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 Emmaus

Emmaus

 

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:28-35 NRSV).

The Gospel we heard last Sunday about the encounter with the Risen Jesus and Thomas is one of my favorite Easter stories.   This Sunday’s reading of the Road to Emmaus and the breaking of the bread is also one of my favorites.  Among the reasons I love it, is that it is the chosen Gospel reading used at Vespers on Easter Day.  It is such a moving Gospel to read at that moment.

Imagine what this experience was like for those first Disciples.  The range of human emotions from the beginning to the end; coupled with the words and actions of the Risen Christ in the breaking of the bread are mysterious and wondrous.

The mystical moment in this story that is a source of deep contemplation is that Jesus listened intently to what was in their hearts, responded with truth and good counsel and fed their bodies and souls.  It is its own Lectio Divina moment.  The Word comes to us where we are, listens, responds and then grants us through God’s grace a vision of God’s Self that can be viewed only through the eyes of faith.  It is another example in which contemplative prayer is something we experience by God’s random act of grace, and leads us to God’s vision of how God sees us.  God the Holy Spirit comes to feed our hungry souls with Jesus, the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation.  It is up to us as to how we respond to this experience, and how much we trust God in the here and now to lead us forward.

“What can be sweeter to us, dear brethren, than this voice of the Lord inviting us?  Behold, in His loving kindness the Lord shows us the way of life” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, p 2).

Is your heart burning as the Risen Christ speaks to you?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe,OSB

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

Reflection on Thomas and Jesus

St. Thomas

 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ (John 20:24-29).

How might we experience contemplative prayer and mysticism as we think about this exchange between Thomas and Jesus?  There is such a variety of messages in this Gospel Reading.  They will speak to each person differently, depending on where you are and what you may be doing.

I would like to look at a few points and see how the Holy Spirit touches each of us.

Thankfully, we have moved away from naming Thomas as the doubting prude who just could not get it right.  Alternatively, we now admire Thomas for the faith that he had to question the news he heard and wanted their experience to be his experience of the Resurrection for himself.  In Thomas we see not only his opportunity for growth by knowing where his faith might be lacking; we see a version of our own.  His insistence on seeing Jesus is his soul crying out to God to bring him to a place where he can see that Jesus experienced the same wounds that all of us experience, and know for himself that such wounds can be rendered powerless.

Jesus’ wounds are a sign of how God sees all of us with our limited human wounds that can keep us from knowing the Risen Christ and sharing it with others.  God does not see us as hopeless.  God sees our wounds in the Person of Jesus as the means by which God brought salvation to the world.  If we can only allow ourselves to see God’s unconditional love through our own wounds and be open to God’s perfect power in our weakness; we can be a source of acceptance and healing for the world around us.

“What is not possible to us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by his grace” (RB:1980 The Rule of Saint Benedict. The Prologue, vs 41. p.165).

How does the encounter with Thomas and Jesus reflect your own experience with the Risen Christ?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: cos-osb.org

Lent Reflection: I Am Resurrection and Life

Reflections

 

Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’  She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’ (John 11:25-27 NRSV).

Jesus gives new hope to Mary and Martha in today’s Gospel story.   They already demonstrated their courageous faith.  Their belief in who Jesus was, enabled them to believe that if Jesus had been there when Lazarus was dying, He could have prevented his death.  Mary and Martha’s faith and hope in Jesus was evidence of their openness to more than what they saw by sight.  Jesus responds by proclaiming that He is the resurrection and the life, and follows His claim up by raising up Lazarus’ body.   I believe that all of what we read about in John’s Gospel today is faith becoming visible and tangible.  There are new opportunities, because faith opened the flood gates.

This is where the contemplative experiences the presence of Jesus in which no words are necessary.  As contemplatives, we know that all we have to do is crack open that barrier just a little, and The Holy Spirit will gush in the holiness of God in abundance.   If we believe just a little bit that Jesus can change what is right in front of us into a moment of resurrection and life; we will experience this new life in the mystical moment of God’s grace.

In chapter 35 of The Life and Miracles of St. Benedict, is the story of how he was standing at the window of his monastery before the night office.  He was so deep in his watching, that he had the experience of a great light through which he could see all the world in that one moment of light.  The mystical experience was so transparent for St. Benedict, that he saw the soul of Germanus ascending into heaven.  Just a little bit of openness and watching, and Benedict saw resurrection and life in front of his eyes.

What is the barrier you are willing to open just a little, so that Jesus can be resurrection and life for you?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on Jesus the Vine

branches

 

‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:1-11 NRSV).

Saint Benedict in Chapter 7: On Humility of The Rule wrote that the first step of humility is to keep “the reverence of God always before our eyes.”  Sister Joan Chittister in her book The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century refers to “reverence of God” as “consciousness of God.” (See page 79).

It is much too easy to walk through our day as if we are an entity unto ourselves.  We have the many tasks before us which take up our time and attention.  Job duties.  Family matters.  Financial concerns.  Relationships and many other commitments.  These and others not named serve to distract us from what is really important.  Unless we live with that reverence for God in all things, places and people that Jesus and Saint Benedict refer to.

As Christians who have been given a share in the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ; and called His friends who are given the new commandment to love one another; we are never an island unto ourselves.  We are branches linked to the Vine who is God the Vine-Grower in the Word made Flesh.  As God is present with us and each other; we work together to bear the fruit that gives life and growth to the rest of the garden.  Even while we struggle with the most troublesome branch in the bunch.

My very favorite verse from this Gospel text is the one that says, “apart from me you can do nothing.”  This verse is a great example of that first step of humility that Saint Benedict wrote about.  When we pursue our life of faith and prayer as if we are on remote control, it is only a matter of time before the battery runs out of energy.  We need the time in private solitude, contemplative prayer and/or centering prayer to live into our lives within the community of other branches in the garden.  Our focus must be Jesus and His presence with reverence for His Holy Name.  Contemplative prayer helps us see all things including ourselves from God’s perspective.

How do you see your relationship as the branch to the vine?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Easter Day Reflection

EmptyTomb

 

On the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened. (Luke 24:1-12. NRSV).

One can only imagine the look on the faces of the women when they were asked why they were looking for the living among the dead.  As if they were not floored enough, the words that follow are even more amazing.  “He is not here, but has risen.”

Today is the Holy Easter that Saint Benedict told us to prepare for in The Rule, Chapter 49 on the observance of Lent.  Over the past forty days we have fasted and prayed for this day to arrive.  We followed the horrifying events of Holy Week from Palm Sunday to Good Friday.  Which one of us are not like those Disciples thinking that with the death of Jesus, it was all over.  Even if He said that these events would happen.  Now that they have happened, what will happen next?

The presence of those first women at the empty tomb shows us how God saves us from our sense of certainty.  We like to have our way mapped out.  We like to think that how we think things should go is how it will happen.  The experience of Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James was that nothing was as it was suppose to be.  It was frightening.  It was unthinkable.  It made no sense.  Their faith and trust in what Jesus told them was all they had to rely on.

On this Easter Day, we contemplate the movement of the Holy Spirit as our sense of certainty in how things are suppose to be, gives way to God’s way.  God’s way in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is about surrendering all that makes us cling to our false-sense of self; to embrace with faith and trust what God is doing.   It does not have to make sense.  It may be frightening.  It may be nothing like anything that has happened before.  Knowing the Christ rose from the dead as God’s plan for Him so that we may have everlasting life through Him, is all we need to know for today.

Then all of us can say with St. Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well.  And all shall be well.  And all manner of things shall be well.”

“He is not here.  He has risen.”

Alleluia.

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

The Transfiguration and Contemplation

2015-07-16 11.38.22

About eight days after Jesus had foretold his death and resurrection, Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”–not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.  (Luke 9:28-36 NRSV).

Last month I visit The Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Dallas, Texas.  The image above is a photo I took of their exquisite Altar with the art work of the Transfiguration behind it.  If you zoom into the image, you will see each of the characters in the Transfiguration narrative depicted as best as they can be.  This image has been attracting me in prayer and contemplation since I first saw it.  Now, here on today’s Feast of the Transfiguration which we commemorate every year on August 6th; I am so excited to share this moment of contemplation with my readers here.  Peter and John are featured in the two side panels, while James is laying on the ground at the bottom, with Moses and Elijah on either side of the Transfigured Christ.   We have two small images of Jesus and the three disciples going up the mountain before and down after.  The three images below it are Elijah being taken up in the chariot of fire, the Trinity Icon and Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on the other side.  Truly an amazing depiction of what we are commemorating today.  Happy Feast Day to this wonderful Parish.

What about the Transfiguration draws us into deep prayer and contemplation?  Is it the white light and Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah?  Is it the voice from heaven?  Are we thinking about the three Disciples, Peter, James and John?  Is the picturesque language of what Jesus might be like in the glory of Heaven after the Resurrection calling to us in wherever we happen to be in our own lives?

In The Rule of St. Benedict, he tells us that “We are already counted as God’s and therefore must not do anything to grieve God by our actions.” (Prologue, vs. 5).

Among the ways in which we can contemplate the Transfiguration, is that God has already counted us as belonging to God through Christ.  Whether we are sturdy on our feet or scared of the reality of the wonder of Christ in our lives; we are all in the presence of God and given a brief glimpse of Jesus through the ordinary things of life.  We have those moments when what God says to us is as clear as can be.  Other times, God is mysterious and we wonder what in the world is going on.  In any case, Jesus is there with us and it is good for us to be with Him.  I believe that the contemplation of God being close to us in Christ is that moment by which we see ourselves and the world from God’s point of view for today.

May we in moments of silence and prayer, be open to see Christ transfigured within our limitations to “behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6) among us in one another.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB