Reflection on Saint Benedict

My child, if you accept my words and treasure up my commandments within you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; if you indeed cry out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures—then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk blamelessly, guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path. (Proverbs 2:1-9 NRSV).

Let us think for a moment about the things we urgently search for. Our phones. Our keys. Money. The remote to our television set. Jewelry. A successful career. Popularity. Fortune. Control. We search for the most exciting. We crave what comes the easiest. We want things the way they were before COVID-19.

The writer of Proverbs tells us to want something so life-giving, that it would be better than chocolate in our mouth. The Wisdom of God is longing for us. If we will sit in silence long enough to “incline the ear of the heart” we will gain the a consciousness of God that will reform us to love God, our neighbor and ourselves in ways we would never have imagined.

In the Fall of 1993, I went to my first retreat at a Benedictine Abbey. It was my introduction to who Benedict was. I remember the first time I read some of The Rule of St. Benedict. My initial reaction was “What a weirdo he was.” Lol. Since that time, I have studied The Rule many, many times. For three years, I received spiritual direction from Fr. Anselm who is now the Abbot of Pluscarden Abbey in Scotland. That is in large part why I requested the name as my religious name, Whenever my life has edged out of where I should be, I eventually return to what I have learned from the life and The Rule of St. Benedict. Once I begin again to spend time praying my Offices, reading from The Rule, suddenly, even the roughest of experiences leads me into a deeper awareness of God.

In the RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English at the end of chapter 73 he wrote “Then with Christ’s help, keep this little rule that we have written for beginners.” Benedictine spirituality is not about being an athlete of religion. The contemplative way of St. Benedict is about beginning over and over to search for union with God through a life of continuous prayer. When we commit ourselves to beginning again the search for the wisdom of God in this very moment, we will receive an abundance of life from the storehouse of God’s greatest riches of grace.

During this time of sickness and death that is so overwhelming, we are gaining the opportunity to let go of what keeps us from living into our faith in God alone. As St. Benedict spent those three years in the cave at Subiaco and learned God’s Word; we too are in our own Subiaco time. What we do with our relationship with God during this time is up to us. God promises us the fruits of the resurrection even as we are staring death in the face. If we spend this time with our hunger for the Wisdom of God, and let God speak to our hearts in that desire, the best things are yet to come.

What are you desiring most from God during this time of a worldwide pandemic?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

O Lord my God, Teach my heart this day where and how to see you, where and how to find you. You have made me and remade me, and you have bestowed on me all the good things I possess, and still I do not know you. I have not yet done that for which I was made. Teach me to seek you, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me m or find you unless you show yourself to me. Let me seek you in my desire, let me desire you in my seeking. Let me find you by loving you, let me love you when I find you. Amen. (Prayer of St. Anselm of Canterbury, St. Benedict’s Prayer Book, p.118).

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Reflection on the Still Waters

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me besides still waters. (Psalm 23. The Book of Common Prayer, p.612).

The times we are all living through with the coronavirus hardly feels like we are besides still waters. Maybe we are wondering if Jesus, the Good Shepherd will ever get around to our side of the field. All we see are the wolves that carry disease. violence and despair waiting to make us their next victims. Our anxieties are grabbing us because of not being able to escape what we are living through.

The most challenging concepts of contemplative prayer is to keep ourselves grounded to search for union with God with what is happening here and now. The grace of God is active in leading us through this time of sickness and death. Take another look at Psalm 23:5.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me. (The Book of Common Prayer, p.613).

The Psalmist is acknowledging that we do not get delivered from the valley of death. The goodness of God is reaching out for us as we walk through this time. God is interacting with us and guiding us. God is here.

“The search for God is a very intimate enterprise. It is at the core of every longing heart. It is the search for ultimate love; for total belonging, for the meaning of life. It is our attempt to live life and find it worthwhile, to come to see the presence of God under all the phantoms and shadows- beyond the illusions of life-and find it enough”(The Monastery of the Heart: An Invitation to a Meaningful Life, Sr. Joan Chittister, p.13).

The still waters on the surface do not always tell us what is happening beneath them. There is chaos with the fish that are looking for a meal, while others are trying to escape becoming a meal. Underneath the still waters there is something happening that is constantly changing. Yet, Jesus the Risen Shepherd leads us besides those still waters. The contemplative is never satisfied by what is visible on the surface. When we spend time in silence and solitude, we are letting God into those troubled waters within us. If we will let God into what is happening in the here and now; God “will supply with the help of His grace, what we cannot do by nature.” (The Rule of St. Benedict in English, the Prologue).

How is Jesus the Good Shepherd guiding you during these challenging days?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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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 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

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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.

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Reflection on God’s Love and Home

Jesus said to Judas (not Iscariot), “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (See John 14:23-29 NRSV).

What does loving God so that God can make a home with us look like? How can we keep the word of Jesus in a world that challenges us to give everything over to technology and innovation. The Bible itself has been given over to commercialism and theological debates. It is quite difficult for us to make our hearts into a space for the word and Jesus without us being open to the movement of God the Holy Spirit to reveal a new relationship with God that is living and growing.

“Abba John gave this advice, ‘Watching means to sit in the cell and be mindful of God. This is what is meant by ‘I was on watch and God came to me. ‘” (John the Dwarf, Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, by Christine Valters Paintner, p.11).

The “cell” for the Desert Monastics meant the heart. The famous saying of St. Moses the Black is applicable here. “Sit in your cell. Your cell will teach you everything.” Our hearts are so cluttered with anger, resentment, and our egos. So long as we give our hearts to our false-sense of self, we cannot hear God’s word clearly. When we run from what is in our hearts, we cannot experience God’s healing grace.

“Openness is the door through which wisdom travels and contemplation begins.” (Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light, Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB., p89).

Contemplation unlocks our hardened hearts. The mystery of God’s love comes to us through the Scriptures, through nature, through where we are in the here and now. Contemplation brings us into that relationship with God that can be experienced, but not explained. In contemplative prayer, our senses knows that God is present, real and tangible. When we “incline the ears of our hearts” to God in moments of solitude and silence, Jesus the Word will come to love us and make a home with us. God’s Love will transform us from the inside out. We will live from our eternal essence with God’s Holy Essence.

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all to everlasting life. ” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.95).

Will you let Jesus make a home for God in your own heart?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Please visit my website or more information about my ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

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Reflection on Resurrection Wounds

But Thomas 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.”  (See John 20:19-31 NRSV).

Let’s not be so quick to judge Thomas’ faith. He like the other disciples were grieving the death of their best friend. His hopes were dashed to pieces. Can we blame him for being so skeptical about this news that the Risen Christ appeared to them? Thomas wanted more than just the word from the others. He wanted to know for himself that if Christ rose from the dead, will Jesus be able to help Thomas see that God understood how wounded Thomas was.

Jesus rose from the dead with our wounds on his body. Our wounds in God’s power to raise Jesus from the grave had been redeemed and rendered powerless. Thomas experienced God’s healing of his faith. Jesus showed him that God had taken his wounds seriously. God loved Thomas and all of us so deeply, that Jesus offered our wounds to God so,that they could be transformed in the Resurrection.

A contemplative knows that we have wounds. The wounds and pain will change our lives. We will be challenged in our faith. The mysticism of the Resurrection is that God shows us that our wounds can go to the very heart of God, who will love us and walk through them with us. Our wounds are an opportunity to strengthen our faith by drawing closer in relationship to God through the death and Resurrection of Christ.

May we with Thomas dare to ask the Risen Christ to affirm and heal our faith by touching Jesus’ wounds and cry with Thomas, “My Lord, and my God.”

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.95).

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone you know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, visit my website here to find information about my ministry.

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

Reflection on Contemplative Resurrection

On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they 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. (See Luke 24:1-12 NRSV).

Alleluia. Christ is risen.

The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” Every Easter when I hear these words, I get goosebumps. I get filled with a calm and a release. The response of the women by temporarily forgetting what Jesus told them about this day is very understandable. The moment was so captivating and all consuming; that the Resurrection was now a reality; must have been awesome beyond words.

What might the Resurrection mean for contemplative prayer?

Contemplative prayer helps us to detach ourselves from what is visible to our eyes. A person who is a contemplative is not seeking another theological explanation or an opportunity to be an intellectual genius. Contemplative prayer guides our hearts into an experience of God’s extravagant love and becomes a home for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Essence of God makes the experience of Jesus’ Resurrection into something we become participants of, from within. The intimacy of the Risen Christ brings us a magnificent mystical wisdom. The Resurrection is now living within and through us; giving new life to us to bring about a renewal that could transform the world.

“This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord. (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.15).

How are you experiencing the Resurrection in your heart today?

Alleluia. Christ is risen.

The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Amen.

If you or someone you know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, please visit my website here.

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 Ashes and Dust

“Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (From the Ash Wednesday Liturgy).

After a house or building has burned down, the ash that is left can feel so final. When one’s hopes and dreams for what the building might have given are all over the place with only ashes left; the grief just pours out. When Mt. St. Helen’s in the State of Washington erupted in 1980 a lot of the ashes were taken and molded into sculptures. What seemed like a devastating conclusion, became new opportunities for something beautiful to come from it.

As we begin Lent with this Ash Wednesday, we are reminded of our mortality. Nothing in or about our lives in this world is permanent. There is a beginning and ending of just about everything, including our mortal bodies. The ashes remind us of where we came from, and where our physical bodies will end up. Ash Wednesday brings with it a wonderful irony. Though our bodies are temporary, God’s love is eternal. In Jesus Christ, the Word, we are God’s Beloved. Jesus came to draw us closer in relationship with God through His life, death and resurrection.

In The Rule of St. Benedict, he tells his monastics to observe the Season of Lent “to keep [themselves] most pure and to wash away the negligences of other times” (RB 1980, p.71). I suggest that among those negligences is how much we allow them to fill the hunger within us, that is really a yearning for God. The contemplative is always in touch with that hunger, and seeks union with God to satisfy the longing. The hunger is not an end in and of itself, but a moment of grace to let the Holy Spirit speak to our malnourished hearts.

The ashes today are a reminder that our bodies and this earth are not a conclusion to a story. They are only one part of the story that still has a new chapter to be added. Contemplative prayer moves us to live into the whole story of who we are, and Who we are seeking. Ash Wednesday reminds us of who the Author really is; and what character we are in the whole of story.

What do the ashes on Ash Wednesday mean for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you are seeking Spiritual and Grief Companionship, please visit my website here.

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Reflection on Entrust

OpenBible

“I entrust my spirit into your hands; you, Lord, God of faithfulness–you have saved me” (Psalm 31:5 The Common English Bible).

As part of my preparation for this blog entry, I looked up the word “entrust” in the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary.  Here are the two definitions.  1. To confer a trust on; especially: to deliver something in trust to.  2. To commit to another with confidence.  The definition of entrust suggests giving something of tremendous value to another without question of the other’s ability to treasure it as much as we do.   To entrust something we value to another, we are making ourselves and what we value vulnerable.  In effect, we are giving with the hope of it being returned safely.  Yet, we are  relinquishing our sense of control over the final outcome.

Our spirit is where our sense of eternal truth lies.  It is from the very depth of ourselves.  Our spirit is where we find our true-sense of self.  We pray and place our hope for the salvation of our souls in Jesus the Risen and Ascended Christ who is our faithful Redeemer.   Jesus has taken our wounded humanity into the presence of the Holy One to intercede on our behalf.  In Jesus, everything that is good and not so good is in the heart of the God of love.  A few days from now we will celebrate the great Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit comes to us in abundance.  Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O. in his book Centering Prayer: Renewing An Ancient Christian Prayer Form wrote that the Holy Spirit is our Spirit given to us at our Baptism. (See page 10).

The Psalmist in Psalm 31 is lamenting what is happening.  The author finds that they are surrounded by the worst of the worst.  The only thing that Psalmist can do is turn to God and “entrust my spirit to you, my Lord. God of faithfulness.”  The last words of this Psalm verse are their affirmation of their God who has already saved them.

In his book The Eremitic Life: Encountering God in Silence and Solitude Fr. Cornelius Wencel, Er.Cam wrote,

“In contemplative prayer, a person can start to appreciate through faith how great and unfathomable God’s mystery is and how much it surpasses all human attempts of understanding it” (see page 182).

The contemplative engages themselves in the work of daily entrusting their spirit into God’s hands.  Contemplative prayer is daring to let go of controlling what happens to what it is we entrust to God’s hands; and entrusting God with what the outcome will be.  We don’t have to know what the conclusion will be.  We only have to entrust that the God who saves us in the mystery of Jesus the Christ will help us to remain a part of the story in the here and now.

“The path you must follow is in the Psalms–never leave it”  (The Rule of St. Romuald).

“First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to him most earnestly to bring it to perfection” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.15).

Abba Nilus said, “Do not be always wanting everything to turn out as you think it should, but rather as God pleases, then you will be undisturbed and thankful in your prayer” (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated and Explained by Christine Valters Paintner PhD, p.61).

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well” (St. Julian of Norwich).

What are you entrusting God with in your life today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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