Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lectio Divina

“Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.” (Psalm 34:5 RSV)

One of the fruits of Lectio Divina is deification. In the Western Church we use the pale term “sanctification,” but deification glows with an inner light. If you look to Him you will become radiant. Paul speaks of the same thing when he says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV). The words “are being transformed” translate the Greek word for metamorphosis. The transformation is in process now as we behold the glory of the Lord in Lectio. As we gaze upon the Lord in his self-revelation in Holy Scripture we receive into ourselves His likeness. The four steps of Lectio Divina; read, reflect, respond and rest, bring us into the Presence of the God who loves us. Read the text over meditatively several times. Reflect on the meaning of the text. Respond in prayer on the basis of the text. Rest in the Presence of God.

Like Moses on Mount Sinai we look to Him and become radiant (Exodus 34:29-35).

"29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34 Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, 35 the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him."

St. Gregory Palamas made a distinction between essence and divine energies, the former in immutable transcendence, the latter incarnate in humanity. From Isaiah 45:19 “I did not say to the seed of Jacob, ‘Seek Me in vain’; I, the Lord, speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.” It is clear that You did not intend me to seek Your face in vain. For me a reductionist interpretation, that would avoid the obvious surface meaning in favor of a spiritualized application, is not adequate. With Moses (Exodus 33:18) I cry, “Show me Your Glory.” My Lord, show me Your face. If it is not possible to see Your essence, the cry of my heart is at least let me see the “effulgence” of Your glory, the outraying of Your Essence in the face of Jesus Christ.1 May I see Your glory as the eye sees. Let me see You with a ‘spiritual sensing’ even as Paul was caught up to heaven, whether in the body or out of the body he did not know. Let me see You as John saw You walking among the golden menorah of the Churches.

Why? Because I love You? Not a shadow of how You love me! No. Because You command it, and say “Seek My face,” and my seeking, which is commanded, will make Your heart glad even as it leaves me “rapt” in Your love.2

St. Gregory Palamas would remind us that in beholding not the essence of God, but the radiance of God we ourselves enter into deification and take on that same radiance. It is the radiance of Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. “And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light” (Matthew 17:1,2).

In Lectio we kneel at the feet of the radiant Christ whom we adore. St. Gregory of Nyssa says, “We receive into ourselves the likeness of whatever we look upon.” This is true both of evil and good. In the present context, as we gaze in Lectio at the radiance of Christ, we receive that radiance into ourselves and are transformed. “Look to him and be radiant. So your faces shall never be ashamed.”

In all of this one thing must be carefully identified. Do not seek the radiance for the sake of being radiant. Seek rather the radiance for His own sake, He who is the express image, the outraying, the effulgence of the Father’s glory. He alone is to be worshipped and adored, for own His sake, and for no other reason. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36 ESV).

Read Reflect Respond Rest
Lectio Meditatio Oratio Contemplatio

1(John Calvin, Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews 1:1-3)
2(Richard Rolle, The Fire of Love)