Friday, November 19, 2010

Pope Benedict: Five reasons for doing lectio divina....

Lectio Divina is of course central to Benedictine spirituality, with several hours a day of prayerful reading of Scripture and other spiritual texts required of monks in the Rule.

And it is also one of the central themes of Pope Benedict XVI's Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini.  Scattered through the document are the reasons why lectio is so crucial.  Here is my summation of the reasons he sets out for why we should do lectio divina.

1.  To please God by listening to him. Pope quotes Origen: “Do your reading with the intent of believing in and pleasing God.”

2.  To build the Church as a community.  "While it is a word addressed to each of us personally, it is also a word which builds community, which builds the Church...The reading of the word of God… enables us to deepen our sense of belonging to the Church, and helps us to grow in familiarity with God.”

3.  To nourish and sustain us 'on our journey of penance and conversion': through it, we grow in love and truth.

4.  In order to discern God’s will for us, and convert us: “Contemplation aims at creating within us a truly wise and discerning vision of reality, as God sees it, and at forming within us “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16).

The Pope particularly recommends lectio divina to seminarians because: “It is in the light and strength of God’s word that one’s specific vocation can be discerned and appreciated, loved and followed, and one’s proper mission carried out…”  Lay people to should be trained, he urges, “to discern God’s will through a familiarity with his word, read and studied in the Church under the guidance of her legitimate pastors.”

He goes on: "Saint Paul tells us: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect ” (12:2). The word of God appears here as a criterion for discernment: it is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).”, and “….by nourishing the heart with thoughts of God, so that faith, as our response to the word, may become a new criterion for judging and evaluation persons and things, events and issues”….”

5.  For the spiritual benefit of others. First, to equip us to fulfill the duty of all Christians to evangelize, contributing to the Churches mission to convert the whole world to Christ. And secondly to aid the souls in purgatory through the Church's offer of indulgences for Scripture reading and certain Scripturally based prayers (such as the Office), which teach us that “to whatever degree we are united in Christ, we are united to one another, and the supernatural life of each one can be useful for the others ”


markbartek said...

This is fantastic! Thanks so much for compiling these thoughts. God bless you.

Anonymous said...

Hi, sorry to ask another question, but what translation of Scriptures do you recommend to use? I use a Douay-Rhelims currently, but after reading some of the Knox, I'm considering buying one. Also, is there any good in depth commentaries you know of? Hopefully buy the Early Church Fathers. God bless!

Kate Edwards said...

The issue of which translation to use is a complex one!

Personally I like to use several, because I don't think any one is ideal. The ones I personally use the most are Douay-Rheims, because it has the advantage of being a very literal translation of the Vulgate, so great for study purposes; the RSV Catholic Edition is useful in reflecting more recent scholarship; Knox for its elegance. But they all have disadvantages - Knox for example often deviates from the Vulgate in favour of the Hebrew masoretic Text reading, as many early twentieth century translations do.

In terms of commentaries, depends whether you are looking at the Gospels, other books or the psalms. For the Gospels, I would suggest starting with the Catena Aurea, and then graduate to Cornelius de Lapide's commentaries. For the psalms, Bellarmine's commentary is one of the best I think, but you can find more on this subject (look through the links in the sidebar and the writeups on individual Fathers etc) over at my other blog here:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply and link! I think I may end up buying the Knox one as I'm looking to use it for Lectio Divina. I'm sure it has a great advantage for that! Do you think its best for Lectio Divina? Go bless!