Monday, February 12, 2007

Lectio Divina, Part 1

During the week of our community retreat, I will be sharing with excerpts from a recent chapter conference that I gave on lectio divina. Next to the liturgy , "lectio" is the prime component of monastic spirituality. It is a meeting of the monk with Christ in the Divine Word. While this was a natural dynamic for early monks, for many reasons, this spirituality needs formation and regular theological reflection today, for reasons that I hope will be clearer through these posts.

Please keep us in your prayers this week! I promise to prayer for all my readers each day.

Part 1.

During the meeting of American superiors of the Province here at the monastery last year, Abbot Anselm [Atkinson, of Petersham, Mass.] asked a question that seems to be on many superiors’ minds: “Do monks actually do their lectio?” Apparently there is reasonable concern that they do not. There are good reasons for this concern, and it does not stemprimarily from bad will on monks' parts. In some cases, older monks were formed before the Council and were not trained for lectio. In other cases, there simply is not enough leisure in the life to allow the time for a deep exposure to Scripture to take place effectively. As superiors of contemplative houses, we discussed the fact that we all have sufficient time set aside for lectio, and it was here that Abbot Anselm asked the more probing question. “Let’s assume that monks are doing their lectio. Do they seek answers for their lives in lectio, or do they run to the abbot as soon as there is a problem?” In other words, is this time spent with lectio real prayer, the Word of God addressed to me today? If not, and I believe that this is a problem for most monks today, how can we recover this personal approach to the Scriptures?
Let me begin tonight with a brief theological reflection on Scripture and then move to some practical tips for lectio that I have discovered in ten years of regular prayer in this fashion.
“We proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” Scripture is not primarily information. It contains information, yes, but we profess that the Holy Spirit, speaking through the human authors has given us access to the Christ-event through the mediation of Divine Revelation as a whole. One of the very clear teachings of Vatican II is that there is only one revelation, and it is Jesus Christ. There had been some questions coming from Vatican I and from Trent as to whether there were two parallel streams of revelation, the Scriptures and the secret teachings of Jesus handed down through the Apostles.
In affirming one revelation, the Church affirms that first and foremost there is simply Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came into the world, took human flesh, died and rose for us and ascending into heaven gave the Holy Spirit that we might share life with Him. There is a fine article in this month's Rite magazine written by Deacon Charles Bobertz, who taught me New Testament at St. John’s. He points out that before there was the New Testament, there was the liturgy of the Church as the means by which Christ’s presence was realized and shared, and that it was out of reflection on the liturgical life of the Church that the Scriptures were produced. So we have twin supports in our own life with Christ in the monastery, the liturgy and the Scriptures. They should interpret one another and lead to one another. We should always situate our reading the Bible in the Church and her life as it is best realized in the liturgy.

1 comment:

Antony said...

Prior Peter,
I have been reading your blog for 6-8 months I think, and enjoying your wisdom and insights very much, but I don't think I have ever commented before. I just had to today when I saw Cahrles Bobertz's name, and read that you attended Saint John's!

Charles Bobertz is my patristics prof right now and I am thoroughly enjoying the class! I'm a student at Saint John's School of Theology right now, and I'm an oblate of Saint John's.

Well, I thought it was about time I said hello and stopped only lurking. Keep up the wonderful posts. You blog is a treasure to some of us. Thank you. I hope to visit your community in Chicago one of these days.
Antony Hanson
antonyh @


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If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
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