Reflection on the Whole Heart

“I will give thanks to you , O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I will sing your praise.” (Psalm 138:1 The Book of Common Prayer, p.793).

There are twelve chapters in The Rule of St. Benedict in which Benedict lists what Psalms are to be prayed at the various Offices.   He quotes from the Psalms in any number of chapters including the Prologue.  In the short Rule of St. Romuald, he writes about the importance of the Psalms for those who observe an Eremitic version of Benedictine Monasticism as Camaldolese.  The Desert Mothers and Fathers prayed all 150 Psalms twice a day.  The importance of the Psalms in the life of Christians cannot be over emphasized.

When we pray the Psalms, we pray with the entire Church in the past, present and future.  Praying the Psalms allows us to open ourselves to the Presence of God.  God knows all of our emotions and allows us to offer them and everything about ourselves to God by praying the Psalms while surrendering ourselves to God.

What might it mean to give thanks to God with our whole heart?

When we use the word “heart” in Christian Spirituality, we are talking about the whole of ourselves.  To give thanks to God with our whole heart implies holding nothing back.  Whatever is good and wonderful we offer in thanksgiving to God with our whole selves.  Whatever is in pain, suffering or sadness, we offer in thanksgiving to God with our whole selves.   Praying the Psalms is our assurance that whatever is happening within our whole selves, we can turn ourselves over to God who loves us where we are.  When we do God draw us closer to God’s Self who walks with us in mystic journey of redemption.

When we pray Lectio Divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture) we spend time meditating on a word or sentence that moves us.   In his book Thoughts in Solitude Thomas Merton wrote the following words with regards to meditative prayer.

“In meditative prayer, one thinks and speaks not only with his mind and lips, but in a certain sense with his whole being.  Prayer is not just a formula of words, or a series of desires springing up in the heart–it is the orientation of our whole body, mind and spirit to God in silence, attention and adoration.  All good meditative prayer is a conversion of our entire self to God.” (Shambhala Pocket Classics version 1993, p.44).

Offering our whole selves to God in thanksgiving leads us to contemplation.   God who entered into our human nature in Jesus the Word, became one with all our human experiences.  Jesus offered every aspect of humanity from joy to excruciating suffering to the very heart of the love of God.  When we pray the Psalms and offer our whole hearts to God with all the masks off, our prayer, becomes the prayer of Jesus as God receives with unconditional love all that we have to offer God.

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-Cos

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Lenten Reflection: A Clean Heart

God and the Heart

 

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:11. The Book of Common Prayer, p.657).

The Psalmist in Psalm 51 is pleading with God for mercy and forgiveness.  It is a recognition of our human mortality.  We are sinners who need God’s grace and healing.  Psalm 51 is about emptying the dirt of our personal and spiritual self and depending completely on God to redeem us.  Is it any wonder why in The Rule of St. Benedict he prescribes that Psalm 51 (50 as St. Benedict used the Grail Psalms in which they were all one number behind our current English version) be used every day during Matins (or Lauds)?   Esther de Waal in her book A Life-Giving Way: A Commentary on The Rule of St. Benedict writes, “The act of acknowledging my weakness and failure is not a morbid dwelling on sin but a turning in confidence to the God who sees a humble and contrite heart and is there to rescue me just as he rescued his people in the past” (p.79).

So what about a clean heart?  The contemplative understands that Psalm 51:11 is a deeply prayerful desire in our heart by God’s initiative that lets go of everything we are holding on to in there; and trusting in God’s view point of our hearts; to make them a clean space for God alone.  When we let go of all the stuff that weighs us down and crowds us in and put our trust in the Holy Spirit; God resides in there because the space has been cleaned out and made ready for the one who gives our hearts all that we need.  Our hearts are made clean and ready to be occupied by its Creator and Redeemer.

What do you need let go of for God to come into your clean heart this Lent?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Psalm 27

Lit Candle

 

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?   The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1. The Book of Common Prayer, p.617).

At the break of dawn the light from the sun graces the sky.  As evening gives way to night, the sun goes down, but the moon brightens a place in the sky.  On a clear night when the moon is full, its light gives the night sky a glow that only the moon can.  Whether day or night, there is light shining through the darkness to bring hope where there is despair.

All of us have those moments when what is happening feels like the sun on a beautiful clear day.  When things happen that change us from within, it can be like clouds covering our view of the sun, or blocking the light from the moon.

The Psalmist begins Psalm 27 by proclaiming that the Lord is the true light and strength of our lives.  Therefore, we have no need to be afraid.  I don’t know about you, but I have had those moments in my own life when things have happened, and I read this psalm about “not being afraid” and I think to myself: “Oh yeah, right!”

As we invite the Holy Spirit into the circumstances of our lives, we find ourselves full of fears.  There are many scary things around us.  The whole of Psalm 27 seems to be full of faith and hope in some places, acknowledging the enemies that are about us in other verses, and acknowledges that all we can really do is trust in the Lord.

The Holy One wants us to turn ourselves over and find God who is our light and salvation reminding us that we are God’s Beloved, with Whom God is well-pleased.  Whatever we are facing.  Whatever direction a situation is going.  There is no place or situation where God is not there with God’s light and salvation leading us in the way of of the life of Jesus Christ.

“And finally, never lose hope in God’s mercy.”  (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, Chapter 4: On the Tools of Good Works, p.185).

How and where is God the light and salvation in your life?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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 by Singing

Christ-Church-Choir-12-09-23

Praise the Lord!  How good it is to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting. (Psalm 147:1. NRSV).

To this day there is no greater medium for the Holy Spirit to move our hearts like music does.  Words spoken or written can move the heart in many ways.  Music on the other hand, moves the heart because even when words are not part of the music the heart is displaced from where ever it was to a completely new height.  There is the old saying, “Music calms the savage beast.”   St. Augustine of Hippo said, “The one who sings, prays twice.”

The prayerful song of the Church has been singing since before and after Christ ascended.  The heart of the Daily Office for St. Benedict is the chanting of the Psalms.  Thomas Merton explains why this is so important when he wrote,

The Psalms, then, are not merely ancient poems which the Church fancifully adapts to her own liturgical uses.  Everything in them is charged with vital urgency by virtue of the fact that they are full of Christ.  Either they speak directly of the Redeemer Himself in His sufferings, His kingship, His priesthood: or else they narrate the trials and progress of the Mystical Christ, the Church, His people (Bread in the Wilderness, p.110).

Singing is an open door to contemplative prayer.  Singing and music unlocks the air tight locked doors of our hearts; so that we can listen to the gentle, but irresistible voice of the Spirit calling us into a deeper relationship with God in the great mystery of love.

What a way to keep watch!

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

I Will Bless The Lord Who Gives Me Counsel

Pathways

I will bless the LORD who gives me counsel; my heard teaches me, night after night.  I have sent the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand I shall not fall. (Psalm 16:7-8).

Our world is so full of noise.  Our churches are all full of noise.  Our homes, cars, work places, computers, phones, dinner tables are so full of noise.   Is it any wonder that we are barely able to listen to God’s counsel?

The noise on the outside is often the tip of the iceberg.  The noise on our interior selves is among the many reasons we are not able to listen to God more attentively.

The Psalmists and the Contemplatives throughout history invite us to listen to the Lord by allowing our interior lives to find that “peace of God which transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).  The words from Psalm 16 and 25 sing of receiving the Lord’s counsel even in the stillness of the night.   We are encouraged to follow the path of God by allowing God to lead us.  If we are to set the Lord always before us so that we shall not fall, then we need to spend some time letting go of our false sense of self that has us all wound up in our word being the final word.   For we will not know our true selves and what is the final word unless we take time to listen more intentionally to Jesus who is The Word.

There is another Psalm that speaks very well to what I am writing.

“Be still, then, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:11a).

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

Psalm191

The heavens appear to be too complicated for a simple reflection.  All of the matter, energy and elements that make up what is millions of light years away can hardly be comprehended by us tiny human beings.  Yet, their complexity is exactly why they are perfect for a simple reflection.

Thomas Merton in writing about The Rule of St. Benedict in his book Initiation into the Monastic Tradition writes extensively about our false sense of self.   Our false sense of self is what causes us to think that our whole essence is about knowing everything, being comfortable with everything and/or being approved of, etc.  While the technological advances of the last decade are nothing short of miraculous; their detriment is in how much they can aid us in being entrenched into our false sense of self.  The remedy that St. Benedict offers us, Thomas Merton tells us, is in Chapter 7 of The Rule, on humility.  Humility is about seeing ourselves as we really are, and living more deeply into a bonded relationship with God and others.  This kind of humility is to help us to learn that even in the midst of conflict and difficulty, our one constant reality worthy of our devotion and reverence is God.

The heavens show us the glory of God that is in our darkest moments, through which the beauty and wonder of God’s will for us shines through in both small and great ways.  We may not be able to name every item in the heavens, but what we are able to see helps us know that we are not the center of the universe.  In fact, we are one very small being.  Yet as the Psalmist writes:

“When I look up at your skies, at what your fingers made–the moon and the stars that you set firmly in place–what are human beings that you think about them; what are human beings that you pay attention to them?  You’ve made them only slightly less than divine, crowning them with glory and grandeur” (Psalm 8:3-4 The Common English Bible).

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB