Reflection on Out of the Depths

“Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord; Lord, head my voice; let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication” (Psalm 130:1. The Book of Common Prayer, p.784).

St. Julian of Norwich once wrote,

“Pray inwardly even if you do not enjoy it. It does good, though you feel nothing. Yes, even though you think you are doing nothing” (The Breath of the Soul: Reflections on Prayer by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.83).

In the Ninth Conference on Prayer in The Conferences by St. John Cassian, St. Isaac identified three kinds of prayer. 1. Supplication. 2. Intercession. 3. Thanksgiving. The kind of prayer envisioned by the Psalmist comes from the depths of the heart. The prayer of supplication means a recognition of our helplessness. In that helplessness, we know that God is our only hope.

Prayer is about deepening our relationship with God. Prayer that strengthens our intimacy with God is not about getting something we want. It is about letting go of what we are holding on to. It is the act of turning ourselves over to the will of God, without wanting to control the outcome.

Contemplative prayer is a search for union with the God-Life within us and all around us. It leads us from the depths our hearts, to the awareness that God is interacting with us in the here and now. God’s mystery can be experienced, but, not explained. God’s presence is tangible, yet unattainable by our senses.

Jesus is our Bread of Life and Cup of Salvation. Through Jesus, the depth of our hunger is known and acknowledged. Through Jesus, what we long for is worth the longing. “For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation” (Psalm 62:1, The Book of Common Prayer, p.669).

“We must know that God regards our purity of heart and tears of compunction, not our many words ” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, Chapter 20 Reverence in Prayer, p.48).

Are you in touch with God from the depths of yourself?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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O God, Make Speed to Save Us

St.JohnCassian

O God, make speed to save us.  O Lord, make haste to help us. (The Book of Common Prayer, p.117).

In The Conferences by St. John Cassian, The Tenth Conference on Prayer, Abba Isaac said of the words above:

Not without reason has this verse been selected from out of the whole body of Scripture.  For it takes up all the emotions that can be applied to human nature and with great correctness and accuracy it adjusts itself to every condition and every attack.  It contains an invocation of God in the face of any crisis, the humility of a devout confession, a consciousness of one’s own frailty that assurance of being heard and confidence in a protection that is always present and at hand, for whoever calls unceasingly on his protector is sure that he is always present.  It contains a burning love and charity, an awareness of traps, and a fear of enemies.  Seeing oneself surrounded by these day and night, one confesses that one cannot be set free without the help of one’s defender. (Boniface Ramsey 1997, Newman Press, Page 379).

It is amazing how the things that we do out of a routine affect us without being aware of the good it is doing us.  After praying The Offices day in and day out, the verse by which we begin Morning or Evening Prayer just rolls off our tongues.  Abba Isaac wrote about the power of these words from the days of the Desert Fathers and Mothers.  They faced physical dangers far more severe than anything we can imagine.  Today, in that same part of the world in which St. John Cassian would have lived, the Coptic Christians still face massive persecution for their faith.

God never said that we would have to face all of our trials, temptations and challenges alone.  God promised that God would be with us.  God will come ever more closer to us, however, when we call upon him with our lips and hearts open to accepting God’s abiding presence.  Jesus will always come and sup with us, when we open our doors to Him in faith.

O God, make speed to save us.  O Lord, make haste to help us.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

The Answer to Jesus’ Prayer

St.JohnCassian

On the subject of the prayer of Jesus that “we all may be one”, Abba Isaac in the Tenth Conference on Prayer, in The Conferences by St. John Cassian said, “This will be the case when every love, every desire, every effort, every undertaking, every thought of ours, everything that we live, that we speak, that we breathe, will be God, and when that unity which the Father now has with the Son and which the Son has with the Father will be carried over into our understanding and our mind, so that, just as he loves us with a sincere and pure and indissoluble love, we too may be joined to him with a perpetual and inseparable love and so united with him that whatever we breathe, whatever we understand, whatever we speak, may be God (pages 375-376).

I am reading through the Tenth Conference on Prayer in The Conferences by St. John Cassian as part of the Office of Matins.  For those who have never heard of St. John Cassian, you can read about him here.  For the purposes of this blog post, the one thing I will share with you is that the majority of what St. Benedict learned and wrote in The Rule came from the inspiration of St. John Cassian’s Conferences and The Institutes.

The words I just quoted above, sort of leaped out at me at Matins yesterday.  Just the very implication that I might be blessed to be the answer to this prayer of Jesus found in St. John‘s Gospel 17:20-26, speaks volumes to me.  Abba Isaac is telling us how we become the answer to that prayer.  In other words, “when every love, every desire, every effort, every undertaking, every thought of ours, everything that we live, that we speak, that we breathe, will be God,,”.  In these words, is a pure act of faith by letting go.  A letting go of control, desire and every faculty of our being, to be replaced and used by God.   Wow!

What Abba Isaac wrote about is exactly what happens in contemplative and centering prayer.  It is the experience of Mary in the words of the Magnificat.  “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,,,”   The experience of the presence of God is so abundant, that every fiber of our being becomes that presence of God.  Abba Isaac tells us that the grace in contemplative prayer is evident when God becomes the reason we do anything and everything.

Try contemplating that for today.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB