Reflection on Seeds & Listening

Wheat Seeds

 

Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!’  (Matthew 13:8 and 9 NRSV).

No wonder St. Benedict began the Prologue of The Rule with, “Listen.  Incline the ear of the your heart.”  It is only with an openness of our entire selves listening for the Holy Spirit to plant the seeds of God’s love into the good soil within us.  If our interior soil is to bear good fruit, we must first yield our entire selves to all of God’s Goodness.

Contemplative prayer is about letting our soil be tilled by God’s sanctifying Grace as God reveals God’s Self to us in solitude, relationships and within the depth of our heart.  Once the Word is planted deep within us, and we trust in God to provide the water, the sunlight and the sun; the God who knows us better than we know ourselves will give us the mystic experience of new life.  We do not have to decide what is going to happen as we grow all by ourselves.  However, we must let go of our false-sense of self so that the center where our eternal truth will search for and find union with God’s Spirit of Truth; so that our true sense of self can grow from the good soil that God cares for.

Are you listening for God to bring good fruit from within you?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on St. Benedict

benedict

 

“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 1 Samuel 3:10

Seeking

“Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10 NRSV).

Centering Prayer is about sitting in silence and doing some listening.  In Centering Prayer, the contemplative accepts all the things that go through her/his mind and lets them go.  By letting go, the individual is able to gradually be with God as the center of her/his being.  It is a great way to end Lectio Divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture).

1 Samuel 3:10 is a perfect example of what Contemplative and Centering Prayer is.  It happens when we take time from the business of life, and “incline the ears of your heart” to the God who is within.  “Speak for your servant is listening.”  We take some time in meditative silence to let go. Let go. Let go.  What matters most is that we are listening for and to God as people who serve the Holy One.

God speaks in the heart that is craving love, acceptance and peace.  We cannot, however, find those things without turning ourselves over to God.  God speaks to the whole of our being.  God knows us intimately.  “For you created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:12).  The Holy One who created every part of us, sees us a beautiful and holy being, to be recreated into the “new person(s) in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17-18).

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

Can you pray today by saying, “Speak, for your servant is listening”?

Amen

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

 

Reflection on Wonderful

Reflections

“Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14).

No one limits the power of God in our lives more than ourselves.   Each of us have the ability to let God in or shut God out.  Letting God in means turning ourselves over to God’s will.  It requires us to do a lot of letting go so that God make us in to that “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) .

Contemplative prayer opens us up to the possibility of encountering God in the least suspected of places and moments.  In our silence and solitude we confront the noise within us; those conflicting and contradictory things that take up so much space.  It is amazing that when we sit in silence with the T.V., the iPhone, iPad, Smart Phone, computer, radio, etc turned off that we realize just how much noise is going through our bodies and minds.  We are restless.   We are not really centered.  It seems as if our interior is like at traffic jam on a hot muggy day with all the horns beeping loudly and it is as if we will never go anywhere.  It is in these very moments when the God we are seeking union with, has already found us and is speaking through the chaos.   The tensions in our bodies, the argument that we cannot forget, the addiction that plagues us or our families; God is in the middle of them loving us unconditionally and accepting us where we are.

The image I chose for this post has snow top mountains.  Other mountains are clear and dry.  It is in the reflection in the water, that everything that is beautiful in itself shows even more profoundly.  In the image reflected in the water, is a wonder that we cannot adequately describe.  All we know, is that it is mysterious, majestic and calls us to a renewed vision of the world.

In contemplation there is nothing too wonderful for God that the Holy One cannot accept and transform.  No room is too small.  No issue within ourselves that is too confining for God; that God’s perspective of us cannot be renewed and reworked into that wonder that seemed impossible for us; but is never too complicated for God.  God “traces our journeys and our resting places and (is) acquainted with all my ways” (Psalm 139:2).

“Let us get up then, at long last, for the Scriptures rouse us when they say; “It is high time for us to arise from sleep” (Rom 13:11).  Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice from heaven that every day calls out this charge; “If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts (Psalm 95)”. (RB: 1980 The Rule of Saint Benedict in English, Prologue vs 8-10, p. 15-16).

Is anything too wonderful for God in your life?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on Emmaus

Emmaus

 

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:28-35 NRSV).

The Gospel we heard last Sunday about the encounter with the Risen Jesus and Thomas is one of my favorite Easter stories.   This Sunday’s reading of the Road to Emmaus and the breaking of the bread is also one of my favorites.  Among the reasons I love it, is that it is the chosen Gospel reading used at Vespers on Easter Day.  It is such a moving Gospel to read at that moment.

Imagine what this experience was like for those first Disciples.  The range of human emotions from the beginning to the end; coupled with the words and actions of the Risen Christ in the breaking of the bread are mysterious and wondrous.

The mystical moment in this story that is a source of deep contemplation is that Jesus listened intently to what was in their hearts, responded with truth and good counsel and fed their bodies and souls.  It is its own Lectio Divina moment.  The Word comes to us where we are, listens, responds and then grants us through God’s grace a vision of God’s Self that can be viewed only through the eyes of faith.  It is another example in which contemplative prayer is something we experience by God’s random act of grace, and leads us to God’s vision of how God sees us.  God the Holy Spirit comes to feed our hungry souls with Jesus, the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation.  It is up to us as to how we respond to this experience, and how much we trust God in the here and now to lead us forward.

“What can be sweeter to us, dear brethren, than this voice of the Lord inviting us?  Behold, in His loving kindness the Lord shows us the way of life” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, p 2).

Is your heart burning as the Risen Christ speaks to you?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe,OSB

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

Ash Wednesday Reflection

Beginning Lent

 

The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent.  Since few, however, have the strength for this, we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times.  This we can do in a fitting manner by refusing to indulge in evil habits and by devoting ourselves to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and self-denial.  During these days, therefore, we will add to the usual measure of our service something by way of private prayer and abstinence from food or drink, so that each of us will have something above the assigned measure to offer God of his own will with the joy of the Holy Spirit (1. Thess. 1:5).  In other words, let each one deny  himself some food, drink, sleep, needless talking and idle jesting, and look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing. (RB. 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, Chapter 49, p.253).

The only season that St. Benedict writes a whole chapter about in The Rule is Lent.

Benedict tells us that Lent is the time to make new efforts to be what we say we want to be.  We applaud the concept in most things. We know, for instance, that even people who were married years ago have to keep working at that marriage consciously and intently every year thereafter, or the marriage will fail no matter how established it seems.  We know that people who own businesses take inventories and evaluations every year or the business fails.  We too often fail to realize, however, that people who say they want to find God in life have to work every day too to bring that Presence into focus, or the Presence will elude them no matter how present it is in theory. (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century. Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.220).

On this Ash Wednesday, we are invited by Jesus to begin to take a new look at our spiritual and personal lives.  It is time to “take inventory” of what we have been doing vs. what we have been putting off far too long.  During these forty days of fasting and abstinence we are encouraged to grow into our relationship with God, others and ourselves.  Through living a contemplative life during Lent, we are urged to meditate on how we are all  inter-connected with nature, people, places and God.

St. Benedict is helping us see that when we give some things up for a while, we need to add on to the usual measure.   He encourages us to do that, because when we give up something there is a void in our lives.  St. Benedict and Jesus invite us to spend time in silence and prayer so that we may begin to see our true selves lost in those voids as “my soul is athirst for the living God” (Psalm 42:2).

What is Jesus calling you to take inventory of in your life this Lent?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on Isaiah 48:17

JesusSynagogue

 

“Thus says the Lord your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God, who teaches you for your own good, who leads you in the way you should go.”  (Isaiah 48:17.  NRSV).

Perhaps you have heard this joke. “Why did the People of Israel under Moses wander in the desert for forty years?  They forgot to stop and ask for directions.”

What a great invention the GPS is.  If you want to go somewhere you have never been, just program the GPS and it will guide you intersection by intersection until you arrive at your desired destination.  Yet, even the best GPS has its drawback.  If it is an older program, it may not be able to give you information about road construction, a street change or a different obstacle along your route.  Some GPSs do not give you the shortest and easiest route.  There is another major disadvantage.  Unless there is a malfunction in the GPS, we almost never have to ask someone for directions. We rely on a machine, not another human person to assist us. Nor does it allow us to help someone else.   Its true that crime and the concern for basic safety can be a hazard.  But, it basically gets us off the hook if you will, from welcoming the stranger.

On this Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, we commemorate how Jesus through the Holy Spirit brought a life-changing experience to the man named Saul.  Once he was knocked off of his horse; Paul had a new direction in his life.

All of us make our plans and begin our journey of a new direction in our life.  We gather what we know and think we know it all.  We become content in our own little world.  We rely on our false-sense of self; based on labels, being happy with everything we have, those who like us the best, who agree with us and feed our egos.

The reading from the Prophet Isaiah that I quoted for this reflection, invites us to contemplate God’s perception of us.  God sees in us the potential to go in a direction that is based on seeking union with God with purity of heart.  God wants us to bring our brokenness, our being lost in ourselves into union with God’s will; and let God “lead us in the way we should go.”  God’s direction for each of us is different.  None of us will have the exact same course as another.  God invites us to live into who God is from our hearts as our God, our Redeemer, the Holy One.  God wants to teach us about our true selves in and from our essence of who we are and “lead us in the way we should go.”

“Listen carefully, my child, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice.” (Prologue, RB:1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, p.157).

What are you open to listening to God teach you today?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB