Reflection on The Whole heart

“I will give you thanks with my whole heart…” (Psalm 138:1 The Book of Common Prayer, p.793).

Each time I pray these words, I feel a little guilty. How can I give thanks to God with my whole heart when it is so divided? Can I really give thanks to God from the whole of myself, when I am confronted time and again with how much my whole self is broken? I experience the same feelings when I pray the words to Psalm 9:1, Psalm 57:1 and Psalm 108:1 which reads “My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed….”. Is my heart really fixed on giving thanks to God?

If I lack any sufficiency to give thanks to God with my whole heart by seeing my heart from my own point of view, I will fall short. When I listen to my false-sense of self and try to be the one in control of what I think my whole heart should be, I will be disappointed.

Regardless of the condition of my whole of self, God wants me to give thanks to God with my whole being. Psalm 51:18 reads, “The sacrifice of God is a a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” When I give thanks to God with my whole self along with all that is wounded and broken, God the Holy Spirit makes good use of me.

Contemplative prayer leads to know ourselves from God’s perspective. God sees more in us thank we ever could. Our whole hearts rejoicing and /or weeping when surrendered in faith with thanksgiving for God’s goodness, becomes God’s work of sanctification through the Holy Spirit. Because, within our whole self, is our eternal truth. The “truth that sets us free” (see John 8:31). When our eternal truth seeks union with God’s truth for no other reason than God alone; everything about us becomes beautiful through God’s transforming grace.

“Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice from heaven that calls out this charge: If you hear God’s voice today, do not harden your hearts (Psalm 95:8)” (The Rule of Saint Benedict in English, p.16).

What does giving thanks to God with your whole heart mean for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Release and Recovery

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. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (See Luke 4:14-21 NRSV).

Over the past few months, I have been dealing with some really awful back pain. It is so debilitating that when I have a long distance to walk, I need a wheelchair. After some x-rays and an MRI, I learned that I have a T-12 lumbar disk protrusion in my lower left L1-L-2. I will be working with more doctors about pain management and physical therapy. All of this added to my autism spectrum disorder and other issues have not made life easier. I have to rely on my spouse for help with many day to day care matters. I am being confronted by my sense of mortality. At the same time, I am learning about new strengths that I did not know I have. The grief of loss, is also my opportunity to see some new life that God is raising up in me.

I just started reading a book that could not be timed better. The books title is, Beginning Again: Benedictine Wisdom for a living with Illness by Mary C. Earle. It is by no accident that her first chapter is centered on the very first word of The Rule of St. Benedict, “Listen.” Benedict tells us to incline the ear of our hearts to what God is communicating with us in every aspect of ourselves. God is speaking through what our bodies are experiencing. When our bodies experience any kind of illness, we experience the grief and pain of what we lose, as well as the transformation of the new life within us.

Jesus is the presence and power of God who helps us to see what prisons we put ourselves in. Many of those prisons are where we lock our true selves in because of the labels of our society. Jesus helps us see what we are blind to, such as the message that if our bodies are not completely abled to do everything that we are expected to, we are a failure. God the Holy Spirit speaks to us when we see and embrace this moment when we face and grieve the pain of what was, but no longer is; and listen for what new things God is doing.

Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB in her book Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living The Rule of St. Benedict Today wrote, “The Spiritual life is achieved only by listening to all of life and learning to respond to its dimensions wholly and with integrity” (p. 16).

God is speaking to your heart through what you are experiencing in the wholeness of who you are; right here, right now. What are you listening to God saying to you?

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 the Gift of the Heart

When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. (See Matthew 2:1-12 NRSV).

Christina Rossetti wrote in verse 4 of her hymn In the Bleak Mid-Winter,

“What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a wise man, I would do my part; yet what can I give him–give my heart.” (See The Hymnal 1982, #122).

The gifts of the shepherds and wise men represent the giving of what they treasured most. Whatever they treasured; how ever much they valued what they had; finding the Word Incarnate was the empowerment for the Magi to offer their precious gifts to Jesus. They gave up the comfort of wherever they came from, and they searched without giving up until they found what their hearts desired.

Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB in her book Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light wrote, “To be contemplative I must put down my notions of separateness from God and let God speak to me through the universe into the pores of my minuscule life” (p.43).

In The Rule of St. Benedict, he tells us at the beginning of the Prologue to “incline the ear of the heart” where our essence is. Our essence is the source of our eternal truth. We can offer our heart, our essence to help us search for union with The Word who was with God, and was God. When we offer that most precious of personal treasure as a gift to be used by the Holy Spirit; the sky is the limit. The sky becomes so dazzling, that there might be a star showing us the way to the Light of God.

What is the treasure you are offering to God on this Epiphany?

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 God’s Crown and Diadem

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” (Isaiah 62:3 NRSV).

The Prophet Isaiah was reassuring the people of God that what was happening to and around them was not the end of the story. God was still working to make them more than they were through circumstances that were far from perfect.

For Christians who are celebrating the Christmas Season, the presence of Jesus as the Incarnate Word is the promise of God that we all are “the apple of God’s eye.” The Word that always was, is and ever shall be was born as a vulnerable human baby like each of us. Jesus, like each and every one of us has the potential to be nurtured by God’s grace to be God’s crown; so precious, that even in our imperfections we will know the holiness of God at work in our lives.

The mysticism of Christmas is that whatever we have done that may have brought us to a devastating end, God’s Incarnation in Christ gives us a new opportunity to begin again. Every new beginning has a lot of uncertainty. We are vulnerable to many dangers that can be difficult to understand and work through. The path before us will need a lot of moments in solitude and silence, so that we can listen to the direction of the Holy Spirit. The directions may be simple or complex. The only way to get a sense of where to go and what to do, will be determined by the mystery of God’s plans for us that are yet to come to fruition.

The Christmas Season is our message of hope, that whatever point we are at in our lives, God has a desire for us because we are God’s shining crown and royal diadem. We are being remade by God through the circumstances in the here and now, to live in to our true selves in God’s timeline.

“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).

What do you see God doing with the circumstances of your life?

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 St. John

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (See 1 John 1:1-9 NRSV).

St. John the Evangelist is my very favorite of the Apostles and New Testament contributors. The beginning of John’s Gospel with the words “In the beginning was the Word….” is beyond profound. The three letters attributed to St. John and Revelation are so beautiful.

On this text from 1 John, St. Augustine of Hippo wrote,

“Life itself was therefore revealed in the flesh. In this way what was visible to the heart alone could become visible to the eye, and so heal men’s hearts.” (The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume I Advent and Christmas Season, p.1267).

The Johannine communities that gave us these words from the Apostle tell us about what they have personally witnessed. The love of Jesus, the Word made visible and tangible. It was more exciting than yesterday’s news story that had come and gone. The love of God in Christ was transforming them from the inside out. The love they experienced was so powerful, that they had to write about it.

This reading from First John leads us into contemplation. When John and his community experience the love of the Word, they move into what Thomas Keating wrote about in his book The Mystery of Christ: The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience,

“The revelation of being loved by God characterizes the first stage of contemplative prayer. It enables us to see God in all things” (p.73).

St. John reminds us that we experience the transformative power of Christ when we let God into our hearts. St. Benedict tells us in the beginning of The Rule. “Listen carefully to the master’s instructions, and incline the ear of your heart.” Once we let go of our false-sense of self, and let God’s desire for us, feed our desire for God; it is then that we will find God by loving God; that we will be led by the Holy Spirit to love God when we find God. Contemplative prayer and the mystical experience help us to begin again, as we open our hearts to the experience of Jesus the Word made flesh by the faithful witness of those who have come before us.

Where are you looking to find Jesus 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 Contemplative Rejoicing

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7 NRSV).

It is human nature to rejoice because things turn out as we had hoped for. When something happens that makes us happy, rejoicing is easy. We all have those things that we rejoice about. Yet, our understanding of what it means to rejoice always, and worry about nothing to find God’s peace is limited because of our false-sense of self.

Before I continue, I want to give a strong word of advice to pastors and spiritual directors. I live with autism that includes generalized anxiety disorder. There is nothing more harmful to people with anxiety disorders than to hear a pastor or spiritual director use another translation of this reading from Philippians that reads, “Do not be anxious about anything….”. Please do not do it. Anxiety disorders are not the fault of those who have them, and it is simply not possible to just not be anxious.

So what might part of this Reading by St. Paul about rejoicing and not worrying say about contemplation and mysticism? I suggest that one possibility is to meditate on what Paul tells us about being thankful and that it is the peace of God which surpasses all understanding that will guard our hearts and lives in Christ Jesus. It is God’s peace that is guarding us. When we let go, even when our lives seem to be falling apart, that peace that surpasses our understanding is still at work in our hearts. Just because we might not feel God’s peace, does not mean that God has given up. Most likely God’s peace is at work in us long before we are aware of it. Because God gave us that desire for God, so that we can respond to God’s desire within our own desire.

God’s peace that is at work in our anxiety, prayers, petitions. The mystery of God’s extravagant love and compassion are never out of our reach. God’s peace is speaking and calling us in the Holy Spirit. That is something to rejoice about always.

“How much more important is it to lay our petitions before the Lord God of all things with the utmost humility and devotion.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.48).

What does rejoicing always mean for you?

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 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

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.