Reflection on Easter in the Desert

“The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation .” (Psalm 118;14. The Book of Common Prayer, p.761).

Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

It hardly seems like Easter. Minnesota, where I live is getting a snow storm as I write this blog entry. Yet, the snow falling on Easter seems to fit. Many of us are used to being in our churches on Easter. Our churches are usually so crowded that extra chairs must be put out to accommodate the overflow. People go to Easter Sunday services while wearing the best spring clothes. It is always so wonderful when the sun is shining with nice warm weather on Easter.

Easter in the Year 2020 is not at all like what we are used to. The coronavirus is even preventing families from gathering for Easter dinner with relatives they have not seen since Christmas. Some people are rightly worried about those who are sick and suffering. Many are grieving the loss of those they love. How can we contemplate the mystery of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ with everything upside down?

The Desert Monastics lived their lives in such a way, that they were always in a world that was upside down from how many people functioned. The Mothers and Fathers of the Desert gave over everything that was considered “normal” for an unusual way of life through which they searched for a deeper union with God.

Christine Valters Paintner in her book Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings wrote,

“The paradox in the spiritual life is that this journey through destruction is necessary to reach any kind of resurrection or new life beyond it. We are rebuilt and reshaped through this process. We must fully surrender ourselves to the awfulness of it. We must stay present with how we feel compassion to ourselves in the process. We must learn to no longer feel victim to our suffering, but to instead discover a kind of inner fierceness that allows us to look death in the eye without flinching” (p.50).

The Easter experience of Resurrection is not without the pains of Good Friday. The victory of new life is always preceded by letting go of what is familiar, preferred and desired. Unless we spend time in contemplative prayer before the Cross, we will miss the mysticism of the empty tomb on Easter.

The chaos of the coronavirus can be overcome, by recognizing the inevitability of loosing everything as we have known them to be, and giving ourselves over to a new way of living for a whole new beginning.

Jesus and His Resurrection are our strength and our song, and Christ has become our salvation by the wondrous love of God.

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may Christ bring us to everlasting life.” (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.298).

Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Be Not Far Away

“Be not far away, O Lord; you are my strength; hasten to help me.” (Psalm 22:18, The Book of Common Prayer, p.611).

These difficult days of the coronavirus have all of us feeling as if time has stopped. Many are bored out of their minds. The losses of the life we all had before COVID-19 took over the world, are excruciatingly painful. Yet, as tragic as everything is, we have opportunities like we have not had for some serious spiritual reawakening.

The heart of The Rule of St. Benedict is chapter 7: On Humility.

“The first step of humility, then, is that we keep ‘the reverence of God before our eyes’ (Psalm 36:2) and never forget it.”

“The consciousnesses of God is Central to Benedict’s perception of the spiritual life. (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century by Joan Chittister, OSB, p. 79.)

On this Good Friday, as we reflect on the passion and death of Jesus, it is difficult to miss how conscious of God He remains. Jesus is experiencing the most horrific acts of human cruelty. Yet, the words of Psalm 22 remain in His mind, on His lips and in His heart. Jesus knows where His faith and trust needs to be.

The late Fr. Thomas Keating wrote, “As Jesus approached the end of his physical endurance on the cross, he cried out, ‘My God, my God, why haven’t forsaken me?’ With these words, he revealed the fact that the act of taking on himself the weight of human sinfulness had cost him the loss of his personal union with the Father. It is the final stage of Jesus’ spiritual journey.” (The Mystery of Christ: The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience, p.61).

Contemplation is not the exclusive experience of feeling spiritual ecstasy. Contemplative prayer is an act of letting go of the things that weigh us down of what keeps us from a search for that union with God with a purity of heart. Purity of heart is about seeking union with God for no other reason than who God is, and not what God can do.

The cry of Jesus on the cross is more of a statement of faith. At that moment, Jesus knew that Hisonly way to God was by faith and trust; with not even His knowledge of the relationship with God. “Be not far from me, O God; you are my strength; hasten to help me.” When Jesus prays these words, He is surrendering His whole self to God; and holding nothing back.

The mysticism of Good Friday during these days of the coronavirus, is to let go of what we think and know. We are invited to embrace the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, as the only thing that ultimately matters. Our personal healing and reconciliation are happening while enduring this challenging time of pain, suffering and uncertainty.

How are the words of Jesus on this Good Friday impacting your life during the coronavirus crisis?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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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

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 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.