Theology and Lectio Divina

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Theology and Lectio, Conference #3 (Conference #2 not recorded)

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classes, the method in theology, today, okay, today we see, okay, the second feature of theology is comprehension. I like very much this word, and in English we have some words, for example, understanding and comprehension, but their meaning is different for the work of theology.

[01:00]

Comprehension, this word comes from the Latin, the Latin verb, comprendere, comprendere. It is interesting, this verb, because we have the preposition cum, with, with, and prendere, take. The word, it is a verb with a preposition. That means in English, to take with the mind, that is to comprehend. Now, theological knowledge is not only an intellectual

[02:21]

understanding, but also, I would say, above all, a relational comprehension. Relational comprehension, because the strength of this verb is the preposition here, cum, with. Also in English, many verbs with a preposition, the preposition changes the meaning of the verb, okay? To go with, to go against. Okay, to find out, the meaning is different. And in this case, the preposition is, I can say, the strength, the power of relationship, cum.

[03:32]

And in this case, comprehension in theology is a relational comprehension. For this reason, I translate into English the Latin verb, comprendere, as, to take up with. Because, when I know somebody, I begin a friendship, often a good friendship, and sometimes a bad friendship, but always, this is important, always a relation. What is a friendship? Relation. Friendship is an embrace which finds its own reason and strength

[04:46]

from with. Comprendere, in English, to comprehend. Do you understand the difference between to comprehend and to understand? In English, to comprehend means, then, to embrace. I embrace the one whom I know, and through this knowledge, I have a friendly relation with him or her. But cum, in English, with, means not only my capacity to embrace, but also the possibility to be embraced, that is, to be comprehended.

[05:52]

It's difficult, this part, a little bit. For example, in the method, we have seen some kind of method in theology in the history. But this discourse, for me, is important for the Lectio Divina, because in the Lectio Divina there is a method, and we will see this method in Lectio Divina. And also, I am talking about comprehension, because in the Lectio Divina there is a comprehension between me, my situation, and the Book of Liberation, the Scripture. And the relationship between me and the Book

[07:12]

is with, it's this preposition, it's a relation. Because in the tradition, the Book of Scripture is not only a life word, but a life person. Is it clear? Yes. For this reason, in the procession, the Book of Gospel stands in front of the priest, of the bishop, because the Gospel, the Book of Gospel, for us, in the liturgy, is a life person, is Jesus Christ. It's not only a book,

[08:17]

a holy book. For the Christian tradition, this book is a person with which I have a relation, a relationship of comprehension. Therefore, comprehension is a spiritual unity between me and you, between subject and object, and our vocation, between our monastic life and the life of Trinity and the life of Jesus Christ in the Gospel. But we cannot comprehend each other if there is not also an affinity.

[09:22]

This discourse is paradigmatic for me. I describe the relationship between true person to say something about our relation, our spiritual situation, personal situation, and the Book of Liberation. This discourse, for me, is only paradigmatic. But we cannot comprehend each other if there is not also an affinity. What is affinity? That space where the poles, me and you, we are different. We are human beings, but my personality, my character, my will, etc., my intelligence, we are different.

[10:29]

Affinity is that space where the poles remain in their difference, this is important, but not in their indifference. For example, we live in hermitage. Everybody has a cell, a space, personal space, but we don't live, I hope, in indifference among us. This is terrible. We live in difference. We are different, but in unity, of course. Is it clear? Sometimes we live also in indifference, but

[11:34]

the Christian vocation is to live together, but also in our difference, for age, for experience, for character, for personality, for nation, etc., for many things. But here, in the Christian community, in hermitage, in monastery, we must not live together in indifference. This is not Christian. Affinity is that space where the poles remain in their difference, but not in their indifference, where they live a safe distance, safe distance, because the relationship is too much

[12:42]

near, close, is not good. Safe distance, and where they recognize each other. I recognize you, your personality, your character, your formation, your intelligence, your personal gifts. I recognize you. Very important. At the same time, every person distinguishes himself or herself from the other, because every human subject is incomprehensible in his own identity. Everybody here, in every community, is a mystery, a big mystery, a great mystery.

[13:44]

Everybody. And our own knowledge, comprehension, is difficult, because sometimes I don't understand myself very well. Sometimes. This is the truth. Now, I want to say that I cannot know the other one if I don't self-communicate to him or her. I don't, I don't, I cannot know you if I don't self-communicate something to you.

[14:46]

Through this self-communication, which is my own self-comprehension, I know myself and I can know the other. This is difficult. What is my discourse? It is this. I can know you if, before, I communicate to you something about me. My picture will be terrible, but it's important. Two persons. Two persons, okay?

[15:47]

I can communicate something about me to you, okay? But it is important that you can understand, comprehend myself. There is a circle in the understanding in this case. There is self-communication. I self-communicate something about myself and vice versa. Through this self-communication, self-communication, another word very important,

[16:54]

not blah, [...] words, no, self-communication, which is my own self-comprehension, I know myself and I can know the other. I know myself and I can know the other. But before knowing the other person, he or she helps me to understand myself. My own understanding is comprehended by knowledge of the other one. Thus, I know the other through my self-knowledge, but I am also known by the other's comprehension.

[18:00]

In other words, I need comprehension of the other one. I need, because alone I don't understand everything about myself. It's very important this self-communication. Also in the Christian community, there is affinity, but also support, background, common background. For this reason, comprehension is a circle of reciprocity. In fact, when the other one knows me, he or she knows me through his or her self-communication.

[19:11]

That is, the other one knows him or herself. His or her own self-comprehension through which he or she knows me. My English is terrible. Probably the text will be more clear. I help the other one to understand him or himself. Is this clear, this relationship? No. It's very important. It's an interpersonal dynamic. It's not like my understanding of people where I look at it. There is a return flow. In that return flow, I know more about myself.

[20:14]

I only know that return in the context of... So it's quite a different dynamic than just my knowing some fact that 2 and 2 equals 4 or that water boils in a certain... Do you mean you have to consciously try to project yourself to the other person? Because you can get to know a person by their actions, even though they may not consciously know why they are doing them, right? If somebody acts in some way... It's not clear. He says that you can understand something from the actions of the other. You don't have to make an effort of self-communication. You just have to look at the other person. Self-communication is not only... Self-communication is all of the person. My action, my kind of... to walk, my work,

[21:15]

my ideas, all the personality. I self-communicate myself in many kinds of ways. It's not only verbal or intellectual. No, no, no. Self-communication is also the world, but all personality, all life. No. But there is a reciprocity. I can know something about... No, not all, because I can't understand everything about myself.

[22:18]

I can know something about you. Something. But now your comprehension about me is very important, because you see about me something that for me is impossible to see, because I live every day with myself. It is impossible for me to see, to understand myself, everything. And vice versa. You need my knowledge about you. About you. Yes, yes.

[23:23]

And as a Christian community, this relationship is very important in our relation, and, above all, with the Scripture, the Book. Why? Because sometimes I pretend to know the Book of Scripture. I can keep in mind the whole Book of Scripture. But the Book of Scripture is a live person. And in this case, there is a relation, this comprehension. The Lord comprehends myself,

[24:31]

reads myself. A little bit... I don't know. Do you know Boober? Yes, Boober. It's not I, it, but I, thou. When you're encountering another subject. So with an it, you can move it around like a tomato for the soup or something. But with the other, thou, you can't move it around. There's a pre-subject that knows me, and I know more about myself. Yeah. So reading the Scripture, the Scripture teaches you, makes you aware of who you are. Yeah. And challenges you to be someone more. And sometimes in the Scripture, there is a strong word, which I don't, I want not to understand.

[25:39]

I trust you. I don't want. And I don't want. Hearing, no. This is too much strong, too much radical. No. If there is this relationship, I hear. I try to understand you. Also in the friendship, also in relation, no? Sometimes there are difficult situations. I don't understand you. I want not to understand. I don't want to understand. But our relation, our friendship, helps us. Okay.

[26:40]

Do you have a question? No. Could we say that what you're saying is to listen to the other, is to receive the other? And in receiving the other, in some mysterious way, I receive myself. Yeah. Yeah. Could you also be saying that if we're receptive and open to what's in the Bible, we will receive more of an understanding of who Jesus Christ is, in addition to understanding more of ourself? Yeah. Yeah. It's an interpersonal relationship. Yeah. It's a friendship. This is the point. In relation to the Lord, Augustine often says to his people, we shouldn't eliminate people who saw or touched him. We've lost them. We saw him, touched him, didn't know him. Anybody at all can become in a relationship. But when we hear, then we can have that relationship. Yeah. So you actually have to surrender yourself, in some ways, to respect to the Lord.

[27:45]

Because when you read something, it clashes with what you have encountered. Yeah. You probably say, well, I trust in the word of the Lord. Yeah. Especially this in liturgy. Because the Lord speaks to everyone. But I receive the word of the Lord in a way, in a different way. Yeah. Is it possible that the Holy Spirit would fire off any faster than Michael is referring to? What? A possibility of the Spirit of the Son? I didn't get the last part. Would it be possible that the Holy Spirit himself would fire off any faster than Michael is referring to? Yeah. Yeah. But the role of the Spirit...

[28:48]

This is a difficult question. The role of the Spirit... ...is the comprehension. For example, in the relationship between Father and Son, there is a relationship between Father and Son. What is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the relationship, the self-communication. But for me and you, the relationship is the work together, etc. In the Trinity, the relationship between Father and Son is another person. Because Father and Son are God.

[29:58]

So without the Spirit, we can't relate. And between the Scripture, and in our tradition, the Book of Scripture is the person of Jesus Christ. The relationship between the Book of Scripture and myself, and me, the possibility of this relationship is in the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, the Book of Scripture is another book. It's a very interesting, old... Without the Spirit, it's just another book. It's an object. It's like a person with the Spirit. Without the Spirit, it's just a being. Sometimes it's an object.

[31:05]

But not in the Christian community. Every person... For paradox, it's a revelation of the Holy Spirit. Every person. Even the good and the bad. What? Even the good and the bad. Yeah. There's a Spirit within, whether it be equal or equal. If one is good, one is bad. And the two quarrel. You see that the Spirit is in both. Yeah. We must meditate. It's very important for our relations in community, and for Lectio Divina, for our spiritual life. Every kind of relationship, in every kind of relationship,

[32:13]

there is this dynamic. For this reason, the miracle of knowledge is comprehension. For this reason, I use this word, comprehension. That is, the interaction and the circle in reciprocity between the poles, between me and you, between a human being and God, when they declare themselves. We see that in the Serbo-communication, there is a declaration. The book of Scripture is a great declaration of God, of love of God.

[33:21]

God's love. God's love. Sorry. In this sense, comprehension is a relational hermeneutics. A relational comprehension, and also a spiritual unity through the self-communication. Excuse me, that word hermeneutics might be a little difficult. It's most simple meaning is just way of understanding, way of interpreting something. You might see something, and someone else might see the same event, but you interpret it in very different ways. That's your different hermeneutic. H-E-R-M-E-N-E-U-T-I-C. We'll use that word sometimes because it's so important. Suppose my brother dies, one of my relatives said,

[34:24]

that's an angry judgment of God against us. Someone else might see this as finding the reward of my brother, peace, etc. The same event, two people can interpret very different. It's not the event that forces the meaning on us, but we interpret, and we constantly do that. Someone might not say hello to us, and one person might be offended, and the other person might say, oh, these wonderful new prayers. So, to be aware of how we interpret all the time, and so interpret Scripture. Above all, for the Scripture. Because I hear the word of the Lord, and there is a literal sense. Sometimes this literal sense is clear. Be careful. Because there is another sense,

[35:28]

that the tradition calls the spiritual sense, within the letter. For this reason, my relation with the book of Scripture is comprehension, the deep comprehension. Because I don't understand only the letter, but the spiritual meaning of the letter. And to understand the deep meaning I need of everybody in the community. For this reason, the monastic tradition develops collation.

[36:29]

We do lectio. I do my lectio in cello, in church, in liturgy. I understand, I receive the word of the Lord. But there is also a moment of community, when we read together the word of the Lord. This is collation. We do together lectio divina. But you receive the word of the Lord in a different kind, in a different way. For me, it's not difficult. It's easy. Because it's simple.

[37:33]

But it's important to see every passage. In this sense, comprehension is a relational interpretation, and also a spiritual unity through the self-communication. I remember, for example, St. Gregory the Greek, the great in Rome, that says, who thanks is the people. Because these people are present in the church to hear the God's word. And St. Gregory the Great thanks these people.

[38:36]

Because he says, without you, I cannot understand very well the Scripture. It's very nice. I can understand something about the Scripture. But the presence of my brother and sister in the community, in the church, is very important. Because the Spirit speaks to them. At last, theological knowledge, comprehension, is a symbolical comprehension. To understand the profundity of symbolic comprehension,

[39:40]

we must know what the word symbol means. Symbol comes from Greek, to be exact, from the Greek verb symbalo. Symbalo. Oh my God! Symbolo. Symbolo. Symbolo. The word, the preposition sum,

[40:41]

symbalo, is very important. And sum in Greek means in Latin cum, in English with. Today I insist upon this preposition with. With is a very important preposition. I would suggest also the preposition together. Together. Which means to put together. In modern languages, on the other hand, symbol means sign, meaning, but this does not express more adequately the authentic value of the term. In other words, sign is not a good translation. On the contrary, symbol means in Greek culture

[41:49]

recovered presence. Recovered. Recovered presence. For example, I bring here three examples. For example, when a friend set out on a long journey, one cut a rock in two, keeping for himself a half and consigning the other half to the other. Then many years might pass. On his return, the friend was recognized by symbol by the coincidence of the rock's part. But in Greek culture, the rock was only the sign of symbol. The rock was only the sign of symbol.

[42:53]

In our example, the symbol is constituted by friendship. This is the symbol. The rock is the sign. Symbol does mean only the sign, but above all, it evokes a real presence. For another instance, let us take the Eucharistic bread. This bread is symbolic, not because it is only a sign of life, but on the contrary, because it is the presence of the risen Lord among us. Bread is the sign of the Eucharist, and without bread we cannot celebrate the Lord's Supper. But this bread is, after the consecration,

[43:59]

the symbol of our faith, that is, the real presence of the risen. We see bread, but we eat the body of Christ. We eat the bread of heaven, but we become in reality the body of Christ. Do you see the relation? Fraxiopanis, Eucharistic, is the symbol of our Christian experience, not only because the Lord becomes bread for us in his real presence, but also because eating this bread we are sharing in the body of Christ. Because, as Paul writes,

[45:02]

there is the one love of bread. All of us, so many, are one body, for we all share the same love. Therefore, bread is the sign of the Eucharistic, while the symbol is the real presence of the risen who forms his body, the Church. For this reason, the Fathers said that after the Eucharist, the Church was the real presence of Christ in the world. We still see the circle of symbols in their famous maxim of the Fathers. The Church makes the Eucharist, and the Eucharist makes the Church.

[46:06]

In fact, for the Fathers, the mystical body was the Eucharistic bread, while the real body of Christ was the Church. After the Mass, the body of Christ is the community. But we are able to do that because it nourishes us constantly. So it's that same dynamic relationship. In the Mass, the bread and the wine are the sign. It's bread, it's wine. But after the action of the Spirit, after the consecration,

[47:12]

this sign is symbol for us. Because this bread and this wine are the real presence of Jesus Christ in our faith. But also we, which celebrate the mystery of Jesus Christ, become his body. And at the end, the symbol, the real symbol, after the Mass, when we consume the Eucharist, the Church, the community, is the body of Christ. And for this reason, every member of the community is important. He is a member of the other in the Mass. Here, the sign is a mutual embrace.

[48:19]

But the symbol is the gift of the Paschal Peace. I am neither the one who gives the peace of Christ to the other, nor is it the other who gives the peace of the risen to me. But we receive the gift of the Paschal Peace through the embrace of brother or sister. The embrace of peace is a symbol of a greater reality of that peace which is between God and the whole of humanity in Jesus Christ. It is very important. I give my peace to you. No! In our embrace,

[49:22]

gives the peace of the Lord. My word, peace, my embrace, is only a sign, but the symbol is the presence, the presence of the peace of Jesus Christ among, between us, among us. Sometimes the prayer in community embraces everyone, everyone, in the solemnity. And this sign is only a sign, but it is the symbol of our communion in Jesus Christ. Because this peace is not mine or yours. This peace, this union, this communion

[50:28]

comes from Jesus Christ. And the symbol is the peace. For this reason, the embrace of peace is always symbolic in the Christian community. Also outside of the context of the mass, in the community. When we prepare ourselves not to give our peace, but to receive the peace which embraces us and reconciles us to each other. This is the symbol of peace in the community. When we prepare ourselves not to give our peace, our peace is small, but to receive that peace which embraces us

[51:36]

and reconciles us to each other. So theology is a symbolic comprehension because it discovers the symbolic presence that supports the reality of being. I repeat this. Theology is a symbolic comprehension. Theology sees the mystery, the symbolic mystery of everything because it discovers the symbolic presence that supports the reality of being. This presence is the event of mystery. I know the other one if I recognize him or her in his or her freedom.

[52:38]

And I love him or her in his or her constitutive, personal difference. In other words, comprehension is symbolic when I see... This is the important thing today. Comprehension is symbolic when I see every human being, every brother and sister, as a gift of the mysterious event which also comprehends myself. My comprehension is symbolic when I see the other one, myself, and the reciprocity of the mystery as an event between us,

[53:40]

inside us, and above us. There is a mystery between us, inside us, and above us. Now, the event of this mystery embraces us and supports us with freedom because it is a reign of delivering love. In conclusion, theological comprehension is three things. First, a relational interpretation among the poles of reality, between heaven and earth, soul and body, man and woman,

[54:41]

human being and God, chronological time and eternal life, between the divine freedom of grace and the sin of humanity. Theology tries to comprehend the difference which is among these things. But in their relation, there is also a spiritual unity through self-communication, so that a human being comprehends the other one, with a capital letter,

[55:43]

the other one, God, when he or she transcends self and self-communicates to the Holy Mystery as the car-runner calls God. Holy Mystery. But in this self-communication, he or she is comprehended by the same self-communication of God who is recognized as Trinitarian love. The story of the Bible is the story of this self-communication between God and the man. And the theology is a spiritual unity through self-communication. And finally,

[56:47]

the theological comprehension is a symbolic vision, because the theological gaze contemplates the symbol hidden in daily life. This symbol is the symphonic profundity of the Holy Mystery, of the Spirit's action that embraces everything with a delivering love. In this sense, theological comprehension becomes wisdom, because only wisdom sees the symbolic horizon of every human being, and it becomes also mystical, because it experiences the symbolic mystery of the Divine Presence. This point about symbolic comprehension

[57:51]

was the most difficult but it is very important, this reciprocity of self-communication, of relation, of affinity. And in this reciprocity, there is a mystery among us, in the community, during the liturgy, and above all, when I read the Gospel. And I insist, I repeat, the Gospel is not only a life word. The Gospel for us is a person, the person of the Lord. And for this reason,

[58:55]

there is this relation, this comprehension, reciprocal comprehension. The Lord comprehends myself. Do you have a question? Yes. I asked you earlier about the spirit and how the Spirit moves us in different ways, whether we can read Scripture, and learn from ourselves through Scripture. You spoke of the Spirit in different beings, in different forms, whether it be you and I, have we conversed, become the Spirit. Getting back to what I asked about the two dimensions of good and evil.

[59:55]

Is the Spirit the same? Is it different? Where does the Spirit come from? Yes. In reality, there is also this pause between the bad and the good. Okay? But also, in this relation, see it? There is a mystery. For example, in the Old Testament, there is a book of Job, Job in English. And this book begins with the presence of the evil in front of God. The evil says to God, Okay, Job is good, good man.

[60:57]

No? Okay. Now I'll prove him, prove him, test him. No? And this book is very interesting because also the reality of evil, God embraces also this reality and sometimes uses, probably, probably, also this reality. This is important in our spiritual experience. Very important, especially in hermitage because sometimes we are confronted by evil, by bad.

[62:07]

Sometimes a brother, sometimes some words, sometimes the atmosphere in the community, temptation, many kinds of... And this reality of evil is a part of a project about us, upon us. Attention, the Christians are not dualistic. Good, bad. We see the mystery. Of course, the evil is the presence, okay, but it is also a mystery for us.

[63:12]