Reflection on Visitation

Luca della Robbia-visitation

Image Above Made by Luca della Robbia.  See Artway.ea

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’ (Luke 1:39-45 NRSV).

The Visitation is an excellent narrative to lead us into contemplation of what is written in Chapter 53:1 in The Rule of Saint Benedict.  “Let all guests be received as Christ..”   Following Mary’s experience of the Angel Gabriel announcing that she would be the Mother of the Incarnate Word, she leaves to visit with Elizabeth.  When Mary greets Elizabeth the child in her womb who is John the Baptist leaps for joy.  Elizabeth and her child knew the experience of Christ coming to them through Mary.  Jesus though He had barely been conceived in the womb of Mary was so real to Elizabeth and John the Baptist that their lives were changed with a joy that needed no words.

The Visitation story is also a great way to meditate on what Abba James said.  “It is better to receive hospitality than to give it.”  When Mary arrived to visit Elizabeth, the experience Elizabeth had within her, came from receiving Mary in hospitality and being received in hospitality by Jesus present in Mary.

In her book Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seeker’s of Light, Sr. Joan Chittister on the topic of Lectio Divina wrote,

“Contemplation is not a private devotion; it is a way of life.  It changes the way we think.  It shapes the way we live.  It challenges the way we talk and where we go and what we do.  We do not “contemplate” or “not contemplate.” We live the contemplative life.”

The experience of Jesus receiving us, invites us to receive Him in a profound moment of conversion.  It is a way of life that leads us to seeking a deeper union with the God-life who has entered into our human condition and reclaimed us as holy unto God.  Jesus invites us into the mystery of this holy way of life to accept Him and respond with the joy that leaps within our true selves that gives us new life and in turn “renews the face of the earth” in the Holy Spirit.

“Realize above all that you are in God’s presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor.  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).

What change are you experiencing within yourself as Christ is coming to you today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Being Received

Receiving

“Abba James said, ‘It is better to receive hospitality than give it'” (Daily Readings with the Desert Fathers, p.42).

“Let all guests who arrive be received as Christ, for He is going to say, ‘I came as a guest, and you received Me'” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, Chapter 53, p.73).

I have experienced today the most amazing revelation.  It began when I read the words of Abba James quoted above.  As I spent time meditating on these words, I found myself drawn to the words in St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries.   The words I was particularly drawn to were, “to receive hospitality..” and “to be received as Christ.”

Through these words, I felt the Holy Spirit disturbing my ego.  When I think of receiving in hospitality, I place the entirety of the responsibility on myself.  Everything is up to me to do to impress the guest by drawing attention to me.  I might like to think that I am being so humble and doing the receiving.   When I exercise hospitality with myself as the sole giver in the encounter, I become self-centered.  I won’t let myself be disturbed or confirmed by God in the guest.

These words from Abba James and Saint Benedict, tell me that it is Christ in the other that is receiving me in hospitality.  When I meditated on it in this way, my attention is no longer on myself exclusively.  Now I have to open the whole of myself, let go of my ego, my need to control and decide; and let Christ in the guest receive me.  Christ becomes my center, as I place myself in Jesus’ care.  Christ comes to me in the guest to receive me, so that I may serve Him in the other.  Christ comes and receives me not only to help me with the things in my life that need conversion, but to bring me conversion by affirming His love for me; to live with thanksgiving the gifts God gives me.  I can give myself over to Contemplative Prayer and experience the Mysticism of knowing and viewing myself from God’s perspective.  This is what Contemplative Prayer and Mysticism are essentially about.

As we are celebrating the Presentation of Christ in the Temple today; it is a good idea to spend some time in solitude and silence.  As we do, perhaps we need to see Jesus receiving us as the guest, and offering Himself for us.  I believe that this is the “Light” that Simeon saw as this Jesus whom he waited for his entire life finally came to present Himself to God.  Christ came and brought His Light to receive our human condition and transform the darkness into the Light of God’s manifestation.

Are you open to being received by Jesus today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Holy Monday Reflection

Mary&JesusFeet

 

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 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. (John 12: 1-3.  NRSV).

Our journey through Holy Week that began yesterday with Palm Sunday, brings us to this scene in St. John’s Gospel.  These scene changes may be a bit confusing.  Yesterday we were with those welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem while laying Palms along his path.  Today we are with Martha, Mary and Lazarus at a dinner in which Mary anoints the feet of Jesus in preparation for his death and burial.

We could say that Mary is giving us a preview of the scene at the Last Supper at which Jesus will wash the feet of His Disciples.  Mary could be doing for Jesus, what will not be done for Him at that Passover meal.

Whatever the reason, Mary performs an amazing act of faith and love towards Jesus.  Unlike Judas who is there criticizing Mary for using the costly perfume; Mary is caring for Jesus’ very limited time.  She loves Jesus with a holy love and prepares His feet for the holy journey towards our redemption in Christ.  Mary exercised the greatest example of hospitality towards Jesus as she allowed the guest that is Jesus to draw her into a deeper experience of faith in Him.

In The Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 53 he wrote:

All guests should be received as Christ, for he will say “I was a stranger and you took me in” (Matt 25:35).

Our point of contemplation today is to allow Christ in the guest to speak to and serve us.  This is as counter cultural as we can get.  We like to believe we have all the answers for the other.  In our electronic age of sending every message that inflates our ego should be sent; Mary and Saint Benedict invite us reach out for the guest, but open our hearts to Christ in the other.  To allow their lives and their stories to deliver a new message of love and conversion to our own hearts and minds.  In so doing, we open ourselves up to knowing God on a whole new level from God’s point of view.

What might God be saying to you through the thoughts and actions of another?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

 

July 11: Commemoration of St. Benedict

StBenedict2

Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for He is going to say, “I came as a guest, and you received me.”  (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, Chapter 53, p.73).

We have very little information about the life of St. Benedict.  The Life and Times of St. Benedict that comes from book two of the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great, tell us about the high points of St. Benedict.  There is a great deal we do not know about the Father of Western Monasticism.  What we do know about Saint Benedict and what his philosophy about the Monastic Life, comes from The Rule.  He borrowed much of what he wrote in The Rule from St. Basil and St. John Cassian.  The Rule of St. Benedict is best understood as being about relationships.

Lonni Collins Pratt and Father Daniel Homan, OSB in their book, Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way of Love, write about three important relationships.  A Benedictine’s relationships are made up of the “cloister, community and hospitality”. (See chapter 7).  The cloister is the time the monastic spends with God and oneself.  The community is the time spent with those closest to her/him.  Hospitality is the relationship with everyone else.  In the end, Christ is present in all of these relationships.  It is in and through these relationships that the Benedictine learns to “listen and incline the ears of our hearts.”  At the end of the day, Benedictine hospitality is not as much about listening and greeting Christ in others to see what we can do for the individual(s).  It is about listening carefully to what Jesus may be calling us to through that other person.

Contemplation and the mystical experience within the context of St. Benedict is about being attentive to what God is saying to us through all aspects of life.  Prayer, work, the prayerful reading of Scripture, the things we handle, and living in relationship with others are all moments to be listening for God with attentive hearts.  They are opportunities to encounter Christ in that which challenges and changes us from the outside on inward.  By listening and engaging the presence of God, we are able to see all things a new from God’s viewpoint.

God our Father, you made St. Benedict an outstanding guide to teach us how to live in your service.  Grant that by preferring your love to everything else, we may walk in the way of your commandments.  We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Maundy Thursday Reflection: What Is It Really About?

WashingFeet

“And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.” (John 13:3,4 NRSV).

The name Maundy Thursday comes from the Latin word mandatum.  The word contains the root of the English word for “mandate” or “command”.  On this Maundy Thursday we commemorate not only Jesus instituting the tremendous Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, but the new commandment of Jesus to “love one another as I have loved you.” (John 1:34,35).  Meaning that the Eucharist in and of itself is incomplete if we do not live into its meaning in our every day lives.

The mysteries of our Christian Faith are all awesome and beautiful.  Contemplative prayer and even centering prayer for the Christian comes from the graces we receive during this Holy Week.  The very gift of our faith in the various aspects of the Christian Religion are life changing.  As well as they should be.  However, if all they remain are mysteries that we contemplate; yet we do not bear the fruit of the vine who is Jesus Christ in those we serve with humility; that which we contemplate is a mere abstraction and nothing more.

On this Maundy Thursday, Jesus commands all of us to make what we believe into a living reality.  Is it any wonder that as part of St. Benedict wrote in The Rule in Chapter 53 The Reception of Guests; among the things he asks the community to do when receiving guests is to wash their feet?  St. Benedict wanted the community to experience the meaning of the cross and the commandment of Jesus by doing what He commanded.

How will we not only observe but live into the meaning of Jesus’ commandment to love one another as He loves us?

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB