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 St. John the Baptist

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel”(See Luke 1:57-80 NRSV).

The Church celebrates today the birth of one of the most influential people of Desert spirituality. St. John the Baptist personified the vocation of solitude. It is more than fair to say, that the Monastic tradition of living in the silence and solitude of the desert has St. John the Baptist as our pioneer.

The desert life of St. John the Baptist was to “prepare the way of the Lord.” He accepted the unfavorable way of life. He abandoned the lure of wealth and power. His desert life was how he unlocked the mystery of the God that he and all of humankind was awaiting. John the Baptist knew that he was chosen by God for something so amazing, that he let go of everything that could tie him down. St. John the Baptist chose the freedom of solitude, to know the God that was to become the very essence of God’s presence in every human person.

“Like the Forerunner, you were intended for Christ,,,,,,, because the on,y reason for your existence on earth is to love and glorify Jesus” (The Hermitage Within: Spirituality of the Desert. Translated by Alan Neame., p.19).

Contemplation is the gift of God’s grace to grow in purity of heart. Contemplation is about letting go of all our pretenses so that we are liberated to experience the wonder of God. Contemplation is the grace of self awareness; that God is at work in ourselves and the world us in the mystical experience of which our human senses can neither comprehend or describe.

“As long as I am content to know that [Christ] is infinitely greater than I, and that I cannot know Him unless He shows Himself to me, I will have peace, and He will be near me and in me, and I will rest in Him” (Thomas Merton. Thoughts in Solitude, p.109).

“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 noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, The Prologue, p.15).

“Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him” (From the Short Rule of St. Romuald).

How are you called to be a forerunner for God in your daily life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you feel led to buy me some coffee, please scroll to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so much.

Reflection on St. Benedict

benedict

 

“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 Thomas and Jesus

St. Thomas

 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he 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.’

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ (John 20:24-29).

How might we experience contemplative prayer and mysticism as we think about this exchange between Thomas and Jesus?  There is such a variety of messages in this Gospel Reading.  They will speak to each person differently, depending on where you are and what you may be doing.

I would like to look at a few points and see how the Holy Spirit touches each of us.

Thankfully, we have moved away from naming Thomas as the doubting prude who just could not get it right.  Alternatively, we now admire Thomas for the faith that he had to question the news he heard and wanted their experience to be his experience of the Resurrection for himself.  In Thomas we see not only his opportunity for growth by knowing where his faith might be lacking; we see a version of our own.  His insistence on seeing Jesus is his soul crying out to God to bring him to a place where he can see that Jesus experienced the same wounds that all of us experience, and know for himself that such wounds can be rendered powerless.

Jesus’ wounds are a sign of how God sees all of us with our limited human wounds that can keep us from knowing the Risen Christ and sharing it with others.  God does not see us as hopeless.  God sees our wounds in the Person of Jesus as the means by which God brought salvation to the world.  If we can only allow ourselves to see God’s unconditional love through our own wounds and be open to God’s perfect power in our weakness; we can be a source of acceptance and healing for the world around us.

“What is not possible to us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by his grace” (RB:1980 The Rule of Saint Benedict. The Prologue, vs 41. p.165).

How does the encounter with Thomas and Jesus reflect your own experience with the Risen Christ?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: cos-osb.org

Lenten Reflection: Approach the Throne of Grace

ThroneofGrace

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16, New Revised Standard Version).

I once knew of a paraplegic who said that the worst thing any one would tell him is that they understand what he is going through.  His biggest hangup was that almost every person who told him that was someone who could walk on both legs.  How could someone who can walk, understand what it is like to be unable to walk, use a bathroom without some kind of help or take about an hour to dress himself relate to his experience?  In his defense, they could not understand him.

The writer to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus is our great high priest who identifies with us in all things.  We can become the sore sight of self pity anytime we want, but, as Christians we really have no excuse for going there.  In Jesus Christ, God has experienced the full array of what every human being does.  Including the sudden inability to move His legs as they were nailed to the cross at His crucifixion.  Yet, Jesus is also our example of what it means to live from our essence in the face of suffering.  Rather than dwelling in self doubt or self absorption, Jesus embraces our human suffering with faith in the God that appeared to have abandoned Him.  In that moment, Jesus hung on to nothing at all.  Not even His relationship with God to help Him feel better or hold Himself in higher esteem.  He accepted His suffering and let go of everything else with complete faith and trust in God alone; only full of God’s love for all of us.  “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34 NRSV).

We can approach the throne of grace that is the Cross boldly; that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  We are never alone.  We are always in good company.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB