Reflection on Psalm 23

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The Lord is my shepherd.  I lack nothing.  He lets me rest in grassy meadows; he leads me to restful waters; he keeps me alive.  He guides me in proper paths for the sake of his good name.  Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger because you are with me.  Your rod and your staff–they protect me.  You set a table for me right in front of my enemies.  You bathe my head in oil; my cup is so full it spill over!  Yes, goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the Lord’s house as long as I live.  (Psalm 23 Common English Bible).

Psalm 23 is probably the single most well known and loved of all the Psalms.  And for good reason.  This is a Psalm of comfort and consolation at funerals time and time again.  It is used often enough that most of us can say it by memory from the original King James Version.

I invite you to join me for a contemplative look at this Psalm. The words on the surface may appear to take us from a moment of chaos to those peaceful meadows and calm waters.  If we think on these words from our minds alone and with our false-sense of self, we will miss the opportunity to meditate on them in our hearts.  Jesus the shepherd comes when we feel that we are lost, weary, restless, in darkness and feasting before our conflicts and makes them into opportunities for God to do wondrous things in us.  In the words of this Psalm, God offers us the truth of what the Resurrection is for the contemplative.  Our lives in their current state are not an end in and of themselves.  The Contemplative searches for union with the Risen Christ where the world sees hopelessness and despair.  The contemplative seeks the mystery of God’s unfolding grace as God takes all that is difficult, painful and confusing and uses them to draw us closer to God’s boundless love and tender mercy.

Yesterday, was the commemoration of St. Anselm who’s name I am so honored to have as my Religious Name.  I read the following words in The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume II on page 1775 written from the Proslogion by St. Anselm, and I believe they speak very eloquently of what Psalm 23 may say to us from a contemplative perspective.

“O God, let me know you and love you so that I may find my joy in you; and if I cannot do so fully in this life, let me at least make some progress every day, until at last that knowledge, love and joy come to me in all their plenitude.  While I am here on earth let me learn to know you better, so that in heaven I may know you fully; let my love for you grow deeper here, so that there I may love you fully.  On earth then I shall have great joy in hope, and in heaven complete joy in fulfillment of my hope.”

“When we have used [the tools of good works] without ceasing day and night and have returned them on judgment day, our wages will be the reward the Lord has promised; What the eye has not seen nor the ear heard, God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor 2:9).” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.29).

“The path you must follow is the Psalms” (From the Short Rule of St. Romuald).

What is your experience of Christ as your good shepherd?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Learning

Pathways

“The Lord is good and does the right thing…” (Psalm 25:8a. Common English Bible).

In a world full of events and stories among the many challenges for Christians is to avoid seeking definitive conclusions.  We have been taught that all stories must have an ending.  What is more, we want to be able to decide or control how that ending will happen.

These words from Psalm 25 are our prayer to ask God to continue teaching us what God’s paths are.  We need to let go of insisting that we have learned everything.  There is a letting go of us feeling that we must always have control over what God has to teach us based on what we have always known or understood.

Contemplative prayer that leads us into the Mystical experience of God never looks for a conclusion beyond God’s Self.  Seeking union with God requires us to let go little by little so that by the purification of hearts we can let God be enough.  The contemplative is open to letting God help us to gut what foundations we have laid by our own standards.  The contemplative turns ourselves over to let God help us to build from the new foundation of God’s transforming grace.   In Christian Contemplation and Mysticism we are always in the process of learning God’s goodness and the “right things” God does.  In humility, we are ready to learn from God and never settle with what we have learned.

“Abba Moses asked Abba Silvanus, ‘Can a man lay a new foundation everyday?’  The old man said, ‘If he works hard he can lay a new foundation at every moment..'”  (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated & Explained by Christine Valters Paintner, PhD. p.57).

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

“And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words [of the Psalms] once more” (From the Short Rule of St. Romuald).

Are you willing to keep learning God’s ways?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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