Reflection on St. John

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (See 1 John 1:1-9 NRSV).

St. John the Evangelist is my very favorite of the Apostles and New Testament contributors. The beginning of John’s Gospel with the words “In the beginning was the Word….” is beyond profound. The three letters attributed to St. John and Revelation are so beautiful.

On this text from 1 John, St. Augustine of Hippo wrote,

“Life itself was therefore revealed in the flesh. In this way what was visible to the heart alone could become visible to the eye, and so heal men’s hearts.” (The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume I Advent and Christmas Season, p.1267).

The Johannine communities that gave us these words from the Apostle tell us about what they have personally witnessed. The love of Jesus, the Word made visible and tangible. It was more exciting than yesterday’s news story that had come and gone. The love of God in Christ was transforming them from the inside out. The love they experienced was so powerful, that they had to write about it.

This reading from First John leads us into contemplation. When John and his community experience the love of the Word, they move into what Thomas Keating wrote about in his book The Mystery of Christ: The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience,

“The revelation of being loved by God characterizes the first stage of contemplative prayer. It enables us to see God in all things” (p.73).

St. John reminds us that we experience the transformative power of Christ when we let God into our hearts. St. Benedict tells us in the beginning of The Rule. “Listen carefully to the master’s instructions, and incline the ear of your heart.” Once we let go of our false-sense of self, and let God’s desire for us, feed our desire for God; it is then that we will find God by loving God; that we will be led by the Holy Spirit to love God when we find God. Contemplative prayer and the mystical experience help us to begin again, as we open our hearts to the experience of Jesus the Word made flesh by the faithful witness of those who have come before us.

Where are you looking to find Jesus today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on The Incarnate Word

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:1-5 NRSV).

Words have a lot more power than we think. One word can carry any variety of meanings. Think of how little it takes for a word to change our moods, perspectives, and outlook.

The Psalmist in Psalm 139:3 wrote, “Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, but, you, O Lord, know it altogether.” ( The Book of Common Prayer, p.794).

The Nativity of Jesus Christ is the story of the Word that was with God and was God. Jesus is God’s Word spoken and made one with us in the Incarnate Word. Jesus has come as one like us, to tell us and show us how deep the love of God is for all of us. In Jesus, God comes to bring the Word into our hearts so that we can “incline the ears of our hearts” to hear and respond to God’s desire for us.

Notice that Jesus arrived as a vulnerable Child. There was no room for Mary and Joseph in the inn. The Manger was the closest place a available. It was hardly a sterilized space. It was far from the ideal situation. Yet, God did something extraordinary there. God used what was right there at that moment, to transform the Manger and the world for all time; by being born as a helpless Child with countless possibilities before Him.

This Mysticism that is brought to our contemplative prayer this Christmas Season, is the wonder of God entering our troubled and imperfect world. God comes to us as we are and where we are to bring God’s transforming Grace. Jesus comes to save us from our certitude; so that we can listen, pray and allow ourselves to move and grow with God’s Incarnate Word to help us to continue the story that we thought was finished. The God-Life Jesus brings us can be discerned with Mary who “ponders these things in her heart.” (See Luke 2:19). It is in the heart that we can lean from Jesus, about how to grow closer to God. We need God’s help. That is why Jesus Christ was born of Mary. Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not (and will not) overcome that light.

What is Jesus, The Incarnate Word saying to your heart today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

A very Merry and Holy Christmas to all of you.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on The Magnificat

“…for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and Holy is His Name.” (See Luke 1:39-55 NRSV).

Mary knew that something amazing happened to her. Her visit to Elizabeth confirmed the experience she had with the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation. Mary still had a future full of uncertainty. Her world was turned upside down. Mary reflects and responds in a song full of praise known as the Magnificat. Mary sings of a mystery so profound that changes her life, and the whole world around her and beyond.

All of us at one point or another, find our lives turned upside down by the many unwelcome surprises life brings. A job lost. A relationship that ended. A death so devastating. News of a child who is sick or in trouble with the law. These and other experiences change our routines and priorities quite quickly. We can fight our emotions about such things only so long; then discover that if there is going to be any way of moving forward, the first thing we must do, is let go and put our faith and trust in God in the here and now.

The Mighty One is doing great things for us right where we are in life. Even if it feels like the only thing God is doing, is giving us grace to accept where are, what we are facing; and allow ourselves to experience the contemplation of God’s presence. As contemplatives, we search and sing of what God is doing. God is there in our pain and grieving. God is there helping us to sing the song in the silence of what can only be heard in the heart of one who seeks union with God in everything that makes no sense.

“What is not possible for us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of his grace.” (The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.18).

What are the great things God is doing for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Contemplative Rejoicing

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7 NRSV).

It is human nature to rejoice because things turn out as we had hoped for. When something happens that makes us happy, rejoicing is easy. We all have those things that we rejoice about. Yet, our understanding of what it means to rejoice always, and worry about nothing to find God’s peace is limited because of our false-sense of self.

Before I continue, I want to give a strong word of advice to pastors and spiritual directors. I live with autism that includes generalized anxiety disorder. There is nothing more harmful to people with anxiety disorders than to hear a pastor or spiritual director use another translation of this reading from Philippians that reads, “Do not be anxious about anything….”. Please do not do it. Anxiety disorders are not the fault of those who have them, and it is simply not possible to just not be anxious.

So what might part of this Reading by St. Paul about rejoicing and not worrying say about contemplation and mysticism? I suggest that one possibility is to meditate on what Paul tells us about being thankful and that it is the peace of God which surpasses all understanding that will guard our hearts and lives in Christ Jesus. It is God’s peace that is guarding us. When we let go, even when our lives seem to be falling apart, that peace that surpasses our understanding is still at work in our hearts. Just because we might not feel God’s peace, does not mean that God has given up. Most likely God’s peace is at work in us long before we are aware of it. Because God gave us that desire for God, so that we can respond to God’s desire within our own desire.

God’s peace that is at work in our anxiety, prayers, petitions. The mystery of God’s extravagant love and compassion are never out of our reach. God’s peace is speaking and calling us in the Holy Spirit. That is something to rejoice about always.

“How much more important is it to lay our petitions before the Lord God of all things with the utmost humility and devotion.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.48).

What does rejoicing always mean for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Prepare the Way

“….the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” (See Luke 3:1-6 NRSV).

The Second Sunday of Advent features one of the best Biblical figures on the subject of desert monasticism; St. John the Baptist. His life, message and ministry creates a splendid example of contemplation and mysticism. Not to mention his humility when St. John the Baptist later said, “he must increase, as I must decrease.”

To prepare the way for God to come, we must begin with putting all else aside for a little while. Many probably will not walk out into a desert physically or geographically. We can if we will spend some time in silence and solitude, let go of everything that holds us down in Centering Prayer. Just spending time letting all our thoughts go and settle for nothing, not even warm fuzzy spiritual feelings; and just be with God. St. John the Baptist shows us how to allow ourselves to lose what we cling to go so we can repare the way for God to be all that matters. In so doing, our experience of God, becomes a window for Jesus to make Himself known to the world around us.

“Your hidden life speaks to the world, but only gives light in so far as it fuses with concentrated love. The Forerunner was a peerless witness to Jesus Christ, being charged with the mission to point him out: ‘Here he is’, “Ecco’.” (The Hermitage Within: Spirituality of the Desert, by A Monk, translated by Alan Neame, p.21).

Contemplative prayer is the work of God’s grace to prepare the way for God the Holy Spirit to make within us a residence for Jesus. In the Prayer of St. Anselm taken from his work, the Proslogion, we pray “Let me seek you in my desire, let me desire you in my seeking. Let me find you by loving you, let me love you when I find you.” The desire is the pathway we are preparing to journey on. It is the love of God we have yet to find, in the love of the God who has already found us. This is the Mysticism we contemplate during this season of Advent. It is the mystery that we long for that comes to us in the celebration of Christmas.

“Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on the way, with the Gospel for our guide, that we deserve to see him who has called us to his kingdom (1 Thess 2:12). (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.16).

How are you preparing the way for Jesus during this season of Advent?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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 God’s Will

I want to do your will, my God. Your instruction is deep within me. (Psalm 40:8 The Common English Bible).

[Abba Nelius] said, “Do not be always wanting everything to turn out as you think it should, but as God pleases, then you will be undisturbed and thankful in prayer. (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, Annotated and Explained, by Christine Valters Paintner, p.61).

How do we actually know what God’s will is? It is easy to read a particular passage of Scripture, interpret it and from there decide what God’s will is. Does that mean we really know what God’s will is?

God’s will is as much a mystery as any other aspect of God’s movement in our lives. The vastness of space, the depths of the oceans of the world, the strength of the mountains all sing to our God. Yet, nothing is so big, so indestructible that prevents God from being so madly in love with each of us, so as to want us to love God back.

To want to do God’s will means letting go of the assumption that we understand what God wants of us from our own perspective. Contemplative Prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit that allows us to just be with God, and to want nothing more than God for the sake of God alone. God has already planted God’s will and instruction deep within us, in our desire for the God who desires us. God sees with us the person that God loves and has redeemed in Jesus the Christ.

During this season of Advent, we are watching and waiting to celebrate the mystery beyond all human logic. God saw God’s goodness in all of humankind, and came to us as one of us in the Incarnate Word. God’s will has been given to us, to “listen and incline the ear of the heart.” God’s will is not found in beating ourselves up for what we have not done, or should have done. God’s will is in the truth of God in and through the life of Jesus, that brings us to the eternal truth about who we are in God’s heart.

“Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation. It is bound to be narrow at the outset. But, as we progress in this life and faith, we shall run the way of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with 5e inexpressible delight of love” (RB 1989: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.19).

What does wanting to do God’s will mean for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you feel led to buy me some coffee to help me 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 A Contemplative Advent

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long. Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love, for they are from everlasting. (Psalm 25:4-5, The Book of Common Prayer, p.614).

Among my many social challenges I experience because of autism is knowing when, who and how to ask for help. It happens because of being overwhelmed by too many options in my brain at one time. Over the past seven years since I was first diagnosed, I have had to learn that the sooner I tell those closest to me that I am overwhelmed by my options and need help, the less overwhelmed I will be. I will get the help I need, when I accept my vulnerability and entrust what I need from the right people.

Advent is a season of waiting and watching for God in the Person of Jesus. We look forward to the return of Christ in glory. We want Jesus to come and change this world of violence and chaos to how we think things should be. The season of Advent leads us to remembering that God did something so profound in the Incarnation. In the book Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, one of the contributors Karl Rahner in The Divine Dawning wrote,

“No, you took upon yourself our kind of life, just as it is. You let it slip away from you, just as ours vanishes from us. You held on to it carefully, so that not a single drop of its torments would be spilled. You hoarded its very fleeting moment, so you could suffer through it all, right to the bitter end” (p.71,72).

If we want a contemplative experience of Advent, we must “begin again.” We begin by praying with the Psalmist that by ourselves, we do not know how to find God’s truth and know God’s compassion. The contemplative looks for the mystery of God in our humility and vulnerability as life is in the here and now. In our suffering and messy lives the Advent of Christ is already happening. When we let go, and allow God to teach us the way of truth, salvation and compassion; the Holy One comes and makes a home within us. It is a very limited experience, and so we continue to cry; Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, Chapter 72, p.95).

What are you waiting for Jesus to do for you this Advent?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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.