Yesterday at IPF I had yet another privilege of hearing a lecture on lectio divina, ‘divine reading.’
This ancient and time-tested Christian method of reading sacred texts (e.g. Scripture) begins with the presupposition that the sacred text is, so to speak, alive. The words bear within them, behind them, in the most immediate and in-your-face manner, the living voice of the living God.
As the lecturer said so simply, ‘lectio is nothing other than reading the text with a love for the ever-present Author.’ To read the words of the Scripture as if they were being spoken by God afresh, anew, for the very first time, to you. ‘As if’ because they are.
While it is crucial to always read Scripture or other sacred texts (e.g. the Creed) with an interest in the orginal intention of the human author(s), the meaning of the inspired text always overflows the original-literal meaning into multiform spiritual-meanings that bring God’s living Word and my real life into an intimate and transforming dialogue.
So I am reading the lovely text of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, and I muse on the meaning of the Voice that thunders from the now-torn heavens: ‘This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.’ I ponder Psalm 2:7, Psalm 29:3 and their relation to this passage. I link this ‘theophany’ to the Transfiguration. I mull over the history of the Jordan river in the Old Testament, and its relation to the waters of baptism. All fascinating and thrilling my inquisitive mind and yielding fine insights.
But then of sudden, like a flash, the text takes hold of me and these words shower down on me, bathe me and speak so clearly to my deepest core that I can absolutely claim my identity in Christ as undivided and indistinguishable: all that Jesus is by nature, I am by grace and gift. These words of the Father are mine, they shatter me and reconfigure my sense of who I am — beloved son. Insight has passed over into indwelling, idea into grace, image into reality.
Here lectio prevailed and my disposition of love toward the text, toward the Author, opened up the core of who I am to be vulnerable enough to suffer its truth. Mostly this lectio ‘suffering of God’ in his Word is quiet, imperceptable, not psychologically accessible; but it’s always real and operative whenever I permit it by my mode of reading-in-love.
If you try lectio often, you will find that it is not you who are ‘reading God’ but it is God who is reading you; and re-writing your poorly written inner script.