Lectio Divina

In Lectio Divina, we read, we seek to understand with the help of a commentary, we ponder, we take time for stillness and we respond. It is a way of life, not a method of prayer. Take the Mother of God as your model, the one who brought forth the Word made Flesh, Our Savior Jesus Christ.

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)

(Here at the monastery, we celebrated this Solemnity on Thursday, June 15, 2017)

For those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours, the Psalter takes Week 3.  LET US NOW MOVE INTO PRAYER WITH THE SACRED TEXTS – The readings are: Deuteronomy 8:2-3 and 14-16 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 John 6:51-58

Lectio: Read the First Reading from the Book of Deuteronomy, chapter 8, verses 2-3 and 14-16. Read it in a reverent way. The Word of God is sacred. Let us give ourselves to the sacred text and open our hearts to the power of the Holy Spirit calling us forth to respond. Be aware of the Holy Spirit playing on the fibres of your heart as you read. This is the true “oratio” (prayer) of Lectio Divina.

Meditatio: Some informed background so that we can honour the text in its original meaning. At the beginning of the text, Moses speaks of the forty years in the wilderness. The number forty when used in the Sacred Scriptures, means a time of testing and trial. Moses indicates this also. The time was given to God’s people to test them and to 2 know their inmost heart. Would the people keep God’s commandments or not? That was the test. The people, at times, were hungry, thirsty, exposed to fiery serpents, and attacked by scorpions. Moses reminds the people that they were fed with manna when hunger devoured them. They were given fresh water (living water) from the rock. The rock was a symbol for God. After Moses struck the rock, water gushed forth. The wilderness was hard, at times cruel – but of all the lessons learnt, trust in God was the supreme lesson.

With this background, read the text again, and take a long time to ponder on the overall message. Build into each day some quiet time. Be still before the Lord. After pondering over many hours (days), you will want to make your response. I share my response in Evangelizatio 1.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 47 The response is: PRAISE THE LORD JERUSALEM. Psalm 147 is a Psalm of praise – praise of God’s personal care for Israel. And here too, is the mention of food provided by God. In this case, it is “finest wheat”. Pray with the Psalm throughout the week ahead, and listen to what the Holy Spirit is praying in your own heart.

Lectio: Read the First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 10:16-17. PAUSE. Read it again. Listen to the Holy Spirit playing on the fibres of your heart like a harpist, in order to bring forth the most authentic melody of your response.

Meditatio: Some background to the text, so that we can more easily understand it and make our response to it. This text presents the principle of unity, the unity which evolves from the celebration of Eucharist. It is the “communion with the Blood of Christ, and the communion with the Body of Christ”. Paul had more than his share of trouble from the Corinthian church. This is a further reminder of what Eucharist is about. As Christians who celebrate Eucharist, we often refer to this celebration as holy communion. The word “communion” sums up the great mystery of the Eucharist and the message of this text from 1 Corinthians. And Jesus exhorts us not to approach the table of the Lord if we are holding on to unforgiveness, enmity, the desire for revenge, or negative judgment about another. We are to go and make peace with the other person, so that we can be free of these negative powers, before we receive the sacrament of the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. St. John Chrysostom taught: Respect the Table of the Lord in which we all participate. Respect Christ immolated for us. Respect the sacrifice that is offered. Respect and deep reverence are called for if one is going to receive the Body and Blood of Christ (Holy Communion). It is the sacrament of unity, or communion. Communion is the opposite of fragmentation, disunity, discord.

Take time over the text before making your response to it in the days ahead. I share mine in Evangelizatio 2. 3

The Gospel Verse is from John 6:51-58. I AM THE LIVING BREAD FROM HEAVEN, SAYS THE LORD; WHOEVER EATS THIS BREAD WILL LIVE FOREVER.

Lectio: Read the Gospel text from John 6:51-58. Pause and ponder. Meditatio: Some background to the text so that we can better respond to it. This text was a horror to the Jews who were listening. They asked legitimate questions: How can this man give us his flesh to eat and his blood to drink? St. Augustine of Hippo, writing in the 4th century A.D. says of this text: You see on God’s altar bread and a cup. That is what the evidence of your eyes tells you, but your faith requires you to believe that the bread is the body of Christ, the cup the blood of Christ. In these few words we can say perhaps all that faith demands. Augustine then gives us another more serious reality. The holy Scripture expressly says: ‘they were of one mind and one heart’ in God This is the kneading together of many grains into one visible loaf. And so with the wine. Many grapes hang in a cluster, but their juice flows together into an indivisible liquid. This is the Eucharist for us. We receive this sacrament of peace and unity. We consume the bread and drink the wine and perpetuate the Lord’s peace and unity. We are broken, crushed and consumed. Thus we become as Jesus was, a living Eucharist. St. Augustine also said: Become what you receive. HERE IS THE CHALLENGE EVERY TIME WE PARTAKE OF THE EUCHARIST. Stand back from the Gospel and ponder. Go to a quiet corner of your garden or a nature reserve, or your own home, or a church which is open for prayer. Hear the words: BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD. Allow the Holy Spirit to play on the fibres of your heart like a harpist in order to bring forth the most beautiful melody of your response to God. I share my response in Evangelizatio 3.

Evangelizatio is my LIVED RESPONSE to the sacred scriptures given to me each week by the Church for my formation as a Christian. If I don’t respond, they are merely texts on a page. When I do respond, they are my life.

  1. My response is to the journey through the wilderness, escape from the slavery of Egypt, and the promise of the freedom of Canaan. Fr. Karl Rahner has a very meaningful reflection on the journey through the wilderness. He compares it with the Corpus Christi procession: We are people who change, who are restlessly driven on through time and space, who are ‘in via’ (on the way), and still seeking our real homeland and our everlastng rest. This procession is a movement which the Holy One, the eternal one supports with his presence; he gives peace to the movement and he gives unity to those taking part in it. The Lord of history and of this holy exodus from exile towards the eternal homeland…accompanies the exodus. We are the people of the exodus in our own times. We are on the way! God is with us, even though it seems that God has abandoned us at times. And then, like the people in the first wilderness, we are called to trust. God will give us living water, and bread from heaven. 4
  2. My response is to the meaning of Eucharist and its celebration within a Christian community. And so I understand that if I process towards the Table of the Lord, to take Holy Communion, I need to do so honestly. Therefore I need not to hold on to a grudge against another, unforgiveness towards another, the desire for revenge and all that makes for disunity and discordance. I also know that I cannot receive the Body and Blood of Jesus and at the same time, shut out the more than 50 million refugees across the world. The Eucharist is the sacrament of inclusion. One of the antiphons in our Monastic Liturgy (during Lent), is as follows: Break your bread with the hungry, bring the poor and homeless into your house. Many of us do this when we donate to the Christian organizations which look after the homeless with food, shelter and clothing. Now and then, it’s a help to look the homeless in the face, as we walk through our city streets. When they are “in our faces”, our attitude undergoes a radical change. Since the Eucharist is the sacrament of inclusion, it is worthwhile getting to Church early on a Sunday and spending quiet time, asking the question: whom do I exclude from my love? Whom do I dislike? What kind of negative words do I use to let others know that asylum seekers are terrorists, or at least trouble-makers? Refugees are not my concern? The homeless are victims of their own choices?
  3. I still pray with the books of Henri Nouwen. In his “Life of the Beloved”, he shares: We tend to forget that our real gift is not so much what we can do, but who we are. Who can we be for each other? The answer is, that we can be Eucharist – body broken, and life poured out. Lectio Divina is Holy Reading, that is, reading of the Sacred Scriptures It is a way of life, not a method of prayer. It is about reading (and listening), reflecting, praying in tune with the Holy Spirit within me, resting in God, and responding in the way I live.