Friday, February 16, 2007

Lectio Divina, Part 5

More helpful hints for lectio divina, continued from yesterday:

3) Memorize
One of the reasons we lag behind the Fathers in the efficacy of our lectio is that we don’t commit much to memory. John Chrysostom famously memorized the whole New Testament in two years. It shows! We need not set such lofty goals, but our lectio can bear more fruit if we take away a passage that we can recite at work during the day. A five to ten word phrase recited each day adds up to a lot of Scripture packed away, if we do this every day for ten, twenty, fifty years. What this does, is that when we encounter those difficult parts of Scripture, instead of turning to a commentator to explain them, we can allow a phrase in our memory to take us to another place in the Bible that can explain.

I recently had this occur in Colossians, where Paul speaks of hearing and understanding. It occurred to me that that endless Thursday Psalm 77 begins with the Psalmist singing of the things we have heard and understood. This in turn caused me to reflect on understanding as central to the Hebrew spirituality. It is often overlooked. This centered me Biblically on Paul’s letter, which is often tossed aside as Greek-influenced and not by Paul at all. My memory helped me to locate his teaching well within the usual biblical worldview.

4) Become a critical reader
Two weeks ago I mentioned Abbot Anselm’s question about why we do not find answers for our problems in lectio. I think the reasons are legion. One reason is that we all like at times to read to confirm our opinions rather than to have our world broadened and even overthrown. We can learn a good deal about how to read if we regularly expose ourselves to challenging literature in different fields: poetry, history, fiction, science, and so on. When we return to the Bible, we have a whole new set of ideas with which to interpret what we read.

5) Read the Bible just as a book
Again, we often lack the skills to recognize where the Bible is intertextually active because we simply don’t know the stories well enough yet. We can fix this by simply reading the Bible for fun. In the five or ten minutes before supper, for example, why not read a page or two of Nehemiah or Micah or 2 Peter? We will undoubtedly stumble on helpful passages if we make this a habit. I suspect that sometimes we excuse ourselves from lectio because we don’t have enough time to get into REM lectio; any reading of Scripture is not wasted.

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