Reflection on the Shepherd’s Psalm

 The Lord is my shepherd; 
   therefore can I lack nothing.
  He makes me lie down in green pastures 
   and leads me beside still waters.
  He shall refresh my soul 
   and guide me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
  Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
      I will fear no evil; 
   for you are with me;
      your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
  You spread a table before me
      in the presence of those who trouble me; 
   you have anointed my head with oil
      and my cup shall be full.
  Surely goodness and loving mercy shall follow me
      all the days of my life, 
   and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (Psalm 23. The Common Worship Psalter, The Church of England).

The most famous and beloved of all the Psalms, #23. And well it should be. It is used in spoken or sung form in Divine Offices, Eucharistic Liturgies and of course funerals. There is something very comforting and calming about Psalm 23. Like other Scriptures, however, when we over romanticize Psalm 23, we can easily miss the opportunity to listen carefully to what the Holy Spirit might be saying to our hearts.

Psalm 23 is a song of self surrender by holding nothing back. The shepherd guards us with great care and love. We do not lack anything, even a place of refreshment so long as we let ourselves go to the will and desire of the One who wants to lead us.

Psalm 23 meets us in our false-sense of self. None of us is exempted from the valley of the shadow of death, or being at a table in the presence of those who trouble us. That spot in us that does not want discomfort or to be called out of our tombs of shame, fear and doubt cannot be our permanent dwelling. God has given to the contemplative a desire for a full cup, with the anointing of the oil of faith, hope and love. The contemplative knows that the fulfillment of mysticism is to dwell in God’s presence in the here and now; and beyond this temporal life.

The Resurrection tells us that death is not a barrier for God’s Grace to help us. When we surrender ourselves to search for union with God, with a desire for purity of heart that lives into wanting nothing more than God alone; the story of Christ’s Resurrection becomes our life’s Easter narrative.

“We believe that the divine presence is everywhere and that in every place the eyes of the Lord are watching the good and the wicked (Prov. 3:15). But beyond the least doubt we should believe this to be especially true when we celebrate the Divine Office.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.47).

How is your heart hearing and responding to the words of Psalm 23 today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone you know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, please check out my website here.

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Reflection on The Loving Fragrance of God

“Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (See John 12: 1-11 NRSV).

In Psalm 36:5 the Psalmist proclaims “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, and your faithfulness to the clouds.” I think Mary knew and experienced that love in a most profound way. Her action of washing the feet of Jesus, drying them and anointing them was her way of celebrating that love. Her service to Jesus was symbolic of what she knew intimately within the whole of herself.

Contemplative prayer is an action of love by God, inviting us to experience that love. It is a love that is so profound that all we can do is be in the presence of God, and surrender everything we are and have to that presence. It is a fragrance that touches our senses with experiences we cannot explain or describe. We can only know that presence and live into it.

Over this Lent God has been speaking to my heart through a song entitled “You Know Better Than I”. It is from the animated movie Joseph: King of Dreams. The lyrics to the refrain are, “You know better than I, You know the way. I’ve let go the need to know why. For you know better than I.”

I do not know what God is doing with my life with this chronic back pain. I only know that I have had to open myself to God through what is uncertain and “let go of the reason to know why.” If God can fill the fragrance of a room by a broken jar of ointment as Jesus prepares for His imminent death on Good Friday; then my back pain and my wheelchair are certainly not obstacles for God’s Grace to transform me and others around me. The real conversion has only just begun. After all, St. Benedict’s Spirituality can be best surmised in the words, “Always we begin again.”

Where in your life are you experiencing the fragrance of God’s love this Holy Week?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone you know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, please go to my website here.

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 Crown and Diadem

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” (Isaiah 62:3 NRSV).

The Prophet Isaiah was reassuring the people of God that what was happening to and around them was not the end of the story. God was still working to make them more than they were through circumstances that were far from perfect.

For Christians who are celebrating the Christmas Season, the presence of Jesus as the Incarnate Word is the promise of God that we all are “the apple of God’s eye.” The Word that always was, is and ever shall be was born as a vulnerable human baby like each of us. Jesus, like each and every one of us has the potential to be nurtured by God’s grace to be God’s crown; so precious, that even in our imperfections we will know the holiness of God at work in our lives.

The mysticism of Christmas is that whatever we have done that may have brought us to a devastating end, God’s Incarnation in Christ gives us a new opportunity to begin again. Every new beginning has a lot of uncertainty. We are vulnerable to many dangers that can be difficult to understand and work through. The path before us will need a lot of moments in solitude and silence, so that we can listen to the direction of the Holy Spirit. The directions may be simple or complex. The only way to get a sense of where to go and what to do, will be determined by the mystery of God’s plans for us that are yet to come to fruition.

The Christmas Season is our message of hope, that whatever point we are at in our lives, God has a desire for us because we are God’s shining crown and royal diadem. We are being remade by God through the circumstances in the here and now, to live in to our true selves in God’s timeline.

“In God’s goodness, we are already counted as God’s own..” (The Rule of Benedict: a Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr Joan Chittister, OSB, p.5).

What do you see God doing with the circumstances of your life?

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 What Satisfies

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are they who trust in Him” (Psalm 34:8 The Book of Common Prayer, p.628).

“[Abba Poeman] said, ‘Do not give your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart.'”

“Satisfaction doesn’t always mean happiness. For me, to be satisfied means a sense of rightness in the experience, a fullness that comes when I recognize how I have been truly present to the moment. When we are satisfied, we feel we have ‘enough.’ I feel satisfied when I don’t let life just slip by unnoticed’ (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, Annotated & Explained. Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, p.30,31).

God is so present to us in the here and now. We are often so focused on ourselves and what we want that we make ourselves oblivious to God’s presence. This moment is where God is. This moment is filled with God satisfying us in so many ways. God is calling to our hearts to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” This means letting go of our false-sense of self; to allow God to fill us with a love that gives and gives again. The goodness of God meets us in the here and now to satisfy us in the little things as well as the bigger things.

St. Julian of Norwich wrote, “Nothing less than God can satisfy us” (All Will Be Well: 30 Days with A Great Spiritual Teacher, p.16).

To be a contemplative, we need to open ourselves to being satisfied by God through something as small as a hazelnut. A piece of bread and a sip of wine. God is present in our wanting and longing; beckoning us to search for union with the God who has already found us. God is already offering us God’s Self to satisfy and delight us.

“The first step of humility, then, is to keep ‘reverence of God before our eyes’ (Psalm 36:2) and never forget it.” (The Rule of Benedict : A Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.79).

God wants you to taste, see and be satisfied by God’s goodness in the here and now. Will you let God satisfy you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Be Still and Wait

“Be still before the Lord, and wait for him” (Psalm 37:7, Common English Bible).

These words are disturbing to us who live in the 21st Century. We are always multitasking. We have plans that need to be written into our calendars. There is always something else we need to be doing. We live in the age of wait for nothing.

These words are disturbing, because by ourselves and of ourselves; we do not really know how to be still and wait for God. To be still is to let go of ourselves, and trust in God to meet us in our poverty of spirit. To wait for God means to let go of our own sense of time; to let God’s timing become our ultimate desire.

Contemplative prayer leads us to see what is beyond the visible; to grasp the One who is invisible and cannot be grasped. Any vision of God is tangible, but, can only be experienced, but, not explained. To be still and wait for God is to yield our emptiness into our faith, with trust in God to teach us within the whole of ourselves; though, what we learn is limited.

Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB in her book, The Breath of the Soul: Reflections on Prayer wrote,

“one of the most consistent themes in mystical literature is the clear notion that the Mystic is not seeking spiritual escape from the life of the world. The mystic, history records in one life after another of them, is simply seeking God”(p.89,90).

“What is not possible to us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of his grace”(RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.18).

What do the words “Be still before the Lord, and wait for him” mean for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Humility

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. (See John 6:1-21. NRSV).

David G.R. Keller in his book, Oasis of Wisdom: The Worlds of the Desert Fathers and Mothers wrote,

“The path towards God begins with the recognition of our own limitations and an awareness of our total dependence on God. In order to take the first step, we must know who we are in relation to God” (p.134).

The quote I am using from St. John’s Gospel comes from the narrative where Jesus feeds the multitudes. When the people want to take Him by force “He withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.” Jesus “who, being in the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God, something to be used for his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant..” (Philippians 2:6,7 NIV). Jesus is more concerned about withdrawing to recollect Himself in silence and solitude. Jesus reclaims who He is.

Humility is the most challenging way for Christians to live. Our society around us encourages achievements to become better and bigger. The more money we make, the more successful we are. Being in the spotlight creates models for our children to aspire to. Greatness feeds our false-sense of self. The attitude is unless we are on the top of the world, we are nothing. Jesus, shows us that nothing could be further from the truth.

Contemplative prayer helps us to live into our true selves. We “recognize our limitations.” We rediscover that we are poor in spirit, and that we will find God by letting go of who we think we are. The God-Life becomes a life of fruitfulness when we listen to Jesus when He said, “Without me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). In humility we seek union with God for the sake of God alone, God gives us everything we need. Our poverty of spirit in contemplation is the key that unlocks the power of the Holy Spirit; who guides us to purity of heart.

“Let me seek you, O God, in my desire, let me desire you in my seeking. Let me find you by loving you, let me love you when find you” (From the Prayer of St. Anselm of Canterbury, Saint Benedict’s Prayer Book for Beginners, p.118).

“The first step of humility, then, is that we keep ‘the reverence of God before our eyes’ (ps.36:2)’ and never forget it” (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.79).

What does humility mean in your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you feel led to buy me some coffee, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so much.