Reflection on the Still Waters

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me besides still waters. (Psalm 23. The Book of Common Prayer, p.612).

The times we are all living through with the coronavirus hardly feels like we are besides still waters. Maybe we are wondering if Jesus, the Good Shepherd will ever get around to our side of the field. All we see are the wolves that carry disease. violence and despair waiting to make us their next victims. Our anxieties are grabbing us because of not being able to escape what we are living through.

The most challenging concepts of contemplative prayer is to keep ourselves grounded to search for union with God with what is happening here and now. The grace of God is active in leading us through this time of sickness and death. Take another look at Psalm 23:5.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me. (The Book of Common Prayer, p.613).

The Psalmist is acknowledging that we do not get delivered from the valley of death. The goodness of God is reaching out for us as we walk through this time. God is interacting with us and guiding us. God is here.

“The search for God is a very intimate enterprise. It is at the core of every longing heart. It is the search for ultimate love; for total belonging, for the meaning of life. It is our attempt to live life and find it worthwhile, to come to see the presence of God under all the phantoms and shadows- beyond the illusions of life-and find it enough”(The Monastery of the Heart: An Invitation to a Meaningful Life, Sr. Joan Chittister, p.13).

The still waters on the surface do not always tell us what is happening beneath them. There is chaos with the fish that are looking for a meal, while others are trying to escape becoming a meal. Underneath the still waters there is something happening that is constantly changing. Yet, Jesus the Risen Shepherd leads us besides those still waters. The contemplative is never satisfied by what is visible on the surface. When we spend time in silence and solitude, we are letting God into those troubled waters within us. If we will let God into what is happening in the here and now; God “will supply with the help of His grace, what we cannot do by nature.” (The Rule of St. Benedict in English, the Prologue).

How is Jesus the Good Shepherd guiding you during these challenging days?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on the Burning Heart

So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (See Luke 24:13-35 NRSV).

This Easter Gospel reading is among the best ways to understand Lectio Divina. The purpose of the prayerful reading of Scripture is to lead us to the spiritual experience of listening to Jesus teach our hearts through the Holy Spirit. When we read a scripture passage slowly and spend some time in silence as the Word goes deeper into our hearts, we are wanting to, “hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them” (The Collect for Proper 28, The Book of Common Prayer, p.236).

Jesus the Risen Christ met His friends on the road to Emmaus because they were disturbed. Jesus asked them questions, spoke with them about the things he mentioned many times before His crucifixion. Jesus was not tired of telling them. It was not until Jesus went in to eat with them, and broke the bread that they recognized Him for who He was.

When the disciples ask themselves the question “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking with us on the road…,” they were having the experience of human beings down through the centuries. God is often present and speaking very clearly through what is taking place before us in the here and now, but, we do not notice God’s presence.

All of us want this coronavirus crisis to go away so we can go back to how things were. We want to go back to our jobs and that sense of security we had. We all want to attend our churches, meet our friends and family without all this social distancing. However, that is not happening. But, are our hearts not burning as the Risen Christ walks among us, and talks to our hearts; drawing us ever more deeply into seeking union with God for the purpose of God alone? God in the Risen Jesus is so close to us in our hunger and thirst for a love that knows no bounds and is just there with us, so we can be with God. This is the heart of what Contemplation is about.

Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore the brethren should be occupied at certain times in manual labor, and again at fixed hours in sacred reading. (Chapter 48 On the Daily Manual Labor. St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, p.68).

Is your heart burning as the Risen Jesus is walking with and talking with you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Br. Anselm Philip’s Ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship

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Reflection on Easter in the Desert

“The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation .” (Psalm 118;14. The Book of Common Prayer, p.761).

Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

It hardly seems like Easter. Minnesota, where I live is getting a snow storm as I write this blog entry. Yet, the snow falling on Easter seems to fit. Many of us are used to being in our churches on Easter. Our churches are usually so crowded that extra chairs must be put out to accommodate the overflow. People go to Easter Sunday services while wearing the best spring clothes. It is always so wonderful when the sun is shining with nice warm weather on Easter.

Easter in the Year 2020 is not at all like what we are used to. The coronavirus is even preventing families from gathering for Easter dinner with relatives they have not seen since Christmas. Some people are rightly worried about those who are sick and suffering. Many are grieving the loss of those they love. How can we contemplate the mystery of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ with everything upside down?

The Desert Monastics lived their lives in such a way, that they were always in a world that was upside down from how many people functioned. The Mothers and Fathers of the Desert gave over everything that was considered “normal” for an unusual way of life through which they searched for a deeper union with God.

Christine Valters Paintner in her book Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings wrote,

“The paradox in the spiritual life is that this journey through destruction is necessary to reach any kind of resurrection or new life beyond it. We are rebuilt and reshaped through this process. We must fully surrender ourselves to the awfulness of it. We must stay present with how we feel compassion to ourselves in the process. We must learn to no longer feel victim to our suffering, but to instead discover a kind of inner fierceness that allows us to look death in the eye without flinching” (p.50).

The Easter experience of Resurrection is not without the pains of Good Friday. The victory of new life is always preceded by letting go of what is familiar, preferred and desired. Unless we spend time in contemplative prayer before the Cross, we will miss the mysticism of the empty tomb on Easter.

The chaos of the coronavirus can be overcome, by recognizing the inevitability of loosing everything as we have known them to be, and giving ourselves over to a new way of living for a whole new beginning.

Jesus and His Resurrection are our strength and our song, and Christ has become our salvation by the wondrous love of God.

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may Christ bring us to everlasting life.” (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.298).

Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on God’s Priceless Love

How priceless is your love, O God, your people take refuge under the shadow of your wings. (See Psalm 36: 5-11, The Book of Common Prayer, p.36).

The words “How priceless is your love,,” sound like the old MasterCard commercial. The love of God is worth a lot more than a trampoline and a new car. God’s love is so priceless, that finding refuge in God is to be protected like an eagle guards her young.

In the Gospel of John 12:1-11, Mary knew just how priceless the love of God in Jesus was. God’s love was so important to Mary, that she used the best oil she had to clean and anoint Jesus’ feet. Mary’s gift of serving Jesus with her cherished treasure, was a small loss compared to God’s priceless love..

This Holy Week journey we are on during this very challenging time, has many of us giving up our yearly routines. Perhaps, we are discovering just how much we have taken those routines for granted. It seems to be that when we lose the opportunities to observe our yearly Holy Week worship practices, that we realize just how much they mean to us. Many of us have been losing our priceless treasures. We are letting them go to help keep ourselves and others healthy and safe. In so doing, we are serving Christ in one another.

The Psalmist is proclaiming God’s priceless love during a time of tremendous turmoil. The Psalmist is choosing to trust in God’s priceless love as their refuge. The Psalmist, like us, is having to make a decision to seek union with God in what is uncertain. The Psalmist remembers what the community has learned over the years. The Psalmist is singing of their trust that God is greater than the circumstances around them.

Contemplative prayer is not a means of escaping from how things are. We spend time in silence, solitude and prayer to help us deepen our relationship with God not from what is happening, but, through what is occurring. We know through our experience of God’s priceless love, just how powerful that love is in the here and now. The refuge we surrender ourselves to, may not make a situation better. It might mean going to the cross to give over everything to discover new life in the resurrection. It might mean letting go of our priceless treasures, to let God’s priceless love be all that we want and need to love God with purity of heart.

“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 St. Benedict in English).

How are you experiencing God’s priceless love in your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on the Light of the World

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. (See John 9:1-41 NRSV).

The current crisis of the coronavirus can make us feel like we have gone blind. We once had a life with our families, careers, gathering of friends and our church communities. The COVID-19 global crisis has brought a screeching halt to everything we once knew and did. It can leave us feeling as if we are walking around life in the darkness. Many of us might feel as if we are putting our hands out in front of us , looking to touched something or someone that is familiar to us so we can relocate our life as it was.

In the Gospel narrative, the one who was without sight from birth only knew how to stretch out his empty hand. He was searching for a friend’s hand to help him know a life he might have never known. A life of hope to be able to know what others knew, and could help him connect in some way with a hope filled with light and hope for better things to come.

When Jesus reached out to him, He proclaimed that as long as he was in the world, He was the light of the world. He made a muddy mess of mud and put them on the man’s eyes. The individual washed his eyes and could finally see the world that he had only dreamed to see. As the story continues, he worships the One who gave him sight, only to see that Jesus was in a different kind of darkness.

The times we are living through are difficult for contemplatives as they are for anyone. There is nothing simple about the virus and what it has done to the world as a whole. The most powerful way contemplatives can benefit the world during this dark time, is to cling to Jesus as the Light who is still in this world by the faith of us who know Him from the inside out. A contemplative never seeks escape from what is in the here and now, but, searches for union with God through what is happening in the here and now. Jesus is shining as the Light in the darkness of the chaos. The contemplatives see the story of their lives in what is occurring, only to find Jesus as the guide through the unfamiliar moment.

“Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God and our ears to the voice from Heaven that everyday calls out this charge: If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts (Ps.95:8).” (The Rule of St. Benedict in English).

How is Jesus the Light in this time of darkness for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on The Word Spoken

“After Jesus has fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was starving. The tempter came and to him and said, “Since you are God’s Son, command these stones to become bread.” Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only on bread, but by every word spoken by God.” (Matthew 4:2-4 The Common English Bible).

One of the most difficult things that happens to someone who discovers that they have a disability, a chronic or terminal illness, is that they go through a process of grieving the person they used to be. They had a life in full swing with plans they were making. When the news comes with whatever diagnosis it is, the life they had is never the same. Among the most challenging things they can do, is learn to let go of what was and embrace what is in the present moment. They can do this by being honest about what they are experiencing, grieve it realistically, and enjoy what they can do.

Jesus was in the desert. He was starving. He was probably quite weak. It would have been very simple for him to change the stones into bread. Instead, he decided to embrace his hunger to know God’s words as the substance that would sustain him.

The contemplative seeks the spoken Word through what is silent, yet full of God’s voice. A voice that talks through the daily activities of ordinary life. We find God’s presence and Word in what is before us, with us and in us in the here and now. Contemplation is not an ecstatic experience of “feeling better” as if the pain and suffering of the present moment is devoid of God’s Being. The hunger we live with, the news we receive; good or bad, are opportunities to be drawn closer to God through what is. In the various places in the Gospel of John, when Jesus proclaims things like “I am the bread of life,” He is speaking in the present tense, not the past or future.

In her book, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of Benedict Today, Joan Chittister wrote, “ The spiritual life, in other words, is not achieved by denying one part of life for the sake of another. The spiritual life is achieved only by listening to all of life and learning to respond to each of its dimensions wholly and with integrity” (p.16).

How are you listening to God through the experiences of your life in the here and now?

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

Visit my website to learn about my ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

Reflection on The Clean Heart

Create in me a clean heart, O God,,,, (Psalm 51:10 NASB).

As many of my readers know, I live with autism. My autism challenges every aspect of my life. Social interactions. Self regulation. Communicating with others verbally and non-verbally. My autism includes a physical disability called dyspraxia. Dyspraxia is a mental to physical motor response condition. It means that there is a time delay from the moment my brain tells my body when to stand up to when I actually stand up. I have what is called executive dysfunction that makes doing daily tasks such as home cleaning and organization difficult unless I have assistance from a homemaker or personal support service.

Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent is a time to reflect on what is going on in our hearts. Remember that when we speak of the heart in Contemplative spirituality, we are talking about the whole of ourselves. Who we really are within ourselves and where God is in that relationship is an important part of what the contemplative does during Lent.

In St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, he tells us to “keep [our] hearts most pure and at the same time wash away during these days the negligences of other times” (p.71).

When it comes to the spiritual life, all of us have an executive dysfunction as to what keeping our hearts clean means. Most of the time, we become negligent in asking for help to do the cleaning. Lent for the contemplative, is about allowing God to become our homemaker. God will create and recreate a clean heart within us, if we will let go of our false-sense of self so that God can do the cleaning.

It is during these days of Lent that God will create a clean heart within us in this moment. God is always here to help us clean.

What does God creating a clean heart mean for you this Lent?

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

Visit my website for Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

Reflection on Listening to the Beloved

While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” (See Matthew 17:1-9 NRSV).

When you think of what it means to listen to Jesus, what thoughts go through your mind? Do you think of sitting under a tree on a warm sunny day and just listening to nature’s many sounds? Do you find yourself in a chapel with candles lit and the lights dimmed? Do you find yourself at the bedside of someone very important to you who is sick and suffering and wondering what to do?

We look for those “perfect moments” that fit our idea of what listening to Jesus in contemplative prayer is. We always have a notion that if we can only be on a mountaintop like the three disciples are with Jesus in the Transfiguration that we will hear God clearly.

St. Benedict taught that listening to God requires something from us wherever and in whatever moment we are in. “Listen” says St. Benedict in the Prologue to The Rule. “Listen to the master’s instructions and incline the ear of the heart. This is advice from a Father who loves you.” Benedict is telling us what that voice from Heaven told us when Jesus was transfigured on that mountain. “This is my son, the Beloved; with whom I am well-pleased; listen to him.

God has claimed us in Jesus as God’s beloved. God is well-pleased with us, because of God’s extravagant love. God and St. Benedict are telling us to listen to Jesus the Beloved who has granted us a share in His life, death and resurrection; and with us God is well-pleased. Whether we are having a delightful mountaintop moment or find ourselves in the deepest grief and despair; God is interacting with us and speaking to our hearts. Even when we find it most difficult to inline the ear of our hearts, God is speaking and moving within us, among us and around us.

Are you listening for God in your life in the here and now?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on the Word at Home

“The Word became flesh and made His home among us. We have seen His glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, The Common English Bible).

I am using The Common English Bible for this reflection, because I am drawn to the words “and made His home among us.” These words disturb me. I am so comfortable hearing the words of John 1:1-18 as the cozy doctrine of the Incarnation. As long as I kept them in my mind to the hearing of this Gospel every Christmas, they never make the journey from the head to the heart.

When I spend time with these words in Lectio Divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture) the Holy Spirit tells my heart that Jesus is coming to make His home within me at this moment. I am in a bit of a panic attack, because I am so attached to enjoying my interior home where my ego has its own room. My false-sense of self has given my ego a run of the home in me. Jesus, the Word wants to make a home in me? If that happens, I will know just how much God knows me in my total vulnerability. I will experience the reality of the words of Psalm 139:1.

“Lord, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar.”

I/we must remember that contemplative prayer is at its climax when we let go of everything, including our high expectations and open ourselves to experience Emmanuel “God with us.” God comes so that we can see ourselves from God’s perspective. Jesus comes to make His home in us, because God loves us so completely because of who we are, as we are and desires to make our hearts a most beautiful holy abode for God-Self. God wants to plant the seed of God’s Holy Spirit in our hearts so that a wondrous garden with every beautiful kind fruit can grow. Those many weeds within us that need to die and be pulled, will help us to be transformed into that “new creation” (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-18) rising up with Jesus in the Resurrection.

“Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for He is going to say, ‘I came as a guest, and you received me.'” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries. Chapter 53 On the Reception of Guests, p.73).

How are the words “The Word became flesh and made His home among us” speaking to your heart?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Visit my website to learn about my ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

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Reflection on St. Stephen

While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.” (See Acts 6:8-7:2, 51c-60 NRSV).

“Good King Wenceslas looked out

On the feast of Stephen

When the snow lay round about

Deep and crisp and even

Brightly shone the moon that night

Though the frost was cruel

When a poor man came in sight

Gath’ring winter fuel.”

Yesterday was the First Day of Christmas. On Christmas Eve, we sang hymns of the peace that the Christ Child would bring. There was the hope of “peace and goodwill toward all people.” On the Second Day of Christmas, we remember St. Stephen being stoned. Is today’s commemoration of St. Stephen a contradiction to the Nativity of Jesus, or is it a wake up call for the soul?

I continually repeat the opening words of The Rule of St. Benedict because it contains the most important words that Christians would do well to internalize. “Listen, my loved one, and incline the ear of the heart.” The arrival of Jesus Christ, the Word, holds us spell bound by its beauty and simplicity. The simplicity is that in Jesus, God makes God’s Self vulnerable. God came in Christ to become vulnerable as one of us, and with us. Vulnerability brings a risk without knowing what the end result will be.

Listening to God within the wholeness of ourselves makes us vulnerable to letting go of our false-sense of self; to find our true self in the fullness of Christ’s revelation. Christ is revealed as the Light in the midst of our darkness. The darkness may be a grudge we are holding. It might our reluctance to accept what is and letting go of what we wish things were. That darkness may be a pain we will not allow ourselves to experience with God’s compassion embracing us so that we can heal through it.

Contemplative prayer and mysticism in this Feast of St. Stephen is to know that God is always present and interacting with us and in us in any situation we find ourselves in.

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39. NRSV).

Will you spend time in silence and solitude to let the Christ Child inside your vulnerable heart 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 support this blog ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.