There was once a man seeking to understand the meaning of the Bible. He read and studied and consulted with learned scholars. Nothing seemed to satisfy his restless soul. Finally he journeyed to the desert to meet with a wise man, known for his keen Bible knowledge."Would you give me a word of wisdom on how to read and understand the Bible?" the man asked the Teacher.The Teacher took a sheet of paper and wrote a single word on it: "Awareness."The visitor was perplexed. "That's too brief. Would you please expand on it a bit?"The Teacher took the paper and wrote: "Awareness, awareness, awareness.""But what does that mean?" asked the traveler helplessly.The Teacher reached for the paper and wrote, "Awareness, awareness, awareness means AWARENESS."
When it comes to spiritual growth, most people are aware of the importance of the Bible. After all, "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NRS)
The difficulty we face is similar to the man in the story above, told by Anthony deMello. That is, many of us think if we just "knew" more about the Bible (more facts and figures, more doctrine and theology, a better understanding of history and grammar) or at least knew the right question to ask, we would have the secret key to unlock the door to spiritual growth.
But this misses the point, for Scripture is not something we must master in order gain its meaning; it is given to master, question, and train its readers! That's not to say the Bible can't be read to gain insight into history, theology, or church practice. Rather, its primary purpose is to wake us up, to make us more aware of the loving presence and holy otherness of God.
For centuries the most practiced spiritual discipline and most trusted tool in doing this was Lectio Divina. Literally, these two words mean "sacred reading." It's a slow, contemplative way of reading which enables the Bible to become a means of union with God — a means by which its readers are made aware.
Of course to listen, to really hear, means we must become silent. The problem is we live in a noisy world and cannot hear quiet sounds very well. Lectio Divina requires that we quiet down in order to become aware of God's still, small voice.
Here are a couple of examples of using Lectio Divina personally and also in a small group setting.
- Read a passage or short paragraph from Scripture (two to three times—at a normal rate, slowly, and preferably from another translation).
- Choose a word or phrase or symbol from your reading that 'connects' with you. Sit in silence for 5-10 minutes, turning this word or phrase or image over in your mind. The image of the camel chewing its cud has been a symbol of the believer pondering the word of God. We quietly chew on this word, repeating it, allowing it to interact with our thoughts, hopes, memories, and desires.
- Speak to the Lord, thanking him for his Word and/or asking for his guidance to live out its message.
Group Lectio (3-4 people):
- Begin with 3-5 minutes of silence.
- Read a short text out loud, asking the group to listen for the word or phrase that touches the heart.
- Sit together in silence for 3-5 minutes. Meditate on the word or phrase, repeating it silently as it makes its way from your head to your heart.
- Share the word with the group.
- Read the text again, ideally by another person and in another translation.
- Sit together in silence, pondering this question: How is Christ the Word touching your own experience/life?
- Share what you have seen or heard.
- Read the text a 3rd time.
- Sit in silence, asking yourself this question: What is Christ calling you to do or become this week?
- Share with the group.
- Pray for person on the right.