Reflection on Contemplating Resurrection

EmptyTomb

 

“When Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and the were alarmed.  But he said to hem, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He has been raised; he is not here.  Look, there is the place they laid him.”  (See Mark 16:1-18 NRSV).

Each of us knows the experience of going in search of someone who said they would be in a specific place where we would meet them; and lo and behold, they are not there.  There is a sudden moment of sadness, anger perhaps, anxiety.  We might take out our cell phones and call the person and find out where they are.

Imagine the reaction of Mary Magdalene and the other women who went to Jesus’ tomb where He had been laid.  They were already filled with sadness.  I am sure their eyes opened wide and their jaws dropped at the sight of the stone being rolled aside.  To make matters more suspicious, they discover a man who tells them that Jesus rose and is not there.  In John’s account of the Resurrection, Jesus and Mary Magdalene spoke with each other.  Mary was drawn to a contemplative vision of Jesus who called her by name.

A contemplative is always searching for the Risen Christ who is hidden from our sight.  It is through the eyes of faith that we search for and find union with the Risen Jesus.  We do not experience mysticism by looking for Jesus with our knowledge and expectations of how the Risen Christ will look.  We spend time in silence and solitude, letting go of what we think and know about God.  The Risen Christ reveals Himself in the silence of our interior self.  When we see what is in our cell for what it is, the Crucified Christ leads us on to experience the Resurrection of new life with Him.  When we meet Jesus in contemplative prayer we are never the same.  We are always being remade into a new person though the love of the life-giving Jesus who meets us, calls us by name and finds us in the here and now.  Let us always be ready to sing with the Psalmist who wrote, “On this day the Lord as acted; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24 The Book of Common Prayer, p.762).

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he lead us all together to everlasting life” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 72, p.95).

Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See: The Community of Solitude

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Advent Reflection: God Is With Us

Nativity

 

“Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name, Emmanuel”  Meaning “God is with us.” (Matthew 1:23, RSV).

There is a lot going on around us.  Preparations for the celebration of Christmas.  Shopping.  Wrapping.  Writing out Christmas cards.  Choirs preparing for the Christmas Eve service.  Organists preparing their pieces with the additional instruments.  Clergy writing sermons, making their holiday rounds for the shut ins, etc.  People are volunteering for the local soup kitchens to serve a Christmas meal for those who are in need.

As we journey through Late Advent to the celebration of the Nativity, we are comforted by the words, “God is with us.”

There are many for whom the Christmas holidays are anything but comfortable and joyful.  Many of us have painful memories of family who are no longer with us.  Last year I was in a year of grief when my mother passed away November 22, 2015.  I was never so happy to see January 2nd arrive.  Perhaps there are families with members in the military who are far from home.  What does “God with us” mean for them?

Whether our lives are in some kind of happy order or not, the mystery that we can celebrate is that God is with us.  God is with us and we are loved beyond our wildest imaginations.  We are loved and viewed by God as God’s beloved in Christ, God’s Beloved Son.  God sees what is in our hearts.  God cares about what is happening, including, but not limited to those moments when our faith is shaken or weakened.

God is with us.  God is here seeking union with us and calling us to seek union with God.

How are you celebrating or longing for the words “God is with us”?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Visit http://www.cos-osb.org to learn more about The Contemplatives of Subiaco-Order of Saint Benedict.

Reflection on Mount Zion’s Unshakableness

MountainImage

 

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion: which cannot be shaken but stands forever.  As the hills enfold Jerusalem: so you enfold your people O Lord, now and forever.  (Psalm 125:1-2 A New Zealand Prayer Book. p. 352).

All of us have those moment in our lives when we might question the symbolism written in this Psalm.  How can we be like Mount Zion which can never be shaken?  How many of us have prayed for the restoration of health for ourselves or someone we love believing in the power of God to answer our prayers, yet we do not get what we asked?

The writer of this Psalm knew exactly what it is like to struggle with trusting in God with what feels like life around him crumbling to pieces.  The Psalmist knew that trusting in God was the only hope he had.

Praying these Psalms with such picturesque language gives us a sense that God knows what we go through and is not very far from where we are.  The Holy Spirit uses them to  open our hearts to contemplate the wondrous mystery of God’s abiding presence.  God gives us the grace to listen for how much faith God has in us and wants us to have unwavering trust in God.  Our greatest strength is to let go, and allow God to love us and heal us.

The Psalmist gives us another hopeful analogy.  Just as the hills around Jerusalem enfold the city, so God enfolds us at this moment and for ever.   We are never left alone and without love.  God is always with us and embraces us in the Incarnate Word and gives us the most affectionate experience of God’s love.

Are we ready to trust in God and receive the love God wants us to experience?

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Friday Reflection: The Hard Lesson of Peter’s Denial

Crucifixus

“Peter said to Jesus, “Even though all become deserters, I will not.”  Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.”  But he said vehemently, ” Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.”  All of them said the same.”  (Mark 14:29-31 NRSV).

I recently found myself in a place of deep grief.  A dear friend whom I had placed a great deal of trust in, turned out to be dishonest and deserted me.  I struggled deeply with the feelings I had of betrayal, hurt and sadness.  It was so difficult for me to believe what had happened.  I felt alone and in very deep personal pain.

One morning during the Greater Silence before Matins, I was sitting in prayer before the Altar with a Crucifix behind it.  As I brought my grief and loss to Jesus on the Cross in contemplative prayer, I said in my heart, “Jesus, I feel so betrayed.”  Jesus’ response to my thoughts were, “Tell me about it!”  “I know about betrayal and loneliness.  I had twelve disciples with me for close to three years.  One of them said he would die before he would deny me, but he denied me three times.  The other disciples scattered in fear.  Yet, I still loved them, and wished them peace at my Resurrection.”  In that moment, I felt a contemplative experience that transcended my grief, while being imminently close to what I was feeling.

In The Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 7: On Humility, he writes:

The sixth step of humility is that a monk is content with the lowest and most menial treatment, and regards  himself as a poor and worthless workman in whatever task he is given, saying with the Prophet: I am insignificant and ignorant, no better than a beast before you, yet I am always with you (Ps. 73:22-23).  (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.36).

Now to be perfectly clear, St. Benedict is not saying that we submit ourselves to low self esteem or accepting horrific abuse, etc.  Quite the contrary.  Saint Benedict is telling us, that it is okay to be last in line.  It is a good thing when someone else is preferred over us.  The notion that we are not fully human unless we are first in everything, have to be liked, preferred, accepted by everyone, agreed with etc; is based on a false-sense of self.  If we are last in line, etc, and have to talk about it with everyone by calling people’s attention to it without moderation, that is not humility either.  It is a form of self-indulgence that leads us to our false-sense of self.   Saint Benedict is telling us that our true selves is found in “preferring nothing whatsoever to Christ, that he may lead us all to everlasting life.” (RB Chapter 72: 11-12).  Preferring nothing to Christ includes our unrealistic need to be comfortable with everything no matter what.  God did not make us and redeem us to be miserable.  God created us to seek union with God through purity of heart with abandonment of everything else including ourselves with faith and trust in God’s Providence.  It is a process that takes a lifetime of living and turning ourselves over.

As we meditate on Peter’s denial and the meaning of The Cross, we can also find the greatest solace in knowing that whatever grief or trouble we are experiencing; our God in Jesus Christ is walking through it with us.  As Jesus gave up everything to depend only on God the Father through faith, so must we in the long run.  The Cross is about letting go of everything that holds us back from total dependence on God, and find our greatest meaning and fulfillment in God for the sake of God’s Self.

May all of us pray for and be with each other in Christ, as Christ remains with each of us in the difficulties and challenges we live through.

Amen.

Peace be to all who enter here.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Reflection on Easter Psalm

Hope

I called to the Lord in my distress; the Lord answered me by setting me free.  The Lord is at my side, therefore I will not fear; what can anyone do to me? (Psalm 118:5-6, The Book of Common Prayer, p.761).

Praying the Psalms throughout the day in the Divine Office allows us to empty our emotions in our prayer.  The Psalms span the full array of human emotions from praise to lament, happiness and despair, hope and chaos.

Psalm 118 is the Easter Psalm used on Easter Day and is prayed throughout the Easter Season at various points.  It is a Psalm of thanksgiving, God’s mercy, triumph and hope.

If we read the words I chose for this reflection as coming from the mouth of Jesus before the Crucifixion and after the Resurrection; they must have given Him great strength.  Jesus knew what it was to only rely on God in the midst of rejection, disorder and isolation.  He also relied even more on His relationship with God until the moment of His death during which Jesus handed even that over.   No wonder Jesus can claim that the Lord came to help Him in the time of distress.

All of us live in the midst of some kind of distress and chaos.  Life throws plenty of curve balls at us.  It is easy to lose our sense of direction.  These words from Psalm 118 tell us that if we trust in God and know that God is on our side, what can anyone really do to us?  We too can find new life in the midst of old things passing away.  If we live with an awareness of God, knowing that we are loved beyond measure there is nothing that God cannot accomplish in our lives.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Contemplate Hope

Hope

For we are born in the present only to be reborn in the future.  Our attachment, therefore, should not be to the transitory; instead, we must be intent upon the eternal.  Let us think of how divine grace has transformed our earthly natures so that we may contemplate more closely our heavenly hope.  We hear the Apostle say: You are dead and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  But when Christ your life appears, then you will also appear in glory with him, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.  Amen.  (By St. Leo the Great, The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume III, Ordinary Time Weeks 1-17, p.192).

If there is one thing that I have been learning throughout my Novitiate that has had a powerful impact on me, is how much I cling to my false-sense of self.  It is something we all do to some degree.  The false-sense of self contains our “need” to be comforted, approved of, to be right all the time, to insist that others must like me, be treated the way I like to be treated, and to have control over everything and anything.  Our false-sense of self is also where all of our thoughts are.  The thoughts of things, places, people, events, ideologies, pride, our need to possess things and more.  Our false-sense of self also contains our high expectations of ourselves and others around us.  Within our false-sense of self is also the notion that if I live by the labels that others place upon me, I will find self acceptance and the acceptance of others.

In this reading from St. Leo today, we are invited to contemplate the eternal hope we have in our Loving God.  The labels, possessions, pride, theologies, events are all temporary and passing away.  They do not contain the reality of who we are, and for Whom we are created and redeemed.  In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our real life is hidden in the bosom of God’s unconditional love and boundless mercy.  Our true-sense of self is forgiven and restored by God’s grace.  The true and eternal hope that we are invited to contemplate today, is union with God.  A union that is not found in comfortable feelings or the praise of human words, but by faith in God with thanksgiving, adoration and praise.

May we contemplate the heavenly hope we have in Jesus Christ today, and pray for one another in our journey of faith.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

O God, Eagerly I Seek You

Serenity

O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.  Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place, that I might behold your power and your glory. (Psalm 63:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer, p.670).

Just before I began writing this blog post, I did a search on Google for an image of searching.  The only images I could find were copied and pasted images of a Google search engine. LOL.   So, I settled for what I used above the Scripture verse for today.  I chose it because the verse from Psalm 63 speaks of searching for God eagerly with a firm faith that God is the One who quenches our thirsting souls.  The picture is of a person sitting on a dock looking out at a foggy body of water, with very little visibility.  What inspires me is that the one sitting there views all of it with beauty and hopeful expectation.

We do not always get to chose the moment or environment in which to search for God.  Most circumstances are beyond our control.  Yet, those moments are opportunities to search for God beyond what we can see or understand; so that God can give us a new perspective.  Each opportunity for a new perspective widens our vision of God in what is invisible.  It is experienced and lived; even if it isn’t something that can be touched or comprehended.

Today, right where we are, whatever we are doing or experiencing; God is searching for us more than we are for God.  Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB often writes, “We are seeking God, who has already been found.”  God is already deep in our hearts, longing to be loved and held; only to become the most pure expression of who we really are.  God’s Beloved, with whom God is well pleased.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB