Thursday, January 2, 2014

Lectio Divina Options

I've previously suggested on this blog that doing at least some lectio divina each day should surely be a key part of our daily spiritual regime.  St Benedict, after all, prescribes a balanced regime based on prayer (the Office), sacred reading (lectio divina), and work.

As his followers, we should, accordingly endeavour to maintain a balance between each of these appropriate to our state in life: more hours of work if we are laypeople than a monk would do, and less prayer and reading, but still some of each of these.

But when it comes to lectio divina, what should we take as our text?  Let me suggest a few options for your consideration for the new year.

Option 1: Study the psalms

For followers of St Benedict, knowing the psalms is surely the first priority.  St Benedict enjoins the study of the psalms twice in his Rule - once as a use for the gap between Matins and Lauds, and a second time in his discussion of the daily horarium.


The psalms are of course the backbone of his Office, their repetition each each week so crucial that the lessons are to be dropped if necessary, rather than the psalms be omitted or Lauds started late!  Yet the saint never actually explains why they are so important; rather  he just assumes we know that the psalms are the most quoted book of the Old Testament in the New, and long considered to contain the entire Bible in summary, poetic form.

Finding a good modern commentary on the psalms is not easy however.  Accordingly, I started putting together my own notes which you can find over at my blog Psallam Domino.  The posts there are intended to assist those wishing to use the psalms for lectio divina; to help understand them better in the context of the interpretations provided by the Magisterium, Fathers and Theologians; and to assist in learning to pray them in Latin.  The focus is very much on the context of the Benedictine form of the Divine Office.

Option 2: Systematic reading of the Gospels

A second option is to spread the reading of the Gospels over a year, taking one for each quarter.  The Gospels are obviously the most important books of the Bible for any Christian to be familiar with, so well worth the effort.  And there are any number of commentaries available to assist this task.  A good starting point is the Catena Aurea of St Thomas, providing an anthology of patristic commentaries for our consideration.

I've previously provided notes as prompts for lectio here on St John's Gospel, but for those interested, I've set up a separate blog Lectio Divina Notes so I can gauge better just how much interest (if any!) there is in these posts.  I plan to take here, looking at St Matthew's Gospel this quarter.

Option 3: (Rest of the) Bible in a year

Another option worth considering is systematically reading the rest of the Bible.

If you are feeling ambitious, a while back, a monk posted a suggested two possible reading plans for the Bible in a year over at New Liturgical Movement.  But if you are not a monk with several hours a day to devote to the task, you could devise a plan to spread your reading over two  or three years!

Option 4: The texts of the Sunday cycle

Another obvious option is to use the lectionary and propers used at the Mass.  If you normally attend the 1970 Missal Mass, there is so much material provided in the lectionary that you will have to select what to look at  - one obvious option being the epistles for each day.

In the traditional Mass the obvious option is to look at all the proper texts for the Sunday (and perhaps the texts of the other major feasts and seasons) - that is the Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Epistle, Gospel, Offertory and Communio - over a week.  The Church has, for centuries, selected out these texts as crucial to our instruction, repeating them year after year so that we can have them practically memorised, so exploring them in more depth for ourselves makes a great deal of sense.

The Sunday Gospels of course can easily take up two or three days in this regime, if one studies them with the aid of patristic sources such as using the excellent Sunday Sermons of the Fathers volumes.  And if the psalm verses or other text in the propers are too sparse or repetitive, it is no great problem to consider the whole psalm or chapter from which the text is taken.

(Cross-posted from Lectio Divina Notes)

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