"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

LECTIO DIVINA: "In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength" (CCC 104)

Emmaus the Supper 2 c. 1983 by Arcabas

Before we embark on the 14-Day isolation retreat dubbed as "Soul Hygiene and the Discernment of Spirits" (July 18-31, 2020) there is one Spiritual Exercise with which we must become familiar–the ancient practice of Lectio divina. Vatican II gave great impulse to the rediscovery of the Word of God, thanks to its Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum (DV). During the 40th anniversary, Benedict XVI, in his address said, "[T]he diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart [cf. DV 25]. If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church–I am convinced of it–a new spiritual springtime. As a strong point of biblical ministry, Lectio divina should therefore be increasingly encouraged, also through the use of new methods, carefully thought through and in step with the times. It should never be forgotten that the Word of God is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path (cf. Ps 119[118]: 105)."

On Dei Verbum's fifty-fifth anniversary, another Pope not only rouses the faithful from slumber but also declares Third Sunday in Ordinary Time as Sunday of the Word of God. Like his predecessors, he calls us anew to go back to the ancient practice of Divine Reading and even more so now with this global pandemic. The Israelites, when they were exiled from their homeland, held on tenaciously to the reading of the sacred book of the Law to safeguard their faith in God. Even if they were scattered in exile, they found themselves connected as one through reading of the sacred Scripture kept on their mind, on their lips and in their heart.

In his Apostolic Letter, Aperuit Illis (AI), Pope Francis referred to a poignant description of that moment in Jerusalem when the people were back from the exile:

The people lent “attentive ears” (Neh 8:3) to the reading of the sacred book, realizing that in its words they would discover the meaning of their lived experience. The reaction to the proclamation was one of great emotion and tears: “[The Levites] read from the book, from the law of God, clearly; and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep’. For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to him for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength’” (Neh 8:8-10). (AI 5)
Lectio Divina: The three concentric circles of Divine Reading

I. The first outermost circle–the mind, you simply let the words stream through your mind, never straining to "study or solve." As always in the Scripture, it is the heart that prays. So allow the "ears of your heart" to work. When finished, pause to listen to what you remember about what you read.

II. Move to the second inner circle–the lips. “This word is very near to you: it is in your mouth and in your heart for your observance” (Dt 30:14). Ask the Holy Spirit to speak directly through a word or a line. Be reverent towards the Word of God that is expressed in human words and fashioned in the light of the same Spirit through whom it was written (cf. DV 12). Spend some time savoring the particular word or line that serves as the Spirit's gift or consolation to you. Is there an accompanying feeling? Claim the gift and briefly give thanks.

III. In the third innermost circle–the heart, move slowly once more through the entire passage. When you come to the Spirit's gift to you, pause and feel God's quiet and loving Presence. Experience the Giver, the God of consolation Himself, present in the here-and-now, with and within you just like what the two Emmaus pilgrims experienced. Even if God knows already what you might have there in your heart, talk to God about it and listen to Him. Respond by giving thanks, by asking for forgiveness and by begging for an increase in faith, hope and love. Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote:
Faith means: "You, O God, are right in every case, even when I cannot see it or perhaps would prefer the opposite." Hope means: "In you alone, O God, do I have my continued existence, and for that reason I leave behind all assurances resting on myself." Love means: "All my strength and heart and mind are straining themselves to affirm you, O God (and myself only in you), and those whom you have placed beside me as my neighbors."
This ancient method of reading the Bible is more about connecting the heart with God and such an experience is priceless. St. Bonaventure, doctor of the Church and whose feast we celebrate today, always insisted that the simple and uneducated could have a clearer knowledge of God than the wise.

When you decide to make time for your prayer apply the above technique.

Nota Bene: You can find the links to the daily Scripture or Mass Readings on the sidebar of this webpage.

Fr. JM Manzano, SJ