Reflection on St. Stephen

While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.” (See Acts 6:8-7:2, 51c-60 NRSV).

“Good King Wenceslas looked out

On the feast of Stephen

When the snow lay round about

Deep and crisp and even

Brightly shone the moon that night

Though the frost was cruel

When a poor man came in sight

Gath’ring winter fuel.”

Yesterday was the First Day of Christmas. On Christmas Eve, we sang hymns of the peace that the Christ Child would bring. There was the hope of “peace and goodwill toward all people.” On the Second Day of Christmas, we remember St. Stephen being stoned. Is today’s commemoration of St. Stephen a contradiction to the Nativity of Jesus, or is it a wake up call for the soul?

I continually repeat the opening words of The Rule of St. Benedict because it contains the most important words that Christians would do well to internalize. “Listen, my loved one, and incline the ear of the heart.” The arrival of Jesus Christ, the Word, holds us spell bound by its beauty and simplicity. The simplicity is that in Jesus, God makes God’s Self vulnerable. God came in Christ to become vulnerable as one of us, and with us. Vulnerability brings a risk without knowing what the end result will be.

Listening to God within the wholeness of ourselves makes us vulnerable to letting go of our false-sense of self; to find our true self in the fullness of Christ’s revelation. Christ is revealed as the Light in the midst of our darkness. The darkness may be a grudge we are holding. It might our reluctance to accept what is and letting go of what we wish things were. That darkness may be a pain we will not allow ourselves to experience with God’s compassion embracing us so that we can heal through it.

Contemplative prayer and mysticism in this Feast of St. Stephen is to know that God is always present and interacting with us and in us in any situation we find ourselves in.

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39. NRSV).

Will you spend time in silence and solitude to let the Christ Child inside your vulnerable heart today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Teaching the Heart

“Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; knit my heart to you that I may fear your name.” (The Book of Common Prayer, Psalm 87:11, p.710).

A knitter begins with an idea, then looks for a pattern before beginning a project. The one who knows how to attach yarn to a needle and sit for hours and days at a time, will be attentive and patient. They know that they will not complete the whole project within a day. Each day they pick up where they left off the day before. Maybe they missed a line completely and have to undo a few rows to start again. The joy that comes with the finished product only lasts a little while, then a new project begins.

The spiritual life and contemplative prayer are essentially the same idea as knitting. It is something that God begins in us. Each day and every opportunity gives us a chance to pick it up and keep going; knowing that God is the knitter and our hearts are being knitted to God’s ways. We learn God’s ways by letting go of being in control of the pattern and trusting in the Holy Spirit to guide the process. If something in our lives takes the work of God out of shape, God is always ready to help us begin again.

God’s truth is different from ours. God’s truth desires to have a deep intimate union with our essence; our eternal truth. When in our essence we search for union with the God who knows us better than we know ourselves; God will help get us going on God’s pattern of life. We just need to surrender the project of our heart to the master knitter’s hands.

How is God working to knit your heart to God?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See Br. Anselm’s website for Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

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Reflection on God’s Wondrous Love

“Blessed be the Lord! for he has shown me the wonders of his love in a besieged city.” (Psalm 31:21. The Book of Common Prayer).

Sometimes when our lives seem to have fallen apart, we might compare the experience to being a city that was under siege and left in ruins. Everything that was is no longer. The destruction and debris is everywhere. Nothing that was standing is without need to be rebuilt or repaired.

In Chapter 7 of The Rule of St. Benedict, he challenges us in the sixth and seventh degrees of humility. He writes about acceptance of even the harshest treatment and learning to say with Psalm 22:6 “I am a worm and no man, scorned by all and despised by the people.”

In his book The Rule of Saint Benedict: Initiation into the Monastic Tradition, Thomas Merton stresses that St. Benedict is that to live with a low self-esteem is the opposite of humility because by it, we draw too much attention to ourselves. He goes on to say that Benedict is telling us to let go of our false-sense of self. To learn to trust in God when our lives are shaken to pieces, as opposed to trusting in the little things of life to feel whole.

A contemplative learns over the course of a lifetime that seeking union with God for no other reason than God alone is to have all that we need. Yes, it takes all of our lives through moments of quiet time and living with God in the various moments in life to let go and let God be our everything. In the moments when things that were fall apart, that is where God’s wondrous love becomes best known in the whole of ourselves. When we experience the wonder of God’s love through contemplation and mysticism, the besieged city of our lives is a new beginning, and never a conclusion.

How are you experiencing God’s wondrous love in the besieged cities of your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Reflection on the Path of Life

“You will show me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy, and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16:11, The Book of Common Prayer, p.600).

Traveling along on a path can bring a mixture of emotions. It is great to get away from the stress of life to walk on a new path. Yet, even a familiar path can cause some anxiety. What will we discover on the path? Will we be lifted up, or brought down by fear because of something unexpected?

The path of life that God puts before us every day is full of things we can predict. When we become too wrapped up in what is predictable, we can become too self absorbed. The unexpected and unusual will show up. It will meet us in our “cell.” It will teach us what God’s true joys and pleasures are. God finds so much joy and pleasure in us, because of God’s extravagant love. To find God’s joys and pleasures, we must let go, and allow God to show us what path we need to be on.

The contemplative is always searching for union with God in the many experiences of life. Contemplative prayer asks us to be open to what God’s paths are to learn about where God is leading us. The contemplative is looking for ways to turn ourselves over to what disturbs our comfort zones, to be reformed and reshaped to find God’s pleasures and joys that are beyond time and temporary things.

“In God’s goodness, we are already counted as God’s own…” (The Rule of Benedict : a Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.5).

God wants the show you the path of life. Get ready to learn God’s fullness of joy and pleasures.

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone you know could benefit from my ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship, visit my website.

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

Reflection on the Shepherd’s Psalm

 The Lord is my shepherd; 
   therefore can I lack nothing.
  He makes me lie down in green pastures 
   and leads me beside still waters.
  He shall refresh my soul 
   and guide me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
  Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
      I will fear no evil; 
   for you are with me;
      your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
  You spread a table before me
      in the presence of those who trouble me; 
   you have anointed my head with oil
      and my cup shall be full.
  Surely goodness and loving mercy shall follow me
      all the days of my life, 
   and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (Psalm 23. The Common Worship Psalter, The Church of England).

The most famous and beloved of all the Psalms, #23. And well it should be. It is used in spoken or sung form in Divine Offices, Eucharistic Liturgies and of course funerals. There is something very comforting and calming about Psalm 23. Like other Scriptures, however, when we over romanticize Psalm 23, we can easily miss the opportunity to listen carefully to what the Holy Spirit might be saying to our hearts.

Psalm 23 is a song of self surrender by holding nothing back. The shepherd guards us with great care and love. We do not lack anything, even a place of refreshment so long as we let ourselves go to the will and desire of the One who wants to lead us.

Psalm 23 meets us in our false-sense of self. None of us is exempted from the valley of the shadow of death, or being at a table in the presence of those who trouble us. That spot in us that does not want discomfort or to be called out of our tombs of shame, fear and doubt cannot be our permanent dwelling. God has given to the contemplative a desire for a full cup, with the anointing of the oil of faith, hope and love. The contemplative knows that the fulfillment of mysticism is to dwell in God’s presence in the here and now; and beyond this temporal life.

The Resurrection tells us that death is not a barrier for God’s Grace to help us. When we surrender ourselves to search for union with God, with a desire for purity of heart that lives into wanting nothing more than God alone; the story of Christ’s Resurrection becomes our life’s Easter narrative.

“We believe that the divine presence is everywhere and that in every place the eyes of the Lord are watching the good and the wicked (Prov. 3:15). But beyond the least doubt we should believe this to be especially true when we celebrate the Divine Office.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.47).

How is your heart hearing and responding to the words of Psalm 23 today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone you know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, please check out my website here.

If you feel led to buy me some coffee to help support this blog ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.

Reflection on the Annunciation and the Desert

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.” (See Luke 1:26-38 NRSV).

I think that we tend to over romanticize the Annunciation. It is a beautiful story without question. The story might bring us the hope that God will do something amazing with us, as God did with Mary. If the narrative of the announcement to Mary does not make us uneasy about following her to a desert of uncertainty, then we may have missed the most mystical purpose of the day.

I am experiencing the most unusual of Lenten observances. In addition to living with autism, I am also living with chronic back pain because of a T-12 lumbar disk protrusion. I require the use of a wheelchair when I go to doctor appointments or anywhere a long walk is needed, because the pain in my back is just too intense to walk with just a cane. I am going to appointments for physical and aquatic therapy to help strengthen my back muscles. But, the process is slow. I am in a year and season where I am uncertain about pretty much everything. Nothing is as it used to be.

I am sure that Mary’s life as it was proceeding at the time was stopped dead in its tracks by the Angel Gabriel’s announcement. She would be traveling in a desert with things being very out of order for the rest of her life. Mary has a faith I certainly do not have. Upon hearing the Angel’s words, she trusts herself and her way forward to God’s will.

Contemplative prayer is anything but, about certainty. That which is mystical is not so neatly fitted together to make perfect logical sense. It is a journey into the desert with Jesus through which we will see ourselves and our lives exactly as they are. There are no illusions, but, our false-sense of self. In the desert everything is unfamiliar, yet, starkly visible and inescapable. Contemplative prayer works best when we let go; little by little; and search for union with God in the things that are what they are. Through faith and trust in God’s love, we will be led to where we go from here.

“Abba Moses asked Abba Silvanus, ‘Can a man lay a foundation every day?’ The old man said, ‘If he works hard he can lay a new foundation every moment.'” (Desert Fathers and Mothers:Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, by Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, p.57).

“And finally, never loose hope in God’s mercy ” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, Chapter 4 On the Tools for Good Works).

What is your desert time like this Lent?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you or someone you know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, please visit my website here.

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

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

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