Reflection on Save Us From The Time of Trial

Lord's Prayer

“Save us from the time of trial.”

I have had for many years now a real problem with the words, “And lead us not into temptation” in the traditional version of The Lord’s Prayer.  The words do not seem appropriate.  I am glad that the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer have given us the words, “Save us from the time of trial.”

These words should disturb us a bit.  It seems that God does not always save us from the time of trial.  Ask anyone who is suffering from cancer, bullying, dementia, being stalked or grieving the loss of a loved one if they feel as if they are being saved from the time of their trial.  Were the many Coptic Christians who have been killed over the past two months saved from their time of trial?  How about the martyrs?  How about Jesus’ moment of trial?

At Matins this morning, I read the following words from Resurrecting Easter: Meditations for the Great 50 Days by Kate Moorehead.

Resurrection is born out of the pit of death and despair. Moments of pain, moments of darkness and abandonment are the greatest moments to glorify God.

Jesus never promised us that we would not have moments of trial.  Jesus Himself faced his trials. At one point, he was condemned at a trial and sentenced to death.  Did God save Jesus from His moment of trial?  Yes.

In the Person of Jesus, God walks through our times of trial with us.  God helps us during the times of trial to learn new things about ourselves.  God helps us to draw closer to Jesus through The Holy Spirit in those times of trial, so that we may be given a greater insight into our relationship with God and others.  Whatever our trial is, we must believe that what is happening will not prevent God from bringing us to where God wants us.

As contemplatives, our “work” of grace is to search for union with God in all things, in all places and at all times; including, but certainly not limited to our times of trial.  It is in those moments, that we find God who has already found us.

“The fourth step of humility is that in obedience under difficult, unfavorable, or even unjust conditions, his [the monk’s] heart quietly embraces suffering and endures it without weakening or seeking escape. For Scripture has it: Anyone who perseveres to the end will be saved (Matt 10:22), and again, Be brave of heart and rely on the Lord (Ps26[27]:14)” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, Chapter 7;35-37, p.197).

How and where do you find God helping you from your time of trial?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on Humility and Anxiety

St.BenedictStainedGlass

 

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7 NRSV).

I am drawn to these words today because I am a Benedictine who loves Chapter 7 in The Rule of Saint Benedict; and because I live with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

Before I continue on, I want to give a very strong word of advice to Priests, Ministers, Preachers, Spiritual Directors, etc.  Never tell a person with any kind of anxiety disorder to just hand it over, do not be anxious and all will be fine.  It never works that way.  In fact, the more things like that are said, the more anxious a person with an anxiety disorder gets; because she/he just can’t measure up to the high expectations.  There is a false sense of guilt for things the individual is not responsible for.  People with anxiety disorders upon hearing “do not be anxious” will shy away from the advice and the advisor.

I am drawn to these words from 1 Peter because I do have an anxiety disorder.  Just giving over anxiety in prayer helps relieve it, but it is never completely gone.   When I read the words, ” Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.,” I hear the Spirit drawing me in with everything that I am and experiencing, accepting me with God’s extravagant love; with a home in Christ that is safe, and offers me consolation.

We are now in the time in our Liturgical Year between the Ascension and Pentecost.  The Apostles who lost Jesus once in His Crucifixion, were so happy after He was raised from the dead; now find themselves with Jesus gone again.  Can we just imagine for a moment the anxiety they must have experienced?  They were in a no win situation, until after Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon them.

The contemplative is drawn through these words to relinquish everything that is shaking us up, and trust in God with humility.  It is time to stop trying to handle it all ourselves.  It is time for us to stop thinking that all this stuff defines who we are.  It is time to sit in silence, with all the noise within and let the Holy Spirit bring a peace into our hearts, because we are in the Presence of the God who cares about what shakes us to pieces, and is somewhere in the middle of it all.  In humility we are not being asked to measure up.  On the contrary, the Holy One is lovingly and tenderly moving us to let it go.  God is telling us “It is okay.  You are not alone. Let us work through this together.”

“Let a [person] consider that God is always looking at him from heaven” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, p.22).

How are you managing the anxieties of your life as you sit in the presence of God?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Maundy Thursday Reflection

WashingFeet

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 13:3-5 NRSV).

Up until eight years ago, I never participated in the washing of feet during the Maundy Thursday Liturgy.  Since that first time I had my feet washed and washed the feet of another person, I take part in this yearly ritual.  It is a very special moment in which all of my pride takes a back seat.  There is a tremendous amount of humility and vulnerability in having my feet washed and washing the feet of another person.  When having my feet washed the person doing the washing gets to listen a little to my own personal story of where I have walked, what I have done and where I might be going.  When I wash the feet of another person, I open myself up to listen to where the other individual has been, what they have been doing and where they might be going.   Feet get dirty.  Feet smell.  Feet may be smooth or calloused.  Yet, in that moment of washing feet there is an openness and an acceptance of God’s love for me and the opportunity to share that love with another person.

Among the many things that draws me to The Rule of Saint Benedict is in Chapter 53 On the Reception of Guests, he instructs the Abbot and the entire community to wash the feet of the guests.  After washing their feet they will all say together “God, we have received your mercy in the midst of your temple” (Ps. 48:10). Actually look up Psalm 48:8 in The Book of Common Prayer on page 651.  St. Benedict is allowing the guests to inconvenience the Brothers.  When Guests come it is their (and our) opportunity to put aside our own agendas and preferences and serve Christ crucified in the other.

What a great mystery to lead us into contemplative prayer.  Our loving God sees in us the goodness of Christ to give ourselves over in sacrificial love with Jesus to serve others in His stead.  As we enter into this wondrous moment, God’s love penetrates the deepest part of ourselves and calls us to union with God in purity of heart.

What are you willing to do today to serve the presence of Christ in another person?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Holy Wednesday Reflection

Judas

At supper with his friends, Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” (John 13:21 NRSV).

Jesus was not the only one who had a problem with Judas.  I have some problems with Judas, the role he played and his reputation.  It is true that Judas betrayed Jesus in the most horrendous way.  On the other hand, if it was God’s will for Jesus to be crucified as He was, didn’t Judas fulfill the role God intended him to play?  As I think of who Judas was and what he did, to me the most powerful thing was that in spite of what Judas did, Jesus still loved Judas.  In so doing, Jesus did Himself what He taught about “love your enemies” in Matthew 5:43-48.

Whatever it is that we are suppose to contemplate today; this part of the Holy Week story is mysterious at best.

Perhaps Judas reminds us of being at a holiday dinner table with the one relative that is the most challenging for us to get along with.  If you are like me, the hardest thing to do with someone like that is to keep my mouth shut and avoid letting that person get under my skin.

If Jesus’ encounter with Judas teaches us nothing else; it shows His humility in accepting what was to happen to Him.

Indeed, the hardest part of St. Benedict’s chapter 7 on humility in The Rule to understand and accept is rungs six and seven.  On rung six of the ladder of humility, St. Benedict tells the monk to be content with “the lowest and most menial treatment.”  On rung seven, the monk is told to admit “with his tongue and be convinced that he is inferior and of less value.”   It is a mistake for us to interpret Benedict as saying that the monk is suppose to have a low self esteem or accept abuse in any form.  What he is saying is that we tend to be all caught up in our false-sense of self.  We like our first place in line.  We like to be approved of.  Liked.  Cherished.  No one is as important as we are individually.  St. Benedict is telling us to live as Jesus did.  He is telling us to accept and live into from our true sense of self, our essence even when we are last on the likable list.  St. Benedict is teaching us to find our worth, our stature, our place in line; in God alone.  St. Benedict is telling us what Jesus is showing us.  Let go and trust in God alone.

How is Jesus challenging you to live from your essence today?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Lent Reflection: Out of the Depths

Depth

 

Out of the depths have I called you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice; let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication (Psalm 130:1. The Book of Common Prayer, p.784).

When I meditate on what it means to be in the depths, I think of being in a place of despair.  A place where everything feels so hopeless.  I feel so helpless.   A moment when it feels as if there is no turning back or going forward.

In Chapter 7 verse 10 in The Rule of Saint Benedict, he wrote that “The first step of humility is that a man keeps the fear of God before his eyes  (Ps 36:2) and never forgets it. (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, p.193).

Michael Casey in his book, The Road to Eternal Life: Reflections on the Prologue of Benedict’s Rule wrote, “When Saint Benedict speaks about fear of the Lord as the first step in the ladder of humility, he is making the point that to begin a spiritual life we have to start taking its demands seriously” (p.44).

Fear of the Lord is not living in fear as in being afraid of God.  It is what Sr. Joan Chittister in her book, The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century calls the “contemplative consciousness” of God (see p.85)  It is the moment of conversion when we realize that we cannot have a spiritual heart for God, so long as we try to hide from God our hearts.  The heart is often where we feel like we are isolated, helpless and hopeless.  The heart is where we often harbor grudges and pretend like there is nothing wrong.  It is from our hearts, however that we cry out the words of Psalm 130:1.  It is in the depth our hearts that we long for God to hear our voice; because that desire in our hearts is there by God’s gracious initiative.  We do not have to run and hide.  On the contrary, it is in the heart that the contemplative allows God to help us pull off all our masks and lay all of our wounds in God’s merciful hands.   Remember what God said to Samuel?  “Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b).

Are you calling to God out of the depths of your heart?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See cos-osb.org

Reflection on Kainos

lightindarkness

 

So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation.  The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!  All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17,18. Common English Bible).

As part of my grief and healing through this past year, I have been reading a wonderful book to help me.  The title of the book is, Walking in Valleys of Darkness: A Benedictine Journey Through Troubled Times written by Fr. Albert Holtz, OSB.  In the very first chapter, Fr. Holtz writes about two different Greek words in the New Testament for the English word “new.”

There is the word neos which means “recent, young”.  An example of this word, Holtz writes, is old wine skins and new wine skins (see Luke 5:37).   The other word for new, which is what Paul wrote about in the Scripture basis for this blog post.  That word is kainos which means “unheard of, unknown, previously un-thought of, entirely different from anything that went before it.” (See page 197).

The kainos for “new” that St. Paul wrote about calls us to an unheard of version of ourselves in Christ Jesus.  This is a renewed sense of self that we find within our essence.  We cannot see what is in our essence by ourselves.  All of us in one way or another live with wounds and a false sense of self within our souls.  Our souls need healing and redeeming every day by God’s mending love in Christ.  Our essence is where our true sense of self is.  It is in our essence that our spirit waits to be unleashed to live with hope that our souls will find salvation and peace.

As Christians who know of Jesus Christ and that God has plans for each of us (and the plans are all unique),  and that our essence needs to be touched by the Holy Spirit; whom I have renamed The Holy Essence of God.  Our spirit is seeking union with God the Holy Spirit is where we are kainos “new” people in Christ.  From that kainos essence comes the new creation that changes us inside and out.

Sometimes, God uses the not so good things that happen in our lives to remake us into a kainos “new” self.  This new self is found as we face the reality of our brokenness as well as in the whole person we truly are as The Holy Essence leads us through the difficult times of our lives.

Contemplative prayer and the mystical experience is often like finding the Light of Christ coming through the darkness of life.  In that Light, God seeks union with us, and moves on us with The Holy Essence of God, to return to our own essence: and rise up as a kainos people.  God sees us as kainos people in Christ, and wants us to live from that essence of new life.

“Elsewhere Scripture says: O God, you have tested us, you have tried us as silver is tried by fire.” (The Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 7, On Humility, vs. 7).

How is The Holy Essence of God, calling you to be a kainos “new” person in Christ?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

 

Reflection on Jesus the Vine

branches

 

‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:1-11 NRSV).

Saint Benedict in Chapter 7: On Humility of The Rule wrote that the first step of humility is to keep “the reverence of God always before our eyes.”  Sister Joan Chittister in her book The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century refers to “reverence of God” as “consciousness of God.” (See page 79).

It is much too easy to walk through our day as if we are an entity unto ourselves.  We have the many tasks before us which take up our time and attention.  Job duties.  Family matters.  Financial concerns.  Relationships and many other commitments.  These and others not named serve to distract us from what is really important.  Unless we live with that reverence for God in all things, places and people that Jesus and Saint Benedict refer to.

As Christians who have been given a share in the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ; and called His friends who are given the new commandment to love one another; we are never an island unto ourselves.  We are branches linked to the Vine who is God the Vine-Grower in the Word made Flesh.  As God is present with us and each other; we work together to bear the fruit that gives life and growth to the rest of the garden.  Even while we struggle with the most troublesome branch in the bunch.

My very favorite verse from this Gospel text is the one that says, “apart from me you can do nothing.”  This verse is a great example of that first step of humility that Saint Benedict wrote about.  When we pursue our life of faith and prayer as if we are on remote control, it is only a matter of time before the battery runs out of energy.  We need the time in private solitude, contemplative prayer and/or centering prayer to live into our lives within the community of other branches in the garden.  Our focus must be Jesus and His presence with reverence for His Holy Name.  Contemplative prayer helps us see all things including ourselves from God’s perspective.

How do you see your relationship as the branch to the vine?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB