Lectio Divina: At The Wellspring
of Love and Truth

posted by Webmaster on December 1, 2023

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Practicing Catholics are exposed to an enormous amount of Sacred Scripture at Holy Mass during the course of the Church year. In her Sacred Liturgy, the Church sets forth the inspired Word of God as the "compass pointing out the road to follow." Sadly, this source of Divine wisdom seems to have little effect in the life of most Catholics. Why is this, when the Word of God should shape our lives?

As creatures made in the image and likeness of God, we have been endowed with both intellect and will. But these faculties of the mind and of the heart need proper formation. The psalmist directs us, "Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my paths."

But if our intellect is deprived of the light of the Divine Word, our wills will be weak and find it hard to pursue the virtuous life. Regrettably, many Catholics are poorly formed in the Tradition of the Church, which finds the Scriptures at its heart, and consequently, when they sincerely try to "live soberly, and justly, and godly in this world,"4 they learn it is personally difficult to put those truths into action. We must realise in all honesty that the dominant secularist culture has so affected us today, so that even the intellect and will of the average practicing Catholic is more influenced by the secularist, relativistic and prevalent anti life agenda than by the Scriptures, which reside in the heart of the Church's Apostolic Tradition.

While everyone is familiar to some degree with liturgical prayer (i.e., the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours) and with devotional prayer (i.e., the Rosary, novenas, etc.), few Catholics today know the powerful method of prayer called Lectio Divina or Divine Reading.

Lectio Divina is a reading of a passage of Scripture, received as the word of God and leading, at the prompting of the Spirit, to meditation, prayer and contemplation.

Lectio Divina nourishes the interior life of sanctifying grace in the heart of the baptised. It nurtures the Christian's thirst for the solid food of faith, hope and love. St. Jerome says: "We eat His Flesh and drink His Blood in the divine Eucharist, but also in the reading of Scripture."

For the Word of God to be "living and effectual," there must be an invocation of the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit descends upon us in Lectio Divina, we begin to experience what St. Paul knew when the scales fell from his eyes, for then we too begin to perceive the Truth - Jesus Christ.

The Scriptures were composed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Fathers of the Church illustrate this beautifully by saying the Bride of Christ, that is, the Church possesses the Spirit that has dictated the Word. When the Spirit opens the Scriptures to the members of Christ's Mystical Body, the Gospel becomes a window into divine reality, a "verbal icon of Christ."

Whereas certain schools of Catholic spirituality appeal to different personality types, Lectio Divina is suited to all, ideal for extraverts and introverts alike.

Regardless of temperament, Catholics struggle to properly balance their intellect and will with their emotional life. In a juggling act, many Catholics fumble through their spiritual life because they give their emotions free reign. Ruled by emotions, they live on a roller coaster, which at times may result in exhibiting moral conduct inconsistent with their Profession of Faith. If emotions dominate, people will tend toward narcissism or sentimentality. On the other hand, if people deny emotions, keeping a stiff upper lip, like the stoics of antiquity, their personality can become arid, brittle and inflexible, and will eventually snap. Lectio Divina helps to integrate the intellect, will and emotions, and is, therefore, an indispensable aid to the spiritual life.

Various methods of Lectio Divina exist, but the traditional method was developed in monastic life. Nicknamed the 'Monk's Ladder,' the monk climbed four rungs of Lectio Divina, drawn into contemplation of the Divine things. But the 'Monk's Ladder' is not confined only to monasteries, neither to a remnant of pious faithful, nor to a "group of specialists in prayer." Lectio is for all. So, as Catholics seek profound communion with the Word of God, "ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you."

Lectio Divina consists of these four stages:

  • Lectio - Reading as a receptive hearing of Sacred Scripture (SEEK)
  • Meditatio - Meditation as a pursuit of truth according to reason (FIND)
  • Oratio - Prayer as an approach to God, knocking on the doors of God's heart and the door will be opened to you. (KNOCK)
  • Contemplatio - Contemplation as tasting the sweet joys of God's presence (AND THE DOOR WILL BE OPENED TO YOU)

Climbing the 'Monk's Ladder,' we must learn to listen to God in a spirit of reverence. St. Benedict instructs us to listen to the Word of God "with the ear of our hearts." Only in silence can we hear the "still, small voice of God". Perceiving God's Word, we learn that "the Word has a face; it is a person, Christ."

The fruits of Lectio Divina are manifold, but one interesting realization of Lectio is in the area of sacred art. If we consider the Catholic art of the Middle Ages, for example, we could find countless depictions of Biblical scenes that demonstrate how the artist's meditations on the Scripture are realized artistically. In medieval renditions of the Annunciation, it is not uncommon to depict the Virgin kneeling, reading Isaiah's prophecy before King Ahaz18 when the Archangel Gabriel arrives to exclaim "Hail, full of grace."

The Scriptures do not tell us what Mary is doing at the moment of the Annunciation, but the minds of medieval artists pondered on this passage through Lectio Divina, and they could well imagine Mary reading Isaiah's prophecy about the coming of the Messiah - they found this a compelling insight, believing Mary was already steeped in the Word of God before the Word became flesh in her very womb.

In the practice of Lectio Divina, if we truly desire to seek God's presence in our life (Lectio), we will find (Meditatio) that if we knock (Oratio) at the door of Mary, she will open to us the door of the Holy Spirit (Contemplatio) and will feast on the fruit of her womb - Jesus.

We hope you've enjoyed this article, Lectio Divina: At The Wellspring of Love and Truth. Have a blessed day! +

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