Reflection on What Satisfies

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are they who trust in Him” (Psalm 34:8 The Book of Common Prayer, p.628).

“[Abba Poeman] said, ‘Do not give your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart.'”

“Satisfaction doesn’t always mean happiness. For me, to be satisfied means a sense of rightness in the experience, a fullness that comes when I recognize how I have been truly present to the moment. When we are satisfied, we feel we have ‘enough.’ I feel satisfied when I don’t let life just slip by unnoticed’ (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, Annotated & Explained. Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, p.30,31).

God is so present to us in the here and now. We are often so focused on ourselves and what we want that we make ourselves oblivious to God’s presence. This moment is where God is. This moment is filled with God satisfying us in so many ways. God is calling to our hearts to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” This means letting go of our false-sense of self; to allow God to fill us with a love that gives and gives again. The goodness of God meets us in the here and now to satisfy us in the little things as well as the bigger things.

St. Julian of Norwich wrote, “Nothing less than God can satisfy us” (All Will Be Well: 30 Days with A Great Spiritual Teacher, p.16).

To be a contemplative, we need to open ourselves to being satisfied by God through something as small as a hazelnut. A piece of bread and a sip of wine. God is present in our wanting and longing; beckoning us to search for union with the God who has already found us. God is already offering us God’s Self to satisfy and delight us.

“The first step of humility, then, is to keep ‘reverence of God before our eyes’ (Psalm 36:2) and never forget it.” (The Rule of Benedict : A Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.79).

God wants you to taste, see and be satisfied by God’s goodness in the here and now. Will you let God satisfy you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Out of the Depths

“Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord; Lord, head my voice; let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication” (Psalm 130:1. The Book of Common Prayer, p.784).

St. Julian of Norwich once wrote,

“Pray inwardly even if you do not enjoy it. It does good, though you feel nothing. Yes, even though you think you are doing nothing” (The Breath of the Soul: Reflections on Prayer by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.83).

In the Ninth Conference on Prayer in The Conferences by St. John Cassian, St. Isaac identified three kinds of prayer. 1. Supplication. 2. Intercession. 3. Thanksgiving. The kind of prayer envisioned by the Psalmist comes from the depths of the heart. The prayer of supplication means a recognition of our helplessness. In that helplessness, we know that God is our only hope.

Prayer is about deepening our relationship with God. Prayer that strengthens our intimacy with God is not about getting something we want. It is about letting go of what we are holding on to. It is the act of turning ourselves over to the will of God, without wanting to control the outcome.

Contemplative prayer is a search for union with the God-Life within us and all around us. It leads us from the depths our hearts, to the awareness that God is interacting with us in the here and now. God’s mystery can be experienced, but, not explained. God’s presence is tangible, yet unattainable by our senses.

Jesus is our Bread of Life and Cup of Salvation. Through Jesus, the depth of our hunger is known and acknowledged. Through Jesus, what we long for is worth the longing. “For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation” (Psalm 62:1, The Book of Common Prayer, p.669).

“We must know that God regards our purity of heart and tears of compunction, not our many words ” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, Chapter 20 Reverence in Prayer, p.48).

Are you in touch with God from the depths of yourself?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Listening: Yup Again!

I will listen to what the Lord God is saying, for he is speaking peace to his faithful people and to those who turn their hearts to him. (Psalm 85:8 The Book of Common Prayer, p.709).

When we read those famous first words in the Prologue of The Rule of St. Benedict notice that he is talking about the ear of the heart, as opposed to the physical ear. “Listen, my child to the masters instructions, and incline the ear of your heart.” Benedict returns to the subject of listening throughout the Prologue. He quotes from Psalm 95, “If today you hear God’s, harden not your heart.” “Listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 2:7). “Come and listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Psalm 34).

St. Benedict would have leaned about listening from the Desert Mothers and Fathers. In particular St. Moses, who famously said, “Sit in your cell. Your cell will teach you everything.”

Listening to God involves a continuous letting go. Our cell is our interior self, as much as it can be a physical space. Listening to God so that we can hear God speaking peace to us, is strengthened in time spent in silence and solitude; but we must nurture our interior self by remaining open to God at all times. Each moment and encounter is a contemplative experience, if we will only listen for God in our hearts. In her book, Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light, Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB wrote, “Everything in life is meant to stretch me beyond my superficial self to my better self, the Ultimate Good who is God” (p.24).

Are you listening to God 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 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

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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

See, http://www.cos-osb.org

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