Theology and Lectio Divina

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Theology and Lectio, Conference #5, (Conference #2 not recorded)

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the love of God to man, but it is itself the completion of this love that is a world-event.
The meaning of a revelation is that the believer knows himself loved with that very love which
is the Father as for the Son and the Holy Spirit from all eternity.
This is our central experience.
We feel the love of Father and this meeting, this relationship between us and this love
of Father is a world-event.
For this reason Lectio Divina is the preparation for the Divine Liturgy.
The meaning of a revelation is that the believer knows himself loved with that very love which
is the Father as for the Son and the Holy Spirit from all eternity.
We monks should not imagine that in a chaotic age like ours, our function is to preserve
the ancient attitudes and customs of our spiritual tradition or to keep alive in the world the
memory of God.
On the contrary, the sense of a monk in our time, now in the modernity, is to keep himself
alive by contact with the living God.
And we are alive only if we remain in Christ's love and we remain open to the loving freedom
of the Spirit.
God is not that idol which often I build in my mind.
Everybody here has an idea about God and often this idea, this concept is our idol,
is not the true revelation of God.
Therefore, theology is that way of living and of thinking which remembers to me who
God is, a community of love and freedom, the Trinity, the perspective of Trinity.
This is God, the Christian God, a community of love and of freedom.
And Lectio Divina is that spiritual practice of prayer, Lectio Divina is prayer, which
lets me be a monk, that is to live the theological life centered in God.
Theology is my memory of what is God, God is a community of love and of freedom.
And Lectio Divina is that spiritual practice of prayer which lets me be a monk.
It is very difficult to translate Lectio Divina into English, and this difficulty is also
present in the other modern languages.
It is not only a problem of translation here, but it is above all a question of interpretation,
because every translation is a work of interpretation.
Also, when I translate the Bible from Greek, this work is an interpretation.
I have found two English translations for Lectio Divina.
The first is spiritual reading, and the second is meditative reading.
But Lectio Divina is neither a spiritual reading nor a meditative reading.
Lectio Divina and spiritual reading are similar, but they cannot be confused, at least today.
I can meditate on a book, but this practice is not Lectio Divina.
I can read spiritually a poetic text, but also this reading is not Lectio Divina according
to the traditional meaning of this expression.
The field of spiritual reading is the largest, and it also includes the study of theology
or problems of spirituality.
But the field of Lectio Divina is listening to the Gospel and to the Bible, the center.
The book, the excellent book for Lectio Divina, is only the Bible, and especially the Gospel.
Lectio Divina requires a slow, deepened reading.
It is a method of reading which opens to hearing.
In this sense, it is a hard reading of God's Word.
But also, the word reading, strictly speaking, is not enough for us to explain this contact
with the Scriptures.
Lectio Divina is not only a reading, but above all an assimilation which asks, together with
reading, for a rumination upon God's Word, in the Latin word ruminatio, rumination.
The monastic ruminatio is a spiritual practice constituted by the personal reading of the
Gospel offered by the daily liturgy.
Our Lectio Divina begins from this Gospel offered by the daily liturgy, by listening
to the same text at length and at mass, by its repetition from memory throughout the day.
I remember a sentence or some words, and during the day I repeat in my silence, in my prayer,
this word, this evangelical word.
This is ruminatio, reading, a reading which opens to hearing and repetition during the day.
We can call Lectio Divina meditatio, but meditatio is only a moment of Lectio Divina and it cannot
exhaust the spiritual sense of Lectio.
In other words, I think that we cannot translate Lectio Divina in the modern languages.
For me it is impossible.
Every translation would be inexact and incomplete.
For this reason I prefer to maintain the ancient name of Lectio Divina, also in Italian.
I have now used four key words for Lectio Divina.
Reading, hearing, assimilation, ruminatio.
Four key words.
Why?
Because Lectio begins when I learn to read the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is very, very important.
Lectio Divina begins when I learn to read the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Okay, I read.
I have been in the school and I can read.
But this reading is different.
I like very much in this week the reading in the morning of Brother Gabriel.
This man, when he reads, his reading is very deep.
His reading comes from heart.
This is very important.
This is the reading of Lectio.
And hearing, because the goal, the hand of Lectio Divina, the one thing necessary is listening to the word of God.
And we read louder the Gospel for this, hearing.
And assimilation, because the listening of Lectio is a receptivity.
It is an opening of the heart to receive God's word.
This is the final point of Lectio.
If my heart remains closed, Lectio Divina, there is not Lectio Divina.
And ruminatio, because the gift of Lectio Divina is the same presence of God's word within us.
Why do I repeat during the day some word of Gospel?
For this reason, because this repetition is good news for me and for my community, for my life, for the history.
It is good news.
And this good news is the presence in my spiritual life, in community, in the history.
Presence of God.
Ruminatio, rumination, this repetition, consists in keeping alive the word within us, so it is repetition.
So we begin to know God.
We begin to know God.
Or better, to abide in His love.
It is clear that this knowledge is a comprehension of participation, union, and love.
In other words, Lectio Divina is not only a method of reading, but above all, an experience of God.
For this reason, I repeat, Lectio Divina is the center of our spirituality.
Lectio Divina is the soul of the monastic spirituality.
Because Lectio Divina is a life experience of God.
If we receive the word of Jesus Christ,
if we receive the word of Jesus Christ,
we remain in His love,
and we abide in the Father.
For Jesus is in the Father, and the Father is in Him.
But, as we have seen, the relationship between the Father and the Son comprehends the vinculum amoris.
This is Latin.
Marvelous words.
For you, I don't know, but for me, it's...
vinculum amoris.
The ancient languages are very rich.
This relationship between the Father and the Son comprehends the vinculum amoris,
the bond of love,
of the Holy Spirit.
Hence, we can understand the Holy Spirit as a divine ecstasy of love in God.
Also, last night,
my brother,
what is his name?
Owen.
He remembered this relationship
between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
And the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity
is this vinculum amoris,
the presence of love of God.
But the Spirit is ecstasy.
How can you translate this in English?
Effusion.
Effulgence?
Overflowing?
Yes.
Effusion.
Of this relationship in the Trinity.
In this sense,
Lectio is divina.
Divine.
Also, liturgy is divine.
Divine liturgy.
Because, listening to God's Word,
we remain in the Son's love
and we participate in His Trinitarian life.
For this reason, it is divine.
I live an experience of God,
but in the Holy Spirit,
in this ecstasy of love.
Now, we can also comprehend
the Trinitarian relationship
between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit
as an eternal prayer
of worship and of love.
The prayer,
the great prayer,
is this relation in the Trinity.
And we can pray
because we participate
in this divine liturgy of Trinity.
Hence,
I think of Lectio Divina
as a prayed Word.
This probably is a translation,
a good translation of Lectio Divina.
Prayed Word.
Prayed Word.
Parola Pregata.
Prayed Word.
Which lets us enter
into God's prayer.
That is, into the divine liturgy
of love, which is the Trinity.
Our divine liturgy, also today,
is the representation
in our life,
the concrete representation
of this divine liturgy.
For this reason,
Brother Hohn, last night,
he talked very much about
the action of Trinity in the liturgy.
So, the final goal of Lectio Divina
is praise,
which terminates,
which is silence, adoration,
before the Holy Mystery of God.
Here, God is recognized
not only in His good works,
but in His goodness itself.
Here, God is worshipped
and loved for Himself,
not merely for salvation's sake.
For this reason,
I say that Lectio Divina
is the center of the monastic spirituality
because its final goal
is doxology and adoration.
When you say this,
you wouldn't be making a strict distinction
between Lectio and, say, liturgy,
because liturgy is also the prayed word
and liturgy is also doxology.
Yeah.
You're not saying that Lectio,
in the sense of solitary reading of Scripture,
is more important than Eucharist.
Yeah.
The problem here is
the monastic spirituality
is different from the spirituality of today
that is present in our church.
Because for monastic spirituality,
theology, spirituality and liturgy
is one thing,
is a unity.
For us, instead,
we go to the school for theology
and to the hermitage for spiritual life
and to the church for...
But we have done the field.
The distinction.
Yeah, the distinction.
But in the monastic life,
the reality is one.
One.
When I work, I pray,
and my work, my life is doxology.
Every moment
is this transfiguration.
It's clear.
There are different moments.
For example,
now we celebrate the liturgy.
In this sense,
the Eucharist liturgy is the center of our day,
the source,
the revelation.
But the Divine Liturgy is our goal,
but also the point of beginning.
For this reason,
I say,
Lectio Divina is preparation for Divine Liturgy,
but Lectio Divina is also prayer.
And in this sense,
it's liturgy also.
Saint Augustine writes,
Pray to comprehend the scriptures.
And Isaac the Syrian adds,
Don't approach the word of the scriptures without prayer,
without asking God's help.
Say,
O Lord,
give me the gift to receive the power which is in the gospel.
You must think of prayer as the key which unlocks the truth of the scriptures.
Also, Saint Cyprian states a law of biblical reading.
Either pray or Lectio,
or read.
But in the Latin text,
there is here Lectio.
And for Saint Cyprian,
Lectio is not only read.
It is the experience of God.
Either pray or Lectio.
Either speak to God or listen to him.
In other words,
without prayer,
we can neither read the scriptures,
nor hear God's word.
In this sense,
prayer is the support and the background of Lectio Divina,
but it is also his final goal.
And the next time we will see together
this relationship between prayer,
Lectio,
prayer.
And the first prayer is different from the second prayer.
Prayer,
Lectio,
prayer.
And this second prayer is a new prayer.
We have 20 minutes for discussion or questions.
I would like to use a wonderful point,
which I think is that
one of the troubles about modern reading,
in general terms,
is that we don't know how to read aloud.
Yes, very interesting.
One of the things that was striking us in seeing Ambrose reading
was he didn't mouth the words,
he didn't make noises,
but there is a great advantage in actually hearing the sound,
even in your own language,
because it gives it a different quality.
Now, in the school,
we learn to read silently,
and I remember when I was at university,
I had prepared all my exams
reading many books,
but silently.
But this exercise,
the practice of Lectio Divina,
is reading loudly.
Why?
Because when I read,
I give my voice to the word.
We are John of Baptist.
Voice, not word.
The word is the gospel.
And I give my voice to the word.
And in this sense,
there is an echo.
And for this reason,
Lectio Divina is not reading only,
but is hearing.
Especially in liturgy,
where it is the proclamation of gospel.
It's very important, this proclamation.
Because a good proclamation helps me
to receive the word.
A deep and calm proclamation of gospel
is a wonderful help.
Any questions?
Again, this centrality of Lectio,
is this practice,
I have the impression,
it's used in a strict sense,
and then in a fuller sense.
In the strict sense of being in the cell,
reading aloud,
that certainly is important,
before the Eucharist and after the Eucharist.
Then there is a fuller sense, as you say,
where we are doing Lectio,
maybe while we read,
maybe when we minister to Brother Philip,
right in the heart of the Eucharist.
But for me, this is a second moment.
In the beginning, it's very important
not to confuse these two moments.
Because it's very important
to begin with the Bible
and to stay on the Scripture.
And in the second moment,
after one, two or three years,
I find out that Lectio Divina is bigger.
And also, Lectio is a conversation
with a brother, a community.
Lectio is a meeting...
Lectio also is...
But after this deep exercise
upon the Scripture.
But for me, Lectio,
I prefer strictly...
In a strict sense.
Presumably in the cell, alone,
reading aloud, or maybe...
But this is only the first step of Lectio.
I will say, after many other things,
what is Lectio.
Meditatio, oratio...
In Bible oratio,
but presumably in some kind of
unified moment.
But then, I should say,
which does extend, hopefully,
to the whole day.
But in the first moment...
Lectio is not a practice for one hour.
No, I begin for one hour.
The old monks, they spurt Lectio
probably for two or three hours.
But sometimes in monasteries,
we don't have time for this practice.
But I have, probably, in my day,
one or two hours for Lectio.
And in this sense, Lectio is
reading, hearing, and...
But also, a part of Lectio
is also Ruminatio.
This is very important.
Ruminatio.
To remember God's word.
For me, in the first years
of my monastic life,
it was very important
to ask in the afternoon,
what do you read?
Whatever you read today in the Gospel.
And sometimes,
I didn't remember
one word.
One word.
Oh my God.
Which Gospel?
What?
And for many months,
for many years, for me,
it has been a good exercise
to remember the Gospel.
My only question is,
I can see in the fuller,
developed sense,
Lectio as the center
of monastic spirituality.
As I think you could say
in a different way,
the Eucharist is the center
of monastic spirituality.
Or Opus Dei.
Nothing is to be preferred
to the Word of God,
to the Opus Dei.
That is, if you take any
of these central moments
in their fullest,
each one of them is central
because ultimately Christ is central
in Paschal history, etc.
But to say that Lectio
is the center
in a more restricted,
almost controversial way,
I think that just gets into
a necessary polemic.
I do a picture
for this,
for me,
my opinion,
my experience.
But also,
the tradition.
Terrible picture.
Here,
the Word.
We have the Word.
Because
I celebrate
the Liturgy
one time
during the day.
But the Liturgy
also is
the
Liturgy of Hours
for us.
Lord's Vespers, etc.
But this
Liturgy comes
always from the Word.
Because
the center of
the Liturgy of Hours is the Proclamation
of the Word.
When I pray
Psalms, this is preparation
to hear
the Proclamation
of the Word,
the Lord's in the Vespers.
Lord's and Vespers
are the
central moment
of the Liturgy
of Hours.
Because in the Lord we celebrate
the Resurrection of Jesus Christ
and in the Vespers
we remember
the death
of Jesus Christ.
It is a circle.
But
the center
is always
the Proclamation of the Holy Scripture.
Also in Matutino,
Vigil,
we have two readings.
From the Old Testament,
the first,
the patristic reading,
but this is
homiletic.
And the third
reading, not every day,
but on Sunday,
is the Gospel.
This is the center
of the Liturgy of Hours.
We pray
Psalms
not for blah blah blah,
but it is a preparation,
a spiritual preparation,
a prayer
to hear
this Proclamation.
In this sense,
the word is the center.
But
it is
an opening
for the Eucharistic
of Divine Liturgy.
And also
this is
the true
center
in our spirituality,
in our thing.
But
in the Divine Liturgy,
in the Eucharistic Liturgy,
we have also
here
two moments, because
we have
the Liturgy of the Word
and the Eucharistic Liturgy.
But for the Council,
true,
the Second Vatican
Council,
the Liturgy of the Word
and the Eucharistic Liturgy
are at the same
level.
Because
I eat
this Word.
I must
eat this Word
to
eat
the Eucharistic
Bread.
So that's very helpful, this.
Both the central.
So it's not either or.
And
in this sense,
there is also
circles. What
Eucharistic
Liturgy and vice versa.
And the final moment, which would
be a silent, almost
ecstatic contemplatio,
that could
be at the heart of the Eucharist,
or at the heart of the Word, that also
isn't in rivalry
to the centrality of this, but
a final, perhaps,
step.
But not today.
I have a question.
When you were telling the translations of
Lectio Divina,
why do you think they didn't just say
Divine Reading?
Why did they have to say Meditative Reading or Spiritual Reading?
It seems like Divine Reading
would have been a more direct translation.
Yeah, Divine Reading
is possible,
but it's
too much literal.
And
it's good.
Probably I prefer this translation
than
Spiritual Reading
or Meditative Reading.
Divine Reading is
possible.
But Lectio Divina
is another thing.
Well, good.
I prefer
prayer, prayed
word.
Because in this sense
we can understand
that
my reading
is prayer.
It's not
only an exercise of reading.
But
no problem.
Assimilation
could be
similar to a word like
incorporation.
Oh, good.
And
could be like remember.
Is that what you're saying?
Remember word, sentence
throughout the day.
Ruminatio is...
I don't understand Ruminatio.
But it's working
on you though.
Ruminatio is
like a mantra
or like a plow
digging up the soil.
By remembering it's digging, it's going
deeper, deeper. It's not just
thinking over a phrase.
Mulling over?
Ruminatio.
I wasn't trying to imply that that was like that.
I'm just trying to give
an answer.
That doesn't help.
Yeah.
No, it is
difficult.
For me, in this
meeting, it's important
to explain
Ruminatio
as
repetition.
Why? Because
this exercise
has been very important
in monastic tradition.
The
repetition of the word.
And I
think
it's a
gym.
Gym, palestra.
Gym, palestra.
Oh, gym.
Monastic life, for me, is a gym.
Gym
of spirit.
No?
Gym of
spirit.
Of the spirit.
And this repetition
is
very important.
Repetition
also the name of Jesus.
The prayer of Jesus.
The repetition of the name.
But also
this is a preparation for
Lectio.
To repeat
a sentence
or a word
part
of the Gospel.
Because in this sense
this word
enters into
me and the work
and change
purifies
me.
In this sense it's mantra.
It's not
only repetition
through memory.
No.
In English I have
found
to learn
oh my god
my memory
by heart.
By heart.
To learn by heart.
This is marvelous for me.
To learn by heart.
Yeah.
Is that a little bit
clear?
We have
also ten minutes.
I don't know.
I like the phrase
that I use for Lectio is listening
as communion.
And then I think what you're saying
is the whole life
it's not seen as
in opposition to Eucharist
which is communion.
But Lectio
when we start with the scripture
eventually it teaches one
this listening as communion
throughout one's whole life.
Everything is listening as communion.
So I agree with the way
you say that. To me it's the
center of the Christian life
and it's the center of biblical spirituality
as I understand it.
It's to listen as communion.
Because everything is
word. Everything is God's word.
And the scripture is the
way that we learn
and then there's an expanding
that goes on.
And then the role of silence and solitude
with the scripture is to me very very important
because at least for modern people
we don't know how to listen.
And the silence and solitude teaches us
which usually the first thing we start
hearing is our own
busy head.
But eventually to go deeper
and so the scripture part
the strict as Robert was saying the strict
Lectio in the cell, in the solitude
the scripture is very important.
It's pedagogic in that sense.
I agree.
And
it's clear
after 10 years
of monastic life and practice
for example
of Lectio, my Lectio
now also
to see the ocean here
but
for me it's not
only a beautiful
view
but for me
it's a gift
this view
a great
gift
for me
and for us
and
because this is a manifestation
of creation
in this sense
I
can begin
a Lectio
about this.
Or
a conversation with
a brother in community
or my work
in community
many kind of
aspects of daily
life
but the support
the base
is the Lectio
in this sense
I begin from
scripture
because it's very easy for us
to fly
the monastic life is
very concrete
our spirituality is very concrete
Semitic
in this sense
interesting
that translation
of hearing as community
because Lectio
seems to be
what we do, reading
but as you were saying
it wants to be a reading
that is a hearing
and the Semitic
Shema
so the
Lectio Divina is kind of paradoxical
because it's a practice, something we do
and yet it's divine
because it wants to go quite beyond
and so that's
for this
reason in the monastic practice
there is also
Colassio
this is the moment
of communion
because
after my
Lectio, my personal Lectio
there is Colassio
and this is
the Lectio of community
and another Lectio
because
I don't hear only
now in Colassio
the Holy Scripture
but also my brother
is Lectio
and this is a gift
for our communion
in Trinity
but my
scriptural Lectio should teach me
to go beyond the
surface
as we go over text over and over
and the meaning
and when I meet my brother
to go beyond the surface of his outer
personality or his quirks
to teach me to go
to listen deeper
even than his words
and that scripture
is very important
because your first reading you get a certain
sense but you go back and back
and there's deeper and deeper meaning
that Pauline thing
don't just stop
at the level of the word, the letter
of the law, you know, Cenzo says
we have to do that same dynamic with
scripture, with other people, with our
community, with the church
that's just a basic
dynamic of going beyond the
letter
Were you explaining
rumination by learning by heart?
Is that what you were saying a little earlier
in response to the question right here?
That learning by heart?
Because
the sense
this is an idiom in English
but for me
it's very important here
the word art
in these idioms
and
the meaning is
tener memoria
to memorize
it's different, you're talking about
learning by heart, literally
yeah, yeah
because
our experience
of memory is different
from ancient people
and ancient monks
today
I remember
something
for my youth
but
the experience of memory
is not this
the true experience
it is a little bit
difficult
because
in
our culture
sometimes
especially technological
culture, I remember
my computer
it's used
but this is functional
memory
functional memory
in
Lex Divina
the memory is wise
wise
sapiente
wise
sapiential
and
in this case
memory
is
presence
it's not functional
sometimes I remember
many, many
words and many
texts in the
Bible
also I know
from memory
some
Psalms
in the Bible
I can say
while I walk
etc
ok, this is a good
memory
but
in this case, when I repeat
Psalms
this
memory is a presence
divine presence
and presence as
presence as
maybe we could say
one is memory for information
the other is memory
for formation
one is being formed
in the memory process
one is being shaped
because presence
divine presence is dynamic, it's active
it's the spirit
it's not static presence
which information is, you just store it
it's static
for me it's a good exercise
also, remember
when I
remember the face of the people
I don't
remember the name
but the face
I remember
always
the face
what is the face of
it is your
revelation
your face
is a revelation
is a gift for me
and
it is
a presence
I don't remember your mouth
or your eyes
also, but
I remember
the unity
and for example
the icon
is very important
and
the face
of Jesus Christ
of Saint
of Mary
and
this
memory is a presence
ok
thank you very much