Monday, January 5, 2009


The goal of the Lectio is of course contemplation, the highest rung in the Scala Claustralium. But the possibility of contemplation can only be prepared for through reading, followed by meditation and then by prayer.

Reading is intelligent reading of Scriptures. One must be attentive to settings, changes in character, movement, tenses of verbs, movement of a plot... etc. The grammar and syntax of the text is the "flesh" that must be honored before I can proceed to the "spirit" of the text.

Meditation is allowing the text to speak to oneself. This is easier said than done. The more advanced practitioners of the lectio at this stage would be taking down notes, looking at other passages of Scriptures, or even checking marginal notes and footnotes. Beginners in the practice can also use their imagination by "putting themselves in the text", as it were, and getting themselves involved in the action. Guy the Carthusian goes from one keyword to another asking himself what it means, while at the same time going through other passages in the Scriptures that could shed light on it.
Prayer begins any time during the process (whether in reading or in meditation). It is the moment when one closes the page and raises his heart to God. In some parts of the Confessions, Augustine seems to be using the occassion of reading by asking God directly what the passage means. "When one reads, God speaks; when one speaks to God, one prays." Prayer after all is the exhalation of the spirit that the Word of God has expanded.

Contemplation is the last stage of the Lectio. It is not an achievement but a gift. It is the soul getting a foretaste of that rest which one can find in God alone. The mystics cannot describe the experience in words because no single human experience can be compared to it. And because it is a gift, one can only wait that it be given.

The "Lectio Divina" is best done with the following external elements:
  1. a schedule (early in the morning is the best; late at night is not so good)
  2. a place (time and place is a requirement for routine; the place should be far from any distraction)
  3. a good translation of the Bible (Catholic Bible, please, because it is complete)
  4. a notebook and pen (for taking down notes, of course)
"Lectio" in Latin is not only "reading", it is also a "lesson". The knowledge gained in one sitting (of about 30 minutes) becomes part of one's stock knowledge of the accounts of Salvation History, and therefore can be very useful in future readings of the Scripture.

The "lectio" should become an extension of and a preparation for the Divine Liturgy, i.e., the Mass. It would be an excellent idea to synchronize one's reading of the Scriptures with the liturgy's cycle of readings. However, if one would like a continuous reading of the Scriptures, it is recommended that one begins with the Gospels, Mark, first, then Matthew and Luke and finally John. Mark being the earliest of the Gospels can become one's guide in reading the other gospels. We learn by comparing and contrasting. After one's reading the earliest of the Gospels, one can then have a better appreciation of the accounts of Christ's ministry, death and resurrection when one reads the other gospel accounts having Mark in one's stock knowledge.
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