Reflection on the Ruined Temple

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“Jesus said, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.'” (John 2:19 NRSV).

“Abba Alonius said, ‘If I had not destroyed myself completely, I should not have been able to rebuild and shape myself again.” (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Sayings Annotated & Explained by Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, p.51).

Our journey into Holy Week seems to show life as Jesus knew it falling apart.  Yesterday on Palm Sunday, the crowds welcomed Him with “Hosanna!  Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord.”  Then we moved right to Good Friday.  Today, the Gospel chosen for this day takes us back to John 12:1-11.   So why, you would be right to ask me, am I all the way back to John 2:19?

Yesterday, during the reading of the Passion according to St. Mark, we heard that the witnesses at Jesus’ trial testify falsely to what He said about the destruction of the temple, and raising it up again.  I am back at this story in the earlier part of John’s Gospel, because I think it speaks to us about where we are in Holy Week from a Contemplative point of view.

I am disturbed by the words of Abba Alonius in which he said “If I had not destroyed myself completely.”  But, then he goes on with a striking parallel to what Jesus said in John 2:19 about raising up the temple again.

In her commentary on these words of Abba Alonius, Christine Valters Paintner writes,

“The paradox in the spiritual life is that this journey through destruction is necessary to reach any kind of resurrection or new life beyond it.  We are rebuilt and reshaped through this process.  We must fully surrender ourselves to the awfulness of it.  We must stay present with how we feel and bring compassion to ourselves in the process.  We must learn to no longer feel victim to our suffering, but to instead discover a kind of inner fierceness that allows us to look death in the eye without flinching” (p.50).

It is such a mystical experience to contemplate that God uses our brokenness through the Passion and Death of Jesus; to helps us rebuild our personal interior ruins into a new person, with a new structure and a new life.  We tend to see our troubled humanity in Jesus for what it is on the surface; and it is terrible.  But when we spend some time in solitude and silence with the great mystery of what Jesus does with us during Holy Week, we can experience the power of Christ destroying those temples of our false-sense of self within us that holds on to grudges, anger, resentment, grief and addiction.  Christ comes to demolish these stones that we have held up for so long, by walking with us through them as they are, as we are; so that by God’s grace God can transform us into a newer and more glorious temple where the Resurrection is visible and tangible.  It begins with us praying and being open to God’s work within our deepest cells.

“First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to him most earnestly to bring it to perfection” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English, p.15).

“8. 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).

What temples in your life will you let Jesus help you destroy, so that you can be rebuilt anew?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See: The Community of Solitude

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Reflection on Our Ability

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Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven will be as when a man, going on a journey. summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.”  (Matthew 25:14 NRSV).

There are some who are going to be surprised by what I am beginning this blog reflection with.  I am a disabled man.  I have Asperger’s Syndrome (also known now as an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, ASD).  I have other mental health issues and physical limitations.  I walk with a cane.  I require a handicapped parking placard.  I use a motorized cart when I go grocery shopping.   I was declared disabled in 2011.  It ended my long and beloved career as a church musician and organist.  I have lost a lot of my energy and ambition to do many of the things I was once able to do.  It is a struggle to adjust.  It is difficult for me to tell someone else that I need their help.   I know what it is to have had abilities to do things that I wanted and needed to do without thinking much about it; to this point in my life when I have to think a little bit longer to do just about anything).

What does this Gospel of Matthew have to say to me and all of us when Jesus said in the parable, “He entrusted his property…….to each according to his ability”?   Quite frankly I am tired of the guilt trips I have gotten because folks think my talents are being wasted or not used.   They have been used.  God did God’s work through me for the long years I did what I did.  But, the time has come for me to let it all go, and take what God has given me in this moment, in the here and now and let God use me according to my ability.

That is why I now live a Benedictine Monastic life as a hermetical.   I am not part of any community per say at this time.  But, I am still who I am called to be, and entrusted by God with God’s property to cooperate with God’s grace with the abilities I now have.

These words from Matthew are about letting go of what we want to do, or want to have to do what we think we should do.  These words tell us to allow God to draw us all into a deep, contemplative awareness of God, and find God’s opportunity for us in the mystery of God’s perspective of each of us.  God sees each of us through the lens of the love of Jesus Christ and the power of God’s Holy Spirit.   God sees the great potential we have in the work God has given us to do in the here and now.  God does not expect us to jump through hoops if we don’t have the legs and muscles to be able to do so.  God calls us as we are, with what abilities God has given us to seek union with God, in the purity of heart; by which we seek God for God’s sake alone and not what God can do.

The first step of humility, then, is that we keep ‘the reverence God always before our eyes (Ps. 35:2)’ and never forget it.  (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr. Joan Chittister, p.79).

What is God entrusting you with according to your ability.

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

see  http://www.cos-osb.net

Advent Reflection: Waiting, Hungry and Empty

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“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).

 

 

Advent Reflection: Rest for A While

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Insignificant man, escape from your everyday business for a short while, hide for a moment from your restless thoughts.  Break off from your cares and troubles and be less concerned about your tasks and labors.  Make a little time for God and rest a while in him. (Proslogion by St. Anselm of Canterbury. The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume 1 Advent and Christmas Season, p.192).

I could not be happier that today’s Office of Readings includes a piece of writing from St. Anselm of Canterbury.  I just love it when my name’s sake shows up.  lol

One of my yearly traditions is that I do not decorate my apartment with a Christmas tree or other holiday favorites until after the 17th of December.  I avoid listening to Christmas Carols until Christmas Eve.  I avoid the stores and long lines as much as I possibly can.  I like to celebrate Advent as I believe it should be.  Advent is a wonderful Season that gets robbed of it’s significance because of the holiday rush. That is why I believe that this reading from St. Anselm about taking some time out for God is so timely.

Advent is a wonderful time for contemplative prayer.  It is a great opportunity to withdraw from our busy lives and “make a little time for God and rest a while in him.”  We look for God in the dazzles our minds with all that is magnificent; and of course God is there.  It is important that we offer our prayer to God wherever we are; as I wrote about in yesterdays blog post.  It is equally essential to take some time with the Holy One and breathe in God’s holiness and breathe out all that stuff that crowds up our interior space that keeps God and us at a distance that is not there.  In contemplative prayer and the mystical experience, God becomes the center of our being looking to live in a holy union in the wholeness of who we are.  After all, God is the One who loves us beyond our imagination.

Are you making time for God to rest in God for a while?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Advent Reflection: Contemplate the Ordinary

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Contemplation is not the stuff of charlatans, telepathists, and magicians.  Contemplation is about very basic, very real things.  It is about seeing God in everyone, finding God everywhere, and responding to all of life as a message from God.  Contemplation is not a road show of visions.  It is not spiritual snake oil. It is not an exalted state of being.  It is simply consciousness of the Ultimate in the immediate. (Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB.  Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light).

I am really not able to write more or better than Sr. Joan Chittister wrote so eloquently in the quote above.  Instead, I want us to reflect for a while on what does the quote have to do with Advent?

In many ways, our most sacred text known as the Holy Bible is misleading due to the many stories of miracles and extraordinary events.  Before my readers get too worked up about what I just wrote concerning Sacred Scripture; I want us to continue to ponder what Sr. Joan wrote above.  She is attempting to help us understand that contemplative prayer is about our relationship with God in the ordinary here and now.  We want God to send us some magical bolt of lightening that takes all of our problems away.  We want to use contemplative prayer and often centering prayer as a way to escape the reality of what is around us.  However, God is seeking union with us, so that we may seek union with God in what is happening in front of us, or around us at this very moment.

In this Season of Advent, we are focusing on awaiting the arrival of our Savior to rescue us. We long for Christ to come in glory and take us away from the violence and misery we are witnessing in our world.  There is another piece of Advent that is just as important.  The God we are waiting for and seeking, has already come to us in Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh.  God who is one with us in Christ is still among us in The Holy Spirit.

In the same book of Sr. Joan’s that I quoted above, I now conclude this reflection with the following quote.

Genuine Spirituality is not spent escaping from life to live in a mental state of unconcern or other worldliness.  Contemplatives do not seek “visions.” They simply seek to know God, the God present in them and around them, in others and in everything, in Goodness and Truth, in universal love and universal peace.  To contemplatives God is not a magic trick.  God is the very breath they breathe.

How are you contemplating the presence of God in the here and now this Advent?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Advent Reflection: No Need to Speak

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For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place where your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it.  (1 Thessalonians 1:8).

Saint Benedict regarded silence as one of the most important aspects of Monastic life.  In Chapter 6 in The Rule Benedict he wrote:

I was silent and was humbled, and I refrained even from good words (Ps. 38 [39]:2-3).  Here the Prophet indicates that there are times when good words are to be left unsaid out of esteem for silence.

The words from Paul to the Thessalonians and The Rule of St. Benedict are telling us that our faith is most often best known when we maintain silence.  The Word of God sounds forth from us as we spend time silently in the presence of God; allowing God to speak to our hearts in Contemplative and Centering Prayer.  When we live in silence from the essence of who we really are and seek union with God in all we do there is no need for us or others to speak of it.  Our faith in the Holy One who has made us not one, but not two brings us to the holy union that we desire with God in faith, trust and love.

In this Season of Advent as we await to celebrate God coming among us in Christ, our silence with the Word of God is imperative to be the faithful People of God we were created and redeemed to be.

How is your silence with the Word known so that there is no need to speak of it?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

 

Advent Reflection: Lift, Trust, Wait

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To you Lord I lift up my soul; my God I have put my trust in you; you are God my Saviour; for you have I waited all day long (Psalm 25:1,4 The New Zealand Prayer Book, p. 568).

One of the many themes of the Season of Advent is “waiting.”

Waiting is a lost art in our “get it right now” society.

Just press an icon on our iPhone (or Smart Phone) and we can make a call, check a text, play a game or find out how far Paris, France is from where we are standing.  I grew up in the age of having to own a telephone, a phone book, waiting for several days, maybe a week for a piece of mail and needing to know how to read a map.  Is it any wonder that we are society growing more impatient everyday?

The Advent themes of watching and waiting is best described in the Daily Office of Vigils.  Also known in The Rule of Saint Benedict as the “Night Office.”  After Compline (Night Prayer) the Monks slept until they were woken about 2am for the Night Office of Vigils.  The purpose of the Office was and still is to be watchful for the coming of Christ at any hour of the day or night.  In the Second Letter of St. Peter chapter 3 vs. 10 we read, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”  In the Gospel of Matthew chapter 24:44 Jesus said “Therefore, you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”  The Monks rise to lift up there souls to God in the singing of the Psalms that they may put their trust in God and be ready to receive the Holy One they are waiting for.

God invites us in this Season of Advent to lift up our souls to God, to trust God as our Savior.  It is God’s grace reaching out for us from God’s perspective to seek union with God wherever we are, whatever we are doing.  Whether we are praying, working, relating, helping, or being quiet; God is searching for union with us in that moment.

How are you lifting up your soul to God; to trust in God for Whom you are waiting?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB