A priest friend of mine was telling me his plan for preparing his Sunday homily: On Mondays he would read the commentaries of the Fathers of the Church on the Gospel, on Tuesdays the Pope's catecheses, on Wednesdays he would turn to the Greek Interlinear Bible and on Thursdays to various commentaries. I do not remember, nor do I want to remember, how it goes on because it is honestly beyond me.
What is certain is that until we reach the core of the Word of God that we must transmit, we must do something, I don't know if it's that much, but something. It is an adventure in the style of Indiana Jones and the Lost TempleA whole jungle of unimportant events, our own ideas, circumstantial elements and other species that we have to go through until we reach the lost nucleus of the Gospel, that nucleus that we have to embrace and take from the Word of God to bring it to our brothers and sisters.
In the 12th century Dom Güigo, the ninth of the priors of the Grande Chartreuse, wrote a small and substantial letter called the The monks' ladder on the contemplative life. This letter is, perhaps, the first systematic analysis of what we now call Lectio Divina that is, the prayerful reading of the Bible. The Lectio Divina puts at the center of prayer the Word of God with its power.
In recent centuries, however, this way of reading the Bible has become very much in the minority. Often, instead, we use the Word of God to support, even in prayer, a discourse that is more ascetical than anything else. Sometimes we use the Word of God to set the scene and facilitate a dialogue with God in a given Gospel scene as if we were one more character. Both are precious ways of praying.
However, if we want to get to the core of the Word of God that we read and that we are to transmit, we must go to the Word itself and read it with the same spirit with which it was written: the Holy Spirit. The Lectio Divina teaches us to do so. That is why the Second Vatican Council in the Constitution Dei Verbum, no. 25, says:
"It is necessary for everyone to maintain continuous contact with Sacred Scripture through "lectio divina"..., through attentive meditation and to remember that reading must be accompanied by prayer. It is certainly the Holy Spirit who has willed that this form of listening to and praying over the Bible should not be lost through the centuries."
The method of Lectio Divina is described by Dom Güido as a ladder of four steps that we progressively climb in prayer:
Reading" is the careful inspection of the Scriptures, carried out with an attentive spirit.
Meditation" is the work of the studious mind which, with the help of its own reason, investigates the hidden truth.
Prayer" is the devout impulse of the heart towards God, asking Him to avert evils and grant good things.
Contemplation" is like an elevation above itself of the mind which, suspended in God, tastes the joys of eternal sweetness.
Once we have climbed this ladder and reached the top, immersed in contemplation, we are filled with that God that we can now transmit -Contemplata aliis tradere- through our Preaching. Dom Güido describes each step:
Reading appears in the first place, as the foundation. It provides the material and leads us to meditation.
Meditation seeks attentively what is to be desired. Digging, it discovers a treasure, and shows it, but it cannot reach it by itself, and refers us to prayer.
Prayer, rising with all its strength towards God, asks him for the desired treasure: the gentleness of contemplation.
This one, when it arrives, rewards the effort of the previous three, intoxicating the thirsty soul with the sweetness of the heavenly dew.
I leave the letter here so you can download it to your cell phone.
And now, with the treasure in our hands -in our hearts-, we must come out of that Word in which we have immersed ourselves to go through the tangle of ideas, events and conjunctural elements until we bring the Treasure to our brothers. This path, different from the previous one and as important as that one, is the one we have to describe in the following articles.