Lectio: Listening as Communion

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Part of "Lectio: Listening with the Heart"

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Okay, good morning. As we mentioned last night, and for those of you that weren't present for that first reflection, just a few sentences and then you can always approach maybe somebody else that was here and give them a chance to see what they absorbed last night, but we talked about the power of words and before one even approaches the text to try to enter into the mindset of the people that wrote that text that spans, we mentioned, perhaps two to three thousand years, and that it comes out of a Near Eastern Semitic mindset and the whole meaning of word and the power of word, and we explored that last night. And then I had talked about the need for modern people to recover the sense of word and the need for Roman Catholics to recover the sense of Scripture.


I had mentioned that as Roman Catholics, those of us who are Roman Catholics are well experienced in knowing how to commune in the Eucharist, but with the word, we're not as strong there. We're not as clear there. We don't know quite, we expect perhaps instruction or a lesson, but when we gather around the altar, we look for communion. And what I was suggesting is we need to approach the word as communion. And as Vatican Council stresses, Christ is not any less present in the word than in the Eucharist. They're both different manifestations of divine presence. So the little rituals help us. I'd mentioned about finding a special place for the Scriptures, not just another book therefore, just like Eucharistic bread and wine is not just another piece of bread and another glass of wine. We reverence it in some way, some important way, and how do I reverence the Scripture? And that led us off to talking about how one approaches the text, and as I mentioned last


night that at least half of what Lectio is about concerns me before I even open the text. How do I come to the text? And we're going to do the same thing in our talk this morning, so half of the talks deal with this reality that before one even opens the text, at least half of the experience of the encounter with the word is what I bring to it, as well as the other half of what's there. So it's very important, and we don't usually pay that much attention to what we bring. We zero in on the text right away. So we light our candle. As I mentioned to you, this is what I do every morning at four o'clock when I begin my Lectio, and I have my enshrined Scripture, and before I even open the text, I spend time preparing myself to encounter the word, asking, Who am I who comes to this word? How am I coming to this word?


What am I seeking? What are my attitudes? Where is my faith? We mentioned the importance, and I'll mention that again, of faith. So I'd like to begin with, and this is on the sheets that I gave you last night, with a prayer from The Ladder of Monks and Meditations by Guigo II. It's a very beautiful prayer about Lectio, which I think captures some of the elements that I shared with you last night. It's on the last page, page four, if you do have your sheet, but I'll read it out loud. Lord, you are not seen except by the pure of heart. I seek, by reading and meditating, what is true purity of heart, seeking to see your face. It is the sight of you, Lord, that I have sought, and all the while in my meditation,


the fire of longing, the desire to know you more fully has increased. When you break for me the bread of sacred scripture, you have shown yourself to me in the breaking of the bread. And the more I see you, the more I long to see you, no more from without, but within, in the letters' hidden meaning. Nor do I ask this, Lord, because of my own merits, but because of your mercy. So give me, Lord, some pledge of what I hope to inherit, at least one drop of heavenly rain with which to refresh my thirst, for I am afire with love. There's a whole attitude before this man even breaks open the word you see in this prayer.


And it's a helpful prayer, which I pray myself oftentimes, to just spot check, how am I approaching the word? Am I approaching, am I afire with love? Am I seeking my Lord? And therefore, this is not study, though biblical study, and I'll mention that, has an auxiliary role, is a support for Lectio, but it is not Lectio per se. In Lectio, I'm seeking the presence of my beloved. Lectio Divina grew out of a certain attitude towards the scriptures as a source of divine encounter and divine wisdom. The first Christians and the first monks revered the scriptures as much as the Eucharist. They fed on the word all week and fed on the Eucharist Sundays only, in the early period.


The Eucharistic feeding on Sunday became a kind of climax or culmination of a word feeding that went on all week. It must have been for them a very powerful experience. The word was a continuous feeding all day long, and as we stressed yesterday, Lectio is not a technique, it's a way of listening to life, listening for the word hidden in life, listening for the presence of God in life. So it became a way of life for these early monks. So we must be careful, therefore, of our modern tendency to look for techniques, fast ways of getting what we want, getting where we want to go. I cannot stress this enough. This is true in every aspect, I think, of the spiritual life.


We're always looking for the person who'll give me the shortcut or the quick way or three easy steps, and there is no such thing. Lectio is not a technique. Lectio is not spiritual reading per se or meditative reflection for a certain length of time each day, though it involves those. It is more a way of seeking, finding, abiding with God on ever deeper levels of one's being, primarily through encounter with Scripture, but eventually through encounter with life. Scripture is the teacher. You know, there's that scene where Abba Antony, the father of monasticism, was in the side


of a mountain in the hermitage overlooking the Nile, and someone came to visit him. As happened, these famous people began to attract people for words of wisdom, and this person saw his cave, and the man lived in solitude, and he said, where are your books? He couldn't imagine, what do you do without your books, you know? And Antony brought him outside and pointed to the whole valley below, and he said, there is my book. Now, Antony had memorized large portions of Scripture by this stage in his life, and of course copies, scrolls of Scripture, were hard to come by. Not every monk had them, so memorization was important, but I think it kind of represented more a culmination of his Lectio, where now he was reading life. He was constantly listening for the Word, and constantly hearing the Word all around him. That sort of is the goal, I think, through this, over a period of time, this encounter


with Scripture, we become a listening person, finding the Word everywhere, in the least likely people or places. Now, as I mentioned last night, at least half of Lectio is what I bring to it, and I want to spell this out more today, this morning. Before we even begin to enter this way of listening as communion, which is what Lectio is, one must prepare for the encounter with the Word by cultivating certain attitudes, qualities, disciplines, capacities. Now, a few of these we alluded to last night. The first is, I need to see the text for what it is. I need to come to it with the right understanding of what is Scripture, that it is not a book but a library of 72 books, written over many periods of history, and in many forms of writing


and literature. And the intent of the writer, even though there's information in the Scriptures, as I told you, the Scripture primarily was written for communion, not communication. That's its ultimate aim, to lead the person into an encounter with God, through the mediation of the text. So when I come, do I have the right understanding of what this Scripture is? The intent of the writer and the intent of all the editors through the ages and the translators and those who have preserved it in the faith community and passed it on to us, do I have that same attitude? Do I see it as a faith document, not an apologetic document, not a proof text document, not a history book, though there is history in it? And do I see it for its primacy, the primacy of these words and these images and these


symbols and these stories for a journeying faith community, beginning with Israel and into Christianity? So that's important, first of all. The second, do I approach it with faith? And we mentioned not so much faith in belief in certain doctrines, but a living faith, which is the capacity to entrust oneself in the meeting, in the encounter. Can I entrust myself? Can I risk myself? Am I prepared to risk myself when I go to the text, to risk all that I think I know, all that I think I am, all that I think I believe, all that I think I have pinned down? Am I willing to risk all of that? That's the sense of biblical faith. That's the faith of Abraham, who left home, left familiarity, and risked everything. Do I have that kind of living faith?


And in this sense, it's a desire. Do I come to the text with a desire? For who? For God. For my beloved. For my Savior. For my eternity. For my fulfillment. And with that, do I approach the text with hope? Do I hope? Do I long for this encounter? And do I approach the text with love? Love for the Lord, which is a kind of seeking, like the Beloved in the Song of Songs. You know, the seeking. Have you found, seen my beloved? This longing, loving, seeking. Do I approach the text that way? Benedict, in the beginning of his rule for monks, which is really an echoing of the Christian life.


Benedict only saw his life as a way of the school of the Christian life and nothing more. The key thing is, what are you seeking to the new person, the new candidate? Are you truly seeking God? Is your faith and your hope and your love part of the ways that you are seeking God? And you know, when you're in love with someone, when you're seeking to be with that person, and to know that person in deeper, deeper intimacy, you long to be with them, you long for a word from them. You long to share with them. You can't get enough of that Beloved. And so we come to the text longing for a word, longing to know our Beloved, and longing to be known by our Beloved. A third thing when we approach the text is, do I have a general understanding of Scripture?


So this is where we get into your auxiliary support for Lectio of a general biblical study. It doesn't have to be very, very specific, but just to have a general idea of Scripture. What do I mean by that? First of all, what are the role of the Old Testament, and how is it related to the New Testament? To have an understanding of that relationship. Those of you who were at vigils this morning and hearing, I think it was from Basil, you know, he was giving you some of that classic understanding. And remember I mentioned last night that Lectio was really, its heyday was the first thousand years of the church. So it grew out of an understanding of typology, types, foreshadowings, glimpses of the new and the old. And what you hear Basil doing is, coming from a New Testament familiarity, he goes back to the old and he sees a deeper meaning in the rock, in the desert,


in the Exodus experience, in the passing through the Red Sea, in what symbolically the Egyptians might mean. So he's going back and reading. That is always our way as Christians. We always begin with the Gospel. Christ unlocks the deeper meanings of the Old Testament. So these general things are helpful to know before we approach the text. It's important to know that Scripture is designed to evoke and not to get caught up in too much literalism. Like the Bible is a recipe book or an instruction book, or a moral book, even though there is in some instruction and some morality, yes, but that is not the primary focus when we do Lectio. That the text is trying to evoke an awareness of presence. So some general studies are important. A fourth thing, and we'll spend more time here, a listening heart.


Do I approach the text with a listening heart? And that means a capacity for silence, for solitude, and for waiting. Lectio requires a developed capacity to listen deeply, and it also develops that capacity as you do Lectio. But a certain capacity has to be there when you approach the text already. And I think for Westerners this is a real challenge, for we don't value or live a truly listening life. We moderns value the active life. We don't listen because perhaps we fear what listening requires. That means going into silence. We don't like that, we're uncomfortable. It requires stillness. It requires solitude, to be alone. How hard it is for us to be quiet, silent, still, and alone for very long.


It's amazing how often people come here on retreat and they kind of have to build up their courage or whatever it is. They come for a few hours, and sometimes they'll tell me in the bookstore, Well, I made it through a day today. I think I'll sign up for two days next time. And they say how difficult it is for them. Or they say they really want it. They come here and they've got all the books they haven't read and have wanted to read, and all their letter writing and correspondence they're going to catch up with. And they're going to read the Bible cover to cover in their two-day retreat. It's this kind of achievement. Our primary emphasis on doing, on the doing part of human life, and it is a legitimate part of human life, but by emphasizing it so much, even in religion we do that, even in worship we do that, it leaves little capacity for receptivity, for stillness, for silence, for being empty. A consumer society of horror is emptiness, doesn't it?


Sure. And yet I must really preserve that as now one calls it that celibacy of the heart, that empty space for the Word, within which for the Word to reverberate. Interestingly enough, Israel's history in the Old Testament is replete with examples of too much doing and not enough right listening. Her hardness of heart is always seen to be the result of her deafness to God's Word presence. And as a result, she cannot live in truth and walk humbly with her God. In the Prophet Jeremiah chapter 7, captures some of this Yahweh's Sabbath oath, the God of Israel says this, Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat all the meat. For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt,


I said nothing to them, gave them no orders about burnt offerings and sacrifices. My one command was this, Listen to my voice. Then I will be your God and you shall be my people, if you listen to my voice. In everything follow the way I mark out for you and you shall prosper. But they did not listen. They did not pay attention. Now we get a sense of listening and attention. They followed their own devices, their own stubborn and wicked inclinations and got worse rather than better. From the day your ancestors left Egypt until today, I have sent you all my servants, the prophets, persistently sending them day after day. But they have not listened to me. They have not paid attention. They have deliberately resisted, behaving worse than their ancestors.


So you will tell them all this, but they will not listen to you. You will call, but they will not answer you. Then you are to say to them, This is the nation that will neither listen to the voice of Yahweh its God, nor take correction. This is an interesting connection. It says, Sincerity is no more. It has vanished from their mouths. Now we get the connection of word, speech, and listening. You are not listening to the source of the one word, as we said last night, who is Christ. And we said all human words are derivative from the one word. When you're not listening, then your words are not real words. They're not true. The word insincere. They're not genuine. They're fake. They're phony. And this is disobedience.


The word obedience comes from the Latin, to listen, ab audire. So disobedience is to not listen. To listen with the heart is to listen to the depths. Such listening requires silence and solitude. The word of God proceeds from the profound silence of the Trinity. The Trinity that is the friend of silence. The practice of Lectio leads a person from many words to the one word only, Christ, and to the source of that one word, silence. And so to come to the text, I must love silence. Before I even open the text, I must love silence. Because I recognize someone in the silence.


I recognize silence as somehow bringing me to the source of all that is. I must love the silence of God. I must love stillness. I must love solitude in order to listen to God. I think some writer once said that silence is the privileged language of God. And God in turn will lead us deeper into that silence. Will make the silence deep and rich and full and fertile and pregnant and powerful and alive and alluring. It is in this kind of silence that you feel the breath of your beloved on your face. If you can get into this silence I'm talking about. It's not a horrible silence.


It is a rich, full silence and you feel the beloved's breath on your face or in your own breathing. One begins to know and awaken to God's awesome desire for you, for all of you in that silence. As the psalmist tells us in Psalm 42, As a deer yearns for running streams. I go up and jog around. We have a little man-made lake up on the hill and I go up and jog and yesterday morning by the stream was a deer. Taking the risk by coming close to our houses there.


Because longing for the running stream. So as a deer yearns for running streams. So I yearn for you, my God. I thirst for God, the living God. When shall I go to see the face of God? I have no food but tears day and night. And all day long I'm taunted. Where is your God? This I remember as I pour out my heart. How I used to pass under the roof of the most high. Used to go to the house of God. Amid cries of joy and praise and the sound of the feast. Why be so downcast? Why all these sighs? Hope in God. I will praise him still, my Savior, my God. When I am downcast I think of you. From the land of Jordan and Hermon I think of you, humble mountain.


Deep is calling to deep. Very famous line. Silence is calling to your silence. By the roar of your cataracts all your waves and breakers have rolled over me. In the daytime God sends his faithful love. And even at night the song it inspires in me is a prayer to my living God. Powerful. What is the experience of this writer? Of the Word. It's all these sentiments that are very important when we come to the Scripture. We have to be as hungry and as yearning and as desperate and as risking as that deer. That can smell the water, the fresh water, before he even hears it. And risks meeting the danger of human firearms or human captivity on the way.


Going into the silence. In silence we allow God to still, to till rather, the fields of our heart. We read in silence seeking any word, any image, any sign, any footprint of our divine lover. Thus we read in a particular kind of way. As I mentioned briefly last night, I cannot, in Lectio, I do not read the way I read other things. A person drops a rare diamond in the leaves of the forest floor. Carefully she or he kneels down, lifting each leaf one by one, slowly, carefully, patiently, he or she searches. Because he or she knows the treasure is there, under the leaves somewhere. He or she treads very carefully, maybe gets down close to the ground, on hands and knees.


We must approach the Scriptures that way. This is how Lectio is done in silence and solitude. Our attentive looking and seeking, our attentive expectancy in faith, brings us to the brink of insight into our true self in God. Listening thus requires silence and solitude and patience. And that's another problem for us, as Americans and moderns, the problem of being patient. Once we go and manage to sit still and be quiet and silent and find that solitude. Waiting is not a favorite American pastime. We don't like to wait for anything. So we have our fast food restaurants, we like our quick masses.


Some people like to just have a communion, you know, and they zip in just for communion time. We don't like to wait for anything, even God we don't like to wait for. There must be some way of summoning up God real fast. Many times, unfortunately, our masses can be rapid-fire words that only attest to our uncomfortableness with silence, with inactivity. Because how can the silence be a worshiping of God, a praising of God? We can use words in this sense as fast as possible in order to escape from real listening and therefore real encounter with God. When people come here to the Hermitage, they invariably find themselves to be on a much faster track than the rest of the monks here. It's always funny when they first come in.


We know when a new batch comes in because their responses to our prayers are like, and it kind of almost startles the monk. And I'm sure to them we seem like tortoises, you know, what's the problem? Are these people on drugs or what? They're so slow. What are they waiting for? I mean, say the word and get it over with. If they were faithful to Lectio, in its narrower and broader sense, they would automatically start slowing down. If they were really moving into the silence and the solitude, they would automatically start. So it's not just a contrived thing, you know, we've got to be a half a minute slower than the rest of the people, let's do it. No, I think it's a natural unfolding that comes with a listening as communion approach to life, to everything. Our deliberately slowed down pace is to cultivate listening for the sake of communion.


That treasure which lies hidden must be waited for. It cannot be coaxed forth or grabbed at. We must wait in faith and openness for whatever happens, realizing Lectio is a process like birthing. Which takes whatever time is necessary, and there's nothing more you can do. No more and no less than what is needed. A fifth attitude in coming to Lectio, Lectio requires the ability to concentrate. To focus one's attention for a good period of time with a certain wakefulness, a certain vigilance, a certain attentiveness. They say again this is a difficulty for moderns. Somebody was saying that you really shouldn't give a talk,


I think it's longer than 20 minutes or something like that, because the attention span of a modern person, at least in our technological societies, requires all kinds of constant stimulation from a broad field. And we have a difficulty of staying with one thing very long. And of course we're teaching our children very well to follow this, you know. Someone was saying that that's why maybe we should use videos more, a visual video approach to Lectio, because all of that stimulation people can then hold attention longer. But in the listening mode it's much harder. So it's not to be taken lightly, this capacity to concentrate. And the word concentrate, con, with, centrate, with the center. You know, to move into the center.


Because the word seeks to hold my attention. If I can give my attention to it, the word seeks to hold my attention. Yet am I truly able to give it for very long? Especially when Lectio requires going over a text perhaps many, many times before I am led deeper and discover an attraction or an energy around a certain word, phrase, image, or scene in the text. That doesn't happen the first glance through. I was telling somebody once, you know, they were commenting on a homily I gave and I said, most of that homily came from the last ten minutes of my hour and a half Lectio. And if I hadn't had the patience to wait it out and to keep going over it, because I believe in faith, you see, there is a treasure there. I would have given up after forty-five.


Well, nothing more in this text, you know, the well's dry. So that's what I mean, the ability to concentrate and to stick with it. And to keep that attention. And realizing the many things that, well, in a half hour I've got to do this, or a sound distracts me, the many things that will try to pull our attention. And yet here's the word trying to engage me. Totally, and engage every part of me. Not just my head, the word is engaging a person. Not an intellect only, but a person. For the sake of an encounter, a meeting with a personal God. Another important tool for Lectio is discernment or discrimination, which is the old monastic term of the Desert Fathers. Knowing what do I pay attention to in the text? So before I even come to it, do I have a certain capacity for discernment or discrimination? The text of today, what do I pay attention to?


What do I give my attention to? Is it every and, or, the, but, yet, every conjunction, every article, or adjectives, or the verbs, or, you know, what, what? Not everything, not every word is gold in the text. You've got to realize that. In panning for gold, the prospector had to learn to go over and over again in his technique with the pan, with the dirt, and the rocks, and the water. There's a technique to it, so I'm told. Going over and over again until something catches the eye. Something precious. Something perhaps sparkling and glittering, but even there, the prospector had to be careful of fool's gold. Not all that glitters or catches my attention is gold in the text.


How do I discriminate? How do I discern what to pay attention to? So, discernment is the sorting through the text, keywords, phrases, images, that give off an energy all their own and have a strong, have strong biblical echoes and reverberations and connections. The text of our Gospel that you heard at Lodz, that we'll hear again at Mass today. What do I pay attention to in that text? Which words? And what kind of other biblical associations might come to mind? And, of course, we run into translation differences, too, different Bibles. My Alexio on that text this morning, was from the New Jerusalem, but the text was read this morning


from the Revised Standard. There's a very big difference in the word that drew me for quite a while in my Alexio. In the text this morning, the Revised said, and he stood, the Pharisee stood apart by himself and said to God. But in my text it says, the Pharisee said to himself, God, I'm so grateful I'm not like other people. Very important difference, because what it's suggesting is he wasn't really praying to God. It reflects the self-centeredness, which the whole scene is about, isn't it? And it's interesting, when then it talks about the publican, the tax collector, it does not, he just addresses God. He's not talking to himself. So, again, that can be a very, you know, what do I pay attention to, which can vary. Sometimes I like the Revised Version better, I'm more hip, sometimes not, and that's why sometimes you might want to go to more than one. And those little words can make a difference.


So, again, discernment, discrimination is important. I have to have some capacity for that. Another important quality is humility and reliance on the Holy Spirit. Alexio is not just something that I do, in other words. Rather, it is a giving myself to someone, through the listening to the text. I do not have the power to enter into the heart of the text, into the heart of God. I do not have that power, even if I have a PhD in Scripture. As Saint Paul tells us, who can know the mind of God? Who can plumb the depths of God? Only the Spirit can plumb the depths of God and my own depths and the depths of Scripture. So I must be humble before the Scriptures and acknowledge my powerlessness before its hidden mystery.


And I must release myself to the wisdom and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who leads me deeper and deeper into the text, into the listening process itself, into the experience of engagement. And the deepest sense of that word, which comes from the French word engagement, it's like a dance, you know. You can't dance and not be involved. And ultimately, the Spirit who leads me into the presence of Christ through the text. This is very important. Some people start to take Biblical studies or whatever they read, a book or commentary, and they have this kind of know-it-all approach to Scripture and they then lack the humility and the reverence and the sense of their own powerlessness. But this is a wisdom book. And the contradictions and paradoxes in here are deliberate. They're deliberately there to stymie rational arrogance.


They're like a treasure hunt, very subtle. And you have to kind of listen at another level to get the clues, which is a spiritual level. It's not for the curious. It's not for the people who read for information, and that information is very subtle. That information gives them power over others. That is to do violence to Scripture. So as a whole, the Scriptures are very, very careful in what they're doing, and the real power of the text will elude someone who comes to it powerful, with power. You know, there's nothing more attractive than to have religious power. And so the devil quotes Scripture to Jesus in the desert, doesn't the devil? And all the temptations are about power.


You know, the Scripture does not. He can quote, oh, you can quote up and down a blue streak. The devil does not really know Scripture. And how do we know that? Because the devil does not really know Christ. The word. The devil's quoting words, but has not really moved through those words to know Christ. And when I say know, I mean the devil would have worshipped Christ. That's to know. As Lord and Savior. So that humility and reliance on the Spirit is very important. Another quality, see, we haven't even opened the text yet, but you see how all of these would affect a person, you know, before they even open the text. Another one is the capacity, the desire to go beyond


the surface and superficiality of life. That's very important when we come to Lectio, to the text, because Lectio is a listening to the depths. As I read from that Psalm 42, deep calls unto deep. If we fear such depths, such going with the word into our own depths, then we will short-circuit the Lectio process at a certain point. When the fear gets strong enough, when the heat around the collar and we get uncomfortable, we will find some clever way of ending the whole thing. We'll be like that person learning to swim under water and starting to panic and always coming up for air and seeking the shallow end. In the Gospel of Luke, which is one of the citations we have there, chapter 2,


and Jesus is brought with Mary and Joseph to Simeon, and the prophecy of Simeon says, as the child's father and mother were wondering at these things, they were pondering, they were Lectio-ing, that were being said, they're pondering these words about Jesus and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother, look, he is destined for the fall and the rise of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is opposed, and a sword will pierce your soul too, so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare. When we come to Lectio, we've got to be prepared for that. That's what I mean by the depths. The most secret thoughts in me are going to be laid bare. And if my normal approach to life is a running away, is a keeping at the surface, is a skimming over the surface of life, which is the norm for American life?


Our whole industry keeps us at the surface. All advertising keeps us at the surface of life. Consumerism keeps us at the surface of life. Entertainment, in many cases, I wouldn't say in all, there can be true entertainment and true art that takes us to the depths, but a lot of it keeps us at the surface. So it's not easy for us to go to the depths. We're uncomfortable, and yet that's what the Word is seeking to do, and that's where I may encounter my resistance, as it's leading me, and I've got to, well, come up with some little clever, while I'm running out of time, I can't go any further, or whatever. Well, think of some legitimate reason to end the process and not go deeper. So to be aware of how do I react, how do I respond, how do I feel about the depths, my own depths. So the capacity for depth is not developed in our society, in our schools,


or even our churches, or our homes, unfortunately. Many have written about this, that as a culture we have lost, we are lost and frightened when we go into the depths. We just don't know how to handle ourselves. Of course, there's a reason for that, because one loses control when one goes down. Or if we do go down, we're going to make sure we have all our contraptions and technology, like the submersibles, you know. The oceanographic studies, you know, we'll try to go down with all those tools, because I feel I'm somehow protected and safe and in control. And the Word won't let you do that, if you try. If I don't at least desire, at least desire to go into the depths of myself, the Word will not be able to take me very far. So you can see then, Lectio would require other qualities about one's life. Am I really kind of developing a capacity for depth in my life?


Am I that kind of a person? Another important quality is to know one's heart, and that's related to the depths, of course. This comfortableness with going in the deep is tied to knowing one's heart, which is the deepest part, and we could even say the cave of the heart would represent the very center. Now, the heart is not just inner thoughts or feelings or memories or images. Many times we think we know our heart, and we've found our heart, and we haven't. We must remember we live in a psychologized society. What do I mean by that? Pretty much even in our church, in religious circles, the guru is the psychologist or the psychiatrist or the psychology person, because they know the inner realms, perhaps better than the average person, of the psyche,


and that is mistaken for the heart. One's dreams can be trusted because they're coming from within. One's feelings, trust your feelings, follow it, can be followed because they're from within. That is not what I'm talking about. Yes, that is deeper, and it's very important to go and get to know those parts of us, but the heart is below that. The heart is not the unconscious. It is not the psyche. It is the root of one's being. So, this may sound obvious. We can perhaps tend to think we know our heart, but do we? The heart level is the deepest level in our being, and hidden there is the Trinity, the Father, the Word, the Spirit.


The Word of Scripture leads our consciousness down, on a journey down to this center, but our consciousness cannot remain the same in that journey. It cannot stay intact. It must change as it moves down. And this place that we call the heart is the true home, is our true home, our true resting place. The scriptural word, when taken to heart, reveals a treasure, a Word Presence that is already there. But to the conscious self, this journey to the heart requires a letting go, a dying into the depths, through the Word, and then now what surfaces now are fears of death and loss of control,


which can interfere with Lectio. So that leads to the next important quality, the capacity to surrender. A letting go, a spacious openness to the mystery, and less of a constrained analytical approach to the Word. See, it's a surrendering, the spacious openness to mystery. This means that when we approach the scriptures, we approach it in a non-literalist fashion, a non-fundamentalist fashion, a non-moralist fashion, a non-dualistic fashion. We do not go to the Word for proof texts, or to do apologetics, or to refute others, or build arguments. We do not go to the text to be right, to show others where they're wrong. We do not go to the text to define airtight truths.


We do not go to the text to pin God down, or salvation down, or to decipher who is in, saved, and who is out, not saved. And as you know, people go to the text quite often with various combinations of these. That is not Lectio, anyway. The approach of Lectio is that this is a living Word inviting me into intimacy with God, and I can only go into intimacy with God through a surrendering, through the paschal mystery, a dying, a letting go. And this means a journey into the unknown. So if my quest is to know something, you know, black or white, it's true or isn't, I'm short-circuiting, I'm defeating the whole purpose. It is meant to be unknown. The me that first approaches the text cannot be the same me when I leave it. The me that approaches the text cannot be the same me when I leave it.


And if it is, I did not do Lectio. Because to enter into the presence of God changes a person, transforms a person, brands a person, burns their face like Moses who enters into the meeting tent. So it's like Moses going up to Mount Sinai being enveloped by the cloud. Or it's like Mary being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, surrendering herself as the Word is taking her into an encounter. Or like the three disciples on the Mount of Mount Tabor transfiguration, at the point when the cloud envelops them. That's what Lectio does as we surrender. And of course we know from the text they're afraid, and we are afraid when we go into that experience. Human beings are very insecure when they don't have a sense of control.


That leads me to the next important quality, and that is the capacity for surprise. Because when I do let go, that's what happens. Do I approach the text with a willingness to be surprised? What do I mean by that? Now be ready for this. It means a willingness to be disturbed, to be shattered, to be converted, a willingness to have your world turned upside down, to be turned inside out, to be convicted, to be purified, to be pierced to the heart, a willingness to be exposed and stripped naked, a willingness to be made sick and revolted and nauseated,


a willingness to be wrestled with and permanently wounded, like Jacob and the angel, a willingness to be agonized, to be lost, to be nowhere in the cloud of unknowing, a willingness to burn. The scriptures themselves tell us God's word is a two-edged sword cutting to the bone and marrow and laying bare the thoughts of hearts. A willingness to be ravished, to be seduced, to be overshadowed, to be made love to. That's what I mean by surprise. All of those things can and do happen when one lets the word take one down. You can see what a risk it is to truly encounter this text


in this deeper way, deeper than a literal thing. But wow, how exciting! I get excited just thinking about it. What an adventure! See, Lectio is always an event. It's not a practice. It's not a technique. It's an event. And it's always new for the believer. I don't care how many times you come to the text. It's always new. It's always an event. As we hear in Deuteronomy, in the book of Hebrews, in the New Testament, if today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts, which is a simple way of putting the wall up, not to go in too deep. Today. So it's always an event. It's always new for the believer. And I must be willing to... See, we begin reading the word, but what happens is the word starts to read us. That line from the poem,


Bearing the Beams of Love. I don't know if that's a Blake line, but boy, it's a beam that just rips you open. Starting from your outermost layers to the innermost, just rips, breaks open the heart. That piercing in John's Gospel of the side of Christ and the heart of Christ is very symbolic. There's no place to hide. There's no refuge, you see. That all may be open. So the willingness to be read by the word. Because in this encounter, it's not only, oh, I'll get to know God more. It's a relationship. There's a mutual revealing going on. So I must be willing to be changed in mind and body and spirit,


to be converted over and over and over again. You know what that means? It means do I have the courage to be a different person? Every time I do this, do I have that kind of courage? When I work so hard at getting to be the me that I am, and it's hard enough living that me, but to take the risk of being new, being born over and over and over, and to not be in charge of that process. It's that line, it's a terrible thing to fall into the hands of God. It's that sense that I think we're touching upon, this openness to surprise. And I'll conclude going back to Jeremiah, who sometimes was the reluctant prophet, and because of what the Word was doing in his life,


and this is chapter 20, starting at verse 7. You have seduced me, Yahweh, and I have let myself be seduced. You have overpowered me. You were the stronger. I'm a laughingstock all day long. They all make fun of me. For whenever I speak, I have to howl and proclaim violence and ruin. For me, Yahweh's Word has been the cause of insult and derision all day long. I would say to myself, I'll not think about him. I will not speak in his name anymore. But then there seemed to be a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my very bones, and the effort to restrain it wearied me, and I could not do it. I heard so many disparaging me,


terror on every side. Denounce him. Let us denounce him. All those who were on good terms with me watched for my downfall. A curse on the day I was born. May the day my mother bore me be unblessed. Boy, he grits Semitic lines. Or a curse on the man who brought my father the news. Assign the boy who's been born to you, making him overjoyed. May this man be like the towns that Yahweh overthrew without mercy. May he hear the warning cry at dawn and the shout of battle at high noon, for not killing me in the womb. My mother would have been my grave, and her womb pregnant forever. Why ever did I come out of the womb? To see toil and sorrow,


and to end my days in shame. That's an encounter with the Word. Beyond anything Jeremiah imagined would happen, and we would be making a big mistake if we thought it only had something to do with him. It has to do with all of us, and that Word that seeks out all of us. So, I'm going to stop here. Are there any responses, questions? I'm going to stop here.