Reflection on Humility

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. (See John 6:1-21. NRSV).

David G.R. Keller in his book, Oasis of Wisdom: The Worlds of the Desert Fathers and Mothers wrote,

“The path towards God begins with the recognition of our own limitations and an awareness of our total dependence on God. In order to take the first step, we must know who we are in relation to God” (p.134).

The quote I am using from St. John’s Gospel comes from the narrative where Jesus feeds the multitudes. When the people want to take Him by force “He withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.” Jesus “who, being in the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God, something to be used for his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant..” (Philippians 2:6,7 NIV). Jesus is more concerned about withdrawing to recollect Himself in silence and solitude. Jesus reclaims who He is.

Humility is the most challenging way for Christians to live. Our society around us encourages achievements to become better and bigger. The more money we make, the more successful we are. Being in the spotlight creates models for our children to aspire to. Greatness feeds our false-sense of self. The attitude is unless we are on the top of the world, we are nothing. Jesus, shows us that nothing could be further from the truth.

Contemplative prayer helps us to live into our true selves. We “recognize our limitations.” We rediscover that we are poor in spirit, and that we will find God by letting go of who we think we are. The God-Life becomes a life of fruitfulness when we listen to Jesus when He said, “Without me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). In humility we seek union with God for the sake of God alone, God gives us everything we need. Our poverty of spirit in contemplation is the key that unlocks the power of the Holy Spirit; who guides us to purity of heart.

“Let me seek you, O God, in my desire, let me desire you in my seeking. Let me find you by loving you, let me love you when find you” (From the Prayer of St. Anselm of Canterbury, Saint Benedict’s Prayer Book for Beginners, p.118).

“The first step of humility, then, is that we keep ‘the reverence of God before our eyes’ (ps.36:2)’ and never forget it” (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.79).

What does humility mean in your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on St. Anselm

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“For I do not seek to understand so that I may believe; but I believe so that I may understand.  For I believe this also, that ‘unless I believe, I shall not understand.” (Isaiah 7:9)  (The Proslogion by St. Anselm of Canterbury.  Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works, Oxford Classics, p.87).

The commemoration of St. Anselm of Canterbury is celebrated only every few years on April 21st.  It is often over taken by either Holy Week or Easter Week.  This year, however, we get to celebrate him on his feast day.

As I was approaching the end of my Postulancy to be Clothed as a Novice in May of 2013, I thought a great deal about what name I would ask for.  Anselm was at the top of my list.  I have many reasons for this choice.  The prayer in the image above that sums up Benedictine Spirituality so beautifully is one of those reasons.  The other reason is that beginning in 1997 to 2000, Fr. Anselm Atkinson, OSB who is now Abbot Anselm of Pluscarden Abbey in Scotland was my very wise spiritual director.   I cherish the many things he taught me as we worked together.

Anselm was a scholar and an intellectual.  He was a great teacher and writer of the Christian Faith.  Yet, as the above quote states, what he thought was worthless without the element of faith.  Faith and wisdom were among his many guiding principles.  His writings can lead us into the contemplative vision of God through his deep humility.  I can only hope that some day I will gain just a piece of that wisdom.

I could write many thoughts for reflection on St. Anselm, and they would all have their legitimacy.  However, I think it is best to conclude this blog by letting St. Anselm do that for us.

“While I am here on earth let me learn to know you better, so that in heaven I may know you fully; let my love for you grow deeper here, so that there I may love you fully.  On earth then I shall have great joy in hope, and in heaven complete joy in the fulfillment of hope.” (From the Proslogion by Saint Anselm, The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume II, p.1775).

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Advent Reflection: Keeping Watch by Letting God In

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Enter into your mind’s inner chamber.  Shut out everything but God and whatever helps you to seek him, and when you have shut the door, look for him.  Speak now to God and say with your whole heart: I seek your face; your face Lord, I desire. (St. Anselm of Canterbury, Proslogion.  The Liturgy of the Hours II. Advent and Christmas Season, p.184).

The words of St. Anselm of Canterbury seem so simple.  If only it were that easy to shut out everything else but God.  Life. Money. Facebook. Children. Spouses. Work. Anxieties.  All of these have their rightful place, but, when they become an end in themselves, they lead us away from God.

St. Anselm was a monk, an Abbot, a university professor and later an Archbishop of Canterbury.  He had his share of enemies within the civil government.  St. Anselm was also an intellectual fellow.  Yet, even he in all of his theological brilliance, had a deep spiritual center.  His secret was those moments in which he shut everything else out, to let God in to keep on bringing him closer to God in his desire and love.

Advent is such a great time to enter into a deeper life of prayer and contemplation.  All the hustle and bustle moving us towards Christmas can be overwhelming; if we allow it to become our center.  In this Season of Advent, we are encouraged to keep watching for the coming of Christ.  One of the ways we can do that is to be sure to set aside some time in which we shut everything that draws us away from God out, and allow God alone to speak to our hearts. This is so very difficult, because we are not just talking about the outer noise.  There is also all that interior noise that shuts God out of the heart.  God invites us through these words of St. Anselm to an interior silent surrender of everything into God’s care while we spend time with the Holy Spirit in the depths of our whole selves.  Are we ready to accept that invitation?

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB