Continuation of Lectio Divina in daily life 4 (please click here)
b) Lectio and chastity
Scripture and especially lectio – is a great help for chastity1. If we compare the love for Scripture with that for a woman, the following passage will throw light on several aspects of lectio: “And Isaac brought Rebecca into his tent: and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.” (Gen 24:67). This sentence may surprise or even astonish us, however we know very well that a man has access to the feminine part of his being, to his Anima, through women – and it is in relation to man that a woman has access to her masculine part, the Animus. Now the first woman man encounters in his life is most commonly his mother. Thus, when he loses her, he is destabilised. She is in him, but he cannot find any concrete expression of her being, no “sacrament” of the Anima… and so he is grief-stricken, he no longer lives fully; he is, as it were, separated from himself. This is where we see that the encounter with Rebecca re-establishes the contact with the Anima… man’s balance is restored. When a man loses his mother, he loses energy; he is simply lost.
No psychological help or analysis is necessary at this moment because nature itself heals the man. The woman is a healer for the man, and the man for a woman. Man can enter in contact with his Anima through a woman.
Does Scripture also have this power? People talk about “living in Scripture”. A man also lives in a woman. Through Scripture and in it, a man looks at himself as if in a mirror. A woman is also a mirror for a man, allowing him to see, to reflect his negative aspects. So Scripture and women have a similar function, since both are a kind of mirror or magnifying glass that reveal to a man (or to a woman) the dark side of him (herself). Finally we do find in Scripture what we need. All the saints were passionately “attached” to Scripture! For man there is something vital in this relationship, just like in a marriage. This throws light on the Muslim proverb: “Marriage is half of religion”. This is so because it is the embodiment and facilitator of a therapy, of a change. Without marriage a man cannot evolve. And if he becomes a monk, he uses powerful means (lectio “as a mirror”, etc.), as others do through marriage (the spouse being the revealing “mirror”), in order to sanctify himself. But if one remains without one or the other, it is as if one were severing oneself from a part of one’s being…
We can see how dangerous it is to leave Scripture aside, since without it man is weakened in his emotions. Without Scripture he will look for consolation elsewhere. St. Paul states quite explicitly that Scripture is a source of consolation. St James says that Scripture is a mirror for us. It does appear that it alone can protect consecrated celibacy. And St. Thomas Aquinas was quite right in saying that the contemplation of divine things conveyed by Scripture is a strong remedy for the tendencies of the flesh.
“Thirdly, the study of letters is becoming to religious as regards that which is common to all religious orders. For it helps us to avoid the lusts of the flesh; wherefore Jerome says: “Love the science of the Scriptures and you shall have no love for carnal vice.” For it turns the mind away from lustful thoughts, and tames the flesh on account of the toil that study entails according to Sirach (Eccles 31:1): “Watching for riches consumes the flesh.”” (Summa Theologica IIa-IIae, q. 188, a. 5, resp.).
The Scriptures actually do direct the eyes of the heart toward the contemplation of divine things. The eyes, impelled by desire (1 John 2:16) to search for beauty, will be fascinated by the beauty of God.
So, man is a deeply sexed being, not only physically but also and especially psychologically. His “Anima” is in his depths, with his “shadow”… He therefore cannot remain alone! “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18), i.e. it is not good for him to be alienated from himself, to be without an interlocutor who reflects himself back to him, to his inner being, and incites him to conversion. As we have said, being alienated from one’s “Anima” causes a loss of energy in him. Either a good marriage (lived as a “sacrament”) or attachment to Scripture2 are ways of putting him back into touch with himself, with his “Anima”, by restoring the equilibrium and the energy he needs.
Obviously, Scripture needs to be incarnated. And it does not suffice to be attached to Scripture; one must also put it into practice. Otherwise it would be as if one were seeing the truth but not dealing with it. Scripture is a mirror, but daily life is the field in which we deal with what has been seen in the mirror. This means that attachment to Scripture embraces the whole of man, and it necessarily implies practising and dealing with what has been perceived. This attachment is not disincarnated! It is a powerful aid to a fulfilled way of living.
We may of course find other things to replace Scripture. Fr. Congar put it well: “I love the Truth like a man loves a woman”. He put all his energy into his relationship with the Truth. But this does not mean that he neglected the Scriptures. But behind Scripture he sought for and found the One who speaks through them, the One who said: “I am the Truth and the Life”.
This love and attachment to Scripture obviously comes to one of its best realisations, if not the very best, in lectio simply because it is the food given to us each day at Mass. The Holy Spirit speaks through it, providing a contemplative light which quenches, fills, strengthens, consoles, encourages and leads man into the depths of God.
The times we live in, which are so strongly “erotic”, are in great need of the remedy offered through the love of Scripture, and most especially through lectio.
1 Although only the man vir is mentioned in this paragraph, both men and women are included.
2 Of course marriage does not exclude the Scriptures, which are just as necessary for each person’s growth!
Note 1: This is an extract from the book: "Lectio divina in daily life" (please click here)
Note 2: To know more about Lectio Divina see: A keynote on Lectio Divina
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