Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lectio divina - try it!

Last night, Msgr. Rob Panke gave an inspiring and informative talk on prayer that was well received by our students. He called it “Prayer 101”. He described prayer, offered proper places of prayer, encouraged all of us to pray to God from our heart every day, and challenged the students to attend daily Mass. “If someone asks me how they go grow spiritually, I tell them to go to Mass every day and come back to me in a year”. He said that there is so much at Mass for us to grow in our relationship with God – entering into conversation with God with others, asking for God’s Mercy, hearing the Word of God, receiving catechesis, coming into communion with God in the Eucharist, etc. He also challenged the students to attend Adoration regularly. “If you don’t come to Adoration, then you really don’t know what you are missing”.

He strongly encouraged the students to begin the practice of “lection divina” if they haven’t already. He referenced Pope Benedict’s recent apostolic exhortation, “Verbum Domini”, in which the Holy Father described lectio divina. His section on lectio divina is below. To view “Verbum Domini” in full, please click on today’s title.

In short, lectio divina involves reading over a particular passage from Sacred Scripture and letting it speak to us…to our hearts. We read the passage (over and over again if necessary) and meditate on it. Something usually jumps out at us – it could be a particular word or phrase from the text. As Msgr Panke explained, this is the method that many priests use in preparing their homilies. Yesterday, he meditated on the Gospel with Zaccheaus and our Lord. It hit him that Jesus called out to Zaccheaus by name…that he knew him. He knows each of us by name. He said he had never really noticed that part of the passage before. Lectio divina opens us up to what God is saying to us every day.

Here’s an outline of the lectio divina process. Try it!

1) Reading of the text – “what does the biblical text say?”

2) Meditation – “what to does the text say to us?”

3) Prayer – “what do we say to the Lord in response to the text?”

4) Contemplation – “what change of heart is the Lord asking of us?”

5) Action – “How does this text call me to give to others in charity?”

The documents produced before and during the Synod mentioned a number of methods for a faith-filled and fruitful approach to sacred Scripture. Yet the greatest attention was paid to lectio divina, which is truly "capable of opening up to the faithful the treasures of God's word, but also of bringing about an encounter with Christ, the living word of God".[296]

I would like here to review the basic steps of this procedure. It opens with the reading (lectio) of a text, which leads to a desire to understand its true content: what does the biblical text say in itself? Without this, there is always a risk that the text will become a pretext for never moving beyond our own ideas.

Next comes meditation (meditatio), which asks: what does the biblical text say to us? Here, each person, individually but also as a member of the community, must let himself or herself be moved and challenged.

Following this comes prayer (oratio), which asks the question: what do we say to the Lord in response to his word? Prayer, as petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise, is the primary way by which the word transforms us.

Finally, lectio divina concludes with contemplation (contemplatio), during which we take up, as a gift from God, his own way of seeing and judging reality, and ask ourselves what conversion of mind, heart and life is the Lord asking of us? In the Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul tells us: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (12:2). Contemplation aims at creating within us a truly wise and discerning vision of reality, as God sees it, and at forming within us "the mind of Christ" (1 Cor 2:16). The word of God appears here as a criterion for discernment: it is "living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Heb 4:12).

We do well also to remember that the process of lectio divina is not concluded until it arrives at action (actio), which moves the believer to make his or her life a gift for others in charity.

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