brief primer on the writing of lectio divina.
Knowing God. The path to God is not primarily through the intellect, though the intellect certainly informs the search. Nor is emotion the main path, though without a sense of awe and gratitude, who would endure? The path to God is through faith, and faith is certainty. Faith in God requires the certainty that eternal matters such as truth, justice, and goodness are the organizing principles of the universe. Faith cannot be built on irrational belief, but relies on experience of these eternal things.
The role of lectio divina in Christian life. There are many forms of Christian seeking, including self-denial (cf. encratism and pietism), the ladder of perfection (the ladder is study, dulcor and, highest, contemplation), apophatic meditation (e.g., the cloud of unknowing), social action and lectio divina. All have ancient roots, but lectio divina is perhaps the oldest, dating back to Isidore and Bede (ca. 600 AD). It became common in monasteries in the Middle Ages and is widely used nowadays, especially among monastic orders.
What is lectio divina? There are many variations on the practice of lectio divina, but they all rely on reading a passage of scripture and attempting to attain a deeper understanding through meditation and contemplation. One useful structure for lectio divina is as follows:
· Make the reading of scripture truly holy
· Understand the scripture through intellectual study
· Empty yourself, through humility and thanksgiving, to discover a deeper teaching
· Express that deeper teaching in words,
bringing forth a new treasure.
Why lectio divina? There are reasons to prefer lectio divina as a form of study, particularly because it is based in scriptural study, and is therefore not susceptible to the abuses that have characterized encratism and pietism. However, intellect is not the path to God. Therefore, if lectio stops in intellectual study, the faith it generates has no root. Some element of seeking after eternity is necessary. Apophatic (Eastern-style, emptying of the mind) meditation is helpful in amplifying the benefits of lectio divina.
This is not to disparage or exclude other forms of seeking. A full spiritual life includes many forms of seeking, including prayer, hymnody, the liturgy, membership in a congregation, social action and so on.
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