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 Stillness

“Be still, then, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:11. The Book of Common Prayer, p.650).

These simple words tell us to be still and know who is God. Yet, the very moment we hear them we are made aware of how disturbed we are. The words and the punctuation are meant to give us some important spiritual direction. Be still followed by a coma, the word then followed by another coma and the knowing who is God seem to suggest a brief moment of rest with the next word being followed by another moment of repose that leads us to knowing who is God.

When I first read these words, my whole being discovers that I am anything, but, still. I have various personal issues that make being still very challenging. It is not easily achieved by my own strength. It takes me being “attentive with the ears of the heart” to remember that becoming still is something I need God’s help to do. God speaks through these words, to tell me how much God loves me and that God knows me better than I know myself. God helps me remember that it is God’s Grace that will lead me to a stillness, by helping me to let go of thinking that I must be still on my own strength.

Our God wants nothing more from us than to search for union with God with purity of heart. To be in union with God means wanting God only because of who God is and not what God can give. God knows that we cannot do this without spending some time in silence, stillness and solitude so that God can take us on a journey through our whole selves, to bring us healing and holiness through an intimate relationship with God.

In contemplation, we long for the stillness that comes from just being with God wherever we are. Through mysticism we let go of what we think we know and trust in God’s love to take care of the rest.

“Speaking and teaching are the master’s task; the disciple is to be silent and listen.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 6. p.31).

Can you find a place and moment to be still, then, you will know who is God?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

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Reflection on the Potter and the Clay.

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. (See Jeremiah 18:1-11 NRSV).

What makes contemplative prayer unique from other forms of prayer? Isn’t going to a church service enough?

There e are many forms of prayer for the Christian. Liturgical prayer. Intercessory prayer. Devotional prayer. These and other prayer forms are all important. Contemplative prayer is about what is inside of our hearts. Where other forms of prayer seem to stop at the end of our lips and minds; contemplative prayer takes us on the longest journey; from the head to the heart. Lectio Divina or the prayerful reading of the Scriptures is a contemplative type of prayer. The words of Scripture that we read very slowly go into our eyes and mouth, then down deep into our deepest selves where the Holy Spirit speaks to us through the words. God teaches our hearts as we meditate on what God wants us to learn from what we read. The next step is to pray to God for ourselves to be led into a deeper awareness and relationship through what we learned. The last part of Lectio Divina is to sit in the presence of God in contemplation to just be there and do nothing else.

In contemplation, we allow God to be the potter to mold and shape us from within our interior self.

“We can’t see God by some sort of intellectual vision, because cognition depends on a sensory infrastructure which cannot see divinity. It is only at the level of spirit that God is visible” (Michael Casey. Toward God: The Ancient Wisdom of Western Prayer., p.163).

St. Benedict wrote The Rule as an instruction to the heart about letting go of the many things we cling to. He knew that God wants us to be so much more than what we think we can be. God is at work in us through contemplative prayer to be the most beautiful and amazing person from the inside out.

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us to everlasting life” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.95).

How is God working like a potter with the clay in your heart?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

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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

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