Reflection on Listening: Yup Again!

I will listen to what the Lord God is saying, for he is speaking peace to his faithful people and to those who turn their hearts to him. (Psalm 85:8 The Book of Common Prayer, p.709).

When we read those famous first words in the Prologue of The Rule of St. Benedict notice that he is talking about the ear of the heart, as opposed to the physical ear. “Listen, my child to the masters instructions, and incline the ear of your heart.” Benedict returns to the subject of listening throughout the Prologue. He quotes from Psalm 95, “If today you hear God’s, harden not your heart.” “Listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 2:7). “Come and listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Psalm 34).

St. Benedict would have leaned about listening from the Desert Mothers and Fathers. In particular St. Moses, who famously said, “Sit in your cell. Your cell will teach you everything.”

Listening to God involves a continuous letting go. Our cell is our interior self, as much as it can be a physical space. Listening to God so that we can hear God speaking peace to us, is strengthened in time spent in silence and solitude; but we must nurture our interior self by remaining open to God at all times. Each moment and encounter is a contemplative experience, if we will only listen for God in our hearts. In her book, Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light, Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB wrote, “Everything in life is meant to stretch me beyond my superficial self to my better self, the Ultimate Good who is God” (p.24).

Are you listening to God in the here and now?

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 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

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 the Whole Heart

“I will give thanks to you , O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I will sing your praise.” (Psalm 138:1 The Book of Common Prayer, p.793).

There are twelve chapters in The Rule of St. Benedict in which Benedict lists what Psalms are to be prayed at the various Offices.   He quotes from the Psalms in any number of chapters including the Prologue.  In the short Rule of St. Romuald, he writes about the importance of the Psalms for those who observe an Eremitic version of Benedictine Monasticism as Camaldolese.  The Desert Mothers and Fathers prayed all 150 Psalms twice a day.  The importance of the Psalms in the life of Christians cannot be over emphasized.

When we pray the Psalms, we pray with the entire Church in the past, present and future.  Praying the Psalms allows us to open ourselves to the Presence of God.  God knows all of our emotions and allows us to offer them and everything about ourselves to God by praying the Psalms while surrendering ourselves to God.

What might it mean to give thanks to God with our whole heart?

When we use the word “heart” in Christian Spirituality, we are talking about the whole of ourselves.  To give thanks to God with our whole heart implies holding nothing back.  Whatever is good and wonderful we offer in thanksgiving to God with our whole selves.  Whatever is in pain, suffering or sadness, we offer in thanksgiving to God with our whole selves.   Praying the Psalms is our assurance that whatever is happening within our whole selves, we can turn ourselves over to God who loves us where we are.  When we do God draw us closer to God’s Self who walks with us in mystic journey of redemption.

When we pray Lectio Divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture) we spend time meditating on a word or sentence that moves us.   In his book Thoughts in Solitude Thomas Merton wrote the following words with regards to meditative prayer.

“In meditative prayer, one thinks and speaks not only with his mind and lips, but in a certain sense with his whole being.  Prayer is not just a formula of words, or a series of desires springing up in the heart–it is the orientation of our whole body, mind and spirit to God in silence, attention and adoration.  All good meditative prayer is a conversion of our entire self to God.” (Shambhala Pocket Classics version 1993, p.44).

Offering our whole selves to God in thanksgiving leads us to contemplation.   God who entered into our human nature in Jesus the Word, became one with all our human experiences.  Jesus offered every aspect of humanity from joy to excruciating suffering to the very heart of the love of God.  When we pray the Psalms and offer our whole hearts to God with all the masks off, our prayer, becomes the prayer of Jesus as God receives with unconditional love all that we have to offer God.

What does giving thanks to God with your whole heart mean for you?

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 Abiding in God’s Love

OceanWaves

Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love” (John 15:9 NRSV).

I have a fascination with the power of water.  When we ponder the ocean and the waves; I am amazed at how the weather can change what those waves do within seconds.  Yet, the ocean and its waves are never separated.  Sr. Joan Chittister in her book The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century on page 81, she quotes a story from the Desert Monastics.  I am going to paraphrase the story by writing that just as the ocean and the wave are not one, but not two; so are those who seek union with God and abide in God’s love.

The Gospel quote above is from Jesus’ talk with His disciples as He prepares to leave them.  Jesus is telling them to abide in God’s love and share that love with each other.  Just as the ocean and the wave are not one, nor two: so the love of God is not one, but not two in those who abide in God’s love.

My problem when I read “abide in God’s love” is that I am drawn back to my false-sense of self.  I think abiding in God’s love is all about me and is therefore up to me.  I forget that the desire in my heart to abide in God’s love is there by God’s initiative.  Whatever level of desire I have within me to abide in God’s love, it is the job of the Holy Spirit to teach me how to do that.  Abiding in God’s love challenges the contemplative to let go and abide in God’s love by simply searching for the One who has already found us.  Abiding God’s love is a mystical experience in that it draws us to a love that is beyond explanation, expression or description.  It defies any limitation on our part.  It is the Opus Dei (the Work of God0 through prayer, meditation, silence and of course living.

In his book The Eremitic Life: Encountering God ins Silence and Solitude, Fr. Cornelius Wencel wrote,

The meeting of two loves that are present and open to each other is a necessary condition for prayer to come into existence.  It is in contemplative prayer that the hermit touches Christ’s presence most intensely.  This presence has nothing to do with static persistence.  Just the opposite, Christ’s presence is ever new, amazingly fresh and full of unknown potential.  Through our tranquil abiding in Christ, we can understand better His presence as a gift given to the Father as well as to mankind (see page 154).

Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation.  It is bound to be narrow at the outset.  But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love. (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.19).

Abba Antony said, “I no longer fear God, I love him; for love casts out fear.”

What does it mean for you to abide in God’s love?

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 Psalm 23

Slide1MountainImage

The Lord is my shepherd.  I lack nothing.  He lets me rest in grassy meadows; he leads me to restful waters; he keeps me alive.  He guides me in proper paths for the sake of his good name.  Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger because you are with me.  Your rod and your staff–they protect me.  You set a table for me right in front of my enemies.  You bathe my head in oil; my cup is so full it spill over!  Yes, goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the Lord’s house as long as I live.  (Psalm 23 Common English Bible).

Psalm 23 is probably the single most well known and loved of all the Psalms.  And for good reason.  This is a Psalm of comfort and consolation at funerals time and time again.  It is used often enough that most of us can say it by memory from the original King James Version.

I invite you to join me for a contemplative look at this Psalm. The words on the surface may appear to take us from a moment of chaos to those peaceful meadows and calm waters.  If we think on these words from our minds alone and with our false-sense of self, we will miss the opportunity to meditate on them in our hearts.  Jesus the shepherd comes when we feel that we are lost, weary, restless, in darkness and feasting before our conflicts and makes them into opportunities for God to do wondrous things in us.  In the words of this Psalm, God offers us the truth of what the Resurrection is for the contemplative.  Our lives in their current state are not an end in and of themselves.  The Contemplative searches for union with the Risen Christ where the world sees hopelessness and despair.  The contemplative seeks the mystery of God’s unfolding grace as God takes all that is difficult, painful and confusing and uses them to draw us closer to God’s boundless love and tender mercy.

Yesterday, was the commemoration of St. Anselm who’s name I am so honored to have as my Religious Name.  I read the following words in The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume II on page 1775 written from the Proslogion by St. Anselm, and I believe they speak very eloquently of what Psalm 23 may say to us from a contemplative perspective.

“O God, let me know you and love you so that I may find my joy in you; and if I cannot do so fully in this life, let me at least make some progress every day, until at last that knowledge, love and joy come to me in all their plenitude.  While I am here on earth let me learn to know you better, so that in heaven I may know you fully; let my love for you grow deeper here, so that there I may love you fully.  On earth then I shall have great joy in hope, and in heaven complete joy in fulfillment of my hope.”

“When we have used [the tools of good works] without ceasing day and night and have returned them on judgment day, our wages will be the reward the Lord has promised; What the eye has not seen nor the ear heard, God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor 2:9).” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.29).

“The path you must follow is the Psalms” (From the Short Rule of St. Romuald).

What is your experience of Christ as your good shepherd?

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 clock on the Benedictine Coffee Mug.

Reflection on Locked Doors

St. Thomas

“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.” (See John 20:19-31 NRSV).

This morning the Rev. Anna V. Ostenso Moore at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral preached an excellent sermon on the words in John’s Gospel quoted above.   She spent time talking about the doors of the house where the Disciples were locked because of their fear.  Though the doors were locked and they were afraid, the Risen Christ appeared among them and brought them His peace.

When fear grips us we tend to lock the doors of hearts.  We want to hide and keep everyone including Jesus out.  Whatever happened and from wherever the fear comes from, when we allow ourselves to be consumed to the point that we lock ourselves up, it becomes very difficult to hear the Risen Christ speak to our hearts.  Whether the fear is created by the same doubt that Thomas had, or because of things within ourselves that we run from; they are no match  for the power and love of the Risen Christ and God’s love for us.

As we read further into the Gospel story for today, we see that the fear and the locked doors did not keep the Risen Christ out.  He still came among His followers and wished them peace.  The gigantic leap of faith in Thomas’ doubt enabled him to see beyond his own apprehension, the Risen Christ before him, with His wounded hands, feet and side within arms reach.

Fr. Cornelius Wencel, Er.Cam. in his book The Eremitic Life: Encountering God in Silence and Solitude wrote,

“The search for God and the result of renewal of heart leads us to the encounter of a mystery, where we attempt to perceive it with our whole self.  This is a continuous effort to encounter a reality that infinitely eludes every endeavor to define or grasp it” (See page 53).

The contemplative sees their fear and even locked doors as an opportunity to encounter the Living God.  Fear in the heart of those who truly seek God within their whole self is never an end in and of itself.  The Sacred Scriptures and our faith tell us that Jesus who is Risen is our beginning and end.  There is no fear, no event, no doubt that we may harbor that has the power to keep the Risen Christ from coming to bring us His peace and lead us into the mysticism of a deeper experience of God’s loving presence.

[Abba Nilus] said, “Do not be always wanting everything to turn out as you think it should, but rather as God pleases, then you will be undisturbed and thankful in your prayer.” (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated & Explained by Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, p.61).

“What dear brothers, is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us?” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.16).

Can you identify a place with a locked door in your life?  Will you let the Risen Christ come and bring you His peace?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you would like 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 the Ruined Temple

RuinedTemple

“Jesus said, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.'” (John 2:19 NRSV).

“Abba Alonius said, ‘If I had not destroyed myself completely, I should not have been able to rebuild and shape myself again.” (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Sayings Annotated & Explained by Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, p.51).

Our journey into Holy Week seems to show life as Jesus knew it falling apart.  Yesterday on Palm Sunday, the crowds welcomed Him with “Hosanna!  Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord.”  Then we moved right to Good Friday.  Today, the Gospel chosen for this day takes us back to John 12:1-11.   So why, you would be right to ask me, am I all the way back to John 2:19?

Yesterday, during the reading of the Passion according to St. Mark, we heard that the witnesses at Jesus’ trial testify falsely to what He said about the destruction of the temple, and raising it up again.  I am back at this story in the earlier part of John’s Gospel, because I think it speaks to us about where we are in Holy Week from a Contemplative point of view.

I am disturbed by the words of Abba Alonius in which he said “If I had not destroyed myself completely.”  But, then he goes on with a striking parallel to what Jesus said in John 2:19 about raising up the temple again.

In her commentary on these words of Abba Alonius, Christine Valters Paintner writes,

“The paradox in the spiritual life is that this journey through destruction is necessary to reach any kind of resurrection or new life beyond it.  We are rebuilt and reshaped through this process.  We must fully surrender ourselves to the awfulness of it.  We must stay present with how we feel and bring compassion to ourselves in the process.  We must learn to no longer feel victim to our suffering, but to instead discover a kind of inner fierceness that allows us to look death in the eye without flinching” (p.50).

It is such a mystical experience to contemplate that God uses our brokenness through the Passion and Death of Jesus; to helps us rebuild our personal interior ruins into a new person, with a new structure and a new life.  We tend to see our troubled humanity in Jesus for what it is on the surface; and it is terrible.  But when we spend some time in solitude and silence with the great mystery of what Jesus does with us during Holy Week, we can experience the power of Christ destroying those temples of our false-sense of self within us that holds on to grudges, anger, resentment, grief and addiction.  Christ comes to demolish these stones that we have held up for so long, by walking with us through them as they are, as we are; so that by God’s grace God can transform us into a newer and more glorious temple where the Resurrection is visible and tangible.  It begins with us praying and being open to God’s work within our deepest cells.

“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, p.15).

“8. 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).

What temples in your life will you let Jesus help you destroy, so that you can be rebuilt anew?

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.