Reflection on Job: A Troubled Contemplative

Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (See Job 2:1-13 NRSV).

The Book of Job belongs to the Poetic Writings of the Bible in much the same way as the Psalms. Job is a legendary folktale for spiritual meditation, and and not a n actual story. Lastly, the Satan that is referred to in the first and second chapters of Job is not the evil one from Genesis or the tempter in the four synoptic Gospels. Satan in Job is an accuser, a prosecutor in the court. It is with this important information that we must begin with this reflection. Otherwise our reflection will become another doctrinal or theological argument, when Lectio Divina is not based on an intellectual understanding.

The experiences that have fallen on Job can be compared to being beaten up, and kicked on the gut all in one week. It happens to many of us. When a tragedy like COVID-19 happens, the grief is excruciating. One loss after another, and the sadness and heartbreak does not end.

Very few things make the experience of grief worse than asking ourselves questions such as “What did we do wrong?” “Were we not faithful or moral enough?” The situation is no better when we blame others for what they should or should not have done.

Job is a troubled contemplative. The worst things have happened to him. Before Job can begin to reflect on what God is doing in his life, he is getting all kinds of advice from the company he keeps. Job is a troubled contemplative, because he knows in his heart, that God is present in the good and bad times. Job is troubled, because he is turning in on himself to try to grasp what has happened.

Job is a great illustration about the importance of humility in contemplative prayer and mysticism. When we look inside ourselves, expecting to find God in our false-sense of self, we will discover an empty space. God is not only where we are most comfortable, untroubled, and whining about how come we are at the end of the happiness line. God is also in our pain, our disbelief and anger. God has given us the desire to search for union with God in whatever situation we are in. In The Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 7: On Humility, he tells us, “The first step of humility is to keep the reverence of God before our eyes, and never forget it”.

“No matter what kinds of ruins you stand in, keep moving, keep doing what you must do, keep showing up every day. Haul yourself before God no matter what.” (Benedict’s Way: An Ancient Monk’s Insights for a Balanced Life, Lonnie Collins Pratt and Fr. Daniel Homan, OSB, p.43).

In the end, why good and bad things happen to us, and God’s participation in all our experiences are a mystery. What we do know through the mystery of the story of our redemption through Jesus Christ, is that God is always walking with us in what we are going through, right here, right now. That knowledge by itself, is why we must turn to and trust God to help us.

Will you let God into your troubled heart, and listen to God today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Learning Wisdom

And yes, you want truth in the most hidden places; you teach me wisdom in the most secret space (Psalm 51:6, The Common English Bible).

Each of us has within us a sacred space. It is in the whole of who we are. In that sacred space there is our soul and our spirit.

Our souls are where our emotions are. In our souls, we experience joy and sorrow. We feel healing and pain in our souls. Many of the personal conflicts we have, have a lot to do with what is going on in our souls. In addition to these, our souls often have our false-sense of self. Each of us encounters hunger and thirst. The feelings of abandonment and isolation. These happen in part because of the messages we receive from our parents, society, the ups and downs of life, and any number of things. In our souls, we often want to be first in line. We want to be comfortable or celebrated.

Our spirit on the other hand is where our eternal truth (our essence) is. Our true selves are in our spirit. God’s Holy Spirit longs more than we know, to grant us the union with God that we seek; so that God’s wisdom can heal our souls and lead us to a divine intimacy with the God who loves us beyond our wildest imagination.

Psalm 51, the mercy plea of David, helps us remember that we are always somewhere between what is good and not good. God is our merciful Savior and is always willing to bring forgiveness to our souls. What we really need is for God to teach us God’s wisdom in our secret and sacred spaces. Most of the work of contemplative prayer in the Christian Tradition is about the interaction of God with us in our sacred and secretive spaces. We spend time in silence and solitude to allow God to talk with our souls, so that God can help us to live into our essence. Our eternal truth is where Jesus, the Wisdom of God is speaking to help “heal the sin sick soul” (Taken from the Gospel hymn There is a Balm in Gilead).

God knows the wounds within our souls. God knows how much we are all hurting in this time of social distancing and the innumerable deaths because of the coronavirus. In that brokenness, God is teaching us God’s wisdom in new and powerful ways. This time of uncertainty, is our time in the desert with Jesus. God will teach us wisdom in our secret and sacred space; but, we have to be silent so we can listen to God in our eternal truth; our essence.

“And finally, never lose hope in God’s mercy” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.29).

Will you let Jesus teach you wisdom in your secret and sacred space during this time in the desert?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Please visit my website to learn about Br. Anselm Philip’s Ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

Reflection on God is Near

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found; call on him when he draws near (Isaiah 55:6, Canticle 10, The Book of Common Prayer, p.86).

It has happened to me many times. I have lost something. I search everywhere for what I lost. I dig under the mail piled up on my desk. I open drawer after drawer. Then, I discover that the very thing I have been looking for is right in front of me. I spend so much time and energy looking for something that is before my nose.

God is closer to us than we think. Who God is and where God is are mysterious; that much is very true. Equally mysterious is that God is as close to us as every cell in our body. God, the Holy Spirit is present in every breath we take. The mercy of Jesus releases us of our sins with each breath of air we blow out. The grace of God is willing to be found, if we will only search for union with God for no other reason than to live into our relationship with the holiness and awesomeness of God.

The contemplative lives into the God-Life that is nearby, ready for us to call the God that found us in the depths of God’s loving Being. God is so wanting us to to love God, that God gave us the desire to look for God to love because of who God is. We already know that God gives us what we need the most. Jesus told us as much in the Gospel of Matthew 6:25-34). In verse 33 Jesus said “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” So God is the One we must search for. God is always very nearby.

God then directs these words to you: If you desire true and eternal life, keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit; turn from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim (Ps 34:14:15). Once you have done this, my eyes will be upon you and my ears will listen for your prayers; and even before you ask me, I will say to you: Here I am (Isa 58:9). (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.16).

Will you spend some in silence today to be with God who is always near 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 me 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.

Visit my website to learn about Br. Anselm Philip’s Ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

Reflection on A Prayerful Heart

Give ear, O Lord to my prayer, and attend to the voice of my supplications. In the time of my trouble I will call upon you, for you will answer me. (Psalm 86:6-7. The Book of Common Prayer, p.710).

The great Desert Father Antony once wrote, “Just as fish die of they stay too long out of water, so the monks who loiter outside their cell or pass their time with men of the world lose the intimacy of inner peace. So like a fish going to the sea, we must hurry to reach our cell, for fear that if we delay outside we shall lose our interior watchfulness.”

Christine Valters Paintner in her book Desert Fathers and Mother’s: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings wrote, “The Greek word nepsis means “watchfulness.” It refers to a kind of calm vigilance in daily life, staying attentive and aware to the inner movements of the heart, watching one’s thoughts, and noticing patterns that arise. This inner attention, conducted with compassion, is the grace of the desert way.” (Pages 8-9).

The cell that Antony is writing about is our hearts. The heart in Christian spirituality is “the whole of ourselves.” The Psalmist is writing to ask God for help in times of trouble. The Psalmist knows the troubles that have been, and those ahead require God’s help to work through them.

We are living through some very difficult times. The coronavirus along with the excessive violence has everyone including me experiencing what seems like endless pain and confusion. We are inundated by the fast paced media that is bombarding our sensory awareness to overload.

The Psalmist and the Desert Monastics tell us to return to our cells (our hearts) and spend time in the presence of God in silence and solitude to reclaim our true sense of self. Contemplative prayer and mysticism calls us to embrace the peace of God that leads us to an awareness of what is really happening with in the heart of who we are. Let us remember that Jesus is walking with us through the events of the present time; and the Holy Spirit is teaching us from deep within our hearts. We do not have to understand anything. What we must do is let go of trying to determine a conclusion to the ongoing experience of God’s extravagant love that is transforming us “from glory into glory” in the here and now.

“How much more important, then, to lay our petitions before the God of all with the utmost humility and devotion.”

“The function of times of prayer, then, is not to have us say prayers; it is to enable our lives to become a prayer outside of prayer, to become ‘pure of heart,’ one with God,,,,” (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, Joan Chittister, p.132).

Are you setting time aside in your life to listen to God within the whole of yourself?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Listening to the Beloved

While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” (See Matthew 17:1-9 NRSV).

When you think of what it means to listen to Jesus, what thoughts go through your mind? Do you think of sitting under a tree on a warm sunny day and just listening to nature’s many sounds? Do you find yourself in a chapel with candles lit and the lights dimmed? Do you find yourself at the bedside of someone very important to you who is sick and suffering and wondering what to do?

We look for those “perfect moments” that fit our idea of what listening to Jesus in contemplative prayer is. We always have a notion that if we can only be on a mountaintop like the three disciples are with Jesus in the Transfiguration that we will hear God clearly.

St. Benedict taught that listening to God requires something from us wherever and in whatever moment we are in. “Listen” says St. Benedict in the Prologue to The Rule. “Listen to the master’s instructions and incline the ear of the heart. This is advice from a Father who loves you.” Benedict is telling us what that voice from Heaven told us when Jesus was transfigured on that mountain. “This is my son, the Beloved; with whom I am well-pleased; listen to him.

God has claimed us in Jesus as God’s beloved. God is well-pleased with us, because of God’s extravagant love. God and St. Benedict are telling us to listen to Jesus the Beloved who has granted us a share in His life, death and resurrection; and with us God is well-pleased. Whether we are having a delightful mountaintop moment or find ourselves in the deepest grief and despair; God is interacting with us and speaking to our hearts. Even when we find it most difficult to inline the ear of our hearts, God is speaking and moving within us, among us and around us.

Are you listening for God in your life in the here and now?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on the Word at Home

“The Word became flesh and made His home among us. We have seen His glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, The Common English Bible).

I am using The Common English Bible for this reflection, because I am drawn to the words “and made His home among us.” These words disturb me. I am so comfortable hearing the words of John 1:1-18 as the cozy doctrine of the Incarnation. As long as I kept them in my mind to the hearing of this Gospel every Christmas, they never make the journey from the head to the heart.

When I spend time with these words in Lectio Divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture) the Holy Spirit tells my heart that Jesus is coming to make His home within me at this moment. I am in a bit of a panic attack, because I am so attached to enjoying my interior home where my ego has its own room. My false-sense of self has given my ego a run of the home in me. Jesus, the Word wants to make a home in me? If that happens, I will know just how much God knows me in my total vulnerability. I will experience the reality of the words of Psalm 139:1.

“Lord, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar.”

I/we must remember that contemplative prayer is at its climax when we let go of everything, including our high expectations and open ourselves to experience Emmanuel “God with us.” God comes so that we can see ourselves from God’s perspective. Jesus comes to make His home in us, because God loves us so completely because of who we are, as we are and desires to make our hearts a most beautiful holy abode for God-Self. God wants to plant the seed of God’s Holy Spirit in our hearts so that a wondrous garden with every beautiful kind fruit can grow. Those many weeds within us that need to die and be pulled, will help us to be transformed into that “new creation” (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-18) rising up with Jesus in the Resurrection.

“Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for He is going to say, ‘I came as a guest, and you received me.'” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries. Chapter 53 On the Reception of Guests, p.73).

How are the words “The Word became flesh and made His home among us” speaking to your heart?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Visit my website to learn about my ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

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 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.

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 very much.

Reflection on New Things

“I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (See Revelation 21:1-4 NRSV) .

My family and I recently moved to new home. It has been a stressful time. It is also why I have not written a blog entry in a while. Moving into a new home brings a lot of chaos. There is the endlessness of letting go of how things have been for so long. Getting rid of things that no longer serve a purpose. Brining together so many loose ends to make a new beginning.

As we contemplate All Saints Day, All Souls, with this reading from Revelation; we cannot help but meet a profound mystical experience. The Saints and those who have gone before us give us a vision of a new Heaven and a new earth in the here and now. God meets us where we are; in our moments of chaos and grief to speak with our hearts. God is working in our contemplative consciousness to transform us through the chaos; not from it. God is drawing us away from our false-sense of self that wants everything so neatly planned out and organized; to a new way of life through Jesus Christ and His redemption of our souls through healing and reconciliation.

At the end of The Rule of St. Benedict, he states that it is a Rule for beginners. That is why we return to the Prologue to reread those famous words; “Listen my child. Incline the ears of your heart.” The new Heaven and earth are coming to us in the here and now. This moment, place and time is where God is drawing us into a deeper relationship with God’s Self to bring a new revelation to our hearts and lives through which the Holy Spirit will “renew the face of the earth.” (Psalm 104:31).

Are you listening with the ear of your heart for God to bring a new Heaven and earth in your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Visit my website for information about my ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

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 Potter and the Clay.

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. (See Jeremiah 18:1-11 NRSV).

What makes contemplative prayer unique from other forms of prayer? Isn’t going to a church service enough?

There e are many forms of prayer for the Christian. Liturgical prayer. Intercessory prayer. Devotional prayer. These and other prayer forms are all important. Contemplative prayer is about what is inside of our hearts. Where other forms of prayer seem to stop at the end of our lips and minds; contemplative prayer takes us on the longest journey; from the head to the heart. Lectio Divina or the prayerful reading of the Scriptures is a contemplative type of prayer. The words of Scripture that we read very slowly go into our eyes and mouth, then down deep into our deepest selves where the Holy Spirit speaks to us through the words. God teaches our hearts as we meditate on what God wants us to learn from what we read. The next step is to pray to God for ourselves to be led into a deeper awareness and relationship through what we learned. The last part of Lectio Divina is to sit in the presence of God in contemplation to just be there and do nothing else.

In contemplation, we allow God to be the potter to mold and shape us from within our interior self.

“We can’t see God by some sort of intellectual vision, because cognition depends on a sensory infrastructure which cannot see divinity. It is only at the level of spirit that God is visible” (Michael Casey. Toward God: The Ancient Wisdom of Western Prayer., p.163).

St. Benedict wrote The Rule as an instruction to the heart about letting go of the many things we cling to. He knew that God wants us to be so much more than what we think we can be. God is at work in us through contemplative prayer to be the most beautiful and amazing person from the inside out.

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us to everlasting life” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.95).

How is God working like a potter with the clay in your heart?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Visit: Br. Anselm Philip’s Ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

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 Knows You

“Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you….” (See Jeremiah 1:4-5a).

Many of the great spiritual authors have written that “the foundation of any spirituality is self knowledge.” Knowing ourselves is a life long journey. As our bodies go through the stages of life, our interior self travels further than where we physically stand. Our minds wander. Our hearts become fragile and broken. Our souls experience the brunt of the decisions we make, or others made for us. The journey can feel hopeless and fruitless.

The contemplative grows through God’s grace of self-awareness. A person who lives as a contemplative accepts the struggle to receive through faith what God is doing with us. As we read from the Prophet Jeremiah, God knew us before we were formed in our mother’s womb. God consecrated us to search for union with God in the here and now before we knew ourselves. Through the salvation brought to us by Jesus Christ, God has empowered us in the Holy Spirit to be God’s holy people. God loves us and brings us healing and wholeness in silence, solitude and contemplation.

The spiritual exercise of the prayerful reading of Scripture called Lectio Divina moves the Bible verse we are reading from our minds to our hearts. Once the words or sentence is in the whole of ourselves; we are to let the Holy Spirit teach us things about ourselves and ways that we can deepen our relationship with God in our lives. Through the powerful mystery of God’s word, we are transformed from glory to glory, and experience the presence of God. The experience of the holiness of God can become our inspiration to change the world around us.

“In God’s goodness, we are already counted as God’s own….” (From The Prologue to The Rule of St. Benedict).

As the word of God comes to you today, what are you listening to God telling you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Please visit my website to learn about my ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

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.