Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Listen With the Ear of Your Heart

What is Lectio Divina, and how can it help me to discern my vocation? Lectio Divina is Latin for "divine reading" or "sacred reading." In his Rule, St. Benedict prescribed up to five hours of Lectio Divina per day for his monks! Most of us don't have that kind of time, but even a short time spent in Lectio is very beneficial.

Lectio Divina is simply sitting down in a quiet place, opening your Bible, and reading a short passage — slowly. It is important to read it several times over, allowing the words to sink into your heart and mind. It is also important to do this in a quiet space where you can have at least a few minutes of uninterrupted time. Finally, it is important to practice Lectio on a regular basis.

Many people choose to do Lectio with the Gospel reading of the day, or one of the other daily Mass readings — the First Reading or the Psalm. Others choose a book of the Bible and go through it from start to finish, reading a small portion every day. The length of the passage you choose is up to you, though it is usually a good idea to work with a short passage — a verse or two or a paragraph — rather than a lengthy narrative or full chapter.

Once you have chosen your passage, and you have at least ten minutes of time to spend, find a quiet place to do your Lectio. You may want to begin with the Sign of the Cross or a brief prayer asking the Holy Spirit to help you understand God's words.

The way we do Lectio is different from the way we would scan a newspaper article, skim a textbook looking for key words, or devour a gripping novel in order to find out what happens in the end. When we do Lectio, we read slowly, savouring the words like fine food. The monks and nuns of old called this, "Listening with the ear of the heart." We read prayerfully, trusting that God will speak to us through His Word. We are not at all worried about "getting through" a certain number of pages or "finishing" anything. God is not in any hurry. Lectio is slow.

As you read your passage through several times, you may notice that a word or a phrase on the page seems to jump out at you. For some reason, that word or phrase or image or idea really gets your attention. If this does not happen, that's okay too. Our Lectio may speak to us more powerfully some days than others.

If you find that something captures your attention, focus in on that one word or phrase and begin to meditate on it. Why do you think it got your attention? Reflect on it and pray about it. It may be that God is trying to speak to your heart through that word or phrase. What could the Lord be trying to say to you, specifically, in your unique life and circumstances on that particular day?

How can the practice of Lectio Divina help you in discerning your vocation? Well, as St. John writes in the opening of his Gospel, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). When we encounter Scripture, we are encountering Christ — the Word — Himself. However, the Word, like the Eucharist, does not force Himself on anybody. It is up to us to open the Bible and read. The Word, like the Eucharist, transforms. If we let Him, He will transform our hearts and make His desires our own.

Perhaps you have the desire for God to speak to your heart. If so, you can stop waiting for the heavens to open; instead, take up the Word and read.

“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32)

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