Reflection on Our Identity

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And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40. NRSV).

All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say, I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matthew 25:35). (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English. Chapter 53:1, p.73).

What is it about these words that disturb us?

These are the words used for the commemoration of St. Martin of Tours every November 11.  St. Martin had a mystical vision of Jesus.  He saw Jesus wearing the half of the cloak he gave a needy person.  St. Martin of Tours served Jesus, because he knew Jesus intimately within himself.  He had reached the summit of contemplative prayer.  St. Martin saw the vision of Jesus in mystery, that he looked at in the flesh.  He knew who he was in himself, and who Jesus was in the other.

The Contemplative perspective of God’s glorious presence seeks us out, to respond by seeking union with God within ourselves; and from ourselves in to others.  How?  Not entirely sure.  However, unless we see Christ within ourselves who is hungry, thirsty, naked, in prison, the stranger, etc, we will not see Christ within others who experience the same things; figuratively, literally or spiritually.  This wonder is as mystical experience that we may contemplate how much God thinks of us, sees us and wants for us and from us.

On this Christ the King Sunday, we are called to see Christ in one another and “*listen, incline the ear of the heart” so that we may hear what Christ has to say to us in the other; that others in turn might hear Christ in and through us.  While some may interpret this as evangelism, I suggest that it is much deeper.  It is beyond mission.  It is a relationship with Christ that is so deep, so important and yet so tender and giving; that the Holy Spirit is the communicator looking for who takes God’s love seriously enough to let go of the labels and our false-sense of self; to see Jesus in us as we are, so that we may know Christ beyond ourselves.

Do you know your identity in Jesus Christ, the King?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

*The Rule of Saint Benedict, the Prologue.

 

Reflection on Our Ability

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Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven will be as when a man, going on a journey. summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.”  (Matthew 25:14 NRSV).

There are some who are going to be surprised by what I am beginning this blog reflection with.  I am a disabled man.  I have Asperger’s Syndrome (also known now as an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, ASD).  I have other mental health issues and physical limitations.  I walk with a cane.  I require a handicapped parking placard.  I use a motorized cart when I go grocery shopping.   I was declared disabled in 2011.  It ended my long and beloved career as a church musician and organist.  I have lost a lot of my energy and ambition to do many of the things I was once able to do.  It is a struggle to adjust.  It is difficult for me to tell someone else that I need their help.   I know what it is to have had abilities to do things that I wanted and needed to do without thinking much about it; to this point in my life when I have to think a little bit longer to do just about anything).

What does this Gospel of Matthew have to say to me and all of us when Jesus said in the parable, “He entrusted his property…….to each according to his ability”?   Quite frankly I am tired of the guilt trips I have gotten because folks think my talents are being wasted or not used.   They have been used.  God did God’s work through me for the long years I did what I did.  But, the time has come for me to let it all go, and take what God has given me in this moment, in the here and now and let God use me according to my ability.

That is why I now live a Benedictine Monastic life as a hermetical.   I am not part of any community per say at this time.  But, I am still who I am called to be, and entrusted by God with God’s property to cooperate with God’s grace with the abilities I now have.

These words from Matthew are about letting go of what we want to do, or want to have to do what we think we should do.  These words tell us to allow God to draw us all into a deep, contemplative awareness of God, and find God’s opportunity for us in the mystery of God’s perspective of each of us.  God sees each of us through the lens of the love of Jesus Christ and the power of God’s Holy Spirit.   God sees the great potential we have in the work God has given us to do in the here and now.  God does not expect us to jump through hoops if we don’t have the legs and muscles to be able to do so.  God calls us as we are, with what abilities God has given us to seek union with God, in the purity of heart; by which we seek God for God’s sake alone and not what God can do.

The first step of humility, then, is that we keep ‘the reverence God always before our eyes (Ps. 35:2)’ and never forget it.  (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr. Joan Chittister, p.79).

What is God entrusting you with according to your ability.

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

see  http://www.cos-osb.net

Reflection on Transfiguration

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“Master, it is good for us to be here…” (Luke 9:33 NRSV).

The Transfiguration is probably among the best examples of Contemplative Prayer and Mysticism we can get.  What greater mystic experience could we desire to contemplate than Jesus illuminated in all God’s glory?  To be completely detached from everything on earth and let everything else go.  To find ourselves there with Peter, James and John to experience the voice that declares that Jesus is the Beloved; would be something that we might be able to put contemplative prayer into descriptive words.

Like Contemplative Prayer and Mysticism; the Transfiguration is beyond explanation. They are beyond our human comprehension.  It may bring us into a vision of God that no one can begin to describe.  However, the mystery of God’s glorious Presence that we are to contemplate doesn’t leave us with an experience of emotional ecstasy that never goes away.  God cannot be limited to one moment in time.  God is present everywhere, reaching out to us and inviting us into a deeper relationship with God’s Holy Spirit.  When we let go and by faith trust in God alone; everything that we thought made us who we are and what we do; becomes the Presence of God working in and through us.

“It is indeed good to be here, as you have said, Peter.  It is good to be with Jesus and to remain here for ever.  What greater happiness or higher honor could we have than to be with God, to be made like  him and to live in his light?” (By Anastasius of Sinai, The Liturgy of the Hours: Volume IV, p.1286).

“Let them prefer nothing to Christ” (Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 72).

Can you say with all your heart that it is good for you to be with God in the here and now?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on St. Benedict

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“There was a man, Benedict, who was revered for the holiness of his life, blessed by God both in grace and name.  While yet a boy, he showed mature understanding and possessed a strength of character far beyond his years, keeping his heart detached from sinful worldly pleasures.  While still in the world, he was in a position to enjoy all that the world had to offer; but, seeing how empty it was, he turned from it without regret” (Dialogs of St. Gregory the Great).

The year was 1993.  I was in my senior year of college.  I was facing a massive change in my life after graduation.  Where would I go?  What would I do?  What would happen to all the friendships I made?  As intriguing as these questions were, I knew that there was something in my heart that was yearning for a sense of direction.  I didn’t want to graduate from college without something to begin anchoring my spiritual life to.

That Fall, I visited Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham, Massachusetts.  I was introduced to Saint Benedict and his Rule.  When I first read The Rule, the first thought I had was “Is this guy crazy or what?”   Once I started to read The Rule, and experience the hospitality of the monks there, I knew something changed in my life.  I would never be the same.

Twenty three years since, my life has experienced many twists and turns.  Many successes and failures.  Yet, any time I felt like my life was going on a wrong path, The Rule of Saint Benedict time and again has redirected me to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thomas Merton in his book The Rule of Saint Benedict: Initiation into the Monastic Tradition wrote;

“The Purpose of the Rule is to furnish a framework to build the structure of a simple and pure spiritual life, pleasing to God by its perfection of faith, humility, and love.  The Rule is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. and it is always to be seen in relation to its end.  This end is union with God in love, and in every line of the Rule indicates that its various prescriptions are given us to show us how to get rid of self love and replace it by the love of God: (p.6).

Saint Benedict, his life and Rule, shows us how to live the contemplative life by being open to God’s Providence and listen to God “with the ears of the heart” (Prologue of The Rule).  If a mystical experience is to happen, it begins with letting go of all that holds us back.  It is a letting go of the many things we attach ourselves to, and see the power of God illuminating us with grace and “the inexpressible delight of love” (Prologue of The Rule).

Whoever your favorite Saint is, who’s spirituality you are drawn to and whatever draws you closer to God; it begins with letting go.  As Saint Benedict wrote in The Rule, Chapter 72, “Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.”

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on Enticed by God

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“O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed…..” (Jeremiah 20:7 NRSV).

Out of curiosity, I looked up the word “enticed”.  The synonyms for enticed are allure, attract, lure, tempt.

The Contemplative has been on a journey that began when she/he discovered an enticement within them.  Something was empty and hungry.  As the contemplative opens oneself to the presence of God, one discovers the mystery that one has been enticed by the Holy Spirit.  The lure within the contemplative was there by God’s initiative.  It allures the contemplative into something much deeper than austere practices and the practice of religion by itself.  The practice of religion certainly helps, but, it is something on the surface that can only do so much. We know that when we are hungry there is something about the aroma of bread being baked that seems to make our mouths water and warms our soul.  This is poor example, but close enough to what the contemplative experiences as God entices us in our hearts.

“The contemplation of God is arrived at in numerous ways” (The Conferences of St. John Cassian.  Conference One: On the Goal of the Monk).

God has many ways of attracting our attention.  Through our moments in solitude, walks or jogs along the beach and in the ordinariness of life; God is there, enticing us in ways that “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).    All we have to do is take one small foot step in faith with a little trust in the Holy Spirit; and God will do the rest.

“First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to him most earnestly to bring it to perfection” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English. Prologue vs 4. p.15).

How is God enticing you?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

 

Reflection on Humility and Anxiety

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“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7 NRSV).

I am drawn to these words today because I am a Benedictine who loves Chapter 7 in The Rule of Saint Benedict; and because I live with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

Before I continue on, I want to give a very strong word of advice to Priests, Ministers, Preachers, Spiritual Directors, etc.  Never tell a person with any kind of anxiety disorder to just hand it over, do not be anxious and all will be fine.  It never works that way.  In fact, the more things like that are said, the more anxious a person with an anxiety disorder gets; because she/he just can’t measure up to the high expectations.  There is a false sense of guilt for things the individual is not responsible for.  People with anxiety disorders upon hearing “do not be anxious” will shy away from the advice and the advisor.

I am drawn to these words from 1 Peter because I do have an anxiety disorder.  Just giving over anxiety in prayer helps relieve it, but it is never completely gone.   When I read the words, ” Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.,” I hear the Spirit drawing me in with everything that I am and experiencing, accepting me with God’s extravagant love; with a home in Christ that is safe, and offers me consolation.

We are now in the time in our Liturgical Year between the Ascension and Pentecost.  The Apostles who lost Jesus once in His Crucifixion, were so happy after He was raised from the dead; now find themselves with Jesus gone again.  Can we just imagine for a moment the anxiety they must have experienced?  They were in a no win situation, until after Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon them.

The contemplative is drawn through these words to relinquish everything that is shaking us up, and trust in God with humility.  It is time to stop trying to handle it all ourselves.  It is time for us to stop thinking that all this stuff defines who we are.  It is time to sit in silence, with all the noise within and let the Holy Spirit bring a peace into our hearts, because we are in the Presence of the God who cares about what shakes us to pieces, and is somewhere in the middle of it all.  In humility we are not being asked to measure up.  On the contrary, the Holy One is lovingly and tenderly moving us to let it go.  God is telling us “It is okay.  You are not alone. Let us work through this together.”

“Let a [person] consider that God is always looking at him from heaven” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, p.22).

How are you managing the anxieties of your life as you sit in the presence of God?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on If You Love Me

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 ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”  (John 14:15-17 NRSV).

Dean Paul J. Lebens-Englund at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis, asked the gathered congregation two very important questions one Sunday.   Do you remember the very first time you fell in love?  What was that one moment like for you?

I invite you to spend some time in contemplative silence on those words, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will send you another Advocate, to be with you forever.”   As we bring Dean Paul’s question about the first time you fell in love, how might the words from this Gospel of John apply to what you are remembering?

I would like to suggest that to love Jesus, keep His commandments and be ready to receive the Holy Spirit, God’s very Essence; requires us to be open to learning to love Jesus in ways today that are even greater than that first time we fell in love.

The contemplative knows and lives into  the first step of humility St. Benedict wrote about in The Rule. Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB in her book, Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light wrote,

“The first step of humility is to ‘keep the reverence of God always before our eyes’ and never forget it,” the Rule of Benedict says.  See everything in life as sacred.  The neighborhood calls something out in us.  This tree stirs feeling in us.  This work touches hope in us.  Every thing in life, in fact, is speaking to us of something.  It is only when we learn to ask what the world around us is saying to us at this moment, in this particular situation, that we tend to the seedbed of our soul.”  She goes on to say in another paragraph, “What is God demanding of my heart as a result of each event, each situation, each person in my life?”

Loving Jesus and keeping His commandments, so we can be open to the Spirit of God is about how we live in awareness of, and respond to the loving Presence of Jesus in this moment, this place and this opportunity.

Are you open to falling in love again and again with Jesus, by living His commandments, to receive the Advocate Who wants to live in us?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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