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

Reflection on If You Love Me

St.BenedictwRule

 

 ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”  (John 14:15-17 NRSV).

Dean Paul J. Lebens-Englund at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis, asked the gathered congregation two very important questions one Sunday.   Do you remember the very first time you fell in love?  What was that one moment like for you?

I invite you to spend some time in contemplative silence on those words, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will send you another Advocate, to be with you forever.”   As we bring Dean Paul’s question about the first time you fell in love, how might the words from this Gospel of John apply to what you are remembering?

I would like to suggest that to love Jesus, keep His commandments and be ready to receive the Holy Spirit, God’s very Essence; requires us to be open to learning to love Jesus in ways today that are even greater than that first time we fell in love.

The contemplative knows and lives into  the first step of humility St. Benedict wrote about in The Rule. Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB in her book, Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light wrote,

“The first step of humility is to ‘keep the reverence of God always before our eyes’ and never forget it,” the Rule of Benedict says.  See everything in life as sacred.  The neighborhood calls something out in us.  This tree stirs feeling in us.  This work touches hope in us.  Every thing in life, in fact, is speaking to us of something.  It is only when we learn to ask what the world around us is saying to us at this moment, in this particular situation, that we tend to the seedbed of our soul.”  She goes on to say in another paragraph, “What is God demanding of my heart as a result of each event, each situation, each person in my life?”

Loving Jesus and keeping His commandments, so we can be open to the Spirit of God is about how we live in awareness of, and respond to the loving Presence of Jesus in this moment, this place and this opportunity.

Are you open to falling in love again and again with Jesus, by living His commandments, to receive the Advocate Who wants to live in us?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on Way, Truth and Life

a-long-path

Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  (John 14:5-6 NRSV).

There is a spiritual danger to read these words of Jesus and presume we know exactly what Jesus is saying about Himself.  I would suggest that Jesus is talking about what He is going to do when He ascends into Heaven and later sends the Holy Spirit.  The mood of the party is about to change as to what is going to happen, and what it will mean.  It will through us into confusion.  Things as we have known them will not be the same.  What we  do next is not so much about the Who or the ending.  It is about what we do with the here and now so that we may go from here to where Jesus wants to lead us.  Previous plans will become obsolete.  What should have been, no longer applies.  What we wanted will no longer matter.

Thomas asked Jesus “How can we know the way?”  A man is finally stopping to ask for directions.  lol.   Jesus tells Thomas that He is the way, the truth and the life.   We need to be very careful about assuming that because Jesus said that He is these things, means we have the answer.  Jesus’ way, truth and life are mysterious at best.  We can presume to know that Jesus is talking about Himself, and all we have to do is follow Him from an ideology.  If we stop at what we know and understand, we will cut ourselves off from the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and relationships.

What we need to bring to our time of contemplative prayer, is that God, the Holy Spirit is calling us to turn ourselves over to the way of Jesus, so that we may know the eternal truth of God in our hearts, and search for the life that God wants us to find.  God guides us into that way, truth and life in Jesus in the here and now, to guide us onward to a renewed relationship with our true-sense of self.   A self that is not caught up in labels, positions, what we own, or have, or do.  It is our true selves, our essence in which all we know is that we are God’s beloved, and with us, God is well-pleased.

“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 Saint Benedict in Latin and English.  The Prologue, p.165).

When you read that Jesus is the way, truth and life, what does that mean for you?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

 

Reflection on I Am the Gate

GoodShepherd

 

“I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”  (John 10:9-10 NRSV).

As we are focusing on Jesus as the Good Shepherd today, I found myself stuck at the words, “I am the gate.”  John’s Gospel is full of Jesus proclaiming “I am” about many things.  “I am the bread of life.”  “I am the light of the world.”  “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  “I am the resurrection and the life.”   When Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd”  that is pretty easy to think of.  The words, “I am the gate,”  these words are going deep for me today.

A gate can be higher or lower than a door.  A gate can give us a look at what is on the other side, or it can block our view. A gate is often attached to a fence of some kind that is protecting something within.  Regardless of a gates size, color, shape, with or without windows; one thing remains true.  In order to take in what is beyond the gate, one must pass through it.    Once that gate is opened and we pass through to the other side, we are introduced to what or who we went through the gate to see.  When we are inside the gate our eyes are opened to new things.  What was outside is beyond our view now.  When we step inside a gate, we are now in the hands of who owns what is on that side.  We are entrusted with the individual’s property, their way of life, the people they have welcomed or the animals they are caring for.  Passing through a gate is risky.  There is a tremendous amount of turning ourselves over the the owner of the gate and fence.

Jesus says, “I am the gate.”  We often do not know or see what Jesus is the gate to.  Sometimes we would rather stay outside of Jesus the gate, so that we can remain in our comfort zones.  We want our freedom to roam from one place or thing to the other.  We want no stability with what God has in Jesus who is The Gate.

When we put our trust in Jesus, The Gate and enter through Him, we will find that “Sheep may safely graze on pastures, where their shepherd guards them well.” (Cantata No. 208, by J.S.Bach).

The Contemplative sees Jesus, The Gate as always inviting us to pass through Him.  There is no part of life where Jesus isn’t The Gate inviting us to experience new life with a new purpose in the ordinary and boring parts of life.   Jesus is the Gate that invites us to enter into the other side of life; where we confront our fears and trust in God to change us into that “new creation” Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians 5:17-18.  The new creation where we know healing and reconciliation within ourselves; and are entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation to a world that is swimming in the pool of wounds that many refuse to see.   Inside The Gate who is Jesus, is the opportunity for that abundant life promised to us for the taking.

“In (the Abbot’s) commands let him be prudent and considerate and whether the work which he enjoins concerns God or the world, let him be discrete and moderate, bearing in mind the discretion of holy Jacob, who said, “If I cause my flocks to be overdriven, they will all die in one day” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, Chapter 64. p. 91-92).

What side of Jesus The Gate are you on in your present state of life?

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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