Reflection on Easter in the Desert

“The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation .” (Psalm 118;14. The Book of Common Prayer, p.761).

Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

It hardly seems like Easter. Minnesota, where I live is getting a snow storm as I write this blog entry. Yet, the snow falling on Easter seems to fit. Many of us are used to being in our churches on Easter. Our churches are usually so crowded that extra chairs must be put out to accommodate the overflow. People go to Easter Sunday services while wearing the best spring clothes. It is always so wonderful when the sun is shining with nice warm weather on Easter.

Easter in the Year 2020 is not at all like what we are used to. The coronavirus is even preventing families from gathering for Easter dinner with relatives they have not seen since Christmas. Some people are rightly worried about those who are sick and suffering. Many are grieving the loss of those they love. How can we contemplate the mystery of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ with everything upside down?

The Desert Monastics lived their lives in such a way, that they were always in a world that was upside down from how many people functioned. The Mothers and Fathers of the Desert gave over everything that was considered “normal” for an unusual way of life through which they searched for a deeper union with God.

Christine Valters Paintner in her book Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings wrote,

“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 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).

The Easter experience of Resurrection is not without the pains of Good Friday. The victory of new life is always preceded by letting go of what is familiar, preferred and desired. Unless we spend time in contemplative prayer before the Cross, we will miss the mysticism of the empty tomb on Easter.

The chaos of the coronavirus can be overcome, by recognizing the inevitability of loosing everything as we have known them to be, and giving ourselves over to a new way of living for a whole new beginning.

Jesus and His Resurrection are our strength and our song, and Christ has become our salvation by the wondrous love of God.

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may Christ bring us to everlasting life.” (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.298).

Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Be Not Far Away

“Be not far away, O Lord; you are my strength; hasten to help me.” (Psalm 22:18, The Book of Common Prayer, p.611).

These difficult days of the coronavirus have all of us feeling as if time has stopped. Many are bored out of their minds. The losses of the life we all had before COVID-19 took over the world, are excruciatingly painful. Yet, as tragic as everything is, we have opportunities like we have not had for some serious spiritual reawakening.

The heart of The Rule of St. Benedict is chapter 7: On Humility.

“The first step of humility, then, is that we keep ‘the reverence of God before our eyes’ (Psalm 36:2) and never forget it.”

“The consciousnesses of God is Central to Benedict’s perception of the spiritual life. (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century by Joan Chittister, OSB, p. 79.)

On this Good Friday, as we reflect on the passion and death of Jesus, it is difficult to miss how conscious of God He remains. Jesus is experiencing the most horrific acts of human cruelty. Yet, the words of Psalm 22 remain in His mind, on His lips and in His heart. Jesus knows where His faith and trust needs to be.

The late Fr. Thomas Keating wrote, “As Jesus approached the end of his physical endurance on the cross, he cried out, ‘My God, my God, why haven’t forsaken me?’ With these words, he revealed the fact that the act of taking on himself the weight of human sinfulness had cost him the loss of his personal union with the Father. It is the final stage of Jesus’ spiritual journey.” (The Mystery of Christ: The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience, p.61).

Contemplation is not the exclusive experience of feeling spiritual ecstasy. Contemplative prayer is an act of letting go of the things that weigh us down of what keeps us from a search for that union with God with a purity of heart. Purity of heart is about seeking union with God for no other reason than who God is, and not what God can do.

The cry of Jesus on the cross is more of a statement of faith. At that moment, Jesus knew that Hisonly way to God was by faith and trust; with not even His knowledge of the relationship with God. “Be not far from me, O God; you are my strength; hasten to help me.” When Jesus prays these words, He is surrendering His whole self to God; and holding nothing back.

The mysticism of Good Friday during these days of the coronavirus, is to let go of what we think and know. We are invited to embrace the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, as the only thing that ultimately matters. Our personal healing and reconciliation are happening while enduring this challenging time of pain, suffering and uncertainty.

How are the words of Jesus on this Good Friday impacting your life during the coronavirus crisis?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you feel led to buy me some coffee to help support this blog ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you very much.

Reflection on God’s Priceless Love

How priceless is your love, O God, your people take refuge under the shadow of your wings. (See Psalm 36: 5-11, The Book of Common Prayer, p.36).

The words “How priceless is your love,,” sound like the old MasterCard commercial. The love of God is worth a lot more than a trampoline and a new car. God’s love is so priceless, that finding refuge in God is to be protected like an eagle guards her young.

In the Gospel of John 12:1-11, Mary knew just how priceless the love of God in Jesus was. God’s love was so important to Mary, that she used the best oil she had to clean and anoint Jesus’ feet. Mary’s gift of serving Jesus with her cherished treasure, was a small loss compared to God’s priceless love..

This Holy Week journey we are on during this very challenging time, has many of us giving up our yearly routines. Perhaps, we are discovering just how much we have taken those routines for granted. It seems to be that when we lose the opportunities to observe our yearly Holy Week worship practices, that we realize just how much they mean to us. Many of us have been losing our priceless treasures. We are letting them go to help keep ourselves and others healthy and safe. In so doing, we are serving Christ in one another.

The Psalmist is proclaiming God’s priceless love during a time of tremendous turmoil. The Psalmist is choosing to trust in God’s priceless love as their refuge. The Psalmist, like us, is having to make a decision to seek union with God in what is uncertain. The Psalmist remembers what the community has learned over the years. The Psalmist is singing of their trust that God is greater than the circumstances around them.

Contemplative prayer is not a means of escaping from how things are. We spend time in silence, solitude and prayer to help us deepen our relationship with God not from what is happening, but, through what is occurring. We know through our experience of God’s priceless love, just how powerful that love is in the here and now. The refuge we surrender ourselves to, may not make a situation better. It might mean going to the cross to give over everything to discover new life in the resurrection. It might mean letting go of our priceless treasures, to let God’s priceless love be all that we want and need to love God with purity of heart.

“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).

How are you experiencing God’s priceless love in your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you feel led to buy me some coffee to help support this blog ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you very much.

Reflection on The Word Spoken

“After Jesus has fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was starving. The tempter came and to him and said, “Since you are God’s Son, command these stones to become bread.” Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only on bread, but by every word spoken by God.” (Matthew 4:2-4 The Common English Bible).

One of the most difficult things that happens to someone who discovers that they have a disability, a chronic or terminal illness, is that they go through a process of grieving the person they used to be. They had a life in full swing with plans they were making. When the news comes with whatever diagnosis it is, the life they had is never the same. Among the most challenging things they can do, is learn to let go of what was and embrace what is in the present moment. They can do this by being honest about what they are experiencing, grieve it realistically, and enjoy what they can do.

Jesus was in the desert. He was starving. He was probably quite weak. It would have been very simple for him to change the stones into bread. Instead, he decided to embrace his hunger to know God’s words as the substance that would sustain him.

The contemplative seeks the spoken Word through what is silent, yet full of God’s voice. A voice that talks through the daily activities of ordinary life. We find God’s presence and Word in what is before us, with us and in us in the here and now. Contemplation is not an ecstatic experience of “feeling better” as if the pain and suffering of the present moment is devoid of God’s Being. The hunger we live with, the news we receive; good or bad, are opportunities to be drawn closer to God through what is. In the various places in the Gospel of John, when Jesus proclaims things like “I am the bread of life,” He is speaking in the present tense, not the past or future.

In her book, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of Benedict Today, Joan Chittister wrote, “ The spiritual life, in other words, is not achieved by denying one part of life for the sake of another. The spiritual life is achieved only by listening to all of life and learning to respond to each of its dimensions wholly and with integrity” (p.16).

How are you listening to God through the experiences of your life 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, to help support this blog ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.

Visit my website to learn about my ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

Reflection on Listening to the Beloved

While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” (See Matthew 17:1-9 NRSV).

When you think of what it means to listen to Jesus, what thoughts go through your mind? Do you think of sitting under a tree on a warm sunny day and just listening to nature’s many sounds? Do you find yourself in a chapel with candles lit and the lights dimmed? Do you find yourself at the bedside of someone very important to you who is sick and suffering and wondering what to do?

We look for those “perfect moments” that fit our idea of what listening to Jesus in contemplative prayer is. We always have a notion that if we can only be on a mountaintop like the three disciples are with Jesus in the Transfiguration that we will hear God clearly.

St. Benedict taught that listening to God requires something from us wherever and in whatever moment we are in. “Listen” says St. Benedict in the Prologue to The Rule. “Listen to the master’s instructions and incline the ear of the heart. This is advice from a Father who loves you.” Benedict is telling us what that voice from Heaven told us when Jesus was transfigured on that mountain. “This is my son, the Beloved; with whom I am well-pleased; listen to him.

God has claimed us in Jesus as God’s beloved. God is well-pleased with us, because of God’s extravagant love. God and St. Benedict are telling us to listen to Jesus the Beloved who has granted us a share in His life, death and resurrection; and with us God is well-pleased. Whether we are having a delightful mountaintop moment or find ourselves in the deepest grief and despair; God is interacting with us and speaking to our hearts. Even when we find it most difficult to inline the ear of our hearts, God is speaking and moving within us, among us and around us.

Are you listening for God in your life 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 to support this blog 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 the Word at Home

“The Word became flesh and made His home among us. We have seen His glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, The Common English Bible).

I am using The Common English Bible for this reflection, because I am drawn to the words “and made His home among us.” These words disturb me. I am so comfortable hearing the words of John 1:1-18 as the cozy doctrine of the Incarnation. As long as I kept them in my mind to the hearing of this Gospel every Christmas, they never make the journey from the head to the heart.

When I spend time with these words in Lectio Divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture) the Holy Spirit tells my heart that Jesus is coming to make His home within me at this moment. I am in a bit of a panic attack, because I am so attached to enjoying my interior home where my ego has its own room. My false-sense of self has given my ego a run of the home in me. Jesus, the Word wants to make a home in me? If that happens, I will know just how much God knows me in my total vulnerability. I will experience the reality of the words of Psalm 139:1.

“Lord, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar.”

I/we must remember that contemplative prayer is at its climax when we let go of everything, including our high expectations and open ourselves to experience Emmanuel “God with us.” God comes so that we can see ourselves from God’s perspective. Jesus comes to make His home in us, because God loves us so completely because of who we are, as we are and desires to make our hearts a most beautiful holy abode for God-Self. God wants to plant the seed of God’s Holy Spirit in our hearts so that a wondrous garden with every beautiful kind fruit can grow. Those many weeds within us that need to die and be pulled, will help us to be transformed into that “new creation” (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-18) rising up with Jesus in the Resurrection.

“Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for He is going to say, ‘I came as a guest, and you received me.'” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries. Chapter 53 On the Reception of Guests, p.73).

How are the words “The Word became flesh and made His home among us” speaking to your heart?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Visit my website to learn about my ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

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 Treasuring and Pondering

Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (See Luke 2:1-20 NRSV).

Our experience of Jesus coming as the Word Incarnate has been made known to us throughout the through the Gospels and the written works history of Christianity. Many authors have drenched their readers with helpful theological insight indeed.

Our modern celebrations of the Nativity of Christ are shaped by the traditions of our family, culture and the nearly endless round of Christmas muzac in the stores, restaurants and the radios that started November 1st. Our churches have amazing music, candlelight services with elaborate sermons and decorations. All of these things are wonderful. Yet, they fail to capture the Christmas event in a way that penetrates us to the point of cherishing the great mystery so that it reshapes us from the inside out.

Mary shows us how the arrival of Jesus and the things that take place around her changes her life. She “treasured these things and pondered them in her heart.” In so doing, Mary made her heart a fitting residence for Jesus within her. This is the best example of contemplation and mysticism that we can have on this Christmas Eve/Day.

Mary’s moment of contemplation captures the meaning of the words that begin The Rule of St. Benedict. “Listen, and incline the ear of the heart.” If the arrival of Jesus at His Nativity is to have an impact on our relationship with God; we should start with treasuring Christ and pondering Him within the whole of ourselves. In Jesus, God has become one with us, and wants us to search for union with the purity of heart for the sake of who God is and nothing more. Jesus came to give us a direction through God’s extravagant love. We must let it sink in to treasure Jesus and ponder Him in our hearts.

Will you find a time and a place to treasure and ponder who Jesus is for you?

Amen.

May all of you have a holy and blessed Christmas Season.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB