Reflection on Wonderful

Reflections

“Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14).

No one limits the power of God in our lives more than ourselves.   Each of us have the ability to let God in or shut God out.  Letting God in means turning ourselves over to God’s will.  It requires us to do a lot of letting go so that God make us in to that “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) .

Contemplative prayer opens us up to the possibility of encountering God in the least suspected of places and moments.  In our silence and solitude we confront the noise within us; those conflicting and contradictory things that take up so much space.  It is amazing that when we sit in silence with the T.V., the iPhone, iPad, Smart Phone, computer, radio, etc turned off that we realize just how much noise is going through our bodies and minds.  We are restless.   We are not really centered.  It seems as if our interior is like at traffic jam on a hot muggy day with all the horns beeping loudly and it is as if we will never go anywhere.  It is in these very moments when the God we are seeking union with, has already found us and is speaking through the chaos.   The tensions in our bodies, the argument that we cannot forget, the addiction that plagues us or our families; God is in the middle of them loving us unconditionally and accepting us where we are.

The image I chose for this post has snow top mountains.  Other mountains are clear and dry.  It is in the reflection in the water, that everything that is beautiful in itself shows even more profoundly.  In the image reflected in the water, is a wonder that we cannot adequately describe.  All we know, is that it is mysterious, majestic and calls us to a renewed vision of the world.

In contemplation there is nothing too wonderful for God that the Holy One cannot accept and transform.  No room is too small.  No issue within ourselves that is too confining for God; that God’s perspective of us cannot be renewed and reworked into that wonder that seemed impossible for us; but is never too complicated for God.  God “traces our journeys and our resting places and (is) acquainted with all my ways” (Psalm 139:2).

“Let us get up then, at long last, for the Scriptures rouse us when they say; “It is high time for us to arise from sleep” (Rom 13:11).  Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice from heaven that every day calls out this charge; “If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts (Psalm 95)”. (RB: 1980 The Rule of Saint Benedict in English, Prologue vs 8-10, p. 15-16).

Is anything too wonderful for God in your life?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on Isaiah 48:17

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“Thus says the Lord your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God, who teaches you for your own good, who leads you in the way you should go.”  (Isaiah 48:17.  NRSV).

Perhaps you have heard this joke. “Why did the People of Israel under Moses wander in the desert for forty years?  They forgot to stop and ask for directions.”

What a great invention the GPS is.  If you want to go somewhere you have never been, just program the GPS and it will guide you intersection by intersection until you arrive at your desired destination.  Yet, even the best GPS has its drawback.  If it is an older program, it may not be able to give you information about road construction, a street change or a different obstacle along your route.  Some GPSs do not give you the shortest and easiest route.  There is another major disadvantage.  Unless there is a malfunction in the GPS, we almost never have to ask someone for directions. We rely on a machine, not another human person to assist us. Nor does it allow us to help someone else.   Its true that crime and the concern for basic safety can be a hazard.  But, it basically gets us off the hook if you will, from welcoming the stranger.

On this Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, we commemorate how Jesus through the Holy Spirit brought a life-changing experience to the man named Saul.  Once he was knocked off of his horse; Paul had a new direction in his life.

All of us make our plans and begin our journey of a new direction in our life.  We gather what we know and think we know it all.  We become content in our own little world.  We rely on our false-sense of self; based on labels, being happy with everything we have, those who like us the best, who agree with us and feed our egos.

The reading from the Prophet Isaiah that I quoted for this reflection, invites us to contemplate God’s perception of us.  God sees in us the potential to go in a direction that is based on seeking union with God with purity of heart.  God wants us to bring our brokenness, our being lost in ourselves into union with God’s will; and let God “lead us in the way we should go.”  God’s direction for each of us is different.  None of us will have the exact same course as another.  God invites us to live into who God is from our hearts as our God, our Redeemer, the Holy One.  God wants to teach us about our true selves in and from our essence of who we are and “lead us in the way we should go.”

“Listen carefully, my child, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice.” (Prologue, RB:1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, p.157).

What are you open to listening to God teach you today?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

 

Reflection on Temptation and Contemplation

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After his baptism, Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. (Luke 4:1-2 NRSV).

The idea of temptation and contemplation sounds like two individuals dating who are totally incompatible.  There is another statement about dating, “Opposites do attract.”  Temptation is an opportunity for us to face some realities about ourselves; however unpleasant or difficult; and allow God in Jesus Christ to love us and save us.

In his commentary on the Psalms, St. Augustine wrote;

If in Christ we have been tempted, in him we overcome the devil.  Do you think only of Christ’s temptation and fail to think of his victory?  See yourself as tempted in him, and see yourself as victorious in him.  He could have kept the devil from himself; but if he were not tempted he could not teach you how to triumph over temptation.  (The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume II, Lent Season and Easter Season, p.88).

In Christ we have the opportunity to see ourselves from God’s point of view.  We are not helpless, nor are we alone.  We are cherished by God by the point where we can experience the transforming grace of God in Christ, and grow closer to the person God created and redeemed us to be; even in the face to temptations worst work.  We are all deeply loved and desired by the heart of God; to seek union with God.  That desire within us is there by God’s initiative.  It is there so that we can respond to the grace of God and desire God alone for God’s sake with pureness of heart.

Are you willing to allow God to show you how to turn your temptations into an opportunity for contemplation?

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Reflection on Desire

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O Lord, you know all my desires, and my sighing is not hidden from you. (Psalm 38:9. The Book of Common Prayer, p.637).  

We do not have to look very hard around us to know that we live in a time of instant gratification being on steroids.  Our computers, iphones, ipads and such can keep us tuned into everything from our favorite video games to social media and more.  As marvelous and amazing as these things are, there is still a deep void that cries out from within our hearts that longs to be filled by more than instant gratification can possibly satisfy.

The words from Psalm 38 are dangerous words.  They require us to let go of the things that bring us instant gratification, so that we may allow the God who wants to love us so deeply can truly fulfill our ultimate desire.  God brings us the fulfillment of desire that calls for us to abandon ourselves to give ourselves over to what is infinite and comes in God’s sweet time.  The desire to know beyond a shadow of doubt, that we are loved in ways that our minds could not possibly comprehend.  When we open ourselves to the God who knows all our desires and has heard our sighing even more that we can feel or utter; we risk being displaced by the Holy Spirit to be touched by things that we cannot see or explain, but calls us to a deeper love of God and our neighbor.  We can only know within ourselves that there is some thing or someone there, that touch cannot satisfy.  Our emotions may be engaged, but no feeling can actualize enough to say exactly what it is or surmised by any human logic.

In Contemplative Prayer and the mystical experience of the Holy One, we experience a glimpse of how much God desires us.  After all, the desires are there by God’s initiative not ours.  The sighs are not hidden from God, because those sighs are reaching out to our God who hears them as clearly as a sparrow in spring calling out for its mate.  It is that same creative and redemptive love through which Jesus gave His life on the Cross, and rose again from the dead so that we might experience such love from God’s perspective.  All we “know” is God, because God is all that matters.  The fulfillment of our desires for the One for whom our sighing is really meant.

May all of us grow in love and trust for our God who knows our desires, and hears our sighing.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Our Relationship with The Holy

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In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”

The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”  (Isaiah 6:1-6).

The worship experience in this reading from Isaiah, suggests that God can be experienced.  God can be identified while touching us without the use of a hand.  Yet the symbols of the presence of God seem to transport and transform as the holiness of God becomes what is real, whole and good.

St. Benedict in chapter 19 of The Rule wrote, “We believe that 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)“.

The presence of God invites us into a relationship with the holy.  It is listening to the Holy Spirit speak to us through life; in the beauty of creation and the wonder of what is beyond our comprehension.  In contemplative prayer, what is holy becomes not something that we reach, but it is about the Holy One reaching out and touching us.  This relationship with the holy is not limited to our moments of prayer and devotion.  It is to be acknowledged and lived into through the ordinary being transformed into what is extraordinary because we find God speaking to us there, asking us to listen.

May God continue to lead us into a deeper relationship with the holy.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Easter Day Reflection: He Has Been Raised

EmptyTomb“When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Jesus. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” (Mark 16:1-8 NRSV).

Every Easter when I hear and/or read the words, “He has been raised; he is not here” I get goose bumps.  These are the most beautiful words read on Easter Day.  It is these words that allow our tongues to be let loose to sing the Alleluias that we couldn’t sing during Lent.

When we contemplate the words, “He has been raised; he is not here” what do they mean to us?   How do we respond in our hearts to those words?

I cannot say what they mean to everyone.  Each person responds to the Word differently.  I can offer some thoughts about what they mean for me.

“He has been raised; he is not here” tell me to let go.  Let go of my self insecurity and trust in Jesus.  I am reminded of what St. Benedict wrote in Chapter 7 of The Rule about humility.  Jesus showed me how to let go in His death.  In His Resurrection, Jesus shows me that letting go is possible and gives me hope.  I do not have to do it myself, in fact, it is not all about me.  Letting go is not only possible because of the Resurrection, but I have every reason to do it.  Even when it is really difficult.  In the death and resurrection of Jesus, I am never alone and I always have hope.

What does the news of the Resurrection mean for you?

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Lenten Reflection: Time

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“My times are in your hand.” (Psalm 31:15)

What would our lives really look like if the words of this Psalm where true?  If we wholeheartedly put our times in God’s hands with complete faith and trust, what would our lives be like?

One of the reasons St. Benedict asked His Monks to pray the Divine Office is to sanctify time.  Each of the various hours of the day are marked by praying the Psalms.  The Psalms are the heart of the Offices.  Through the words we pour everything within us in unity with the whole Church throughout the world into God’s hands.  The joys, celebrations, tragedies and sufferings of the Church and the world flow from the heart of the monastic who is praying them and through the “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit….” that concludes each Psalm and Canticle, our prayer becomes one with the prayers of Christ who is at the right hand of God.

The Holy Spirit tells us through the words of Psalm 31:15 to take to heart our need to let go and trust in God.  It is among the hardest things to do in our world of gadgets designed to control everything for and around us.  Yet, even those things are hardly a match for what goes on in the real world of life.  Faith and trust are beyond time, space and our limited world view.  They are gifts of God’s initiative given to us as God’s earnest desire to draw us to a closer relationship with God.

May all of us take some of that time to put our times in God’s hands for real.  May we all be given the grace to accept and let go, so that we walk by faith and not only by sight.  We do not have to have all of the right answers.  God is our reliable help in times of trouble, as we place them all in God’s hands.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB