The Scripture That Breathes Life
This month we are focused of “Daily Devotion” and look to be devoted to what the word of God is trying to say to us in our walk with Christ. Study however is what people are most used to in regard to scripture, but “study” is not what we are aiming for here. I’m not by any means the only one who thinks we will find a more life-giving relationship with the Bible if we side step the modern approaches of the historical critical method as taught in modern circles. The modern approach can turn the Bible into something like a corps in an anatomy class.. Meaning we are there to take it apart and put each bit through analysis. If it is alive when we start it will surely be dead when we are done.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve done a good bit of academic study using those methods, and I’ve gained a lot from it. No method will get you a better knowledge of how the text of Scripture came to us, and what it meant in its ancient linguistic and cultural contexts. There is great stuff to be mined there. In all the centuries before the Enlightenment, Christians assumed that the text of Scripture was to be approached prayerfully, as a means to encounter and learn from the living God revealed there. Consider one of my personal favorites from the church fathers.
Let Lectio Divina Breathe Life Into Reading
Many who want to nurture richer spiritual life among today’s Christians but struggle to find practical ways to do so lectio divina help in that regard. It helps to do this with one or more people as was the traditional practice. Here’s my distillation of common practice:
1. A passage is read aloud while all listen, and each person shares a word that struck them somehow in the reading.(If alone consider audio bible)
2. The passage is read a second time, and each person shares how the word or passage impacts their life. (if alone consider journaling)
3. The passage is read a third time, and each person shares what the word or passage is calling them to do.(again if alone, journal)
This is truly one of my favorite spiritual disciplines, and if you ever come to one of our “night with God” events you will have seen it. It places members of a group in a listening stance to Scripture, and gives a framework for shared discussion of their encounter with Scripture and life in response.
However, this process is a far cry from lectio divina as practiced in the medieval monk tradition. This process often draws a group into a fairly superficial encounter with a Scriptural passage after all, they just hear it three times and share the thoughts and feelings that come to mind.
We see an account of this contrast by Guigo that there are four connected steps (reading, meditating, praying, and contemplating) and each of them asks for more from us that a quick listen and response. Here’s Guigo’s first summary of those four steps of lectio divina:
“Reading is the careful study of the Scriptures, concentrating all one’s powers on it. Meditation is the busy application of the mind to seek with the help of one’s own reason for knowledge of hidden truth. Prayer is the heart’s devoted turning to God to drive away evil and obtain what is good. Contemplation is when the mind is in some sort lifted up to God and held above itself, so that it tastes the joys of everlasting sweetness.”
This is a process monks would spend hours at. This is a serious, and fully engaged approach. Look at the benefits it claims to promise — knowledge, finding what is truly good, tasting God’s everlasting sweetness.