Reflection on Rivers of Living Water

MountainImage

 

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39 NRSV).

“Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”

As we meditate on these words look with me for a while at the image I chose for this reflection.  Look with me at how the sky has a few clouds with the mountains so clearly in view.  The greenery and the river full of life; giving life to the entire scene as it flows so peacefully and naturally.  Life flows in and out of what we are seeing in this photo.  Not everything is the same, but, they live with and give life to each other.

At the very end of Chapter 72 in The Rule of St. Benedict, he wrote,

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may Christ bring us all to everlasting life.”

As we conclude the Easter Season on this Day of Pentecost, the Contemplative is confronted with the question of how do we respond to the Risen and Ascended Christ in a way that is life-giving?  God sent us the answer.  The Holy Spirit.  We are not alone.  The Holy Spirit gives those waters within us the life that flows with the experience of God’s Holy Essence.  The Contemplative is drawn into the heart of the living water who is Christ, because God’s Holy Essence whats us “to prefer nothing whatever to Christ.”  The Christ who is present and speaking to our hearts in all aspects of our lives.  Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB wrote in The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, “We must learn to listen to what God is saying in our simple, sometimes insane, and always uncertain lives” (p.300).

Pentecost is our opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to enter into our hearts and lives to renew us.  The Spirit comes to break the dams that we have build up within us because of fear and our false-sense of self.   The Holy Essence of God flows through our souls to bring healing and reconciliation within us, so that we may be God’s witnesses and “renew the face of the earth” (Psalm 104:31).

Are you open to the Holy Spirit and the living waters that are flowing in and out of your life?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

 

 

 

Reflection on If You Love Me

St.BenedictwRule

 

 ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”  (John 14:15-17 NRSV).

Dean Paul J. Lebens-Englund at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis, asked the gathered congregation two very important questions one Sunday.   Do you remember the very first time you fell in love?  What was that one moment like for you?

I invite you to spend some time in contemplative silence on those words, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will send you another Advocate, to be with you forever.”   As we bring Dean Paul’s question about the first time you fell in love, how might the words from this Gospel of John apply to what you are remembering?

I would like to suggest that to love Jesus, keep His commandments and be ready to receive the Holy Spirit, God’s very Essence; requires us to be open to learning to love Jesus in ways today that are even greater than that first time we fell in love.

The contemplative knows and lives into  the first step of humility St. Benedict wrote about in The Rule. Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB in her book, Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light wrote,

“The first step of humility is to ‘keep the reverence of God always before our eyes’ and never forget it,” the Rule of Benedict says.  See everything in life as sacred.  The neighborhood calls something out in us.  This tree stirs feeling in us.  This work touches hope in us.  Every thing in life, in fact, is speaking to us of something.  It is only when we learn to ask what the world around us is saying to us at this moment, in this particular situation, that we tend to the seedbed of our soul.”  She goes on to say in another paragraph, “What is God demanding of my heart as a result of each event, each situation, each person in my life?”

Loving Jesus and keeping His commandments, so we can be open to the Spirit of God is about how we live in awareness of, and respond to the loving Presence of Jesus in this moment, this place and this opportunity.

Are you open to falling in love again and again with Jesus, by living His commandments, to receive the Advocate Who wants to live in us?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

Reflection on Way, Truth and Life

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Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  (John 14:5-6 NRSV).

There is a spiritual danger to read these words of Jesus and presume we know exactly what Jesus is saying about Himself.  I would suggest that Jesus is talking about what He is going to do when He ascends into Heaven and later sends the Holy Spirit.  The mood of the party is about to change as to what is going to happen, and what it will mean.  It will through us into confusion.  Things as we have known them will not be the same.  What we  do next is not so much about the Who or the ending.  It is about what we do with the here and now so that we may go from here to where Jesus wants to lead us.  Previous plans will become obsolete.  What should have been, no longer applies.  What we wanted will no longer matter.

Thomas asked Jesus “How can we know the way?”  A man is finally stopping to ask for directions.  lol.   Jesus tells Thomas that He is the way, the truth and the life.   We need to be very careful about assuming that because Jesus said that He is these things, means we have the answer.  Jesus’ way, truth and life are mysterious at best.  We can presume to know that Jesus is talking about Himself, and all we have to do is follow Him from an ideology.  If we stop at what we know and understand, we will cut ourselves off from the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and relationships.

What we need to bring to our time of contemplative prayer, is that God, the Holy Spirit is calling us to turn ourselves over to the way of Jesus, so that we may know the eternal truth of God in our hearts, and search for the life that God wants us to find.  God guides us into that way, truth and life in Jesus in the here and now, to guide us onward to a renewed relationship with our true-sense of self.   A self that is not caught up in labels, positions, what we own, or have, or do.  It is our true selves, our essence in which all we know is that we are God’s beloved, and with us, God is well-pleased.

“Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation.  It is bound to be narrow at the outset,  But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.”  (RB: 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English.  The Prologue, p.165).

When you read that Jesus is the way, truth and life, what does that mean for you?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

 

Reflection on The Holy Spirit: Spiritual by Communion

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“The Spirit raises our hearts to heaven, guides the steps of the weak, and brings to perfection those who are making progress.  He enlightens those who have been cleansed from every stain of sin and makes them spiritual by communion with himself.” (St. Basil the Great.  The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume II, Lenten and Easter Season. p.975).

These words by St. Basil are a great meditation for us on the subject of contemplative prayer.  They remind us that contemplative prayer is a work of the Holy Spirit when we are open to the Spirit’s work in our hearts.  It is the Spirit of the Living God who lifts us beyond our senses and gives us a vision of God and all things as God sees them.

Through the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ, we have been made anew by the grace of God through Christ.  As St. Basil writes, the Spirit then makes us spiritual by communion with the Spirit.  There is a reason why union is the end of the word communion.  The whole word implies that we are no longer an entity unto ourselves.  We are joined with the Community of all that is in Heaven and on earth in a loving, holy and mystical relationship that is the working of the Holy Spirit.  It is an intimate and life-giving union with God and one another.

In contemplative prayer, we experience the union with God that St. Benedict tells us to search for.  It is a union with God in all times, people and places.  Even those that seem to us that God must be absent.  Such as our hearts and lives shattered by disappointment, losses and despair.  Even there the Holy Spirit can reach us and turn our mourning into a joy that cannot be expressed in human words.  It is the Holy Spirit giving us new life where we were dead, hope where there was none and grace where it seemed all was lost.

May we seek to be enlightened by the Holy Spirit to see, know and love God anew as God reveals God’s Self to us and to others.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Reflection on the Holy Spirit and Prayer

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Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. (Romans 8:26. NRSV).

It is very easy to think that when we pray it is all up to us.  We may sit down with the intention to pray, and then not know what we are to say, think or ask for.  The reason this happens is that we forget that the desire to pray is in and of itself an act of God’s initiative.  We are just responding to God with the desire God gave us.  That desire is there to draw us into a deeper relationship with God from our heart.  Remember, when we use the word “heart” in Christian spirituality we are talking about the whole of ourselves.

The best news we can receive today is that the work of prayer is done by the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the very essence of God that seeks union with our own essence.  We cannot know how to do this of our own accord.  The Holy Spirit makes intercession for us as God’s grace flows into our souls bringing healing and reconciliation.  Such an experience allows us to center ourselves on God’s view of us and let go of what draws us away from this deepening awareness of God all around us.  We are so important to God, that God lives in a loving and life-giving relationship with all of us in the deep sighs of the Holy Spirit.  We are never alone or without help.

This can easily be summed up in the words taken from The Rule of St. Benedict chapter 20 “Reverence in Prayer.”

Whenever we ask some favor of a powerful man, we do it humbly and respectfully, for fear of presumption.  How much more important, then, to lay our petitions before the Lord God of all things with the utmost humility and sincere devotion.  We must know that God regards our purity of heart and tears of compunction, not our many words. (RB 1980, p.48)

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Reflection on The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me

JesusSynagogue

Jesus unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” (Luke 4:17b-18a NRSV).

As the Church leads us through the Easter Season to Pentecost, we are reading about the Holy Spirit.  In this Gospel reading we join Jesus in the synagogue as He reads from this scroll, these words from the Prophet Isaiah.  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.”  In these words, Jesus is leading us into a deep meditation and contemplation of how God sees us through the person of Jesus.

The same Spirit that was upon Jesus is also upon each of us.  The Holy Spirit is also known as The Holy Essence of God; meaning that the source of divine truth in the heart of the Christ follower, leads us into a deeper relationship with God in our own essence.  As we seek union with God, we find that we meet the good news of Jesus in the poverty of our own spirit leading us to purity of heart.

If you are like me, you are a very long distance walk before arriving at having purity of heart.  The last thing most of us want is to seek union with God for the sake of God alone.  We want a relationship with God to get only what we want out of it.  That in and of itself is our poverty of spirit.  That is why we need the message that Jesus is anointed with the Spirit to bring good news to the poor one in each of us.

As we contemplate on how much God loves each of us that God anoints us with the Spirit to hear and respond to the good news that Jesus brings; may we also be open responding to the poor in and around us.  That would in thought, word and deed be very good news.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB