Reflection on Our Eyes

Eye

“Turn our eyes from watching what is worthless; give me life in your ways.” (Psalm 119:37, The Book of Common Prayer, p.766).

A very wise spiritual director once told me that the reason our lives do not make more significant progress is because of how much attention is paid to nonsense.

Think of what a different world we could live in if the tabloids went bankrupt because no one stopped to read and buy their nonsense in checkout lines.

The world we live in with its lure of wealth, power, fame and the widespread heap of nonsense keeps our eyes on what is worthless.  Our false sense of self keeps us focused on what is worthless.

The Psalmist recognizes that by ourselves, we are powerless to change the direction of our interior vision.  When we try to do everything, thinking that we can do it all; we are keeping our eyes on what is worthless.  Nonsense just consumes us.

In contemplative and centering prayer, God draws us into the depth of God’s Self.  In God’s extravagant love and mercy, we are whole and complete.  In God’s way is that life that leads us into a deeper relationship with our true self; our eternal truth that is God’s goodness and graciousness poured into our hearts “through the one who has loved us” (See Romans 8:37).  In God’s way of life, we are drawn into the mysticism of God’s perspective of us in the holiness of Jesus who is God’s face revealed in the Word.  When we trust in God to turn our eyes away from what is worthless, God teaches us God’s way of life that fills us with a sense of purpose with the hope seeking union with God in purity of heart.

“What, dear brothers, is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us?  See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life.  Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the Gospel as our guide, that we may deserve to see him who has called us to his kingdom (1 Thess. 2:12).” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, p.161).

Where are your eyes focused?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

Reflection on Contemplating Forgiveness

Lord's Prayer

Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. (Taken from Matthew 18:21-35, NRSV).

I have to begin with saying that I often dislike sermons based on this Gospel parable.  Jesus does sound a little like he is being mean.  What makes me feel that way?  Answer.  My false sense of self.

Admittedly, I have my father’s stubborn streak within me.  I struggle a lot to admit that I have made a mistake, offended someone or had a hard time forgiving someone else who may have hurt me.  What makes me feel this way?  Answer.  My false sense of self.

My false sense of self lies to me.  It tells me that unless I am correct about everything; I am not loved.  It tells me that unless I settle the score; I am useless.  It tells me that unless I get everything my way; I am without hope.

To contemplate God’s forgiveness means that I have to let go of it all.  If i am going to experience the mystical presence of God, I have to give it all up and trust in God, and not get everything right on my own terms.  Yet, I am still faced with a false sense of self here.  Who am I to believe  that if I don’t do all the letting go and giving up, that God’s enlightening presence cannot do wonderful things in and through me?  What if I am still hanging on to having to be right about letting go and giving up, is me holding on to a false sense of self?  The answer.  I need God to help me let go and to give it up.  Jesus said in John 15:5b “apart from me, you can do nothing.”

Here those words from the Prologue of Saint Benedict’s Rule apply. “Listen!  Incline the ear of your heart.”  Contemplation of God’s work of grace in forgiveness begins when we listen to God within ourselves even with everything in us that needs redemption.  God reveals God’s Self to us in what is messy and imperfect.  The Nativity and the Cross are our claim to God’s work in our stinky and brutal messes.  They reveal that God is closest to us, giving us God’s light and love even when we have emotions about memories that we cannot overcome.  When we have pieces that do not fit together, God is still seeing us from God’s perspective as God’s Beloved with whom God is well-pleased.

I have to wonder if our biggest barrier to forgiving others, is because we need God’s help to forgive ourselves.  Even seventy-seven times.

What is your contemplative experience with God in those places where it is difficult to forgive?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

 

 

Reflection on Consuming the Word

OpenBible

 

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16, NRSV).

There is an old saying,  “You are what you eat.”  In that case, many of us are pork, beef, chicken, vegetables and more.  As human beings we are always searching for something new to eat.  I look up new recipes all the time.  It is also true that when we eat something we like, we savor it.  We can’t seem to get enough of it.

Psalm 34:8 reads “Taste and see that the Lord is good…”

Our biggest obstacle to searching for God is our false-sense of self.  The notion that everything must bring us some kind of pleasure.  Nothing should challenge us to re-evaluate ourselves and what our hungry souls are really longing for.

The writer of Jeremiah is acknowledging that finding God’s words is such an immense delight, that he knows that God is calling him to something greater.  God satisfies more than just our hungry heart.  God’s words fill us with more than warm fuzzy feelings.  God gives us a revelation of God and ourselves that defies human logic and emotional sensations.  God fills us with a love when God’s truth in the Holy Spirit meets our wounded souls, and our search for union with God finds a place within our own spiritual truth.

In God’s words we can contemplate the wonder of God’s amazing love and faithfulness as we turn ourselves over in obedience to the One who has given all to redeem us.  The words will shake us up and call us to a conversion of life.  They will lead us to know with the Prophet that we too are called by our God who longs for us to find our true selves in Christ who calls us each by name.  Can anything be more wondrously mystical than that?

“What page of the inspired books of the Old and New Testaments is not the truest guides for human life?” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, chapter 72:3, p.296-297).

Have you found and eaten God’s words in your life?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

Reflection on Seeds & Listening

Wheat Seeds

 

Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!’  (Matthew 13:8 and 9 NRSV).

No wonder St. Benedict began the Prologue of The Rule with, “Listen.  Incline the ear of the your heart.”  It is only with an openness of our entire selves listening for the Holy Spirit to plant the seeds of God’s love into the good soil within us.  If our interior soil is to bear good fruit, we must first yield our entire selves to all of God’s Goodness.

Contemplative prayer is about letting our soil be tilled by God’s sanctifying Grace as God reveals God’s Self to us in solitude, relationships and within the depth of our heart.  Once the Word is planted deep within us, and we trust in God to provide the water, the sunlight and the sun; the God who knows us better than we know ourselves will give us the mystic experience of new life.  We do not have to decide what is going to happen as we grow all by ourselves.  However, we must let go of our false-sense of self so that the center where our eternal truth will search for and find union with God’s Spirit of Truth; so that our true sense of self can grow from the good soil that God cares for.

Are you listening for God to bring good fruit from within you?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

Reflection on Rivers of Living Water

MountainImage

 

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39 NRSV).

“Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”

As we meditate on these words look with me for a while at the image I chose for this reflection.  Look with me at how the sky has a few clouds with the mountains so clearly in view.  The greenery and the river full of life; giving life to the entire scene as it flows so peacefully and naturally.  Life flows in and out of what we are seeing in this photo.  Not everything is the same, but, they live with and give life to each other.

At the very end of Chapter 72 in The Rule of St. Benedict, he wrote,

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may Christ bring us all to everlasting life.”

As we conclude the Easter Season on this Day of Pentecost, the Contemplative is confronted with the question of how do we respond to the Risen and Ascended Christ in a way that is life-giving?  God sent us the answer.  The Holy Spirit.  We are not alone.  The Holy Spirit gives those waters within us the life that flows with the experience of God’s Holy Essence.  The Contemplative is drawn into the heart of the living water who is Christ, because God’s Holy Essence whats us “to prefer nothing whatever to Christ.”  The Christ who is present and speaking to our hearts in all aspects of our lives.  Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB wrote in The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, “We must learn to listen to what God is saying in our simple, sometimes insane, and always uncertain lives” (p.300).

Pentecost is our opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to enter into our hearts and lives to renew us.  The Spirit comes to break the dams that we have build up within us because of fear and our false-sense of self.   The Holy Essence of God flows through our souls to bring healing and reconciliation within us, so that we may be God’s witnesses and “renew the face of the earth” (Psalm 104:31).

Are you open to the Holy Spirit and the living waters that are flowing in and out of your life?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

 

 

 

Reflection on The Ascension

Ascension

 

So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’(Acts 1:6-11 NRSV).

There are two sentences n this reading from Acts that is catching me. The first is “When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up,,,,”

What I meditate on in those words is Jesus showing us what Contemplative prayer is.  Contemplative prayer and the mystical experience of God happen as our hearts and souls are “lifted up” beyond our limits in the wonder and holiness of God.  We can sit in silence before a cross, an icon or just in a beautiful grassy field with a stream flowing.  The Holy One can lift us up to the vision of Christ as He speaks to our hearts to give us a view of ourselves from God’s perspective.  Where there are no labels, no situation, place or thing to hold us down or blur what we see.  Only the Light of Jesus gazing His eyes at us, while we see His face.  No words are adequate to explain or describe the experience.  We just know that God is present to us in a marvelous and mysterious way.

The second set of words that speak to me are “why do you stand looking up towards heaven?”  As contemplatives, we seek union with God in the here and now.  We can stare into heaven all we want.  We may catch a mysterious glimpse of God, however, the longer we stay there, the more likely we will miss God’s presence in our spouses, children, and our local communities.  The same Ascended Jesus who is in heaven is closest to God with our humanity with all our wounds interceding on our behalf.  Yet, God is so madly in love with us, wounds including, that “nothing can separate us from the love of God, in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39).

“Without doubt, this descent and ascent can signify only hat we descend by exaltation and ascend by humility” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, Chapter 7;7, p.193).

How does meditating on the Ascension of Jesus impact your life today?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

Reflection on If You Love Me

St.BenedictwRule

 

 ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”  (John 14:15-17 NRSV).

Dean Paul J. Lebens-Englund at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis, asked the gathered congregation two very important questions one Sunday.   Do you remember the very first time you fell in love?  What was that one moment like for you?

I invite you to spend some time in contemplative silence on those words, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will send you another Advocate, to be with you forever.”   As we bring Dean Paul’s question about the first time you fell in love, how might the words from this Gospel of John apply to what you are remembering?

I would like to suggest that to love Jesus, keep His commandments and be ready to receive the Holy Spirit, God’s very Essence; requires us to be open to learning to love Jesus in ways today that are even greater than that first time we fell in love.

The contemplative knows and lives into  the first step of humility St. Benedict wrote about in The Rule. Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB in her book, Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light wrote,

“The first step of humility is to ‘keep the reverence of God always before our eyes’ and never forget it,” the Rule of Benedict says.  See everything in life as sacred.  The neighborhood calls something out in us.  This tree stirs feeling in us.  This work touches hope in us.  Every thing in life, in fact, is speaking to us of something.  It is only when we learn to ask what the world around us is saying to us at this moment, in this particular situation, that we tend to the seedbed of our soul.”  She goes on to say in another paragraph, “What is God demanding of my heart as a result of each event, each situation, each person in my life?”

Loving Jesus and keeping His commandments, so we can be open to the Spirit of God is about how we live in awareness of, and respond to the loving Presence of Jesus in this moment, this place and this opportunity.

Are you open to falling in love again and again with Jesus, by living His commandments, to receive the Advocate Who wants to live in us?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org