Lectio Divina

 

Ground elements of its structure

 

 

 

"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ."
St. Jerome, A.D. 340-420

"To get the full flavor of an herb, it must be pressed between the fingers, so it is the same with the Scriptures; the more familiar they become, the more they reveal their hidden treasures and yield their indescribable riches."
St. John Chrysostom, A.D. 347-407

"The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New" 
St. Augustine, A.D. 354-430

"All troubles of the Church, all the evils in the world, flow from this source: that men do not by clear and sound knowledge and serious consideration penetrate into the truths of Sacred Scripture."
attributed to St. Theresa of Avila, A.D. 1515-1582
 

 
 
Lectio Divina  means "Divine Reading" and refers specifically to a method or a school of loving and penetrating the Scripture,  practiced by monks and nuns since the  2nd  century.

In their Rules St. Basil and a bit laterSt. Benedict   (see:Chapter 48 of the Regula Monasteriorum) establish the centrality of reading and meditating the Sacred Scriptures as the main way to grow in Christ’ s  stature and fullness; this way helps the monks and nuns humble and obedient like the divine Master.

Much later, on 11th century a Carthusian monk, whose name was Guigo 1 structured a method of Lectio Divina in a  letter known as Scala Paradisi  (Stairway to Heaven): he was to order and describe the four steps in his method of Bible reading, as shown below:

 

  • lectio (reading): "looking on Holy Scripture with all one's will and wit"
  • meditatio (meditation): "a studious searching with the mind to know what was before concealed through desiring proper skill"

 

  • oratio (prayer): "a devout desiring of the heart to get what is good and avoid what is evil"

 

    • contemplatio (contemplation): "the lifting up of the heart to God tasting somewhat of the heavenly sweetness and savour"

    In  this practice of Lectio Divina  some Authors add  three other steps to the four mentioned above; consequently we might have seven steps:

    • statio (position)
    • lectio (reading)
    • meditatio (meditation)
    • oratio (prayer)
    • contemplatio (contemplation)
    • collatio (discussion)
    • actio (action)

     

    • Statio


    First, we stay restful  and non-distracting ( the lighting of candles or the burning of incense… may help makes one feel calm and at peace). Then we assume a bodily posture that is conducive to prayer and reading. We breathe slowly, focusing on the Holy Name of Jesus and nothing else, until we are relaxed and able to focus our attention solely on Scripture.  If our minds wander, we gently bring our attention back to the Holy Name of Our Lord, breathing in and out rhythmically

     

    Note that, unlike in Eastern non Christian methods of prayer which seeks to empty oneself to be open to some great "Nothing", we seek the fullness and  are ever mindful of the One Almighty  and Transcendent God, the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit;  and our silence and prayer look as a calm and peaceful attitude in order to open  ourselves,  so that what He might reveal to us through His Word may more easily be perceived and bring our lives into the divine splendor.

    It is good if the place chosen for Lectio Divina is a comfortable area chosen just for this and other prayerful activities. Of course one suggested may be the monastic Choir or the holy Sacrament  Chapel.  The presence of relevant icons and other visual aids to meditation can be of great benefit.

    This or a similar Prayer before the Reading of any text of the Holy Scripture may introduce this activity  in and with the Holy Spirit:

    Come Holy Ghost, fill the hearts and minds of the faithful servants, and inflame them with the fire of Thy divine love.

    Let us pray: O God, who by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, didst instruct the hearts of thy faithful servants; grant us in the same Spirit, to discern what is right, and enjoy His comfort forever, through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who lives and reigns, one God, with Thee and the holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.

    1. Lectio


    When we fill  relaxed and in a contemplative  fashion, we start with  the Sign of the Cross before the open book of the Word of God. Some may want to focus on Scripture read in the daily Office or Mass, without a previous choice. Others may want to focus only on the New Testament or the Psalms. In a few moment of silence the Spirit may suggest  what is easily digested at that time. Whichever selection we choose, we read it with our mind and with our heart, slowly, coming to an understanding of the words themselves.

    In reading the Scripture we need also a human  help! May be a known Commentary or the Writings of the Fathers,  in order to get a good grasp of the meaning of the text and context of the revealed Word. We should always approach Scripture with the mind of the Church, in the spirit of the Ethiopian Eunuch who asked Philip to guide him  (Ac.  8, 30-31).

    And never forget that when you meditate the Scripture,  you are in no way a single reader, you read as a living member of the Body of Christ, so you read also for the welfare of the entire mystical Body.

    We should always keep in mind Peter's admonition that "no prophecy of scripture is made by private interpretation" (2 Peter 1:20) and that Scripture can be difficult to understand, something "which the unlearned and unstable wrest...to their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:16). Peter, remembering in his letter the difficulty to understand sometime the Paul’ s teaching  seems to invite Christians today to assume an attitude of humility and emptiness before the holy Book.

    If you come to a verse you don't understand, or that you understand in a way that is contrary to Catholic teaching, seek traditional Catholic commentary on it. Any apparent contradiction between Scripture and Catholic teaching is just that: apparent, and not real. As an example, even a simple verse such as one that refers to Mary's "firstborn" will be misunderstood if one is ignorant of Jewish law, as are many Protestants who believe that reference to a "firstborn" means there must be a "secondborn," and who then go on to deny Mary's virginity. Seek a Catholic commentary which would refer you, in this case, to the Old Testament law of the "firstborn" and will teach you what that word really means (see Ex 13:2, 14-15, Nb 18:15.
    1. http://www.fisheaters.com/lectio2.jpgMeditatio


    Now we meditate on what we have read, perhaps even reading it again, visualizing it and listening for the aspect of it that reveals the Divine Mysteries. We want the deeper, spiritual meanings of the words now, enter if possible in  its analogical  or eschatological  sense and its typical  or allegorical  sense -- i.e., we consider types and anti-types, shadows and symbolism in order to understand the deeper reality the Holy Ghost intends to convey by arranging nature and history as He did, thereby inspiring the writer of the text to write as he did.

    This might be not  possible for someone. If so, a spiritual Guide may suggest few  Writings of the Fathers or a Commentary written by a catholic Scientist of the Bible.

     

    1. Oratio

    We have said above we need humility to approach the reading of the Word; this attitude will help the transition to this important step. In fact we don’ t read the Scripture for a relevant cultural purpose; it has to help us go further in the process of divinization; so we  ask God for the grace to be changed by what we have read, to come more fully into being what He wants us to be, and to help us apply the tropological (or "moral") sense of the Scripture to our lives.

    1. Contemplatio

    Is that particular attitude by which we become like Angels on earth. Our soul remains in grateful adoration

     

    1.  Collatio


    If we are engaging in Lectio Divina with others, we discuss what we've learned.


    Actio
    We live what we have learned.
    Lectio Divina  is and must become a school of life,  the process of divinization is not a private gift, it has to be shown in humility and joy, it has to spread out, bringing to the people around us our happiness in order to let them participate to the Source of our spiritual peace.

    Then the Word of God becomes the main structure of  our lives.

     

     

     
     
    Footnote
    1 Guigo lived A.D. 1083/4 - 27 July 1136/8. He was also known as "Guigues du Chastel" or "Guigo de Castro" or "Guigo II" http://www.fisheaters.com/scrollup.gif
     
     

     

     

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