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.

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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

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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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