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.
LECTIO DIVINA: (Holy Reading) PRAYING WITH THE SACRED SCRIPTURES Sunday 16 April 2017 Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord, by Sister Hildegaard, OSB, Jamberoo Abbey, Ausralia
LET US NOW MOVE INTO PRAYER WITH THE SACRED TEXTS
Most of us will have attended the Great Easter Vigil. At this Vigil, the Liturgy of the Word consists of Seven readings, seven response psalms, and prayer responses. Since it’s impossible for me to share Lectio Divina on all the readings at the Easter Vigil, I’ve chosen the readings of Easter Sunday:
Acts 10:34, 37-43; Colossians 3:1-4; Matthew 28:1-10.
Lectio: Read the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles 10:34 and 37-43. Read it aloud. Read it slowly. Be aware of the Holy Spirit placing unction on the message of this text. When your heart responds to a word or a line, or a phrase, this is the Holy Spirit touching your heart and calling forth your response.
Meditatio: A little background to the text will help us understand it and make a response to it.
Cornelius of Acts chapter 10, was a Roman Military Commander of a division of 100 men. Such a person was called a “centurion”. This centurion, in today’s language, altered the course of Christian history. From being an exclusively Jewish sect, it became a multi-ethnic religion. Acts 10 tells the story of his conversion and of the
conversion of all who lived in his house. He had received a vision from God that he should find Peter. Peter received a vision that no foods were any longer unclean. (The eating habits of the Gentiles were the major barrier to fellowship with Jews). Cornelius and his companions arrive at Peter’s house in Joppa and there, Peter
preaches the Good News, baptizes the group, and then the miracles of tongues takes place in Cornelius and his companions. (Some of this background I have summarized from “The Complete Who’s Who in the Bible, an exhaustive listing of all the characters in the Bible” edited by Paul Gardiner).
There is also a long and very detailed analysis of this text in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary. (44:63). On the whole it is not helpful for prayer. It is rather suitable for academic study.
After much pondering, take time to respond to the text. You may want to ponder for a day or more, as you work, walk, garden…sit and watch the ocean, the lake, the river, the mountains. Just take time. I share my response to this reading in Evangelizatio 1.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 117
The response is: THIS IS THE DAY THE LORD HAS MADE; LET US REJOICE AND BE GLAD.
Psalm 117 is a long Psalm of 29 verses. We have six verses, with the first two lines of the third block, declaring: “The stone which the builders rejected [Jesus Christ who was crucified], has become the corner stone [his Resurrection from the dead and a Church which will be built on the foundation of Jesus Christ]. The familiar hymn reminds us: “The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ the
Lord.” (Melody, Aurelia, both in the Australian Hymnal and the Catholic Hymnal). Pray with the Psalm throughout the week, marking the words, phrases or lines which speak to you and call forth prayer from your heart.
Lectio: Read the Second Mass Reading: Colossians 3:1-4.
Meditatio: Understanding the text so we can make an informed response to it. Horgan’s commentary in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary notes that Colossians 3:1-4 sums up the teaching of the preceding section (2:16-23). We could take time at
this point to read the preceding section. Verse 1 contains a creedal statement based on Psalm 110:1. It was used in the early
Church to show that the messianic promises had been fulfilled in Christ. Verses 3-4: “although the resurrection had already taken place, all the conditions of the end time are not present. There is still a gap between what is on earth and what is in heaven. The fulfilment of the body of Christ is hidden ‘with Christ in God’, but finally, Christ and the believers will appear in glory.” Of the few commentaries I have read, I find this to be the clearest in that it explains
the gap between what is on earth and what is in heaven. The actual text is the kind of text which doesn’t easily make sense. (NJBC 54:22).
With this background, read the text again, and then ponder as you work or take time for leisure. Allow God to speak to you in the depths of your heart. I share my response in Evangelizatio 2.
The Gospel Verse is from 1 Corinthians 5:7-8.
CHRIST HAS BECOME OUR PASCHAL SACRIFICE;
LET US FEAST WITH JOY IN THE LORD.
Lectio: Now read the Gospel text from John 20:1-9.
Meditatio: Some background to the text which will help us respond.
A woman – Mary of Magdala – was the first to discover the miracle of the Resurrection! Next were Peter and John. Of this miracle, a Carthusian monk has written: “The Resurrection is repose after the painful tension of the Passion. It is the stone rolled away from the tomb. It is the joyful cry of Mary Magdalene. It is the other side of death become luminous. It is the certainty that life is already triumphant and that it will triumph in the end: the fundamental force that sustains the world and history is love, and love is stronger than death.” (From Advent to Pentecost, Conferences for Novices, by a Carthusian Monk). It does not seem appropriate to
undergo an analytical examination of this Gospel text. May we enter into it in a way that speaks to our hearts. Stand back and ponder on the text – every aspect of it – over a few days. Listen to the
Holy Spirit praying within you. This is the true oratio of Lectio Divina. Allow your spirit to rest and be still. Finally, make your response to the text and keep it in your prayer journal, and in your heart.
EVANGELIZATIO – this is one’s lived response to the texts given us by the Church each Sunday. It is about the evangelization of the “self”, and pins me down to be who I am: A Christian who prays with the Word of God, and responds to the call of the Word of God in my everday life.
1. My response to this text is to the notion of “conversion”. We once used the word “convert” to describe someone who had become a Catholic, after years of allegiance to another strain of Christian faith. “Convert” became a label – it was always used to describe such a person, even after they were Catholics for thirty years or more. And yet every Christian surely embraces a life of constant conversion. As a Benedictine nun, I have taken a vow of “conversion
of life”. This vow is the daily challenge before me. I make my choices for life or death on a daily basis. In “Lettres persans” of 1721, Charles Montesquieu said: “No kingdom has ever had as many civil wars as the kingdom of Christ.” And what about the civil war within me – the daily struggle to choose the kingdom of God over the kingdoms of this world? The struggle to make choices for life or choices for death. There is a civil war within each of us. The more we opt for Christ and the choices for life, then we will keep the powers of consumerism, materialism, hatred, revenge and bitterness at a safe distance, until one day, the Kingdom of God will triumph
2. I am responding to the words: “Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth…” This is another civil war I am involved in. Thinking is an act. I have a choice in what thoughts I allow into my mind and heart, and which thoughts I allow to dominate. Our Australian culture of complaining is a powerful one. We are hard-wired to think negatively and complain loudly. Loud negativity and loud complaining are all around us,
especially in the media. Perhaps William James says it clearly: “A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” Today we are called to rise above this and allow our thoughts to be on the things of heaven, the things of God. We are called to abandon the trash and focus on the gold. Only the gold is worthy of our calling.
3. I am responding to the words: “It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb.” For me, Mary of Magdala symbolizes my longing for the Lord and the longing in the hearts of all of us. We, like Mary, walk in the darkness of faith, with a song in our hearts. We may find that the Lord is not where we expected him to be, and so we weep, as did Mary. We tell others our story, conveying our longing and
they help us in our searching. Our faith in strengthened by those who care enough to help us, prop us up so that we can keep on searching and seeking. May we thank God this week for all who have been there for us in our searching and seeking. Write the name of each person. Put the names where you can see them. Stand back and look at the long journey you have walked with all these caring and compassionate friends.