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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Reflection on Be Still and Wait

“Be still before the Lord, and wait for him” (Psalm 37:7, Common English Bible).

These words are disturbing to us who live in the 21st Century. We are always multitasking. We have plans that need to be written into our calendars. There is always something else we need to be doing. We live in the age of wait for nothing.

These words are disturbing, because by ourselves and of ourselves; we do not really know how to be still and wait for God. To be still is to let go of ourselves, and trust in God to meet us in our poverty of spirit. To wait for God means to let go of our own sense of time; to let God’s timing become our ultimate desire.

Contemplative prayer leads us to see what is beyond the visible; to grasp the One who is invisible and cannot be grasped. Any vision of God is tangible, but, can only be experienced, but, not explained. To be still and wait for God is to yield our emptiness into our faith, with trust in God to teach us within the whole of ourselves; though, what we learn is limited.

Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB in her book, The Breath of the Soul: Reflections on Prayer wrote,

“one of the most consistent themes in mystical literature is the clear notion that the Mystic is not seeking spiritual escape from the life of the world. The mystic, history records in one life after another of them, is simply seeking God”(p.89,90).

“What is not possible to 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, p.18).

What do the words “Be still before the Lord, and wait for him” mean for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Time Alone

[Jesus] said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while” (See Mark 6:30-34,53-56).

Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB in her book Illuminated Life:Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light uses the following quote from the Desert Mothers and Fathers.

“One of the elders said, ‘Just as it is impossible to see your face in troubled water, so also the soul, unless it is clear of alien thoughts, is not able to pray to God in contemplation'” (p.105).

Jesus tells us that withdrawing to recollect ourselves is very important. We do not have to be out there doing everything, all the time. On the contrary, over busyness can be a way of avoiding things that are very important.

Life is so full of disappointments and losses. Everyday we experience something that reaches the wounds we have within ourselves. Sometimes we can even overdo being helpful to others and not pay attention to what God is saying to ourselves.

“Sitting in our cell requires patience to not run from ourselves or flee back into the world of distraction and numbness. It means being fully present to our inner life without anxiety. Interior peace comes through sitting in silence, through attentiveness and watchfulness ” (Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated & Explained, p. 120).

God grants us the grace of Contemplative Prayer so that we may know our true selves from God’s perspective. We are too caught up in what we should be doing, saying and understanding. We think it is all up to us. God sees us as loved completely without exception. God knows every fiber of our being. God has planted within us God’s loving desire to love God more deeply today, so that tomorrow we may love God even more than today.

“What, dear brothers, is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us?” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English. The Prologue, p.16).

Are you finding time to be alone with God?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on St. John the Baptist

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel”(See Luke 1:57-80 NRSV).

The Church celebrates today the birth of one of the most influential people of Desert spirituality. St. John the Baptist personified the vocation of solitude. It is more than fair to say, that the Monastic tradition of living in the silence and solitude of the desert has St. John the Baptist as our pioneer.

The desert life of St. John the Baptist was to “prepare the way of the Lord.” He accepted the unfavorable way of life. He abandoned the lure of wealth and power. His desert life was how he unlocked the mystery of the God that he and all of humankind was awaiting. John the Baptist knew that he was chosen by God for something so amazing, that he let go of everything that could tie him down. St. John the Baptist chose the freedom of solitude, to know the God that was to become the very essence of God’s presence in every human person.

“Like the Forerunner, you were intended for Christ,,,,,,, because the on,y reason for your existence on earth is to love and glorify Jesus” (The Hermitage Within: Spirituality of the Desert. Translated by Alan Neame., p.19).

Contemplation is the gift of God’s grace to grow in purity of heart. Contemplation is about letting go of all our pretenses so that we are liberated to experience the wonder of God. Contemplation is the grace of self awareness; that God is at work in ourselves and the world us in the mystical experience of which our human senses can neither comprehend or describe.

“As long as I am content to know that [Christ] is infinitely greater than I, and that I cannot know Him unless He shows Himself to me, I will have peace, and He will be near me and in me, and I will rest in Him” (Thomas Merton. Thoughts in Solitude, p.109).

“This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up,your own will, once and for all, and armed with the noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, The Prologue, p.15).

“Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him” (From the Short Rule of St. Romuald).

How are you called to be a forerunner for God in your daily life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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The Stormy Lake

Stormy Lake Ontario

Jesus got up and gave orders to the wind and said to the lake, “Silence! Be Still!”  (Mark 4:29, The Common English Bible).

The lake can be a lovely place, but it can also be frightening.  A storm can come at any time.  The waters that seemed so tranquil and calm, become a mass of chaos.  As quickly as the stormy winds come and stir up the waters of the lake; they just as soon move on and the waters become calm again.

The words I am using for this blog reflection from Mark, tell us that Jesus stood and ordered the wind and the lake to be silent and still.  The verse after this one tells of how the Disciples were amazed to the point of dropping their jaw, that even the wind and water obeyed Jesus.  It is a beautiful story to read over and over again.

Sometimes Jesus does get up and commands the stormy wind and waves of our lives to be calmed.  Other times it can feel to us that Jesus is still asleep.  The problem can be our lack of faith.  It can also be that God wants us to reach out even more to God.  So often, we become too self reliant and arrogant even while we are experiencing personal turbulence.  Sometimes the storm is within ourselves.  Jesus would like to get up and command the wavy waters within us, but if we will not listen as He calls us to be silent and still there is only so much He can do for us.

It bears repeating that St. Benedict begins The Rule with the words, “Listen, and incline the ears of your heart.”  I believe this is the silence and stillness that Jesus calls us to embrace in Mark’s Gospel.  Jesus calls us to be silent and still so that we can listen to the Holy Spirit within our hearts.  This is not an intellectual exercise.  It is the experience of the contemplation of God within the whole of ourselves.  The silence and stillness is not merely to quiet exterior noise.  Rather, it is the noise, the wind and stormy waters within us.  You have to admit, if Jesus can calm the storms within our lives, He has to be pretty powerful.

Let us all listen with the ears of our hearts to Jesus calling to our windy and chaotic hearts to be still and silent.  In that silence and stillness, God will tell us how much we are loved, and call us in this moment to grow closer to God and one another in love and faith.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Lenten Reflection: Be Still

Lit Candle

Be still, then, and know that I am God… (Psalm 46:11a).

Yesterday, the devotional publication Forward Day by Day‘s entry was based on Psalm 37:1,7 which reads, “Do not fret yourself….. Be still before the Lord.”  The writer reminds us that when we do fret over things, we really accomplish nothing more than indulge in our false sense of self.  When we fret we become self centered.  Our faith diminishes, because we base the outcome on our ability to control something.  The more we try to control, the more out of control we become.

The very familiar words I used to begin this blog post from Psalm 46:11a are found in a poem that sounds very much like everything is in chaos.  It begins with talking about God being our refuge and strength in time of trouble, mountains being toppled, waters raging and foaming and later on moves to kingdoms being shaken.  It seems to be both a Psalm of exaltation and facing the realities of life around those who wrote it.  It appears to me, and perhaps it will to you too, that the words I quoted for this post come in the midst of all the turmoil to suggest not so much a stillness of the world around us, but a stillness of ourselves in the presence of God in spite of chaos.   In these words, is a word from God to know God from within the depth of ourselves so that whatever else may be going on, we are still and maintain our confidence in the power and presence of God.

It certainly seems that this stillness must have been in Jesus as He endured the reality of His passion and death.  Jesus experienced the depth of human rejection, betrayal by a good friend and the total surrendering of even His relationship with God to the point of His death.  Yet, He was never completely separate from God, as He was the Word of God in human form.  In spite of all that went on around Him, Jesus clung to God by faith in obedience out of love.  Though the world around Him and about Him fell apart; Jesus remained still in the presence of God trusting that no matter what He had to face, God was still with him.

May God help us this Lent to spend some time being still in silence and solitude.  May we have the faith and trust that Jesus had, and become a still and peaceful light of God’s presence in the chaotic world around us.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB