Reflection on Storms and Faith

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:22-33 NRSV).

Among the many lessons we are learning this year is how unpredictable life is. Our lives can be going fairly well. Just like a storm out of nowhere, the coronavirus swept us all under our feet. Whatever the cause, or reason; this virus has brought international hardship and an entirely different life to our world.

Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew could not be more suited for what we are living through. The disciples are in the middle of a storm. The lives of everyone of those people is in danger. I don’t blame Peter for being so scared, even when Jesus calls him to step out and walk on the water. Everything around Peter is not predictable, including and especially seeing Jesus walking on water.

The contemplative message of this Gospel narrative is that Jesus comes to be with us during the storms of life. God may not stop the wind from blowing, or the water overflowing. We might take a step to walk on the stormy waters, and lose our faith during the journey. The storm is happening right now and right where we are. It is in through those tumultuous times of our lives (and oh are we all in them), that Jesus comes to us.

As Benedictines, we take a vow of Stability. The vow of Stability is a promise to place ourselves in the hands of God, with everything about us, as it is. The masks to cover our fears and wounded souls come off, in the vow of Stability. Stability means that even in the face of the storms of fear and change; we do not run away. Stability is our tool for facing God as we are, where we are in the here and now. It is through our vow of Stability, that we contemplate what God is doing in our lives through what we are living through in this moment; right here, right now.

The storms are raging on. Life is in chaos for all of us. Jesus is coming to us as we live through the storms of the coronavirus. It is time to let Jesus in to our hearts, to let Him receive us as we are. “The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in, from this time forth for evermore” (Psalm 121:8. The Book of Common Prayer, p.779).

“Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation. It is bound to be narrow at the outset. But as we progress in this way of life and faith, we shall run the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p. 19).

What is Jesus saying to you as you brave the storms of this difficult year?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB.

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Reflection on God’s Treasure

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:44-45 NRSV).

We are all living through a time with a lot of death around us. The COVID-19 pandemic has killed way too many people. We have been experiencing and grieving the death of the way our lives used to be before this international crisis. It is a painful time we are living through.

In the midst of the sickness and chaos, Jesus talks about His Kingdom being like a treasure hidden in a field, and a pearl that is so precious, that the owner sells everything they have to get the pearl. If you are feeling the grief and anger that so many of us are experiencing; it is perfectly understandable that our response to Jesus would be, “ Oh yeah? Then, when is enough, enough?” Whenever we draw a conclusion on God as to what is happening, we are cutting God and ourselves short.

“Try to enter your inner treasure-house and you will see the treasure-house of heaven. For both the one and the other are the same, and one and the same entrance reveals them both. The ladder leading to the kingdom is concealed within you.” (St. Isaac of Syria, in Kadloubovsky and Palmer, Writings from Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart, p. 30).

God’s greatest treasure is already and always within us. God has blessed us with our eternal truth within our essence. As Christians, we know that God gave Jesus as the Redeemer of our souls. God’s act of salvation on our behalf is because of how much God treasures us. We are the pearl that God sold everything to get for God’s Self. Even with all the muddy ness of a global pandemic, death and losses, there is always love deep in the heart of God that reaches out for us, in the very depths of who we are. In our tears, sadness, hopelessness and broken lives, God calls us to search for union with God who is ever present and hurting within us. God may not make things what we want them to be tomorrow or next week, but, in Jesus, God walks with us through it all.

As contemplatives, we know that the challenging times we are living through are a time in the desert. It is in this desert time, that everything that we really are is inescapable. We are hungry and thirsty. We are freezing from the darkness of isolation. We are overheated from news flashes going by with the rising number of new infections, and we can only do so much. In our desert experience, we cannot ignore our need for God to be our shepherd. So, we must do what St. Romuald wrote in his short rule. “Sit in your cell as in paradise.” We need to spend time with God in our cell (our hearts) with everything we are feeling, no matter how ugly we think it is, and allow God in God’s Grace to meet us there and be our nourishment and thirst quencher by faith and trust alone.

“In God’s goodness, we are already counted as God’s own…”

“The person who prays for the presence of God is, ironically, already in the presence of God.” (Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB. The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, p.5-6).

Do you see yourself and your neighbor as God’s treasure during this time of global pandemic?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Visit Br. Anselm Philip’s Ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

Reflection on Saint Benedict

My child, if you accept my words and treasure up my commandments within you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; if you indeed cry out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures—then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk blamelessly, guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path. (Proverbs 2:1-9 NRSV).

Let us think for a moment about the things we urgently search for. Our phones. Our keys. Money. The remote to our television set. Jewelry. A successful career. Popularity. Fortune. Control. We search for the most exciting. We crave what comes the easiest. We want things the way they were before COVID-19.

The writer of Proverbs tells us to want something so life-giving, that it would be better than chocolate in our mouth. The Wisdom of God is longing for us. If we will sit in silence long enough to “incline the ear of the heart” we will gain the a consciousness of God that will reform us to love God, our neighbor and ourselves in ways we would never have imagined.

In the Fall of 1993, I went to my first retreat at a Benedictine Abbey. It was my introduction to who Benedict was. I remember the first time I read some of The Rule of St. Benedict. My initial reaction was “What a weirdo he was.” Lol. Since that time, I have studied The Rule many, many times. For three years, I received spiritual direction from Fr. Anselm who is now the Abbot of Pluscarden Abbey in Scotland. That is in large part why I requested the name as my religious name, Whenever my life has edged out of where I should be, I eventually return to what I have learned from the life and The Rule of St. Benedict. Once I begin again to spend time praying my Offices, reading from The Rule, suddenly, even the roughest of experiences leads me into a deeper awareness of God.

In the RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English at the end of chapter 73 he wrote “Then with Christ’s help, keep this little rule that we have written for beginners.” Benedictine spirituality is not about being an athlete of religion. The contemplative way of St. Benedict is about beginning over and over to search for union with God through a life of continuous prayer. When we commit ourselves to beginning again the search for the wisdom of God in this very moment, we will receive an abundance of life from the storehouse of God’s greatest riches of grace.

During this time of sickness and death that is so overwhelming, we are gaining the opportunity to let go of what keeps us from living into our faith in God alone. As St. Benedict spent those three years in the cave at Subiaco and learned God’s Word; we too are in our own Subiaco time. What we do with our relationship with God during this time is up to us. God promises us the fruits of the resurrection even as we are staring death in the face. If we spend this time with our hunger for the Wisdom of God, and let God speak to our hearts in that desire, the best things are yet to come.

What are you desiring most from God during this time of a worldwide pandemic?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

O Lord my God, Teach my heart this day where and how to see you, where and how to find you. You have made me and remade me, and you have bestowed on me all the good things I possess, and still I do not know you. I have not yet done that for which I was made. Teach me to seek you, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me m or find you unless you show yourself to me. Let me seek you in my desire, let me desire you in my seeking. Let me find you by loving you, let me love you when I find you. Amen. (Prayer of St. Anselm of Canterbury, St. Benedict’s Prayer Book, p.118).

Please visit my website to learn about Br. Anselm Philip’s Ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

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Reflection on the Burning Heart

So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (See Luke 24:13-35 NRSV).

This Easter Gospel reading is among the best ways to understand Lectio Divina. The purpose of the prayerful reading of Scripture is to lead us to the spiritual experience of listening to Jesus teach our hearts through the Holy Spirit. When we read a scripture passage slowly and spend some time in silence as the Word goes deeper into our hearts, we are wanting to, “hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them” (The Collect for Proper 28, The Book of Common Prayer, p.236).

Jesus the Risen Christ met His friends on the road to Emmaus because they were disturbed. Jesus asked them questions, spoke with them about the things he mentioned many times before His crucifixion. Jesus was not tired of telling them. It was not until Jesus went in to eat with them, and broke the bread that they recognized Him for who He was.

When the disciples ask themselves the question “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking with us on the road…,” they were having the experience of human beings down through the centuries. God is often present and speaking very clearly through what is taking place before us in the here and now, but, we do not notice God’s presence.

All of us want this coronavirus crisis to go away so we can go back to how things were. We want to go back to our jobs and that sense of security we had. We all want to attend our churches, meet our friends and family without all this social distancing. However, that is not happening. But, are our hearts not burning as the Risen Christ walks among us, and talks to our hearts; drawing us ever more deeply into seeking union with God for the purpose of God alone? God in the Risen Jesus is so close to us in our hunger and thirst for a love that knows no bounds and is just there with us, so we can be with God. This is the heart of what Contemplation is about.

Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore the brethren should be occupied at certain times in manual labor, and again at fixed hours in sacred reading. (Chapter 48 On the Daily Manual Labor. St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, p.68).

Is your heart burning as the Risen Jesus is walking with and talking with you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Br. Anselm Philip’s Ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship

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Reflection on Easter in the Desert

“The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation .” (Psalm 118;14. The Book of Common Prayer, p.761).

Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

It hardly seems like Easter. Minnesota, where I live is getting a snow storm as I write this blog entry. Yet, the snow falling on Easter seems to fit. Many of us are used to being in our churches on Easter. Our churches are usually so crowded that extra chairs must be put out to accommodate the overflow. People go to Easter Sunday services while wearing the best spring clothes. It is always so wonderful when the sun is shining with nice warm weather on Easter.

Easter in the Year 2020 is not at all like what we are used to. The coronavirus is even preventing families from gathering for Easter dinner with relatives they have not seen since Christmas. Some people are rightly worried about those who are sick and suffering. Many are grieving the loss of those they love. How can we contemplate the mystery of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ with everything upside down?

The Desert Monastics lived their lives in such a way, that they were always in a world that was upside down from how many people functioned. The Mothers and Fathers of the Desert gave over everything that was considered “normal” for an unusual way of life through which they searched for a deeper union with God.

Christine Valters Paintner in her book Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings wrote,

“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 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).

The Easter experience of Resurrection is not without the pains of Good Friday. The victory of new life is always preceded by letting go of what is familiar, preferred and desired. Unless we spend time in contemplative prayer before the Cross, we will miss the mysticism of the empty tomb on Easter.

The chaos of the coronavirus can be overcome, by recognizing the inevitability of loosing everything as we have known them to be, and giving ourselves over to a new way of living for a whole new beginning.

Jesus and His Resurrection are our strength and our song, and Christ has become our salvation by the wondrous love of God.

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may Christ bring us to everlasting life.” (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.298).

Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

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

Reflection on Teaching the Heart

“Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; knit my heart to you that I may fear your name.” (The Book of Common Prayer, Psalm 87:11, p.710).

A knitter begins with an idea, then looks for a pattern before beginning a project. The one who knows how to attach yarn to a needle and sit for hours and days at a time, will be attentive and patient. They know that they will not complete the whole project within a day. Each day they pick up where they left off the day before. Maybe they missed a line completely and have to undo a few rows to start again. The joy that comes with the finished product only lasts a little while, then a new project begins.

The spiritual life and contemplative prayer are essentially the same idea as knitting. It is something that God begins in us. Each day and every opportunity gives us a chance to pick it up and keep going; knowing that God is the knitter and our hearts are being knitted to God’s ways. We learn God’s ways by letting go of being in control of the pattern and trusting in the Holy Spirit to guide the process. If something in our lives takes the work of God out of shape, God is always ready to help us begin again.

God’s truth is different from ours. God’s truth desires to have a deep intimate union with our essence; our eternal truth. When in our essence we search for union with the God who knows us better than we know ourselves; God will help get us going on God’s pattern of life. We just need to surrender the project of our heart to the master knitter’s hands.

How is God working to knit your heart to God?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See Br. Anselm’s website for Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

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 very much.

Reflection on God Knows You

“Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you….” (See Jeremiah 1:4-5a).

Many of the great spiritual authors have written that “the foundation of any spirituality is self knowledge.” Knowing ourselves is a life long journey. As our bodies go through the stages of life, our interior self travels further than where we physically stand. Our minds wander. Our hearts become fragile and broken. Our souls experience the brunt of the decisions we make, or others made for us. The journey can feel hopeless and fruitless.

The contemplative grows through God’s grace of self-awareness. A person who lives as a contemplative accepts the struggle to receive through faith what God is doing with us. As we read from the Prophet Jeremiah, God knew us before we were formed in our mother’s womb. God consecrated us to search for union with God in the here and now before we knew ourselves. Through the salvation brought to us by Jesus Christ, God has empowered us in the Holy Spirit to be God’s holy people. God loves us and brings us healing and wholeness in silence, solitude and contemplation.

The spiritual exercise of the prayerful reading of Scripture called Lectio Divina moves the Bible verse we are reading from our minds to our hearts. Once the words or sentence is in the whole of ourselves; we are to let the Holy Spirit teach us things about ourselves and ways that we can deepen our relationship with God in our lives. Through the powerful mystery of God’s word, we are transformed from glory to glory, and experience the presence of God. The experience of the holiness of God can become our inspiration to change the world around us.

“In God’s goodness, we are already counted as God’s own….” (From The Prologue to The Rule of St. Benedict).

As the word of God comes to you today, what are you listening to God telling you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Please visit my website to learn 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.

Reflection on the Unknown Holy Spirit

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” (John 14:8-17 NRSV).

One of the most toxic attitudes for a Christian is to think we have our relationship with God all figured out with nothing else to learn. It is destructive because we subconsciously shut God out. We close up our Pandora’s box and trap ourselves and the Holy Spirit into our ideology, our theology, ourselves. God is there with us, no doubt. The problem is that in a closed toxic space we live with God within our false-sense of self.

“Though we cannot know God we can love him whom we cannot know. By love he maybe touched and embraced, never by thought. Of course, we do well at times to ponder God’s majesty or kindness for the insight these meditations might bring. But in the real contemplative work you must set all of this aside and cover it over with a cloud of forgetting.” (The Cloud of Unknowing. Translated and Edited by William Johnston, p.46).

The reason the Holy Spirit is so unknown, is because of what we think we know about God and ourselves. When we live from our false-sense of self, we neither get to know God and ourselves intimately enough to grow in our relationship with God. “The first step of humility” wrote St. Benedict in Chapter 7 of The Rule, “is to keep the reverence for God before us at all times, and never forget it.” The Holy Spirit comes to invite the Contemplative to pray and live into and from our eternal truth in unity with God’s Eternal Essence.

Let us keep in mind that when the Holy Spirit came upon those gathered on Pentecost, the world around them was in chaos. To live into and from our eternal essence is to search for union with God through the chaos of our lives, and be open to how the Holy Spirit can transform us. We have to allow the Holy Spirit to tear our boxes open, and save us from our certainty, so that time and again we will grow in our relationship with God from our eternal essence. In our essence, we do not have to have everything in order. Our eternal essence knows that the Holy Spirit is unknown, and desires seeking God and loving God when we find God.

The Mysticism of the Holy Spirit, is that the God who is close enough to touch us, remains mysterious for eternity in the here and now.

Will you let the Holy Spirit help you live into and from your eternal essence today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Please visit my website to learn about my ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship.

If you want 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.

Reflection on Eye, Ear and Heart

St.BenedictStainedGlass

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (See 1 Corinthians 2:9 NRSV).

St. John Cassian in The Conferences, quoted Abba Moses who said, “Whenever the gaze strays even a little, we should turn back the eyes of the heart into the straight line towards [God].”

Christine Valters Paintner in her book, Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, Annotated & Explained wrote, “We often move through life skimming the surface with our eyes.  Our eyes become tired and blurry and we no longer see the sacred shimmering before us” (see pages 32-33).

In The Rule of St. Benedict, he quotes the words of 1 Corinthians 2:9 at the end of Chapter 4 On The Tools for Good Works.  St. Benedict invites us into contemplation that what God does with what we have is beyond anything we can grasp with our human senses.  When we let go of being the ones that must always determine the outcome of something we do or say; God’s plans for us still remain mysterious.  Yet, they are all that much more wonderful than anything we can “ask or imagine.” (See Ephesians 3:20, 21).

Anything that may be going on in our lives at this very moment, is an opportunity to let go and to love and trust in God.  Whether what is happening is something that goes as we had hoped for or not; God’s plans for us are extravagant.  In contemplative prayer we “listen to God with the ear of the heart.”  We do not have to have everything defined so neatly and perfectly.  Letting go of that desire is so very challenging, because we like things delivered to us perfectly wrapped up in a pleasant surprise.  God opens up our hearts to what God has for us, because of God’s love for us, and God’s desire in us is to love God with everything we have and are.  God’s mysticism is for us to open our hearts to thankfully receive; and to live into so that the world can be transformed and renewed by God’s Holy Spirit.

Where in your life are you experiencing God showing you amazing things?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on St. Anselm

AnselmPrayerPhoto

“For I do not seek to understand so that I may believe; but I believe so that I may understand.  For I believe this also, that ‘unless I believe, I shall not understand.” (Isaiah 7:9)  (The Proslogion by St. Anselm of Canterbury.  Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works, Oxford Classics, p.87).

The commemoration of St. Anselm of Canterbury is celebrated only every few years on April 21st.  It is often over taken by either Holy Week or Easter Week.  This year, however, we get to celebrate him on his feast day.

As I was approaching the end of my Postulancy to be Clothed as a Novice in May of 2013, I thought a great deal about what name I would ask for.  Anselm was at the top of my list.  I have many reasons for this choice.  The prayer in the image above that sums up Benedictine Spirituality so beautifully is one of those reasons.  The other reason is that beginning in 1997 to 2000, Fr. Anselm Atkinson, OSB who is now Abbot Anselm of Pluscarden Abbey in Scotland was my very wise spiritual director.   I cherish the many things he taught me as we worked together.

Anselm was a scholar and an intellectual.  He was a great teacher and writer of the Christian Faith.  Yet, as the above quote states, what he thought was worthless without the element of faith.  Faith and wisdom were among his many guiding principles.  His writings can lead us into the contemplative vision of God through his deep humility.  I can only hope that some day I will gain just a piece of that wisdom.

I could write many thoughts for reflection on St. Anselm, and they would all have their legitimacy.  However, I think it is best to conclude this blog by letting St. Anselm do that for us.

“While I am here on earth let me learn to know you better, so that in heaven I may know you fully; let my love for you grow deeper here, so that there I may love you fully.  On earth then I shall have great joy in hope, and in heaven complete joy in the fulfillment of hope.” (From the Proslogion by Saint Anselm, The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume II, p.1775).

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB