Thursday, February 15, 2007

Lectio Divina, Part 4

I would like to suggest some ways in which we can enliven our lectio. Let me begin by saying that these are tips for a relationship with Christ, and as such cannot be made to work automatically. On the other hand, married people can often improve their relationships by following tried and true advice, and in that spirit, I offer this non-exhaustive list.

1) Begin with a prayer
We should never forget that we come to God when we come to the Bible. We come to God, not only to press Him with our needs, though we might do that regularly. We come to our God in such a manner as to encounter God and not ourselves. We should begin by placing ourselves in a position of openness and trust, trying to free ourselves of any preconceived idea of how lectio ought to go. A spoken prayer can be helpful. I am drawn to the prayer of Charles de Foucault: “Father, I abandon myself into your hands.” The Hail Mary or Come, Holy Spirit are also in line with this. Or we can simply make an act of faith, hope and love. In any case, if we just sit down and rip open the book, we are not likely to depart from the mundane world around us. Just as we line up for statio as a reminder that we are transitioning from the secular world to the sacred, we need to make time for transitioning from the normal awareness we have when at our daily tasks, into a quieter and deeper awareness of God’s voice.

2) Stay with the difficult parts
This is an important priciple for me, and I always recommend it. It is, of course, simply a way of realizing St. Paul’s words to Timothy: All Scripture is inspired by God. There is no part of Scripture that does not speak of Christ in some way. This needn’t be taken to extremes; however, what I am thinking of are the parts of the Bible that scandalize us. Perhaps we are uncomfortable with the violence of the book of Joshua, or Paul’s teaching on grace, or the Binding of Isaac, or the Apocalypse. Before we explain away the tough parts by resorting to an allegory that someone else worked out for us, I think that it is important to try and understand these on our own, and at their own level. We shouldn’t jump too quickly to defend Catholic ideas on freewill against Lutheran ideas of grace when we read Galatians or Romans. We should simply try to Paul at face value. The Word is alive and pierces: it should make us uncomfortable and separate the dead parts of us from the dying in order to give us real life. Or again, as I mentioned last week: we can read ‘turn the other cheek’ as a stark principle in general ethics, given with 'Semitic concreteness'. It is much different to imagine getting smacked by someone whom I don’t like and actually turning the other cheek.

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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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