Reflection on Our Eyes

Eye

“Turn our eyes from watching what is worthless; give me life in your ways.” (Psalm 119:37, The Book of Common Prayer, p.766).

A very wise spiritual director once told me that the reason our lives do not make more significant progress is because of how much attention is paid to nonsense.

Think of what a different world we could live in if the tabloids went bankrupt because no one stopped to read and buy their nonsense in checkout lines.

The world we live in with its lure of wealth, power, fame and the widespread heap of nonsense keeps our eyes on what is worthless.  Our false sense of self keeps us focused on what is worthless.

The Psalmist recognizes that by ourselves, we are powerless to change the direction of our interior vision.  When we try to do everything, thinking that we can do it all; we are keeping our eyes on what is worthless.  Nonsense just consumes us.

In contemplative and centering prayer, God draws us into the depth of God’s Self.  In God’s extravagant love and mercy, we are whole and complete.  In God’s way is that life that leads us into a deeper relationship with our true self; our eternal truth that is God’s goodness and graciousness poured into our hearts “through the one who has loved us” (See Romans 8:37).  In God’s way of life, we are drawn into the mysticism of God’s perspective of us in the holiness of Jesus who is God’s face revealed in the Word.  When we trust in God to turn our eyes away from what is worthless, God teaches us God’s way of life that fills us with a sense of purpose with the hope seeking union with God in purity of heart.

“What, dear brothers, is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us?  See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life.  Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the Gospel as our guide, that we may deserve to see him who has called us to his kingdom (1 Thess. 2:12).” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, p.161).

Where are your eyes focused?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on God Our Portion

st.benedictstainedglass

“I cry out to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” (Psalm 142:5: The Book of Common Prayer, p.798).

I am drawn to the words, “You,,,,are my portion in the land of the living.”

The world around me tells me that I will never be satisfied unless I own the biggest, the fastest, the most pleasurable.   Some around me have a larger portion then I do. I probably have a larger portion than others in some things.  Consumerism says that unless I have the biggest portion of everything, I am missing something in life.  The weight loss consumer market shames me and others by telling us that unless we buy their products to make us look more like the status quo our lives are worthless.

In Chapter 34 of The Rule of Saint Benedict entitled Distribution of Goods According to Need, he quotes from Acts 4;35.  “Distribution was made to each as he had need.”  In the rest of the chapter,  Benedict offers advice for those who need more and those who need less.  He is telling us that God knows our needs better than we do. Benedict’s Rule is a balance between strictness and flexibility.   He recognizes our need to honor God in one another, but leaves the decision of what to work on up to us individually.

The Psalmist and St. Benedict are reminding us that God is our portion who provides for each of us from the fullness of God’s Self in grace and love.  Our false sense of self says we never have enough, or makes us guilty if we have too much because of circumstances beyond our control.  As we submit ourselves to God through contemplative prayer we are drawn into the mystical experience that God’s Truth is all we need.  In God is our true selves.  In God is our sense of love and acceptance of where we are.  In God is our grace to let go of ourselves and find strength and endurance to keep following the path to where God wants us to be.  After all, God is our portion in the land of the living.

How is God your portion in the land of the living?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on Contemplating Forgiveness

Lord's Prayer

Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. (Taken from Matthew 18:21-35, NRSV).

I have to begin with saying that I often dislike sermons based on this Gospel parable.  Jesus does sound a little like he is being mean.  What makes me feel that way?  Answer.  My false sense of self.

Admittedly, I have my father’s stubborn streak within me.  I struggle a lot to admit that I have made a mistake, offended someone or had a hard time forgiving someone else who may have hurt me.  What makes me feel this way?  Answer.  My false sense of self.

My false sense of self lies to me.  It tells me that unless I am correct about everything; I am not loved.  It tells me that unless I settle the score; I am useless.  It tells me that unless I get everything my way; I am without hope.

To contemplate God’s forgiveness means that I have to let go of it all.  If i am going to experience the mystical presence of God, I have to give it all up and trust in God, and not get everything right on my own terms.  Yet, I am still faced with a false sense of self here.  Who am I to believe  that if I don’t do all the letting go and giving up, that God’s enlightening presence cannot do wonderful things in and through me?  What if I am still hanging on to having to be right about letting go and giving up, is me holding on to a false sense of self?  The answer.  I need God to help me let go and to give it up.  Jesus said in John 15:5b “apart from me, you can do nothing.”

Here those words from the Prologue of Saint Benedict’s Rule apply. “Listen!  Incline the ear of your heart.”  Contemplation of God’s work of grace in forgiveness begins when we listen to God within ourselves even with everything in us that needs redemption.  God reveals God’s Self to us in what is messy and imperfect.  The Nativity and the Cross are our claim to God’s work in our stinky and brutal messes.  They reveal that God is closest to us, giving us God’s light and love even when we have emotions about memories that we cannot overcome.  When we have pieces that do not fit together, God is still seeing us from God’s perspective as God’s Beloved with whom God is well-pleased.

I have to wonder if our biggest barrier to forgiving others, is because we need God’s help to forgive ourselves.  Even seventy-seven times.

What is your contemplative experience with God in those places where it is difficult to forgive?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

 

 

Reflection on The Storms

Stormy Lake Ontario

“But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’” (See Matthew 14:22-33 NRSV).

There are a lot of storms around all of us these days.  Whether they are natural or human made, storms are scary.  They have a double nature of beauty and ugliness.  Storms are a good example of the uninvited guest that shows up to a dinner party and just won’t take the hint that they are not wanted.  Nevertheless, storms show up when we least expect and/or want them to be there.

Storms also mirror life in the sense that they are there, and they need to be lived through; even if we don’t like what happens after.

In today’s Gospel Reading from Matthew, we can take comfort that the Disciples of Jesus are as scared of the storm as we are of the ones in our lives.  Jesus changes the narrative and the outcome when He tells them “Take heart, it is I.  Do not be afraid.”   Incidentally, did you know that the words “do not be afraid” appear 365 times in the Bible?  I think there is a good reason for that.

Storms like a clear day with not a cloud in the sky, present us with the opportunity to contemplate the Presence of God.  In the best of times and the worst of times; God is looking for us to seek union with God, as God tells us, “do not be afraid.”   God calls us into relationship with God in all aspects of life.  The extraordinary and the ordinary.  The ups and the downs.  In either case, God is present.  The Holy Spirit is speaking to us.  It may be waiting for the still small voice that Elijah heard.  It may be like Peter beginning to sink, so that Jesus could reach out to him, pull him up and strengthen his faith. It may be similar to the storm that kept Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica talking about holy things just before her soul was lifted up into heaven.

Jesus is always walking with us on the  path of our storms and calling us into a mystical union with God.  It is God’s invitation for us to let go of our false-sense of self and find God’s revelation in what is real, true and holy.

“And finally, never lose hope in God’s mercy.” (RB:1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, Chapter 4 On the Tools of Good Works, p.185).

Are you seeking union with God during the storms of your life?

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 God’s Relationship with God

HolyTrinity

 

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. (2 Corinthians 13:13 NRSV).

Vicki K. Black in her book entitled Welcome to the Church Year: An Introduction to the Seasons of The Episcopal Church, quoted Gretchen Wolff Prichard as she wrote about Trinity Sunday.

As we struggle to understand the “intellectual puzzle” of the doctrine of the Trinity, she suggests, we need to remember that in our worship the concept of the Trinity “serves  rather to draw us into contemplation of God’s experience of God.”  Pritchard reminds us that God’s life is a relationship of love, so that when we draw near to that life in worship, we too, are drawn “ever more deeply into love” (p.116).

Contemplative prayer is by itself a mystical experience.  The contemplative is open to God’s presence in the ordinary of the day.  While contemplative prayer is best experienced in a moment of solitude and silence; the Holy Spirit is certainly not confined to a particular action, at any one moment in time.  The Spirit can invite us to worship God in a great Cathedral, a small oratory, out camping, or in the middle of a struggling relationship.  The Trinity is about God’s relationship with God with us.  The Contemplative seeks to know the fullness of God in relationship; to be opened to the mysterious and tangible God.  God who is unseen is visible in our relationship of seeking union with God.

In The Rule of St. Benedict he wrote,

We believe the divine presence is everywhere and that in every place the eyes of the Lord are watching the good and the wicked (Prov 15:3). But beyond the least doubt we should believe this to be especially true when we celebrate the divine Office (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English, Chapter 19, p.47).

Our relationship with God is in our prayer as we live through life.  The Divine Office reminds us that everything about us, anything going on with us is part of our interaction with God.  As contemplatives, we live into that relationship because our God who loves us completely, is finding us by interacting with us.  All that we must do, is remain open to respond to our relationship with God, the Holy Trinity.

How do you experience the mystery of God in your relationship with God?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

 

Reflection on Save Us From The Time of Trial

Lord's Prayer

“Save us from the time of trial.”

I have had for many years now a real problem with the words, “And lead us not into temptation” in the traditional version of The Lord’s Prayer.  The words do not seem appropriate.  I am glad that the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer have given us the words, “Save us from the time of trial.”

These words should disturb us a bit.  It seems that God does not always save us from the time of trial.  Ask anyone who is suffering from cancer, bullying, dementia, being stalked or grieving the loss of a loved one if they feel as if they are being saved from the time of their trial.  Were the many Coptic Christians who have been killed over the past two months saved from their time of trial?  How about the martyrs?  How about Jesus’ moment of trial?

At Matins this morning, I read the following words from Resurrecting Easter: Meditations for the Great 50 Days by Kate Moorehead.

Resurrection is born out of the pit of death and despair. Moments of pain, moments of darkness and abandonment are the greatest moments to glorify God.

Jesus never promised us that we would not have moments of trial.  Jesus Himself faced his trials. At one point, he was condemned at a trial and sentenced to death.  Did God save Jesus from His moment of trial?  Yes.

In the Person of Jesus, God walks through our times of trial with us.  God helps us during the times of trial to learn new things about ourselves.  God helps us to draw closer to Jesus through The Holy Spirit in those times of trial, so that we may be given a greater insight into our relationship with God and others.  Whatever our trial is, we must believe that what is happening will not prevent God from bringing us to where God wants us.

As contemplatives, our “work” of grace is to search for union with God in all things, in all places and at all times; including, but certainly not limited to our times of trial.  It is in those moments, that we find God who has already found us.

“The fourth step of humility is that in obedience under difficult, unfavorable, or even unjust conditions, his [the monk’s] heart quietly embraces suffering and endures it without weakening or seeking escape. For Scripture has it: Anyone who perseveres to the end will be saved (Matt 10:22), and again, Be brave of heart and rely on the Lord (Ps26[27]:14)” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, Chapter 7;35-37, p.197).

How and where do you find God helping you from your time of trial?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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