Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lectio Divina

I ~ Lectio: Read

      Gently read the scriptures, slowly savoring and repeating the parts of the text that speak to the depths of your heart.  Listen to the Word “with the ear of your heart’, and be willing to linger on portions of the text that seem to speak to you in a special way.

      Through repetition, gently allow the text to percolate into your memory.  Be willing to set the printed text aside and to listen quietly to the Word that you have taken into your heart.

II ~ Meditatio: Reflect

      Lovingly and slowly repeat the text you have internalized.  Allow this interior “mulling over” to help the text “yield its savor”.  Allow the text to interact with your memories, your hopes, your concerns.  Don’t be afraid of “distractions”; simply acknowledge them and let go of them, always returning to the portion of Scriptures you have taken into your heart.

III ~ Oratio: Respond

      Let the text summon you to a place before the Lord all of yourself.  Make the Word you have taken into yourself be a real word of consecration – a Word of blessing and a means of offering to the Lord your deepest hopes and concerns.  Let the gentle repetition of the Word lead you into dialogue with the God Who originally inspired the text, and Who has now used the Scriptures as a way of drawing you into His presence.

IV ~ Contemplatio: Rest

      As you feel called to do so, simply rest silently in the presence of the Lord.  Be willing to let go of the text that has let you into God’s presence.  Enjoy the sweetness of silent communion with the God Who stands behind the Scriptures.


      Recognize that these steps are not stages in an orderly process: they are a way of allowing the inner rhythms of our spiritual lives to become more and more charged with the presence of God.  We are not to judge the quality of our Lectio by how much or little time we spend in any of the above activities.  The rhythm of the Lectio Divina reflects the rhythm of our lives: we may move from one step to another without realizing it; and we may find several steps coexisting at the same time.  Lectio Divina is simply a way of experiencing in our reading of the Scriptures what God intends our whole lives to become – a continuous experience of His Presence, a continual and unending prayer.

These Directions for Lectio Divina came from St. Benedict's Abbey in Bartonville to whom I owe a debt of grace and blessing.  http://www.sbabbey.com

Monday, March 10, 2014


“Then I will be joyful in the Lord; *
      I will glory in his victory.”  Psalm 35:9

      In a 1984 interview, Paul Tournier, a Christian psychologist and author, spoke of his lifelong habit of silent meditation. I personally don’t care for Tournier’s method of meditation which is textless and silent; waiting on God with pencil in hand for the voice of God to speak in the midst of one’s realities. His method is very close to a pop-psychology exercise in deepening self-knowledge, which while it has some values, does not answer my own need for the voice of God in my life.

      The inimitable devil Screwtape, according to C. S. Lewis, prefers this type of prayer,

One of their poets, Coleridge, has recorded that he did not pray ‘with moving lips and bended knees’ but merely ‘composed his spirit to love’ and indulged ‘a sense of supplication’. That is exactly the sort of prayer we want; and since it bears a superficial resemblance to the prayer of silence as practiced by those who are very far advanced in the Enemy’s service, clever and lazy patients can be taken in by it for quite long time.[i]

      On a practical basis, I have found that my own mind is not good company when left to itself.  It is better that I should start with a text and let the Spirit lead where He will on the basis of the text. That probably is the tacit principle lying behind classic Lectio Divina. However, given the initial objective text, or perhaps a spiritual scene, waiting with pencil in hand often does help to focus personal Lectio Divina.

      The text in Psalm 35:9 starts with the word “then.” The context of the verse in the Psalm is conflictual, but so is much of our life experience. The psalmist began in the first verse by praying, “Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me! Take hold of shield and buckler and rise for my help! Draw the spear and javelin against my pursuers! Say to my soul, "I am your salvation! [Psalm 35:1-3].  The psalmist wanted to see the victory, and “then” glory in it. So do I.

      How much of our conflict is circumstantial? How much is exterior? How much is interior? One needs to take the pants off fear and parade it around naked in order to see that it needn’t be overwhelming after all. Fear casts a much larger shadow than the reality it envelops. Generally, when you think you see a dragon, it usually turns out to just be a toad.

      I don’t intend to ignore reality. Some realities can be pretty painful. Humankind endures some pretty horrendous things; then they are over. Jacob said, “Few and evil are the days of my life; then they were over and Jacob was gathered to his fathers. I have often thought that Jacob, who created much of his pain for himself, was too negative, and in the very moment of speaking he was creating and reaping more pain. Our words have the power to create.

      It is better not to stop with the word “then,” but to go on to the affirmation “I will be joyful in the Lord,” and take the words “I will” not as a simple future, but as a declaration of intent. It is a decision, an act of the will that flows from the present into the future sharing in the very creation of that future. Why should I not rejoice? My hope is in Him, not in myself, not in the “then,” in the sense of something past, but in the “now”. I am in His hands. “All is well. All is well. All manner of things shall be well.”[ii]

      Lectio does not start in silence. It ends in silence. Silence begins after the words, spoken or written. Silence is wayless. It is waiting on God with the mind stilled, receptive; receptive beyond words, images, ideas and the usual cacophony of the mind.  In silence, after all the words are over, one receives God Himself. More accurately one receives the Shekinah Kabod, the Abiding Glory, the mystic cloud of glory that at once both cloaks and conveys the presence of God. Even the word “presence” is a shield as well as a realization. Further in. In silence. Further in. The Eternal Word is not always talking. He just is.

[i] C. S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters, (New York: Harper, 1996), p. 16
ii Dame Julian of Norwich

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Beautiful Saviour

Have you ever wondered what Jesus looked like? Throughout the centuries devout iconographers and artists have depicted Jesus as man of their own culture; each Icon or Holy Picture testifying to the principle of the Incarnation; that the Living God, Jesus Christ, has been born in our flesh, in the likeness of men. Yet Isaiah says, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” [Isaiah 53:1-2].

Saint Peter, who saw Him and loved Him knew that we also would love Him, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” 1 Peter 1:8]. Those who have not yet met Him can hardly understand that the love of Jesus in Christian hearts is based on a spiritual encounter with Him so real that overwhelms the heart.

It can all start with a prayer, “Are You real Lord?” and it ends in Heaven. “O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of ev’ry love the best! ‘Tis an ocean vast of blessing, ‘tis a haven sweet of rest! O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ‘tis a heaven of heav’ns to me. And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!”


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Golden Lion

In my dream, I dreamed that a track ahead led through a swampy area over the submerged ruins on an ancient road toward the opposite bank.  Several slimed steps emerged from below the surface of the dark waters up to the top of the bank.  Climbing up the steps I stood for a moment pondering the parting of the ways that were before me.  To the right lay an old rutted cart path that wove its way into a damp, dark, and murky forest.  Another smaller path, single, simple, went up the hill before me. 

Thinking that the cart path looked the most likely to lead somewhere I struck off down the road.  Only a dim and grey light filtered down through the over-arching branches.  I felt an inner caution; several pathways branching off one side or the other would offer themselves.  An inner voice old me not to worry, I would know where the danger lay.  As I travelled on several avenues beckoned me, but at once a sense of antipathy, almost dread, warned me away.  Going on a little further a grotesque birdlike spectre loomed over me bidding me enter a branch leading further off beneath the shadows of the trees. From that offered pathway a faint, subtle, stench of death drifted on the air.  The sense of dread deepened and I backed away.  The old rutted cart path and all its branches led nowhere that I wanted to go. 

I returned to the river bank and looked again at the small path leading up over the hill before me.  The path itself was narrow, but on either side was a broad margin dotted with tiny meadow flowers, pink, white, perfectly formed, presenting a cheerful alternative to the old cart path that I had abandoned.

The path led up over the crest of a small rise and emerged from the forest into bright light.  Before me a broad slope led gently down to the sea.  The sky was blue, the air freshly warm, the scene serene, the horizon infinite.  As soon as I set forth down the slope to the sea I saw before me an immense Golden Lion standing on the sandy shore.  Love and awe, desire, awoke in my breast and I hastened forward and lost myself in His embrace.  It was Love Himself that met me, embraced me, filled me with a deep and reverent joy.  With great gladness I lost myself in Him.

Thus I awoke from sleep, but the numinous Presence of the Lion enveloped me with a warm radiance that endured throughout the next hour, despite the distractions of my morning ablutions.  He who loved me most of all said to me, “You are precious in my sight, and honoured, and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4), and I knew the truth that He dwelt in me, and I in him, twined together in the harmony of love.