Archive for the ‘Lectio’ Category

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Lectio Divina – How to Listen for God

January 12, 2008

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God Speaks To Us First
This fundamental truth makes it possible for us to pray. God has been concerned for each of us long before we became concerned for ourselves.

God desires communication with us and does so in many different ways:

  • through God’s own word made flesh in Jesus;
  • because we are joined together in Christ Jesus, God speaks to us through others (the church, wisdom of the ages, etc.);
  • creation took place in the Word (Jn 1:1) and is another form of God’s self-revelation;
  • through the events and experiences of our lives;
  • through the scriptures, a real form of God’s presence

The use of scripture in prayer is the mode of communication that we are concerned with here. Since God invites us to listen. Our response to God’s initial move is to listen to what is said. This is the basic attitude of prayer.

How To Go About Listening
What you do immediately before prayer is very important. Normally, it is something you do not rush right into. Spend a few moments quieting yourself and relaxing, settling yourself into a prayerful and comfortable position. In listening to anyone, you try to tune out everything except what the person is saying to you.

In prayer this can be done best in silence and solitude. Select a short passage from scripture. Read it through a few times to familiarize yourself with it. Put a marker in the page. Try to find a quiet place where you can be alone and uninhibited in your response to God’s presence. Try to quiet yourself interiorly. Jesus would often go up to a mountain alone to pray with his Abba. In an age of noise, activity, and tensions like our own, it is not always easy or necessary to forget our cares and commitments, the noise and excitement of our environment. Never feel constrained to blot out all distractions. Anxiety in this regard could get between ourselves and God. Rather, realize that the word did become flesh — that God speaks to us in the noise and confusion of our day.

Sometimes in preparing for prayer, relax and listen to the sounds around you. God’s presence is as real as they are. Be conscious of your sensations and living experiences of feeling, thinking, hoping, loving, wondering, desiring, etc. Then, conscious of God’s unselfish, loving presence in you, address God simply and admit: “Yes, you do love life and feeling into me. You do love a share of your personal life into me. You are present to me. You live in me. Yes, you do.”

God is present in you through the Spirit, who speaks to you now in scripture, and who prays in you and for you. Ask for the grace to listen to what God says. Begin reading Scripture slowly and attentively. Do not hurry to cover much material.

If it recounts an event of Jesus’ life, be there in the mystery of it. Share with the persons involved, e.g., a blind man being cured. Share their attitude. Respond to what Jesus is saying. Some words or phrases carry special meaning for you. Savour those words, turning them over in your heart.

When something strikes you, e.g.,

  • you feel a new way of being with Jesus or he comes to you in a new way ( e.g., as healing or accepting you in a way different than other times);
  • you are happy and content just to be in God’s presence;
  • you are struggling with or disturbed by what the words are saying;
  • you experience new meaning;
  • you are moved to do something loving.

This is the time to … p a u s e.

This is God speaking directly to you in the words of Scripture.

  • Do not hurry to move on.
  • Wait until you are no longer moved by the experience. Don’t get discouraged if nothing seems to be happening. Sometimes God lets us feel dry and empty in order to let us realize it is not in our own power to communicate or to experience consolation. God is sometimes very close to us in seeming absence (Ps 139:7-8). God is for us entirely, in a selfless way, accepting us as we are, with all our limitations — even with our seeming inability to pray. A humble attitude of listening is a sign of love for God, and a real prayer from the heart. At these times remember the words of Paul, “The Spirit, too, comes to help us in our weakness, for when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, it is the Spirit who expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words” (Rom 8:26-27).

Relax in prayer. Remember, God will speak to you in God’s own way. “Yes, as the rain and snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do” (Is 55:10-11).

Spend time in your prayer just being conscious of God’s presence in and around you. If you want to, speak about the things you are interested in or wish to thank God for, your joys, sorrows, aspirations, and so forth.

 

Summary — 5 `P’s’. 1 `R’.

Passage of Scripture
— Pick one and have it marked and ready.

Place
— Where you are alone and uninhibited in your response to God’s presence.

Posture
— Relaxed and peaceful. A harmony of body with spirit.

Presence of God
— Be aware of it and acknowledge and respond to it. When you are ready turn to the …

Passage
— Read it very slowly aloud and listen carefully and peacefully to it … pause
Listen with your heart as you would a love-letter. Read aloud or whisper with pauses and repetitions when and where you are drawn. Don’t be anxious, don’t try to look for implications or lessons or profound thoughts or conclusions. Be content to be like a child who climbs into a caring person’s lap and listens to a story. During the prayer exercise and, certainly just before closing, it is helpful to carry on a conversation with God or with Jesus or some safe wisdom figure concerning what you hear.

Review — After the period of prayer is over reflect upon the experience of prayer just finished. This review will help you notice what God is doing in your experience.

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Daily Lectio Saturday Jan 12 08

January 12, 2008

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WHAT DOES IT MEAN to be a friend of God? … The mystics joyfully remind us that we are born from God; we live in God; and we return to God. Certainly we know this is true as we watch an orange-red sun drop beneath the edge of the ocean or witness a newborn kicking his tiny feet in the air. But so often these miracles of life are dimmed by distraction and busyness. We find ourselves stuck in the rut of the familiar. Our first Friend, God, may even seem far away.

Stephanie Ford Hungering for God From p. 88 of Hungering for God: Selected Writings of Augustine by Stephanie Ford. Copyright © 2006 by the author.

Today’s Scripture Reading

I, the Lord, have called you and given you power to see that justice is done on earth.

– Isaiah 42:6, GNT

This Week …

Special Need:

This Week: Pray for spiritual seekers. Visit the Prayer Wall.

Tips for Your Spirit:

Starting new spiritual practices? Read How to Have a Daily Devotional Time.

Saints, Inc.:

This week we remember Brother Lawrence (January 11).

Lectionary Readings:

Isaiah 42:1-9

Psalm 29

Acts 10:34-43

Matthew 3:13-17

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Daily Lectio – Friday 11 Jan 08

January 11, 2008

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“Great multitudes gathered to hear and to be healed of their infirmities”

Scripture: Luke 5:12-16

12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and besought him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 13 And he stretched out his hand, and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he charged him to tell no one; but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.” 15 But so much the more the report went abroad concerning him; and great multitudes gathered to hear and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he withdrew to the wilderness and prayed.

Meditation:

Jesus did the unthinkable. He touched the untouchable. Leprosy was one of the most dreaded diseases because it caused not only physical affliction and isolation, but psychological and mental affliction and isolation as well. Lepers in Jesus’ time where both shamed and despised and treated as the untouchable. Their physical condition was terrible as they slowly lost their limbs and withered away. They were not only shunned but regarded as “already dead” even by their relatives. The Jewish law forbade anyone from touching or approaching a leper, lest ritual defilement occur.

The leper who met Jesus did something quite remarkable. He approached Jesus confidently and humbly, expecting that Jesus could and would heal him. Normally a leper would be stoned or at least warded off if he tried to come near a rabbi. Jesus not only grants the man his request, but he demonstrates the personal love, compassion, and tenderness of God in his physical touch. The medical knowledge of his day would have regarded such contact as grave risk for incurring infection. Jesus met the man’s misery with compassion and tender kindness. He communicated the love and mercy of God in a sign that spoke more eloquently than words. He touched the man and made him clean – not only physically but spiritually as well.

Some eleven centuries later, another man, named Francis, met a leper on the road as he journeyed towards Assisi. “Though the leper caused him no small disgust and horror, he nonetheless, got off the horse and prepared to kiss the leper. But when the leper put out his hand as though to receive something, he received money along with a kiss” (from the Life of St. Francis by Thomas of Celano). Francis did what seemed humanly impossible because he was filled with the love and compassion of Christ. The Holy Spirit inflames our hearts with the love of Christ that we may reach out to others with compassionate care, especially to those who have been rejected and mistreated.

The love of God impels us to do as Jesus did – to love the unlovable, to touch the untouchable, and to forgive the unforgiveable. Do you allow the Holy Spirit to fill your heart with the love and compassion of Christ for others?

“May the power of your love, Lord Christ, fiery and sweet as honey, so absorb our hearts as to withdraw them from all that is under heaven. Grant that we may be ready to die for love of your love, as you died for love of our love.” (Prayer of Francis of Assisi, 13th century)

Psalm 147:12-20

12 Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion!
13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your sons within you.
14 He makes peace in your borders; he fills you with the finest of the wheat.
15 He sends forth his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.
16 He gives snow like wool; he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.
17 He casts forth his ice like morsels; who can stand before his cold?
18 He sends forth his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.
19 He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and ordinances to Israel.
20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his ordinances. Praise the LORD!

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Further thoughts on Lectio Divina

January 3, 2008

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LECTIO DIVINA is an ancient spiritual art that is being rediscovered in our day. It is a way of allowing the Scriptures to become again what God intended that they should be – a means of uniting us to God. In lectio divina we discover our own underlying spiritual rhythm. We experience God in a gentle oscillation back and forth between spiritual activity and receptivity, in the movement from practice into contemplation and back again into spiritual practice.

LECTIO DIVINA teaches us about the God who truly loves us. In lectio divina we dare to believe that our loving God continues to embrace us today. In the word we experience ourselves as personally loved by God; as the recipients of a Word which God gives uniquely to each of us whenever we turn to the Scriptures.

FINALLY, lectio divina teaches us about ourselves. In lectio divina we discover that there is no place in our hearts, no interior corner or closet that cannot be opened and offered to God. God teaches us in lectio divina what it means to be a royal priesthood – a people called to consecrate all of our memories, our hopes and our dreams to Christ.

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Lectio Divina on Life

January 3, 2008

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IN THE ancient tradition lectio divina was understood as being one of the most important ways in which Christians experience God in creation. After all, the Scriptures are part of creation! If one is daily growing in the art of finding Christ in the pages of the Bible, one naturally begins to discover God more clearly in aspects of all things made. This includes, of course, our own personal history.

OUR OWN lives are fit matter for lectio divina. Very often our concerns, our relationships, our hopes and aspirations naturally intertwine with our pondering on the Scriptures, as has been described above. But sometimes it is fitting to simply sit down and “read’ the experiences of the last few days or weeks in our hearts, much as we might slowly read and savor the words of Scripture in lectio divina. We can attend “with the ear of our hearts” to our own memories, listening for God’s gentle presence in the events of our lives. We thus allow ourselves the joy of experiencing Christ reaching out to us through our own memories. Our own personal story becomes “salvation history”.

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Private Lectio Divina

January 3, 2008

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Private Lectio Divina

CHOOSE a text of the Scriptures that you wish to pray. Many Christians use in their daily lectio divina one of the readings from the Eucharistic liturgy for the day; others prefer to slowly work through a particular book of the Bible. It makes no difference which text is chosen, as long as one has no set goal of “covering” a certain amount of text: the amount of text “covered” is in God’s hands, not yours.

PLACE YOURSELF in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent. Some Christians focus for a few moments on their breathing; others have a beloved “prayer word” or “prayer phrase” they gently recite in order to become interiorly silent. For some the practice known as “centering prayer” makes a good, brief introduction to lectio divina. Use whatever method is best for you and allow yourself to enjoy silence for a few moments.

THEN TURN to the text and read it slowly, gently. Savour each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that somehow says, “I am for you today”. Do not expect lightening or ecstasies. In lectio divina God is teaching us to listen, to seek in silence. God does not reach out and grab us; rather it is a soft, gentle invitation inviting us ever more deeply into Divine presence.

NEXT, TAKE the word or phrase into yourself. Memorize it and slowly repeat it to yourself, allowing it to interact with your inner world of concerns, memories and ideas. Do not be afraid of “distractions”. Memories or thoughts are simply parts of yourself which, when they rise up during lectio divina, are asking to be given to God along with the rest of your inner self. Allow this inner pondering, this rumination, to invite you into dialogue with God.

THEN, SPEAK to God. Whether you use words or ideas or images or all three is not important. Interact with God as you would with one who you know loves and accepts you. And give to God what you have discovered in yourself during your experience of meditation. Experience yourself as the priest that you are. Experience God using the word or phrase that God has given you as a means of blessing, of transforming the ideas and memories, which your pondering on the Word has awakened. Give to God what you have found within your heart.

FINALLY, SIMPLY rest in God’s embrace. And when God invites you to return to your pondering of the Word or to your inner dialogue with God, do so. Learn to use words when words are helpful, and to let go of words when they no longer are necessary. Rejoice in the knowledge that God is with you in both words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity.

SOMETIMES IN LECTIO DIVINA one will return several times to the printed text, either to savor the literary context of the word or phrase that God has given, or to seek a new word or phrase to ponder. At other times only a single word or phrase will fill the whole time set aside for lectio divina. It is not necessary to anxiously assess the quality of one’s lectio divina as if one were “performing’ or seeking some goal: lectio divina has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God by praying the Scriptures.

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The Underlying Rhythm of Lectio Divina

January 3, 2008

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IF WE are to practice lectio divina effectively, we must travel back in time to an understanding that today is in danger of being almost completely lost. In the Christian past the words action and contemplation did not describe different kinds of Christians engaging (or not engaging) in different forms of prayer and apostolates. Practice and contemplation were understood as the two poles of our underlying, ongoing spiritual rhythm: a gentle oscillation back and forth between spiritual “activity” with regard to God and “receptivity”.

PRACTICE – spiritual “activity” – referred in ancient times to our active cooperation with God’s grace in rooting out vices and allowing the virtues to flourish. The direction of spiritual activity was not outward in the sense of an apostolate, but inward – down into the depths of the soul where the Spirit of God is constantly transforming us, refashioning us in God’s image. The active life is thus coming to see who we truly are and allowing ourselves to be remade into what God intends us to become.

IN THE early monastic tradition contemplation was understood in two ways. First was the contemplation of God in creation – God in “the many”. Second was the contemplation of God without images or words – God as The One”. From this perspective lectio divina serves as a training-ground for the contemplation of God in creation.

IN CONTEMPLATION we cease from interior spiritual doing and learn simply to be, that is, to rest in the presence of our loving God. Just as we constantly move back and forth in our exterior lives between speaking and listening, between questioning and reflecting, so in our spiritual lives we must learn to enjoy the refreshment of simply being in God’s presence, an experience that naturally alternates (if we let it!) with our spiritual practice.

IN ANCIENT times contemplation was not regarded as a goal to be achieved through some method of prayer, but was simply accepted with gratitude as God’s recurring gift. At intervals the Lord invites us to cease from speaking so that we can simply rest in God’s embrace. This is the pole of our inner spiritual rhythm called contemplation.

HOW DIFFERENT this ancient understanding is from our modern approach! Instead of recognizing that we all gently oscillate back and forth between spiritual activity and receptivity, between practice and contemplation, we today tend to set contemplation before ourselves as a goal – something we imagine we can achieve through some spiritual technique. We must be willing to sacrifice our “goal-oriented” approach if we are to practice lectio divina, because lectio divina has no other goal than spending time with God through the medium of the Word. The amount of time we spend in any aspect of lectio divina, whether it be rumination, consecration or contemplation depends on God’s Spirit, not on us. Lectio divina teaches us to savor and delight in all the different flavors of God’s presence, whether they be active or receptive modes of experiencing the Word.

IN LECTIO DIVINA we offer ourselves to God; and we are people in motion. In ancient times this inner spiritual motion was described as a helix – an ascending spiral. Viewed in only two dimensions it appears as a circular motion back and forth; seen with the added dimension of time it becomes a helix, an ascending spiral by means of which we are drawn ever closer to God. The whole of our spiritual lives were viewed in this way, as a gentle oscillation between spiritual activity and receptivity by means of which God unites us ever closer to Godself. In just the same way the steps or stages of lectio divina represent an oscillation back and forth between these spiritual poles. In lectio divina we recognize our underlying spiritual rhythm and discover many different ways of experiencing God’s presence – many different ways of praying.