Reflection on the Annunciation and the Desert

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.” (See Luke 1:26-38 NRSV).

I think that we tend to over romanticize the Annunciation. It is a beautiful story without question. The story might bring us the hope that God will do something amazing with us, as God did with Mary. If the narrative of the announcement to Mary does not make us uneasy about following her to a desert of uncertainty, then we may have missed the most mystical purpose of the day.

I am experiencing the most unusual of Lenten observances. In addition to living with autism, I am also living with chronic back pain because of a T-12 lumbar disk protrusion. I require the use of a wheelchair when I go to doctor appointments or anywhere a long walk is needed, because the pain in my back is just too intense to walk with just a cane. I am going to appointments for physical and aquatic therapy to help strengthen my back muscles. But, the process is slow. I am in a year and season where I am uncertain about pretty much everything. Nothing is as it used to be.

I am sure that Mary’s life as it was proceeding at the time was stopped dead in its tracks by the Angel Gabriel’s announcement. She would be traveling in a desert with things being very out of order for the rest of her life. Mary has a faith I certainly do not have. Upon hearing the Angel’s words, she trusts herself and her way forward to God’s will.

Contemplative prayer is anything but, about certainty. That which is mystical is not so neatly fitted together to make perfect logical sense. It is a journey into the desert with Jesus through which we will see ourselves and our lives exactly as they are. There are no illusions, but, our false-sense of self. In the desert everything is unfamiliar, yet, starkly visible and inescapable. Contemplative prayer works best when we let go; little by little; and search for union with God in the things that are what they are. Through faith and trust in God’s love, we will be led to where we go from here.

“Abba Moses asked Abba Silvanus, ‘Can a man lay a foundation every day?’ The old man said, ‘If he works hard he can lay a new foundation every moment.'” (Desert Fathers and Mothers:Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, by Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, p.57).

“And finally, never loose hope in God’s mercy ” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, Chapter 4 On the Tools for Good Works).

What is your desert time like this Lent?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone you know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, please visit my website here.

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Reflection on Being A Seeker

“Hearken to my voice, O Lord when I call; have mercy on me and answer me. You speak in my heart and say, ‘Seek my face.’ Your face, Lord, will I seek.” (Psalm 27:10-11 The Book of Common Prayer, p.618).

The foundational spirituality of Benedictine Monasticism is to seek union with God through a life of continuous prayer. St. Benedict would have learned about seeking God from reading about the Desert Monastics like St. Antony and St. Moses who passed the spirituality on to St. John Cassian. That being said, the famous motto of Benedict Ora et Labora (pray and work) are the means to seeking union with God. Benedict taught his Monastics that prayer is essential to living a holy life, but that prayer was to be integrated with one’s everyday life and work.

The Season of Lent is a season of prayer and work. We take time during this holy time for more silence so that we may seek the face of God as the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 27. We invoke God’s mercy by letting go and seeking union with God with what is in front of us. While time in silence is important to our growth, what we are working towards is the interior silence within our own cell (the heart). St.Moses wrote, “Sit alone in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.” St. Isaac of Turin wrote,

“A swimmer plunges into the water stripped of his garments to find a pearl: a monk stripped of everything goes through his life in search of the pearl–Jesus Christ; and when he finds him, he seeks no longer for aught existing beside him” (Seeking God; The Way of St. Benedict, Original Edition by Esther de Waal, p.25).

Contemplation is seeking union with God through the life we have, not the life we want. The way forward to finding God’s will and holiness is being made in whatever situation or place we find ourselves in at this moment. We can spend a whole day looking for a reason why, but, we will still come back empty and hungry. “O God , you are my God; eagerly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you,,,,” (Psalm 63:1).

Are you seeking God in your life at this very moment?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone who know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, please visit my website link here.

If you feel led to buy me some coffee to help support this ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.

Reflection on Blessed Trust

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.  (See Jeremiah 17:5-10 NRSV).

Is it not a shame sometimes that human beings cannot trust God the way nature does? Nature is a tremendous reflection of what God’s grace is like. Nature in the trees and water receives their being from God, do what they were born to do. They have their way of crying out for what they need. Whatever God’s desire for the trees might be, the trees never seem to waiver in their dependence on God to supply what they need.

Our problem with trusting in God is based on our own sense of what we think we need. We get so caught up in the arrogance of our false-sense of self, that we blindfold ourselves to where and what God has for us. God has already created and redeemed us to have all that we need. In Jesus, God knows and shares in our many trials, sorrows and challenges. Our Christian Faith tells us who God is and what God does; that is not the problem. The issue is, do we trust in God in a relationship of searching for union with God from the whole of ourselves?

Contemplation is our opportunity to take in the presence of God right in front of us. Abba Moses wrote those famous words, “Sit in your cell, your cell will teach you everything.” Our cells are where God has us; right here, right now. This is the place and moment to trust in God. Our hour of giving over our fear in the midst of many obstacles is before us. Sr. Joan Chittister in her book Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light wrote, “Learning to notice the obvious, the colors that touch our psyches, the shapes that vie for our attention,,,,, is the beginning of contemplation” (p.22).

Trusting in God is like a tree planted near a stream. God has provided the stream that is the living waters of our Baptism. God has called us God’s Beloved with whom God is well-pleased. God wants to know if we are willing to trust God to do the rest.

“The first step of humility is to keep the reverence of God before us at all times, and never forget it” (The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 7 on Humility).

By God’s help, will you put your trust in God?

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 ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.

Reflection on Release and Recovery

Jesus unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (See Luke 4:14-21 NRSV).

Over the past few months, I have been dealing with some really awful back pain. It is so debilitating that when I have a long distance to walk, I need a wheelchair. After some x-rays and an MRI, I learned that I have a T-12 lumbar disk protrusion in my lower left L1-L-2. I will be working with more doctors about pain management and physical therapy. All of this added to my autism spectrum disorder and other issues have not made life easier. I have to rely on my spouse for help with many day to day care matters. I am being confronted by my sense of mortality. At the same time, I am learning about new strengths that I did not know I have. The grief of loss, is also my opportunity to see some new life that God is raising up in me.

I just started reading a book that could not be timed better. The books title is, Beginning Again: Benedictine Wisdom for a living with Illness by Mary C. Earle. It is by no accident that her first chapter is centered on the very first word of The Rule of St. Benedict, “Listen.” Benedict tells us to incline the ear of our hearts to what God is communicating with us in every aspect of ourselves. God is speaking through what our bodies are experiencing. When our bodies experience any kind of illness, we experience the grief and pain of what we lose, as well as the transformation of the new life within us.

Jesus is the presence and power of God who helps us to see what prisons we put ourselves in. Many of those prisons are where we lock our true selves in because of the labels of our society. Jesus helps us see what we are blind to, such as the message that if our bodies are not completely abled to do everything that we are expected to, we are a failure. God the Holy Spirit speaks to us when we see and embrace this moment when we face and grieve the pain of what was, but no longer is; and listen for what new things God is doing.

Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB in her book Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living The Rule of St. Benedict Today wrote, “The Spiritual life is achieved only by listening to all of life and learning to respond to its dimensions wholly and with integrity” (p. 16).

God is speaking to your heart through what you are experiencing in the wholeness of who you are; right here, right now. What are you listening to God saying to you?

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 ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.

Reflection on God’s Crown and Diadem

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” (Isaiah 62:3 NRSV).

The Prophet Isaiah was reassuring the people of God that what was happening to and around them was not the end of the story. God was still working to make them more than they were through circumstances that were far from perfect.

For Christians who are celebrating the Christmas Season, the presence of Jesus as the Incarnate Word is the promise of God that we all are “the apple of God’s eye.” The Word that always was, is and ever shall be was born as a vulnerable human baby like each of us. Jesus, like each and every one of us has the potential to be nurtured by God’s grace to be God’s crown; so precious, that even in our imperfections we will know the holiness of God at work in our lives.

The mysticism of Christmas is that whatever we have done that may have brought us to a devastating end, God’s Incarnation in Christ gives us a new opportunity to begin again. Every new beginning has a lot of uncertainty. We are vulnerable to many dangers that can be difficult to understand and work through. The path before us will need a lot of moments in solitude and silence, so that we can listen to the direction of the Holy Spirit. The directions may be simple or complex. The only way to get a sense of where to go and what to do, will be determined by the mystery of God’s plans for us that are yet to come to fruition.

The Christmas Season is our message of hope, that whatever point we are at in our lives, God has a desire for us because we are God’s shining crown and royal diadem. We are being remade by God through the circumstances in the here and now, to live in to our true selves in God’s timeline.

“In God’s goodness, we are already counted as God’s own..” (The Rule of Benedict: a Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr Joan Chittister, OSB, p.5).

What do you see God doing with the circumstances of 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 ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.

Reflection on St. John

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (See 1 John 1:1-9 NRSV).

St. John the Evangelist is my very favorite of the Apostles and New Testament contributors. The beginning of John’s Gospel with the words “In the beginning was the Word….” is beyond profound. The three letters attributed to St. John and Revelation are so beautiful.

On this text from 1 John, St. Augustine of Hippo wrote,

“Life itself was therefore revealed in the flesh. In this way what was visible to the heart alone could become visible to the eye, and so heal men’s hearts.” (The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume I Advent and Christmas Season, p.1267).

The Johannine communities that gave us these words from the Apostle tell us about what they have personally witnessed. The love of Jesus, the Word made visible and tangible. It was more exciting than yesterday’s news story that had come and gone. The love of God in Christ was transforming them from the inside out. The love they experienced was so powerful, that they had to write about it.

This reading from First John leads us into contemplation. When John and his community experience the love of the Word, they move into what Thomas Keating wrote about in his book The Mystery of Christ: The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience,

“The revelation of being loved by God characterizes the first stage of contemplative prayer. It enables us to see God in all things” (p.73).

St. John reminds us that we experience the transformative power of Christ when we let God into our hearts. St. Benedict tells us in the beginning of The Rule. “Listen carefully to the master’s instructions, and incline the ear of your heart.” Once we let go of our false-sense of self, and let God’s desire for us, feed our desire for God; it is then that we will find God by loving God; that we will be led by the Holy Spirit to love God when we find God. Contemplative prayer and the mystical experience help us to begin again, as we open our hearts to the experience of Jesus the Word made flesh by the faithful witness of those who have come before us.

Where are you looking to find Jesus today?

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 me support this ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.

Reflection on The Magnificat

“…for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and Holy is His Name.” (See Luke 1:39-55 NRSV).

Mary knew that something amazing happened to her. Her visit to Elizabeth confirmed the experience she had with the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation. Mary still had a future full of uncertainty. Her world was turned upside down. Mary reflects and responds in a song full of praise known as the Magnificat. Mary sings of a mystery so profound that changes her life, and the whole world around her and beyond.

All of us at one point or another, find our lives turned upside down by the many unwelcome surprises life brings. A job lost. A relationship that ended. A death so devastating. News of a child who is sick or in trouble with the law. These and other experiences change our routines and priorities quite quickly. We can fight our emotions about such things only so long; then discover that if there is going to be any way of moving forward, the first thing we must do, is let go and put our faith and trust in God in the here and now.

The Mighty One is doing great things for us right where we are in life. Even if it feels like the only thing God is doing, is giving us grace to accept where are, what we are facing; and allow ourselves to experience the contemplation of God’s presence. As contemplatives, we search and sing of what God is doing. God is there in our pain and grieving. God is there helping us to sing the song in the silence of what can only be heard in the heart of one who seeks union with God in everything that makes no sense.

“What is not possible for us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of his grace.” (The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.18).

What are the great things God is doing for you?

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 me support this ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.