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

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Advent Reflection: Keeping Watch, Forgive as We Forgive

Lord's Prayer

“Assuredly, the celebration of Lauds and Vespers must never pass by without the superior’s reciting the 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 as we forgive (Matt 6:12), they may cleanse themselves of this kind of vice” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, pages 42-43).

St. Benedict was a very wise and practical man.  He knew that there would need to be some strictness in establishing the monastery as the “school for the Lord’s service” (RB 1980, Prologue vs.48).  At the same time, Benedict made provisions for human weakness to avoid the occasion of murmuring as much as possible.  However much he wanted to avoid it, he also knew that a monastery with more than two Monks in it, would most likely have some kind of contention going on.  It usually takes two (or more) to tango.  To be sure that the members of the community kept in mind who it was that they were there to serve, he asked that the Lord’s Prayer be said during at least two of the Offices.  As Episcopalians and/or Anglicans, we recite it at all four of our Offices.

I think I can speak for most people when I write that all of us know how to assert ourselves to get what we want. If you are like me, you know when to assert yourself, you just are not always good at backing off when enough is enough.

It is easy to pray the Lord’s Prayer at an Office or Mass and feel like we have done our duty. If doing our duty stops at saying the prayer itself, then, we miss the point of saying it at all.  We pray the words: “Forgive as we forgive” to invoke God’s help with both in equal measure.  We acknowledge our poverty of spirit in that we need the mercy of God for ourselves.  Having said that, we also need to admit our poverty in spirit by asking God’s help to forgive those who hurt us.  The words from The Lord’s Prayer afford us the opportunity to pray for our own healing and for the healing of others.

As Advent is drawing to its close in only five days, it is a good time to spend some time in silent prayer going through our memories of those we have injured, and asking God for the strength to forgive those who have hurt us.  Do not be surprised if the “other” you need to forgive is most often, yourself.  God is more than able to help you do that.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Advent Reflection: Keeping Watch, Owning Nothing

Rule of St. Benedict

Above all, this evil practice [of private ownership] must be uprooted and removed from the monastery.  We mean that without an order from the Abbot, no one may presume to give, receive or retain anything as his own, nothing at all–not a book, writing tablets or stylus, in short not a single item, especially since monks may not have the free disposal even of their own bodies and wills.  For their needs, they are to look to the father of the monastery, and are not allowed anything which the Abbot has not given or permitted.  All things should be the common possession of all, as it is written, so that no one presumes to call anything his own (Acts 4:32). (RB 1990:The Rule of St. Benedict in Latin and English with Notes, p.231).

So, how does a dispersed monastic like myself, who is also married “own nothing?”  It is a challenging question.  How am I to rely on my Abbot’s authority to have something, when The Rule tells me I am not to own anything without his approval?   Another good question.

If there is any one thing that many of us “own” is “our own” understanding of how things are done and/or understood.  Every thing including that which is not seen, can be so easily kept as “our own.”  Keeping watch in this Season of Advent is about letting go of all that we own; including but not limited to that which we do or understand so that Jesus may come to us with God’s understanding.  Jesus did not come in the Nativity in the way we thought He should come.  He came in the manner in which God had appointed.  That is how we “own nothing.”

We own no thing by letting go of every thing.  We let go of them by detaching ourselves from owning them by not allowing them to possess us.  We recognize that we are to be good stewards of whatever we have or use.  We also reorganize our thinking so that what we use is not ours alone, but belongs to the use of the whole of the human community.  We need clothes to wear.  We do not need the latest fashion to dazzle everyone who’s attention we draw to ourselves.  We need a car to get to work and come home.  We do not need the biggest, best and most extravagant model on the market.  We need food to eat.  We do not need to eat at the most exquisite restaurant, paying more money for one meal than a poor person can eat in one day. The more we think we need to own something, the more we push God out.

God is the One who wants to possess our hearts.  St. Benedict calls it, “preferring Christ above all else.”  It is a daily and gradually letting go and trusting that what we have to use is on loan from God, and that we are to return it; after being faithful stewards because we used it for the purpose it was given.

Prayer and contemplation are given to us to know the presence of God in our hearts and lives.  We are to use them to grow closer to God, and return them unto God with our hearts all ready to be owned by God for all eternity.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB