Saturday, February 17, 2007

Lectio Divina, Part 6 (Conclusion)

A few more suggestions for improving your lectio divina:

6) Read the Fathers, and don’t skip the quotes

The Fathers were naturals at lectio, and we can learn a lot from them. Again, a regular exposure to them will give us tools for reading the Bible spiritually. In this case, I suggest making friends with one or other congenial Father, staying with him for a year or two. I just finished a year with Gregory of Nyssa, and I am planning to read Augustine this year. By reading larger portions of one Father, we get to know him personally, and his style of exegesis is easier to understand. We see how other spiritual masters understood Scripture and allowed it to interpret their lives.
Another important piece of this is to read how they quote Scripture. It is so easy and typical to skim over the italics and think that they are add-ons to the gist of the argument. We admit the folly of this especially when we have a gut feeling that these 'add-ons' aren’t particularly topical. When this happens, and before, it is important to try to understand carefully what the quote is doing in the argument.

7) Read some scholarship

Last but not least, I do think that it is helpful to read good modern commentators. We shouldn’t turn to them too quickly, but they do often open our eyes to aspects of the text that we would otherwise miss. I felt that Raymond Brown’s books on the Infancy Narratives were very helpful, in part because they brought me back to the text and away from the many overlayers of pious interpretation. There is nothing wrong with pious interpretation, but again, I suspect that such interpretation is not finally satisfying for a monk. We probably need to do this kind of reading outside of lectio, and this implies actively seeking a life of divine leisure, to have time to study in addition to work and prayer.

As a last suggestion, I return to the admonition that we must not depend on any one method. We should be ready at an instant to throw out any old habit if we are moved by the Holy Spirit to approach Scripture in a different way, or if we are moved simply to sit in quiet adoration and intimacy with the Lord. This is the goal, and these suggestions are meant to lead to that goal. They should be left behind when the goal seems to be in reach.

We must end here. I hope that in one or two of these suggestions, you find a way to renew your own lectio. If we are true to lectio and allow it to change us, our community will certainly be strong and will attract others by its holiness. On the other hand, if we ever coast and place lectio in the second slot, we can be sure that our sense of the supernatural will fade and be replaced by mere ethics and hard work. Let us allow Christ to be more and more, all in all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this series - I appreciated the voice of experience, not just theory, in your postings.

I hope your retreat was deep and meaningful.


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