Last week I was introduced to Lectio Divina, a fancy Latin name for Divine Reading and something that I had been doing already much of this for the last two years even though it was unbeknownst to me. Honestly, it came so naturally to me that I recognized my participation immediately as it was described and I wondered why this is considered a unique concept and why this isn’t done by everyone all of the time.
I try to read the Mass readings daily. Once I’ve done that, I currently have two other daily devotionals that include meditations and individual perspectives on the day’s Scriptures. Unless I am attending Mass, I let my feelings dictate when I will read. Despite leaving it to a sign of wanting it and not obligatory I have rarely skipped the readings.
During this time of Easter until Pentecost, I have been reading the Little White Book which I like for its combination of facts and related particulars along with Scripture and the Gospel of Matthew.
Upon becoming Catholic, I received a gift of Grace by Max Lucado from my best friend and after the other readings, I will read the morning page and then the evening section right before bed.
Many of these days I will latch upon a word or a phrase that strikes me as important or so closely related to my life that I can’t ignore it even if I wanted to. As a writer, there are days when I’m fortunate enough to take one or two of those wisps and express my heart.
Lectio Divina, to me is very much like this with a deeper meaning as it relates to my relationship with Christ.
I understand and appreciate the divine and the sacred, but I also find it sacred that many of my questions in my life, tangible, practical concerns that I seek guidance on are found in ancient texts that happen to know when I’ll need to hear them. I have the faith to accept this, but it is still a wondrous happening all the same.
It was explained to me as a fine food that you take into your mouth by small morsel and let it lay on your tongue so you can identify what it is that is so special about this tiny piece, savor it until you can taste all it has to offer and then seek more.
In researching online I have found that this is not far from what is happening while savoring the Scriptures.
Read whatever you’ve chosen for today and if something jumps out at you, grab it and hold onto it. See how it fits. Why did this word or phrase speak to you?
I have a perfect example of this happening today, so I’ll share it here: In reading Max Lucado’s Grace for this morning, the Gospel reading is from Matthew 7:2:
“You will be judged in the same way that you judge others.”
I found this appropriate that it should come today. One of the things that came between my murdered friend, whose anniversary of death was yesterday, and me was my judgmentalness. It is a reminder of all the negative that I projected when I should have been listening. I’m also afraid of being judged harshly because of my way of judging too harshly, so it makes me insecure and fearful about how others feel about me and whether or not they really like me.
In an essay I read yesterday by Mary Stommes, her quote, “A love you could come home to any time…” flew out at me quite unbidden. As an adult, married with children, I always felt that I didn’t need to worry; I always had a home to go to in my parents’ house. It wasn’t until after they both died that I realized I could not go home again. It left me drifting. Even though they hadn’t abandoned me, they both would certainly have chosen to remain here, but they were gone nonetheless and it left a hole, but not only a hole in my heart that losing a parent (or both) does to someone, but it left a frightening chasm that reminded me that if I took a misstep or made a huge mistake, I had nowhere to run to. I couldn’t hide and on an unconscious level this scared me.
It wasn’t until I had no childhood home to come back to that I began to search for myself, and where a few years later, I continue to search for other parts of myself still missing.
I use Lectio Divina in my secular life, grasping onto the words and phrases that stand out, and when I started relaying that kind of meditation to my spiritual life through the daily Scriptures, I could see and remind myself of G-d’s love and the never alone feeling that eluded me for so long. If that reminder was in a Bible written more than 2000 years old, some parts more than 5000, there was somewhere to turn to reconcile me to afjusting my thoughts and my deeds and that things were not impossible.
With Lectio Divina there are four steps: Read, Meditate, Pray, Contemplate.
Clare of Assisi had a noted four step method to hers: Gaze on the Cross, Consider, Contemplate, Imitate (as in become more Christ-like). Her method seems very much like the one that I’ll describe below.
I’ve also discovered that the Cistercians (as well as other monastic orders) used this method of meditation and contemplation. They were the White Monks in Northern Wales during the Middle Ages and whom Llywelyn Fawr was a patron of.
The meditation itself is a slow progression from one to the next, but it is definitely a quiet contemplation, a time to be alone with Christ.
I will almost never find myself in silence, so I try to adapt. The white noise of a coffee shop, headphones listening to music without lyrics, the hub of the house ,if it’s not too loud and through a closed door, so long as I can focus my energy on my reading. The important part for me is centering my spirit. The willingness to look deeper needs to be available. Music without words. Tea. Water. The day’s reading. Sometimes I find myself choosing a random page in a motivational book or checking a particularly insightful horoscope, and see where that guides me. For me, even these seemingly mundane inspirations still find their way to becoming closer with Jesus.
I leave the passages and the amount that I will read in G-d’s hands. I try to have no set plan as to x number of words or y number of verses. When you find it, you will know.
Read it slowly.
Repeat it until it becomes a mantra on your lips and in your mind.
Ponder the words, pay attention to how they feel on your tongue. When something comes to you – an answer, another question, a face or an item, savor it, meditate on it and then pray on it.
It should be quiet and contemplative.
Sometimes, I know I am too wound up to have any positive affect and so I’ll walk away for a bit. Read a book, make a list. It is very rare that I am not called back to my reading.
One of the most exciting parts for me is that there is no set time. This can be a ten minute exercise or twenty minutes or an hour.
It’s possible that I’ve so easily adopted this method of meditation because of my work with quick, ten minute or less writing prompts that this seems to fit into how my brain works.
However it does it, I’m happy that it is something I can do and feel comfortable with.