Reflection on The Ascension

Ascension

 

So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’(Acts 1:6-11 NRSV).

There are two sentences n this reading from Acts that is catching me. The first is “When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up,,,,”

What I meditate on in those words is Jesus showing us what Contemplative prayer is.  Contemplative prayer and the mystical experience of God happen as our hearts and souls are “lifted up” beyond our limits in the wonder and holiness of God.  We can sit in silence before a cross, an icon or just in a beautiful grassy field with a stream flowing.  The Holy One can lift us up to the vision of Christ as He speaks to our hearts to give us a view of ourselves from God’s perspective.  Where there are no labels, no situation, place or thing to hold us down or blur what we see.  Only the Light of Jesus gazing His eyes at us, while we see His face.  No words are adequate to explain or describe the experience.  We just know that God is present to us in a marvelous and mysterious way.

The second set of words that speak to me are “why do you stand looking up towards heaven?”  As contemplatives, we seek union with God in the here and now.  We can stare into heaven all we want.  We may catch a mysterious glimpse of God, however, the longer we stay there, the more likely we will miss God’s presence in our spouses, children, and our local communities.  The same Ascended Jesus who is in heaven is closest to God with our humanity with all our wounds interceding on our behalf.  Yet, God is so madly in love with us, wounds including, that “nothing can separate us from the love of God, in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39).

“Without doubt, this descent and ascent can signify only hat we descend by exaltation and ascend by humility” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, Chapter 7;7, p.193).

How does meditating on the Ascension of Jesus impact your life today?

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

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/

Advent Reflection: Forgive as We Forgive

Lord's Prayer

 

“Assuredly, the celebration of Lauds and Vespers must never pass by without the superior’s reciting the entire Lord’s Prayer at the end for all to hear, because thorns of contention are likely to spring up.  Thus warned by the pledge they make to one another in the very words of this prayer: Forgive us as we forgive (Matt 6:12)”.  (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English and Latin, Chapter 13: The Celebration of Lauds on Ordinary Days. p.209).

One of the more difficult things about beginning to live with a new spouse/partner is getting used to each others habits and routines.  Everything from how one wipes their feet before they walk in the door to where they leave their dirty laundry just drives us crazy.

In a Monastery, the number of different personalities is multiplied by more than six.  In some of the larger Monasteries there can be over 100 Monastics in one community.  The members live on top of each other 24/7.  Old, young, new and the long timers are all in one place.

St. Benedict included the chapter about Lauds and more specifically the words in The Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive as we forgive” because of human nature and the unavoidable consequence of conflict within the community.  Such conflict has the ability to bring division and harm to the wider community.  So, St. Benedict wants to take care of the initial “cut” if you will, before the poison from the wound infects the entire house.

So many things happen in our lives.  Things that are not our fault.  Other times we may have been a little short with someone. If you are like me, there are times in which I think about no one else but myself.

Among the most important persons we need to forgive is ourselves.  Forgiving ourselves is a very important piece of the Contemplative life of prayer and mysticism.  Failing to forgive others and ourselves is very toxic to our relationship with God and those around us.  If we can’t even forgive ourselves; we become our own worst enemy.

A few years ago when I was contemplating what I wanted to do in terms of a church vocation, I was led into a deep experience of the Holy  with the words, “Forgive as we forgive.”  As I walked through my mind with God down the list of people I needed to forgive, God began speaking to my heart concerning all the things I was still holding myself guilty of.  The Holy Spirit and I went through many instances where I blamed myself for things I was not responsible for; yet, I was still punishing myself with a guilt that was not even mine.  It was an experience that set me free from prisons I did not even realize I was keeping myself locked up in.

As we prepare to welcome the Christ Child at the celebration of the Nativity, we recall that Jesus came among us in the midst of our human messes.  Through Jesus, God came to tell us, “It is okay. I am here as one like you, to walk with you.”  Jesus journeys with us to help us forgive ourselves and others.

What do the words, “Forgive as we forgive” mean for you this Advent and Christmas Seasons?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Visit us at: http://www.cos-osb.org

Reflection on St. Stephen

StStephen

 

Stephen said, “I can see heaven open, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God’. (Acts 7:56) (A New Zealand Prayer Book, p.693).

It sounds like St. Stephen had a contemplative and mystical experience while he was being stoned to death.  It certainly was not a peaceful or silent moment.  Being dragged out of the city and be stoned to death for proclaiming the truth he knew about Jesus as he did; yet, he had this vision of Jesus at the right hand of God.

In the last two days of my mother’s life, she groaned and moaned a lot.  To be honest, this was the first time I had ever been at the bedside of a dying person.  It was a very powerful spiritual experience.  When I asked the hospice nurse about the groaning and moaning, she said that mom was talking with the other side.  As my mother was handing over everything physical and material, she was embracing ever so graciously what is spiritual.  My mother could not talk in those final moments of her life.  Yet, she did say one word very clearly that she had not said in sixteen years.  She said, “Ma”.

St. Stephen’s mystical experience of Jesus, and my mother’s were the work of the Holy Spirit.  At the moment of the greatest chaos, pain, suffering and death; our God becomes ever more visible and tangible.  In those moments, we see everything from God’s view point.  All that is touchable in this life, becomes the “rubbish” that St. Paul wrote about in Philippians 3:7.  What becomes crucial is the revelation of God who seeks union with us, as we embrace God in a holy union of body, mind, soul and spirit.

Jesus, your glory is not in power alone, but even more in suffering and death, may Stephen’s vision crown our resolution and keep us true. Amen. (A New Zealand Prayer Book, p.693).

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB