts.

Psalm 23 is a song of self surrender by holding nothing back. The shepherd guards us with great care and love. We do not lack anything, even a place of refreshment so long as we let ourselves go to the will and desire of the One who wants to lead us.

Psalm 23 meets us in our false-sense of self. None of us is exempted from the valley of the shadow of death, or being at a table in the presence of those who trouble us. That spot in us that does not want discomfort or to be called out of our tombs of shame, fear and doubt cannot be our permanent dwelling. God has given to the contemplative a desire for a full cup, with the anointing of the oil of faith, hope and love. The contemplative knows that the fulfillment of mysticism is to dwell in God’s presence in the here and now; and beyond this temporal life.

The Resurrection tells us that death is not a barrier for God’s Grace to help us. When we surrender ourselves to search for union with God, with a desire for purity of heart that lives into wanting nothing more than God alone; the story of Christ’s Resurrection becomes our life’s Easter narrative.

“We believe that the divine presence is everywhere and that in every place the eyes of the Lord are watching the good and the wicked (Prov. 3:15). But beyond the least doubt we should believe this to be especially true when we celebrate the Divine Office.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.47).

How is your heart hearing and responding to the words of Psalm 23 today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Resurrection Wounds

But Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”  (See John 20:19-31 NRSV).

Let’s not be so quick to judge Thomas’ faith. He like the other disciples were grieving the death of their best friend. His hopes were dashed to pieces. Can we blame him for being so skeptical about this news that the Risen Christ appeared to them? Thomas wanted more than just the word from the others. He wanted to know for himself that if Christ rose from the dead, will Jesus be able to help Thomas see that God understood how wounded Thomas was.

Jesus rose from the dead with our wounds on his body. Our wounds in God’s power to raise Jesus from the grave had been redeemed and rendered powerless. Thomas experienced God’s healing of his faith. Jesus showed him that God had taken his wounds seriously. God loved Thomas and all of us so deeply, that Jesus offered our wounds to God so,that they could be transformed in the Resurrection.

A contemplative knows that we have wounds. The wounds and pain will change our lives. We will be challenged in our faith. The mysticism of the Resurrection is that God shows us that our wounds can go to the very heart of God, who will love us and walk through them with us. Our wounds are an opportunity to strengthen our faith by drawing closer in relationship to God through the death and Resurrection of Christ.

May we with Thomas dare to ask the Risen Christ to affirm and heal our faith by touching Jesus’ wounds and cry with Thomas, “My Lord, and my God.”

“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, p.95).

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone you know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, visit my website here to find information about my ministry.

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Reflection on Contemplative Resurrection

On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened. (See Luke 24:1-12 NRSV).

Alleluia. Christ is risen.

The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” Every Easter when I hear these words, I get goosebumps. I get filled with a calm and a release. The response of the women by temporarily forgetting what Jesus told them about this day is very understandable. The moment was so captivating and all consuming; that the Resurrection was now a reality; must have been awesome beyond words.

What might the Resurrection mean for contemplative prayer?

Contemplative prayer helps us to detach ourselves from what is visible to our eyes. A person who is a contemplative is not seeking another theological explanation or an opportunity to be an intellectual genius. Contemplative prayer guides our hearts into an experience of God’s extravagant love and becomes a home for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Essence of God makes the experience of Jesus’ Resurrection into something we become participants of, from within. The intimacy of the Risen Christ brings us a magnificent mystical wisdom. The Resurrection is now living within and through us; giving new life to us to bring about a renewal that could transform the world.

“This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord. (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.15).

How are you experiencing the Resurrection in your heart today?

Alleluia. Christ is risen.

The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Amen.

If you or someone you know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, please visit my website here.

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Reflection on The Loving Fragrance of God

“Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (See John 12: 1-11 NRSV).

In Psalm 36:5 the Psalmist proclaims “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, and your faithfulness to the clouds.” I think Mary knew and experienced that love in a most profound way. Her action of washing the feet of Jesus, drying them and anointing them was her way of celebrating that love. Her service to Jesus was symbolic of what she knew intimately within the whole of herself.

Contemplative prayer is an action of love by God, inviting us to experience that love. It is a love that is so profound that all we can do is be in the presence of God, and surrender everything we are and have to that presence. It is a fragrance that touches our senses with experiences we cannot explain or describe. We can only know that presence and live into it.

Over this Lent God has been speaking to my heart through a song entitled “You Know Better Than I”. It is from the animated movie Joseph: King of Dreams. The lyrics to the refrain are, “You know better than I, You know the way. I’ve let go the need to know why. For you know better than I.”

I do not know what God is doing with my life with this chronic back pain. I only know that I have had to open myself to God through what is uncertain and “let go of the reason to know why.” If God can fill the fragrance of a room by a broken jar of ointment as Jesus prepares for His imminent death on Good Friday; then my back pain and my wheelchair are certainly not obstacles for God’s Grace to transform me and others around me. The real conversion has only just begun. After all, St. Benedict’s Spirituality can be best surmised in the words, “Always we begin again.”

Where in your life are you experiencing the fragrance of God’s love this Holy Week?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone you know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, please go to my website here.

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Reflection on Holy Week and the Desert

But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord. I have said, “You are my God. My times are in your hand; rescue me from my enemies, and from those who persecute me. Make your face to shine on your servant, and in your loving-kindness save me.” (Psalm 31:14-16. The Book of Common Prayer, p.623).

As we enter into this Holy Week, we are traveling in a different desert. This is no longer the desert of confronting our temptations and sins to just do penance. Holy Week is the desert of meeting with Jesus in the very worst of circumstances and to trust in God alone.

Our false-sense of self will not be comforted. Our comfort zones will be met with an uncomfortable transformation of our interior life that will meet the living God. We will die with Jesus on the Cross, and contemplate the love of God through a radical experience that can be grasped by faith only. Our hope comes from trusting in God.

“Our job is to accept life, this and every moment in life, even as life breaks our hearts in deep and difficult ways. We push away radical acceptance, deny it, get angry at, bargain with, feel depressed about, and grieve over–but acceptance opens us up to compassion.” (Cynthia Cannon, Ashes and the Phoenix: Meditations for the Season of Lent, compiled by Len Freeman, p 93).

The desert of Holy Week leads us to the mystical experiences of what once happened so long ago, is still present and working in our lives today. The redemption of Jesus embraces us with the compassion of God. Like the Psalmist, we too will rediscover that God’s loving-kindness will save us when we focus on our relationship with God as the only thing that matters for us to live into our essence.

“The first step of humility, then, is that we keep “the reverence of God before our eyes” (Ps. 36:2) and never forget it.” (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century by Sr? Joan Chittister, OSB, p. 78).

What is your experience of the desert of Holy Week going for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone you know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, visit my website here.

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Reflection on The Prodigal and the Desert

Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’” (See Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 NRSV).

The two sons in this timeless parable were each in their own desert experience. One experienced the desert of temporary wealth that he carelessly spent. The other had a different kind of everything that he held on to, and thought he deserved more than what his brother got. They both entered into a desert with their false-sense of self. Each of them found out for themselves just how lost they were.

Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB in her book Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light wrote,

If contemplation is coming to see the world as God sees the world, then see it clearly we must. If contemplation is means to become immersed in the mind of God, then we must come to think beyond our small agendas. If contemplation is taking on the heart of God in the heart of the world, then the contemplative, perhaps more than any other, weeps over the obliteration of the will of God in the heart of the universe” (p.65).

The Mysticism of the season of Lent is that wherever we are in our desert journey, God is with us and we are with God. The Father is this parable receives both of his sons with forgiveness, love and compassion. The celebration was for both of them; while receiving the one who returned with a banquet of rejoicing. God reveals in the heart of the contemplative; the wonder of a love so extravagant, that fills the heart of the one who seeks union with God, so that God is more than enough.

“And so to prepare ourselves for the journey before us let us renew our faith and set ourselves high standards by which we lead our lives. The gospel should be our guide in following the way of Christ to prepare ourselves for his presence in the kingdom to which he has called us.” (St. Benedict’s Rule in The Benedictine Handbook, p.11).

Which of the sons in the parable of the Prodigal Son so you identify most with?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone you know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, please visit my website here.

If you feel led to buy me some coffee to help 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. Pax.

Reflection on the Annunciation and the Desert

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.” (See Luke 1:26-38 NRSV).

I think that we tend to over romanticize the Annunciation. It is a beautiful story without question. The story might bring us the hope that God will do something amazing with us, as God did with Mary. If the narrative of the announcement to Mary does not make us uneasy about following her to a desert of uncertainty, then we may have missed the most mystical purpose of the day.

I am experiencing the most unusual of Lenten observances. In addition to living with autism, I am also living with chronic back pain because of a T-12 lumbar disk protrusion. I require the use of a wheelchair when I go to doctor appointments or anywhere a long walk is needed, because the pain in my back is just too intense to walk with just a cane. I am going to appointments for physical and aquatic therapy to help strengthen my back muscles. But, the process is slow. I am in a year and season where I am uncertain about pretty much everything. Nothing is as it used to be.

I am sure that Mary’s life as it was proceeding at the time was stopped dead in its tracks by the Angel Gabriel’s announcement. She would be traveling in a desert with things being very out of order for the rest of her life. Mary has a faith I certainly do not have. Upon hearing the Angel’s words, she trusts herself and her way forward to God’s will.

Contemplative prayer is anything but, about certainty. That which is mystical is not so neatly fitted together to make perfect logical sense. It is a journey into the desert with Jesus through which we will see ourselves and our lives exactly as they are. There are no illusions, but, our false-sense of self. In the desert everything is unfamiliar, yet, starkly visible and inescapable. Contemplative prayer works best when we let go; little by little; and search for union with God in the things that are what they are. Through faith and trust in God’s love, we will be led to where we go from here.

“Abba Moses asked Abba Silvanus, ‘Can a man lay a foundation every day?’ The old man said, ‘If he works hard he can lay a new foundation every moment.'” (Desert Fathers and Mothers:Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, by Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, p.57).

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

What is your desert time like this Lent?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone you know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, please visit my website here.

If you feel led to buy me some coffee to help 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.