Reflection on Sitting and Listening

As Jesus and his disciples went on their way, Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42 NRSV).

This Gospel narrative contains St. Benedict’s Ora et Labora (pray and work) way of life. St. Benedict taught that prayer and work are connected to each other and not meant to be separated. The message in today’s Gospel and what St. Benedict taught suggests that work is first and foremost a prayerful partnership with God in the occupation of co-creation. If our work is to be truly profitable, then it should bring us to a closer relationship with God.

Jesus is not scolding Martha. I suggest that Jesus is telling her that working too much can take us away from allowing God to feed our souls. A contemplative individual takes time in solitude and silence to quiet our interior self, to help us listen for the Holy Spirit more attentively outside of ourselves. St. Benedict teaches us to listen and “incline the ear of the heart” so we can focus on listen for Jesus in all aspects of our lives. We need to listen for God in our work, relationships, personal challenges and daily responsibilities. We are not expected to get everything correct. The spiritual life is not a matter of achievement awards or scholarly discoveries. God calls to us in the deepest spaces of our lives, to respond to God’s invitation to make a home with God within our essence.

How are you seeking union with God through your life of prayer and work?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

You are invited to view my website to learn about my ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship. If you or someone you know could benefit from my ministry, please contact me.

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Reflection on Contemplative Truth

Jesus said to his disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (See John 16:12-15 NRSV).

What makes contemplative prayer different from other kinds of prayer?

The great mystical author Evelyn Underhill said it best when she wrote, “God is always coming to you in the Sacrament of the Present Moment. Meet and receive Him there with gratitude in that Sacrament.”

The fullness of the Truth about God is best known within the whole of ourselves. The theology surrounding the Holy Trinity as beautiful as it is, is intellectual. It stirs the mind and educates us about the nature of God’s Being. Contemplative prayer is about letting go of what we think we know about God, to seek union with God in our hearts. When we focus on theology and doctrine, we can all too easily become over analytical. We risk making theology the beginning and end of the journey of our relationship with God.

When Jesus said, “When the Spirit comes, he will guide you into all truth…” He is telling us to “Listen, and incline the ear of the heart.” (Prologue in The Rule of St. Benedict). In our hearts there is a desire for God that has been given to us by God’s initiative. The Holy Spirit invites us into the mysticism of searching for the God who has already found us. God is coming to us in the fullness of God’s relationship to the Three Persons of the God-Head, to draw us more deeply into a relationship that never completely reveals the mystery with nothing else to be found. God is in our internal spiritual hunger, with a longing to feed us. Just as we must open our mouths to eat and drink; so we must open our hearts to receive the love and mercy of God.

Are you opening your heart so God can continue to guide you into all truth?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Please visit my website to find out about my ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship. Please contact me through the site if you want to schedule an appointment with me.

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Reflection on the Unknown Holy Spirit

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 forever. 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 14:8-17 NRSV).

One of the most toxic attitudes for a Christian is to think we have our relationship with God all figured out with nothing else to learn. It is destructive because we subconsciously shut God out. We close up our Pandora’s box and trap ourselves and the Holy Spirit into our ideology, our theology, ourselves. God is there with us, no doubt. The problem is that in a closed toxic space we live with God within our false-sense of self.

“Though we cannot know God we can love him whom we cannot know. By love he maybe touched and embraced, never by thought. Of course, we do well at times to ponder God’s majesty or kindness for the insight these meditations might bring. But in the real contemplative work you must set all of this aside and cover it over with a cloud of forgetting.” (The Cloud of Unknowing. Translated and Edited by William Johnston, p.46).

The reason the Holy Spirit is so unknown, is because of what we think we know about God and ourselves. When we live from our false-sense of self, we neither get to know God and ourselves intimately enough to grow in our relationship with God. “The first step of humility” wrote St. Benedict in Chapter 7 of The Rule, “is to keep the reverence for God before us at all times, and never forget it.” The Holy Spirit comes to invite the Contemplative to pray and live into and from our eternal truth in unity with God’s Eternal Essence.

Let us keep in mind that when the Holy Spirit came upon those gathered on Pentecost, the world around them was in chaos. To live into and from our eternal essence is to search for union with God through the chaos of our lives, and be open to how the Holy Spirit can transform us. We have to allow the Holy Spirit to tear our boxes open, and save us from our certainty, so that time and again we will grow in our relationship with God from our eternal essence. In our essence, we do not have to have everything in order. Our eternal essence knows that the Holy Spirit is unknown, and desires seeking God and loving God when we find God.

The Mysticism of the Holy Spirit, is that the God who is close enough to touch us, remains mysterious for eternity in the here and now.

Will you let the Holy Spirit help you live into and from your eternal essence today?

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.

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Reflection on God’s Love and Home

Jesus said to Judas (not Iscariot), “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (See John 14:23-29 NRSV).

What does loving God so that God can make a home with us look like? How can we keep the word of Jesus in a world that challenges us to give everything over to technology and innovation. The Bible itself has been given over to commercialism and theological debates. It is quite difficult for us to make our hearts into a space for the word and Jesus without us being open to the movement of God the Holy Spirit to reveal a new relationship with God that is living and growing.

“Abba John gave this advice, ‘Watching means to sit in the cell and be mindful of God. This is what is meant by ‘I was on watch and God came to me. ‘” (John the Dwarf, Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, by Christine Valters Paintner, p.11).

The “cell” for the Desert Monastics meant the heart. The famous saying of St. Moses the Black is applicable here. “Sit in your cell. Your cell will teach you everything.” Our hearts are so cluttered with anger, resentment, and our egos. So long as we give our hearts to our false-sense of self, we cannot hear God’s word clearly. When we run from what is in our hearts, we cannot experience God’s healing grace.

“Openness is the door through which wisdom travels and contemplation begins.” (Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light, Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB., p89).

Contemplation unlocks our hardened hearts. The mystery of God’s love comes to us through the Scriptures, through nature, through where we are in the here and now. Contemplation brings us into that relationship with God that can be experienced, but not explained. In contemplative prayer, our senses knows that God is present, real and tangible. When we “incline the ears of our hearts” to God in moments of solitude and silence, Jesus the Word will come to love us and make a home with us. God’s Love will transform us from the inside out. We will live from our eternal essence with God’s Holy Essence.

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

Will you let Jesus make a home for God in your own heart?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Please visit my website or more information about my ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

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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.

Reflection on Contemplative Resurrection

On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened. (See Luke 24:1-12 NRSV).

Alleluia. Christ is risen.

The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” Every Easter when I hear these words, I get goosebumps. I get filled with a calm and a release. The response of the women by temporarily forgetting what Jesus told them about this day is very understandable. The moment was so captivating and all consuming; that the Resurrection was now a reality; must have been awesome beyond words.

What might the Resurrection mean for contemplative prayer?

Contemplative prayer helps us to detach ourselves from what is visible to our eyes. A person who is a contemplative is not seeking another theological explanation or an opportunity to be an intellectual genius. Contemplative prayer guides our hearts into an experience of God’s extravagant love and becomes a home for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Essence of God makes the experience of Jesus’ Resurrection into something we become participants of, from within. The intimacy of the Risen Christ brings us a magnificent mystical wisdom. The Resurrection is now living within and through us; giving new life to us to bring about a renewal that could transform the world.

“This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord. (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.15).

How are you experiencing the Resurrection in your heart today?

Alleluia. Christ is risen.

The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Amen.

If you or someone you know could benefit from Spiritual or Grief Companionship, please visit my website here.

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 Annunciation and the Desert

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.” (See Luke 1:26-38 NRSV).

I think that we tend to over romanticize the Annunciation. It is a beautiful story without question. The story might bring us the hope that God will do something amazing with us, as God did with Mary. If the narrative of the announcement to Mary does not make us uneasy about following her to a desert of uncertainty, then we may have missed the most mystical purpose of the day.

I am experiencing the most unusual of Lenten observances. In addition to living with autism, I am also living with chronic back pain because of a T-12 lumbar disk protrusion. I require the use of a wheelchair when I go to doctor appointments or anywhere a long walk is needed, because the pain in my back is just too intense to walk with just a cane. I am going to appointments for physical and aquatic therapy to help strengthen my back muscles. But, the process is slow. I am in a year and season where I am uncertain about pretty much everything. Nothing is as it used to be.

I am sure that Mary’s life as it was proceeding at the time was stopped dead in its tracks by the Angel Gabriel’s announcement. She would be traveling in a desert with things being very out of order for the rest of her life. Mary has a faith I certainly do not have. Upon hearing the Angel’s words, she trusts herself and her way forward to God’s will.

Contemplative prayer is anything but, about certainty. That which is mystical is not so neatly fitted together to make perfect logical sense. It is a journey into the desert with Jesus through which we will see ourselves and our lives exactly as they are. There are no illusions, but, our false-sense of self. In the desert everything is unfamiliar, yet, starkly visible and inescapable. Contemplative prayer works best when we let go; little by little; and search for union with God in the things that are what they are. Through faith and trust in God’s love, we will be led to where we go from here.

“Abba Moses asked Abba Silvanus, ‘Can a man lay a foundation every day?’ The old man said, ‘If he works hard he can lay a new foundation every moment.'” (Desert Fathers and Mothers:Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, by Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, p.57).

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

What is your desert time like this Lent?

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 visit my website here.

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.