Reflection on The Loving Fragrance of God

“Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (See John 12: 1-11 NRSV).

In Psalm 36:5 the Psalmist proclaims “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, and your faithfulness to the clouds.” I think Mary knew and experienced that love in a most profound way. Her action of washing the feet of Jesus, drying them and anointing them was her way of celebrating that love. Her service to Jesus was symbolic of what she knew intimately within the whole of herself.

Contemplative prayer is an action of love by God, inviting us to experience that love. It is a love that is so profound that all we can do is be in the presence of God, and surrender everything we are and have to that presence. It is a fragrance that touches our senses with experiences we cannot explain or describe. We can only know that presence and live into it.

Over this Lent God has been speaking to my heart through a song entitled “You Know Better Than I”. It is from the animated movie Joseph: King of Dreams. The lyrics to the refrain are, “You know better than I, You know the way. I’ve let go the need to know why. For you know better than I.”

I do not know what God is doing with my life with this chronic back pain. I only know that I have had to open myself to God through what is uncertain and “let go of the reason to know why.” If God can fill the fragrance of a room by a broken jar of ointment as Jesus prepares for His imminent death on Good Friday; then my back pain and my wheelchair are certainly not obstacles for God’s Grace to transform me and others around me. The real conversion has only just begun. After all, St. Benedict’s Spirituality can be best surmised in the words, “Always we begin again.”

Where in your life are you experiencing the fragrance of God’s love this Holy Week?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone you know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, please go to my website here.

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Reflection on Holy Week and the Desert

But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord. I have said, “You are my God. My times are in your hand; rescue me from my enemies, and from those who persecute me. Make your face to shine on your servant, and in your loving-kindness save me.” (Psalm 31:14-16. The Book of Common Prayer, p.623).

As we enter into this Holy Week, we are traveling in a different desert. This is no longer the desert of confronting our temptations and sins to just do penance. Holy Week is the desert of meeting with Jesus in the very worst of circumstances and to trust in God alone.

Our false-sense of self will not be comforted. Our comfort zones will be met with an uncomfortable transformation of our interior life that will meet the living God. We will die with Jesus on the Cross, and contemplate the love of God through a radical experience that can be grasped by faith only. Our hope comes from trusting in God.

“Our job is to accept life, this and every moment in life, even as life breaks our hearts in deep and difficult ways. We push away radical acceptance, deny it, get angry at, bargain with, feel depressed about, and grieve over–but acceptance opens us up to compassion.” (Cynthia Cannon, Ashes and the Phoenix: Meditations for the Season of Lent, compiled by Len Freeman, p 93).

The desert of Holy Week leads us to the mystical experiences of what once happened so long ago, is still present and working in our lives today. The redemption of Jesus embraces us with the compassion of God. Like the Psalmist, we too will rediscover that God’s loving-kindness will save us when we focus on our relationship with God as the only thing that matters for us to live into our essence.

“The first step of humility, then, is that we keep “the reverence of God before our eyes” (Ps. 36:2) and never forget it.” (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century by Sr? Joan Chittister, OSB, p. 78).

What is your experience of the desert of Holy Week going for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone you know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, visit my website here.

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Reflection on The Prodigal and the Desert

Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’” (See Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 NRSV).

The two sons in this timeless parable were each in their own desert experience. One experienced the desert of temporary wealth that he carelessly spent. The other had a different kind of everything that he held on to, and thought he deserved more than what his brother got. They both entered into a desert with their false-sense of self. Each of them found out for themselves just how lost they were.

Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB in her book Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light wrote,

If contemplation is coming to see the world as God sees the world, then see it clearly we must. If contemplation is means to become immersed in the mind of God, then we must come to think beyond our small agendas. If contemplation is taking on the heart of God in the heart of the world, then the contemplative, perhaps more than any other, weeps over the obliteration of the will of God in the heart of the universe” (p.65).

The Mysticism of the season of Lent is that wherever we are in our desert journey, God is with us and we are with God. The Father is this parable receives both of his sons with forgiveness, love and compassion. The celebration was for both of them; while receiving the one who returned with a banquet of rejoicing. God reveals in the heart of the contemplative; the wonder of a love so extravagant, that fills the heart of the one who seeks union with God, so that God is more than enough.

“And so to prepare ourselves for the journey before us let us renew our faith and set ourselves high standards by which we lead our lives. The gospel should be our guide in following the way of Christ to prepare ourselves for his presence in the kingdom to which he has called us.” (St. Benedict’s Rule in The Benedictine Handbook, p.11).

Which of the sons in the parable of the Prodigal Son so you identify most with?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone you know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, please visit my website here.

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. Pax.

Reflection on the Annunciation and the Desert

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.” (See Luke 1:26-38 NRSV).

I think that we tend to over romanticize the Annunciation. It is a beautiful story without question. The story might bring us the hope that God will do something amazing with us, as God did with Mary. If the narrative of the announcement to Mary does not make us uneasy about following her to a desert of uncertainty, then we may have missed the most mystical purpose of the day.

I am experiencing the most unusual of Lenten observances. In addition to living with autism, I am also living with chronic back pain because of a T-12 lumbar disk protrusion. I require the use of a wheelchair when I go to doctor appointments or anywhere a long walk is needed, because the pain in my back is just too intense to walk with just a cane. I am going to appointments for physical and aquatic therapy to help strengthen my back muscles. But, the process is slow. I am in a year and season where I am uncertain about pretty much everything. Nothing is as it used to be.

I am sure that Mary’s life as it was proceeding at the time was stopped dead in its tracks by the Angel Gabriel’s announcement. She would be traveling in a desert with things being very out of order for the rest of her life. Mary has a faith I certainly do not have. Upon hearing the Angel’s words, she trusts herself and her way forward to God’s will.

Contemplative prayer is anything but, about certainty. That which is mystical is not so neatly fitted together to make perfect logical sense. It is a journey into the desert with Jesus through which we will see ourselves and our lives exactly as they are. There are no illusions, but, our false-sense of self. In the desert everything is unfamiliar, yet, starkly visible and inescapable. Contemplative prayer works best when we let go; little by little; and search for union with God in the things that are what they are. Through faith and trust in God’s love, we will be led to where we go from here.

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

“And finally, never loose hope in God’s mercy ” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, Chapter 4 On the Tools for Good Works).

What is your desert time like this Lent?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone you know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, please visit my website here.

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 Ashes and Dust

“Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (From the Ash Wednesday Liturgy).

After a house or building has burned down, the ash that is left can feel so final. When one’s hopes and dreams for what the building might have given are all over the place with only ashes left; the grief just pours out. When Mt. St. Helen’s in the State of Washington erupted in 1980 a lot of the ashes were taken and molded into sculptures. What seemed like a devastating conclusion, became new opportunities for something beautiful to come from it.

As we begin Lent with this Ash Wednesday, we are reminded of our mortality. Nothing in or about our lives in this world is permanent. There is a beginning and ending of just about everything, including our mortal bodies. The ashes remind us of where we came from, and where our physical bodies will end up. Ash Wednesday brings with it a wonderful irony. Though our bodies are temporary, God’s love is eternal. In Jesus Christ, the Word, we are God’s Beloved. Jesus came to draw us closer in relationship with God through His life, death and resurrection.

In The Rule of St. Benedict, he tells his monastics to observe the Season of Lent “to keep [themselves] most pure and to wash away the negligences of other times” (RB 1980, p.71). I suggest that among those negligences is how much we allow them to fill the hunger within us, that is really a yearning for God. The contemplative is always in touch with that hunger, and seeks union with God to satisfy the longing. The hunger is not an end in and of itself, but a moment of grace to let the Holy Spirit speak to our malnourished hearts.

The ashes today are a reminder that our bodies and this earth are not a conclusion to a story. They are only one part of the story that still has a new chapter to be added. Contemplative prayer moves us to live into the whole story of who we are, and Who we are seeking. Ash Wednesday reminds us of who the Author really is; and what character we are in the whole of story.

What do the ashes on Ash Wednesday mean for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you are seeking Spiritual and Grief Companionship, please visit my website here.

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Reflection on The Wheat

Grain of Wheat

Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am , there will my servant be also.  (See John 12:20-33 NRSV).

A few weeks ago, I went to a doctor’s appointment.  There was a lot of snow and ice around.  I had to park on the side of the street.  When I got out of my car and walked with my cane, I was stopped by the sight of a lot of snow and ice pilled up between the street and the sidewalk.  This was a very challenging moment for me, because I am on the Autistic Spectrum.  I found myself stuck in place, because I was afraid of the next step I might take.  Just then, a gentleman came along and offered to help me.  The man held me in a loving embrace, and helped me over the snow mound to the dry sidewalk on the other side.   I embraced him and said a relieving thank you.  God had come to my aid through the generosity of this stranger.  It was a very humbling experience.  It was also a teaching moment for me.  If I had remained there by myself, I would have been stuck there.  If I had tried to walk without help, I could have slipped and gotten hurt.  It was when the man reached out for me, that I had to let go and let him help me.

“Abba John gave this advice, “Watching means to sit in the cell and always be mindful of God.  This is what is meant by, ‘I was on watch and God came to me.” (Matthew 25:36)  (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated and Explained by Christiane Valters Paintner, p.11).

In Desert spirituality the cell is a place in our interior self in which we encounter God with the best and worst of ourselves.   It can be as St. Romuald writes “Sit in your cell as in Paradise.”  It can also be an inferno.  When we see the worst of ourselves in our cells, the best thing is let God work through it with us.  If we try to escape, it will only catch up with us later.  If we pretend it isn’t there, it only becomes worse instead of better.  To find that paradise within our cells, we must let go and let God embrace us and carry us through to the other side.  Our gentle and loving Shepherd will help us get to safety.

If we want to find the true path with Jesus, we must like the grain of wheat fall and die to ourselves.  When we empty ourselves there is a “death” that occurs as we bear a lot of fruit in the mystery of God’s love for each of us.  We enter into a deep moment of Contemplative Prayer that takes us in the here and now and transforms us into true followers of Jesus.  When we let ourselves go and follow Jesus the Word, we must commit ourselves to going with Him to the Cross.  It is by Christ’s death and our own, that we have a hope of the Resurrection.

“This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord.” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English, The Prologue, p.15).

Are there single grains of wheat in your life that you need to let go of?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Mouth and Heart

Desert

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, Lord, my rock and redeemer” (Psalm 19:14.  The Common English Bible).

One day, while I was doing Lectio Divina on the words of Psalm 19:14 in The Common English Bible, I found myself disturbed by the words “and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, Lord my rock and redeemer.”  As I meditated on these words I found myself needing to reword the quote from this Psalm.   “May the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, my Lord, my rock, my redeemer; so that the words of my mouth may also be pleasing to you.”   If what I am meditating on in my heart is to be pleasing to God, then I must do what scares me the most.  I must relinquish control of what I think I know will be pleasing to God within my heart to begin with.  I must let God teach my heart what is pleasing to God.   How can I please God in the meditations of my heart, if I do not let God teach me what pleases God?

I recently began reading an incredible book entitled Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, Annotated & Explained.  The annotations and commentary are written by Dr. Christine Valters Paintner.   As I have been thinking of what I was going to write in this blog reflection today, I came across some words that she wrote that express so beautifully, what I am writing about.

“The desert journey isn’t about embarking on a long and arduous struggle to find God at the end of the road. Desert spirituality is about looking for God right in the midst of wrestling with ourselves.  God in the heart of the struggle, and so we are to stay there with the holy presence until the treasure is revealed” (From the Introduction, p. XXIX).

If we are to embark on a mystical journey with God, then we must begin by letting go of thinking that we must have the answers for everything that is going on with us; inside and out.  Searching for union with God in the deepest recesses of our whole self, is an excursion with the God who knows us better than we know ourselves.  When we are in our cells in solitude with God, there is no pretending that our human brokenness is not there.  We must face it, and let God walk through it with us; so that we can by God’s grace, let it go.  Only then, can the meditations of our heart be pleasing to God who is our rock and redeemer; and from our mouths will come what is pleasing to God and beneficial for the world around us.

“The blessed space of quiet discernment and contemplative understanding manifests itself when we are quiet enough to listen to the still, small voice guiding our path forward” (Teresa Pasquale Mateus, Ashes and the Phoenix; Meditations for the Season of Lent, edited by Len Freeman, p56).

“Go sit in your cell, and your cell will teach your everything.” (Abba Moses).

“Listen and incline the ear of your heart” (Prologue, The Rule of Saint Benedict).

When you meditate with God in your heart, what do you hear God saying to you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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