EXPAND YOUR READING!!

"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

BENEDICTUS MOMENTS

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Wednesday, 10 August 2016

LECTIO DIVINA FOR MONKS AND LAY PEOPLE

TALK TO HIS MONKS BY THE ABBOT OF BELMONT (UK)
Brethren,

......... It was a great joy, at the weekend, to have six members of the Manquehue Apostolic Movement, who are stationed at Ampleforth, come and stay at Belmont and give us a presentation of their work and spirituality.

Some of us older Belmont monks received our initial formation in pre-lectio divina days, when spiritual reading formed part of the monastic timetable. For half an hour each day, we were expected to read a spiritual book, but not necessarily the Bible. It is still a useful exercise for reading the great English mystics, the homilies of the Fathers and modern Christian authors. I am so glad we were trained to do that sort of reading and to have a set time for it each day. However, our present Constitutions speak of Lectio divina. I will read what they say, as we might have forgotten. It comes in the commentary on Chapter 48 of the Holy Rule, On the Daily Manual Work, in Section C, no. 49 and no. 50.
             “Lectio divina is an essential element of the monastic life, by which the monk hears and receives the Word of God, especially in the Scriptures, the Fathers of the Church and the tradition. It requires an adequate formation, and monastic studies should be ordered towards it."

            The life of the monastery is to permit and encourage the faithful practice of lectio divina. Each monk is to devote at least half an hour to it on days when there is no conference. It is the duty of each monk to inform the Abbot if any circumstances should arise which would prevent the regular practice of this duty.”

            Now to us oldies, it would seem that what was said of spiritual reading in the old Constitutions has simply be adapted to fit in with the current practice of lectio, but that isn’t the case. They are two quite different things. My own experience is that spiritual reading was really a form of study for which, thank God, there were no examinations. It was, essentially, the acquiring of knowledge, albeit spiritual knowledge for our spiritual benefit, but it was not an encounter with the living God and the transforming power of his Word, which is how I would describe Lectio. Although it nourished our spiritual lives, it didn’t lead us directly into mental prayer or, indeed, to putting into practice the Word of God.

Lectio divina came to my attention in the mid 80s, when I met Dom Bernardo Oliveira, who was soon to become Abbot General of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance. It was at a meeting of monastic communities in Argentina, where he gave a brilliant exposition on the subject.

To this day, I still use the simple, basic method he described, the four movements, as it were, of a symphony. 1) What does the word say in itself, what is this reading all about? 2) What does that word say to me? 3) What do I say to the word? 4) What happens next? That is, the intimate conversation between God and myself, which can lead to the silence of contemplative prayer, on the one hand, or to some action or decision, on the other. Obviously, there are as many ways of doing Lectio as there are people practising it, but it should be a life-changing experience that leads both to a deeper life of prayer and to conversion, a radical change of heart.

            It struck me, as we heard the testimony of our Manquehue brethren, that it might be useful to organise a Lectio divina workshop for ourselves, to help us improve our own experience of this valuable spiritual tool. We all stand in need of radical conversion to Gospel, Christian and Benedictine values. There are often times when I am horrified by how little I have allowed God to pierce hard shell of my sinful heart. How lacking I am in compunction. Only his word and his grace have the power to bring healing and salvation to our souls. Of course, there are other channels of grace, which the Lord uses daily in our lives, beginning with the Sacraments, above all the Eucharist and Confession. But these need the support and the context of an intense life of daily prayer, the Divine Office, Lectio divina and mental prayer. It is only when all these come together and work together that we begin to live that life envisaged by the monastic tradition and the Rule of St Benedict.

            Now St Benedict tells us that the goal of the monastic life is the twofold love of God and love of our brethren. You cannot have the one without the other. Hence, the “good zeal which monks must foster with fervent love.” He quotes St Paul to the Romans, “They should try to be first to show respect to each other,” (Rom 12:10) going on to say “supporting with the greatest patience one another’s weaknesses of body or behaviour, and earnestly competing in obedience to one another. To their fellow monks they show the pure love of brothers; to God, loving fear; to their abbot, unfeigned and humble love. Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.” Is that what we really believe and is that what we are really trying to achieve here at Belmont? It seems to me that the serious practice of Lectio divina would go a long way in helping us refocus our life in community, the vocation to which God has called us. Perhaps, this is what refoundation is all about.

            Let us pray this evening that God and our brethren will have mercy and compassion on our failings and weaknesses and help us to grow into the monks God wants us to be. Amen.


THE MANQUEHUE APOSTOLIC MOVEMENT AND LECTIO DIVINA
by
Consuelo Verdugo Member of the Manquehue Movement

The Manquehue Apostolic Movement and Lectio Divina

Monasticism also is life lived through a form of new evangelisation with regard to lay members of Benedictine and Cistercian families. Groups of oblates and lay fraternities are at the present time undergoing a definite renewal in many places. It has seemed to us interesting to show how the experience of lectio divina has given birth to an extraordinary initiative of evangelisation in the Manquehue Apostolic Movement in Chile in connection with the monastery of Las Condes. The witness here outlined is most impressive, and deserves to be brought to the attention of monasteries of the Benedictine tradition.

The Manquehue Apostolic Movement was founded in Chile in 1977 by José Manuel Eguiguren, a layman, now married with six children. The Movement can be described as a lay Benedictine monastery whose spiritual lung is lectio divina. The central community of the movement is constituted by the community of oblates of Manquehue, made up of forty men and women, some married and some who have chosen celibacy, and we try to establish a close union between faith and life. For this reason we work together, celebrate the liturgical hours and practise lectio divina in common. It is the personal and community contact with the Word of God that brought to birth the Movement of friendships, communities and apostolate which have allowed us to grow as a movement and to share with others the experience of meeting the Lord in his Word. It is this which has led us to found three schools with more than four thousand students, two houses of formation for young people in Chilean Patagonia, a house for women of the street and other initiatives. The Movement is lay, ecclesial and Benedictine. This means that we try to live our lay vocation profoundly, in filial relationship with our diocesan bishop and with the Rule of St Benedict as a point of reference and guide to form us and structure us as a community.

At this time more than fifteen hundred people meet each week in groups which we call ‘lectio groups’ to share how the Word of God is echoed in the life of each of us.

Listening to the Word

Jesus Christ speaks through the Word (in the Manquehue Movement we can witness to this) of the intimate and personal meeting with Christ which takes place when the Bible ceases to be any longer a book of history or general interest and becomes a place of meeting with the Lord. This is what happened to José Manuel in the 1970s, when, in the midst of a profound existential crisis, a Benedictine monk of the Abbey of Las Condes, Dom Gabriel Guarda, taught him to read the scriptures in such a way that the Risen Christ appeared in his life, brought light into his life and filled it with meaning. Dom Gabriel, at that time guestmaster and later abbot of his community, took the necessary time to listen to José Manuel, answer his questions, share his pain and help him to listen to the answers which God had for him in his Word. In a certain sense he taught him to do lectio divina, or prayerful reading of the scriptures, which is so much valued by monks.

What was more extraordinary, according to José Manuel, was that ‘it was not he who spoke to me, but he taught me to listen’. José Manuel could not keep this experience for himself, but, without really knowing how it happened, he found himself in charge of preparing for confirmation a group of students in the school in which he had himself studied. With these students he did the same thing as the monk had done with him: he took the Bible to walk together to the discovery of God’s will personally for each of them.

The Experience of a Meeting

This is what continues to occur day after day, from one person to another in the Movement. I myself have been a ‘victim’ of this experience. I am a celibate oblate of the Manquehue Movement and a former pupil of our schools, and I still remember the experience I had in seeing so many adults who insisted on becoming my friends and also inviting me to share the Word of this book which I found remote and strange. Little by little I found that these readings which we made each morning to begin the day and which we shared in retreats or other activities were addressed to me personally. The first time I discovered that there was something strong and different in the Bible was when a Manquehue oblate in the course of a retreat sent us to read the passage about Zacchaeus for half-an-hour. Obviously in a few minutes I had read the text, despite the effort I made to deepen it further; however, I realized that the oblate was going to do the same thing, and that afterwards we would share it. I was impressed that he should be capable of drawing so many ideas from these few lines: ‘Zacchaeus was trying to see which was Jesus, but as he was small he could not see him because his view was blocked’ (Luke 19.3). It seemed to me that I was Zacchaeus and that circumstances blocked me from meeting Christ. At the end of this meeting he told me that he had been doing lectio for two years and from this very fact he could penetrate more deeply. This aroused in me the desire that the Word should speak to me in the same way.

I must acknowledge in addition that the possibility of taking part in the missions of the College was for me without doubt the place of a marvellous meeting with the living God. The experience of living through these days in community, of praying together, announcing and proclaiming together our faith, with in addition meetings and conversations with the villagers who gave us their own witness of Jesus Christ with a moving simplicity was inspiring. Nor could one forget that, when we finished these conversations and opened our Bible to choose a reading by chance, time after time we had the feeling that God himself was intervening with his force and his power, in a way more powerful and more convincing than anything we had said before.
Cristobal who visited Belmont
ex-headmaster of Colegio San Anselmo

Obviously this awakening was neither continuous nor always uplifting. There were periods of boredom and of desert. I often found it difficult to attend my lectio group, the activities of apostolate and – more than this – in my final year of school I was hit by a car and could not any longer take part in the missions. This made me question the whole meaning of my life. I remember that a friend gave me a cassette with a song sung by herself which went, ‘I hope that when you look around you do not see that life has escaped you’. I was very afraid that life had escaped me. I was already eighteen years old, and what was to prevent the rest of my years passing without my accomplishing anything?

After a certain time out of school I felt the need to do something. The first idea that came into my head was to accept to go and live an experience of community life and mission of the Movement in São Paulo, Brazil. I was led to take this decision by the memory of the happiness which I had found at the school when we were working in various apostolates. To go to Brazil was for me a little like returning and finding again that force, that energy, that vitality which I had known. Brazil allowed me to reflect and put a name to the situations which I had lived through. Life in community was a challenge, and little by little I received the Word in the first person singular. I remember how my first hours of lectio on a Sunday seemed to me interminable, but finally I gradually came to rejoice, finding readings which grabbed my heart: ‘I used to know you only by hearsay, but now my eyes have seen you’ (Job 42.5).

The experience in Brazil was much stronger than I had thought at first. I was always thirsty for more: more life, more peace, more meaning, and suddenly I was finding my place, not in a comfort-zone but through the challenge of love and of the community. I felt the challenge of giving myself more completely by taking particular responsibilities. I remember that on the Feast of the Transfiguration I was alone in one of the offices of the school, reading the Gospel of the day. I could not concentrate, and my eyes slipped to the opposite page. The words which I read struck me violently: ‘Anyone who wishes to come to me must renounce self, take up the cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life must lose it, and whoever loses his life because of me will save it’ (Luke 9.23.24). The message I was receiving was clear: I had a huge thirst for Life, and the Gospel was showing me the way: ‘Lose your life, give yourself, come – he was calling me – follow me; you will live the cross, but do not be afraid, because I am inviting you to true Life.’ I must confess that I was filled with panic, but I was safe because no one yet knew what was happening to me: ‘Was I not in the course of auto-suggesting to myself writings which had been written thousands of years before and for the whole of humanity?’ I decided to open the Bible one last time quite by chance and to act according to what I read. I prayed and called on the Holy Spirit, and opened the Bible: ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life and life was the light of all people’ (John 1.1.4). I had no need to go on reading; God had given me an answer: if he had made all things by his Word, he could equally well complete my vocation.

From Vocation to Mission

I could not keep to myself that word which had been revealed to me. I had received so much, a community, a meaning to life, a work, a mission. I saw so many young people thirsty for meaning and confronted by the need to meet face to face, themselves, the living and risen Christ. I saw clearly all the possible opportunities to share and proclaim the Word; I could not be halted by human respect, according to St Paul’s exhortation, ‘Proclaim the word, insist in season and out of season’ (2 Timothy 4.2).

True Reality

The life of the Movement sprang from and continues to spring from lectio divina. In practical terms this means setting aside each day a time in the horarium for listening to the Word: at the beginning of a meeting, in all the apostolates, the works, the missions, scout camps, in schools, before a conversation; everything begins with a reading from the Gospel, with a time of listening to share the way in which this Word speaks personally to us, to each of us. For we need to nourish ourselves continually by this meeting. It does not occur once and for all, but we need to listen to the call each day, to receive the exhortation each day, each day we need to wake up to the reality of God.

The reality, said Benedict XVI to us at Aparecida, is God and for this reason ‘one who recognises in the Word of God the basis of everything is a realist’ (VD 10). It is easy to lose perspective and to cease to see with God’s eyes and with faith. From that moment onwards we torture ourselves for our duties, our preoccupations or our problems. Each day brings us a thousand contradictions or difficult situations which we must confront, difficulties of communication, disappointment, sterility. It is easy to lose courage and no longer see the meaning of so much effort and so much energy. It is possible to understand this only in God and in the certainty of his love for us. To re.turn to God then becomes an absolute necessity, to question God so that he may show us the logic of each situation or give us the strength to take up our cross every day and to see it as a way of life. The Word gives us the opportunity to unite faith and life, to discover why, as the Council says, ‘it is only in the light of faith and by reflection on the divine Word that one can know God at all times and in all places. It is in him that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17.28), seek his will in every event, contemplate Christ in every person, whether they are relatives or strangers, and indeed judge the meaning and value of things in themselves and in relation to people (Apostolicam actuositatem, 4).

This is our mission: to listen to the Word in order to open eyes to the powerful reality that God is truly present, alive, active, and to live our life in this way with different criteria, those of the Kingdom, in the certainty that in him we have eternal life.

The Nourishment of the Word

The Word not only enlightens us and gives us strength, but we can also say that it acts by itself. It has a power possessed by no other argument and no other action. It changes the heart and brings it back to God. It is water and bread for the road; it is a sure guide. It teaches how to exist as a community and to discover the face of Christ in my brother and sister in community. The community is also the guide and teacher of the Word. It leads us to share and proclaim our faith. The Word teaches us to pray and arouses in us the sense and taste for the Eucharist. In lectio divina it is Christ who comes to meet us, explains to us the scriptures, inflames our heart, and in this warmth begins to make our heart beat anew; it begins to live a new life, a life of plenty. Christ comes to meet us face to face, he speaks to us as a man speaks to his friend, and his words are not chance words; they are the words of eternal life.
Secrétariat AIM, 7, Rue d’Issy  F - 92170 VANVES France








Lectio Divina: Accepting the Embrace of God 
by Luke Dysinger OSB of St Andrew's Abbey
source: Valyermo




1. THE PROCESS of LECTIO DIVINA


A VERY ANCIENT art, practiced at one time by all Christians, is the technique known as lectio divina - a slow, contemplative praying of the Scriptures which enables the Bible, the Word of God, to become a means of union with God. This ancient practice has been kept alive in the Christian monastic tradition, and is one of the precious treasures of Benedictine monastics and oblates. Together with the Liturgy and daily manual labor, time set aside in a special way for lectio divina enables us to discover in our daily life an underlying spiritual rhythm. Within this rhythm we discover an increasing ability to offer more of ourselves and our relationships to the Father, and to accept the embrace that God is continuously extending to us in the person of his Son Jesus Christ.

Lectio - reading/listening

THE ART of lectio divina begins with cultivating the ability to listen deeply, to hear “with the ear of our hearts” as St. Benedict encourages us in the Prologue to the Rule. When we read the Scriptures we should try to imitate the prophet Elijah. We should allow ourselves to become women and men who are able to listen for the still, small voice of God (I Kings 19:12); the “faint murmuring sound” which is God's word for us, God's voice touching our hearts. This gentle listening is an “atunement” to the presence of God in that special part of God's creation which is the Scriptures.

THE CRY of the prophets to ancient Israel was the joy-filled command to “Listen!” “Sh'ma Israel: Hear, O Israel!” In lectio divina we, too, heed that command and turn to the Scriptures, knowing that we must “hear” - listen - to the voice of God, which often speaks very softly. In order to hear someone speaking softly we must learn to be silent. We must learn to love silence. If we are constantly speaking or if we are surrounded with noise, we cannot hear gentle sounds. The practice of lectio divina, therefore, requires that we first quiet down in order to hear God's word to us. This is the first step of lectio divina, appropriately called lectio - reading.

THE READING or listening which is the first step in lectio divina is very different from the speed reading which modern Christians apply to newspapers, books and even to the Bible. Lectio is reverential listening; listening both in a spirit of silence and of awe. We are listening for the still, small voice of God that will speak to us personally - not loudly, but intimately. In lectio we read slowly, attentively, gently listening to hear a word or phrase that is God's word for us this day.

Meditatio - meditation


ONCE WE have found a word or a passage in the Scriptures that speaks to us in a personal way, we must take it in and “ruminate” on it. The image of the ruminant animal quietly chewing its cud was used in antiquity as a symbol of the Christian pondering the Word of God. Christians have always seen a scriptural invitation to lectio divina in the example of the Virgin Mary “pondering in her heart” what she saw and heard of Christ (Luke 2:19). For us today these images are a reminder that we must take in the word - that is, memorize it - and while gently repeating it to ourselves, allow it to interact with our thoughts, our hopes, our memories, our desires. This is the second step or stage in lectio divina - meditatio. Through meditatio we allow God's word to become His word for us, a word that touches us and affects us at our deepest levels.

Oratio - prayer


THE THIRD step in lectio divina is oratio - prayer: prayer understood both as dialogue with God, that is, as loving conversation with the One who has invited us into His embrace; and as consecration, prayer as the priestly offering to God of parts of ourselves that we have not previously believed God wants. In this consecration-prayer we allow the word that we have taken in and on which we are pondering to touch and change our deepest selves. Just as a priest consecrates the elements of bread and wine at the Eucharist, God invites us in lectio divina to hold up our most difficult and pain-filled experiences to Him, and to gently recite over them the healing word or phrase He has given us in our lectio and meditatio. In this oratio, this consecration-prayer, we allow our real selves to be touched and changed by the word of God.

Contemplatio - contemplation

FINALLY, WE simply rest in the presence of the One who has used His word as a means of inviting us to accept His transforming embrace. No one who has ever been in love needs to be reminded that there are moments in loving relationships when words are unnecessary. It is the same in our relationship with God. Wordless, quiet rest in the presence of the One Who loves us has a name in the Christian tradition - contemplatio, contemplation. Once again we practice silence, letting go of our own words; this time simply enjoying the experience of being in the presence of God.


2. THE UNDERLYING RHYTHM of LECTIO DIVINA



IF WE are to practice lectio divina effectively, we must travel back in time to an understanding that today is in danger of being almost completely lost. In the Christian past the words action (or practice, from the Greek praktikos) and contemplation did not describe different kinds of Christians engaging (or not engaging) in different forms of prayer and apostolates. Practice and contemplation were understood as the two poles of our underlying, ongoing spiritual rhythm: a gentle oscillation back and forth between spiritual “activity” with regard to God and “receptivity.”

PRACTICE - spiritual “activity” - referred in ancient times to our active cooperation with God's grace in rooting out vices and allowing the virtues to flourish. The direction of spiritual activity was not outward in the sense of an apostolate, but inward - down into the depths of the soul where the Spirit of God is constantly transforming us, refashioning us in God's image. The active life is thus coming to see who we truly are and allowing ourselves to be remade into what God intends us to become.

IN THE early monastic tradition contemplation was understood in two ways. First was theoria physike, the contemplation of God in creation - God in “the many.” Second was theologia, the contemplation of God in Himself without images or words - God as “The One.” From this perspective lectio divina serves as a training-ground for the contemplation of God in His creation.

IN CONTEMPLATION we cease from interior spiritual doing and learn simply to be, that is to rest in the presence of our loving Father. Just as we constantly move back and forth in our exterior lives between speaking and listening, between questioning and reflecting, so in our spiritual lives we must learn to enjoy the refreshment of simply being in God's presence, an experience that naturally alternates (if we let it!) with our spiritual practice.

IN ANCIENT times contemplation was not regarded as a goal to be achieved through some method of prayer, but was simply accepted with gratitude as God's recurring gift. At intervals the Lord invites us to cease from speaking so that we can simply rest in his embrace. This is the pole of our inner spiritual rhythm called contemplation.

HOW DIFFERENT this ancient understanding is from our modern approach! Instead of recognizing that we all gently oscillate back and forth between spiritual activity and receptivity, between practice and contemplation, we today tend to set contemplation before ourselves as a goal - something we imagine we can achieve through some spiritual technique. We must be willing to sacrifice our “goal-oriented” approach if we are to practice lectio divina, because lectio divina has no other goal than spending time with God through the medium of His word. The amount of time we spend in any aspect of lectio divina, whether it be rumination, consecration or contemplation depends on God's Spirit, not on us. Lectio divina teaches us to savor and delight in all the different flavors of God's presence, whether they be active or receptive modes of experiencing Him.

IN lectio divina we offer ourselves to God; and we are people in motion. In ancient times this inner spiritual motion was described as a helix - an ascending spiral. Viewed in only two dimensions it appears as a circular motion back and forth; seen with the added dimension of time it becomes a helix, an ascending spiral by means of which we are drawn ever closer to God. The whole of our spiritual lives were viewed in this way, as a gentle oscillation between spiritual activity and receptivity by means of which God unites us ever closer to Himself. In just the same way the steps or stages of lectio divina represent an oscillation back and forth between these spiritual poles. In lectio divina we recognize our underlying spiritual rhythm and discover many different ways of experiencing God's presence - many different ways of praying.


3. THE PRACTICE of LECTIO DIVINA


Private Lectio Divina


CHOOSE a text of the Scriptures that you wish to pray. Many Christians use in their daily lectio divina one of the readings from the Eucharistic liturgy for the day; others prefer to slowly work through a particular book of the Bible. It makes no difference which text is chosen, as long as one has no set goal of “covering” a certain amount of text: the amount of text “covered” is in God's hands, not yours.

PLACE YOURSELF in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent. Some Christians focus for a few moments on their breathing; other have a beloved “prayer word” or “prayer phrase” they gently recite in order to become interiorly silent. For some the practice known as “centering prayer” makes a good, brief introduction to lectio divina. Use whatever method is best for you and allow yourself to enjoy silence for a few moments.

THEN TURN to the text and read it slowly, gently. Savor each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that somehow says, “I am for you today.” Do not expect lightening or ecstasies. In lectio divina God is teaching us to listen to Him, to seek Him in silence. He does not reach out and grab us; rather, He softly, gently invites us ever more deeply into His presence.

NEXT TAKE the word or phrase into yourself. Memorize it and slowly repeat it to yourself, allowing it to interact with your inner world of concerns, memories and ideas. Do not be afraid of “distractions.” Memories or thoughts are simply parts of yourself which, when they rise up during lectio divina, are asking to be given to God along with the rest of your inner self. Allow this inner pondering, this rumination, to invite you into dialogue with God.

THEN, SPEAK to God. Whether you use words or ideas or images or all three is not important. Interact with God as you would with one who you know loves and accepts you. And give to Him what you have discovered in yourself during your experience of meditatio. Experience yourself as the priest that you are. Experience God using the word or phrase that He has given you as a means of blessing, of transforming the ideas and memories, which your pondering on His word has awakened. Give to God what you have found within your heart.

FINALLY, SIMPLY rest in God's embrace. And when He invites you to return to your pondering of His word or to your inner dialogue with Him, do so. Learn to use words when words are helpful, and to let go of words when they no longer are necessary. Rejoice in the knowledge that God is with you in both words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity.

SOMETIMES IN lectio divina one will return several times to the printed text, either to savor the literary context of the word or phrase that God has given, or to seek a new word or phrase to ponder. At other times only a single word or phrase will fill the whole time set aside for lectio divina. It is not necessary to anxiously assess the quality of one's lectio divina as if one were “performing” or seeking some goal: lectio divina has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God by praying the Scriptures.

Lectio Divina as a Group Exercise


THE most authentic and traditional form of Christian lectio divina is the solitary or “private” practice described to this point. In recent years, however, many different forms of so-called “group lectio” have become popular and are now widely-practiced. These group exercises can be very useful means of introducing and encouraging the practice of lectio divina; but they should not become a substitute for an encounter and communion with the Living God that can only take place in that privileged solitude where the biblical Word of God becomes transparent to the Very Word Himself - namely private lectio divina.

IN churches of the Third World where books are rare, a form of corporate lectio divina is becoming common in which a text from the Scriptures is pondered by Christians praying together in a group. The method of group lectio divina described here was introduced at St. Andrew's Abbey by oblates Doug and Norvene Vest: it is used as part of the Benedictine Spirituality for Laity workshops conducted at the Abbey each summer.

THIS FORM of lectio divina works best in a group of between four and eight people. A group leader coordinates the process and facilitates sharing. The same text from the Scriptures is read out three times, followed each time by a period of silence and an opportunity for each member of the group to share the fruit of her or his lectio.

THE FIRST reading (the text is actually read twice on this occasion) is for the purpose of hearing a word or passage that touches the heart. When the word or phrase is found, it is silently taken in, and gently recited and pondered during the silence which follows. After the silence each person shares which word or phrase has touched his or her heart.

THE SECOND reading (by a member of the opposite sex from the first reader) is for the purpose of “hearing” or “seeing” Christ in the text. Each ponders the word that has touched the heart and asks where the word or phrase touches his or her life that day. In other words, how is Christ the Word touching his own experience, his own life? How are the various members of the group seeing or hearing Christ reach out to them through the text? Then, after the silence, each member of the group shares what he or she has “heard” or “seen.”

THE THIRD and final reading is for the purpose of experiencing Christ “calling us forth” into doing or being. Members ask themselves what Christ in the text is calling them to do or to become today or this week. After the silence, each shares for the last time; and the exercise concludes with each person praying for the person on the right.

THOSE WHO who regularly practice this method of praying and sharing the Scriptures regularly find it to be an excellent way of developing trust within a group; it also is an excellent way of consecrating projects and hopes to Christ before more formal group meetings. A summary of this method for group lectio divina is appended at the end of this article.

Lectio Divina on Life

IN THE ancient tradition lectio divina was understood as being one of the most important ways in which Christians experience God in creation. After all, the Scriptures are part of creation! If one is daily growing in the art of finding Christ in the pages of the Bible, one naturally begins to discover Him more clearly in aspects of the other things He has made. This includes, of course, our own personal history.

OUR OWN lives are fit matter for lectio divina. Very often our concerns, our relationships, our hopes and aspirations naturally intertwine with our pondering on the Scriptures, as has been described above. But sometimes it is fitting to simply sit down and “read” the experiences of the last few days or weeks in our hearts, much as we might slowly read and savor the words of Scripture in lectio divina. We can attend “with the ear of our hearts” to our own memories, listening for God's gentle presence in the events of our lives. We thus allow ourselves the joy of experiencing Christ reaching out to us through our own memories. Our own personal story becomes “salvation history.”

FOR THOSE who are new to the practice of lectio divina a group experience of “lectio on life” can provide a helpful introduction. An approach that has been used at workshops at St. Andrew's Priory is detailed at the end of this article. Like the experience of lectio divina shared in community, this group experience of lectio on life can foster relationships in community and enable personal experiences to be consecrated - offered to Christ - in a concrete way.

HOWEVER, UNLIKE scriptural lectio divina shared in community, this group lectio on life contains more silence than sharing. The role of group facilitators or leaders is important, since they will be guiding the group through several periods of silence and reflection without the “interruption” of individual sharing until the end of the exercise. Since the experiences we choose to “read” or “listen to” may be intensely personal, it is important in this group exercise to safeguard privacy by making sharing completely optional.

IN BRIEF, one begins with restful silence, then gently reviews the events of a given period of time. One seeks an event, a memory, which touches the heart just as a word or phrase in scriptural lectio divina does. One then recalls the setting, the circumstances; one seeks to discover how God seemed to be present or absent from the experience. One then offers the event to God and rests for a time in silence. A suggested method for group lectio divina on life is given in the Appendix to this article.


CONCLUSION


LECTIO DIVINA is an ancient spiritual art that is being rediscovered in our day. It is a way of allowing the Scriptures to become again what God intended that they should be - a means of uniting us to Himself. In lectio divina we discover our own underlying spiritual rhythm. We experience God in a gentle oscillation back and forth between spiritual activity and receptivity, in the movement from practice into contemplation and back again into spiritual practice.

LECTIO DIVINA teaches us about the God who truly loves us. In lectio divina we dare to believe that our loving Father continues to extend His embrace to us today. And His embrace is real. In His word we experience ourselves as personally loved by God; as the recipients of a word which He gives uniquely to each of us whenever we turn to Him in the Scriptures.

FINALLY, lectio divina teaches us about ourselves. In lectio divina we discover that there is no place in our hearts, no interior corner or closet that cannot be opened and offered to God. God teaches us in lectio divina what it means to be members of His royal priesthood - a people called to consecrate all of our memories, our hopes and our dreams to Christ.




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