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

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Reflection on Patience in the Heart

“Be patient, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.” (See James 5:7-10 NRSV).

This is the time of the season when our patience grows thin. The celebration of the Nativity is ten days away. We are still in the season of Advent. We continue watching, waiting and preparing. Today, we read from James “You must also be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.”

The electric and technological developments that bring us social media with iPhones or Smartphones, have made waiting and patience an antiquated way of living. We can pay our bills, move money, order groceries and clothing without leaving our homes at lightening speed. Such advances are doing exactly what they are intended to do. As a result, our capacity for waiting patiently has been compromised. It effects our spiritual awareness of God moving slower, to draw us into a deeper relationship with God.

The image of the farmer planting the seeds is a perfect illustration here. To live as a contemplative, we must see ourselves as the seeds that God has planted to grow and bloom into the most beautiful human beings. In this season of Advent, God wants us to slow down, to spend some time in silence and solitude and open our hearts to the presence of God who is already here. Greater things come to those who meditate and receive God’s wondrous love, so that God can add even more of the grace that is transformative. This transformation is not dependent on having the correct theology. The transforming grace of God is beyond logic and is so much richer than doctrine or dogma. God’s grace through Jesus, the Incarnate Word meets us in the deepest places within us and gives new life, again and again. This is why we wait in patience and strengthen our hearts.

“What is not possible for 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 will waiting patiently for God mean for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Preparing the Wilderness of the Heart

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” (See Matthew 3:1-12 NRSV).

When we think of the wilderness, we tend to associate it with an external landscape. It is a place we might go (or be set out) on a journey to or through. Whether it is a destination we go to of our own choosing, or by a misplaced sense of direction; the wilderness (or the desert) is a perfect symbol of what can happen with our interior self.

St. John the Baptist saw himself as the forerunner of Christ. He had such a clear sense of who he was, and what his purpose in life was, that he separated himself from everything to live into his true self. St. John the Baptist knew that God was the One he wanted to give his life to. He was able, therefore, to search and be the “voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord…”.

In the book entitled The Hermitage Within: Spirituality of the Desert, Alan Neame writes a fascinating translation of St. John the Baptist’s Wilderness.

“You are more than the Bridegroom’s friend. Your soul is truly the Bride, and you will make the outpourings of the mystic marriage-song your own: “‘I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.'” (See the Song of Solomon 6:3). (P.19).”

St. Moses the Black wrote “Sit in your cell. Your cell will teach you everything.”

The cell and the wilderness in the spirituality of the Desert Mothers and Fathers represents the heart and the environment we are in. Our hearts need times of silence and solitude so that we can prepare a way for God within us. Our cells are so often lost in the wilderness of our false-sense of self that is so cluttered with the junk that suffocates our souls. God wants to walk with us in the wilderness of our cells to show us God’s true love and grace within our essence, that is our eternal truth. Advent is the time in which we journey with St. John the Baptist to contemplate our relationship with God and ourselves to find healing and reconciliation through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice that everyday calls out this charge: If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts (Psalm 95:8).” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.15,16).

What does the wilderness of your heart look like today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Visit my website about my ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

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Reflection on Stillness

“Be still, then, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:11. The Book of Common Prayer, p.650).

These simple words tell us to be still and know who is God. Yet, the very moment we hear them we are made aware of how disturbed we are. The words and the punctuation are meant to give us some important spiritual direction. Be still followed by a coma, the word then followed by another coma and the knowing who is God seem to suggest a brief moment of rest with the next word being followed by another moment of repose that leads us to knowing who is God.

When I first read these words, my whole being discovers that I am anything, but, still. I have various personal issues that make being still very challenging. It is not easily achieved by my own strength. It takes me being “attentive with the ears of the heart” to remember that becoming still is something I need God’s help to do. God speaks through these words, to tell me how much God loves me and that God knows me better than I know myself. God helps me remember that it is God’s Grace that will lead me to a stillness, by helping me to let go of thinking that I must be still on my own strength.

Our God wants nothing more from us than to search for union with God with purity of heart. To be in union with God means wanting God only because of who God is and not what God can give. God knows that we cannot do this without spending some time in silence, stillness and solitude so that God can take us on a journey through our whole selves, to bring us healing and holiness through an intimate relationship with God.

In contemplation, we long for the stillness that comes from just being with God wherever we are. Through mysticism we let go of what we think we know and trust in God’s love to take care of the rest.

“Speaking and teaching are the master’s task; the disciple is to be silent and listen.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 6. p.31).

Can you find a place and moment to be still, then, you will know who is God?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: Br. Anselm Philip’s Ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship

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Reflection on God’s Wondrous Love

“Blessed be the Lord! for he has shown me the wonders of his love in a besieged city.” (Psalm 31:21. The Book of Common Prayer).

Sometimes when our lives seem to have fallen apart, we might compare the experience to being a city that was under siege and left in ruins. Everything that was is no longer. The destruction and debris is everywhere. Nothing that was standing is without need to be rebuilt or repaired.

In Chapter 7 of The Rule of St. Benedict, he challenges us in the sixth and seventh degrees of humility. He writes about acceptance of even the harshest treatment and learning to say with Psalm 22:6 “I am a worm and no man, scorned by all and despised by the people.”

In his book The Rule of Saint Benedict: Initiation into the Monastic Tradition, Thomas Merton stresses that St. Benedict is that to live with a low self-esteem is the opposite of humility because by it, we draw too much attention to ourselves. He goes on to say that Benedict is telling us to let go of our false-sense of self. To learn to trust in God when our lives are shaken to pieces, as opposed to trusting in the little things of life to feel whole.

A contemplative learns over the course of a lifetime that seeking union with God for no other reason than God alone is to have all that we need. Yes, it takes all of our lives through moments of quiet time and living with God in the various moments in life to let go and let God be our everything. In the moments when things that were fall apart, that is where God’s wondrous love becomes best known in the whole of ourselves. When we experience the wonder of God’s love through contemplation and mysticism, the besieged city of our lives is a new beginning, and never a conclusion.

How are you experiencing God’s wondrous love in the besieged cities of your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Reflection on New Things

“I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (See Revelation 21:1-4 NRSV) .

My family and I recently moved to new home. It has been a stressful time. It is also why I have not written a blog entry in a while. Moving into a new home brings a lot of chaos. There is the endlessness of letting go of how things have been for so long. Getting rid of things that no longer serve a purpose. Brining together so many loose ends to make a new beginning.

As we contemplate All Saints Day, All Souls, with this reading from Revelation; we cannot help but meet a profound mystical experience. The Saints and those who have gone before us give us a vision of a new Heaven and a new earth in the here and now. God meets us where we are; in our moments of chaos and grief to speak with our hearts. God is working in our contemplative consciousness to transform us through the chaos; not from it. God is drawing us away from our false-sense of self that wants everything so neatly planned out and organized; to a new way of life through Jesus Christ and His redemption of our souls through healing and reconciliation.

At the end of The Rule of St. Benedict, he states that it is a Rule for beginners. That is why we return to the Prologue to reread those famous words; “Listen my child. Incline the ears of your heart.” The new Heaven and earth are coming to us in the here and now. This moment, place and time is where God is drawing us into a deeper relationship with God’s Self to bring a new revelation to our hearts and lives through which the Holy Spirit will “renew the face of the earth.” (Psalm 104:31).

Are you listening with the ear of your heart for God to bring a new Heaven and earth in your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Visit my website for information about my ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

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Reflection on God Knows You

“Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you….” (See Jeremiah 1:4-5a).

Many of the great spiritual authors have written that “the foundation of any spirituality is self knowledge.” Knowing ourselves is a life long journey. As our bodies go through the stages of life, our interior self travels further than where we physically stand. Our minds wander. Our hearts become fragile and broken. Our souls experience the brunt of the decisions we make, or others made for us. The journey can feel hopeless and fruitless.

The contemplative grows through God’s grace of self-awareness. A person who lives as a contemplative accepts the struggle to receive through faith what God is doing with us. As we read from the Prophet Jeremiah, God knew us before we were formed in our mother’s womb. God consecrated us to search for union with God in the here and now before we knew ourselves. Through the salvation brought to us by Jesus Christ, God has empowered us in the Holy Spirit to be God’s holy people. God loves us and brings us healing and wholeness in silence, solitude and contemplation.

The spiritual exercise of the prayerful reading of Scripture called Lectio Divina moves the Bible verse we are reading from our minds to our hearts. Once the words or sentence is in the whole of ourselves; we are to let the Holy Spirit teach us things about ourselves and ways that we can deepen our relationship with God in our lives. Through the powerful mystery of God’s word, we are transformed from glory to glory, and experience the presence of God. The experience of the holiness of God can become our inspiration to change the world around us.

“In God’s goodness, we are already counted as God’s own….” (From The Prologue to The Rule of St. Benedict).

As the word of God comes to you today, what are you listening to God telling you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Please visit my website to learn about my ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

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.