Reflection on God is Near

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found; call on him when he draws near (Isaiah 55:6, Canticle 10, The Book of Common Prayer, p.86).

It has happened to me many times. I have lost something. I search everywhere for what I lost. I dig under the mail piled up on my desk. I open drawer after drawer. Then, I discover that the very thing I have been looking for is right in front of me. I spend so much time and energy looking for something that is before my nose.

God is closer to us than we think. Who God is and where God is are mysterious; that much is very true. Equally mysterious is that God is as close to us as every cell in our body. God, the Holy Spirit is present in every breath we take. The mercy of Jesus releases us of our sins with each breath of air we blow out. The grace of God is willing to be found, if we will only search for union with God for no other reason than to live into our relationship with the holiness and awesomeness of God.

The contemplative lives into the God-Life that is nearby, ready for us to call the God that found us in the depths of God’s loving Being. God is so wanting us to to love God, that God gave us the desire to look for God to love because of who God is. We already know that God gives us what we need the most. Jesus told us as much in the Gospel of Matthew 6:25-34). In verse 33 Jesus said “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” So God is the One we must search for. God is always very nearby.

God then directs these words to you: If you desire true and eternal life, keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit; turn from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim (Ps 34:14:15). Once you have done this, my eyes will be upon you and my ears will listen for your prayers; and even before you ask me, I will say to you: Here I am (Isa 58:9). (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.16).

Will you spend some in silence today to be with God who is always near you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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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 God’s Light and Truth

“Send your light and truth—those will guide me! Let them bring me to your holy mountain, to your dwelling place.” (Psalm 43:3. The Common English Bible).

The times we are living through are so full of uncertainty. It seems like since the coronavirus came to the forefront of our lives, the world is falling apart. We can listen to and engage in all the arguments about who is to blame, or what someone should have done, or what should now be done. The way things are, are what they are.

Like the words of Psalm 43, our lives are in so much despair individually and collectively, that we want God to do something. Our own preference is for God to heal everyone of the virus, end all the suffering and death, and have things as they were before it became the new normal. We want this because somewhere in our psychological minds, we believe that when everything is as we think or want it to be, God must be doing something great. When things are not what we think they should be, we must be doing something wrong, or God is punishing us for something. If we base our faith and experience of God on these things, the enemy is working overtime, because they are succeeding so well.

God is sending God’s light and truth to us and guiding us to God’s holy dwelling through the confusion and uncertainty. Jesus is at the door of our hearts, knocking and wanting to come into our sacred space within The whole of ourselves, to be with us in our suffering, turmoil. Just as Jesus was in the boat with the disciples while the storm raged in Mark 4:35-41 so He is with each of us. Jesus might not get up and end the virus in the way we want Him to, but, He is with us as we face our fears of what is happening in the here and now.

“To be a contemplative it is necessary to spend time every day stilling the raging inner voice that drowns out the voice of God in us. When the heart is free to give volume to the call of God that fills every minute of time, the chains snap and the soul is at home everywhere in the universe. Then the psyche comes to health and life comes to wholeness.

The fact is that God is not beyond us. God is within us and we must go inside ourselves to nourish the Breath that sustains our spirits.” (Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light, by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.63).

Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation. It is bound to be narrow at the outset. But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love. (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.18-19).

Will you spend some quiet time to let God’s light and truth into your life today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Please visit my website to learn about Br. Anselm Philip’s Ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

Reflection on God is My Portion

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:24. NRSV).

Everything we seem to want must be the biggest, fastest, the most up to date thing. When we eat at a restaurant, we look for the biggest meal that will give us the most pleasure. In and of themselves, these are not terrible. On the contrary, the hunger and desire for something more means that we have more room for God than we think we do.

Jeremiah was writing about a terrible time. Everything he has known to be what it was, was gone. He and the people of Judah were at their wits end. They were at their rock bottom moment. Jeremiah was writing from his grieving heart. All was lost. What more could anyone do?

As Benedictines, we live a life of continuous prayer. Liturgical prayer, Lectio Divina, personal and intercessory prayer, and of course, contemplative prayer. It is through a life of prayer that we seek union with God praying for a purity of heart. A heart that wants God and nothing more. We are hungry for God. We come with St. Benedict and The Rule with “My soul [that] has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord…” (Psalm 84:1).

We are living through some very difficult times. Everything around us has been up heaved and turned upside down. Our hearts and souls have are longing for something that will bring us good news, and a return to what we remember. We do not have things the way they used to be. God, our portion who is all we really need is present in that hunger and desire. God is reaching out to love us and be close to us; to transform and renew us. This is the moment of contemplative prayer and living into the mysticism of God’s life-giving opportunities.

“And first of all, whatever good work you begin to do, beg of Him with most earnest prayer to perfect it, that He who has deigned to count us among His own may not at anytime be grieved by our evil deeds. For we must always serve Him with the good things He has given us,,,,” (Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, p.1).

Are you listening for that desire and longing in your heart for God to be your portion?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Darkness and Light

If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me, and the light around me turn to night,” Darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day; darkness and light to you are both alike. (Psalm 139:10-11. The Book of Common Prayer, p.794).

I once heard the story of a man who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. His ship was destroyed and sank in the Pacific in a battle with Japanese forces. He found himself in the ocean with debris from the ship, and many of his shipmates. Some were dead. Others were wounded. Others were trying to stay alive. As he and many of the men struggled to grab on to anything that would help them stay a float, they discovered a shark fin swimming their way. The individual who told the story was one of the very fortunate survivors. Later in his life, he told us that while he was in the midst of the life and death struggle, he was praying the words of Psalm 139:10-11.

My readers have read the many times I have written about the importance of searching for union with God in the here and now. Whatever is happening to us at this moment, whether we are enjoying the warm clear air, holding a new born baby, cleaning the garage, sitting in a room, or at the point of death; God is there with us. Jesus told us in Matthew 28:20 “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

God may or may not bring us exactly what we think we need at this moment. But, God is with us in God’s Grace and Love without exception.

The contemplative person, lives in an awareness of God in our times of silence and solitude; as well as our times of working, suffering, loving, enjoying or crying. We can acknowledge God while we butter bread while praying in thanksgiving for the sun, the rain, the wheat, the flour, the cows, the milk, the baker, the grocer, and the means of how we obtained the bread and butter. As we do such things, we are living the presence of God in that very moment. In moments of darkness, in our struggle and questioning, God is interacting with us in our uncertainty.

As we continue to live through these difficult times, let us remember to look for and respond to God’s loving embrace with arms that are forever outstretched on the hard wood of the Cross.

“Let us open our eyes to the light that can change us to the likeness of God. Let our ears be alert to the stirring of his voice crying to us every day: if today, you should hear his voice, do not harden your heart.” (The Benedictine Handbook, p.11).

Where do you see God shining God’s light in your darkness?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on A Prayerful Heart

Give ear, O Lord to my prayer, and attend to the voice of my supplications. In the time of my trouble I will call upon you, for you will answer me. (Psalm 86:6-7. The Book of Common Prayer, p.710).

The great Desert Father Antony once wrote, “Just as fish die of they stay too long out of water, so the monks who loiter outside their cell or pass their time with men of the world lose the intimacy of inner peace. So like a fish going to the sea, we must hurry to reach our cell, for fear that if we delay outside we shall lose our interior watchfulness.”

Christine Valters Paintner in her book Desert Fathers and Mother’s: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings wrote, “The Greek word nepsis means “watchfulness.” It refers to a kind of calm vigilance in daily life, staying attentive and aware to the inner movements of the heart, watching one’s thoughts, and noticing patterns that arise. This inner attention, conducted with compassion, is the grace of the desert way.” (Pages 8-9).

The cell that Antony is writing about is our hearts. The heart in Christian spirituality is “the whole of ourselves.” The Psalmist is writing to ask God for help in times of trouble. The Psalmist knows the troubles that have been, and those ahead require God’s help to work through them.

We are living through some very difficult times. The coronavirus along with the excessive violence has everyone including me experiencing what seems like endless pain and confusion. We are inundated by the fast paced media that is bombarding our sensory awareness to overload.

The Psalmist and the Desert Monastics tell us to return to our cells (our hearts) and spend time in the presence of God in silence and solitude to reclaim our true sense of self. Contemplative prayer and mysticism calls us to embrace the peace of God that leads us to an awareness of what is really happening with in the heart of who we are. Let us remember that Jesus is walking with us through the events of the present time; and the Holy Spirit is teaching us from deep within our hearts. We do not have to understand anything. What we must do is let go of trying to determine a conclusion to the ongoing experience of God’s extravagant love that is transforming us “from glory into glory” in the here and now.

“How much more important, then, to lay our petitions before the God of all with the utmost humility and devotion.”

“The function of times of prayer, then, is not to have us say prayers; it is to enable our lives to become a prayer outside of prayer, to become ‘pure of heart,’ one with God,,,,” (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, Joan Chittister, p.132).

Are you setting time aside in your life to listen to God within the whole of yourself?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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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 the Burning Heart

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. (See Luke 24:13-35 NRSV).

This Easter Gospel reading is among the best ways to understand Lectio Divina. The purpose of the prayerful reading of Scripture is to lead us to the spiritual experience of listening to Jesus teach our hearts through the Holy Spirit. When we read a scripture passage slowly and spend some time in silence as the Word goes deeper into our hearts, we are wanting to, “hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them” (The Collect for Proper 28, The Book of Common Prayer, p.236).

Jesus the Risen Christ met His friends on the road to Emmaus because they were disturbed. Jesus asked them questions, spoke with them about the things he mentioned many times before His crucifixion. Jesus was not tired of telling them. It was not until Jesus went in to eat with them, and broke the bread that they recognized Him for who He was.

When the disciples ask themselves the question “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking with us on the road…,” they were having the experience of human beings down through the centuries. God is often present and speaking very clearly through what is taking place before us in the here and now, but, we do not notice God’s presence.

All of us want this coronavirus crisis to go away so we can go back to how things were. We want to go back to our jobs and that sense of security we had. We all want to attend our churches, meet our friends and family without all this social distancing. However, that is not happening. But, are our hearts not burning as the Risen Christ walks among us, and talks to our hearts; drawing us ever more deeply into seeking union with God for the purpose of God alone? God in the Risen Jesus is so close to us in our hunger and thirst for a love that knows no bounds and is just there with us, so we can be with God. This is the heart of what Contemplation is about.

Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore the brethren should be occupied at certain times in manual labor, and again at fixed hours in sacred reading. (Chapter 48 On the Daily Manual Labor. St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, p.68).

Is your heart burning as the Risen Jesus is walking with and talking with you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Br. Anselm Philip’s Ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship

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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

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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

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.