FIFTEENTH GENERAL CONGREGATION: TUESDAY, 14 OCTOBER 2008 - AFTERNOON (CONTINUATION)
EXPLANATORY EXPOSITION of LECTIO DIVINA
Yesterday afternoon, Tuesday, 14 October 2008, during the Fifteenth General Congregation, when the works were resumed after the break, before the free interventions, H. Exc. Mons. Santiago Jaime SILVA RETAMALES, Titular Bishop of Bela, Auxiliary Bishop of Valparaíso, (CHILE) presented an “Explanatory Exposition of the Lectio Divina”.
The summary of the presentation can be found below:
From the explanatory exposition on the Lectio Divina, the Relator indicated three finalities: not as much to understand, but to make the Lectio Divina (LD) more systematic, to live it personally and help the community to live it, and finally, to share an experience of the Lectio Divina lived in the Diocese of Valparaiso, Chile, entitled: “Encounters with the Word”.
THE LECTIO DIVINA
The first aspect to be considered in the Lectio Divina is a spirituality understood as the dynamism of holiness:
- God moves towards humanity and invites it to live in communion with Him. The revelation, understood in categories of dialogue and encounter, requires a reading of the Word of God as the place for communion. The Holy Scripture and the Lectio Divina require a theological and a personal approach.
- God offers Himself completely through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus the Son of Man, is the vocation of man, inasmuch as a human being. The encounter with Jesus “leads us to ourselves”: personality, history, motivations, intentions, and “recreates” us, a new creature in Jesus, the new Adam.
The second aspect, the identity and the function of the Holy Scripture in the life of the Church. The Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum shows that the Holy Scripture is:
-the written Word of God, that must be interpreted (sapiential dimension, Jesus-Teacher);
- is inspired by the Holy Spirit, is an actual and efficacious Word, which must be realized;
- is entrusted to the Church for the salvation of all: it is the Word that calls and that one must proclaim (missionary dimension, Jesus-Lord).
How can we nourish ourselves with the richness of the Holy Scripture to follow the Lord and grow on the path to holiness?
The Lectio Divina, an attempt at approach
The Lectio Divina is the practice of the prayer reading of Holy Scripture, individual or communitary, to “learn the heart of God through the words of God” (Saint Gregory the Great).
- The Holy Scripture is the written Word of God. In reading (re-interpreting), we ask ourselves: “What does the Biblical text say?”. We must understand the Word to discover what God teaches us through the inspired author.
- The Holy Spirit is inspired by the Holy Spirit. In meditation (personalizing), we ask oursleves: “What does the Lord say in His Word?”. We must practice the Word to call upon life, learn its meaning, better our mission and reinforce hope.
In prayer (personalizing), we ask ourselves: “What do we say to the Lord, motivated by His Word?”. We must pray the Word for dialogue with God and celebrate our faith in the family or in the community.
- The Holy Scripture is entrusted to the Church for salvation. In contemplation-practice (proclaiming), we ask ourselves: “What conversion is asked for by the contemplation of the Lord?” We must contemplate the Word (Jesus) to live according to the criteria of the Father (conversion).
Practical form. Example: (Jn 1:35-42), encounter with the first disciples of Jesus.
-Prepare the external setting (ambo, Bible...) And the spiritual one (“be seated”, “clear heart”...).
- Invoke the gift of the Holy Spirit
- Look for the Biblical passage
- Reading: proclaim the text, making the silences important as well. Read the passage personally and mark with a question mark what you do not understand, or underline it when it seems to be the main message of the reading.
In a group, discover the main message following the signs. Continue reading the passage, putting an exclamation point, for meditation, when the passage calls for intentions and actions; with an asterisk, for prayer when the passage helps us pray.
- Meditation: following the exclamation point. Questions of the message that call for life.
- Prayer: following the asterisks and the experience of the Encounter.
Contemplation: help with music, images, location.
- Practice: at the edges of the text write a word that shows the path to be followed. Conclude with final sharing.
Observers attest that the practice of lectio divina is a recommendation being made over and over by the synod fathers and auditors at the world Synod of Bishops. An address Tuesday from Auxiliary Bishop Santiago Silva Retamales of Valparaiso, Chile, made a concrete presentation of this type of prayer that lasted some 20 minutes. Bishop Retamales explained how in his diocese for the last five years, groups of prayer and meditation on sacred Scripture have significantly renewed the sense of communion in Christian communities. Bishop Silva, named by Benedict XVI as the vice president of the commission for the message that the synod will produce, explained by citing St. Gregory the Great, that the objective of this practice is “to know the heart of God through the word of God.”
The prelate illustrated the steps that the Valparaiso groups follow in order to do lectio divina in communities.
1. The meeting begins by preparing the environment where the encounter will take place. Specifically, an open Bible is placed on an ambo and the participants are also prepared, not only in postures but also with a “clean heart.” Each participant brings their own Bible.
2. Next, the Holy Spirit is invoked so that “as the Word was made a book,” as in the experience of the first Christian community, so now “the book becomes Word,” the bishop said.
3. Afterward, a Bible passage is given and prepared with reflection questions to go deeper in the understanding of the text.
4. The fourth step is the reading, or rather, the proclamation, of the Biblical text. Following the proclamation is a moment of silence so that each participant can personally reflect.
The participants are then encouraged to annotate the passage, using, for example, question marks beside passages that seem more difficult to understand and underlining verses they consider particularly important.
Thus, as a group, they go discovering the key points of the passage, or the group guide offers aids for understanding.
The participants read the passage again, marking it this time with exclamation points beside those verses that invite them to actions or changes of attitudes.
With an asterisk, they mark those passages that help them to pray.
5. Then the participants move on to meditation, following the exclamation points. As an aid, they are invited to ask questions that apply to their lives.
6. Next, the group begins to pray, using the asterisks -- to pray from and with the word of God and what has been lived in the encounter with the Word, that is, with Christ.
7. Finally, time is left for contemplation, aided by silence or music. What is important, the bishop said, is that “Jesus takes hold of me, looks at me and I at him, an exchange of gazes.”
[8.] Thus, the participants move to the last stage, “action,” writing a word (for example, dialogue or help) that indicates to them the path to follow and share.
These community activities are carried out over a span of three years, Bishop Silva explained. It does not pretend to be a Bible course, but rather, an encounter with Jesus in sacred Scripture. In Chile, he affirmed, the meetings have brought “moments of great communion.”
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