One of my favorite forms of Catholic prayer is Lectio Divina. It’s one of the ways in which I practice the 11th Step in my recovery.
In Christianity, Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s Word. It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied, but as the Living Word.
Traditionally Lectio Divina has four separate steps: read, meditate, pray and contemplate. First a passage of Scripture is read, then its meaning is reflected (meditation) upon. This is followed by prayer and contemplation on the Word of God.
The focus of Lectio Divina is not a theological analysis of biblical passages, but rather viewing them with Christ as the key to their meaning.
For example, given Jesus’ statement in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you,” an analytical approach would focus on the reason for the statement during the Last Supper, the biblical context, etc. But in Lectio Divina rather than “dissecting peace”, the practitioner “enters peace” and shares in the peace of Christ.
In Christian teachings, this form of meditative prayer leads to an increased knowledge of Christ.
The roots of Scriptural reflection and interpretation go back to the 3rd century, after whom St. Ambrose taught them to St. Augustine.
The monastic practice of Lectio Divina was first established in the 6th century by Saint Benedict. It was then formalized as a four step process by the Carthusian monk, Guigo II, in the 12th century. In the 20th century, the constitution Dei Verbum of Pope Paul VI recommended Lectio Divina for the general public.
And yay! Our wonderful Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the importance of Lectio Divina in the 21st century.
I practice Lectio Divina—not daily, but definitely often-— in the mornings when I read the daily Mass readings at home in my prayer chair. It’s one of a variety of ways I practice my 11th Step–“sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as I understand God.”
I appreciate so much how I can go anywhere in the world and feel at home in an AA meeting and in a Catholic Mass.
AA meetings all have basically the same format. I know what to expect; and I can attend in silence without having to talk to anybody or interact with them if I don’t want to. I love this because sometimes, especially when I travel, if I had to share, or introduce myself, or communicate with others, I probably wouldn’t go as often as I need to.
Don’t get me wrong—I love my “home group” where I share often and reach out to others. But sometimes I just want to take it all in all by myself.
And the Mass is the same all over the world everyday, too. I don’t think people who aren’t Catholic know this?
When my family travels for beach trips or visits to relatives out-of-state, we always make a point to find the nearest Catholic church and attend Mass on Sunday.
In every Mass — in the “Liturgy of the Word” part of the Mass, the same Scripture passages are read around the world. If I’m in Idaho today, Thursday, January 31, 2013, attending Mass at a small chapel in a small town outside Boise, they will be reading the same passages from the Bible that are being read in New York City at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and in my home parish Saint Peter Chanel here in Roswell, Georgia:
First Reading for this example is Hebrews 10:19-25
Psalm 24: 1-6
Gospel Reading: Mark 4:21-25
On Sundays, there is another reading from the New Testament added, as well. The previous Sunday it was 1Corinthians 12:12-30, which is one of my favorites.
I love this about my faith, the universality of it all. Since I usually only attend Mass on Sundays, I have a subscription to Magnificat, which takes me through prayers and meditations on the daily Gospels. (Or I can always check here to get the readings.)
And so this morning I practiced Lectio Divina in solidarity with all the Catholics around the world reading the same Scripture.
This example’s Gospel is from Mark 4:21-25:
Jesus said to his disciples, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light. Anyone who has ears to hear out to hear. He also told them, ‘Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you. To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
A lamp is to be placed on a lampstand, and not hidden. For me, today, I relate this to how I am beginning in sobriety to follow God’s will more perfectly. To do this, it seems God is calling me to share myself with others. By being vulnerable–and I am just learning this for the first time in my life—by being vulnerable, I am able to connect authentically with others. If I make myself vulnerable and put myself “out there” in an honest way–not in a vain or self-serving way but in a way that truly helps me form connections with others—then this pleases God.
The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. This passage always seems to cut me at my core. How do I measure? Do I measure others by how well they practice their faiths, how much money they have, how they raise their children, how they measure others? I have a tendency to judge people who judge others ha ha ha. How messed up is that?
I want to measure others the way Jesus measures me. With compassion, patience, love and mercy.
Dear God, thank you for another day of sobriety. Please direct my thinking today and help me do Your will. Teach me to measure the way You measure. Enlighten me to be aware of when You want me to reach out to others who need help. Keep me out of my own head. Teach me to see others as you see them.
This fourth stage of Lectio Divina is when the prayer, in turn, points to the gift of quiet stillness in the presence of God, called contemplation. So, I sit, quiet, still, breathing deeply and taking in all God wants this reading to give to me. I just sit and hang out with God. Like Mary (the sister of Martha) just listening to Jesus talk while Martha busied herself in the kitchen, I just sit here at His feet and listen.
“Seek in reading and you will find in meditation; knock in prayer and it will be opened to you in contemplation” — Saint John of the Cross.
Here is a link to Jeff Cavin’s take on Lectio Divina.