Reflection on the Potter

Clay

Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8 NRSV).

As we begin the Season of Advent, I found these words from the Prophet Isaiah speaking to me.

During this season of hope, peace, love and joy we are waiting to remember the arrival of the Incarnate Word as a vulnerable, innocent child.  The season is full of endless chatter, holiday parties, shopping, holiday musak, and end of the year thank yous.  The radio plays the old song Silver Bells with the words “and above all this bustle; you’ll hear…”   But, at what point do we stop for a little solitude and silence to contemplate this great Season of Advent?  What will it take for us to “listen, and incline the ear of our heart” (Prologue of St. Benedict’s Rule), as we wait in joyful expectation of God’s Love in revealed in the human flesh?

The words from Isaiah tell us that God is the potter and we are the clay.  These words are echoed in the old hymn “Have Thine own way, Lord.  Have Thine own way.  Thou art the potter, I am the clay.”  When we meditate on these words, we are immediately confronted by our false-sense of self.   The self that must be approved and approving, happy no matter what, self absorbed and self centered.  God came to us in Jesus Christ, because God is the potter.

God sees in us just how beautiful we are and how gorgeous we can be.  If only we will spend some time in quiet contemplation of viewing ourselves from God’s perspective as a people destined for greatness by letting go in humility our understanding of who we think God is.  We must let God reveal God’s Self to us, so that God can mold, shape and prepare us to become beautiful vessels that bless the world one hundred times over.

“The second degree of humility is that a person love not his own will nor take pleasure in satisfying his desires, but model his actions on the saying of the Lord, “I have come not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, Chapter 7 On Humility, p.24).

Will you allow God to mold and shape you during this Advent Season?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on Blessed

st.benedictstainedglass

“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

 

 

Reflection on 1 Samuel 3:10

Seeking

“Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10 NRSV).

Centering Prayer is about sitting in silence and doing some listening.  In Centering Prayer, the contemplative accepts all the things that go through her/his mind and lets them go.  By letting go, the individual is able to gradually be with God as the center of her/his being.  It is a great way to end Lectio Divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture).

1 Samuel 3:10 is a perfect example of what Contemplative and Centering Prayer is.  It happens when we take time from the business of life, and “incline the ears of your heart” to the God who is within.  “Speak for your servant is listening.”  We take some time in meditative silence to let go. Let go. Let go.  What matters most is that we are listening for and to God as people who serve the Holy One.

God speaks in the heart that is craving love, acceptance and peace.  We cannot, however, find those things without turning ourselves over to God.  God speaks to the whole of our being.  God knows us intimately.  “For you created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:12).  The Holy One who created every part of us, sees us a beautiful and holy being, to be recreated into the “new person(s) in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17-18).

“Listen, and incline the ear of your heart” (Prologue of The Rule of Saint Benedict).

Can you pray today by saying, “Speak, for your servant is listening”?

Amen

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

 

Reflection on Wonderful

Reflections

“Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14).

No one limits the power of God in our lives more than ourselves.   Each of us have the ability to let God in or shut God out.  Letting God in means turning ourselves over to God’s will.  It requires us to do a lot of letting go so that God make us in to that “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) .

Contemplative prayer opens us up to the possibility of encountering God in the least suspected of places and moments.  In our silence and solitude we confront the noise within us; those conflicting and contradictory things that take up so much space.  It is amazing that when we sit in silence with the T.V., the iPhone, iPad, Smart Phone, computer, radio, etc turned off that we realize just how much noise is going through our bodies and minds.  We are restless.   We are not really centered.  It seems as if our interior is like at traffic jam on a hot muggy day with all the horns beeping loudly and it is as if we will never go anywhere.  It is in these very moments when the God we are seeking union with, has already found us and is speaking through the chaos.   The tensions in our bodies, the argument that we cannot forget, the addiction that plagues us or our families; God is in the middle of them loving us unconditionally and accepting us where we are.

The image I chose for this post has snow top mountains.  Other mountains are clear and dry.  It is in the reflection in the water, that everything that is beautiful in itself shows even more profoundly.  In the image reflected in the water, is a wonder that we cannot adequately describe.  All we know, is that it is mysterious, majestic and calls us to a renewed vision of the world.

In contemplation there is nothing too wonderful for God that the Holy One cannot accept and transform.  No room is too small.  No issue within ourselves that is too confining for God; that God’s perspective of us cannot be renewed and reworked into that wonder that seemed impossible for us; but is never too complicated for God.  God “traces our journeys and our resting places and (is) acquainted with all my ways” (Psalm 139:2).

“Let us get up then, at long last, for the Scriptures rouse us when they say; “It is high time for us to arise from sleep” (Rom 13:11).  Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice from heaven that every day calls out this charge; “If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts (Psalm 95)”. (RB: 1980 The Rule of Saint Benedict in English, Prologue vs 8-10, p. 15-16).

Is anything too wonderful for God in your life?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Lent Reflection: Hiding Place

carthusian-monk-praying-4

 

You are my hiding place, O Lord.  (Psalm 32:8. The Book of Common Prayer, p.624).

Thomas Merton in his book Thoughts in Solitude wrote, “There is no greater disaster in the spiritual life than to be immersed in unreality.”  The unreality he wrote about can be an addiction we are not taking care of.  Or, a conversation with a friend or spouse that we have been avoiding.  It can and most often is the unreality of our life with God within ourselves.  How do we know what our relationship with God is really like if we don’t spend time with God as our hiding place?

Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB in her book Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light wrote, “Silence frightens us because it is silence that brings us face to face with ourselves.”

In the midst of a noisy world full of radio, television, the internet, iPhones and iPads; our God is missing us.  God is missing being closer to us in moments of solitude and silence so that we may embrace God as our hiding place; where God is waiting to embrace us.  In God who is our hiding place, our imperfections do not matter.  Our health in mind, body or spirit does not matter.  All the questions and frustrations, broken relationships and desires can be found in a nice crowded closet when we spend time away for a little while with God who is our hiding place.

In God our hiding place, we can enjoy the mystical experience of contemplating God’s perfect and holy love.  The Holy One who gave us Jesus our Redeemer (who Himself sought out moments of solitude), enters into the crowded places and spaces of our lives while we are hidden away with God, while God “creates a clean heart” in us.  In God as our hiding place, we surrender all; and seek only union with the God who has already found us.

Are you spending time in silence and solitude with God as your hiding place this Lent?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Lent Meditation:Bread and The Word

jesus_praying_temptation

 

Jesus replied, “It’s written, people won’t live only by bread, but by every word spoken by God” (Matthew 4:4. Common English Bible).

Jesus’ journey in the desert is a perfect model for contemplative prayer. The Desert Mothers and Fathers made the journey of Jesus their own.  They left behind everything else and searched for union with God out of their poverty.  This is why Lent gets its theme of wandering in the desert fasting, praying and acts of self-denial.

In the desert we loose all illusions of power, ownership, fame, fortune and that sense of knowing where we are going.  There is no corner store.  No internet network connection.  No Facebook.  No case with bottled water.  The only thing about wandering in the desert is that we are alone.  We will face ourselves as we are.  We will experience the best of ourselves and see the worst of ourselves.  In the desert, we will learn Who it is that we ultimately depend on for the necessities of life.

Lectio Divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture) is about letting Jesus the Bread of Life, the Word of God speak in the depths of our heart and change our lives.  I think this is at the heart of the temptation in which Jesus is tempted to turn the stones into bread.  It isn’t about being hungry, nor is it an excuse for ignoring those who are hungry.  Living the life of a Christian is about seeing God present and working in every aspect of life.  A life lived as a contemplative (or the interior life), recognizes that everything we are, everything we use, everything around us and in us is God interacting with us in Jesus, the Word.  The Word is speaking. Calling.  Loving.  Inviting.  Forgiving.  Molding and shaping us to live into the mystery of what Jesus said in John 15:5, “without me you can do nothing.”

How are you listening more closely to every word spoken by God this Lent?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

“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 Saint Benedict in Latin and English.  Prologue, vs. 41, p.165).

http://www.cos-osb.org

 

 

Ash Wednesday Reflection

Beginning Lent

 

The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent.  Since few, however, have the strength for this, we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times.  This we can do in a fitting manner by refusing to indulge in evil habits and by devoting ourselves to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and self-denial.  During these days, therefore, we will add to the usual measure of our service something by way of private prayer and abstinence from food or drink, so that each of us will have something above the assigned measure to offer God of his own will with the joy of the Holy Spirit (1. Thess. 1:5).  In other words, let each one deny  himself some food, drink, sleep, needless talking and idle jesting, and look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing. (RB. 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, Chapter 49, p.253).

The only season that St. Benedict writes a whole chapter about in The Rule is Lent.

Benedict tells us that Lent is the time to make new efforts to be what we say we want to be.  We applaud the concept in most things. We know, for instance, that even people who were married years ago have to keep working at that marriage consciously and intently every year thereafter, or the marriage will fail no matter how established it seems.  We know that people who own businesses take inventories and evaluations every year or the business fails.  We too often fail to realize, however, that people who say they want to find God in life have to work every day too to bring that Presence into focus, or the Presence will elude them no matter how present it is in theory. (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century. Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.220).

On this Ash Wednesday, we are invited by Jesus to begin to take a new look at our spiritual and personal lives.  It is time to “take inventory” of what we have been doing vs. what we have been putting off far too long.  During these forty days of fasting and abstinence we are encouraged to grow into our relationship with God, others and ourselves.  Through living a contemplative life during Lent, we are urged to meditate on how we are all  inter-connected with nature, people, places and God.

St. Benedict is helping us see that when we give some things up for a while, we need to add on to the usual measure.   He encourages us to do that, because when we give up something there is a void in our lives.  St. Benedict and Jesus invite us to spend time in silence and prayer so that we may begin to see our true selves lost in those voids as “my soul is athirst for the living God” (Psalm 42:2).

What is Jesus calling you to take inventory of in your life this Lent?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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