Lectio Divina: April 2007 Archives

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From the lineamenta for the forthcoming Synod on the Word of God:

Mary, Every Believer’s Model of How to Welcome the Word

11. In penetrating the mystery of the Word of God, Mary of Nazareth, from the moment of the Annunciation, remains the Teacher and Mother of the Church and the exemplar of every encounter with the Word by individuals or entire communities. She welcomes the Word in faith, mediates upon it, interiorizes it and lives it (cf. Lk 1:38; 2:19,51; Acts 17:11). Indeed, Mary listened to and meditated upon the Scriptures; she associated them with Jesus’ words and the events which she discovered were related to his life. Isaac of Stella says: “In the inspired Scriptures, what is said in a universal sense of the virgin mother, the Church, is understood in an individual sense of the Virgin Mary.... The Lord’s inheritance is, in a general sense, the Church; in a special sense, Mary; and in an individual sense, the Christian. Christ dwelt for nine months in the tabernacle of Mary’s womb, he dwells until the end of the ages in the tabernacle of the Church’s faith. He will dwell for ever in the knowledge and love of each faithful soul."

The Virgin Mary knows how to take into account what is happening around her and live the necessities of daily life, fully aware that what she receives as a gift from her Son is a gift for everyone. She teaches us not to stand by as idle spectators before the Word of Life, but to become participants, allowing ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit, who abides in believers. She “magnifies” the Lord, discovering in her life the mercy of God, who makes her “blessed,” because “she believed that there would be a fulfilment of what had been spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1:45). She invites every believer to put Jesus’ words into practice: “Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe” (Jn 20:29). Mary is the paradigm of the person who truly prays the Word and knows how to keep the lamp of faith burning in daily life. St. Ambrose observes that every Christian believer conceives and begets the Word of God. According to the flesh, Christ has only one mother; but, according to the faith, everyone gives him birth.

Answering Ron

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Lectio Divina

Ron, a reader of Vultus Christi, asked about the discipline of adhering to the liturgical Lectionary in one's personal lectio divina. He wonders if one might not also read other passages from Sacred Scripture chosen more subjectively. I will attempt to answer Ron's questions based on my own experience.

Obedience to the Lectionary

The liturgical Lectionary given us by the Church is the most effective means of exposing oneself objectively, consistently, and fruitfully to the Word of God. The Bible is like an immense botanical garden with an amazing variety of plantings, trees, shrubs, herbs, flowers, and fruits; by means of the Lectionary, Mother Church takes us by the hand and, in the course of the liturgical year, guides us along its paths and byways. She invites to contemplate the sights set before us, to inhale the vast variety of its fragrances, and to taste its fruits.

The Word in the Midst of the Church

Obedience to the discipline of the liturgical Lectionary assures a Catholic hearing/reading of the Scriptures. The fullest and richest resonances of the Word of God are heard only when that Word is proclaimed and received in medio ecclesiae, in the midst of the Church and in the company of her Fathers, Doctors, saints, and mystics. One who make a subjective choice of texts for lectio divina risks reading only those passages that appeal to his sensibility, while avoiding those that challenge him and those that reveal their meaning only after a sustained effort of the mind and heart.

Sunday Lectionary

The Sunday Lectionary revolves over a three year (A, B, C) cycle. The semi–continuous reading of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Year A; Mark, Year B; Luke, Year C) commands the choice of the First Reading and the Responsorial Psalm. The Gospel of Saint John is read during Lent and Paschaltide. The sixth chapter of Saint John, the discourse on the Bread of Life is inserted into Year B, immediately following Saint Mark's account of the multiplication of the loaves . The Second Reading is an independent, semi–continuous reading of the Epistles of Saint Paul and the other books of the New Testament.

Weekday Lectionary

The Weekday Lectionary in the Time Throughout the Year revolves over a two year cycle. The synoptic Gospels are read in a semi–continuous fashion over a one year cycle; the First Reading is also read in a semi–continuous fashion over a two year cycle with a corresponding Responsorial Psalm chosen for each day. During the privileged seasons of Advent, Christmastide, Lent, and Paschaltide, the same readings and psalms appropriate to the season are repeated each year. Solemnities and feasts have their own proper readings. Memorials may celebrated with the occurring ferial readings or with proper readings as suggested by the Ordo Celebrationis or by pastoral need.

Sapiential Knowledge of the Scriptures

One who remains faithful in his lectio divina to the discipline of obeying the liturgical Lectionary will, over time, become familiar with the mystery of Christ that unifies the Scriptures from the first page to the last, and begin to acquire a sapiential knowledge of the Bible. On days of retreat or whenever one disposes of more time the liturgical lectio divina may be supplemented by lectio divina in particular book of the Bible, or by searching out a particular thematic.

Doing More

Cistercians have the tradition of praying the entire Psalter, beginning with Psalm 1 and proceeding numerically through Psalm 150 at least once a year in suffrage for the faithful departed. During retreats I often return to the Canticle of Canticles, to the Gospel of Saint John, or to the Epistles of Saint Paul. This kind of lectio divina is, nonetheless, subordinate to that determined by the liturgical Lectionary.

The Four Movements

I further recommend that one follow the rhythm in our movements described by Guigo the Carthusian:

1. lectio, i.e. reading the Word in order to hear it. It is helpful always to read the text aloud or, at least, to murmur it audibly.

2. meditatio, i.e. repeating the word heard so that by dint of repetition it descends from the mind into the storehouse of the memory and into the heart.

3. oratio, i.e. reformulating as a Word directed to God, that is as prayer, the word heard in lectio and repeated in meditatio.

4. contemplatio, i.e. the Word heard, repeated, and prayed becomes the indwelling Word uniting the soul to the Blessed Trinity in the silence of love and of adoration.

Beginning and Ending

I have always found it helpful to follow our traditional monastic practice of beginning lectio divina on my knees, imploring the Holy Spirit to show me the adorable Face of Christ concealed and revealed on the sacred page. I then kiss the open Bible and pursue the rest of my lectio. At the end I pray a Gloria Patri and entrust to the Blessed Virgin Mary the Word that I have heard, repeated, and prayed, that I may keep it in my heart as she kept it in hers.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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