Reflection on The Word Spoken

“After Jesus has fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was starving. The tempter came and to him and said, “Since you are God’s Son, command these stones to become bread.” Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only on bread, but by every word spoken by God.” (Matthew 4:2-4 The Common English Bible).

One of the most difficult things that happens to someone who discovers that they have a disability, a chronic or terminal illness, is that they go through a process of grieving the person they used to be. They had a life in full swing with plans they were making. When the news comes with whatever diagnosis it is, the life they had is never the same. Among the most challenging things they can do, is learn to let go of what was and embrace what is in the present moment. They can do this by being honest about what they are experiencing, grieve it realistically, and enjoy what they can do.

Jesus was in the desert. He was starving. He was probably quite weak. It would have been very simple for him to change the stones into bread. Instead, he decided to embrace his hunger to know God’s words as the substance that would sustain him.

The contemplative seeks the spoken Word through what is silent, yet full of God’s voice. A voice that talks through the daily activities of ordinary life. We find God’s presence and Word in what is before us, with us and in us in the here and now. Contemplation is not an ecstatic experience of “feeling better” as if the pain and suffering of the present moment is devoid of God’s Being. The hunger we live with, the news we receive; good or bad, are opportunities to be drawn closer to God through what is. In the various places in the Gospel of John, when Jesus proclaims things like “I am the bread of life,” He is speaking in the present tense, not the past or future.

In her book, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of Benedict Today, Joan Chittister wrote, “ The spiritual life, in other words, is not achieved by denying one part of life for the sake of another. The spiritual life is achieved only by listening to all of life and learning to respond to each of its dimensions wholly and with integrity” (p.16).

How are you listening to God through the experiences of your life 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 Clean Heart

Create in me a clean heart, O God,,,, (Psalm 51:10 NASB).

As many of my readers know, I live with autism. My autism challenges every aspect of my life. Social interactions. Self regulation. Communicating with others verbally and non-verbally. My autism includes a physical disability called dyspraxia. Dyspraxia is a mental to physical motor response condition. It means that there is a time delay from the moment my brain tells my body when to stand up to when I actually stand up. I have what is called executive dysfunction that makes doing daily tasks such as home cleaning and organization difficult unless I have assistance from a homemaker or personal support service.

Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent is a time to reflect on what is going on in our hearts. Remember that when we speak of the heart in Contemplative spirituality, we are talking about the whole of ourselves. Who we really are within ourselves and where God is in that relationship is an important part of what the contemplative does during Lent.

In St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, he tells us to “keep [our] hearts most pure and at the same time wash away during these days the negligences of other times” (p.71).

When it comes to the spiritual life, all of us have an executive dysfunction as to what keeping our hearts clean means. Most of the time, we become negligent in asking for help to do the cleaning. Lent for the contemplative, is about allowing God to become our homemaker. God will create and recreate a clean heart within us, if we will let go of our false-sense of self so that God can do the cleaning.

It is during these days of Lent that God will create a clean heart within us in this moment. God is always here to help us clean.

What does God creating a clean heart mean for you this Lent?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Listening to the Beloved

While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” (See Matthew 17:1-9 NRSV).

When you think of what it means to listen to Jesus, what thoughts go through your mind? Do you think of sitting under a tree on a warm sunny day and just listening to nature’s many sounds? Do you find yourself in a chapel with candles lit and the lights dimmed? Do you find yourself at the bedside of someone very important to you who is sick and suffering and wondering what to do?

We look for those “perfect moments” that fit our idea of what listening to Jesus in contemplative prayer is. We always have a notion that if we can only be on a mountaintop like the three disciples are with Jesus in the Transfiguration that we will hear God clearly.

St. Benedict taught that listening to God requires something from us wherever and in whatever moment we are in. “Listen” says St. Benedict in the Prologue to The Rule. “Listen to the master’s instructions and incline the ear of the heart. This is advice from a Father who loves you.” Benedict is telling us what that voice from Heaven told us when Jesus was transfigured on that mountain. “This is my son, the Beloved; with whom I am well-pleased; listen to him.

God has claimed us in Jesus as God’s beloved. God is well-pleased with us, because of God’s extravagant love. God and St. Benedict are telling us to listen to Jesus the Beloved who has granted us a share in His life, death and resurrection; and with us God is well-pleased. Whether we are having a delightful mountaintop moment or find ourselves in the deepest grief and despair; God is interacting with us and speaking to our hearts. Even when we find it most difficult to inline the ear of our hearts, God is speaking and moving within us, among us and around us.

Are you listening for God in your life 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 Word at Home

“The Word became flesh and made His home among us. We have seen His glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, The Common English Bible).

I am using The Common English Bible for this reflection, because I am drawn to the words “and made His home among us.” These words disturb me. I am so comfortable hearing the words of John 1:1-18 as the cozy doctrine of the Incarnation. As long as I kept them in my mind to the hearing of this Gospel every Christmas, they never make the journey from the head to the heart.

When I spend time with these words in Lectio Divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture) the Holy Spirit tells my heart that Jesus is coming to make His home within me at this moment. I am in a bit of a panic attack, because I am so attached to enjoying my interior home where my ego has its own room. My false-sense of self has given my ego a run of the home in me. Jesus, the Word wants to make a home in me? If that happens, I will know just how much God knows me in my total vulnerability. I will experience the reality of the words of Psalm 139:1.

“Lord, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar.”

I/we must remember that contemplative prayer is at its climax when we let go of everything, including our high expectations and open ourselves to experience Emmanuel “God with us.” God comes so that we can see ourselves from God’s perspective. Jesus comes to make His home in us, because God loves us so completely because of who we are, as we are and desires to make our hearts a most beautiful holy abode for God-Self. God wants to plant the seed of God’s Holy Spirit in our hearts so that a wondrous garden with every beautiful kind fruit can grow. Those many weeds within us that need to die and be pulled, will help us to be transformed into that “new creation” (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-18) rising up with Jesus in the Resurrection.

“Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for He is going to say, ‘I came as a guest, and you received me.'” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries. Chapter 53 On the Reception of Guests, p.73).

How are the words “The Word became flesh and made His home among us” speaking to your heart?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Treasuring and Pondering

Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (See Luke 2:1-20 NRSV).

Our experience of Jesus coming as the Word Incarnate has been made known to us throughout the through the Gospels and the written works history of Christianity. Many authors have drenched their readers with helpful theological insight indeed.

Our modern celebrations of the Nativity of Christ are shaped by the traditions of our family, culture and the nearly endless round of Christmas muzac in the stores, restaurants and the radios that started November 1st. Our churches have amazing music, candlelight services with elaborate sermons and decorations. All of these things are wonderful. Yet, they fail to capture the Christmas event in a way that penetrates us to the point of cherishing the great mystery so that it reshapes us from the inside out.

Mary shows us how the arrival of Jesus and the things that take place around her changes her life. She “treasured these things and pondered them in her heart.” In so doing, Mary made her heart a fitting residence for Jesus within her. This is the best example of contemplation and mysticism that we can have on this Christmas Eve/Day.

Mary’s moment of contemplation captures the meaning of the words that begin The Rule of St. Benedict. “Listen, and incline the ear of the heart.” If the arrival of Jesus at His Nativity is to have an impact on our relationship with God; we should start with treasuring Christ and pondering Him within the whole of ourselves. In Jesus, God has become one with us, and wants us to search for union with the purity of heart for the sake of who God is and nothing more. Jesus came to give us a direction through God’s extravagant love. We must let it sink in to treasure Jesus and ponder Him in our hearts.

Will you find a time and a place to treasure and ponder who Jesus is for you?

Amen.

May all of you have a holy and blessed Christmas Season.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Reflection on Patience in the Heart

“Be patient, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.” (See James 5:7-10 NRSV).

This is the time of the season when our patience grows thin. The celebration of the Nativity is ten days away. We are still in the season of Advent. We continue watching, waiting and preparing. Today, we read from James “You must also be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.”

The electric and technological developments that bring us social media with iPhones or Smartphones, have made waiting and patience an antiquated way of living. We can pay our bills, move money, order groceries and clothing without leaving our homes at lightening speed. Such advances are doing exactly what they are intended to do. As a result, our capacity for waiting patiently has been compromised. It effects our spiritual awareness of God moving slower, to draw us into a deeper relationship with God.

The image of the farmer planting the seeds is a perfect illustration here. To live as a contemplative, we must see ourselves as the seeds that God has planted to grow and bloom into the most beautiful human beings. In this season of Advent, God wants us to slow down, to spend some time in silence and solitude and open our hearts to the presence of God who is already here. Greater things come to those who meditate and receive God’s wondrous love, so that God can add even more of the grace that is transformative. This transformation is not dependent on having the correct theology. The transforming grace of God is beyond logic and is so much richer than doctrine or dogma. God’s grace through Jesus, the Incarnate Word meets us in the deepest places within us and gives new life, again and again. This is why we wait in patience and strengthen our hearts.

“What is not possible for us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of his grace.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.18).

What will waiting patiently for God mean for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Preparing the Wilderness of the Heart

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” (See Matthew 3:1-12 NRSV).

When we think of the wilderness, we tend to associate it with an external landscape. It is a place we might go (or be set out) on a journey to or through. Whether it is a destination we go to of our own choosing, or by a misplaced sense of direction; the wilderness (or the desert) is a perfect symbol of what can happen with our interior self.

St. John the Baptist saw himself as the forerunner of Christ. He had such a clear sense of who he was, and what his purpose in life was, that he separated himself from everything to live into his true self. St. John the Baptist knew that God was the One he wanted to give his life to. He was able, therefore, to search and be the “voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord…”.

In the book entitled The Hermitage Within: Spirituality of the Desert, Alan Neame writes a fascinating translation of St. John the Baptist’s Wilderness.

“You are more than the Bridegroom’s friend. Your soul is truly the Bride, and you will make the outpourings of the mystic marriage-song your own: “‘I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.'” (See the Song of Solomon 6:3). (P.19).”

St. Moses the Black wrote “Sit in your cell. Your cell will teach you everything.”

The cell and the wilderness in the spirituality of the Desert Mothers and Fathers represents the heart and the environment we are in. Our hearts need times of silence and solitude so that we can prepare a way for God within us. Our cells are so often lost in the wilderness of our false-sense of self that is so cluttered with the junk that suffocates our souls. God wants to walk with us in the wilderness of our cells to show us God’s true love and grace within our essence, that is our eternal truth. Advent is the time in which we journey with St. John the Baptist to contemplate our relationship with God and ourselves to find healing and reconciliation through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice that everyday calls out this charge: If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts (Psalm 95:8).” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.15,16).

What does the wilderness of your heart look like today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Visit my website about my 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. Thank you so very much. Pax.