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

Reflection on Narrow Beginnings

narrow-road

 

Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run from the road that leads to salvation.  It is bound to be narrow at the outset (The Rule of Saint Benedict:Prologue v. 48).

I have begun the process of founding The Contemplatives of Subiaco-Order of Saint Benedict.   Lord willing and others consenting, it will be a Benedictine Community with a focus on solitary contemplative prayer and responding to the Presence of Christ in the world around us.

I am feeling led to begin this work because there needs to be a dispersed  Contemplative Community of Benedictines that finds a place of religious life ministry that is inclusive of individuals with autistic spectrum disorders and/or mental illnesses.  This work is ambitious, yes, but it is also scary.  I am an individual that lives with Asperger’s Syndrome and its many social ramifications.  Isolation.  Rejection. Many failing to understand that my complications in social interactions are not because of me just not getting my act together; but a medical, neurological and developmental disorder that prevents me from fully functioning in the way I and others might like.  I find myself a bit concerned about the challenges that lay ahead as I begin this work.  Nevertheless, I feel it is what God is moving on my heart to do at this point in my life.  It certainly feels like one of those narrow beginnings that St. Benedict indicates in the selection from The Rule.

St. Benedict himself, left the nobility and the privileges he had because of  his wealthy up bringing, because he knew that God had something even more wonderful for him.  He left for the cave at Subiaco in Italy.  In that cave, he studied the Scriptures and listened intentionally to God in contemplative solitude for three years.  During that time he faced the fears he must have had. In spite of his solitude, many individuals found him and his fame spread everywhere.  There were those who were so inspired by what Benedict was doing; that they would bring him food and provisions.  This was for St. Benedict a narrow beginning that led him and many to salvation through his Monastic way of life.

God calls upon each of us to our respective and diverse vocations.  We do not always know what they are or where they will take us as we begin our journey.  This can include going to school, starting a new job, beginning a new relationship or making improvements to our home.  Our first steps on the road that leads us to salvation will be narrow and frightening.  We will have our moments of wanting to give up and run away.  Saint Benedict reminds us in this wonderful verse from the Prologue; that we never walk that road alone.  God is there guiding our steps, speaking to our hearts and walking through that narrow beginning with us.  Whether that road leads us to a successful ending or not, we can have faith in God that nothing that has happened in the past, or what may happen in the future will keep God from bringing us to where God wants us to be.

How and in what ways is God speaking to your heart about taking that first step on a road that has a narrow outset?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

 

 

Reflection on Stillness and Waiting

Serenity

 

My soul truly is still, and ‘waits for’ God: from ‘whom comes’ my deliverance. (Psalm 62:1, The New Zealand Prayer Book, p.256).

In our contemporary world of high speed internet, automatic teller machines and microwave ovens: the notion of remaining still and waiting seems like ancient history.

The practice of silence, solitude, being still and waiting are gifts of God to us to center ourselves on the One who gives us life and hope.  These gifts do not come in packages to be unwrapped or emails to be opened.  They come through the constant, yet, changing rhythms of daily life.  Within our ordinary moments of life, God is calling to us to pause, be still and wait for God to deliver us.

Saint Antony of the Desert once wrote, “He who sits alone and is quiet has escaped three wars: hearing speaking, seeing: but there is one thing he must continually fight: that is, his own heart.”

It also bears repeating that Saint Benedict picks up on this very theme when he begins the Prologue of The Rule with the words, “Listen to the masters instructions.  Incline the ears of your heart.”

The Psalmist, St. Antony and St. Benedict by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit urge us to give God the opportunity to make our souls still and wait for God to be our Deliverer.  We can give God that opportunity in our personal time of prayer in solitude.  We can also seek union with God in stillness through our relationships with others; even when they are not so peaceful.

How and where are you finding time to still your soul and wait for deliverance from God?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

 

 

The Desert, Contemplative Prayer and St. John the Baptist

Desert

In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isa 40:3).

The Church today celebrates the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist.  As Christians, we rightly commemorate the forerunner of Christ.  John the Baptist leaped in the womb of his mother Elizabeth when Mary came to visit her.  He lived in the desert and wore only camels hair, a rope around his waist, and ate locusts and wild honey.  He was a preacher of repentance.  He called people to be baptized.  He baptized Jesus.  He was humble to the point of realizing that he must decrease as Jesus was to increase.

John the Baptist is also a perfect model for desert spirituality and contemplative prayer.  The Desert Mothers and Fathers took much of their inspiration from St. John the Baptist.  St. Albert who began the Carmelite Order based their spirituality on Elijah’s work in the desert, but also refer to John the Baptist.  St. John the Baptist is an important Saint for Monastics of all kinds including cenobites.  The image of wandering in the desert and listening to God as one faces the realities of who one really is apart from all other attachments describes the perfect environment for contemplative prayer.

St. Benedict in Chapter 48, On Manual Labor in The Rule expressed concern that the hours for work be measured in moderation, so that the Brothers would have time for the prayerful reading of Scripture (i.e. Lectio Divina).  One of the important parts of Lectio Divina is Contemplation.

We are invited today to consider carefully our need for solitude, prayer.  As St. John the Baptist helped prepare the way for Jesus to enter into the hearts of those who would encounter Him; so must we do for ourselves.  It is important that we make time in our deserts to search for God and love God, so that we may experience God.  Contemplative prayer is about our experience of God in all aspects of our lives.  Our experience of God becomes that much clearer when we “make a highway” for God in silence, solitude and prayer.  Solitude and silence are essential to live in community with others, and become a pathway for others to encounter God in us.

May all of us make room for God as we look at the example of St. John the Baptist.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Lenten Reflection: Be Still

Lit Candle

Be still, then, and know that I am God… (Psalm 46:11a).

Yesterday, the devotional publication Forward Day by Day‘s entry was based on Psalm 37:1,7 which reads, “Do not fret yourself….. Be still before the Lord.”  The writer reminds us that when we do fret over things, we really accomplish nothing more than indulge in our false sense of self.  When we fret we become self centered.  Our faith diminishes, because we base the outcome on our ability to control something.  The more we try to control, the more out of control we become.

The very familiar words I used to begin this blog post from Psalm 46:11a are found in a poem that sounds very much like everything is in chaos.  It begins with talking about God being our refuge and strength in time of trouble, mountains being toppled, waters raging and foaming and later on moves to kingdoms being shaken.  It seems to be both a Psalm of exaltation and facing the realities of life around those who wrote it.  It appears to me, and perhaps it will to you too, that the words I quoted for this post come in the midst of all the turmoil to suggest not so much a stillness of the world around us, but a stillness of ourselves in the presence of God in spite of chaos.   In these words, is a word from God to know God from within the depth of ourselves so that whatever else may be going on, we are still and maintain our confidence in the power and presence of God.

It certainly seems that this stillness must have been in Jesus as He endured the reality of His passion and death.  Jesus experienced the depth of human rejection, betrayal by a good friend and the total surrendering of even His relationship with God to the point of His death.  Yet, He was never completely separate from God, as He was the Word of God in human form.  In spite of all that went on around Him, Jesus clung to God by faith in obedience out of love.  Though the world around Him and about Him fell apart; Jesus remained still in the presence of God trusting that no matter what He had to face, God was still with him.

May God help us this Lent to spend some time being still in silence and solitude.  May we have the faith and trust that Jesus had, and become a still and peaceful light of God’s presence in the chaotic world around us.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

The Importance of Solitude

Anthony

Just as fish die if they stay too long out of water, so the monks who loiter outside their cells or pass their time with men of the world lose the intensity of inner peace.  So like a fish going towards the sea, we must hurry to reach ourselves, for fear that if we delay outside we will lose our interior watchfulness. (St. Anthony the Great).

There are those who have great difficulty with the idea of dispersed monastics, such as The Companions of St. Luke of which I am a Novice Member.  The complication is quite valid in light of a writing such as what I quoted above from St. Anthony.  There are many who admit that they could not live with and/or in a residential monastic community, but the idea of the existence of a community that is non-residential; let alone allows their members to be married/partnered, have every day jobs and pray our Offices on our own; that kind of thing just seems too wrong for many.

The Companions of St. Luke/Order of St. Benedict along with other Christian Communities within The Episcopal Church are part of a New Monasticism.  A Monasticism that views the Vow of Stability for example, as being about finding Stability in Christ and the particular Community we are vowed to.  We observe The Rule of St. Benedict in that we pray the Daily Offices, pray Lectio Divina daily, and we are obedient to our Superiors in what they require of us in terms of our work of Formation, or any other work we might do as requested.  We also seek stability in all of our relationships including but not limited to our spouses, family members, etc.  Incidentally, the Companions of St. Luke/OSB and Communities within The Episcopal Church are joined by a similar Catholic Community such as the Brothers and Sisters of Charity at Little Portion Hermitage founded by John Michael Talbot, also part of the New Monasticism.

One of the requirements I have accepted as a Novice is to seek those moments of silence and solitude. It is a time to turn off all the electronic devices, close the door of my room and center myself, my thoughts and seek the presence of God.  As Thomas Keating wrote in Open Minds, Open Hearts, “God speaks the language of silence.”  In this way, even dispersed monastics are “in the world, but not of the world.”  We give up the pleasures of continual conversation, doing everything to please others to get our own pleasure, a never ending wandering of our own desires and face ourselves in the presence of God.  We do not spend time in silence and solitude to escape ourselves.  On the contrary, we enter into silence and solitude to meet the best and the worst of ourselves in the presence of God; to experience God refining us as silver is refined in the fire.

The need for solitude and silence is not isolated to monastics.  As Christians, we are all inundated with social media, the news media’s endless campaign to over charge our senses, family obligations, work and more.  Contemplative prayer is not impossible with these things going on, but our ability to listen to God becomes quite limited.  It is very important that we take time as Elijah did to listen for the still, small voice of God that speaks not in the earthquake, the fire or the wind; but in the silence of our hearts, stilled by the Spirit’s gentle whisper.

May we remember today and every day to take those moments unselfishly, so that just as two people in love can spend time together and not say a word; God can spend some quiet time with us.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB