Category Archives: Lectio Divina

Sacred Scripture as historical texts reveals Christ Jesus

The 20th and 21st centuries have seen Catholics draw closer to the Bible, the revealed Word of God. During the pontificate of Benedict XVI there was almost an explosion of emphasis on Scripture study, a resurgence of biblical preaching, a serious consideration of what it means to be an evangelical Catholic and lectio divina. In my opinion, it was Benedict XVI who gave critical attention to the sacred Scriptures in the calling of the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God coupled with the concretizing the Church’s programatic direction with the publication of Verbum Domini (2010).

Rome Reports gives a spotlight on a recent initiative of the American Bible Society‘s “The Bible and the World.”

This initiative of the ABS is yet another great example of the place we Catholics need to have for the daily praying with God’s word, and the study of the historical text. As the preparatory commission for the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God stated about the complexity and beauty of the sacred text viz. our salvation in Christ Jesus,

Pastorally speaking, this truth requires an understanding on how to gather, in an analogous way, the various meanings of the Word of God in the faith of the Church, as seen in the Bible. In the Scriptures, Jesus Christ is shown to be the Eternal Word of God, which shines forth in creation, is given a historical character in the message of the prophets, is fully manifested in the Person of Jesus, is echoed in the voice of the apostles and is proclaimed in the Church today. In a general sense, the Word of God is Christ-the-Word, who, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is the key to all interpretation. “The Word of God, who was in the beginning with God, is not, in his fullness, much talk or a multiplicity of words; but a single Word, which embraces a great number of ideas (theoremata), each of which is a part of the Word in its entirety… and if Christ refers us to the Scriptures in testifying to himself, it is not to one book that he sends us to the exclusion of another, but to all, because all speak of him.”Thus, continuity can be seen in diversity.

Lectio Divina likened to a mirror

I was reading something the other day and came across an author’s quote of an old spiritual classic in which he said fittingly describes lectio divina. From the fourteenth century Cloud of Unknowing we read:

“God’s word…can be likened to a mirror. Spiritually, the ‘eye’ of your soul is your reason: your conscience is your spiritual ‘face’. Just as you cannot see or know that there is a dirty mark on your actual face without the aid of a mirror, or somebody telling you, so spiritually, it is impossible for a soul blinded by his frequent sins to see the dirty mark in his conscience, without reading or hearing God’s word.” (Penguin edition, p. 102)

Blessed Guerric of Igny

I am reminded by my own heart that the the early morning is a particularly good time of the day to be clothed in a special silence, but there are time at dusk that the discipline of silence is helpful. This is an essential part of spiritual maturity, an adult faith in Divine Providence. Listening and speaking to the Trinity is done when the heart and mind are slowed, even word-less. Knowing and following God’s will is only possible if we give a certain amount of day to quiet, that is, silence. Not a punishing silence, not a hopeless silence, but a manner of being that helps us to see ourselves in action: the manifestation of the virtues of faith, hope, charity, justice, peace, perseverance, etc.

Blessed Guerric in his 28th sermon says,

“As the Christ-child in the womb advanced toward birth in a long, deep silence, so does the discipline of silence nourish, form and strengthen a person’s spirit, and produce growth which is the safer and more wholesome for being the more hidden.”

Silence, therefore, is a gift that allows us to enter more deeply into the revealed Word of God, the biblical narrative through the practice of lectio divina, the practice of prayerfully reading the sacred Scripture. It is, I am convinced, the new springtime of the Church as Benedict XVI said, proposing once again the ancient Christian practice. Most often we when we hear the words lectio divina we think of monastic reading where the person is immersed in God’s holy word with the distinct desire to seek the face of God, thus making a home for that Word in his heart.

The famous Cistercian father Blessed Guerric of Igny (c. 1070/80-1157) was influenced by Origen and whose formation was under Saint Bernard was quite insightful on many things when it came to liturgical theology and the monasteric life.

If you are inclined to read more about what this Cistercian father taught, you may want to pick up a copy of John Morson’s Christ the Way: the Christology of Guerric of Igny (Liturgical Press). But his liturgical sermons are worth every effort; they are published by Liturgical Press, too.

Blessed Guerric taught the following to his brothers lectio divina:

Search the Scripture.  For you are not mistaken in thinking that you find life in them, you who seek nothing else in them but Christ, to whom the Scriptures bear witness.  Blessed indeed are they who search his testimonies, seek them out with all their heart.  Therefore you who walk about in the gardens of the Scriptures do not pass by heedlessly and idly, but searching each and every word like busy bees gathering homey from flowers, reap the Spirit from the words. (Sermon 54)

How Catholics use Scripture: Pope Francis talks on inspiration and truth in the Bible

bibles tudy.JPg.png

Yesterday, the Holy Father met with the members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission (PBC) led by German Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The theme the PBC’s annual plenary assembly was “Inspiration and Truth in the Bible.” On the personal and parish level, this theme is revisited year-in and year-out. Catholics (and the Orthodox) have a particular way of praying, reading, studying and living the sacred Scripture that is very different from the Protestant ecclesial communities: from WITHIN the context of the living community of faith, i.e., the Liturgy.

Pope Francis paid close attention to this year’s work of the PBC by saying it “affects not only the individual believer but the whole Church, for the Church’s life and mission are founded on the Word of God, which is the soul of theology as well as the inspiration of all of Christian existence.”

He noted that in Dei Verbum the emphasis of what the nature of Scripture is, how the Church interprets Scripture, what is conserved by the Church, and by whose authority is at work. I  think one of the “money quotes” is when Francis reminded us that “The interpretation of Sacred Scriptures cannot be just an individual academic effort, but must always be compared to, inserted within, and authenticated by the living tradition of the Church.” 

The point we Catholics have to come to understand and to work on is that we are a biblically based religion, like none other, established by Jesus Christ, and preaching Him since 33 AD. We can’t get away from the Scriptures and that’s why bible study AND lectio divina are crucial every day. The Scriptures are testimony of how God works and humanity responds to God’s invitation.

Here is the Pope’s text:

I am pleased to welcome you at the end of your annual Plenary Assembly. I thank the President, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, for his greeting and summary of the topic that has been the subject of careful consideration in the course of your work. You have gathered again to study a very important topic: the inspiration and truth of the Bible. It is a matter that affects not only the individual believer, but the whole Church, for the life and mission of the Church is founded on the Word of God, which is the soul of theology and the inspiration of all Christian life .

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Moving to God…

The experience of compunction is basically an experience of spiritual awakening. It provides the motivation for conversion to God, with the necessary rejection of sin and of whatever is less than the Creator.

The alternation of different experiences of compunction purifies the heart’s self-centeredness and gradually configures it to the image and likeness of Christ the Lord. They can be easily interpreted as manifestations of the “good zeal” of Christ the Bridegroom.

He corrects and encourages us by means of his Word, which we confront in lectio divina. His Word acts like a mirror of what the person is and what he or she can become through divine grace. Christ, the Spouse of every Christian, is purifying those he loves so as to prepare them for deep fellowship with him in a single spirit.

The Sun at Midnight
Dom Bernardo Olivera, OCSO

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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