Lectio Divina

LECTIO DIVINA

One of the ancient method of Bible reading called Lectio divina. It is a method which has borne much fruit in the Church through the centuries but which has been neglected in recent times. Today it is making an important contribution to Church renewal.

Lectio divina is practiced in the Bible itself but was given the name and systematized as a method in the fourth and fifth centuries. For the first thousand years of the Church it was the most common way of reading the Bible. It is still the way we pray the Bible in the Prayer of the Church and the liturgical year is based on it.

This method of Bible reading is based on six principles:

1. Lectio divina is a dialogue between the written biblical word and life experience. In a dialogue our experience throws light on the Bible word, bringing it to life for us so that we feel at home with it. The Bible word in turn throws light on our experience which is thus transformed from merely being an event to being a word of God spoken to us.

2. Lectio divina presupposes that every Bible text speaks to the imagination. It invites us to enter through our imagination into the movement of a Bible passage, discovering that this is the movement of our own lives too.

3. In lectio divina we discover a double story of sin and grace, first in the Bible and then in our individual lives, in the history of every community and of humanity itself.

4. Lectio divina is different from most Bible-reading methods in that it is an exercise both of theology and of prayer: of prayer in that we respond to the exercise of sin and grace in our lives; of theology in that we gain a new insight into the workings of sin and grace in our lives and in the lives of others. Through lectio divina we grow in awareness and we pray, awareness leading to prayer and prayer leading to awareness.

5. Another thing that makes lectio divina different from other Bible-reading methods is that it can be done by all, irrespective of educational background. Even illiterate people can do it. Whatever our educational background, we must humble ourselves before the Bible text so that we can really listen to it. We can all, by reflecting on experience, make this text come alive.

6. Lectio divina requires both personal freedom and the sense of community. Our encounter with the text must be personal. No one can dictate how or why it touches us; to do good lectio we must trust our own feelings. On the other hand we must not read the Bible in isolation, but allow our personal response to resonate with others, a community, if possible, and if not, at least one other person. So, too, we must regularly enter into the insights of others. In this respect lectio divina is quite different from what used to be called ‘private interpretation’.

In the early days lectio divina was a systematic and disciplined method both of prayer and of theology. Today it is often presented purely as a prayer method but in fact, it is especially as a theological method that lectio divina has an important contribution to make to the Church today.

THE METHOD OF LECTIO DIVINA

Lectio Divina is a method of meditative Bible reading which goes back to the early centuries of our church, and continues to be a source of deep spiritual growth.

Lectio divina (a Latin expression which means ‘sacred reading’) is done in three stages:

  1. Reading: You read the passage slowly and reverentially, allowing the words to sink into your consciousness. If necessary you clarify the meaning of words of expressions that you are not familiar with.
  2. Meditation: You allow the passage to stir up memories within you so that you recognize in it your own experience or that of people who have touched your life.
  3. Prayer: You allow the meditation to lead you to prayer – thanksgiving, humility and petition.

____________

Verteuil de, Michel (The Psalms and Lectio Divina; The Colombia Press, 2000)

UNDERSTANDING LECTIO DIVINA

(Spiritual Reading)

The following are very important preliminary considerations that help you understand what Lectio Divina, Spiritual Reading, is all about, what attitudes we need for it, the discipline required, and the external circumstances that make it possible.

Spiritual Reading is different from ordinary reading.

Lectio Divina or spiritual reading is entirely different from ordinary reading and requires another style and set of attitudes. Ordinary reading is directed to study, gathering information, or filling the time pleasantly in your free-time. It is mainly concerned with learning, whether this learning is theological or literary, sacred or secular. Spiritual reading, on the other hand, is not concerned only with the taking in of ideas or concepts but to receive the messenger and his messages to which you are called to respond. This response is made to a call to communion with the Word of the Father through the Spirit. Spiritual reading brings you into an inter-personal relationship while ordinary reading leads you to a subject-object relationship. The principal reason for spiritual reading is transformation and growth rather than learning. To allow this transformation to take place you have to make connections between the text being read and the life situation in which you find yourself. Spiritual reading then has to be clearly distinguished from ordinary reading even when the latter is concerned with material which is labeled spiritual.

Since ordinary reading is usually a process of acquiring facts and knowledge, you will tend to approach the text in an aggressive manner. You will try to dig out facts, get the guts out of the book, pullout the information you require; you will remain with the text only long enough to master it, to analyze what it is saying, or to accumulate the facts. Indeed the quicker you can master a text, or drag out the relevant information, the more effective you are. It is the world of speed-reading, evaluation, judgment, criticism, distinguishing data analysis in which you are dominant.

Now in spiritual reading there is another approach to the text. You bring yourself humbly before the text and submit to its guidance. You do not set out to master the text but to become a disciple eager to learn. To become a spiritual reader you have to slow down your speeding mind and take time to dwell peacefully with a text. You seek guidance from the text for your journey to God. Through the text you come into contact with the Word behind the words. He is present, leading you to reconciliation, healing, forgiveness. You have to be sensitive to the messages you receive. Do they affirm your present way of behaving? Do they challenge your life style? Listening to and waiting upon the Lord, you allow the light of Truth to illumine the Way you must take if you are to come to the fullness of Life. Spiritual reading bonds us with God making us one with him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Spiritual reading is never done in an aggressive fashion, but rather with a docile, receptive spirit open to all the messages that direct your journey into God.

Questions for Reflection:

Let me put you to a few personal questions. You need to ponder them to see if you are doing any spiritual reading. When they become positive statements they draw a portrait of spiritual reading in its traditional meaning.

* Are you bringing yourself humbly before the text as a disciple before a master?

* Are you communicating with a master who is present?

* Are you allowing the text to touch your heart, not merely your mind?

* Are you using the text for your own purposes or submitting to its wise guidance?

* Are you prepared to submit your spiritual journeying to its message to see

if you are going the right way?

* Are you listening to your own expectations or to the message of the master?

* Are you prepared to do something about the obstacles to your spiritual life that the text

reveals?

* Are you prepared to follow the conditions for the spiritual journey that the text reveals’?

* Are you able to relate the message of the text to your own situation?

WHEN, WHERE AND HOW TO PRAY

Set Time

The first condition for a disciplined approach to praying with the Scriptures and to any type of prayer is a set time. It is necessary to set aside a fixed period for prayer daily, This period should be fifteen to thirty minutes initially. It should take into account your own “inner” clock, your own rhythm of life. There are times when you are at your best and certain times when you are at your worst. Some are morning people. For others the day only begins at noon. If possible, you should pick a period of prayer when you are at your best. The time chosen should be a regular period. There is a danger that if we are not regular in our structures we will soon forget our prayer. Sometimes you may be longer at prayer, other times you may spend less time, but always at the beginning you should be regular in regard to the time for starting.

A Set Place

The second requisite for prayer is a set place, It is essential that you choose a place where there is a chance of silence and solitude. The external silence is for most people a pre-requisite to internal silence, the stilling of the mind. Certainly there cannot be attentive listening when there are constant interruptions. The place should also be comfortable, lest your bodily discomfort subdues the spirit. It should be a place of relaxed dwelling which provides time for the spirit, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Keep a Spiritual Journal

The third aspect of the discipline needed is to record the messages of the Master. Either get a notebook or a cheap Bible you can annotate and mark up. You can then record the difficulties you experienced in accepting the text and the questions that arise from the text. You can record the phrases or words which have spoken to you affirming you in your direction on your journey to God It is important that you mark the words that attract you as well as those which repel you. Only by recording your responses to God’s Word can you begin to build up a profile of your own spiritual state. I would recommend to you the recording of all the messages received from the text because writing has the power to focus experiences so that you can put them within the total context of your life with God. Writing also gives you an opportunity to move forward slowly and when you are ready in exploring with God’s grace some of the painful revelations. By just recording memories of feelings too painful to deal with at the present time, they remain available to you when you are ready to deal with them. Often as you write there will emerge reflections, insights and awareness which you have not articulated before. Writing will often move you beyond the level of awareness you possessed as you sat down to write. Writing is itself another creative and self-generating force given to you by God.

Once a month, the markings should be investigated to allow you to see where you are cooperating with God’s Word and where you are resisting it.

Additional Comments

In the actual reading of the text, read it first aloud. The first reading means that your body is involved, lips, tongue, eyes, ears, etc.; this helps you to be bodily present to the Word, as well as acting to slow you down.

The second time you read the passage read it silently paying attention to the emotions it evokes. Record those reactions that have elicited a response from you and silently reflect on how God’s word has challenged or strengthened your life. Try to make connections between the text being read and your life situation.

Such reading enables you to see your past, present and future in God’s own light, shining through his Word.

Questions for Refection:

* Are you prepared to set a side a fixed, regular period for praying with the Scripture?

* What is the best time and place for you?

* Can you find a place where there is a chance of silence and solitude? Or at least a place where

you will be uninterrupted?

* Where would this place be where you would retire regularly for your spiritual reading?

. * Can you follow the outline for a spiritual reading program?

* Are you prepared to accept the sacrifice that such a program will demand of you?

ATTITUDES NEEDED FOR SPIRITUAL READING

Seeing the Inner Depth:

Firstly, you have to learn to see not only the obvious in the text but its inner depth. You have to penetrate beneath the time bound formulas to the timeless truths behind these culturally and historically limited presentations. You have to bring a prayerful presence to the Word behind the words which will lead you to proclaim “It is the Lord”. Then you no longer desire to be anywhere else. You become content to dwell with the text in faith. Gradually becoming aware that in the most ordinary appearances, in the light of faith, God is speaking. Therefore you have to train your ears to hear what is being said by God behind surface manifestations that make no sense from the human perspective alone. Then you will no longer look ahead impatiently to the time when your expectations will be fulfilled. You will no longer look back nostalgically to the way things were. You will come to rejoice in the presence of the Master, hearing his voice, allowing him to affirm and challenge you.

You need to give up Control:

You need to give up control and allow the truth of who you are to emerge. You are nothing but a gift of God’s love. In the first creation He gave you to yourself and in the recreation He gives Himself to you. You are a finite gift present to Someone infinitely greater, wiser, more loving than yourself. You have to gratefully accept the gift God shares with you. You have to affirm your utter dependence on God, taking a grateful, receptive, rather than an aggressive, manipulative stance towards the text. You must learn not to dominate but obey, not criticize or condemn but allow the text to criticize you; not downgrade but savor each word. As a disciple you can only ask questions that will lead you into more profound depths. You must allow yourself to be formed by the Word of God, detached from all that might be a personal programming of the Word of God.

You must become a listener:

To achieve this you must learn to listen attentively. You must still the mind and grow in faithful attention to the Master even when there is darkness and dryness. Sometimes you might try to avoid being attentive to spiritual reading because you fear the implications of the Master’s message or because you are so involved with what you are doing that you cannot “let go” and allow the message to reveal itself to you. But gradually as you strive to overcome your needy, greedy love and desires, through the practice of daily dying to self-gratification, you will begin to see the text not as a dead letter but as a current message to be assimilated. You will then opt for repetition rather than constant newness and excitement, savoring each message of the Beloved.

You need Patience:

You must stay patiently with a text whether you get results or not. This patient dwelling with the words of the Bible deepens your powers of concentration so that even in dryness and aridity you allow the Word of God to pierce the marrow of your being.

Questions for Reflection:

* Are you listening to God in faith or merely to your own expectation?

* Are you present to this moment or are you locked in the past or the future?

* Are you prepared to give up control and submit to be being formed by God?

* Are you able to listen to others or do your needs and desires control your attention?

* Are you waiting in expectancy to meet the Lord and Master in the text?

* Are you prepared to face your own limits and face the pain of being drawn out of your complacent

living?

* Are you open to new meaning and direction in your life?

* Have you the patience to persevere with the text?

* One thing is very clear, without a restructuring of attitudes one cannot become a person of

prayer.

THE DISCIPLINE OF PRAYER

You can only become a man or woman in prayer, if you are prepared to submit to the discipline required for it. Discipline does not mean regulations, but developing the attitude of a disciple, namely, doing things that dispose your self towards being attentive to a spiritual master. Discipline is necessary, because ordinarily it is not possible to sustain the movement towards “life with God” without support or direction from others who are more experienced. The Word of God, contained in the Sacred Scripture, offers you a most reliable guide, for he is the Way.

However, if the initiation into the life with God is to go beyond mere sporadic enthusiasm, it demands a daily or weekly pattern of life which supports this kind of experience. Time must be taken to establish a new rhythm of life which will foster a reflective approach and an extended pondering of the scriptures.

Time Alone With God

You need first a period of withdrawal from the hectic pace of life. This withdrawal to a place alone is necessary, because without it we can fail to realize how much we have surrendered the direction of our lives to other people. Everyone expects a feverish pace of work and involvement from you. Your liveliness and attractiveness are judged often by your activities. Without solitude and a relaxed presence to the Master, we fail to provide the graced conditions for prayer. You fail to ever be alone with the Word who is life,

Silence

Without silence you cannot hear the word that emerges out of silence. To procure inner silence you must learn to center yourself, to still your speeding mind, so full of so many things. Later in this course you will learn some helpful methods or hints of how to grow or enter into this inner silence.

Put Aside Productivity

At times you will find no messages, no satisfaction from praying with the Bible. This is the time when you have to put aside productivity as a criterion and allow the slow process of growth to take place. Seeds often lie dormant for many years before the conditions are right for its bursting into life. Coal lies black and uninviting in the storage pin, before it provides fuel for the fire. Learn to await the fire of the Spirit who will inflame your hearts. Then you can keep that fire alive by feeding the coals you have laid aside by persevering prayer with the Scripture.

Questions for Reflection:

* Are you prepared to become a disciple? To give up control to another?

* Are you prepared to take time to discover yourself to receive the gift of yourself?

* Do you feel guilty, when you take time for yourself?

* Are you able to relax and wait in patient expectant love before God?

* Are you prepared to lay aside your desire for productivity and surrender to the pace and

grace of the Spirit?

____________________________________________________________

ON BIBLE SHARING

WHAT is Bible Sharing

  • It is a prayerful reading of Scriptures, in small groups, so as to better understand, pray and live the Word of God.
  • It is one way of getting in touch with Jesus, getting to know his person, his words and his deeds.

Some AIMS of Bible Sharing:

  1. To gain access to the Bible (love letter of God) even without being a biblical expert. “Easy access to the Bible be provided to all the Christian faithful…” DV 25 “What is Sacred Scripture but a letter of the Omnipotent God to his creature?” (St Gregory the Great, 600 AD)
  2. To grow in the ‘knowledge’ of Christ, to know his person, his words and his deeds. “Ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of Christ.” (St Jerome)
  3. To experience that Christ manifests himself in small group. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name…” (Mt 18,19-20) “…the Words of Scripture become quasi sacramental signs of the Risen Lord among the members.” (FABC,1990)
  4. To experience the power of God’s word to build communities: to deepen personal bonds among the members and to create trust within the group. “The two pillars of BEC’s are: Word of God and Eucharist. (Bishop F Claver)
  5. To encourage mutual deepening of faith by personal sharing.
  6. To strengthen love for the Eucharist and to prepare for a more fruitful celebration of the Sunday Mass.
  7. To experience co responsibility and participation of the laity with the Church’s hierarchy under the guidance of their pastor. (FABC,1990

Some FRUITS of Bible Sharing:

1. The members grow in understanding and acceptance of what God reveals to them through the sacred texts.

2. Their thinking is sharpened and their enthusiasm is quickened when someone shares what they themselves have read and reflected upon.

3. The members are challenged to become witnesses or doers of the Word –individually and as a group.

4. They build community at a deeper level.

What are NEEDED for Bible Sharing:

1. Copy of the bible for each member.

2. Proper attitudes: Acceptance, Respect, Openness.

3. Ideal number: 5-7 members

4. Place: away from noise, circular arrangement of chairs

5. Method

6. Facilitator

FACILITATING GOSPEL GROUP

  1. Create a climate of friendliness.
  2. Decide what method to use.
  3. If there are new members in the group, there is a need for the facilitator to explain the method and to orient them about the proper attitudes and disposition of Bible Sharing.
  4. Keep the group informed about each successive stage and remind them of what is to be done.
  5. Give everyone a chance to contribute and try to see that each one speaks to the whole group and not just to the facilitator.
  6. It may sometimes be necessary for the facilitator to make stimulating comments in order to help start the sharing or to facilitate the flow when the group gets “stuck”, but the facilitator should never dominate.
  7. Make sure that only one person speaks at a time; side conversations can be disturbing. Everyone should listen to the one who is speaking..
  8. Curb (gently) those who have much to share to give a fair chance to the shy ones.
  9. Encourage the silent ones by asking questions such as: “Do you think that this is true of your experience?” rather than: “You haven’t spoken yet, haven’t you anything to say?”
  10. Be aware that there maybe one who can’t read for whatever reason. If that is the case, special consideration and attention be given to such a person.
  11. Acknowledge all the contributions.
  12. Try to finish the sharing within the allotted time.
  13. A facilitator should not:

* Belittle or ridicule any contribution.

* Sit at a privileged place

* Pretend to know all the answers; pretend to know more than the others.

v Talk much himself/herself or give quick answers

v Should not be the first one to share and not the last one either.

FJGines

01-10-08

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One Response

  1. Hello Fel?

    This is Mila from the Archdiocese of Davao Biblical Apostolate (ABAD). Hope you can still remember me.

    I had just visited you website and its my first time. I’m one of your subscribers on WORD ALIVE before..i’ve learned a lot from it. Hope you can send me on your next issue.

    From now on, i will try to visit your site so often as i can just for me to update your activities and hope i can apply it also in the archdiocese of Davao.

    Thank you Fel. I hope to see you again this National Bible Workshop comes February, 2010. I just hope our Bishop will allow me to attend this coming workshop.

    Regards to all…kasama pa rin kayo ni Benny? Pls extend my regards.

    Mila Punsalan
    Coordinator
    Archdiocesan Bible Apostolate of Davao

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