This post is a distillation of what has been described in earlier posts about Lectio Divina and is created to be used as a look-up.

Lectio Divina (divine, or holy, reading) is a way of acknowledging that our book of scripture - the Bible - is alive and active and of allowing it to be used by God to speak directly to our hearts - in order to deepen our relationship with God and to grow us spiritually.

A passage of the Bible is read slowly and reflectively to allow the words to soak into our hearts and minds. It is not a way of Bible study - trying to unravel the meaning of the Hebrew or Greek words - but is a way of opening ourselves to God using a meditative approach. Here is a reminder of how you might do Lectio Divina:


Read the chosen passage once, slowly. Then read it again - slowly. And perhaps, even a third time. S...l...o...w...l...y!

It may be that part of the passage - a word or a phrase - seems to be more significant to you than another. Choose the word or phrase that speaks to you the most. Now repeat this word/phrase - s-l-o-w-l-y - several times. Try not to analyse it, just allow yourself to savour it for several minutes - to ruminate on it - allowing the sense of it to fill you and feed you.

After ten or fifteen minutes (longer if you like!) talk to God about your prayer time and your response.

Rest in God's presence and then commit the rest of the day to God.

I also enjoy a second way of describing lectio - involving chocolate! Wikipedia describes how the method of Lectio Divina has traditionally been considered to have four parts: Lectio, Meditatio, Oratio and Contemplatio. All of these together making a "Feast on the Word".

This is how I see it in, er - well, chocolatey terms:


Lectio Reading the passage: taking a lovely bite of the chocolate - nice and slowly...m.m.m.m....

Meditatio Mulling over part of the passage: letting that wonderful chocolate melt deliciously and slowly in your mouth!

Oratio Opening to God in a conversation: telling God how fabulous his chocolate is - then moving on to an intimate chat.

Contemplatio Loving, wordless focus on God: just resting with God with that lovely 'satisfied' post-chocolate feeling!


If you want to read more you might like to try these:

Wikipedia contains a useful article on Lectio Divina.

If you like to understand how and why things have developed then there is a useful definition of Lectio Divina at the Carmelite website.

Or if you would like some music while you explore:

Learning about Lectio with music


This Gutenberg Bible is displayed by the Unite...Image of Gutenberg Bible via Wikipedia

In an earlier post - So what, exactly, is Meditation? - I talked about a way of differentiating two types of Christian meditation:
apophatic meditation which uses no content - it involves emptying ourselves of images, ideas and sensations; and kataphatic meditation which uses images - symbols, ideas and experience.

We then looked at the method of meditation called Lectio Divina, which can straddle both types. In a local quiet morning recently, I used the method of Lectio Divina with part of Psalm 119 and I would like to share that with you.

Lectio Divina (divine, or holy, reading) is a way of acknowledging that our book of scripture - the Bible - is alive and active and of allowing it to be used by God to speak directly to our hearts - in order to deepen our relationship with God and to grow us spiritually. A passage of the Bible is read slowly and reflectively to allow the words to soak into our hearts and minds. It is not a way of Bible study - trying to unravel the meaning of the Hebrew or Greek words - but is a way of opening ourselves to God using a meditative approach.

Here is a reminder of how you might do Lectio Divina:

Read the chosen passage once, slowly. Then read it again - slowly. And perhaps, even a third time. S...l...o...w...l...y!

It may be that part of the passage - a word or a phrase - seems to be more significant to you than another. Choose the word or phrase that speaks to you the most. Now repeat this word/phrase - s-l-o-w-l-y - several times. Try not to analyse it, just allow yourself to savour it for several minutes - to ruminate on it - allowing the sense of it to fill you and feed you. Then talk to God about your prayer time and your response.

Here is the passage.
It is Psalm 119: 33-40
Picture from www.allposters.co.uk
Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes,
and I will observe it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it.
Turn my heart to your decrees,
and not to selfish gain.
Turn my eyes from looking at vanities;
give me life in your ways.
Confirm to your servant your promise,
which is for those who fear you.
Turn away the disgrace that I dread,
for your ordinances are good.
See, I have longed for your precepts;
in your righteousness give me life.


Now speak with God in the quiet of your heart.

If you like to understand how and why things have developed then there is a useful definition of Lectio Divina at the Carmelite website

If you would like a description of how to do Lectio by using the analogy of eating chocolate then try this earlier post!

Before sharing a rather lovely prayer of Anselm's, here is a short history lesson followed by an equally short theology lesson about atonement! Skip them both if you're not in the mood!

Anselm of CanterburyImage via Wikipedia

Anselm of Canterbury was an Italian Benedictine monk who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1093 during the reign of William II. He came into conflict with William and later with Henry I of England as he sought to introduce reform. By the end of his life he had managed to free the see of Canterbury from submission to the King and established the primacy of Canterbury in the British Isles.

He was a scholarly and philosophical man, working on 'proofs' for the existence of God. He also wrote much on theories of atonement - favouring that concentrating on the need for the justice of God to be satisfied. He thus paved the way for the Reformers - particularly John Calvin - to clearly define the doctrine of 'penal substitution'. Theories of atonement before Anselm had largely concentrated on the battle between good and evil - between God and Satan. In the 13th century, Peter Abelard would emphasise atonement as the prime example and expression of God's love. The BBC have an excellent summary of theories of atonement here.

And now for Anselm's prayer. It's rather wonderful to realise that one of the 'fathers' of the church asked just the sort of questions that we still ask, such as, 'why do I not seek you?'


O Lord my God,
teach my heart where and how to seek you,
where and how to find you.
Lord, if you are not here but absent,
where shall I seek you?
But you are everywhere, so you must be here,
why then do I not seek you?...

Lord, I am not trying to make my way to your height,
for my understanding is in no way equal to that,
but I do desire to understand a little of your truth
which my heart already believes and loves.
I do not seek to understand so that I may believe,
but I believe so that I may understand;
and what is more,
I believe that unless I do believe I shall not understand.

Anselm of Canterbury

The lines, Lord, I am not trying to make my way to your height,
for my understanding is in no way equal to that..
remind me of Psalm 131.
If these lines speak to you, then you may like to read/re-read an earlier post which includes a meditation on Psalm 131.

Ah, back once more in the 'green season' - or 'ordinary time' to others. Some reading this may have no idea what I'm talking about so here's a quick deffo.

Our natural year starts in January and has four seasons, but the church year starts on Advent Sunday at the beginning of December and has a number of seasons starting with Advent then progressing to Christmas, Epiphany, a little pre-Lent interlude, then Lent itself, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost - which starts on the old 'Whit Sunday' and ends one week later on Trinity Sunday. Through these seasons we remember and celebrate different aspects of the life-story of Jesus.

Trinity Sunday marks the start of 'ordinary time' - or as I like to call it the 'green season'. It lasts till Advent (or till the Kingdom Season in November if your church does that) and encompasses most of June - October/November each year. The church colours are green, so the altar cloth, the vicar's stole (the scarf thing round his/her neck) etc. are all green.

Some Christians are sad when the green season comes because most of the significant fasts and feasts have ended for a few months. But, for myself, I love the green season. Picture from www.allposters.co.ukI like the sense of ordinariness about it - I do tend to feel a bit 'festivalled out' by the time the leaves on the trees match the season with their rich green (that's here in the UK - sorry to those who live elsewhere!).

For me, there is a sense of stability and gentleness about this season. Benedictine monks and nuns take a vow of 'stability'. They promise to be steadily faithful and committed to their community - Benedictines are not usually wandering monks! The steadiness and continuity of the green season reminds me of this stability of life and draws me towards a willingness to be faithful and committed to my own community and congregation.

There is also a peace and gentleness in our worship during this season - the dramas of Christmas and Easter are not in direct focus - and there is time to think about some ordinary things that get pushed out in the constantly changing pattern through the rest of the church year.

I wonder, does anyone else feel this way? Are there any other green season fans out there?

Sometimes we struggle with doubts, darkness, and a resounding silence when we try to pray. Take comfort - it has happened to all the saints through all the ages. St John of the Cross - a monk and poet in the Sixteenth Century - wrote in one of his poetical works about 'the Dark Night of the Soul'.

Times of struggle and doubt seem to be an integral part of our journey towards God and appear to come to all of us at some point as we continue to grow in our spiritual lives. After all, if we didn't have times of doubt then our faith wouldn't actually be faith - it would be certainty - and probably a very unattractive and arrogant certainty at that.

Here are some quotes from other Christians to help if and when you are in that place:
Picture from www.allposters.co.uk

I would rather walk with God in the dark than go alone in the light.
Mary Gardiner Brainard

I believe in the sun even if it isn't shining. I believe in love even when I am alone. I believe in God even when He is silent.
Unknown

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1

Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.
Paul Tillich

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.
Voltaire


May God bless you in light and in darkness.

Psalms for today

I was talking to a friend yesterday who mentioned that she had recently gained a great deal from reading Psalm 40 in a modern translation. The conversation reminded my of a book I occasionally dip into for a new and up-to-date look at the psalms. It is Psalms Now by Leslie F. Brandt.

Psalms Now is not a translation but a paraphrase. Brandt has reworded the psalms for clarification - in this case, to put them in language that can be applied in our modern world. You may not like this way of reading the Bible, but for many it brings the scriptures to life. Other modern Biblical paraphrases are The Living Bible and The Message.

As a taster, here is part of Psalm 40 from Psalms Now:


I searched long and shouted loud for God.
It finally paid off. He responded.
He reached into my pathetic emptiness
and planted objective and purpose.
Now I feel like singing;
there is genuine meaning in my life.
And I can tell others about the
prominent place God holds in my heart....

....Our God is not looking for genius;
He does not require great talent.
He is not charmed by our panic-ridden activity.
He simply asks for our faith and our obedience.
It is when He turned me from self-seeking
to follow His will for my life
that I discovered serenity and security....

....I still feel overwhelmed at times
by my faults and fallibilities.
I am disturbed and distressed
when others fail to understand or accept me.
I need to rely on the grace of God....

....As for me, foolish and sinful though I am
I know that God will never cease to love me.