Reflection on God is Near

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found; call on him when he draws near (Isaiah 55:6, Canticle 10, The Book of Common Prayer, p.86).

It has happened to me many times. I have lost something. I search everywhere for what I lost. I dig under the mail piled up on my desk. I open drawer after drawer. Then, I discover that the very thing I have been looking for is right in front of me. I spend so much time and energy looking for something that is before my nose.

God is closer to us than we think. Who God is and where God is are mysterious; that much is very true. Equally mysterious is that God is as close to us as every cell in our body. God, the Holy Spirit is present in every breath we take. The mercy of Jesus releases us of our sins with each breath of air we blow out. The grace of God is willing to be found, if we will only search for union with God for no other reason than to live into our relationship with the holiness and awesomeness of God.

The contemplative lives into the God-Life that is nearby, ready for us to call the God that found us in the depths of God’s loving Being. God is so wanting us to to love God, that God gave us the desire to look for God to love because of who God is. We already know that God gives us what we need the most. Jesus told us as much in the Gospel of Matthew 6:25-34). In verse 33 Jesus said “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” So God is the One we must search for. God is always very nearby.

God then directs these words to you: If you desire true and eternal life, keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit; turn from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim (Ps 34:14:15). Once you have done this, my eyes will be upon you and my ears will listen for your prayers; and even before you ask me, I will say to you: Here I am (Isa 58:9). (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.16).

Will you spend some in silence today to be with God who is always near you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Saint Benedict

My child, if you accept my words and treasure up my commandments within you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; if you indeed cry out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures—then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk blamelessly, guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path. (Proverbs 2:1-9 NRSV).

Let us think for a moment about the things we urgently search for. Our phones. Our keys. Money. The remote to our television set. Jewelry. A successful career. Popularity. Fortune. Control. We search for the most exciting. We crave what comes the easiest. We want things the way they were before COVID-19.

The writer of Proverbs tells us to want something so life-giving, that it would be better than chocolate in our mouth. The Wisdom of God is longing for us. If we will sit in silence long enough to “incline the ear of the heart” we will gain the a consciousness of God that will reform us to love God, our neighbor and ourselves in ways we would never have imagined.

In the Fall of 1993, I went to my first retreat at a Benedictine Abbey. It was my introduction to who Benedict was. I remember the first time I read some of The Rule of St. Benedict. My initial reaction was “What a weirdo he was.” Lol. Since that time, I have studied The Rule many, many times. For three years, I received spiritual direction from Fr. Anselm who is now the Abbot of Pluscarden Abbey in Scotland. That is in large part why I requested the name as my religious name, Whenever my life has edged out of where I should be, I eventually return to what I have learned from the life and The Rule of St. Benedict. Once I begin again to spend time praying my Offices, reading from The Rule, suddenly, even the roughest of experiences leads me into a deeper awareness of God.

In the RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English at the end of chapter 73 he wrote “Then with Christ’s help, keep this little rule that we have written for beginners.” Benedictine spirituality is not about being an athlete of religion. The contemplative way of St. Benedict is about beginning over and over to search for union with God through a life of continuous prayer. When we commit ourselves to beginning again the search for the wisdom of God in this very moment, we will receive an abundance of life from the storehouse of God’s greatest riches of grace.

During this time of sickness and death that is so overwhelming, we are gaining the opportunity to let go of what keeps us from living into our faith in God alone. As St. Benedict spent those three years in the cave at Subiaco and learned God’s Word; we too are in our own Subiaco time. What we do with our relationship with God during this time is up to us. God promises us the fruits of the resurrection even as we are staring death in the face. If we spend this time with our hunger for the Wisdom of God, and let God speak to our hearts in that desire, the best things are yet to come.

What are you desiring most from God during this time of a worldwide pandemic?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

O Lord my God, Teach my heart this day where and how to see you, where and how to find you. You have made me and remade me, and you have bestowed on me all the good things I possess, and still I do not know you. I have not yet done that for which I was made. Teach me to seek you, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me m or find you unless you show yourself to me. Let me seek you in my desire, let me desire you in my seeking. Let me find you by loving you, let me love you when I find you. Amen. (Prayer of St. Anselm of Canterbury, St. Benedict’s Prayer Book, p.118).

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Reflection on A Prayerful Heart

Give ear, O Lord to my prayer, and attend to the voice of my supplications. In the time of my trouble I will call upon you, for you will answer me. (Psalm 86:6-7. The Book of Common Prayer, p.710).

The great Desert Father Antony once wrote, “Just as fish die of they stay too long out of water, so the monks who loiter outside their cell or pass their time with men of the world lose the intimacy of inner peace. So like a fish going to the sea, we must hurry to reach our cell, for fear that if we delay outside we shall lose our interior watchfulness.”

Christine Valters Paintner in her book Desert Fathers and Mother’s: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings wrote, “The Greek word nepsis means “watchfulness.” It refers to a kind of calm vigilance in daily life, staying attentive and aware to the inner movements of the heart, watching one’s thoughts, and noticing patterns that arise. This inner attention, conducted with compassion, is the grace of the desert way.” (Pages 8-9).

The cell that Antony is writing about is our hearts. The heart in Christian spirituality is “the whole of ourselves.” The Psalmist is writing to ask God for help in times of trouble. The Psalmist knows the troubles that have been, and those ahead require God’s help to work through them.

We are living through some very difficult times. The coronavirus along with the excessive violence has everyone including me experiencing what seems like endless pain and confusion. We are inundated by the fast paced media that is bombarding our sensory awareness to overload.

The Psalmist and the Desert Monastics tell us to return to our cells (our hearts) and spend time in the presence of God in silence and solitude to reclaim our true sense of self. Contemplative prayer and mysticism calls us to embrace the peace of God that leads us to an awareness of what is really happening with in the heart of who we are. Let us remember that Jesus is walking with us through the events of the present time; and the Holy Spirit is teaching us from deep within our hearts. We do not have to understand anything. What we must do is let go of trying to determine a conclusion to the ongoing experience of God’s extravagant love that is transforming us “from glory into glory” in the here and now.

“How much more important, then, to lay our petitions before the God of all with the utmost humility and devotion.”

“The function of times of prayer, then, is not to have us say prayers; it is to enable our lives to become a prayer outside of prayer, to become ‘pure of heart,’ one with God,,,,” (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, Joan Chittister, p.132).

Are you setting time aside in your life to listen to God within the whole of yourself?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Visit Br. Anselm Philip’s Ministry for Spiritual and Grief Companionship to contact me if you are in need of any assistance.

Reflection on Stillness

“Be still, then, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:11. The Book of Common Prayer, p.650).

These simple words tell us to be still and know who is God. Yet, the very moment we hear them we are made aware of how disturbed we are. The words and the punctuation are meant to give us some important spiritual direction. Be still followed by a coma, the word then followed by another coma and the knowing who is God seem to suggest a brief moment of rest with the next word being followed by another moment of repose that leads us to knowing who is God.

When I first read these words, my whole being discovers that I am anything, but, still. I have various personal issues that make being still very challenging. It is not easily achieved by my own strength. It takes me being “attentive with the ears of the heart” to remember that becoming still is something I need God’s help to do. God speaks through these words, to tell me how much God loves me and that God knows me better than I know myself. God helps me remember that it is God’s Grace that will lead me to a stillness, by helping me to let go of thinking that I must be still on my own strength.

Our God wants nothing more from us than to search for union with God with purity of heart. To be in union with God means wanting God only because of who God is and not what God can give. God knows that we cannot do this without spending some time in silence, stillness and solitude so that God can take us on a journey through our whole selves, to bring us healing and holiness through an intimate relationship with God.

In contemplation, we long for the stillness that comes from just being with God wherever we are. Through mysticism we let go of what we think we know and trust in God’s love to take care of the rest.

“Speaking and teaching are the master’s task; the disciple is to be silent and listen.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 6. p.31).

Can you find a place and moment to be still, then, you will know who is God?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: Br. Anselm Philip’s Ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship

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Reflection on God’s Wondrous Love

“Blessed be the Lord! for he has shown me the wonders of his love in a besieged city.” (Psalm 31:21. The Book of Common Prayer).

Sometimes when our lives seem to have fallen apart, we might compare the experience to being a city that was under siege and left in ruins. Everything that was is no longer. The destruction and debris is everywhere. Nothing that was standing is without need to be rebuilt or repaired.

In Chapter 7 of The Rule of St. Benedict, he challenges us in the sixth and seventh degrees of humility. He writes about acceptance of even the harshest treatment and learning to say with Psalm 22:6 “I am a worm and no man, scorned by all and despised by the people.”

In his book The Rule of Saint Benedict: Initiation into the Monastic Tradition, Thomas Merton stresses that St. Benedict is that to live with a low self-esteem is the opposite of humility because by it, we draw too much attention to ourselves. He goes on to say that Benedict is telling us to let go of our false-sense of self. To learn to trust in God when our lives are shaken to pieces, as opposed to trusting in the little things of life to feel whole.

A contemplative learns over the course of a lifetime that seeking union with God for no other reason than God alone is to have all that we need. Yes, it takes all of our lives through moments of quiet time and living with God in the various moments in life to let go and let God be our everything. In the moments when things that were fall apart, that is where God’s wondrous love becomes best known in the whole of ourselves. When we experience the wonder of God’s love through contemplation and mysticism, the besieged city of our lives is a new beginning, and never a conclusion.

How are you experiencing God’s wondrous love in the besieged cities of your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Reflection on the Potter and the Clay.

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. (See Jeremiah 18:1-11 NRSV).

What makes contemplative prayer unique from other forms of prayer? Isn’t going to a church service enough?

There e are many forms of prayer for the Christian. Liturgical prayer. Intercessory prayer. Devotional prayer. These and other prayer forms are all important. Contemplative prayer is about what is inside of our hearts. Where other forms of prayer seem to stop at the end of our lips and minds; contemplative prayer takes us on the longest journey; from the head to the heart. Lectio Divina or the prayerful reading of the Scriptures is a contemplative type of prayer. The words of Scripture that we read very slowly go into our eyes and mouth, then down deep into our deepest selves where the Holy Spirit speaks to us through the words. God teaches our hearts as we meditate on what God wants us to learn from what we read. The next step is to pray to God for ourselves to be led into a deeper awareness and relationship through what we learned. The last part of Lectio Divina is to sit in the presence of God in contemplation to just be there and do nothing else.

In contemplation, we allow God to be the potter to mold and shape us from within our interior self.

“We can’t see God by some sort of intellectual vision, because cognition depends on a sensory infrastructure which cannot see divinity. It is only at the level of spirit that God is visible” (Michael Casey. Toward God: The Ancient Wisdom of Western Prayer., p.163).

St. Benedict wrote The Rule as an instruction to the heart about letting go of the many things we cling to. He knew that God wants us to be so much more than what we think we can be. God is at work in us through contemplative prayer to be the most beautiful and amazing person from the inside out.

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us to everlasting life” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.95).

How is God working like a potter with the clay in your heart?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Visit: Br. Anselm Philip’s Ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

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Reflection on God’s Love and Home

Jesus said to Judas (not Iscariot), “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (See John 14:23-29 NRSV).

What does loving God so that God can make a home with us look like? How can we keep the word of Jesus in a world that challenges us to give everything over to technology and innovation. The Bible itself has been given over to commercialism and theological debates. It is quite difficult for us to make our hearts into a space for the word and Jesus without us being open to the movement of God the Holy Spirit to reveal a new relationship with God that is living and growing.

“Abba John gave this advice, ‘Watching means to sit in the cell and be mindful of God. This is what is meant by ‘I was on watch and God came to me. ‘” (John the Dwarf, Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, by Christine Valters Paintner, p.11).

The “cell” for the Desert Monastics meant the heart. The famous saying of St. Moses the Black is applicable here. “Sit in your cell. Your cell will teach you everything.” Our hearts are so cluttered with anger, resentment, and our egos. So long as we give our hearts to our false-sense of self, we cannot hear God’s word clearly. When we run from what is in our hearts, we cannot experience God’s healing grace.

“Openness is the door through which wisdom travels and contemplation begins.” (Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light, Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB., p89).

Contemplation unlocks our hardened hearts. The mystery of God’s love comes to us through the Scriptures, through nature, through where we are in the here and now. Contemplation brings us into that relationship with God that can be experienced, but not explained. In contemplative prayer, our senses knows that God is present, real and tangible. When we “incline the ears of our hearts” to God in moments of solitude and silence, Jesus the Word will come to love us and make a home with us. God’s Love will transform us from the inside out. We will live from our eternal essence with God’s Holy Essence.

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all to everlasting life. ” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.95).

Will you let Jesus make a home for God in your own heart?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Please visit my website or more information about my ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

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Reflection on Resurrection Wounds

But Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”  (See John 20:19-31 NRSV).

Let’s not be so quick to judge Thomas’ faith. He like the other disciples were grieving the death of their best friend. His hopes were dashed to pieces. Can we blame him for being so skeptical about this news that the Risen Christ appeared to them? Thomas wanted more than just the word from the others. He wanted to know for himself that if Christ rose from the dead, will Jesus be able to help Thomas see that God understood how wounded Thomas was.

Jesus rose from the dead with our wounds on his body. Our wounds in God’s power to raise Jesus from the grave had been redeemed and rendered powerless. Thomas experienced God’s healing of his faith. Jesus showed him that God had taken his wounds seriously. God loved Thomas and all of us so deeply, that Jesus offered our wounds to God so,that they could be transformed in the Resurrection.

A contemplative knows that we have wounds. The wounds and pain will change our lives. We will be challenged in our faith. The mysticism of the Resurrection is that God shows us that our wounds can go to the very heart of God, who will love us and walk through them with us. Our wounds are an opportunity to strengthen our faith by drawing closer in relationship to God through the death and Resurrection of Christ.

May we with Thomas dare to ask the Risen Christ to affirm and heal our faith by touching Jesus’ wounds and cry with Thomas, “My Lord, and my God.”

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.95).

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, visit my website here to find information about my ministry.

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Reflection on the Annunciation and the Desert

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.” (See Luke 1:26-38 NRSV).

I think that we tend to over romanticize the Annunciation. It is a beautiful story without question. The story might bring us the hope that God will do something amazing with us, as God did with Mary. If the narrative of the announcement to Mary does not make us uneasy about following her to a desert of uncertainty, then we may have missed the most mystical purpose of the day.

I am experiencing the most unusual of Lenten observances. In addition to living with autism, I am also living with chronic back pain because of a T-12 lumbar disk protrusion. I require the use of a wheelchair when I go to doctor appointments or anywhere a long walk is needed, because the pain in my back is just too intense to walk with just a cane. I am going to appointments for physical and aquatic therapy to help strengthen my back muscles. But, the process is slow. I am in a year and season where I am uncertain about pretty much everything. Nothing is as it used to be.

I am sure that Mary’s life as it was proceeding at the time was stopped dead in its tracks by the Angel Gabriel’s announcement. She would be traveling in a desert with things being very out of order for the rest of her life. Mary has a faith I certainly do not have. Upon hearing the Angel’s words, she trusts herself and her way forward to God’s will.

Contemplative prayer is anything but, about certainty. That which is mystical is not so neatly fitted together to make perfect logical sense. It is a journey into the desert with Jesus through which we will see ourselves and our lives exactly as they are. There are no illusions, but, our false-sense of self. In the desert everything is unfamiliar, yet, starkly visible and inescapable. Contemplative prayer works best when we let go; little by little; and search for union with God in the things that are what they are. Through faith and trust in God’s love, we will be led to where we go from here.

“Abba Moses asked Abba Silvanus, ‘Can a man lay a foundation every day?’ The old man said, ‘If he works hard he can lay a new foundation every moment.'” (Desert Fathers and Mothers:Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, by Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, p.57).

“And finally, never loose hope in God’s mercy ” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, Chapter 4 On the Tools for Good Works).

What is your desert time like this Lent?

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 visit 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 Being A Seeker

“Hearken to my voice, O Lord when I call; have mercy on me and answer me. You speak in my heart and say, ‘Seek my face.’ Your face, Lord, will I seek.” (Psalm 27:10-11 The Book of Common Prayer, p.618).

The foundational spirituality of Benedictine Monasticism is to seek union with God through a life of continuous prayer. St. Benedict would have learned about seeking God from reading about the Desert Monastics like St. Antony and St. Moses who passed the spirituality on to St. John Cassian. That being said, the famous motto of Benedict Ora et Labora (pray and work) are the means to seeking union with God. Benedict taught his Monastics that prayer is essential to living a holy life, but that prayer was to be integrated with one’s everyday life and work.

The Season of Lent is a season of prayer and work. We take time during this holy time for more silence so that we may seek the face of God as the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 27. We invoke God’s mercy by letting go and seeking union with God with what is in front of us. While time in silence is important to our growth, what we are working towards is the interior silence within our own cell (the heart). St.Moses wrote, “Sit alone in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.” St. Isaac of Turin wrote,

“A swimmer plunges into the water stripped of his garments to find a pearl: a monk stripped of everything goes through his life in search of the pearl–Jesus Christ; and when he finds him, he seeks no longer for aught existing beside him” (Seeking God; The Way of St. Benedict, Original Edition by Esther de Waal, p.25).

Contemplation is seeking union with God through the life we have, not the life we want. The way forward to finding God’s will and holiness is being made in whatever situation or place we find ourselves in at this moment. We can spend a whole day looking for a reason why, but, we will still come back empty and hungry. “O God , you are my God; eagerly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you,,,,” (Psalm 63:1).

Are you seeking God in your life at this very moment?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone who know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, please visit my website link 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.