The British Province of Carmelite Friars


II TEN WORDS OF ADVICE

1 When you begin a lectio divina of the Bible, you are not concerned with study. You are not going to read the Bible in order either to increase your knowledge or to prepare for some apostolate. Neither are you reading the Bible in order to have some extraordinary experience. You are going to read the Word of God in order to listen to what God has to say to you, to know his will and thus to live more deeply in allegiance to Jesus Christ (Prologue). There must be poverty in you; you must also have the disposition which the old man Eli recommended to Samuel: Speak, Lord, your servant is listening (1 Sam 3:10).

2 Listening to God does not depend on you or on the effort you make. It depends entirely on God, on his freely made decision to come into dialogue with you and to allow you to listen to his voice. Thus you need to prepare yourself by asking God to send his Spirit, since without the Spirit of God, it is impossible to discover the meaning of the Word which God had prepared for us today (cf. Jn 14:26;16:13; Lk 11:13).

3 It is important to create the right surroundings, which will facilitate recollection and an attentive listening to the Word of God. For this, you must build your cell within and around you, and you must stay in it (VII) all the time of your lectio divina. Putting one's body in the right position helps recollection in the mind.

4 When you open the Bible, you have to be conscious that you are opening a book which is not yours. It belongs to the community. In your lectio divina you are setting foot in the great tradition of the Church, which has come down through the centuries. Your prayerful reading is like the ship which carries down the winding river to the sea. The light shining from the sea has already enlightened the dark night of many generations. In having your own experience of lectio divina you are not alone. You are united to brothers and sisters who, before you, succeeded in meditating day and night upon the Law of the Lord and in keeping vigil in prayer (VII).

5 An attentive and fruitful reading of the Bible involves three steps and their related attitudes. It has to marked, from beginning to end, by them:

First step and the attitude of Lectio -
First of all, you have to ask, What does the text say as text?

This requires that you be silent. Everything in you must be silent, so that nothing stands in the way of your gleaning what the texts say to you (XVI) and so that you do not make the text say what you would like to hear.

Second step and the attitude of Meditatio -
You must ask, What does the text say to me or to us?

In this second step we enter into dialogue with the text, so that its meaning comes across with freshness and penetrates the life of the Carmelite today. Like Mary, you will ponder what you heard and meditate on the Law of the Lord (VII). In this way, the Word of God will dwell abundantly on your lips and in your heart (XIV).

Third step and the attitude of Oratio -
Furthermore, you have to try to discover What does the text lead me to say to God?

This is the movement of prayer, the moment of keeping watch in prayer (VII),

6 The result, the fourth step, is the destination of lectio divina - contemplation. Contemplation means having in one's eyes something of the wisdom which leads to salvation (2 Tm 3:15). We begin to see the world and life through the eyes of the poor, through the eyes of God. We assume our own poverty and eliminate from our way of thinking all that smacks of the powerful. We recognise all the many things which we thought were fidelity to God, to the gospel and to the tradition of the Order, were in reality nothing more than fidelity to ourselves and our own interests. We get a taste, even now, of the love of God which is above all things. We come to see that in our lives true love of God is revealed in love of our neighbour (IX, XIV). It is like saying always, Let it be done to me according to your Word (Lk 1:38). Thus, all you do will have the Lord's word for accompaniment (XIV).

7 So that your lectio divina does not end up being the conclusions of your own feelings, thoughts and caprices, but have the deepest roots, it is important to take account of three demands:

8 The Apostle Paul gives various bits of advice on how to read the Bible. He himself was an excellent interpreter. Following are some of the norms and attitudes which he taught and followed.

9 When you read the Bible, be always aware that the text of the Bible is not only a fact. It is also a symbol (Heb. 11:19). It is both a window through which you see what happened to others in the past and a mirror in which you can see what is happening to you today (1 Cor 10:6-10). A prayerful reading is like a gentle flood which, little by little, waters the earth and makes it fruitful (Is 55:10-11). In beginning to dialogue with God in lectio divina you grow like a tree planted near streams of water (Ps 1:3). You cannot see the growth but you can see its results in your encounter with yourself, with God and with others. The song says: like a flood that washes clean, like a fire that devours, so is your Word, leaving its mark upon me each times it passes.

10 One final point to be borne in mind: when you do lectio divina, the principal object is not to interpret the Bible, not to get to know its content, not to increase your knowledge of the history of the people of God, nor to experience extraordinary things, but rather to discover, with the help of the written Word, the living Word which God speaks to you today, in your life, in our lives, in the life of the people, in the world in which we live (Ps 97:5). The purpose is to grow in faith, like the prophet Elijah, and to experience more and more that the Lord lives, and I stand in his presence (I Kg 17:1;18:15).

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