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

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Advent Reflection: Pray Where You Are

benedict

Those brethren who are working at a great distance and cannot get to the oratory at the proper time–the Abbot judging that such is the case–shall perform the Work of God in the place where they are working, bending their knees in reverence before God.

Likewise those who have been sent on a journey shall not let the appointed Hours pass by, but shall say the Office by themselves as well as they can, and not neglect to render the task of their service.  (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, Chapter 50, p.72).

As far as St. Benedict was concerned, nothing was so important for the Monk than to be present for the Daily Offices (also called The Liturgy of the Hours).  The sanctification of each of the hours of the day by praying the Psalms and listening to the Scriptures is the Opus Dei (The Work of God).  In today’s reading from The Rule, St. Benedict tells his Monks to pray the Offices wherever they are if they are unable to join the community in the oratory.  In other words, pray where you are.

On December 1st, The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion commemorate Nicholas Ferrar.  Nicholas Ferrar lived between 1592-1617.  It was a time in which monasteries and many Catholic practices were being rejected in The Church of England.  Among those practices was the daily prayer of the Psalms.  Nicholas Ferrar was a Deacon who provided a place in his own home for the communal praying of the Daily Offices for any who wanted to attend.  Many others followed his example and began prayerful communities in their own homes  Another example of Benedict’s admonition to pray the Psalms wherever you happen to be.

Thomas Merton in his book entitled Bread in the Wilderness wrote about that when we pray the Psalms we pray with Christ, through Christ and in Christ along with the Church in ages past, the Church present and the Church to come.  The Psalms draw us into recognizing God’s saving work in our praises, our lamentations, our emotion by praying with and listening to the Word.

In Contemplative Prayer we are listening for God wherever we happen to be.  In this Season of Advent we are watching and waiting for the coming of Christ in the moment in which we find ourselves.  It is a perfect moment to acknowledge God’s presence in prayer and worship with the Mystical Body of Christ. We have in this place, in this minute the opportunity to participate in the Opus Dei.  To see God at work and to be a co-creator with God at whatever task we are called to.

Are you ready to kneel where you are out of reverence for God and offer yourself to and with Christ for whom you are waiting?

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Advent Reflection: Keeping Watch, Pray Night and Day

Guide Us Waking

The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended,the darkness falls at thy behest; to the our morning hymns ascended, thy praise shall sanctify our rest.

We thank thee that thy Church, unsleeping while earth rolls onward into light, through all the world her watch is keeping and rests not now by day or night.

As o’er each continent and island the dawn leads on  another day, the voice of prayer is never silent, nor dies the strain of praise away.

So be it, Lord; they throne shall never, like earth’s proud empires, pass away; they kingdom stands, and grows forever, till all they creatures own thy sway.  (Hymnal 1982 #24).

These beautiful words written by John Ellerton are sung to equally magnificent music written by Clement Cottevill Scholefiled.  Through these wonderful words, we quietly surrender the day and our own lives into the hand of God; and consequently, hand the prayers of the Church to the other side of the world.  It is as if the great choir director that is the Holy Spirit, directs the choirs of prayer from one time zone to another in the mysterious voice of the Psalms.

This is such a great reflection for Advent.  We keep watch by keeping the prayer of the Church flowing from one generation to the next, from one location to another; and the prayer of the Church never cease.  This is the wondrous gift of the Divine Office.  The Church through prayer contemplates the reality of God in and through the events of life, and it is ongoing with the prayers of Heaven.

As we continue in this Advent, may our prayer and praise of God be never ending, always lifting adoration and thanksgiving from the depths of our hearts unto the God, who’s graciousness is always freely giving.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Let Us Contemplate God

“Let us contemplate God in our thoughts and with our mind’s eye reflect upon the peaceful and restrained unfolding of His plan; let us consider the care with which He provides for the whole of His Creation”  (Pope Clement in a Letter to the Corinthians, The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume IV,. p.439).

MountainImage

There are many things we can contemplate.  The mountains that are so high that our eyes cannot grasp their actual size.  The sky that seems so close is really so far away from us.  The land with its trees so green and grass so graceful.  The rivers and streams with their living and moving waters and all that is alive in them.

All of these things have their beauty and ability to capture our imaginations.  Yet, none of these things come close to the opportunity to contemplate God.   In these brief words by Pope Clement, we are invited to think with the eye of the mind how much God must love us all.  All of this resonates with what St. Benedict wrote in the Prologue of The Rule.  “Listen to the Master’s instructions.  Incline the ear of your heart.”   These words and the reflection by Pope Clement invite us to a renewed view of things from God’s point of view.   Seeing things from the point of how God sees them is the goal of contemplative prayer.  In contemplative prayer, we see through the eyes of faith passed what is created by viewing all things from the perspective of the Creator.   Our view even then will be very limited, because our vision is impaired by the fact that we need God’s perspective to see more completely what is veiled from sight   The great gift in contemplative prayer is that we receive through faith God’s grace for a singular moment in time what is known and understood beyond time and space.  Yet, it pierces the most stubborn of hearts.   It releases all the anger we use to limit ourselves, and liberates us to live into our true selves with simplicity and hope.

Today, may we contemplate God.

Amen.

Br. Anselm King-Lowe, n/OSB