Reflection on St. John the Baptist

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel”(See Luke 1:57-80 NRSV).

The Church celebrates today the birth of one of the most influential people of Desert spirituality. St. John the Baptist personified the vocation of solitude. It is more than fair to say, that the Monastic tradition of living in the silence and solitude of the desert has St. John the Baptist as our pioneer.

The desert life of St. John the Baptist was to “prepare the way of the Lord.” He accepted the unfavorable way of life. He abandoned the lure of wealth and power. His desert life was how he unlocked the mystery of the God that he and all of humankind was awaiting. John the Baptist knew that he was chosen by God for something so amazing, that he let go of everything that could tie him down. St. John the Baptist chose the freedom of solitude, to know the God that was to become the very essence of God’s presence in every human person.

“Like the Forerunner, you were intended for Christ,,,,,,, because the on,y reason for your existence on earth is to love and glorify Jesus” (The Hermitage Within: Spirituality of the Desert. Translated by Alan Neame., p.19).

Contemplation is the gift of God’s grace to grow in purity of heart. Contemplation is about letting go of all our pretenses so that we are liberated to experience the wonder of God. Contemplation is the grace of self awareness; that God is at work in ourselves and the world us in the mystical experience of which our human senses can neither comprehend or describe.

“As long as I am content to know that [Christ] is infinitely greater than I, and that I cannot know Him unless He shows Himself to me, I will have peace, and He will be near me and in me, and I will rest in Him” (Thomas Merton. Thoughts in Solitude, p.109).

“This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up,your own will, once and for all, and armed with the noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, The Prologue, p.15).

“Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him” (From the Short Rule of St. Romuald).

How are you called to be a forerunner for God in your daily life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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A Faint Reflection

Personality–liberty–is a treasure which is given to be increased and developed by union with the Divine Person of the Incarnate Word, Jesus, our Model and Savior.  Our Personality is a faint reflection of the Person of the Word, the natural Image of the Father. (Thomas Merton: The Life of the Vows: Initiation into the Monastic Tradition 6, p.15).

Reflections

These words of St. Thomas Merton (A Saint included in the Episcopal Churches’ calendar) are from a book I am reading as part of my formation.   These words tell us to treasure our personality and our liberty by giving it over to be developed by seeking union with God through Jesus Christ.   What a stark contrast to how we think of our personality and liberty.

We live in a world and age where private ownership of everything including our bodies, personalities and liberties are all up for us to grab onto.   Why contemplate that there is more beyond ourselves, when we make ourselves our own end?

The picture above gives us a very different perspective. The mountains with their snow caps, the grass, trees, sky seem as if they are all to themselves.  The reflection in the waters below shows the contrary.  The reflection is faint, but it reveals that the scene is not unto itself.  It shares all that it is and can be with the very waters that will flow past it; taking all the goodness of God with it.  It will bring light to darkness, hope to despair and life from death.  It will project the reflection of the Creator and Redeemer with all that is still veiled as the result of the faint reflection.  It will still make a notable difference where it may seem that change is impossible.

Today, may we not dwell so much on how imperfect of a reflection we are of Jesus and His Father.  Instead, may we take hold of the reflection God is making through us that may only be passing us by to impact our own lives and those of others for the brief moment of the contemplative vision.

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