Reflection on Save Us From The Time of Trial

Lord's Prayer

“Save us from the time of trial.”

I have had for many years now a real problem with the words, “And lead us not into temptation” in the traditional version of The Lord’s Prayer.  The words do not seem appropriate.  I am glad that the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer have given us the words, “Save us from the time of trial.”

These words should disturb us a bit.  It seems that God does not always save us from the time of trial.  Ask anyone who is suffering from cancer, bullying, dementia, being stalked or grieving the loss of a loved one if they feel as if they are being saved from the time of their trial.  Were the many Coptic Christians who have been killed over the past two months saved from their time of trial?  How about the martyrs?  How about Jesus’ moment of trial?

At Matins this morning, I read the following words from Resurrecting Easter: Meditations for the Great 50 Days by Kate Moorehead.

Resurrection is born out of the pit of death and despair. Moments of pain, moments of darkness and abandonment are the greatest moments to glorify God.

Jesus never promised us that we would not have moments of trial.  Jesus Himself faced his trials. At one point, he was condemned at a trial and sentenced to death.  Did God save Jesus from His moment of trial?  Yes.

In the Person of Jesus, God walks through our times of trial with us.  God helps us during the times of trial to learn new things about ourselves.  God helps us to draw closer to Jesus through The Holy Spirit in those times of trial, so that we may be given a greater insight into our relationship with God and others.  Whatever our trial is, we must believe that what is happening will not prevent God from bringing us to where God wants us.

As contemplatives, our “work” of grace is to search for union with God in all things, in all places and at all times; including, but certainly not limited to our times of trial.  It is in those moments, that we find God who has already found us.

“The fourth step of humility is that in obedience under difficult, unfavorable, or even unjust conditions, his [the monk’s] heart quietly embraces suffering and endures it without weakening or seeking escape. For Scripture has it: Anyone who perseveres to the end will be saved (Matt 10:22), and again, Be brave of heart and rely on the Lord (Ps26[27]:14)” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, Chapter 7;35-37, p.197).

How and where do you find God helping you from your time of trial?

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

Lent Reflection: I Am Resurrection and Life

Reflections

 

Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’  She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’ (John 11:25-27 NRSV).

Jesus gives new hope to Mary and Martha in today’s Gospel story.   They already demonstrated their courageous faith.  Their belief in who Jesus was, enabled them to believe that if Jesus had been there when Lazarus was dying, He could have prevented his death.  Mary and Martha’s faith and hope in Jesus was evidence of their openness to more than what they saw by sight.  Jesus responds by proclaiming that He is the resurrection and the life, and follows His claim up by raising up Lazarus’ body.   I believe that all of what we read about in John’s Gospel today is faith becoming visible and tangible.  There are new opportunities, because faith opened the flood gates.

This is where the contemplative experiences the presence of Jesus in which no words are necessary.  As contemplatives, we know that all we have to do is crack open that barrier just a little, and The Holy Spirit will gush in the holiness of God in abundance.   If we believe just a little bit that Jesus can change what is right in front of us into a moment of resurrection and life; we will experience this new life in the mystical moment of God’s grace.

In chapter 35 of The Life and Miracles of St. Benedict, is the story of how he was standing at the window of his monastery before the night office.  He was so deep in his watching, that he had the experience of a great light through which he could see all the world in that one moment of light.  The mystical experience was so transparent for St. Benedict, that he saw the soul of Germanus ascending into heaven.  Just a little bit of openness and watching, and Benedict saw resurrection and life in front of his eyes.

What is the barrier you are willing to open just a little, so that Jesus can be resurrection and life for you?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Lent Meditation:Bread and The Word

jesus_praying_temptation

 

Jesus replied, “It’s written, people won’t live only by bread, but by every word spoken by God” (Matthew 4:4. Common English Bible).

Jesus’ journey in the desert is a perfect model for contemplative prayer. The Desert Mothers and Fathers made the journey of Jesus their own.  They left behind everything else and searched for union with God out of their poverty.  This is why Lent gets its theme of wandering in the desert fasting, praying and acts of self-denial.

In the desert we loose all illusions of power, ownership, fame, fortune and that sense of knowing where we are going.  There is no corner store.  No internet network connection.  No Facebook.  No case with bottled water.  The only thing about wandering in the desert is that we are alone.  We will face ourselves as we are.  We will experience the best of ourselves and see the worst of ourselves.  In the desert, we will learn Who it is that we ultimately depend on for the necessities of life.

Lectio Divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture) is about letting Jesus the Bread of Life, the Word of God speak in the depths of our heart and change our lives.  I think this is at the heart of the temptation in which Jesus is tempted to turn the stones into bread.  It isn’t about being hungry, nor is it an excuse for ignoring those who are hungry.  Living the life of a Christian is about seeing God present and working in every aspect of life.  A life lived as a contemplative (or the interior life), recognizes that everything we are, everything we use, everything around us and in us is God interacting with us in Jesus, the Word.  The Word is speaking. Calling.  Loving.  Inviting.  Forgiving.  Molding and shaping us to live into the mystery of what Jesus said in John 15:5, “without me you can do nothing.”

How are you listening more closely to every word spoken by God this Lent?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

“What is not possible for us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of his grace” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English.  Prologue, vs. 41, p.165).

http://www.cos-osb.org

 

 

Reflection on Psalm 27

Lit Candle

 

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?   The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1. The Book of Common Prayer, p.617).

At the break of dawn the light from the sun graces the sky.  As evening gives way to night, the sun goes down, but the moon brightens a place in the sky.  On a clear night when the moon is full, its light gives the night sky a glow that only the moon can.  Whether day or night, there is light shining through the darkness to bring hope where there is despair.

All of us have those moments when what is happening feels like the sun on a beautiful clear day.  When things happen that change us from within, it can be like clouds covering our view of the sun, or blocking the light from the moon.

The Psalmist begins Psalm 27 by proclaiming that the Lord is the true light and strength of our lives.  Therefore, we have no need to be afraid.  I don’t know about you, but I have had those moments in my own life when things have happened, and I read this psalm about “not being afraid” and I think to myself: “Oh yeah, right!”

As we invite the Holy Spirit into the circumstances of our lives, we find ourselves full of fears.  There are many scary things around us.  The whole of Psalm 27 seems to be full of faith and hope in some places, acknowledging the enemies that are about us in other verses, and acknowledges that all we can really do is trust in the Lord.

The Holy One wants us to turn ourselves over and find God who is our light and salvation reminding us that we are God’s Beloved, with Whom God is well-pleased.  Whatever we are facing.  Whatever direction a situation is going.  There is no place or situation where God is not there with God’s light and salvation leading us in the way of of the life of Jesus Christ.

“And finally, never lose hope in God’s mercy.”  (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, Chapter 4: On the Tools of Good Works, p.185).

How and where is God the light and salvation in your life?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Reflection on Saint Antony

Anthony

 

“Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21-22. NRSV).

Saint Antony (or Anthony), is one of the great Desert Fathers.  He had wealth, property and family.  When he heard the words of the Gospel of Matthew quoted above, he immediately set aside all he had and entered into a very austere life of prayer and meditation.  He was a great example of the word Monk as meaning “one” with God.

As time has moved forward, and dispersed Monastic Communities have been begun and flourished in which the members can be married, have jobs and live in their own homes; the question comes up about how we live into the words of Jesus that moved St. Antony.   Very few of us today would close up our bank accounts, divorce our spouses and put our family members into another person’s hands to be left there never to be seen again.  Does that necessarily mean that we are failing to live into the words of Jesus?

The answer at issue here, is not whether we have and/or make use of what God gives us.  It is how much we allow these things to possess us to the point in which we separate them from our relationship with God and others around us.  Most of us, including myself are glued to our phones, computers, jobs, seeking the applause of the crowds and wanting our false sense of self to feed our egos.

The message of Jesus, St. Antony and St. Benedict is simplistic, just not simple.  Are we willing to contemplate in silence and solitude, so that we seek union with God through all of the things God gives us to be used (not possessed by us) to serve God and others?   If you are like me, knowing that in my mind and living it from the heart are not simple by any measure.  Jesus, St. Antony and St. Benedict are not saying it is simple; they are saying that it is possible.  It is possible to live in relationship with God and others to find the mystical presence of the Holy in ourselves, others and the things we are loaned so that God is part of everything around and about us.

In the Prologue to the The Rule of Saint Benedict*, he wrote,

“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.”

At the end of the same Prologue, Saint Benedict* wrote,

“Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run from the road that leads to salvation.  It is bound to be narrow at the outset.  But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.”

How are you being challenged to give up what you value to follow Jesus more closely today?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

*The quotes from The Rule are taken from the RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English and Latin, Published by The Liturgical Press, pages 157 and 165

Advent Reflection: Prepare the Way

a-long-path

 

This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.” (Matthew 3:3. NRSV).

About twenty years ago I was visiting with my spiritual director.  I was at the beginning of my vocation discernment.  I was excited, scared and anxious about where God might be leading me.  During the session, I said to my spiritual director “I know that God’s grace will be there when I find whatever it is that God has for me.”  My spiritual director looked at me with some concern and said, “God’s grace is in the here and now.  If you do not learn to look for God’s grace right here where God has you, you will not know God’s grace in what is yet to happen.”

The figure of St. John the Baptist is mind boggling.  Yet, for contemplatives he is just the kind of example we can look to.  When the Desert Mothers and Fathers began to create their communities in Egypt, they took the model of St. John the Baptist and made much of it a very important part of their monastic way of life.

St. John the Baptist recognized his role as the one to prepare the way by calling the people of his time to repentance.  We too are prophets who are called to prepare the way for Jesus to come into our lives in the here and now, so that we may respond to God’s grace with joy and obedience.   We are not told to prepare the way for tomorrow, or even at the celebration of the Nativity.  We are told to prepare the way now with what is before us at this moment.

As contemplatives, our time in silent prayer is about opening ourselves up to what God is doing in our ordinary lives.  As we listen, we are preparing the way for Christ to speak to our hearts so that we may cultivate the life of Jesus and make His way our way of life.  We are invited to read and meditate on the Word, and to pray that we may grow closer in relationship with God so as to be drawn into God’s presence in the here and now.  It is God in us that prepares the way so that we can also prepare the way of the Lord in our relationships, our work, our families and communities.

How are you preparing the way of the Lord this Advent?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB