Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lectio Divina

Lectio divina is a Latin phrase which translates as 'holy reading'. It occupies an essential place in Benedictine life. Benedictines rate all education, study and reading highly, but lectio divina (often referred to just as lectio) is a slow, meditative way of reading the scriptures or other holy text which concentrates on what the words are saying to me, personally, at this time, rather than on information or facts.

I have always loved reading so, when I came to our monastery as a visitor and had an opportunity to learn how to do lectio, I seized it. I wasn't disappointed. This was at the stage where I was thinking where I should go with my life and my introduction to lectio was one of the elements that helped me to understand how I was being called to monastic life.

Now, it's easy to keep doing something when you first start and are swept up on a tide of enthusiasm. The challenge came when I realized that I was supposed to do lectio every day, not as part of "class" with a definite meeting time. This meant finding a space in my busy day to sit and read a passage several times, prayerfully, trying not be distracted by what I needed to get done next. As I look back, it seems to me that the discipline of forming the habit of daily lectio has been as important as the activity itself. It becomes a means of setting aside time to be with God. The Rule of Benedict is about seeking God, and you simply can't do that if you don't have specific times in the day that are intentionally devoted to doing just that. This isn't to say that I don't find God in my interactions with people, because I do, both within the community and the world outside. Indeed, God is always present, but lectio, Eucharist, LoH and personal prayer are times when I deliberately make myself aware of the presence of God. In saying that time alone with and for God is necessary, I am not implying that it's the only thing that matters. Rather, it's about ensuring that our lives are fully integrated.

Just a final word, so you don't get the impression I'm now perfectly disciplined. I have days when my timetable goes haywire or I don't make the best choices about my priorities. I need help sometimes to keep focused. That's where community can be a gift. There's a sister who often asks me what my lectio today was. That spurs me on to make myself do it, not so much because I don't want to admit I didn't, but because it tells me somebody cares and that she cares because she knows that it matters.

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