Reflection on Wounds

Crucifixus

“Packs of dogs close me in, and gangs of evildoers circle around me; they pierce my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones.” (Psalm 22:16 The Book of Common Prayer, p.611).

There are many ways of looking at the Passion and Death of Jesus on the Cross.  They are each unique and have something to contribute to the whole.  Jesus’ death was a terrible event.  It was ugly.  It was bloody.  In Jesus’ betrayal, trial, and crucifixion is the experience of every form of human suffering that can be imagined or experienced.   Christ’s Death on the Cross is the confirmation of our faith that God is with us in whatever is happening to us.  God’s extravagant love is poured out for all  humankind in this amazing act of obedience.

The Contemplative looks upon the wounds of Jesus on this Good Friday and sees in them a way into the depth of God’s loving goodness.  The cry of anguish, helplessness and a willingness to accept where God had Jesus in what was so vicious and cruel.  Yet, love for His Father and all of us was Jesus’ sole objective.  St. Julian of Norwich wrote in A Song of True Motherhood “Even when all was completed and he carried us so for joy, still all of this could not satisfy the power of his wonderful love.” (Canticle R. Enriching Our Worship 1, p. 40).   The very reality that all of humankind has many many problems are mysteriously represented and accepted by God, as Jesus hangs on the Cross between eternity and time with His arms outstretched; is God’s arms of love ever ready to embrace all of us.

When we open ourselves to experience the love of Christ on the Cross within our wounds we discover what Abba Pambo said, “If you have a heart, you can be saved.”  Christine Valters Paintner in her book Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated and Explained writes, “The desert elders saw the heart as the center of our being  where we encounter God most intimately” (See pages 26-27).   As Contemplatives, we can always meditate on the wounds of Jesus, our wounds and those of humankind from our interior selves.  When we surrender in obedience to the grace of God through Jesus Christ; the transformation of our own lives and those of the world around us becomes possible so long as we get ourselves out of the way.

“Brothers, now that we have asked the Lord who will dwell in his tent, we have heard the instruction for dwelling in it, but only if we fulfill the obligations of those who live there.  We must , then, prepare our hearts and bodies for the battle of holy obedience to his instructions.  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 Saint Benedict in English, The Prologue, p.18).

How do you see the wounds of your life in the light of the wounds of Christ on the Cross?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See: The Community of Solitude

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Good Friday Reflection

Crucifixus

Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38 NRSV).

Before I begin, I am not going to try to answer Pilate’s last question, “What is truth?”   My reason is that each person who contemplates the words of the Scripture verses I have chosen on this Good Friday will answer it differently.  It is very important that everyone’s experience of Pilate’s question is respected whether we agree or disagree.

What might a contemplative do with these words from John’s account of Jesus’ passion?

“The contemplative simply stands in place and in the standing answers the question “Who am I” with the answer “I am the one who waits for the God within.”  In other words, the one who pursues the center of life. I am the one who is in search of the Light that is distant from my darkened soul and alien to my restless mind and extraneous to may scattered heart.  I am the one who realizes that the distance between God and me is me.

To lead a contemplative life requires that we watch what we’re seeking–and why we are seeking it.  Even good can become noise in the heart when we do it, not because it’s right, but because it will in turn do something for us: Bring us status. Make us feel good.  Give us security. Require little of our own lives.

God is more consuming, more fulfilling than all those things.  The grail we seek is God alone.  But talking about God is not the same as searching for God, all the simple saints, all the fallen hierarchs to the point.  To be a contemplative we must seek God in the right places: within the sanctuary of the centered self” (Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light, Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB).

When Jesus gave Himself over to suffering and death on the Cross, He taught us among many things, to ask ourselves the question “Who am I?”   I believe that when Jesus said “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice, ” He was telling Pilate an us to search for union with God by asking ourselves the question “Who am I?”   Not who we wish to be.  Not who we were in the past.  The question is, “Who am I?”  Right here.  Right now.  That truth that Jesus was speaking of is our true sense of ourselves.  Are we centering ourselves on being liked, preferred, approved of, what we own, what we do, our status, our title, our pride?  These things are part of our false-sense of self.  Our true sense of ourselves is letting go of all of that and living from the essence of who we are with total self sacrificial love for Christ who gave Himself up for us all.  I suggest that in the Death and Resurrection God tells us through Jesus that “Yes this is possible even for you, because I love you.”

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all to everlasting life” (The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English. Chapter 72:11, 12. p.295).

What is your response to the question “Who am I?”

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Good Friday Reflection

Crucifixus

 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
and are so far from my cry
and from the words of my distress?” (Psalm 22:1.  The Book of Common Prayer, p.610).

 

Today, Christians commemorate the most extraordinary of contradictions.  All paradoxes meet each other and bond together.  Charles Wesley’s hymn “And Can It Be?” the first stanza ends with these amazing words, “Amazing love, how can it be?  That Thou, My God shouldst die for me.”

The mystery of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ meets every form of human suffering and confronts them all with God identifying with them and defeating them with only love as the chosen weapon.   The betrayal.  The abandonment.  The scourging and spitting.   The crown of thorns.  The insults.  The nails.  The seven last words.  The letting go of everything.  The humility.  The compassion and love that have no bounds or explanation.

Today the arms of God are forever outstretched to embrace every person.  All labels and worldly limitations are nothing in comparison to the love of God that is open to receive us without distinction.

Our contemplation on this Good Friday can take many directions.  Each person will come away from today with a reflection of God that is unique.  Yet, their experience is no more or less real than any others.  Today, all scapegoating, all forms of division are rendered powerless for those who seek God’s help to overcome them.

Jesus shows us how to live and die with only faith in God as our only guide to what is God’s will and way of salvation for each of us.

What does the Holy Spirit through the passion, Crucifixion and death of Jesus on this Good Friday say to your heart?  Whatever it may be, “Incline the ears of your heart” (The Rule of Saint Benedict, Prologue).

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

 

Good Friday Reflection: The Contradiction of The Cross

Crucifixus

This Christ is a man who himself lived with tension and contradiction and inner conflict.

He is a man surrounded by friends who yet withdraws to be apart in the desert.

He is a son and yet he separates himself from his family and asks “who is my mother and who are my brothers?”

He stays alone with himself through long nights of prayer but still journeys on on a road that he knows will bring him to suffering and to death.

He is the redeemer who on the Cross holds together the vertical, pointing towards God, and the horizontal, arms outstretched to the world.

In Christ all things will be brought together.

In Christ all things will be well.  (Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality, Esther de Waal p.39,40).

Finding something to use for a meditation on Good Friday is like looking for a needle in a hay stack. One can use any Scripture reference or of the thousands of references to the Cross in hymnals, Office books, books, etc.  On this Good Friday, I chose this quotation from Esther de Waal’s book because there is no paradox or contradiction quite like the Cross.

The Cross is about torture, violence, death, shame and all the ugly words that can describe it.  Yet, because of the death of Christ upon it, it is the greatest symbol of God’s unconditional love.  All of humanity’s cruelty and malice meets its match in the self-sacrificing love of Christ who is God’s perfect revelation.  It cannot be fully grasped or understood.  Yet, it is as clear as looking through a plate glass window to what is on the other side.

To contemplate the Cross, is to sit in the presence of God who sees all of us as forgiven and redeemed.  The contradiction to that, there is nothing in all of humankind that God cannot see, understand and use to change us and the world around us.  In the naked, broken and bleeding body of Christ on the Cross, all of humanities’ ways, sins, foolishness, pride and stupidity is made visible.  On the other hand, none of that means that God loves any one of us any more or less.

If there is one thing that we can contemplate about the Cross today, what will that look like?

I see God with arms forever outstretched to embrace us all.  I hear God say, “Forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.”

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB