Reflection on Foot Washing

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 13:3-5 NRSV).

I have been enjoying reading the book Ashes and the Phoenix: Meditations for the Season of Lent edited and compiled by Len Freeman.  In his meditation written by Jason Leo for Tuesday in Holy Week he writes,

“there is more going on in the story of Holy Week than Jesus’ death, more going on than a horrible story of the execution and death of a good man.  It is the beginning of a journey to new life for Jesus and for us–for all of us’ (See page 99).

In the journeys of our lives we all come from pathways full of circumstances.  Some of those circumstances have happened by the chances of life.  Some are because of choices we made good or bad.  Others are the result new experiences that changed our sense of direction.  Others gave us sense of ourselves that have boxed us up in to who we think God is to each of us (and sometimes everyone else).

Contemplative prayer brings about the greatest of mystical experiences when we let go of who we think God is and what God does.  The contemplative opens herself/himself up to letting God show us who God is in Jesus, and who we are because of who God’s Incarnate Word is.  The desert Mothers and Fathers teach us that our experiences of God bring the greatest of changes to our lives when we let the masks come off, even if we do not like what we see reflected in our interior mirrors.  God accepts us as we are, and wants us to as well.

Our feet often tell us and others  a lot of what our personal walk with God is like.  We have all walked long, dirty, painful and stinky pathways.  We have experienced suffering in ways during which we dragged our feet and got a few callouses.  Our toe nails have gotten too long.  Our feet may have dry skin as we walked through the burning desert of denial.   Jesus wants to wash our feet, because He has been walking those same roads with us.  Jesus washes our feet to tell us that it is okay to let go and begin to walk a new journey with Him.  That journey will take us to the Cross where our false-sense of self will be crucified and die.  On Easter, we will rise with Jesus to begin walking in the way of new life.

“With this conclusion, the Lord waits for us daily to translate into action, as we should, his holy teachings.” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English, p.18).

“An old man said, ‘Every time a thought of superiority or vanity moves you, examine your conscience to see if you have kept all the commandments, whether you love your enemies, whether you consider yourself to be an unprofitable servant and the greatest sinner of all. Even so, do not pretend to great ideas as though you were perfectly right, for that thought destroys everything.'” (Daily Readings with the Desert Fathers, p 32).

Would you let Jesus wash your feet?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See The Community of Solitude

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Reflection on Perfection

Clay

“The Lord’s instruction is perfect, reviving one’s very being”. (Psalm 19:7.  The Common English Bible).

I read the most thought provoking words in the book Lent with Evelyn Underhill at Matins this morning.

“To the alarming list of innate vices which you have managed to get together I would like to add another: Pride.  All this preoccupation with your own imperfection is not humility. but an insidious form of spiritual pride.” (See page 52 in the Second Edition of this book).

Human perfection and Christian perfection are not one and the same thing.  Making sure all our prayers get said properly, as a matter of perfection is of least importance.  Saying our prayers while seeking a greater love for God and others is what Christian perfection and humility are about.  Humility is not about focusing on ourselves and all that is wrong with us.

“The first step of humility, is that a monastic keeps the reverence of God before oneself, and never forgets it.” (The Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 7 On Humility, paraphrased).

Thomas Merton in his book, The Rule of Saint Benedict: Initiation into the Monastic Tradition 4 he wrote,

“If we concentrate directly on humility, our humility will be false.  If we concentrate on our relationships with others, and with God, our humility will be true. (see page 173).

Earlier in the book, Merton wrote,

“The active life of humility leads to the contemplative life of union with Christ by love.” (See page 156).

As contemplatives we are on a constant journey of turning ourselves over to God, so that God can bring us into a deeper relationship with the Holy One.  Humility in The Rule of Saint Benedict reminds us that God is God, and we are not.  Contemplative prayer is not about learning these things in our minds, so to analyze and understand them.   Contemplative prayer is about letting go so God can revive us at the very center of ourselves.  It comes by being open to seeing ourselves from God’s perspective.  In so doing, we read, mark, learn and inwardly digest that in humility God is God, and we are not.

Are you seeking to make yourself perfect before God?

What might you need to do to let go and let God be God in your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See: The Community of Solitude

If you feel led to buy me some coffee, please scroll down the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee mug.  Thank you so much.

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