Friday, July 03, 2009

Lectio Divina - a faith tool

In Fall 2008 while attending a retreat centered on praying the hours, I purchased a book by Christine Valter Paintner and Lucy Wynkoop, entitled “Lectio Divina Contemplative Awakening and Awareness.” During a portion of the retreat, Ms. Valters Paintner led us through Lectio Divina exercises incorporating music, sacred icons, and Holy Scripture. Perhaps due to my current age and disposition as well as the skill of the leader, I found a new comfort with the discipline and have since used it purposely from time to time in my devotional practice.

This week as I opened the small book with which I’m accustomed to opening my personal prayer time, “A Diary of Private Prayer” by John Baillie, I was compelled to linger on the words of the prayer – captured by them. I felt the need to linger, to repeat, to study, to digest this prayer. A prayer I’ve read numerous times – in fact, every second day of the month for several years – strangely, I never left that prayer – it became the center for my worship. It said something different to me that I hadn't heard before – perhaps something that I especially needed to hear.

These are the opening words of that prayer – “O God my Creator and Redeemer, I may not go forth today except Thou dost accompany me with Thy blessing. Let not the vigor and freshness of the morning, or the glow of good health, or the present prosperity of my undertakings deceive me into a false reliance upon my own strength. All these good gifts have come to me from Thee. They were Thine to give and they are Thine also to curtail. They are not mine to keep; I do but hold them in trust; and only in continued dependence upon Thee, the Giver, can they be worthily enjoyed.”

There are several more paragraphs of the prayer but the point of this post is not so much the prayer but of the power of Lectio Divina and how the discipline of it seems to have pervaded not just my sacred reading, but my secular reading, writing, music and visual art experiences. Recently rereading and studying words and images that fell on my youthful ears and mind and meant little or nothing to me at first observance, I am now compelled to read again, discovering the same words fall on my mature ears rendering a completely different and very relevant result. The same Holy Scripture - stories of Jesus, the Jews, Herod, the woman at the well – they are the same familiar words but are now often so filled with power for me, I shake my head in disbelief at how I missed the message the first hundred times I read or heard the story. Being of faith but not of faith in the absolute literal dictation from God of Holy Scripture, I am awed with the power of it to teach and transform throughout my life, appropriate to the time and history of where I am in my faith journey. I am grateful for the knowledge of Lectio Divina and for the wisdom to apply it more and more often in my faith journey.

Have you experienced the discipline of Lectio Divina? Have you experienced the changing images that Holy Scripture brings to you in your life now as opposed to the first times you delved into it? Are you still surprised to see Holy Scripture evolving for you as your evolve in your own life as a person of faith?

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  1. being open to surprise is the only authentic way i can live anymore. thinking i even know what a book or movie or scripture i experienced a few years ago would mean to me now is absurd. i have those times of opening my bible and seeing passages underlined and wondering what did i see there...and at other times saying "how could i have missed this all those readings?"

    at lunch yesterday we were talking about "the poisonwood bible" which i read several years ago. i felt like i could not even comment on it now and need to go back and read to see what my more mature (?) self might have to say.

    lectio divina is fabulous. i feel like i find it everywhere when i allow myself to slow down. i'm sure "ms. paintner" would be happy with this post :-) xoxoxooxo

  2. Lucy,

    Thank you for your comments. The books I've reread this year have just boggled my mind - my opinion then, my opinion now. I reread "Grapes of Wrath" and never even noticed the first time I read it what a derogatory term "Okie" was when Steinbeck wrote his book.

  3. Anonymous3:38 PM

    Dianna, I can so identify with this ! You said it beautifully! JG

  4. JG - thank you! Your comments are always welcome here.