Lectio Divina – SECRETARIATUS GENERALIS PRO MONIALIBUS O.C.D. – ROMAE
THEOLOGICAL AND SPIRITUAL REFLECTION PROJECT FOR THE DISCALCED CARMELITE NUNS
Meditating day and night on the Law of the Lord:”lectio divina” in the Nuns’ contemplative Teresian CarmelGuidelines from the General House
The Latin expression lectio divina means a prayerful reading of scripture to nourish prayer and to enter into communion with the mystery presented to us in the biblical text.
Lectio divina is distinct from scientific exegesis, study and interpretation, since it is centred on dialogue of faith between the reader and God, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The third step is prayer. Prayer is recited, there is praise and supplication. “A prayerful attitude is present from the beginning of lectio divina … meditation is already almost an attitude of prayer which then spontaneously transforms into supplication. However in the dynamic of lectio divina, where everything is sprinkled with prayer, there should still be a special moment reserved for prayer. Through the reading we are trying to discover what the text is saying to us. Meditation confronts reading with our life: What is the text saying to me, to us? Until now God has been speaking. The moment has arrived for what is properly called prayer. What is the passage saying to me, what does it move us to say to God?…. Prayer springing from meditation, begins with an attitude of silent admiration and adoration of the Lord. From there comes our reply to God’s Word… As in meditation, it is important that this spontaneous prayer be not merely individual but that it also has a community expression in a shared form. Prayer arising from meditation, can also be the recitation of already existing prayers. From this point, the Divine Office offers a great help … Finally, in prayer each one reflects on their personal journey to God and the effort is made to empty oneself of selfishness, in order to make place for God, our brothers and sisters, the poor, and the community. It is here that the dark nights are found with their crises and difficulties, with their deserts and temptation . Here they are prayed about, meditated on and faced up to in the light of God’s Word”(Mt 4:1-11).
Contemplation is the final step in lectio divina. It leads us to observe, to relish and to put into action. “Contemplation unites together all that has happened in lectio divina: we have read the word and listened to it, we have studied it and discovered its meaning. We have become involved in what we have discovered and have begun to examine it so that it can enter into what is happening in our lives, so that it can pass from the head to the heart. We have transformed all this into prayer before God, as a plan for our life… Now, finally, holding all this in our mind and heart, we begin to have a new vision for observing and valuing our life, actions, history … This new vision is contemplation.
A new vision, a new relish, new action! Contemplation covers the whole of the human being. St Augustine says that it is through reading the Bible that God develops in us the vision of contemplation and helps to decipher the world and transform it so that it becomes once again a revelation of God, a theophany. Contemplation, thus understood, is totally contrary to the attitude of those who shun the world in order to contemplate God.
Contemplation, resulting from lectio divina, is the attitude by which we submerge ourselves within happenings, to discover and relish in them the active and creative presence of God’s Word and, moreover, try to commit ourselves to the transformation process that this Word is stirring up within history. Contemplation does not only meditate on the message, but also brings it about; it does not merely listen but puts it into practice. It does not separate the two aspects: it says and does; it teaches and encourages; it is light and strength…. Contemplation, as the last rung in the ladder, is the new level for a new beginning. It is like climbing a very tall tower… It is advantageous to keep climbing as the view of the countryside gets better. Thus we are continually involved in a process that has no end. We continue to read the same Bible, looking always at the same countryside. But the higher we go, the deeper the vision, the scene becomes wider, more real… And thus we continue climbing, together with our brothers/sisters, exchanging ideas, helping one another so that we do not miss anything. Thus we continue climbing until we arrive at contemplating God face to face (1 Cor 13:12) and, in God, our brothers and sisters, reality, the countryside, in a vision that is complete and definitive”(12).