Reflection on God’s Treasure

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:44-45 NRSV).

We are all living through a time with a lot of death around us. The COVID-19 pandemic has killed way too many people. We have been experiencing and grieving the death of the way our lives used to be before this international crisis. It is a painful time we are living through.

In the midst of the sickness and chaos, Jesus talks about His Kingdom being like a treasure hidden in a field, and a pearl that is so precious, that the owner sells everything they have to get the pearl. If you are feeling the grief and anger that so many of us are experiencing; it is perfectly understandable that our response to Jesus would be, “ Oh yeah? Then, when is enough, enough?” Whenever we draw a conclusion on God as to what is happening, we are cutting God and ourselves short.

“Try to enter your inner treasure-house and you will see the treasure-house of heaven. For both the one and the other are the same, and one and the same entrance reveals them both. The ladder leading to the kingdom is concealed within you.” (St. Isaac of Syria, in Kadloubovsky and Palmer, Writings from Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart, p. 30).

God’s greatest treasure is already and always within us. God has blessed us with our eternal truth within our essence. As Christians, we know that God gave Jesus as the Redeemer of our souls. God’s act of salvation on our behalf is because of how much God treasures us. We are the pearl that God sold everything to get for God’s Self. Even with all the muddy ness of a global pandemic, death and losses, there is always love deep in the heart of God that reaches out for us, in the very depths of who we are. In our tears, sadness, hopelessness and broken lives, God calls us to search for union with God who is ever present and hurting within us. God may not make things what we want them to be tomorrow or next week, but, in Jesus, God walks with us through it all.

As contemplatives, we know that the challenging times we are living through are a time in the desert. It is in this desert time, that everything that we really are is inescapable. We are hungry and thirsty. We are freezing from the darkness of isolation. We are overheated from news flashes going by with the rising number of new infections, and we can only do so much. In our desert experience, we cannot ignore our need for God to be our shepherd. So, we must do what St. Romuald wrote in his short rule. “Sit in your cell as in paradise.” We need to spend time with God in our cell (our hearts) with everything we are feeling, no matter how ugly we think it is, and allow God in God’s Grace to meet us there and be our nourishment and thirst quencher by faith and trust alone.

“In God’s goodness, we are already counted as God’s own…”

“The person who prays for the presence of God is, ironically, already in the presence of God.” (Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB. The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, p.5-6).

Do you see yourself and your neighbor as God’s treasure during this time of global pandemic?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Learning Wisdom

And yes, you want truth in the most hidden places; you teach me wisdom in the most secret space (Psalm 51:6, The Common English Bible).

Each of us has within us a sacred space. It is in the whole of who we are. In that sacred space there is our soul and our spirit.

Our souls are where our emotions are. In our souls, we experience joy and sorrow. We feel healing and pain in our souls. Many of the personal conflicts we have, have a lot to do with what is going on in our souls. In addition to these, our souls often have our false-sense of self. Each of us encounters hunger and thirst. The feelings of abandonment and isolation. These happen in part because of the messages we receive from our parents, society, the ups and downs of life, and any number of things. In our souls, we often want to be first in line. We want to be comfortable or celebrated.

Our spirit on the other hand is where our eternal truth (our essence) is. Our true selves are in our spirit. God’s Holy Spirit longs more than we know, to grant us the union with God that we seek; so that God’s wisdom can heal our souls and lead us to a divine intimacy with the God who loves us beyond our wildest imagination.

Psalm 51, the mercy plea of David, helps us remember that we are always somewhere between what is good and not good. God is our merciful Savior and is always willing to bring forgiveness to our souls. What we really need is for God to teach us God’s wisdom in our secret and sacred spaces. Most of the work of contemplative prayer in the Christian Tradition is about the interaction of God with us in our sacred and secretive spaces. We spend time in silence and solitude to allow God to talk with our souls, so that God can help us to live into our essence. Our eternal truth is where Jesus, the Wisdom of God is speaking to help “heal the sin sick soul” (Taken from the Gospel hymn There is a Balm in Gilead).

God knows the wounds within our souls. God knows how much we are all hurting in this time of social distancing and the innumerable deaths because of the coronavirus. In that brokenness, God is teaching us God’s wisdom in new and powerful ways. This time of uncertainty, is our time in the desert with Jesus. God will teach us wisdom in our secret and sacred space; but, we have to be silent so we can listen to God in our eternal truth; our essence.

“And finally, never lose hope in God’s mercy” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.29).

Will you let Jesus teach you wisdom in your secret and sacred space during this time in the desert?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Please visit my website to learn about Br. Anselm Philip’s Ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

Reflection on God is Near

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found; call on him when he draws near (Isaiah 55:6, Canticle 10, The Book of Common Prayer, p.86).

It has happened to me many times. I have lost something. I search everywhere for what I lost. I dig under the mail piled up on my desk. I open drawer after drawer. Then, I discover that the very thing I have been looking for is right in front of me. I spend so much time and energy looking for something that is before my nose.

God is closer to us than we think. Who God is and where God is are mysterious; that much is very true. Equally mysterious is that God is as close to us as every cell in our body. God, the Holy Spirit is present in every breath we take. The mercy of Jesus releases us of our sins with each breath of air we blow out. The grace of God is willing to be found, if we will only search for union with God for no other reason than to live into our relationship with the holiness and awesomeness of God.

The contemplative lives into the God-Life that is nearby, ready for us to call the God that found us in the depths of God’s loving Being. God is so wanting us to to love God, that God gave us the desire to look for God to love because of who God is. We already know that God gives us what we need the most. Jesus told us as much in the Gospel of Matthew 6:25-34). In verse 33 Jesus said “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” So God is the One we must search for. God is always very nearby.

God then directs these words to you: If you desire true and eternal life, keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit; turn from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim (Ps 34:14:15). Once you have done this, my eyes will be upon you and my ears will listen for your prayers; and even before you ask me, I will say to you: Here I am (Isa 58:9). (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.16).

Will you spend some in silence today to be with God who is always near you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Visit my website to learn about Br. Anselm Philip’s Ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

Reflection on Saint Benedict

My child, if you accept my words and treasure up my commandments within you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; if you indeed cry out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures—then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk blamelessly, guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path. (Proverbs 2:1-9 NRSV).

Let us think for a moment about the things we urgently search for. Our phones. Our keys. Money. The remote to our television set. Jewelry. A successful career. Popularity. Fortune. Control. We search for the most exciting. We crave what comes the easiest. We want things the way they were before COVID-19.

The writer of Proverbs tells us to want something so life-giving, that it would be better than chocolate in our mouth. The Wisdom of God is longing for us. If we will sit in silence long enough to “incline the ear of the heart” we will gain the a consciousness of God that will reform us to love God, our neighbor and ourselves in ways we would never have imagined.

In the Fall of 1993, I went to my first retreat at a Benedictine Abbey. It was my introduction to who Benedict was. I remember the first time I read some of The Rule of St. Benedict. My initial reaction was “What a weirdo he was.” Lol. Since that time, I have studied The Rule many, many times. For three years, I received spiritual direction from Fr. Anselm who is now the Abbot of Pluscarden Abbey in Scotland. That is in large part why I requested the name as my religious name, Whenever my life has edged out of where I should be, I eventually return to what I have learned from the life and The Rule of St. Benedict. Once I begin again to spend time praying my Offices, reading from The Rule, suddenly, even the roughest of experiences leads me into a deeper awareness of God.

In the RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English at the end of chapter 73 he wrote “Then with Christ’s help, keep this little rule that we have written for beginners.” Benedictine spirituality is not about being an athlete of religion. The contemplative way of St. Benedict is about beginning over and over to search for union with God through a life of continuous prayer. When we commit ourselves to beginning again the search for the wisdom of God in this very moment, we will receive an abundance of life from the storehouse of God’s greatest riches of grace.

During this time of sickness and death that is so overwhelming, we are gaining the opportunity to let go of what keeps us from living into our faith in God alone. As St. Benedict spent those three years in the cave at Subiaco and learned God’s Word; we too are in our own Subiaco time. What we do with our relationship with God during this time is up to us. God promises us the fruits of the resurrection even as we are staring death in the face. If we spend this time with our hunger for the Wisdom of God, and let God speak to our hearts in that desire, the best things are yet to come.

What are you desiring most from God during this time of a worldwide pandemic?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

O Lord my God, Teach my heart this day where and how to see you, where and how to find you. You have made me and remade me, and you have bestowed on me all the good things I possess, and still I do not know you. I have not yet done that for which I was made. Teach me to seek you, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me m or find you unless you show yourself to me. Let me seek you in my desire, let me desire you in my seeking. Let me find you by loving you, let me love you when I find you. Amen. (Prayer of St. Anselm of Canterbury, St. Benedict’s Prayer Book, p.118).

Please visit my website to learn about Br. Anselm Philip’s Ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

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Reflection on God is My Portion

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:24. NRSV).

Everything we seem to want must be the biggest, fastest, the most up to date thing. When we eat at a restaurant, we look for the biggest meal that will give us the most pleasure. In and of themselves, these are not terrible. On the contrary, the hunger and desire for something more means that we have more room for God than we think we do.

Jeremiah was writing about a terrible time. Everything he has known to be what it was, was gone. He and the people of Judah were at their wits end. They were at their rock bottom moment. Jeremiah was writing from his grieving heart. All was lost. What more could anyone do?

As Benedictines, we live a life of continuous prayer. Liturgical prayer, Lectio Divina, personal and intercessory prayer, and of course, contemplative prayer. It is through a life of prayer that we seek union with God praying for a purity of heart. A heart that wants God and nothing more. We are hungry for God. We come with St. Benedict and The Rule with “My soul [that] has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord…” (Psalm 84:1).

We are living through some very difficult times. Everything around us has been up heaved and turned upside down. Our hearts and souls have are longing for something that will bring us good news, and a return to what we remember. We do not have things the way they used to be. God, our portion who is all we really need is present in that hunger and desire. God is reaching out to love us and be close to us; to transform and renew us. This is the moment of contemplative prayer and living into the mysticism of God’s life-giving opportunities.

“And first of all, whatever good work you begin to do, beg of Him with most earnest prayer to perfect it, that He who has deigned to count us among His own may not at anytime be grieved by our evil deeds. For we must always serve Him with the good things He has given us,,,,” (Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, p.1).

Are you listening for that desire and longing in your heart for God to be your portion?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Please visit Br. Anselm Philip’s Ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship

Reflection on A Prayerful Heart

Give ear, O Lord to my prayer, and attend to the voice of my supplications. In the time of my trouble I will call upon you, for you will answer me. (Psalm 86:6-7. The Book of Common Prayer, p.710).

The great Desert Father Antony once wrote, “Just as fish die of they stay too long out of water, so the monks who loiter outside their cell or pass their time with men of the world lose the intimacy of inner peace. So like a fish going to the sea, we must hurry to reach our cell, for fear that if we delay outside we shall lose our interior watchfulness.”

Christine Valters Paintner in her book Desert Fathers and Mother’s: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings wrote, “The Greek word nepsis means “watchfulness.” It refers to a kind of calm vigilance in daily life, staying attentive and aware to the inner movements of the heart, watching one’s thoughts, and noticing patterns that arise. This inner attention, conducted with compassion, is the grace of the desert way.” (Pages 8-9).

The cell that Antony is writing about is our hearts. The heart in Christian spirituality is “the whole of ourselves.” The Psalmist is writing to ask God for help in times of trouble. The Psalmist knows the troubles that have been, and those ahead require God’s help to work through them.

We are living through some very difficult times. The coronavirus along with the excessive violence has everyone including me experiencing what seems like endless pain and confusion. We are inundated by the fast paced media that is bombarding our sensory awareness to overload.

The Psalmist and the Desert Monastics tell us to return to our cells (our hearts) and spend time in the presence of God in silence and solitude to reclaim our true sense of self. Contemplative prayer and mysticism calls us to embrace the peace of God that leads us to an awareness of what is really happening with in the heart of who we are. Let us remember that Jesus is walking with us through the events of the present time; and the Holy Spirit is teaching us from deep within our hearts. We do not have to understand anything. What we must do is let go of trying to determine a conclusion to the ongoing experience of God’s extravagant love that is transforming us “from glory into glory” in the here and now.

“How much more important, then, to lay our petitions before the God of all with the utmost humility and devotion.”

“The function of times of prayer, then, is not to have us say prayers; it is to enable our lives to become a prayer outside of prayer, to become ‘pure of heart,’ one with God,,,,” (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, Joan Chittister, p.132).

Are you setting time aside in your life to listen to God within the whole of yourself?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on the Still Waters

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me besides still waters. (Psalm 23. The Book of Common Prayer, p.612).

The times we are all living through with the coronavirus hardly feels like we are besides still waters. Maybe we are wondering if Jesus, the Good Shepherd will ever get around to our side of the field. All we see are the wolves that carry disease. violence and despair waiting to make us their next victims. Our anxieties are grabbing us because of not being able to escape what we are living through.

The most challenging concepts of contemplative prayer is to keep ourselves grounded to search for union with God with what is happening here and now. The grace of God is active in leading us through this time of sickness and death. Take another look at Psalm 23:5.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me. (The Book of Common Prayer, p.613).

The Psalmist is acknowledging that we do not get delivered from the valley of death. The goodness of God is reaching out for us as we walk through this time. God is interacting with us and guiding us. God is here.

“The search for God is a very intimate enterprise. It is at the core of every longing heart. It is the search for ultimate love; for total belonging, for the meaning of life. It is our attempt to live life and find it worthwhile, to come to see the presence of God under all the phantoms and shadows- beyond the illusions of life-and find it enough”(The Monastery of the Heart: An Invitation to a Meaningful Life, Sr. Joan Chittister, p.13).

The still waters on the surface do not always tell us what is happening beneath them. There is chaos with the fish that are looking for a meal, while others are trying to escape becoming a meal. Underneath the still waters there is something happening that is constantly changing. Yet, Jesus the Risen Shepherd leads us besides those still waters. The contemplative is never satisfied by what is visible on the surface. When we spend time in silence and solitude, we are letting God into those troubled waters within us. If we will let God into what is happening in the here and now; God “will supply with the help of His grace, what we cannot do by nature.” (The Rule of St. Benedict in English, the Prologue).

How is Jesus the Good Shepherd guiding you during these challenging days?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Easter in the Desert

“The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation .” (Psalm 118;14. The Book of Common Prayer, p.761).

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

It hardly seems like Easter. Minnesota, where I live is getting a snow storm as I write this blog entry. Yet, the snow falling on Easter seems to fit. Many of us are used to being in our churches on Easter. Our churches are usually so crowded that extra chairs must be put out to accommodate the overflow. People go to Easter Sunday services while wearing the best spring clothes. It is always so wonderful when the sun is shining with nice warm weather on Easter.

Easter in the Year 2020 is not at all like what we are used to. The coronavirus is even preventing families from gathering for Easter dinner with relatives they have not seen since Christmas. Some people are rightly worried about those who are sick and suffering. Many are grieving the loss of those they love. How can we contemplate the mystery of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ with everything upside down?

The Desert Monastics lived their lives in such a way, that they were always in a world that was upside down from how many people functioned. The Mothers and Fathers of the Desert gave over everything that was considered “normal” for an unusual way of life through which they searched for a deeper union with God.

Christine Valters Paintner in her book Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings wrote,

“The paradox in the spiritual life is that this journey through destruction is necessary to reach any kind of resurrection or new life beyond it. We are rebuilt and reshaped through this process. We must fully surrender ourselves to the awfulness of it. We must stay present with how we feel compassion to ourselves in the process. We must learn to no longer feel victim to our suffering, but to instead discover a kind of inner fierceness that allows us to look death in the eye without flinching” (p.50).

The Easter experience of Resurrection is not without the pains of Good Friday. The victory of new life is always preceded by letting go of what is familiar, preferred and desired. Unless we spend time in contemplative prayer before the Cross, we will miss the mysticism of the empty tomb on Easter.

The chaos of the coronavirus can be overcome, by recognizing the inevitability of loosing everything as we have known them to be, and giving ourselves over to a new way of living for a whole new beginning.

Jesus and His Resurrection are our strength and our song, and Christ has become our salvation by the wondrous love of God.

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may Christ bring us to everlasting life.” (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.298).

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

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Be Not Far Away

“Be not far away, O Lord; you are my strength; hasten to help me.” (Psalm 22:18, The Book of Common Prayer, p.611).

These difficult days of the coronavirus have all of us feeling as if time has stopped. Many are bored out of their minds. The losses of the life we all had before COVID-19 took over the world, are excruciatingly painful. Yet, as tragic as everything is, we have opportunities like we have not had for some serious spiritual reawakening.

The heart of The Rule of St. Benedict is chapter 7: On Humility.

“The first step of humility, then, is that we keep ‘the reverence of God before our eyes’ (Psalm 36:2) and never forget it.”

“The consciousnesses of God is Central to Benedict’s perception of the spiritual life. (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century by Joan Chittister, OSB, p. 79.)

On this Good Friday, as we reflect on the passion and death of Jesus, it is difficult to miss how conscious of God He remains. Jesus is experiencing the most horrific acts of human cruelty. Yet, the words of Psalm 22 remain in His mind, on His lips and in His heart. Jesus knows where His faith and trust needs to be.

The late Fr. Thomas Keating wrote, “As Jesus approached the end of his physical endurance on the cross, he cried out, ‘My God, my God, why haven’t forsaken me?’ With these words, he revealed the fact that the act of taking on himself the weight of human sinfulness had cost him the loss of his personal union with the Father. It is the final stage of Jesus’ spiritual journey.” (The Mystery of Christ: The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience, p.61).

Contemplation is not the exclusive experience of feeling spiritual ecstasy. Contemplative prayer is an act of letting go of the things that weigh us down of what keeps us from a search for that union with God with a purity of heart. Purity of heart is about seeking union with God for no other reason than who God is, and not what God can do.

The cry of Jesus on the cross is more of a statement of faith. At that moment, Jesus knew that Hisonly way to God was by faith and trust; with not even His knowledge of the relationship with God. “Be not far from me, O God; you are my strength; hasten to help me.” When Jesus prays these words, He is surrendering His whole self to God; and holding nothing back.

The mysticism of Good Friday during these days of the coronavirus, is to let go of what we think and know. We are invited to embrace the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, as the only thing that ultimately matters. Our personal healing and reconciliation are happening while enduring this challenging time of pain, suffering and uncertainty.

How are the words of Jesus on this Good Friday impacting your life during the coronavirus crisis?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on The Word Spoken

“After Jesus has fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was starving. The tempter came and to him and said, “Since you are God’s Son, command these stones to become bread.” Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only on bread, but by every word spoken by God.” (Matthew 4:2-4 The Common English Bible).

One of the most difficult things that happens to someone who discovers that they have a disability, a chronic or terminal illness, is that they go through a process of grieving the person they used to be. They had a life in full swing with plans they were making. When the news comes with whatever diagnosis it is, the life they had is never the same. Among the most challenging things they can do, is learn to let go of what was and embrace what is in the present moment. They can do this by being honest about what they are experiencing, grieve it realistically, and enjoy what they can do.

Jesus was in the desert. He was starving. He was probably quite weak. It would have been very simple for him to change the stones into bread. Instead, he decided to embrace his hunger to know God’s words as the substance that would sustain him.

The contemplative seeks the spoken Word through what is silent, yet full of God’s voice. A voice that talks through the daily activities of ordinary life. We find God’s presence and Word in what is before us, with us and in us in the here and now. Contemplation is not an ecstatic experience of “feeling better” as if the pain and suffering of the present moment is devoid of God’s Being. The hunger we live with, the news we receive; good or bad, are opportunities to be drawn closer to God through what is. In the various places in the Gospel of John, when Jesus proclaims things like “I am the bread of life,” He is speaking in the present tense, not the past or future.

In her book, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of Benedict Today, Joan Chittister wrote, “ The spiritual life, in other words, is not achieved by denying one part of life for the sake of another. The spiritual life is achieved only by listening to all of life and learning to respond to each of its dimensions wholly and with integrity” (p.16).

How are you listening to God through the experiences of your life in the here and now?

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 blog ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.

Visit my website to learn about my ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.