Reflection on Blessed

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“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3. NRSV).

There is a big misconception that has been going on way too long.  It is the thinking that there is only one to four ways to experience contemplative prayer and mysticism.  Sitting is solitude and silence is probably the greatest way to experience contemplative prayer.  Lectio Divina is best done when we are quietly reading the Scriptures and going through the methodical progression of Lectio (reading), Meditatio (Meditate), Oratio (prayer) and Contemplatio (Contemplation).  This too is true.  Using a routine prayer form such as using Prayer Beads, or the Prayer Rope, or even walking through a forest, are great ways to enter into union with God in prayer.  All of these are amazingly good ways to practice contemplative prayer.

The biggest misconception is that contemplative prayer is about us.  It happens because of something we must do; and if we do not do it and experience some kind of emotional and/or spiritual ecstasy, then we must be doing something wrong.

Contemplative prayer that opens up the possibility of a mystical experience is about God’s grace meeting us where we are, and seeing in our hearts the yearning desire to find union with God.  A yearning search that is there by God’s initiative waiting for us to accept the opportunity to let God be God, and get ourselves out of the way.  Contemplative prayer is not about being perfect.  It is about God reaching us within the whole of ourselves, seeing us as we are, where we are, and us experiencing how blessed we are to be so poor in spirit, that God brings the Kingdom of God to live within us.

Jesus’ invitation to “seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33 KJV) is God seeing us from God’s perspective.  Our deep desire to experience God from the depths of ourselves is in the here and now; even if we are depressed, in despair and wondering where God is.  God is in the wondering.  God is in the searching.  The God we are searching for and wondering about, has already found us.  In Jesus, God has told us that we are blessed because we are poor in spirit.  God also told us that the Kingdom of Heaven is ours; not just in the world to come, but in the here and now.

“We believe that the divine presence is everywhere and that in every place the eyes of that Lord are watching the good and the wicked (Proverbs 5:3)”.  (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English. Chapter 19:1).

Do you know in the whole of your being, that God sees you as being blessed?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

 

 

Contemplation: Here and Now

Stormy Lake Ontario

 

“To become a contemplative, a daily schedule of religious events and practices is not enough.  We must begin to do life, to be with people, to accept circumstances, to bring good to evil in ways that speak of the presence of God in every moment.”  (Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light p.535).

All of us are in circumstances of one kind or another that we would love to change.  We want more money.  We want what the world tries to sell us; and all too often succeeds.  Something bigger, better, faster, something more efficient.  We want to solve our most urgent of problems by changing events of the past.  Some of us go about living in a state in which accepting what is in our past is something we try to avoid.

A very wise person gave me what I believe is a paraphrase of something said by Buddhists.  “Much of our suffering is because of our refusal to accept what is.”  Jesus Himself has something to say that is comparable.  “Today has enough problems of its own; tomorrow can look after itself” (read Matthew 6:31-34).

Contemplative prayer and the mystical experience at its best, brings us face to face with what is, as it is.  Contemplative prayer invites us to see God in the midst of joy and sadness.  Peace and calamity.  In moments when every thing seems to make sense.  In moments when everything we thought made sense; suddenly becomes something we cannot begin to make sense of.

God is here.  God is there.  God is moving on us.  God is calling us to a renewal of relationship with God in the here and now.  The contemplative vision and experience waits patiently to show us the way towards a conversion of heart and life; from God’s point of view.  Not our own.

How are you contemplating and seeking the presence of God in your own life today?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Lenten Reflection: Purity of Heart

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Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8 NRSV).

Every leap year on February 29th, The Episcopal Church commemorates my favorite Monastic Saint after St. Benedict.  St. John Cassian.  The Spirituality of St. Benedict and The Rule, and much of the Spirituality of the Western Church came from St. John Cassian.

St. John Cassian spent a great deal of his time with the Desert Mothers and Fathers learning about how they searched for holiness by withdrawing from worldly distractions.  St. John Cassian integrated their wisdom as to be lived out in community.  Benedictine Spirituality borrows from Cassian.   The Benedictine model of community is best understood as “Growing into who we  are through our relationships with others” (Benedictine Values at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN).

We are now deep into Lent.  We are turning the corner between Ash Wednesday towards Holy Week and Easter Day.  We are continuing to fast and in acts of self-denial as we approach the Easter Triduum.  It is so easy for all of us to forget why we are doing what Christians do during Lent.

In the first of The Conferences, Chapter VII, How Peace Ought to Be Sought, Abbot Moses tells us that if we are fasting, praying vigils, prayerfully reading Scripture and praying without purity of heart being our goal; then we will not find peace we.  If we are doing all of those things and not caring about our neighbor, then all the things we do will bring us no fulfillment.  Purity of heart is nothing more than seeking the other for the sake of the other and not wanting anything else in return.

Thomas Merton wrote “The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves and not to twist them to fit our own image.”

How is God calling you to purity of heart?

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

The Presentation as Renewal

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Be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature created after the likeness of God in righteousness and true holiness.  (Ephesians 4:23-24.  The New Zealand Prayer Book. p.662)

The date of February 2nd, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple has several meanings in the Liturgical Year.  Today marks 40 days since we celebrated the Nativity of Christ on December 25th.  Eight days from today is already Ash Wednesday; the beginning of Lent.  The Presentation can be thought of as our “bridge” between Christmas and Lent.  Today, we make the turn towards recalling the events of the Death and Resurrection of Christ.

When I read the short verse for the Presentation from The New Zealand Prayer Book, the idea of it being a day for renewal struck me.  The Christmas event and the events of the Easter Triduum are about renewal.  So, I was surprised to learn to think of the Presentation as also being about renewal.

In The Rule of St. Benedict, his many texts throughout its many chapters point us to multiple opportunities to start over.  We begin by “listening with the ears of our hearts.”  We begin each day, each of the various hours of the day with the Divine Office.  Each Office is a new beginning at the specified time of the day.  Humility is the opportunity to ascend by our acts of humility, or descend by our attitudes of arrogance.   Yet, at the end of the twelve steps of humility, we are challenged to start over from step one.

The Presentation invites us to contemplate beginning again from the point of pureness of heart, obedience out of love and the sacrifice of our hearts as we search for union with God.   We all walk away from these yearly feasts and tread out a bit further away from what the Gospel of Christ calls us to.  In the Presentation, we are invited back to our sacred temples of prayer and repentance and receive the blessing of God to start over again.  We are “renewed in spirit” and “put on the new nature” so that we move forward with the love of Christ as our guide and goal.

How is God calling you to contemplate how you are being renewed today?

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

The Manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ

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“For we’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.” (Matthew 2:2, Common English Bible).

I get the sense that the Magi were very contemplative men.   They each saw this star that was unusual to them.  They did not take it at face value alone.  They sensed that there was more to it.   They saw the star as drawing them to seek something much more significant than the star.  The star must have woken something in their hearts to leave their distant lands to look for whatever the star was pointing to.  It was not just a visual or metaphysical phenomena.  It was illuminating something wonderful, important and life-changing.  They would never see the world the same way again.

If we read Saint Matthew’s Gospel chapter 2 a little further we read:

“When they saw the star, they were filled with joy.  They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him.  They opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

Additionally, I get the sense that once they found out where the star was leading them; the joy from within came from knowing that what they contemplated within themselves became a living reality.  They knew where the true treasures of their hearts belonged.  In response, they handed over all that was valuable to them materially and symbolically to the God who manifested God’s Self in Christ.

Today, God continues to manifest God’s presence in and through the many symbols and signs of the world.  God uses them to call us to seek union with Christ from the inside out.  God radiates the Light of God’s Son, Jesus the Christ into our hearts so that we may see the best of what God has for us; so that the treasured love of Christ within us can reflect from our hearts to a world of darkness and doubt.

How is God seeking to manifest Christ through us today?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

 

Meditation on Dwelling in the Presence

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How dear to me is your dwelling, O Lord of hosts!  My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God. (Psalm 84:1. The Book of Common Prayer, p.707).

We are on the Second Sunday After Christmas now.  It is also the third day of a new year.  As the Christ Child brought with Him a new beginning; a new year is also.  There are so many things around us calling out for our attention.  We have before us many choices to make.

When God came to us in the Incarnate Word, Jesus offers to us many opportunities to make choices.   Each of us will make different choices in different ways, that will have different results.  The decisions we make will be opportunities for us to grow closer to God, as God desires to be closer with us.   The questions God asks each of us is “What is the desire of your soul?”  “In what and whom do you rejoice?”

We are invited by the Psalmist to spend some time listening to God’s desire for us, to desire God.   Our desire for God is of God’s initiative.  God asks us to make the choice of how we will respond to such a deep desire.   We are invited by God’s grace to enter into the contemplative vision of God’s dwelling place.  As the sparrow finds a place, so God has prepared one for us within the depths of God’s bosom.

Do our hearts and flesh desire to rejoice in the living God?

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

 

 

 

Reflection on Mount Zion’s Unshakableness

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Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion: which cannot be shaken but stands forever.  As the hills enfold Jerusalem: so you enfold your people O Lord, now and forever.  (Psalm 125:1-2 A New Zealand Prayer Book. p. 352).

All of us have those moment in our lives when we might question the symbolism written in this Psalm.  How can we be like Mount Zion which can never be shaken?  How many of us have prayed for the restoration of health for ourselves or someone we love believing in the power of God to answer our prayers, yet we do not get what we asked?

The writer of this Psalm knew exactly what it is like to struggle with trusting in God with what feels like life around him crumbling to pieces.  The Psalmist knew that trusting in God was the only hope he had.

Praying these Psalms with such picturesque language gives us a sense that God knows what we go through and is not very far from where we are.  The Holy Spirit uses them to  open our hearts to contemplate the wondrous mystery of God’s abiding presence.  God gives us the grace to listen for how much faith God has in us and wants us to have unwavering trust in God.  Our greatest strength is to let go, and allow God to love us and heal us.

The Psalmist gives us another hopeful analogy.  Just as the hills around Jerusalem enfold the city, so God enfolds us at this moment and for ever.   We are never left alone and without love.  God is always with us and embraces us in the Incarnate Word and gives us the most affectionate experience of God’s love.

Are we ready to trust in God and receive the love God wants us to experience?

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB