Reflection on God our Fortress

Fortress

“The Lord is a fortress protecting my life.  Should I be frightened by anything?” (Psalm 27:1b Common English Bible).

The past few days have been very stressful for me.  My autistic spectrum disorder along with my generalized anxiety disorder have really been doing a number on me.  I had a lot going on.  It was difficult for me to think clearly and calmly.

My daily Lectio Divina yesterday and today took me to these words from Psalm 27.  As I meditated on these words, I experienced the Holy Spirit speaking to me through my anxiety and the words of the Psalmist.  The Psalmist is proclaiming faith in God who is their light, salvation, fortress and protector of life.  As I spent my time in silence and solitude yesterday, my experience of contemplative prayer was that God was my fortress protecting me through my anxiety.

When I read these words today, I got the sense that God had demonstrated once again that God is faithful to God’s words.  Today, I can take joy in what God did to protect my life and bring me a sense of peace.

As contemplatives, it is important that we see our moments of discouragement and disorder as moments to search for union with God.  God’s grace is more powerful than our circumstances.  Even when the circumstances do not produce what we had hoped for.  God is our strongest and most powerful deliverer as God is always present in whatever is happening.

“Silence, so understood, is an introduction to contemplative dialogue of prayer, in which the word and deep silence alternate with each other” (The Eremitic Life: Encountering God in Silence and Solitude, by Fr. Cronelius Wencel, Er.Cam. p.110).

“A certain philosopher question the holy Antony, ‘How can you be content, father, without the comfort of books?’ He replied, ‘My things and whenever I wish to read the words of God, it is in my hand.'” (Daily Readings with the Desert Fathers, p.77).

“That is why the Lord said in the Gospel: ‘Whoever hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who build his house upon rock; the floods cam and the winds blew and beat against the house, but it did not fall: it was founded on rock’ (Matt 7:24-25). (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue, p.17,18).

How is God being your fortress and protecting your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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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/

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

Lenten Reflection: Light and Seeking

Lighthouse

 

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?   Hearken to my voice, O Lord, when I call; have mercy on me and answer me.    You speak in my heart and say, “Seek my face.”  Your face, Lord, will I seek.  (Psalm 27: 1a, 10-11.  The Book of Common Prayer, p.617-618).

How many ways can we think of God being our light and salvation?  As I pondered these words, I was drawn to an image of a lighthouse with its light shining far away on the sea.  In a stormy sea the light shining in the darkness gives the seeker a great sense of relief.  The torrent may be raging and the wind fierce.  The waves crash against us.  We look with a sense of weariness knowing that we still a long way to go.  So we put forward our best effort despite our fatigue.  Eventually we get to where we are going.

Seeking the face of God means that we make ourselves very vulnerable to God.  Whatever may be going on around us has the potential to cloud what we are looking for.  God knows what is in our hearts. Why do we try so hard to hide what is in our hearts from God?  The Psalmist knows that God is speaking in the heart and calling us to seek the face of God.

Contemplative prayer and centering prayer is about seeking union with God in the depths of ourselves; so that God will give us a sense of direction towards God’s guiding light.  In those moments of deep spiritual prayer with God’s grace as our energy; we see God’s light shining in the darkness of our doubt, fear and our false sense of self.  God’s light shows us the clearer way to find unconditional love and faith so that we can seek the face of the God who has already found us.

Where do you seek the face of God in the light way off in the distance?

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

The Incarnate Word and The Light

LightPiercingDarkness

 

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.  (1 John 1:5 NRSV).

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:5 NRSV).

 

The First Sunday after Christmas repeats the use of John 1:1-18 that we heard on Christmas Day.  This year, this Sunday and the commemoration of St. John the Evangelist occurs on the same day.  Because it is a Sunday, the Feast of St. John the Evangelist is replaced by the First Sunday after Christmas.   At the same time, I think that both occurring the same day and date are prophetic in their own right.

The two themes that repeat themselves in the Gospel of John and his first letter is the Word and the Light.  Jesus who is the Incarnate Word is inseparable from the Light.  We see through the darkness because of the Light.  We hear God because of the Incarnate Word.

As St. Benedict wrote in The Prologue to The Rule, his very first word was listen.  Rearrange those letters and we get the word silent.  Benedict tells us to “incline the ears of our heart.”  He begins with these words because to know God more deeply, is to listen deeply to God speaking through The Word.  To see God is to look for the Light.

May all of us look for the Light of God in love and holiness in our many relationships.  May we listen to the Incarnate Word so we may know God in our hearts.  May we respond by what we hear in our hearts, so that others may see things from God’s point of view.  It is a contemplative experience and quite mystical.

Jesus, new beginning, heavenly bread, living water, we hear the word of life, we see and grasp the truth; help us to proclaim it. Amen (A New Zealand Prayer Book, p.694).

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

 

 

Reflection on My God is My Lamp

God My Lamp

You, O Lord, are my lamp; my God, you make my darkness bright (Psalm 18:29 The Book of Common Prayer, p.604).

Sometimes the word darkness gets a bad reputation.  It comes from the belief that nothing good happens at night while it is dark.  There is some truth to the concept if you believe that darkness is where faith ends.  As Christians, faith does not end with darkness.  Christ Jesus is our Light of hope.  At the Great Vigil of Easter the newly lit Easter Candle is processed into the church as we chant, “Christ our Light.  Thanks be to God.”  Among the reasons that Monastics of various orders celebrate Vigils and/or for some Matins, is because it is symbolic of watching for Christ our Light to come and scatter our darkness.

There is no doubt that we are living through times that can be described as dark.  As Christians, we must live with faith and hope that Christ continues to “make our darkness bright.”  St. Benedict in The Rule quoted John 12:35 in The Prologue.  “Run while you have the light of life, that the darkness of death may not overtake you.” (RB 1980, p.16).  It was not enough for St. Benedict to use the word “walk” that ordinarily begins the Bible verse.  He believes that there is too much urgency to walk.  So, instead, Benedict tells us to “run.”

The words from Psalm 18:29 are an acknowledgement of God’s relationship with us in our dark moments.  It is a testimony of what the Psalmist has experienced combined with heartfelt faith and anticipation of what God will do in the future.  As Christians, we need to live into this relationship of God being our lamp who makes our darkness bright.

In Contemplative prayer is the experience of the Light that pierces the deepest darkness, through which God provides for us an awareness of God’s presence that calls, heals and gives us hope.

May we be attentive to God as our lamp and light.  May that faith shine through us and around us.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Lenten Reflection: Be Still

Lit Candle

Be still, then, and know that I am God… (Psalm 46:11a).

Yesterday, the devotional publication Forward Day by Day‘s entry was based on Psalm 37:1,7 which reads, “Do not fret yourself….. Be still before the Lord.”  The writer reminds us that when we do fret over things, we really accomplish nothing more than indulge in our false sense of self.  When we fret we become self centered.  Our faith diminishes, because we base the outcome on our ability to control something.  The more we try to control, the more out of control we become.

The very familiar words I used to begin this blog post from Psalm 46:11a are found in a poem that sounds very much like everything is in chaos.  It begins with talking about God being our refuge and strength in time of trouble, mountains being toppled, waters raging and foaming and later on moves to kingdoms being shaken.  It seems to be both a Psalm of exaltation and facing the realities of life around those who wrote it.  It appears to me, and perhaps it will to you too, that the words I quoted for this post come in the midst of all the turmoil to suggest not so much a stillness of the world around us, but a stillness of ourselves in the presence of God in spite of chaos.   In these words, is a word from God to know God from within the depth of ourselves so that whatever else may be going on, we are still and maintain our confidence in the power and presence of God.

It certainly seems that this stillness must have been in Jesus as He endured the reality of His passion and death.  Jesus experienced the depth of human rejection, betrayal by a good friend and the total surrendering of even His relationship with God to the point of His death.  Yet, He was never completely separate from God, as He was the Word of God in human form.  In spite of all that went on around Him, Jesus clung to God by faith in obedience out of love.  Though the world around Him and about Him fell apart; Jesus remained still in the presence of God trusting that no matter what He had to face, God was still with him.

May God help us this Lent to spend some time being still in silence and solitude.  May we have the faith and trust that Jesus had, and become a still and peaceful light of God’s presence in the chaotic world around us.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB