Reflection on Prepare the Way

“….the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” (See Luke 3:1-6 NRSV).

The Second Sunday of Advent features one of the best Biblical figures on the subject of desert monasticism; St. John the Baptist. His life, message and ministry creates a splendid example of contemplation and mysticism. Not to mention his humility when St. John the Baptist later said, “he must increase, as I must decrease.”

To prepare the way for God to come, we must begin with putting all else aside for a little while. Many probably will not walk out into a desert physically or geographically. We can if we will spend some time in silence and solitude, let go of everything that holds us down in Centering Prayer. Just spending time letting all our thoughts go and settle for nothing, not even warm fuzzy spiritual feelings; and just be with God. St. John the Baptist shows us how to allow ourselves to lose what we cling to go so we can repare the way for God to be all that matters. In so doing, our experience of God, becomes a window for Jesus to make Himself known to the world around us.

“Your hidden life speaks to the world, but only gives light in so far as it fuses with concentrated love. The Forerunner was a peerless witness to Jesus Christ, being charged with the mission to point him out: ‘Here he is’, “Ecco’.” (The Hermitage Within: Spirituality of the Desert, by A Monk, translated by Alan Neame, p.21).

Contemplative prayer is the work of God’s grace to prepare the way for God the Holy Spirit to make within us a residence for Jesus. In the Prayer of St. Anselm taken from his work, the Proslogion, we pray “Let me seek you in my desire, let me desire you in my seeking. Let me find you by loving you, let me love you when I find you.” The desire is the pathway we are preparing to journey on. It is the love of God we have yet to find, in the love of the God who has already found us. This is the Mysticism we contemplate during this season of Advent. It is the mystery that we long for that comes to us in the celebration of Christmas.

“Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on the way, with the Gospel for our guide, that we deserve to see him who has called us to his kingdom (1 Thess 2:12). (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.16).

How are you preparing the way for Jesus during this season of Advent?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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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).

In a society of having a GPS to help us find our way to places familiar and unfamiliar; the idea of waiting for God to guide us to the path of life seems old school. Aside from waiting, wanting God to show us the path of life means we have to let go of our own perspective of what that path must be.

A contemplative is always open to seeing ourselves from God’s perspective. We spend time in silence and solitude because we need to refresh for ourselves where God may be directing us. We need time in our cells with God to help us see what is really there that keeps us from seeing God’s path of life. We become so entrenched in our false-sense of self, that we cannot know how God views us.

If we read the words of Psalm 16, the Psalmist knows that God is our best protector. God is the greatest we can hope for or want. Even during the night, God is speaking to our hearts and holding us from falling. God wants us to share in God’s joy and pleasures. We are the “apple of God’s eyes.” God finds God’s greatest joy and pleasure in each of us. God wants us to enjoy God’s joys and pleasures from the very heart of our loving God. God sees in us, not the labels that we are given or give ourselves. God sees our path of life that draws us to our eternal truth, that is God’s truth. We were created out of love. We have been redeemed by God’s love. God’s love is our path of life, to take us to God’s joys and pleasures that is each of us in the bosom of God’s being.

“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 faith, we will run in the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.19).

Are you letting God show you the path of life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Removing the Stone

Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” (See John 11:32-44).

Mary and Martha had a good reason for putting a stone at the entrance of Lazarus’ tomb. There was already a stench because his body was decaying. Jesus did not see the stone or the stench as an obstacle to what God could do; but, first the stone had to be removed. The entrance needed to be cleared so that the power of God could do something amazing.

So many of us have good reasons for putting up stones at the entrances of our hearts. We have experienced our hearts being hurt by others or by things we do to ourselves. Many of us have stones at the entrances of our hearts, because of events that are not of our own doing. The death of someone close to us. A disability. An addiction. A relationship that ended . Jesus can meet us in our hearts to do the work of healing and reconciliation, but, we need to be willing to take the stone away, and let God in.

Contemplative prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit as we let go of all of the obstacles we put in God’s way. Lectio Divina (The prayerful Reading of Scripture) is a way of letting the Holy Spirit help us move those stones that we use to keep God away. The whole of ourselves needs a lot of healing and reconciliation, as our souls need redeeming. The stench of everything that is just not right in our lives is something God wants to bring God’s compassion and mercy to. We have to let go, and we have to do it as we are ready. God will wait with us, and love us without exception of what we decide to do about the stones in front of our hearts. The mystery of contemplation is that God is always reaching out for us, and speaking through what is happening with us. “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37 NRSV).

“Sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything ” (said St. Moses the Black).

“What is not possible for us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply with the help of his grace.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.18).

What is your response to Jesus’ request to take away the stone from the entrance to your heart?

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 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 Being A Servant

“[Jesus] said to them, ‘whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all” (See Mark 9:30-37 NRSV).

Our false-sense of self wants us to put God and ourselves into a box of our own making. This kind of thinking suggests that God is the lump of clay and we are the artist.

In The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 5, he wrote, “The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience, which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.29).

In Chapter 7 On Humility, he wrote, “The first step of humility, then, is to keep ‘the reverence of God always before our eyes’ (Ps.36:2) and never forget it ” (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.79).

Our greatness is found by contemplation of living into who God is, and who we are. God is God; and, we are not. Jesus is telling us in this Gospel, that it is more than okay for us to be last and servant of all. God lovingly receives us in Jesus as God’s Beloved; and blesses us beyond our imagination. We are affirmed as God’s Children to partner with Jesus to serve as He served.

Jesus by word and example teaches us how to live the contemplative vocation. The mystical experience of contemplative prayer is letting go of our self perceptions; to view ourselves from God’s perspective. God who blessed the life and servanthood of Jesus, blesses our servant life through the grace of the Holy Spirit. What a beautiful and holy way to live.

Do you see yourself as blessed to be a servant?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Opening the Heart

“Say to those who are fearful of heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God'” (Isaiah 35:4 NRSV).

To this day, my very favorite words in the entire Rule of St. Benedict are, “Listen, my son, to your master’s precepts, and incline the ear of your heart. Receive willingly and carry out effectively, your loving father’s advice,,,,,” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, p.1).

Life is full of uncertainties. Seasons change. We change. The people in our lives come and go. Who we are today; is different than who we were five years ago.

What is amazing is that it takes a huge change in our lives for us to wake up and pay attention to what is really going on inside of us. Nothing shakes up our lives quite like the death of someone close to us. When that someone is gone, we realize all the things we should have said or done. We remember things about the other person that made us so complete, but, may not have given it much thought while they were still with us. It is during a year of grieving that we experience the he healing of things within ourselves that we did not know were broken.

Our false-sense of self tells us that we must have everything figured out with all our ducks in a row. If we do not have it all together, we are doing something wrong. As long as we listen to our false-sense of self, our hearts will not be stilled and opened to listen to God. If we live with the idea that our heart are all our own, God cannot find a home there.

St. Julian of Norwich wrote, “And then our Lord opened my spiritual eye, and showed me my spirit in the middle of the heart. I saw the soul as wide as if it were an unlimited realm.”

The God-Life of contemplation tells us that God is present and speaking in the whole of ourselves, if only we will “incline the ear of the heart.” God invites us to experience the fullness of God’s life-giving grace; to give us hope where everything seems so hopeless. Our hearts full of fear from the things behind us, and of the things yet to come are restless. We need to embrace the presence of God within our hearts in the here and now.

What is God saying to your fearful 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 me 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 What Satisfies

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are they who trust in Him” (Psalm 34:8 The Book of Common Prayer, p.628).

“[Abba Poeman] said, ‘Do not give your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart.'”

“Satisfaction doesn’t always mean happiness. For me, to be satisfied means a sense of rightness in the experience, a fullness that comes when I recognize how I have been truly present to the moment. When we are satisfied, we feel we have ‘enough.’ I feel satisfied when I don’t let life just slip by unnoticed’ (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, Annotated & Explained. Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, p.30,31).

God is so present to us in the here and now. We are often so focused on ourselves and what we want that we make ourselves oblivious to God’s presence. This moment is where God is. This moment is filled with God satisfying us in so many ways. God is calling to our hearts to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” This means letting go of our false-sense of self; to allow God to fill us with a love that gives and gives again. The goodness of God meets us in the here and now to satisfy us in the little things as well as the bigger things.

St. Julian of Norwich wrote, “Nothing less than God can satisfy us” (All Will Be Well: 30 Days with A Great Spiritual Teacher, p.16).

To be a contemplative, we need to open ourselves to being satisfied by God through something as small as a hazelnut. A piece of bread and a sip of wine. God is present in our wanting and longing; beckoning us to search for union with the God who has already found us. God is already offering us God’s Self to satisfy and delight us.

“The first step of humility, then, is to keep ‘reverence of God before our eyes’ (Psalm 36:2) and never forget it.” (The Rule of Benedict : A Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.79).

God wants you to taste, see and be satisfied by God’s goodness in the here and now. Will you let God satisfy you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Farming Faithfulness

“Trust in the Lord and do good; live in the land, and farm faithfulness” (Psalm 37:3 Common English Bible).

Christine Valters Paintner, in her book Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, writes the following story by an anonymous Desert Monastic.

A brother fell when he was tempted, and in his distress he stopped practicing his Monastic Rule. He really longed to take it up again, but his own misery prevented him. He would say to himself, “When shall I be able to be holy in the way I used to be before?”

He went to one of the old men, and told him all about himself. And when the old man learned of his distress, he said, “There was a man who had a plot of land; but, it got neglected and turned into waste ground full of weeds and brambles. So he said to his son, ‘Go and weed the ground.’ The son went off to weed it, saw all the brambles and despaired. He said to himself, ‘How long will it take before I have uprooted and reclaimed all that?’ So he lay down and went to sleep for several days. His father came to see how he was getting on and found that he had done nothing at all. ‘Why have you done nothing?’ He said. The son replied, ‘Father, when I started to look at this and saw how many weeds and brambles there were, I was so depressed that I could do nothing but lie down on the ground.’ His father said, “Child, just go over the surface of the plot every day and you will make progress.’ So he did, and before long the whole plot was weeded. The same is true for you, brother: work a little bit without getting discouraged, and God by his grace will re-establish you” (p.109).

The contemplative looks for the opportunity to farm faith. A relationship with the Holy Spirit begins with God planting the seed of faith within us. Just like the farmer must tend to watering, and grounding the soil so the seed can grow into ears of corn; so we have to spend some time in silence and solitude to nurture our faith in God. Just as the crops require the sun for light, rain for water, the skilled hand of the farmer to pick the weeds and brambles; so we must with all humility, accept our own poverty of spirit that daily needs the grace of God. Contemplative prayer invites us into the mystical experience of God’s skills to feed and till our hungry souls.

“And finally, never lose hope in God’s mercy ” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, Chapter 4 On the Tools for Good Works, p.29).

How are you farming faithfulness in your relationship with the Holy Spirit today?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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