Reflection on St. John the Baptist

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel”(See Luke 1:57-80 NRSV).

The Church celebrates today the birth of one of the most influential people of Desert spirituality. St. John the Baptist personified the vocation of solitude. It is more than fair to say, that the Monastic tradition of living in the silence and solitude of the desert has St. John the Baptist as our pioneer.

The desert life of St. John the Baptist was to “prepare the way of the Lord.” He accepted the unfavorable way of life. He abandoned the lure of wealth and power. His desert life was how he unlocked the mystery of the God that he and all of humankind was awaiting. John the Baptist knew that he was chosen by God for something so amazing, that he let go of everything that could tie him down. St. John the Baptist chose the freedom of solitude, to know the God that was to become the very essence of God’s presence in every human person.

“Like the Forerunner, you were intended for Christ,,,,,,, because the on,y reason for your existence on earth is to love and glorify Jesus” (The Hermitage Within: Spirituality of the Desert. Translated by Alan Neame., p.19).

Contemplation is the gift of God’s grace to grow in purity of heart. Contemplation is about letting go of all our pretenses so that we are liberated to experience the wonder of God. Contemplation is the grace of self awareness; that God is at work in ourselves and the world us in the mystical experience of which our human senses can neither comprehend or describe.

“As long as I am content to know that [Christ] is infinitely greater than I, and that I cannot know Him unless He shows Himself to me, I will have peace, and He will be near me and in me, and I will rest in Him” (Thomas Merton. Thoughts in Solitude, p.109).

“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 noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, The Prologue, p.15).

“Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him” (From the Short Rule of St. Romuald).

How are you called to be a forerunner for God in your daily life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on God Our Strength

“Only God! The God who equips me with strength and makes my way perfect ” (Psalm 18:32. The Common English Bible).

Life sure does throw us a lot of curve balls. Though we may plan things well in advance with all the I’s dotted and the T’s crossed; it doesn’t take much for us to discover that God has other plans. There is an old saying, “If you want to make God laugh; tell God your plans.”

As contemplatives, we learn over time that we are always arriving, but have never arrived. There is always another road to be traveled. We are never on a lonely journey. The Holy One walks with us, and shows God’s Self to be present in the last places we expect to find God. To be a contemplative, means to always be open to the Mysterious. God desires to be closer to us, and so gives us the desire to be on a life long path to search for union with God. God equips us with the strength, and makes our journey perfect; because God alone knows and loves us so intimately, “that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39).

Spending time in silence and solitude is one way in which we can know more closely that “only God equips me with strength, and makes my way perfect.” In silence and solitude, we let go of everything that distracts us from knowing our true selves, and “do battle under the true King, Christ the Lord.” (Prologue of The Rule of St. Benedict). “Sit in your cell as in Paradise. Leave the world behind you.” (The Brief Rule of St. Romuald).

Can you let God equip you with strength and make your way perfect?

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 to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine coffee mug. Thank you so much.

Reflection on Enticed by God

RunnerLight

 

“O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed…..” (Jeremiah 20:7 NRSV).

Out of curiosity, I looked up the word “enticed”.  The synonyms for enticed are allure, attract, lure, tempt.

The Contemplative has been on a journey that began when she/he discovered an enticement within them.  Something was empty and hungry.  As the contemplative opens oneself to the presence of God, one discovers the mystery that one has been enticed by the Holy Spirit.  The lure within the contemplative was there by God’s initiative.  It allures the contemplative into something much deeper than austere practices and the practice of religion by itself.  The practice of religion certainly helps, but, it is something on the surface that can only do so much. We know that when we are hungry there is something about the aroma of bread being baked that seems to make our mouths water and warms our soul.  This is poor example, but close enough to what the contemplative experiences as God entices us in our hearts.

“The contemplation of God is arrived at in numerous ways” (The Conferences of St. John Cassian.  Conference One: On the Goal of the Monk).

God has many ways of attracting our attention.  Through our moments in solitude, walks or jogs along the beach and in the ordinariness of life; God is there, enticing us in ways that “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).    All we have to do is take one small foot step in faith with a little trust in the Holy Spirit; and God will do the rest.

“First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to him most earnestly to bring it to perfection” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English. Prologue vs 4. p.15).

How is God enticing you?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

 

Meditation on Dwelling in the Presence

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How dear to me is your dwelling, O Lord of hosts!  My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God. (Psalm 84:1. The Book of Common Prayer, p.707).

We are on the Second Sunday After Christmas now.  It is also the third day of a new year.  As the Christ Child brought with Him a new beginning; a new year is also.  There are so many things around us calling out for our attention.  We have before us many choices to make.

When God came to us in the Incarnate Word, Jesus offers to us many opportunities to make choices.   Each of us will make different choices in different ways, that will have different results.  The decisions we make will be opportunities for us to grow closer to God, as God desires to be closer with us.   The questions God asks each of us is “What is the desire of your soul?”  “In what and whom do you rejoice?”

We are invited by the Psalmist to spend some time listening to God’s desire for us, to desire God.   Our desire for God is of God’s initiative.  God asks us to make the choice of how we will respond to such a deep desire.   We are invited by God’s grace to enter into the contemplative vision of God’s dwelling place.  As the sparrow finds a place, so God has prepared one for us within the depths of God’s bosom.

Do our hearts and flesh desire to rejoice in the living God?

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

 

 

 

The Transfiguration and Contemplation

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About eight days after Jesus had foretold his death and resurrection, Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”–not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.  (Luke 9:28-36 NRSV).

Last month I visit The Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Dallas, Texas.  The image above is a photo I took of their exquisite Altar with the art work of the Transfiguration behind it.  If you zoom into the image, you will see each of the characters in the Transfiguration narrative depicted as best as they can be.  This image has been attracting me in prayer and contemplation since I first saw it.  Now, here on today’s Feast of the Transfiguration which we commemorate every year on August 6th; I am so excited to share this moment of contemplation with my readers here.  Peter and John are featured in the two side panels, while James is laying on the ground at the bottom, with Moses and Elijah on either side of the Transfigured Christ.   We have two small images of Jesus and the three disciples going up the mountain before and down after.  The three images below it are Elijah being taken up in the chariot of fire, the Trinity Icon and Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on the other side.  Truly an amazing depiction of what we are commemorating today.  Happy Feast Day to this wonderful Parish.

What about the Transfiguration draws us into deep prayer and contemplation?  Is it the white light and Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah?  Is it the voice from heaven?  Are we thinking about the three Disciples, Peter, James and John?  Is the picturesque language of what Jesus might be like in the glory of Heaven after the Resurrection calling to us in wherever we happen to be in our own lives?

In The Rule of St. Benedict, he tells us that “We are already counted as God’s and therefore must not do anything to grieve God by our actions.” (Prologue, vs. 5).

Among the ways in which we can contemplate the Transfiguration, is that God has already counted us as belonging to God through Christ.  Whether we are sturdy on our feet or scared of the reality of the wonder of Christ in our lives; we are all in the presence of God and given a brief glimpse of Jesus through the ordinary things of life.  We have those moments when what God says to us is as clear as can be.  Other times, God is mysterious and we wonder what in the world is going on.  In any case, Jesus is there with us and it is good for us to be with Him.  I believe that the contemplation of God being close to us in Christ is that moment by which we see ourselves and the world from God’s point of view for today.

May we in moments of silence and prayer, be open to see Christ transfigured within our limitations to “behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6) among us in one another.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Advent Reflection: Keeping Watch in Serenity, Courage and Wisdom

Serenity

O God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.  (Reinhold Niebuhr).

This famous little prayer is so beautiful because it is equally truthful.  We go through life’s daily activities trying to grab hold of this straw and the next to control what flows through them.  We want more.  We want what is better than what we already have.  We are not satisfied with having won a particular argument with that certain someone, because, we didn’t get them to see our point of view.  We live in a fantasy world with ourselves and others.

The inescapable reality is, that we really do not have total control over any one thing or any one person.  Ultimately, we are not in control of any particular situation to have the desired outcome.  We can apply for the job. We may get it, we may not.  We can take the medicine, but we cannot make it work.  We can plead with a friend of ours to address their addiction, but we cannot make them do the right thing.

There is one thing we do have in just about any situation.  We have choices to make. Each day and moment, God gives us the opportunity to make choices.  In this prayer that has been used by Al-Anon members for decades, we acknowledge our helplessness to make many of those choices.  So, we ask God to help us to accept what we cannot change with a total peace and surrender of ourselves, or to dedicate ourselves in courage to change what we can, and most importantly that wisdom that will know the difference.

Advent is about letting go, finding courage and looking for the Wisdom that is the Incarnate Word of God.  Jesus wants to come to us.  He can come and knock at the doors of our hearts, but, He cannot make the choice for us as to whether or not we let Jesus in.

May we have the serenity, courage and wisdom to let Jesus in and show us the way to love God, our neighbor and ourselves.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Advent Reflection: Keeping Watch at the Cross

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Let us give thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:12-20 NRSV.  “Let us give thanks” comes form The Liturgy of the Hours).

Why is the Advent, Christmas and Epiphany seasons so much easier than Lent, Holy Week and even Easter?  I think it has something to do with the fact that we do not think as much about the Cross during Advent and Christmas as we do during Lent.  Nevertheless, the Cross is quite inseparable from any part of the Church Year.  The Christmas tree that is often thought to be so pagan; is actually symbolic of the wood of the Cross.  The evergreen leaves are a reminder of the promise of everlasting life because of Christ’s death on the Cross.  The wood of the manger in the Nativity narrative is also symbolic of the Cross.

The words of the canticle from Colossians remind us that Christ came as God among us. Christ was the visible image of God, and that in Christ all the fullness of God’s divinity was pleased to dwell.  This Season of Advent is about remembering that Christ came to us as one like us in the Word made Flesh.  Christ made peace by the way of forgiveness of our sins through the shedding of His blood on the Cross.  This is our reason for watching during Advent, because the Christ we are awaiting is our Savior.  He is the One who brings all of us into a deeper relationship with God because in Christ, God has identified with all of us; to the point of giving His life on the Cross.

Advent is made for the Christian to contemplate the mystery of God coming among us, and returning to us to claim God’s people who are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.  Advent is our opportunity to respond to God in prayer and silence through the watching and waiting for all that God has for us to become a living reality.  We need not wait for God to come to respond to Christ and the Cross.  Christ is already here among us, as the Kingdom is already, but not yet.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB