Reflection on Being A Servant

“[Jesus] said to them, ‘whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all” (See Mark 9:30-37 NRSV).

Our false-sense of self wants us to put God and ourselves into a box of our own making. This kind of thinking suggests that God is the lump of clay and we are the artist.

In The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 5, he wrote, “The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience, which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.29).

In Chapter 7 On Humility, he wrote, “The first step of humility, then, is to keep ‘the reverence of God always before our eyes’ (Ps.36:2) and never forget it ” (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.79).

Our greatness is found by contemplation of living into who God is, and who we are. God is God; and, we are not. Jesus is telling us in this Gospel, that it is more than okay for us to be last and servant of all. God lovingly receives us in Jesus as God’s Beloved; and blesses us beyond our imagination. We are affirmed as God’s Children to partner with Jesus to serve as He served.

Jesus by word and example teaches us how to live the contemplative vocation. The mystical experience of contemplative prayer is letting go of our self perceptions; to view ourselves from God’s perspective. God who blessed the life and servanthood of Jesus, blesses our servant life through the grace of the Holy Spirit. What a beautiful and holy way to live.

Do you see yourself as blessed to be a servant?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Advent Reflection: Keeping Watch in Prayerful Reverence

St.BenedictStainedGlass

Whenever we want to ask some favor of a powerful man, we do it humbly and respectfully, for fear of presumption.  Howe much more important, then, to lay our petitions before the Lord God of all things with the utmost humility and sincere devotion.  We must know that God regards our purity of heart and tears of compunction, not our many words.  Prayer should therefore be short and pure, unless perhaps it is prolonged under the inspiration of divine grace.  In community, however, prayer should always be brief; and when the superior gives the signal, all should rise together.  (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, Chapter 20: Reverence in Prayer., p.48).

St. Benedict lived in a time in which nobility was well known for its many privileges. Benedict himself was born of a noble family.  His yearning for more is why he left it all to seek union with God.  Benedict knew all about humility and respect and what being careful not to presume anything meant.  This being the case, he also knew how easy it was to use God as an excuse for focusing exclusively on ourselves.  We can be with God in the quietness of our hearts while looking for only what we think would be best for ourselves.  In so doing, we miss the whole meaning of praying with a pure heart.

Benedict encourages us to lay our petitions before God “with the utmost humility and sincere devotion.”   The word humility is best explained as what it means to be “human.”  In short, God is God and we are not.  In humility we recognize our limitations and God’s capacity to give us more than we could ever hope for.  Our focus needs to be on the Gift-Giver and not the gift.  To pray in humility with sincere devotion is to prefer God’s will over our own.  We do this by emptying ourselves with faith and trust in God’s gracious providence for our lives.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.  Our Season of watching and waiting in the calendar of the Church Year is ending.  In our prayer and contemplation, we are always watching and waiting to experience God anew in our hearts and lives.  The mystery of the Incarnation is our sure and certain hope that God is already here among us; and is waiting to be reborn anew in us.  In our prayer and contemplation, God is always revealing Jesus to us in The Holy Spirit and being reborn in our response to God in all aspects of our lives.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Advent Reflection: Keeping Watch with Reverence

Tools

Let the tools of the Monastery and its whole property be regarded as if they were the sacred vessels of the altar.  (RB. 31:10)

Allow no one to mistreat the Monastery’s tools and implements in a slovenly or careless way. (RB. 32:4).  (Both quotes taken from Benedict’s Way: An Ancient Monk’s Insights for a Balanced Life, p.91).

A couple of years ago, I made a serious mistake.  It was a busy night, as I was working at a Sunday Night Supper that our local Episcopal Cathedral does every second Sunday of the month.  I was helping to set up a place at a table with a place mat, silverware, napkin and drinking cup before someone sat down to eat.  After the person was finished eating and got up to leave I would clean up the place and reset it for another visitor. After I cleared a table and carried the dirty dishes to the cart, I was scraping the remains of the meal into the garbage when suddenly the fork itself slipped out of my hands and into the trash.  Before I could reach down and get it, several other volunteers came over with their plates and dumped more refuse on top of the fork and before I knew it, it was impossible for me or anyone else for that matter to retrieve it.  It was gone.  If I had been a more mature person than I was at the time, I would have disregarded the mess and gone through all the stuff and gotten the fork out.  But, I didn’t.  Instead, I went to the person who was the leader of the supper and apologized that I had lost the Cathedral’s fork in the trash.  Her look at me was “What’s the big deal?”   The big deal was, The Rule of St. Benedict‘s admonition to regard the things we use as if they are the sacred vessels of the altar.

“Benedictine spirituality is a sacramental spirituality.  It holds all things– the earth and all its goods–as sacred” (Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB The Monastery of the Heart: An Invitation to a Meaningful Life, p.115).

The things we use are to be handled with care and with reverence for the presence of God.  The tools that include the plates we eat from, the tools we use to make things, a pen, the computer I am using to write these words; all have a purpose in God’s plan for the world. It is up to us to seek union with God in prayer and reverence, through each thing we use, each person we interact with and each moment we spend.  When we just use things for the sake of themselves, then they actually own us.  When we take the time to acknowledge with reverence for God in all things, they become opportunities for prayer and contemplation.

Keep watch with reverence.  God has much to say.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB