Reflection on Transfiguration

Transfiguration

“Master, it is good for us to be here…” (Luke 9:33 NRSV).

The Transfiguration is probably among the best examples of Contemplative Prayer and Mysticism we can get.  What greater mystic experience could we desire to contemplate than Jesus illuminated in all God’s glory?  To be completely detached from everything on earth and let everything else go.  To find ourselves there with Peter, James and John to experience the voice that declares that Jesus is the Beloved; would be something that we might be able to put contemplative prayer into descriptive words.

Like Contemplative Prayer and Mysticism; the Transfiguration is beyond explanation. They are beyond our human comprehension.  It may bring us into a vision of God that no one can begin to describe.  However, the mystery of God’s glorious Presence that we are to contemplate doesn’t leave us with an experience of emotional ecstasy that never goes away.  God cannot be limited to one moment in time.  God is present everywhere, reaching out to us and inviting us into a deeper relationship with God’s Holy Spirit.  When we let go and by faith trust in God alone; everything that we thought made us who we are and what we do; becomes the Presence of God working in and through us.

“It is indeed good to be here, as you have said, Peter.  It is good to be with Jesus and to remain here for ever.  What greater happiness or higher honor could we have than to be with God, to be made like  him and to live in his light?” (By Anastasius of Sinai, The Liturgy of the Hours: Volume IV, p.1286).

“Let them prefer nothing to Christ” (Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 72).

Can you say with all your heart that it is good for you to be with God in the here and now?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on St. Benedict

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“There was a man, Benedict, who was revered for the holiness of his life, blessed by God both in grace and name.  While yet a boy, he showed mature understanding and possessed a strength of character far beyond his years, keeping his heart detached from sinful worldly pleasures.  While still in the world, he was in a position to enjoy all that the world had to offer; but, seeing how empty it was, he turned from it without regret” (Dialogs of St. Gregory the Great).

The year was 1993.  I was in my senior year of college.  I was facing a massive change in my life after graduation.  Where would I go?  What would I do?  What would happen to all the friendships I made?  As intriguing as these questions were, I knew that there was something in my heart that was yearning for a sense of direction.  I didn’t want to graduate from college without something to begin anchoring my spiritual life to.

That Fall, I visited Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham, Massachusetts.  I was introduced to Saint Benedict and his Rule.  When I first read The Rule, the first thought I had was “Is this guy crazy or what?”   Once I started to read The Rule, and experience the hospitality of the monks there, I knew something changed in my life.  I would never be the same.

Twenty three years since, my life has experienced many twists and turns.  Many successes and failures.  Yet, any time I felt like my life was going on a wrong path, The Rule of Saint Benedict time and again has redirected me to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thomas Merton in his book The Rule of Saint Benedict: Initiation into the Monastic Tradition wrote;

“The Purpose of the Rule is to furnish a framework to build the structure of a simple and pure spiritual life, pleasing to God by its perfection of faith, humility, and love.  The Rule is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. and it is always to be seen in relation to its end.  This end is union with God in love, and in every line of the Rule indicates that its various prescriptions are given us to show us how to get rid of self love and replace it by the love of God: (p.6).

Saint Benedict, his life and Rule, shows us how to live the contemplative life by being open to God’s Providence and listen to God “with the ears of the heart” (Prologue of The Rule).  If a mystical experience is to happen, it begins with letting go of all that holds us back.  It is a letting go of the many things we attach ourselves to, and see the power of God illuminating us with grace and “the inexpressible delight of love” (Prologue of The Rule).

Whoever your favorite Saint is, who’s spirituality you are drawn to and whatever draws you closer to God; it begins with letting go.  As Saint Benedict wrote in The Rule, Chapter 72, “Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.”

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on Humility and Anxiety

St.BenedictStainedGlass

 

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7 NRSV).

I am drawn to these words today because I am a Benedictine who loves Chapter 7 in The Rule of Saint Benedict; and because I live with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

Before I continue on, I want to give a very strong word of advice to Priests, Ministers, Preachers, Spiritual Directors, etc.  Never tell a person with any kind of anxiety disorder to just hand it over, do not be anxious and all will be fine.  It never works that way.  In fact, the more things like that are said, the more anxious a person with an anxiety disorder gets; because she/he just can’t measure up to the high expectations.  There is a false sense of guilt for things the individual is not responsible for.  People with anxiety disorders upon hearing “do not be anxious” will shy away from the advice and the advisor.

I am drawn to these words from 1 Peter because I do have an anxiety disorder.  Just giving over anxiety in prayer helps relieve it, but it is never completely gone.   When I read the words, ” Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.,” I hear the Spirit drawing me in with everything that I am and experiencing, accepting me with God’s extravagant love; with a home in Christ that is safe, and offers me consolation.

We are now in the time in our Liturgical Year between the Ascension and Pentecost.  The Apostles who lost Jesus once in His Crucifixion, were so happy after He was raised from the dead; now find themselves with Jesus gone again.  Can we just imagine for a moment the anxiety they must have experienced?  They were in a no win situation, until after Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon them.

The contemplative is drawn through these words to relinquish everything that is shaking us up, and trust in God with humility.  It is time to stop trying to handle it all ourselves.  It is time for us to stop thinking that all this stuff defines who we are.  It is time to sit in silence, with all the noise within and let the Holy Spirit bring a peace into our hearts, because we are in the Presence of the God who cares about what shakes us to pieces, and is somewhere in the middle of it all.  In humility we are not being asked to measure up.  On the contrary, the Holy One is lovingly and tenderly moving us to let it go.  God is telling us “It is okay.  You are not alone. Let us work through this together.”

“Let a [person] consider that God is always looking at him from heaven” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, p.22).

How are you managing the anxieties of your life as you sit in the presence of God?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Good Friday Reflection

Crucifixus

Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38 NRSV).

Before I begin, I am not going to try to answer Pilate’s last question, “What is truth?”   My reason is that each person who contemplates the words of the Scripture verses I have chosen on this Good Friday will answer it differently.  It is very important that everyone’s experience of Pilate’s question is respected whether we agree or disagree.

What might a contemplative do with these words from John’s account of Jesus’ passion?

“The contemplative simply stands in place and in the standing answers the question “Who am I” with the answer “I am the one who waits for the God within.”  In other words, the one who pursues the center of life. I am the one who is in search of the Light that is distant from my darkened soul and alien to my restless mind and extraneous to may scattered heart.  I am the one who realizes that the distance between God and me is me.

To lead a contemplative life requires that we watch what we’re seeking–and why we are seeking it.  Even good can become noise in the heart when we do it, not because it’s right, but because it will in turn do something for us: Bring us status. Make us feel good.  Give us security. Require little of our own lives.

God is more consuming, more fulfilling than all those things.  The grail we seek is God alone.  But talking about God is not the same as searching for God, all the simple saints, all the fallen hierarchs to the point.  To be a contemplative we must seek God in the right places: within the sanctuary of the centered self” (Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light, Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB).

When Jesus gave Himself over to suffering and death on the Cross, He taught us among many things, to ask ourselves the question “Who am I?”   I believe that when Jesus said “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice, ” He was telling Pilate an us to search for union with God by asking ourselves the question “Who am I?”   Not who we wish to be.  Not who we were in the past.  The question is, “Who am I?”  Right here.  Right now.  That truth that Jesus was speaking of is our true sense of ourselves.  Are we centering ourselves on being liked, preferred, approved of, what we own, what we do, our status, our title, our pride?  These things are part of our false-sense of self.  Our true sense of ourselves is letting go of all of that and living from the essence of who we are with total self sacrificial love for Christ who gave Himself up for us all.  I suggest that in the Death and Resurrection God tells us through Jesus that “Yes this is possible even for you, because I love you.”

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all to everlasting life” (The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English. Chapter 72:11, 12. p.295).

What is your response to the question “Who am I?”

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Lent Reflection: Light

Lit Candle

 

“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:4-5 NRSV).

Today’s Scripture basis is taken from the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday in Lent.  This is the story of Jesus healing a blind man by spitting in the dirt and making mud to put over his eyes.  When the man born blind washes away the mud he can see.   Before Jesus begins the work of healing, Jesus tells us what He is doing.  He is doing the works of His Father, who is also our Father (see the Lord’s Prayer), and telling us to do those works while it is day.  Jesus proclaims Himself as the “light of the world” as long as He is in the world.  If I may dare to paraphrase Jesus, “I am here to do the works of my Father who sent me.  So long as I am here, I am the light in the midst of the darkness.  I will make this blind man see.”

Saint Benedict said something similar, only he was borrowing and adapting the words from John 12:35 in the Prologue of The Rule.  “Run [not walk] while you have the light of life, that the darkness of death may not overtake you.”

I wonder how different our jobs, our relationships and other daily ordinary things would be if we spent some time in contemplative prayer with the words “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  Or, how might we see our daily ordinariness as something so much more “we must do the works of the one who gave them to us, while we are given the opportunity to do them”?

Our defeat in contemplative prayer and what makes the mystical experience almost impossible is we have somehow convinced ourselves it is is all about us.  Contemplative prayer and mysticism is a work of God’s grace.  The works we are given to do as God’s light to the world is also a product of God’s graciousness.   We are not an island unto ourselves.  As contemplatives we are always searching for union with God knowing that it is God who initiated the desire for the search within us, because God has already found us.  God’s grace that gives us the work of being that light for the world; is drawing us closer to God through the Holy Spirit “that has been given to us.”  It is God who begins the work and who brings it to its conclusion.  As this light becomes more visible in us, others see the light of God in and through us.

“We pray. Lord, that everything we do may be prompted by your inspiration, so that every prayer and work of ours may begin from you, and be brought by you to completion.” Amen.  (Prayer based on the Prologue of St. Benedict’s Rule. Saint Benedict’s Prayer Book for Beginners. p.113).

What work are you doing to be God’s light in the world?

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Lent Reflection: Hiding Place

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You are my hiding place, O Lord.  (Psalm 32:8. The Book of Common Prayer, p.624).

Thomas Merton in his book Thoughts in Solitude wrote, “There is no greater disaster in the spiritual life than to be immersed in unreality.”  The unreality he wrote about can be an addiction we are not taking care of.  Or, a conversation with a friend or spouse that we have been avoiding.  It can and most often is the unreality of our life with God within ourselves.  How do we know what our relationship with God is really like if we don’t spend time with God as our hiding place?

Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB in her book Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light wrote, “Silence frightens us because it is silence that brings us face to face with ourselves.”

In the midst of a noisy world full of radio, television, the internet, iPhones and iPads; our God is missing us.  God is missing being closer to us in moments of solitude and silence so that we may embrace God as our hiding place; where God is waiting to embrace us.  In God who is our hiding place, our imperfections do not matter.  Our health in mind, body or spirit does not matter.  All the questions and frustrations, broken relationships and desires can be found in a nice crowded closet when we spend time away for a little while with God who is our hiding place.

In God our hiding place, we can enjoy the mystical experience of contemplating God’s perfect and holy love.  The Holy One who gave us Jesus our Redeemer (who Himself sought out moments of solitude), enters into the crowded places and spaces of our lives while we are hidden away with God, while God “creates a clean heart” in us.  In God as our hiding place, we surrender all; and seek only union with the God who has already found us.

Are you spending time in silence and solitude with God as your hiding place this Lent?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Lenten Reflection: A Clean Heart

God and the Heart

 

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:11. The Book of Common Prayer, p.657).

The Psalmist in Psalm 51 is pleading with God for mercy and forgiveness.  It is a recognition of our human mortality.  We are sinners who need God’s grace and healing.  Psalm 51 is about emptying the dirt of our personal and spiritual self and depending completely on God to redeem us.  Is it any wonder why in The Rule of St. Benedict he prescribes that Psalm 51 (50 as St. Benedict used the Grail Psalms in which they were all one number behind our current English version) be used every day during Matins (or Lauds)?   Esther de Waal in her book A Life-Giving Way: A Commentary on The Rule of St. Benedict writes, “The act of acknowledging my weakness and failure is not a morbid dwelling on sin but a turning in confidence to the God who sees a humble and contrite heart and is there to rescue me just as he rescued his people in the past” (p.79).

So what about a clean heart?  The contemplative understands that Psalm 51:11 is a deeply prayerful desire in our heart by God’s initiative that lets go of everything we are holding on to in there; and trusting in God’s view point of our hearts; to make them a clean space for God alone.  When we let go of all the stuff that weighs us down and crowds us in and put our trust in the Holy Spirit; God resides in there because the space has been cleaned out and made ready for the one who gives our hearts all that we need.  Our hearts are made clean and ready to be occupied by its Creator and Redeemer.

What do you need let go of for God to come into your clean heart this Lent?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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