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 Wounds

Crucifixus

“Packs of dogs close me in, and gangs of evildoers circle around me; they pierce my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones.” (Psalm 22:16 The Book of Common Prayer, p.611).

There are many ways of looking at the Passion and Death of Jesus on the Cross.  They are each unique and have something to contribute to the whole.  Jesus’ death was a terrible event.  It was ugly.  It was bloody.  In Jesus’ betrayal, trial, and crucifixion is the experience of every form of human suffering that can be imagined or experienced.   Christ’s Death on the Cross is the confirmation of our faith that God is with us in whatever is happening to us.  God’s extravagant love is poured out for all  humankind in this amazing act of obedience.

The Contemplative looks upon the wounds of Jesus on this Good Friday and sees in them a way into the depth of God’s loving goodness.  The cry of anguish, helplessness and a willingness to accept where God had Jesus in what was so vicious and cruel.  Yet, love for His Father and all of us was Jesus’ sole objective.  St. Julian of Norwich wrote in A Song of True Motherhood “Even when all was completed and he carried us so for joy, still all of this could not satisfy the power of his wonderful love.” (Canticle R. Enriching Our Worship 1, p. 40).   The very reality that all of humankind has many many problems are mysteriously represented and accepted by God, as Jesus hangs on the Cross between eternity and time with His arms outstretched; is God’s arms of love ever ready to embrace all of us.

When we open ourselves to experience the love of Christ on the Cross within our wounds we discover what Abba Pambo said, “If you have a heart, you can be saved.”  Christine Valters Paintner in her book Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated and Explained writes, “The desert elders saw the heart as the center of our being  where we encounter God most intimately” (See pages 26-27).   As Contemplatives, we can always meditate on the wounds of Jesus, our wounds and those of humankind from our interior selves.  When we surrender in obedience to the grace of God through Jesus Christ; the transformation of our own lives and those of the world around us becomes possible so long as we get ourselves out of the way.

“Brothers, now that we have asked the Lord who will dwell in his tent, we have heard the instruction for dwelling in it, but only if we fulfill the obligations of those who live there.  We must , then, prepare our hearts and bodies for the battle of holy obedience to his instructions.  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 Saint Benedict in English, The Prologue, p.18).

How do you see the wounds of your life in the light of the wounds of Christ on the Cross?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Carrying Crosses

ThroneofGrace

“After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.  All who want to save their lives will lose them.  But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them.”  (Mark 8:34-35. Common English Bible).

One day during this past week, while I was praying the Prayer Rope, I experienced an old and painful memory come to the surface.  It caused me a great amount of pain, and I found it necessary to stop for a while and let God into this space, and then continue praying as Jesus walked through the emotions of the memory with me.  There was no running away from them.  Only by giving them over in prayer, was I able to experience some kind of freedom.  I had to tell myself “no” to hanging on to it.  Until that moment, I had no idea how much of my life I “saved” that I allowed to control me.

The words of Jesus about saying no, carrying our crosses and losing our lives for the sake of the Good News are quite contradictory.  The contradiction comes with the notions of letting go, taking up to carry and letting go.  It is by letting go of the many things we cling to, taking up the crosses in our lives as they are and let God in to help us through them, and then let go again.  People who are diagnosed with some kind of cancer know all about what it is to let go of things as they were; pick up the cross of the cancer and face it as is to do what needs to be done to take care of it; then let go.   They let go, because they know just how uncertain life is.  People with cancer often teach us courage like no one else can.  Even when the moment comes that their battle is lost because of death, their courage to let go and trust God to take care of them after death is stays with us for the rest of our lives.

As contemplatives, we know that we must say no to ourselves about hanging on to things and/or pretending they are not there.  When something grabs our interior attention, the worst thing to do is to push it away or pretend it is not there.  To say no to ourselves, is to let God into those spaces and carry those crosses with Jesus, so that we can ultimately let go of the “life” we were building in our false-sense of self, to find salvation through the love of God in Christ.  It is when we let go, pick up our crosses, and surrender ourselves to God that our search for union with God makes progress.

“Renounce yourself to follow Christ.” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English, p.27).

“Abba Hyperichius said, “The true service of a monk is obedience and if he has this, whatever he asks will be given him and he will stand with confidence before the Crucified.  For that was how the Lord went to his cross, being made obedient even unto death.” (Daily Readings with the Desert Fathers, p.80).

What might the Holy Spirit be asking you to let go of, to pick up your cross and let go again?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Contemplative Listening

Transfiguration

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” (Mark 9:7 NRSV).

My blog readers know from the title of this reflection what I am going to use from The Rule of Saint Benedict.  So, here it is.

“Listen, my son, to your master’s precepts, and incline the ear of your heart.” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, p.1).

Listening is essential to contemplative living.  To listen as a contemplative requires the seeker to be silent.  Silence in solitude opens us up to letting go of all that we cling to, so that we can “incline the ear of the heart” to hear God more clearly.

The Transfiguration is more than what is described in the Gospel texts.  It is about Jesus showing us what happens when our humanity infused with God the Incarnate Word becomes One with the God who always was and ever shall be.  The disciples’ fear in the presence of such splendor is more than understandable.  The cloud and the voice that follows what happens is for the disciples so that they may let go of their fear and hear God more clearly in Who Jesus is.

“Their exterior and interior senses were quieted by the awesomeness of the Mystery manifested by the voice out of the cloud.  Once their senses had been calmed and integrated into the spiritual experience which their intuitive faculties had perceived, peace was established throughout their whole being, and they were prepared to respond to the guidance of the Spirit.” (The Mystery of Christ: The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience by Thomas Keating, p.44).

Contemplative listening in solitude and silence makes us docile to the Holy Spirit.  It involves a surrendering of our egos and fears of what was and may be, to the God who knows us more intimately than we know ourselves.  The Transfiguration is a symbol of the magnificence of what God wants to do in us through Contemplative and Centering Prayer.  When we leave ourselves totally available to the Presence and Power of God through the vulnerability of contemplative listening, we can and will listen to God’s Beloved who tells us that in Jesus, we too are God’s beloved.

“Abba Nilas said, ‘The arrows of the enemy cannot touch one who loves quietness; but he who moves about in a crowd will often be wounded.” (Daily Readings with the Desert Fathers, p.38).

Have you spent some time in silent listening recently?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Palm Sunday Reflection: Laying Ourselves Before Jesus

TriumphalEntry

“So let us spread before his feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him.  We who have been baptized into Christ must become the garments that we spread before him.” (From a Sermon by St. Andrew of Crete.  The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume II, Lent Season and Easter Season, p.419-420).

As we begin Holy Week, we are led to ponder the thought of laying ourselves before Christ.  St. Andrew of Crete’s profound words invite us to something deeper than mere ritual for the sake of itself.  He urges us to the act of total self surrender.  To do less, is to miss what Jesus really did during Holy Week.

In The Rule of St. Benedict, whenever he wrote about a monk making amends for faults and/or respecting his seniors, the total prostration of the body was among the requirements.  Why?  Because to prostrate oneself on the floor before someone we have offended is an act of complete self surrender.  We gladly give up everything, including our “right’ to be right about everything.  We give over being the last word about anything and/or everything for the sake of the healing of the relationship.

Holy Week is about the healing of relationships.  It is about God identifying with our human condition with nothing held back.  God is completely in it with us now.  Including the experience of being betrayed by a dear friend, and/or having our friends whom we rely on disappear when we need them most.  Yes, Jesus has lived through that too this week.  Yet, the one thing that does not change is that God is there facing it with us.  Therefore, we too must hold nothing back.  We must lay ourselves completely before Christ as God’s people ready and willing to give up everything to and for God.

As we ponder the work of God in Christ this week, may we too be ready to lay ourselves before Jesus.  May we serve others in His Name in imitation of Jesus’ example of humility and obedience to God.  The greatest of contemplative experiences cannot be complete without it.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Lenten Reflection: God’s Treasured Possession

Treasured Possession

Moses convened all Israel, and said to them: You are a people holy to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession. (Deuteronomy 7:6 NRSV).

These words are both a reason for celebration and a word of caution.  God really does love and cherish us as God’s own treasured possession.  We also have a tremendous responsibility to the One who treasures us.

In this reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, God has brought Israel out of the slavery of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.  God is challenging the people through Moses to see how much they are loved by God, that God let nothing stand in God’s way of delivering them.  Not even the Red Sea.

As Christians, our God showed us how much we are treasured by giving us Jesus Christ who died a horrible death to save us from our own bondage.  The bondage of living and believing that we are only worth what we say, do, think, believe, own, smell, taste, see and touch.  Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have been redeemed and reclaimed by God.  We have not been reclaimed to continue to live by our false-sense of self.  We have been redeemed to own nothing.  God is so madly in love with us, that God wants us to search for and find union with God with a pure heart.

May we contemplate on this Thursday after Ash Wednesday, how much we are treasured by God.  May we bask in the Light of God’s love and enjoy being God’s treasured possession.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB