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

 

 

Reflection on Stillness and Waiting

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My soul truly is still, and ‘waits for’ God: from ‘whom comes’ my deliverance. (Psalm 62:1, The New Zealand Prayer Book, p.256).

In our contemporary world of high speed internet, automatic teller machines and microwave ovens: the notion of remaining still and waiting seems like ancient history.

The practice of silence, solitude, being still and waiting are gifts of God to us to center ourselves on the One who gives us life and hope.  These gifts do not come in packages to be unwrapped or emails to be opened.  They come through the constant, yet, changing rhythms of daily life.  Within our ordinary moments of life, God is calling to us to pause, be still and wait for God to deliver us.

Saint Antony of the Desert once wrote, “He who sits alone and is quiet has escaped three wars: hearing speaking, seeing: but there is one thing he must continually fight: that is, his own heart.”

It also bears repeating that Saint Benedict picks up on this very theme when he begins the Prologue of The Rule with the words, “Listen to the masters instructions.  Incline the ears of your heart.”

The Psalmist, St. Antony and St. Benedict by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit urge us to give God the opportunity to make our souls still and wait for God to be our Deliverer.  We can give God that opportunity in our personal time of prayer in solitude.  We can also seek union with God in stillness through our relationships with others; even when they are not so peaceful.

How and where are you finding time to still your soul and wait for deliverance from God?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

 

 

Lenten Reflection: Waiting for God

Serenity

But as for me, I will look to the Lord,
I will wait for the God of my salvation;
my God will hear me.

Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy;
when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be a light to me.
I must bear the indignation of the Lord,
because I have sinned against him,
until he takes my side
and executes judgement for me.
He will bring me out to the light;
I shall see his vindication.  (Micah 7:7-9 NRSV).

The issue most of us have with waiting for God, is that we do not know what we are waiting for.  Waiting for God is not like putting coins into a vending machine and you may or may not get what you want.  Waiting for God means waiting not on what we want or even what we hope for.  Waiting for God is just what the words say.  To wait for God is to be prepared to negate our will and to look for God alone with a pure heart.  Most of us wait for God hoping that God will give us what we want.  If we get what we want we thank God for the time being until the next time we want something.  The cycle repeats itself.

Lent is about going beyond our typical cycles.  It is a time to deepen our relationship with God. It is a time of waiting with anticipation for the celebration of Holy Week and Easter.  The waiting time of fasting, prayer and alms-giving makes us yearn for a Holy Easter as St. Benedict wrote in Chapter 49 of The Rule.  In the mean time, we must wait for God.  As we wait for God not only in this Season, but also in our lives we are surrounded by our enemies from within.  Impatience.  A tendency towards poor charity towards our neighbor.  Looking for others to blame for our issues, while ignoring our responsibility to look after ourselves for the sake of others.  These and others I could mention seek to rejoice over us as they draw us away from God into our false-sense of self.

These words from Micah tell us to prefer to wait for God and to trust that “He will bring me out to the light; I will see his vindication.”  God’s light and vindication are not to be seen as revenge.  God’s way is mercy, forgiveness and grace through faith.

As we wait for God to come we eventually discover that God is already present.  While we were waiting for God to come as we thought God should, God shows up in new ways that save us from our certainty.  God comes to take us from our static and abstract understanding of how God works, to gently and lovingly escort us to a renewal of self in the Essence of God in union with our own essence.

As we wait for God, may we not close our eyes to how God is already present in the here and now.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB