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

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Reflection on The Loving Fragrance of God

“Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (See John 12: 1-11 NRSV).

In Psalm 36:5 the Psalmist proclaims “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, and your faithfulness to the clouds.” I think Mary knew and experienced that love in a most profound way. Her action of washing the feet of Jesus, drying them and anointing them was her way of celebrating that love. Her service to Jesus was symbolic of what she knew intimately within the whole of herself.

Contemplative prayer is an action of love by God, inviting us to experience that love. It is a love that is so profound that all we can do is be in the presence of God, and surrender everything we are and have to that presence. It is a fragrance that touches our senses with experiences we cannot explain or describe. We can only know that presence and live into it.

Over this Lent God has been speaking to my heart through a song entitled “You Know Better Than I”. It is from the animated movie Joseph: King of Dreams. The lyrics to the refrain are, “You know better than I, You know the way. I’ve let go the need to know why. For you know better than I.”

I do not know what God is doing with my life with this chronic back pain. I only know that I have had to open myself to God through what is uncertain and “let go of the reason to know why.” If God can fill the fragrance of a room by a broken jar of ointment as Jesus prepares for His imminent death on Good Friday; then my back pain and my wheelchair are certainly not obstacles for God’s Grace to transform me and others around me. The real conversion has only just begun. After all, St. Benedict’s Spirituality can be best surmised in the words, “Always we begin again.”

Where in your life are you experiencing the fragrance of God’s love this Holy Week?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone you know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, please go to my website here.

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

Reflection on A Contemplative Advent

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long. Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love, for they are from everlasting. (Psalm 25:4-5, The Book of Common Prayer, p.614).

Among my many social challenges I experience because of autism is knowing when, who and how to ask for help. It happens because of being overwhelmed by too many options in my brain at one time. Over the past seven years since I was first diagnosed, I have had to learn that the sooner I tell those closest to me that I am overwhelmed by my options and need help, the less overwhelmed I will be. I will get the help I need, when I accept my vulnerability and entrust what I need from the right people.

Advent is a season of waiting and watching for God in the Person of Jesus. We look forward to the return of Christ in glory. We want Jesus to come and change this world of violence and chaos to how we think things should be. The season of Advent leads us to remembering that God did something so profound in the Incarnation. In the book Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, one of the contributors Karl Rahner in The Divine Dawning wrote,

“No, you took upon yourself our kind of life, just as it is. You let it slip away from you, just as ours vanishes from us. You held on to it carefully, so that not a single drop of its torments would be spilled. You hoarded its very fleeting moment, so you could suffer through it all, right to the bitter end” (p.71,72).

If we want a contemplative experience of Advent, we must “begin again.” We begin by praying with the Psalmist that by ourselves, we do not know how to find God’s truth and know God’s compassion. The contemplative looks for the mystery of God in our humility and vulnerability as life is in the here and now. In our suffering and messy lives the Advent of Christ is already happening. When we let go, and allow God to teach us the way of truth, salvation and compassion; the Holy One comes and makes a home within us. It is a very limited experience, and so we continue to cry; Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

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

What are you waiting for Jesus to do for you this Advent?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

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

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.

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