The common project of holiness
The common project of holiness
Let us remember the “frame” of CLD (Common Lectio Divina): it is the same frame that of “spiritual life” and of “christian life”: holiness. Seeking holiness. Council Vatican II says very clearly that married couples are as well called to holiness and that the Sacrament of Marriage is a way to reach holiness. The big difference between holiness in general and holiness in the couple is that the latter in sought with two wills and not alone. Is sought in a very close partnership, helping each other, sanctifying each other, an “carrying” each other as well. Each member of the couple provides support, love, advice, prayer to the other. And, as I mentioned it various times: praying together is such a powerful means of transformation that it should be used much more often in order to change our homes, our communities, our society and the whole world.
Marriage is a way for two to holiness, where the bond between two human beings is unique, close, intimate, “mystical”. By the Sacrament, they become really one body, one soul and one spirit. “one” and not “two”, not “united” but “one” (which is more than being united. “United” means we are still two). They breath from the same air, they eat from the same food, they do many things together, their project is a common project, the carry each other in their body, soul and spirit for the best.
First and foremost the couple needs to address, with great attention and care, the fundamental question of life: what is the goal? What is our common goal? What is holiness? Why is it our goal? How can it become our goal? What would it change in our life? How can we get motivated, for the rest or our life by this goal? How can we keep it alive, day after day? How can we enrol all our energy, gather it, around that unique and common goal?
CLD is placed in his context or frame: striving to reach holiness. This is why one should address first the “common project for holiness” before speaking about CLD. The sacrament in fact has this central goal and we often forget it. We might put “creating a family”, “having children” as the first goal of marriage. They are certainly the goals and the means of marriage, but they are not the real first goal. Of course not all the couples would envisage their married life or their couple in this way (seeking first and foremost: holiness). Very few engaged couples are having that common goal and project. But it should be the central aim.
Establishing this great and central aim as their own common project, each members of the couple becomes aware that he/she is invited to put his hand in the hand of his/her partner in order to increase, and time the power and chances to grow together. This means that they are here to help each other.
If on one hand the CLD helps the couple together, to seek together the Light of God and His Word and to listen to it together, on the other hand the PLD will have as well personal indications on how to help the partner, how to listen to God through him/her, how to help him/her and many other aspects related to marriage, the progress in it and considering it as a way for holiness.
Extra question on Lectio Divina
- To what extent the light we received (personal or couple Lectio Divina) is affected by our intellectual understanding of Scripture? For example by reading the homilies of the Church Fathers is the light received different if one had not read a homily on a particular text.
- A fundamental part of the teaching of LD (personal or couple) is to explain the different levels of understanding of Scriptures, “reading in the Spirit” (in the Holy Spirit). The spiritual exegesis. This means that I don't leave the student in the School of Mary without indicating this aspect of the reading of the Scriptures. I do for that mention the Fathers of the Church, the way they read the Holy Scriptures and I offer as a reading (you find it in the book: “Lectio divina, Mary and the Spirit”), a good sample from the Fathers of the Chruch, the reading some made and how they did it, of the Good Samaritain, and in doing so, I wish to open the inner eyes, and intelligence of the student.
But after that, experience shows that many of the students, since they start to apply the lectio divina as I explain it, have experiences very similar to the one of the Fathers of the Chruch, they come out with amazing things. This gives me a great joy and demonstrates the the “times of the Fathers” extend till today. This shows that the methods they used, are explained by the Holy Spirit and should be collected in a systematic way and treasured in order to show “how to read the Scriptures”.
You can find (as quoted in my book cited above) some extracts from the Catechism of the Church, on “reading in the Spirit”.
So definitely, it is important to mention this aspect for the person who is learning how to do lectio divina. It is comforting to have that type of teaching because sooner or later it will happen. Let us remember that the connection made by the Light of God during the lectio divina involves a very specific supernatural event: two texts are saying the same thing. So you imagine the effect of perspective, the spiritual experience. It is part of it, it is the same thing: the lectio we do, and how the Fathers of the Church.
I would like to add something: some people think that in order for the lectio we do to work we have first to have a good preparation in exegesis, studying the Bible. They think that if we don't have a biblical preparation, we can't really enter in lectio or it will be different. I do not accept this idea. I accept only a simple preparation that is: just reading as an adult, at least once the whole New Testament, to familiarise ourselves with it and large extrats as well of the Old Testament. I don't think we need more because I do believe that the Lord's language is simple, capable of speaking to the average human being (remember that in order to speak about the highest mysteries he uses examples taken from nature), and that he takes us from where we are, and walks with us, deepening, step by step our understanding of His Will. I do believe, like the Fathers of the Church that the Scriptures walk with us, grow with us, according to our need.
I would add as well that very often the knowledge of God and of the Scriptures that an average person that practices lectio divina has is much much higher than the one Exegetes often have. Because the experience that Jesus gives us of the Bible in the lectio divina is supernatural: everyday, He transforms our understanding of a word of God into an experience, a deep knowledge (remember the meaning of the biblical “knowledge” (the Bible uses this verb to express the experience a man has with his wife)). He helps us, by the direct Action of the Holy Spirit, understand from inside (from His perspective) the meaning of that word or expression.
There is NO contradiction or opposition between modern critical exegesis and Lectio divina. But there is just a different of levels: exegesis is an intellectual knowledge while lectio divina is spiritual knowledge. It is all about the words, but seen from different angles. They complement each others, and we need a balanced and reasonable exegesis, but the biggest exegesis in the world is still nothing compared to one Lectio divina. The spiritual experience is completely different. As Jesus says about John the Baptist, that the smallest in the kingdom of God is bigger than him, I would say exactly the same here, the biggest exegetes is still smaller than the smaller person that practices Lectio divina.
I hope this helps.