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 Seeds & Listening

Wheat Seeds

 

Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!’  (Matthew 13:8 and 9 NRSV).

No wonder St. Benedict began the Prologue of The Rule with, “Listen.  Incline the ear of the your heart.”  It is only with an openness of our entire selves listening for the Holy Spirit to plant the seeds of God’s love into the good soil within us.  If our interior soil is to bear good fruit, we must first yield our entire selves to all of God’s Goodness.

Contemplative prayer is about letting our soil be tilled by God’s sanctifying Grace as God reveals God’s Self to us in solitude, relationships and within the depth of our heart.  Once the Word is planted deep within us, and we trust in God to provide the water, the sunlight and the sun; the God who knows us better than we know ourselves will give us the mystic experience of new life.  We do not have to decide what is going to happen as we grow all by ourselves.  However, we must let go of our false-sense of self so that the center where our eternal truth will search for and find union with God’s Spirit of Truth; so that our true sense of self can grow from the good soil that God cares for.

Are you listening for God to bring good fruit from within you?

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

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