Reflection on Patience in the Heart

“Be patient, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.” (See James 5:7-10 NRSV).

This is the time of the season when our patience grows thin. The celebration of the Nativity is ten days away. We are still in the season of Advent. We continue watching, waiting and preparing. Today, we read from James “You must also be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.”

The electric and technological developments that bring us social media with iPhones or Smartphones, have made waiting and patience an antiquated way of living. We can pay our bills, move money, order groceries and clothing without leaving our homes at lightening speed. Such advances are doing exactly what they are intended to do. As a result, our capacity for waiting patiently has been compromised. It effects our spiritual awareness of God moving slower, to draw us into a deeper relationship with God.

The image of the farmer planting the seeds is a perfect illustration here. To live as a contemplative, we must see ourselves as the seeds that God has planted to grow and bloom into the most beautiful human beings. In this season of Advent, God wants us to slow down, to spend some time in silence and solitude and open our hearts to the presence of God who is already here. Greater things come to those who meditate and receive God’s wondrous love, so that God can add even more of the grace that is transformative. This transformation is not dependent on having the correct theology. The transforming grace of God is beyond logic and is so much richer than doctrine or dogma. God’s grace through Jesus, the Incarnate Word meets us in the deepest places within us and gives new life, again and again. This is why we wait in patience and strengthen our hearts.

“What is not possible for us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of his grace.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.18).

What will waiting patiently for God mean for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Preparing the Wilderness of the Heart

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” (See Matthew 3:1-12 NRSV).

When we think of the wilderness, we tend to associate it with an external landscape. It is a place we might go (or be set out) on a journey to or through. Whether it is a destination we go to of our own choosing, or by a misplaced sense of direction; the wilderness (or the desert) is a perfect symbol of what can happen with our interior self.

St. John the Baptist saw himself as the forerunner of Christ. He had such a clear sense of who he was, and what his purpose in life was, that he separated himself from everything to live into his true self. St. John the Baptist knew that God was the One he wanted to give his life to. He was able, therefore, to search and be the “voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord…”.

In the book entitled The Hermitage Within: Spirituality of the Desert, Alan Neame writes a fascinating translation of St. John the Baptist’s Wilderness.

“You are more than the Bridegroom’s friend. Your soul is truly the Bride, and you will make the outpourings of the mystic marriage-song your own: “‘I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.'” (See the Song of Solomon 6:3). (P.19).”

St. Moses the Black wrote “Sit in your cell. Your cell will teach you everything.”

The cell and the wilderness in the spirituality of the Desert Mothers and Fathers represents the heart and the environment we are in. Our hearts need times of silence and solitude so that we can prepare a way for God within us. Our cells are so often lost in the wilderness of our false-sense of self that is so cluttered with the junk that suffocates our souls. God wants to walk with us in the wilderness of our cells to show us God’s true love and grace within our essence, that is our eternal truth. Advent is the time in which we journey with St. John the Baptist to contemplate our relationship with God and ourselves to find healing and reconciliation through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice that everyday calls out this charge: If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts (Psalm 95:8).” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.15,16).

What does the wilderness of your heart look like today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Advent Reflection: Prepare the Way

a-long-path

 

This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.” (Matthew 3:3. NRSV).

About twenty years ago I was visiting with my spiritual director.  I was at the beginning of my vocation discernment.  I was excited, scared and anxious about where God might be leading me.  During the session, I said to my spiritual director “I know that God’s grace will be there when I find whatever it is that God has for me.”  My spiritual director looked at me with some concern and said, “God’s grace is in the here and now.  If you do not learn to look for God’s grace right here where God has you, you will not know God’s grace in what is yet to happen.”

The figure of St. John the Baptist is mind boggling.  Yet, for contemplatives he is just the kind of example we can look to.  When the Desert Mothers and Fathers began to create their communities in Egypt, they took the model of St. John the Baptist and made much of it a very important part of their monastic way of life.

St. John the Baptist recognized his role as the one to prepare the way by calling the people of his time to repentance.  We too are prophets who are called to prepare the way for Jesus to come into our lives in the here and now, so that we may respond to God’s grace with joy and obedience.   We are not told to prepare the way for tomorrow, or even at the celebration of the Nativity.  We are told to prepare the way now with what is before us at this moment.

As contemplatives, our time in silent prayer is about opening ourselves up to what God is doing in our ordinary lives.  As we listen, we are preparing the way for Christ to speak to our hearts so that we may cultivate the life of Jesus and make His way our way of life.  We are invited to read and meditate on the Word, and to pray that we may grow closer in relationship with God so as to be drawn into God’s presence in the here and now.  It is God in us that prepares the way so that we can also prepare the way of the Lord in our relationships, our work, our families and communities.

How are you preparing the way of the Lord this Advent?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Advent Reflection: Keeping Watch with Yearning

OpenGrave

“Yearn for everlasting life with holy desire.  Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die.  Hour by hour keep careful watch over all you do, aware that God’s gaze is upon you, wherever you may be” (RB: 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict. Chapter 4 On the Tools for Good Works, verses 46-49).

The image and quote I have used to introduce this reflection today do not exactly inspire us.  At least not in the way we would like.  We have grown use to making our lives so comfortable.  In addition, the news media over charges our sensations to the point that we have to tune it out.  Not without good reason.

St. Benedict gave these tools for good works in The Rule so that his monks would work at holiness through both interior and exterior means.  It was not enough to have those sappy moments of contemplation and remain motionless.  God was to be found in what we do from the secrets of our hearts to those things we do before others.  The search for God was to be an all encompassing venture that God calls us to.  Our job as disciples, is to listen and respond.

Lonnie Pratt Collins and Fr. Daniel Homan, OSB in their book, Benedict’s Way: An Ancient Monk’s Insights for a Balanced Life suggest that the image of seeing ourselves next to an open grave should help us ponder very deeply what we are doing with our lives in the here and now.  One day at a moment in time, we will breath our last. Our bodies will be part of the ground people walk on, or be cremated to stay in a box before someone’s fireplace and/or shrine of memory.  Death is inescapable.

St. Benedict admonishes us on God’s behalf to put God first in our lives.  He tells us to yearn for eternal life with God with a holy desire that sees in many possibilities the Holy Spirit’s work to purify our souls .  St. Benedict tells us to remember that one day we will die; and that God’s gaze is upon us in the here and now.  Having written that, it is our responsibility to make good use of what we are given in the here and now.  We are admonished to put ourselves and all we do at the service of Jesus Christ who’s return we are all awaiting in this Season of Advent.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Advent Reflection: Keeping Watch, Prepare the Way

AdventPrepare

“Prepare ye the way of the Lord,,” (Isaiah 40:3 KJV).

A heart that is preparing the way for God, is one that waits in the stillness of silence and relies on faith, not sight or senses.  Don’t get me wrong, our senses are there because God put them there. They are an important part of how God put us together.  On the other hand, have you ever noticed how much we can learn from someone who cannot see with their eyes, speak with their mouth or hear with their ears?

We prepare the way for God in our lives by being open to God’s presence and leaving ourselves open.  It is when we close ourselves off that God cannot come in and make a home in us.  Yet, there is one thing about the Holy Spirit.  If the Spirit wants to get our attention, He will keep knocking and wait for us to open the door.

The image of the desert is one that we need to meditate on.  In the desert all that we have ever clung to is gone.  In the desert we encounter everything, and nothing is hidden.  We see things as they are, not as we would want them to be.  Our one task in the desert is to trust in faith that even without, God will give us what we need.

Prepare the way of the Lord, make a place for God and God will certainly be there.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB