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

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 very much.

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.

Reflection on The Clean Heart

Create in me a clean heart, O God,,,, (Psalm 51:10 NASB).

As many of my readers know, I live with autism. My autism challenges every aspect of my life. Social interactions. Self regulation. Communicating with others verbally and non-verbally. My autism includes a physical disability called dyspraxia. Dyspraxia is a mental to physical motor response condition. It means that there is a time delay from the moment my brain tells my body when to stand up to when I actually stand up. I have what is called executive dysfunction that makes doing daily tasks such as home cleaning and organization difficult unless I have assistance from a homemaker or personal support service.

Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent is a time to reflect on what is going on in our hearts. Remember that when we speak of the heart in Contemplative spirituality, we are talking about the whole of ourselves. Who we really are within ourselves and where God is in that relationship is an important part of what the contemplative does during Lent.

In St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, he tells us to “keep [our] hearts most pure and at the same time wash away during these days the negligences of other times” (p.71).

When it comes to the spiritual life, all of us have an executive dysfunction as to what keeping our hearts clean means. Most of the time, we become negligent in asking for help to do the cleaning. Lent for the contemplative, is about allowing God to become our homemaker. God will create and recreate a clean heart within us, if we will let go of our false-sense of self so that God can do the cleaning.

It is during these days of Lent that God will create a clean heart within us in this moment. God is always here to help us clean.

What does God creating a clean heart mean for you this Lent?

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 for Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

Reflection on Listening to the Beloved

While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” (See Matthew 17:1-9 NRSV).

When you think of what it means to listen to Jesus, what thoughts go through your mind? Do you think of sitting under a tree on a warm sunny day and just listening to nature’s many sounds? Do you find yourself in a chapel with candles lit and the lights dimmed? Do you find yourself at the bedside of someone very important to you who is sick and suffering and wondering what to do?

We look for those “perfect moments” that fit our idea of what listening to Jesus in contemplative prayer is. We always have a notion that if we can only be on a mountaintop like the three disciples are with Jesus in the Transfiguration that we will hear God clearly.

St. Benedict taught that listening to God requires something from us wherever and in whatever moment we are in. “Listen” says St. Benedict in the Prologue to The Rule. “Listen to the master’s instructions and incline the ear of the heart. This is advice from a Father who loves you.” Benedict is telling us what that voice from Heaven told us when Jesus was transfigured on that mountain. “This is my son, the Beloved; with whom I am well-pleased; listen to him.

God has claimed us in Jesus as God’s beloved. God is well-pleased with us, because of God’s extravagant love. God and St. Benedict are telling us to listen to Jesus the Beloved who has granted us a share in His life, death and resurrection; and with us God is well-pleased. Whether we are having a delightful mountaintop moment or find ourselves in the deepest grief and despair; God is interacting with us and speaking to our hearts. Even when we find it most difficult to inline the ear of our hearts, God is speaking and moving within us, among us and around us.

Are you listening for God in 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 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.

Reflection on the Word at Home

“The Word became flesh and made His home among us. We have seen His glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, The Common English Bible).

I am using The Common English Bible for this reflection, because I am drawn to the words “and made His home among us.” These words disturb me. I am so comfortable hearing the words of John 1:1-18 as the cozy doctrine of the Incarnation. As long as I kept them in my mind to the hearing of this Gospel every Christmas, they never make the journey from the head to the heart.

When I spend time with these words in Lectio Divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture) the Holy Spirit tells my heart that Jesus is coming to make His home within me at this moment. I am in a bit of a panic attack, because I am so attached to enjoying my interior home where my ego has its own room. My false-sense of self has given my ego a run of the home in me. Jesus, the Word wants to make a home in me? If that happens, I will know just how much God knows me in my total vulnerability. I will experience the reality of the words of Psalm 139:1.

“Lord, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar.”

I/we must remember that contemplative prayer is at its climax when we let go of everything, including our high expectations and open ourselves to experience Emmanuel “God with us.” God comes so that we can see ourselves from God’s perspective. Jesus comes to make His home in us, because God loves us so completely because of who we are, as we are and desires to make our hearts a most beautiful holy abode for God-Self. God wants to plant the seed of God’s Holy Spirit in our hearts so that a wondrous garden with every beautiful kind fruit can grow. Those many weeds within us that need to die and be pulled, will help us to be transformed into that “new creation” (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-18) rising up with Jesus in the Resurrection.

“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 On the Reception of Guests, p.73).

How are the words “The Word became flesh and made His home among us” speaking to your heart?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

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 St. Stephen

While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.” (See Acts 6:8-7:2, 51c-60 NRSV).

“Good King Wenceslas looked out

On the feast of Stephen

When the snow lay round about

Deep and crisp and even

Brightly shone the moon that night

Though the frost was cruel

When a poor man came in sight

Gath’ring winter fuel.”

Yesterday was the First Day of Christmas. On Christmas Eve, we sang hymns of the peace that the Christ Child would bring. There was the hope of “peace and goodwill toward all people.” On the Second Day of Christmas, we remember St. Stephen being stoned. Is today’s commemoration of St. Stephen a contradiction to the Nativity of Jesus, or is it a wake up call for the soul?

I continually repeat the opening words of The Rule of St. Benedict because it contains the most important words that Christians would do well to internalize. “Listen, my loved one, and incline the ear of the heart.” The arrival of Jesus Christ, the Word, holds us spell bound by its beauty and simplicity. The simplicity is that in Jesus, God makes God’s Self vulnerable. God came in Christ to become vulnerable as one of us, and with us. Vulnerability brings a risk without knowing what the end result will be.

Listening to God within the wholeness of ourselves makes us vulnerable to letting go of our false-sense of self; to find our true self in the fullness of Christ’s revelation. Christ is revealed as the Light in the midst of our darkness. The darkness may be a grudge we are holding. It might our reluctance to accept what is and letting go of what we wish things were. That darkness may be a pain we will not allow ourselves to experience with God’s compassion embracing us so that we can heal through it.

Contemplative prayer and mysticism in this Feast of St. Stephen is to know that God is always present and interacting with us and in us in any situation we find ourselves in.

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39. NRSV).

Will you spend time in silence and solitude to let the Christ Child inside your vulnerable heart today?

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.

Reflection on Treasuring and Pondering

Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (See Luke 2:1-20 NRSV).

Our experience of Jesus coming as the Word Incarnate has been made known to us throughout the through the Gospels and the written works history of Christianity. Many authors have drenched their readers with helpful theological insight indeed.

Our modern celebrations of the Nativity of Christ are shaped by the traditions of our family, culture and the nearly endless round of Christmas muzac in the stores, restaurants and the radios that started November 1st. Our churches have amazing music, candlelight services with elaborate sermons and decorations. All of these things are wonderful. Yet, they fail to capture the Christmas event in a way that penetrates us to the point of cherishing the great mystery so that it reshapes us from the inside out.

Mary shows us how the arrival of Jesus and the things that take place around her changes her life. She “treasured these things and pondered them in her heart.” In so doing, Mary made her heart a fitting residence for Jesus within her. This is the best example of contemplation and mysticism that we can have on this Christmas Eve/Day.

Mary’s moment of contemplation captures the meaning of the words that begin The Rule of St. Benedict. “Listen, and incline the ear of the heart.” If the arrival of Jesus at His Nativity is to have an impact on our relationship with God; we should start with treasuring Christ and pondering Him within the whole of ourselves. In Jesus, God has become one with us, and wants us to search for union with the purity of heart for the sake of who God is and nothing more. Jesus came to give us a direction through God’s extravagant love. We must let it sink in to treasure Jesus and ponder Him in our hearts.

Will you find a time and a place to treasure and ponder who Jesus is for you?

Amen.

May all of you have a holy and blessed Christmas Season.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Reflection on Teaching the Heart

“Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; knit my heart to you that I may fear your name.” (The Book of Common Prayer, Psalm 87:11, p.710).

A knitter begins with an idea, then looks for a pattern before beginning a project. The one who knows how to attach yarn to a needle and sit for hours and days at a time, will be attentive and patient. They know that they will not complete the whole project within a day. Each day they pick up where they left off the day before. Maybe they missed a line completely and have to undo a few rows to start again. The joy that comes with the finished product only lasts a little while, then a new project begins.

The spiritual life and contemplative prayer are essentially the same idea as knitting. It is something that God begins in us. Each day and every opportunity gives us a chance to pick it up and keep going; knowing that God is the knitter and our hearts are being knitted to God’s ways. We learn God’s ways by letting go of being in control of the pattern and trusting in the Holy Spirit to guide the process. If something in our lives takes the work of God out of shape, God is always ready to help us begin again.

God’s truth is different from ours. God’s truth desires to have a deep intimate union with our essence; our eternal truth. When in our essence we search for union with the God who knows us better than we know ourselves; God will help get us going on God’s pattern of life. We just need to surrender the project of our heart to the master knitter’s hands.

How is God working to knit your heart to God?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See Br. Anselm’s website for Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

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 very much.

Reflection on God’s Wondrous Love

“Blessed be the Lord! for he has shown me the wonders of his love in a besieged city.” (Psalm 31:21. The Book of Common Prayer).

Sometimes when our lives seem to have fallen apart, we might compare the experience to being a city that was under siege and left in ruins. Everything that was is no longer. The destruction and debris is everywhere. Nothing that was standing is without need to be rebuilt or repaired.

In Chapter 7 of The Rule of St. Benedict, he challenges us in the sixth and seventh degrees of humility. He writes about acceptance of even the harshest treatment and learning to say with Psalm 22:6 “I am a worm and no man, scorned by all and despised by the people.”

In his book The Rule of Saint Benedict: Initiation into the Monastic Tradition, Thomas Merton stresses that St. Benedict is that to live with a low self-esteem is the opposite of humility because by it, we draw too much attention to ourselves. He goes on to say that Benedict is telling us to let go of our false-sense of self. To learn to trust in God when our lives are shaken to pieces, as opposed to trusting in the little things of life to feel whole.

A contemplative learns over the course of a lifetime that seeking union with God for no other reason than God alone is to have all that we need. Yes, it takes all of our lives through moments of quiet time and living with God in the various moments in life to let go and let God be our everything. In the moments when things that were fall apart, that is where God’s wondrous love becomes best known in the whole of ourselves. When we experience the wonder of God’s love through contemplation and mysticism, the besieged city of our lives is a new beginning, and never a conclusion.

How are you experiencing God’s wondrous love in the besieged cities of your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB