Category Archives: Lectio Divina

Discovering the Desert of My Soul

Candle PrayerI don’t exactly know why, but a few years ago I felt a real spiritual unction to study Christian Mysticism. My first thought was to look at the experiences of the monks of the desert. These Desert Fathers fled to the parched lands of Egypt to escape the “one size fits all” Christianity of Constantine’s Empire. The Abbas of the desert wanted to experience God as they thought He wanted to be experienced. That experience would not come as a result of legislated belief at the point of the sword of a Roman Legion. That kind of belief was no belief at all, for such a faith had to be discovered within their own souls. They could experience God in a mysterious way in their desert monasteries, and then direct others by sharing these experiences. God is a mystery, and He is best seen in a mystical way. In the desert they would find the Spirit that had apparently left the organized church, and indeed, they did. They were the first mystics.

 Many factors prohibited this mystical movement from being the major driving force of the church. All throughout history there have been famous mystics. Notable ones are, Julian of Norwich, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Ignatius of Loyola. I wanted to learn as much from them as I could, but in the middle of that experience something happened to my own way of thinking. Suddenly, the idea of certainty of belief was replaced with a deep, abiding appreciation for the mysterious nature of God. After all belief in God is mystery, not certainty, and can best be understood through the eyes of the mystic.

 I don’t claim to be a Christian mystic at the level of the people I have mentioned, but I do contend that thinking as a mystic can open new panoramas of faith. These panoramas can lead to a much broader view of the work of God, and a more intimate involvement with Him. Things like meditation, Lectio Divina, silence, and icons have taken on a new meaning in my life. They have become invitations to spiritual portals that I never knew existed.

Major realities I discovered by embracing Christian Mysticism:

  • God does live within me
  • God really speaks to me (not audibly)
  • God protects me at all times
  • God gives me strength beyond my ability
  • God owes me nothing
  • Evil wins sometime
  • Suffering is a spiritual discipline
  • Scripture is the Word of God and it still lives
  • Silence is the loudest prayer
  • Silence is a portal to God
  • There is more than one right answer

My journey into mysticism has not so much brought me closer to God, as it has helped me to understand how far I have to go. Jubilantly, I can say that I am not alone on the journey. He is with me! The mystical, monastic journey brought me to the desert of my soul, and there I found the face of God. I continue to travel through that desert with the traveling companions I have discovered. Thanks for reading this story and the other stories that I have written about these mystics who have become my friends.

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Filed under Christian Living, Contemplation, Desert Fathers, Icons, Ignatius of Loyola, John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich, Lectio Divina, Silence

Art of Belonging

the prayer room

The journey of every believer brings him to the tough intersection of the world and our desire to be one with God. Oneness with the One who created us in His own image is built into our souls. Thomas Merton once said: “Contemplation will be denied to a man in proportion as he belongs to the world.” The world refers to the things we love of the world -the busyness, prestige, glitzy things, and pride that so represent us to those around us. We are called away from such a life as we seek to be contemplatives. We begin to practice the art of belonging.

As we approach that intersection, and we approach every day, we must make the decision of just how much time we have for the things of the spirit. I would be the first to admit that we don’t have the option of becoming monastic hermits, but we do have the option of giving some priority time to contemplation.  To be contemplative in our world we must establish a pattern and routine of prayer.

Prayer comes in many forms. For some it is silence, for others it is much more active. How do you practice prayer in your life? Prayer has to be much more than a weekly worship time, it must be a special part of your day that keeps you focused on the things of God. Pray the daily office, practice Lectio Divina, centering prayer, or journaling and know that these practices will lead you closer to God. Contemplation and prayer is movement toward belonging to God.

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Filed under Christian Journey, Christian Living, Contemplation, Faithfulness, Lectio Divina, Thomas Merton

The Practice of Lectio Divina or Sacred Reading

English: Lectio Divina Português: Leitura Oran...

The simple prayer practice of Lectio Divina takes us through four movements, as we are drawn closer to God through each prayerful reading of the chosen passage.

Choose a short passage- just a few verses.

Make yourself comfortable in a place that is as free from interruptions as possible. Begin with a time of silence, humbly asking God to quiet your heart and make you aware that you are in His loving presence.

When you are ready, begin reading and praying through the four movements:

Lectio (READ): On the first reading, simply open yourself to the presence of God. Read the passage slowly and prayerfully, allowing short pauses between sentences. (Over time you will discover whether it is more helpful for you to read silently or out loud- try them both…) As you read, take in the words and the overall flow of the passage. Then allow a time of silence following the reading- continue to open yourself to the Spirit of God.

Meditatio (REFLECT): On the second prayerful reading of the passage, listen for a particular word or a phrase through which God wants to speak to you. You will notice your attention being drawn to something (or if this doesn’t happen, just choose a word). Once you have “received” the word or phrase, begin to silently meditate on that. Reflect on why God would highlight this for you today, ask Him any questions that come to mind, and note things that seem important as you meditate on what He has given you. Remember that the focus is on listening to what God has to say to you.

Oratio (RESPOND)On the third prayerful reading of the passage, listen now for God’s invitation, and respond from your heart. The Living God is always inviting us in some way… to let go of something, or to take up something; to do something or be something… the invitation can take innumerable forms. Following the reading, continue to listen for His invitation and then respond silently or out loud from an honest heart.

Contemplatio (REST):The focus of the fourth prayerful reading of the passage is to simply rest now in the love that God has for you. Let the words wash over you- there is no further need to reflect or respond- allow God’s Spirit to draw you close and fill you with His love, grace and peace. Linger in this place of deep connection, for you are being filled and refreshed for your continuing journey.

We encourage you to take a word, phrase or image with you when it is time to return to the day… something to which you can return throughout the day… something that will remind you of the love of God for you, and the special message He had for you today.

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Filed under Devotional reading, Lectio Divina, Meditation, Sacred Reading