PRAYER: Lectio Divina by Macrina Wiederkehr

Lectio Divina by Macrina Wiederkehr

From: A Tree Full of Angels.

To encourage you to make this prayer process your own, I will review for you now the Lectio Divina process that I use for my prayer.  Be as original and creative in your own process as you wish.  Let God lead you in this prayer.

1.  I begin with reading, if necessary or desired.  Ordinarily, I select a specific book of Scripture, a Gospel, or a letter.  I often use the Psalms.  I read a little each day.  Since my goal is not to get finished, it often takes several months to complete the specific work I am praying with.  There are times when the readings from the daily liturgy speak so strongly to me that I choose to use those for my Lectio.  I have no set plan that is so rigid it cannot be put aside for a while should God decide to come to me through some other channel, like nature or people.  We ought not to lock God anywhere, not even in Scripture.

When I am reading, I read until my heart is touched.  Sometimes I slowly read an entire chapter.  Then I meditate on the words that spoke to me most forcefully.  I usually read for a very short time.  My heart, when not distracted, is touched quickly and deeply.  Sometimes I stop at the moment I feel a stirring within me, a being drawn into the Word.  At other times I finish reading the passage and then return to the line that called me to dwell.  There are times when I do not read at all.  I simply gather some fragments that are left over in my heart from another moment and use them for my daily prayer.  One of the “crumbs” that seems to linger in my heart is a line from Psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am God.”  This prayer and many others are stored in my memory.  They are of great assistance to me when I am too weary to read.

2.  Once I have chosen my Scripture verse, the line that attracted my heart, it becomes my mantra for the day.  I grapple with its meaning for me.  I listen to it.  I ask God and myself questions about it.  I use images.  This form of meditation does not require that I surrender images and thoughts.  It encourages and welcomes them.

3.  Prayer flows naturally out of my meditation.  Prayer is actually a part of meditation.  Prayer slows me down and nudges me toward my Center.  It is a movement from active involvement with God to quiet resting in God.  It is a gentle slowing down of my inner motor.

4.  Contemplation is often spoken of as the highest form of prayer.  It is the prayer of heaven.  It is the beautiful darkness of trusting God to pray within me.  It is interior prayer.  Nothing external is left except the shell of my body.

You may wonder how you can reach that eternal sacred place within where you are simply held by God.  It is precisely because you are held by God that you need no thoughts or images of your own.  Trust in God’s embrace.  As you begin your journey into this beautiful darkness, keep saying your prayer-mantra slowly, letting go of a few more words each time.  If your mantra is, “Be still and know that I am God,” you may eventually end up with just the word still, or know, or God.  One word is enough to carry you into your sacred Center.  Gradually omit even that word.  Be aware only of your breathing.  Your breath is one of the most beautiful prayers that you own.  You carry it with you everywhere you go.  In order to enter the beautiful darkness, however, you must let go even of the awareness of your breath.

The entire Divine Reading process is the most integrated way of praying that I know.  I see it as a blend of two very rich traditions of spirituality, the Eastern and the Western.  I have long felt drawn to the East.  What attracts me is the silent, beautiful darkness that seems to get more emphasis in the East than in the West.  Looking at the West with a sharper eye, however, I see also that silent, beautiful darkness tucked away in the folds of its history like a treasure hidden in a field.  It is waiting to be uncovered.  My monastic tradition has somewhat dug it out of the earth for me; yet many around me seem to be starving for the silent beautiful darkness, the treasure of the interior life.  In the West it got hidden away in monasteries and convents, and alas, even there is seems to suffer neglect.

In this process of Divine Reading I have discovered the lost treasure of the inner life.  It is also the treasure of my lost childhood.  There is something naturally Eastern and Western in all of us.  The West, at times, seems unaware of a second treasure tucked away within its pages.  That is the incarnational aspect and richness of its prayer.  Much as I love the silent darkness of the East, I could never give up the earthy, incarnational, creation-centered Western style of prayer.  It is a joy to my heart.  The first part of the Divine Reading process that I described is the way of prayer in which one is quite involved in the prayer.  It is a holy festival of dance and tears, words and images.  It is a drama for the soul to delight in and feed upon; but as is only fitting, this holy festival quiets down and melts into silent beautiful darkness.  The darkness, the beauty, and the silence are all part of the holy festival.  It is one prayer spoken to one God.  It is struggle and rest embracing.


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