Saturday, October 23, 2010

Lectio Divina Not of the Head but the Heart

In this month's Kyeongyang Magazine, a Benedictine priest brings us back to the topic of Lectio Divina (Holy Reading). This simple and unique ascetic practice of reading scripture not with the head as study but with the heart as the living word of God was passed on to us by the early monks. When read with a quiet mind and an open heart, the words of scripture are easily kept in memory, staying with us all day and uniting us with God.
With this ascetic practice, the words of the scriptural passage the monks were reading took deep roots in their hearts and enabled them to live a  fuller life. Combining Lectio Divina with the Eastern way of meditating brought about the Holy Reading Retreats we now have in Korea.

The Benedictine  laments that  in recent times many of our Christians, feeling a spiritual thirst and an emptiness in their life and wanting to satisfy it, have been  attracted by  other forms of spirituality and have ignored a true and proven  way.

The early Church  stressed that Lectio Divina is an important help for all Christians in living the words of scripture. Gradually, however, this legacy was lost and only remained with the monks. This was seen especially in the monastic life of the monks in Egypt, in the inspirations they received and in the life they lived. This method of prayer continued up until the time of  scholasticism and  the Renaissance, but  then began to disappear only to be revived by the Second Vatican Council.

The practice of Holy Reading includes meditation, prayer and contemplation. This prepares one with a 'spiritual ladder': from where we are now to  contemplation. The first step of the spiritual ladder is reading, full attention to vocal reading and listening to the word. The second, meditation, is to keep repeating in mind the words we have read; this period is also called rumination. The third, prayer, is giving our  hearts over entirely to God, and the fourth, contemplation, is to rest with a quiet mind, feeling oneness with God.

A noticeable feature of Holy Reading is that it is simple. There is an emphasis on purity of heart; it is at that time that we receive God's knowledge (Gnosis). With the  continual repetition of the word of God, we are living with the word and in the word and then, suddenly, one day we appreciate the meaning of the words we have been living with--bringing us closer to God and receiving strength, wisdom and discernment.

Our Benedictine is concerned that with all the different approaches to Lectio Divina and the interest we have today in Holy Reading, there is a strong possibility that it will become merely an intellectual pursuit. The reason the early Christians and monks made it an important part of their spiritual life  may be completely forgotten.

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