When I was first asked to write about Lectio Divina in this time of crisis, many thoughts came to mind. Firstly, we are in the liturgical season of Easter joy while many of us are staying safe inside our homes feeling the loneliness of missing the physical touch of our communities and family. Hugging is the way to say hello in Colorado but now we are Zooming over the internet and touching each other through handwritten notes and phone conversations. It was hard to reconcile the joy of the Easter season with many of the feelings I was experiencing, including fear and anger. I’ve been calling those times “imposed sabbath rest” and while many of our earthly teachers have offered up their wisdom to help us deal with what we are each experiencing, I realized that all the wisdom that I was reading was keeping me in my thoughts and separated me from being with Christ in each moment of my day. I realized then that I had lost touch with reading Scripture every day. Along with Centering Prayer, Thomas shared with us the method of praying Holy Scripture called Lectio Divina. He told us prayer is a relationship and spending time with Scripture was like a “heavy date with Jesus.” So, I stopped spending extended time listening to my earthly teachers and spent time each day after Centering Prayer with a short Scripture reading opening myself to what Jesus wanted to teach me about my relationships with God, myself, others and the cosmos.
From our Blessed Mother standing at her son’s feet as he is crucified, I was reminded how to be with the suffering of those I love living physically so far away. Jesus’s friends going into hiding, scared and fearful for their lives, gave me time to lament the fear I felt having to stay inside. Mary Magdalene at the tomb on Easter Sunday reminded me not to go running full speed ahead to find Jesus because he might be behind me or next to me waiting for me to slow down, turn around and notice him here with me now. As the daily liturgy continued, I noticed that every time Jesus appeared to his friends, he began with “Peace be with you.” It reminded me to say peace be with you to the grocery worker with my eyes as my smile was covered with a mask. I was grateful for being able to see smiles in their eyes as I thank them for coming into work so my family could eat. The apostle Thomas wasn’t with his friends when Christ visited and he doubted their story. I ponder how many times I forget that Christ is with me in this moment no matter the circumstances. When Jesus sends his friends out to serve the community, I mourn the retreats I am not serving because I’m stuck at home! I lament loudly, “How am I to serve your people while I am inside this HOUSE?” I’m consoled with hearing “Just be with me, it’s time for you to heal and rest.” Soon, we will be celebrating Pentecost when the Father sends the Holy Spirit to the community. I try not to grab onto the gifts and graces I want for myself and remember that my “yes” in both Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina is consenting to God’s presence and action. My “yes” to God is a “no” to my self-centeredness.
We have a lot of time in our imposed Sabbath rest. I invite you to spend 5, 10 or 20 minutes after your morning Centering Prayer session to pray a short Scripture passage with Jesus … and let him inform all your relationships. Our Centering Prayer time opens us to listen deeply as we spend time in a “heavy date” with our Lord. I liken this prayer time to having a cup of tea with God. Him with me, me with him, listening to each other while enriching our relationship.
The Lectio Divina prayer method goes like this: Read the passage first, remain open to receive a word or phrase. As you receive that word or phrase, begin to repeat it inwardly laying it upon your mind and heart. Over the rest of the prayer time, follow the lead of the Spirit to read the Scripture again, or to ponder what God is saying to you and how might it affect your life … or respond out of what you heard in a prayer that arises from your heart … or simply rest in God beyond your thoughts and reflections. The Spirit may mix up the order so, just follow along.
I encourage you not to be in a rush and forget the last moment of resting in God. Fr. Thomas reminds us that as relationships grow in intimacy, we are comfortable being in silence with our Beloved. In Contemplative Outreach Theological Principle 8, Fr. Thomas says: “The classical term for reflecting on scriptures and other sacred texts is Lectio Divina. Practicing Lectio Divina through the exercise of the faculties – reading, reflecting, and responding that leads to resting in God – serves to balance the letting go of deliberate thinking during the periods of Centering Prayer.”
This time of resting in God helps us to remember that God is with us in all the moments of our imposed Sabbath rest. So, sit and enjoy your Tea time, drinking of the living waters filled with Easter joy. And when you are able to go out, bring that peace with you. I invite you to share that peace above your face mask with smiling eyes.
Leslee is a member of The Lectio Divina Service Team. The team has recently updated the Introduction to Lectio Divina Workshop with a greater emphasis on the monastic method of praying Scriptures. Since Lectio Divina came out of the monastery several decades ago, Contemplative Outreach focused on the scholastic method of the prayer. Many of you have experienced this method of the prayer in your Centering Prayer support groups which Fr. Thomas calls a liturgy of Lectio Divina. As Christian contemplative life has grown in the world, we have found that many on the journey were organically evolving to praying Holy Scripture in the monastic method. After reviewing Fr. Thomas’s teaching on Lectio Divina, this workshop update was implemented. The Lectio Divina Service Team is ready to assist presenters and chapters in offering Lectio Divina workshops and retreats both domestically and internationally. Please contact our team leader Mike Potter at email@example.com with your inquiries.