Reflection on the Burning Heart

So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (See Luke 24:13-35 NRSV).

This Easter Gospel reading is among the best ways to understand Lectio Divina. The purpose of the prayerful reading of Scripture is to lead us to the spiritual experience of listening to Jesus teach our hearts through the Holy Spirit. When we read a scripture passage slowly and spend some time in silence as the Word goes deeper into our hearts, we are wanting to, “hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them” (The Collect for Proper 28, The Book of Common Prayer, p.236).

Jesus the Risen Christ met His friends on the road to Emmaus because they were disturbed. Jesus asked them questions, spoke with them about the things he mentioned many times before His crucifixion. Jesus was not tired of telling them. It was not until Jesus went in to eat with them, and broke the bread that they recognized Him for who He was.

When the disciples ask themselves the question “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking with us on the road…,” they were having the experience of human beings down through the centuries. God is often present and speaking very clearly through what is taking place before us in the here and now, but, we do not notice God’s presence.

All of us want this coronavirus crisis to go away so we can go back to how things were. We want to go back to our jobs and that sense of security we had. We all want to attend our churches, meet our friends and family without all this social distancing. However, that is not happening. But, are our hearts not burning as the Risen Christ walks among us, and talks to our hearts; drawing us ever more deeply into seeking union with God for the purpose of God alone? God in the Risen Jesus is so close to us in our hunger and thirst for a love that knows no bounds and is just there with us, so we can be with God. This is the heart of what Contemplation is about.

Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore the brethren should be occupied at certain times in manual labor, and again at fixed hours in sacred reading. (Chapter 48 On the Daily Manual Labor. St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, p.68).

Is your heart burning as the Risen Jesus is walking with and talking with you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Br. Anselm Philip’s 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.

Reflection on Easter in the Desert

“The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation .” (Psalm 118;14. The Book of Common Prayer, p.761).

Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

It hardly seems like Easter. Minnesota, where I live is getting a snow storm as I write this blog entry. Yet, the snow falling on Easter seems to fit. Many of us are used to being in our churches on Easter. Our churches are usually so crowded that extra chairs must be put out to accommodate the overflow. People go to Easter Sunday services while wearing the best spring clothes. It is always so wonderful when the sun is shining with nice warm weather on Easter.

Easter in the Year 2020 is not at all like what we are used to. The coronavirus is even preventing families from gathering for Easter dinner with relatives they have not seen since Christmas. Some people are rightly worried about those who are sick and suffering. Many are grieving the loss of those they love. How can we contemplate the mystery of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ with everything upside down?

The Desert Monastics lived their lives in such a way, that they were always in a world that was upside down from how many people functioned. The Mothers and Fathers of the Desert gave over everything that was considered “normal” for an unusual way of life through which they searched for a deeper union with God.

Christine Valters Paintner in her book Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings wrote,

“The paradox in the spiritual life is that this journey through destruction is necessary to reach any kind of resurrection or new life beyond it. We are rebuilt and reshaped through this process. We must fully surrender ourselves to the awfulness of it. We must stay present with how we feel compassion to ourselves in the process. We must learn to no longer feel victim to our suffering, but to instead discover a kind of inner fierceness that allows us to look death in the eye without flinching” (p.50).

The Easter experience of Resurrection is not without the pains of Good Friday. The victory of new life is always preceded by letting go of what is familiar, preferred and desired. Unless we spend time in contemplative prayer before the Cross, we will miss the mysticism of the empty tomb on Easter.

The chaos of the coronavirus can be overcome, by recognizing the inevitability of loosing everything as we have known them to be, and giving ourselves over to a new way of living for a whole new beginning.

Jesus and His Resurrection are our strength and our song, and Christ has become our salvation by the wondrous love of God.

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may Christ bring us to everlasting life.” (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.298).

Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

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 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 Unusual Entrance

When Jesus and his disciples had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” (See Matthew 21:1-11 NRSV).

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was the beginning of unusual events. As Jesus rode on the back of a donkey, He brought a radical change to what other people thought how things were supposed to be. During the turmoil, Jesus was recognized for who He really was.

Our Holy Week journey during the coronavirus crisis is also radically different. Many of us are unable to attend the most beautiful and meaningful worship services of the year. All of our yearly Holy Week rituals are disturbed. We cannot hear the beautiful music we are used to. The Liturgical rites that make the Scripture readings come alive cannot be experienced in real time. We are not even able to gather with family and friends in the ways we usually do. Jesus is entering into our Holy Week journey to carry us through to Easter by means that are unfamiliar to us.

The current situation we are living through is a perfect opportunity for Jesus to bring us to an experience of contemplative prayer unlike any other. We are unable to rely on what has made us familiar and comfortable. Our false-sense of self that relies on us to set the schedule of what to do, is too uncertain. It is in our uncertainty, that Jesus makes His triumphant entry with God’s plan for our redemption.

St. Moses the Desert Monastic wrote, “Sit in your cell. Your cell will teach you everything.” This year during Holy Week, we have two choices. We can choose to dwell in self pity with fear that makes us ignore what is within us that drives us away from God. The second choice is to let go of what we are holding on to, and open ourselves up to the powerful transformation of God’s self-giving love . God’s love during Holy Week meets us in our fear, sadness and brokenness to bring a radical healing and reconciliation. Our pain and suffering during these dark and difficult times are not meant to be an end in and of themselves. God meets us in our cells, and teaches our hearts through the mystical experience of Christ Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection that becomes our own life’s journey.

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

In what ways is Jesus changing your heart and life as we begin this unusual celebration of Holy Week?

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 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 Holy Week and the Desert

But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord. I have said, “You are my God. My times are in your hand; rescue me from my enemies, and from those who persecute me. Make your face to shine on your servant, and in your loving-kindness save me.” (Psalm 31:14-16. The Book of Common Prayer, p.623).

As we enter into this Holy Week, we are traveling in a different desert. This is no longer the desert of confronting our temptations and sins to just do penance. Holy Week is the desert of meeting with Jesus in the very worst of circumstances and to trust in God alone.

Our false-sense of self will not be comforted. Our comfort zones will be met with an uncomfortable transformation of our interior life that will meet the living God. We will die with Jesus on the Cross, and contemplate the love of God through a radical experience that can be grasped by faith only. Our hope comes from trusting in God.

“Our job is to accept life, this and every moment in life, even as life breaks our hearts in deep and difficult ways. We push away radical acceptance, deny it, get angry at, bargain with, feel depressed about, and grieve over–but acceptance opens us up to compassion.” (Cynthia Cannon, Ashes and the Phoenix: Meditations for the Season of Lent, compiled by Len Freeman, p 93).

The desert of Holy Week leads us to the mystical experiences of what once happened so long ago, is still present and working in our lives today. The redemption of Jesus embraces us with the compassion of God. Like the Psalmist, we too will rediscover that God’s loving-kindness will save us when we focus on our relationship with God as the only thing that matters for us to live into our essence.

“The first step of humility, then, is that we keep “the reverence of God 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. 78).

What is your experience of the desert of Holy Week going for you?

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, visit my website here.

If you would like 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 Solitude, Silence and Suffering

“But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord.  I have said, “You are my God.  My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me.  Make your face to sine upon your servant, and in your loving-kindness save me.”  (Psalm 31:14-16 The Book of Common Prayer, p.623).

There is a common misunderstanding about solitude.  Solitude in the common understanding tends to mean alone and to be lonely.  Solitude for the contemplative is not a running from something.  Solitude and silence for the Desert Monastics was how they cleared away all obstacles to be quiet and alone with God within their deepest selves.  Spending time in solitude and silence does not imply being completely peaceful and tranquil.  We do hope for tranquility at some point.  Camaldolese Benedictines spend our time in the cell of our hearts in solitude and silence to let God take us into the depths of ourselves to see what is really there.  In our cells, we find how deep our own suffering has taken us, and let God use it however God wants.  This is the letting go in contemplative prayer that I write about all the time.

The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday shows the fickleness of the human heart.  We want Jesus to be received by us in all His glory, then at His Passion and Death we become content with letting Jesus go it all alone.  The actions of Jesus’ Disciples tell us so at length in the Passion narratives.  Yet, what we see throughout the Passion story, is that Jesus gracefully and lovingly accepts the suffering He experiences.  Even before Pilate and the questions he asks Jesus: in the Passion narrative of St. Mark 15:5 we read “Jesus made no further reply, so Pilate was amazed.”   Jesus completely surrenders Himself to what is happening.  Jesus faces it for what it is, and pays the ultimate price of His life.  And of course, His death is not the final word.

The mystery of Holy Week for contemplatives is that Jesus enters into our suffering in a attitude of solitude and silence, because He knows that God is in the midst of it all with Him; even if He cannot feel Him.  Jesus finds the presence of God in faith alone; even as Jesus cried out the words of Psalm 22:1 “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus trusts in God alone.

Whatever our suffering might be we are never there alone.  When we enter into our suffering in solitude and silence with trust in God, we leave our times in God’s hands as the Psalmist wrote.  Holy Week reminds us that though suffering happens to all of us, including God’s Son, even death is a transitory result.  We are invited by Jesus this week, to follow Him in His suffering and our own to let go of ourselves and find the joy of the Resurrection of new life.

“But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.  Never swerving from his teaching in the monastery until death, we shall through patience share in the sufferings of Christ that we may deserve also to share in his kingdom.  Amen.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English.  The Conclusion of the Prologue, p.19).

3. The way is via the Psalms-do not leave it.  If, in your beginners fervor, you fail to do the whole Psalter, do a little here and a little there. (From the Short Rule of St. Romuald).

How are you entering into your relationship with Jesus in the midst of your suffering?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

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.

Reflection on Righteousness and Stumbling

BenVigilsCast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous stumble.  (Psalm 55:24. The Book of Common Prayer, p.662).

The words above spoke to me a couple of days ago during the Office of Diurnum (or Noonday Prayer).

The first part of the verse is beautifully sung in the well known Oratorio Elijah by Felix Mendelssohn.  The melody suggests the freedom from the burden by casting it upon the Lord with complete trust in God’s ability to sustain us.

The second part, “he will never let the righteous stumble” really caught my attention.  The Antiphon before this part of the Psalm is prayed read, “God will never let the righteous stumble.”  After I read those words, I found myself praying about them in Lectio Divina.  I have no reason to expect God to keep me from stumbling.  I am a weak man with the capability to think only of myself and about myself.  I can confess quite openly that I have those times in my life when I find myself caught between what God may want me to do, and what I want to do; only to choose my way with haste.

The answer to this prayer came by way of a book I am reading entitled, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  On page 48, Bonhoeffer writes,

“Can we, with the Psalmist, call ourselves innocent, devout, and righteous?  We dare not do so in so far as we are ourselves.  We cannot declare our virtue as the prayer of our own perverse heart.  But we can and should do so as a prayer out of the heart of Jesus Christ that was sinless and clean, out of the innocence of Christ in which he has given us a share by faith.  In so far as “Christ’s blood and righteousness” has become “our beauty, our glorious dress,”  we can and we should pray the psalms of innocence as Christ’s prayer for us and gift to us.  These Psalms, too, belong to us through him.”

In Chapter 19, The Discipline of the Psalmody, of The Rule of Saint Benedict, he wrote,

“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. 15:3).  But beyond the least doubt we should believe this to be especially true when we celebrate the divine office.” (RB 1980, p.47).

What is our point of contemplative prayer here?

God’s perspective of us is through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It is because of this great mystery of our faith as Christians that we can depend on God not letting the righteousness that is ours through Christ stumble with no place else to turn.  We can and should turn to the mercy of God in Christ so that the righteousness which we have gained through Christ Jesus becomes a living reality; even through our common faults.  God seems to know very well what to do with those.

This seems to be one incredible moment of contemplative prayer.

What do you think?

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB