Tag Archives: lectio divina

St Ambrose

Today is the liturgical memorial of the great St. Ambrose of Milan (c. A.D. 340–397).

You know the narrative: born in what is now France, a successful lawyer and politician in Milan, Italy; following the death of the bishop of Milan, the people demanded that the catechumen Ambrose and not yet a Christian, become the successor. (Ambrose hid in an attempt to escape the nomination; even the emperor forbade giving him shelter, forcing him to give himself up and submit.)

Ambrose was a holy leader: author of hymns, theology, correct teaching, serving the poor and donating his patrimonial land to the Church, and being available to all. Bishop Ambrose defended orthodox doctrine against the pervasive Arian heresy which denied the divinity of Jesus Christ. As a beekeeper and as one who appreciates and loves liturgical theology, I have an appreciation for Ambrose’s nickname: “honey-tongued doctor.” In fact, one of hives is named for St Ambrose.

Bishop Ambrose introduced lectio divina to his local church: the practice of prayerfully meditating on the Sacred Scriptures. This method of prayer spread all over the Church. You will recall that it was Ambrose as the bishop who converted and baptized St. Augustine of Hippo. He is one of the four original Doctors of the Church, and his statue is one of four that upholds the Chair of St. Peter inside St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Today, prayers for the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation meeting in NYC’s Mother Cabrini Shrine for the Advent Day of Recollection. 40+ are gathering. A fitting day for us since Communion and Liberation was founded in the Diocese of Milan.

Familiarity with God’s Word

Are you familiar (at the deepest possible level as able) with sacred Scripture? Daily, it is recommended, to spend time doing lectio divina.

While John Paul is addressing members in consecrated life, the teaching is fitting and prudent for the laity, too.

“As the church’s spiritual tradition teaches, meditation on God’s word, and on the mysteries of Christ in particular, gives rise to fervor in contemplation and the ardor of apostolic activity. Both in contemplative and active religious life, it has always been men and women of prayer, those who truly interpret and put into practice the will of God, who do great works.

“From familiarity with God’s word they draw the light needed for that individual and communal discernment which helps them to seek the ways of the Lord in the signs of the times. In this way they acquire a kind of supernatural intuition which allows them to avoid being conformed to the mentality of this world, but rather to be renewed in their own mind, in order to discern God’s will about what is good, perfect, and pleasing to him (see Romans 12:2).

Saint John Paul II, The Consecrated Life

Lectio divina –being familiar with Christ

The following is something I curated and posted on the Benedictine Oblate Facebook group today.

In a recent newsletter from Fr. James Flint, OSB of St Procopius Abbey (Lisle, IL) he writes about his abbot asking the monks to say something about lectio and what was gleaned is “Give me a word” —some thoughts on lectio divina. See https://www.procopius.org/lectio-divina

As you know, the practice of prayerfully reading sacred Scripture is a key part of being a Christian, indeed, a Benedictine Oblate. Some Oblate formation programs stress lectio divina more than others. From experience, this is true for the Oblates of St Meinrad Archabbey. Whatever the case may be, lectio is rather crucial if you are truly seeking God —having familiarity with Jesus Christ.

Give me a word

~Words about the time and place for lectio divina. Most importantly, find the time to do it. Find a time of day that works for you. It can help to use the same time each day. Keep the amount of time short at first – you can build up to longer times eventually. Have a quiet place, away from normal affairs, to pray lectio divina. Don’t allow distractions. Find a sacred place.

~Words about picking a passage to do lectio divina with. At first, take just a few verses of Scripture. Use the readings for Mass, since you’ll hear them again when you go to Mass.

~Words about the “method” of praying lectio divina. Don’t get caught up with following a “method” or “technique,” but rather the important thing is to spend time with God through Scripture. Don’t over-think or over-analyze – eventually the Scripture takes the lead in the dance. Do lectio divina regularly, in a way that works best for you. Work on being quiet and do not focus on what you are doing. Don’t get discouraged and give up, if you don’t seem to be getting something out of it – keep to it! Lectio divina is a prayerful, patient pondering of a biblical text. Steps for lectio divina give your prayer purpose and direction.

~Words about how to read the biblical passage. Read over the passage repeatedly and slowly. Remember that through Scripture God is speaking to you. Be mindful of God’s presence. It can help to use a printed text, rather than a digital one on your phone or computer.

~Words about how to meditate on the passage. Meditate on the text in order to understand it. Think about how the words apply to you and to others. Ponder yourself in the biblical story or in the original audience of the text.

~Words about how to offer prayer in lectio divina. See your prayer as a relationship. Transitioning from meditation to prayer is important, for it helps to apply the text and opens you to what God wants to give you in this prayertime. The reading of Scripture must be applied to my life.

Lectio requires an altogether different approach, one that opens us to God’s agenda. The purpose is not to read a chapter of Scripture a day, to “get through” the Bible in a year, or anything of the sort. The purpose is to listen to God’s message to me, here and now, today. The quantity of material “covered” is irrelevant, and it could be counter-productive even to think in such terms. The material it should be that sets the agenda. Once we understand and apply that, we are engaged in lectio divina.

St. Procopius, pray for us.

Pushing to know Jesus

In a treasure trove books on Christology (secondary theological reflection) we have densely packed pages reflection on the of Jesus and what it means to say He is the Christ. It seems to me that the theological and spiritual questions and research have to be re-oriented. What if we reflect on what Jesus says in the Gospels, and how he acts? Jesus asks Peter, “Who do you say I am?” AND NOT “Who do the theologians say that I am?” Jesus does not ask us what Fr. John Meyendorff or Fr. Alexander Schmemann, or Sr. Vassa Larin or NT Wright, or Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar thought.

Knowing about Jesus is different than knowing Jesus. As to Peter so to us: “Who do you say that I am?”, a question that demands our own personal response based on our own personal experience of Jesus in prayer, divine Liturgy, Lectio Divina, and his subtle yet very real, mysterious presence in everyday life.

Theological reflection, first and second levels, are critical in having a comprehensive view of who Jesus Christ is. The personal encounter is a aided and challenged by theological reflection so as to keep us honest and correct. In today’s world we are tempted to think that any experience and any book is orthodox, that is, without error. We know by reason, however, this is incorrect. Knowing Jesus and not merely about Jesus is experienced with several contexts: worship (adoration), personal conversion, a communal life and works of charity; you can think of these points as pillars: prayer, study, community, and service. Truth is symphonic and verifiable. Book knowledge is useful but it is useless unless we are led us into a deeper relationship, a deeper engagement with Jesus. Otherwise, valuable space in the brain is wasted.

Listening with the ear of the heart – Lectio Divina

I am firm believer, based on experience AND the witness of Tradition of the Church, and that of Benedict XVI, that Lectio Divina is the prime method of my daily spiritual renewal. It is the daily re-birth of my life in Jesus Christ. My hope is that I can be faithful to the practice. Here is a fine thought on value of Lectio:

The monastic art of the reading (lectio) which is really a kind of listening (“with the ear of the heart”, cf. Rule of Benedict) to what the Word of God is saying to us in the Scriptures. They were also given time and space to immerse themselves in the practice of this art and to share their experience with one another and some of the monks. And all, of course, took place within the daily round of prayer and work which make up the life of the monastery ( or, in the home and workplace, among friends).

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]yahoo.com.
coat of arms

Categories

Archives

Humanities Blog Directory