Reflection on Possessions

Then Jesus called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:38-44 NRSV).

In a Benedictine community, the notion that we “own” anything is unacceptable. In The Rule of St. Benedict, he charges the monastery cellarer to “regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.55). Later in Chapter 33, on Monks and Private Ownership, Benedict quotes from Acts 4:32 writing “All things should be the common possession of all” (p.56). Things and people in a Benedictine community are on loan and not ends in themselves.

We live in a society of consumerism on steroids. The holiday shopping commercials are already in full swing. The better the gift, the less expensive the deal, the more stuff accumulated and the more stuff possesses us. Our false-sense of self becomes more inflated, thinking our security is found in what we own.

In her book Praying with Benedict, Katherine Howard wrote, “The cure for our insecurity is not the accumulation of material goods, but trust in God” (p.101).

The contemplative is always searching for the One who is invisible in what is visible. A contemplative lives in the simplicity of learning that God loans what we use to us, out of God’s abundance. We seek union with God because God is always generous in the revelation of God’s Self disclosure in Jesus the Christ. God sees us from the perspective of being loved, as God gives to us from the fullness of Who God is. God wants us to let go of all that possesses us, so that God is all we desire. The contemplative searches for God with purity of heart. A purity that comes from our essence, that is our eternal truth of who we are in relationship with God. It is in God that we lay the foundation of our true selves.

Abba Moses asked Abba Silvanus, “Can a man lay a new foundation every day?” The old man said, “If he works hard he can lay a new foundation every moment” (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, by Christine Valters Paintner, p.57).

Are you searching for union with God through the things in your life?

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 ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so much.

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: Waiting, Hungry and Empty

emptyspace

 

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7, The Book of Common Prayer, p. 633).

A very wise spiritual director once told me that it is better to pray while feeling physically hungry.  His reasoning for this is that when we are hungry and wanting physically it is a reminder that we “do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).   There is also the famous words from the Beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God” (Matthew 5:3).  Matthew 5:6 is just as important. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

The inspiration for writing about waiting and being hungry came from a blog post by The Episcopal Bishop of Minnesota, the Rt. Rev. Brian Prior.

The Advent season invites us, dare I say challenges us, to NOT fill our waiting space. I know that sounds incredibly inefficient at best and uncomfortable at worst. However, when we allow our waiting space to be an empty place, in my experience, God’s grace begins to seep into our souls. I believe this is because God is always patiently waiting for us to empty our space in order to provide us with grace. And it is only that grace which will truly fill us, heal us and make us whole.

It is hard for me to write words better than those.  So instead of writing more I will conclude this blog with the following question.

Are you allowing an empty place in yourself while waiting for God alone to fill you this Advent?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

“What, my dear brothers, is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us?” (The Rule of St. Benedict, The Prologue, vs.19).

 

 

What Eye Has Not Seen

Eye

“What eye has not seen, and ear not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love God” (1 Corinthians 2:9. The New American Bible).

St. Benedict uses these words at the end of chapter 4, On the Tools for Good Works in The Rule.  Benedict suggests that “What eye has not seen,,,,” is the “living wage” that God will grant to us when we return those tools on the day of judgement.  What we do not know about such a “living wage” is so incredibly amazing, that there is no part of the human being that can fully grasp the greatness of it.

The Tools for Good Works that St. Benedict wrote about are the corporal and spiritual the works of mercy.  They are those things which any Christian does out of love for God and neighbor.  What is notable in what Benedict is writing about in chapter 4, is that later in chapter 32 concerning the qualifications of the monastic cellarer, he states that the cellarer must “regard all the utensils of the monastery and its whole property as if they were the sacred vessels of the altar.”  It seems to me that whether we utilize the tools for good works or the tools to fix the broken DVD player, Benedict tells us that the God we cannot see is present there.

“Benedictine spirituality is a sacramental spirituality.  It holds all things–the earth and all its goods–as sacred.” (Sr. Joan Chittister, The Monastery of the Heart: An Invitation to A Meaningful Life, p. 115). 

All God asks for us to do today, is to search for God in faith and trust; so that what we cannot see, hear or comprehend is something so beyond our wildest imagination; that only in contemplative prayer can we see it from God’s perspective.   Even in contemplative prayer we will only catch a mere glimpse for a moment in time suspended by eternity.  Yet, it is so awesome and powerful; that no human eye, no human ear, or thought in the human heart can possibly comprehend all the good things God has for us who love God.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Advent Reflection: Keeping Watch with Reverence

Tools

Let the tools of the Monastery and its whole property be regarded as if they were the sacred vessels of the altar.  (RB. 31:10)

Allow no one to mistreat the Monastery’s tools and implements in a slovenly or careless way. (RB. 32:4).  (Both quotes taken from Benedict’s Way: An Ancient Monk’s Insights for a Balanced Life, p.91).

A couple of years ago, I made a serious mistake.  It was a busy night, as I was working at a Sunday Night Supper that our local Episcopal Cathedral does every second Sunday of the month.  I was helping to set up a place at a table with a place mat, silverware, napkin and drinking cup before someone sat down to eat.  After the person was finished eating and got up to leave I would clean up the place and reset it for another visitor. After I cleared a table and carried the dirty dishes to the cart, I was scraping the remains of the meal into the garbage when suddenly the fork itself slipped out of my hands and into the trash.  Before I could reach down and get it, several other volunteers came over with their plates and dumped more refuse on top of the fork and before I knew it, it was impossible for me or anyone else for that matter to retrieve it.  It was gone.  If I had been a more mature person than I was at the time, I would have disregarded the mess and gone through all the stuff and gotten the fork out.  But, I didn’t.  Instead, I went to the person who was the leader of the supper and apologized that I had lost the Cathedral’s fork in the trash.  Her look at me was “What’s the big deal?”   The big deal was, The Rule of St. Benedict‘s admonition to regard the things we use as if they are the sacred vessels of the altar.

“Benedictine spirituality is a sacramental spirituality.  It holds all things– the earth and all its goods–as sacred” (Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB The Monastery of the Heart: An Invitation to a Meaningful Life, p.115).

The things we use are to be handled with care and with reverence for the presence of God.  The tools that include the plates we eat from, the tools we use to make things, a pen, the computer I am using to write these words; all have a purpose in God’s plan for the world. It is up to us to seek union with God in prayer and reverence, through each thing we use, each person we interact with and each moment we spend.  When we just use things for the sake of themselves, then they actually own us.  When we take the time to acknowledge with reverence for God in all things, they become opportunities for prayer and contemplation.

Keep watch with reverence.  God has much to say.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB