Advent Reflection: Keeping Watch in Prayerful Reverence

St.BenedictStainedGlass

Whenever we want to ask some favor of a powerful man, we do it humbly and respectfully, for fear of presumption.  Howe much more important, then, to lay our petitions before the Lord God of all things with the utmost humility and sincere devotion.  We must know that God regards our purity of heart and tears of compunction, not our many words.  Prayer should therefore be short and pure, unless perhaps it is prolonged under the inspiration of divine grace.  In community, however, prayer should always be brief; and when the superior gives the signal, all should rise together.  (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, Chapter 20: Reverence in Prayer., p.48).

St. Benedict lived in a time in which nobility was well known for its many privileges. Benedict himself was born of a noble family.  His yearning for more is why he left it all to seek union with God.  Benedict knew all about humility and respect and what being careful not to presume anything meant.  This being the case, he also knew how easy it was to use God as an excuse for focusing exclusively on ourselves.  We can be with God in the quietness of our hearts while looking for only what we think would be best for ourselves.  In so doing, we miss the whole meaning of praying with a pure heart.

Benedict encourages us to lay our petitions before God “with the utmost humility and sincere devotion.”   The word humility is best explained as what it means to be “human.”  In short, God is God and we are not.  In humility we recognize our limitations and God’s capacity to give us more than we could ever hope for.  Our focus needs to be on the Gift-Giver and not the gift.  To pray in humility with sincere devotion is to prefer God’s will over our own.  We do this by emptying ourselves with faith and trust in God’s gracious providence for our lives.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.  Our Season of watching and waiting in the calendar of the Church Year is ending.  In our prayer and contemplation, we are always watching and waiting to experience God anew in our hearts and lives.  The mystery of the Incarnation is our sure and certain hope that God is already here among us; and is waiting to be reborn anew in us.  In our prayer and contemplation, God is always revealing Jesus to us in The Holy Spirit and being reborn in our response to God in all aspects of our lives.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Advent Reflection: Keeping Watch in Serenity, Courage and Wisdom

Serenity

O God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.  (Reinhold Niebuhr).

This famous little prayer is so beautiful because it is equally truthful.  We go through life’s daily activities trying to grab hold of this straw and the next to control what flows through them.  We want more.  We want what is better than what we already have.  We are not satisfied with having won a particular argument with that certain someone, because, we didn’t get them to see our point of view.  We live in a fantasy world with ourselves and others.

The inescapable reality is, that we really do not have total control over any one thing or any one person.  Ultimately, we are not in control of any particular situation to have the desired outcome.  We can apply for the job. We may get it, we may not.  We can take the medicine, but we cannot make it work.  We can plead with a friend of ours to address their addiction, but we cannot make them do the right thing.

There is one thing we do have in just about any situation.  We have choices to make. Each day and moment, God gives us the opportunity to make choices.  In this prayer that has been used by Al-Anon members for decades, we acknowledge our helplessness to make many of those choices.  So, we ask God to help us to accept what we cannot change with a total peace and surrender of ourselves, or to dedicate ourselves in courage to change what we can, and most importantly that wisdom that will know the difference.

Advent is about letting go, finding courage and looking for the Wisdom that is the Incarnate Word of God.  Jesus wants to come to us.  He can come and knock at the doors of our hearts, but, He cannot make the choice for us as to whether or not we let Jesus in.

May we have the serenity, courage and wisdom to let Jesus in and show us the way to love God, our neighbor and ourselves.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Advent Reflection: Keeping Watch, Prepare the Way

AdventPrepare

“Prepare ye the way of the Lord,,” (Isaiah 40:3 KJV).

A heart that is preparing the way for God, is one that waits in the stillness of silence and relies on faith, not sight or senses.  Don’t get me wrong, our senses are there because God put them there. They are an important part of how God put us together.  On the other hand, have you ever noticed how much we can learn from someone who cannot see with their eyes, speak with their mouth or hear with their ears?

We prepare the way for God in our lives by being open to God’s presence and leaving ourselves open.  It is when we close ourselves off that God cannot come in and make a home in us.  Yet, there is one thing about the Holy Spirit.  If the Spirit wants to get our attention, He will keep knocking and wait for us to open the door.

The image of the desert is one that we need to meditate on.  In the desert all that we have ever clung to is gone.  In the desert we encounter everything, and nothing is hidden.  We see things as they are, not as we would want them to be.  Our one task in the desert is to trust in faith that even without, God will give us what we need.

Prepare the way of the Lord, make a place for God and God will certainly be there.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Seek! Knock! Find!

Knocking

“So I say to you, ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened” (New King James Bible.  Matthew 11:9).

It is much too easy to interpret these words of Jesus recorded in Matthew as referring to God, the mighty vending machine. At the same time, we all know what it is to put some coins into a vending machine and not get what we wanted.  We may walk away from the vending machine angry that it took our money and did not give us what we asked; but, I don’t know of anyone who holds a grudge against a vending machine.  I have met my share of people who hold a grudge towards God because they did not receive what they asked in prayer.  In some cases, their feelings were legitimate.  I knew of one woman who just could no longer believe in God because in her mind, God took her husband.

The purpose of prayer is not to get what we want.  Prayer deepens our relationship with God and one another.  The best answer to prayer we can receive is the grace of God through faith.  The grace of God that holds us up when life is too complicated.  The grace of God to accept whatever answer we get; even if it is something we cannot understand.  We do not have to understand anything.  In fact, in most situations we cannot understand it.  All we can do is embrace it as our cross that helps us to follow the Lord’s will as we ask, seek and knock so that we may be guided towards God’s will more and more.  God’s answer to us in prayer, may be to rely more on God as our only source, and let “things” go.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB