Wednesday, 10 April 2019

195- Meditating the Passion and Lectio Divina

What is the difference between “Meditating the Passion of the Lord” (MP) and practising Lectio Divina (LD)?

MP is taking one of the four accounts of the Passion, reading it, pondering, praying on it. It is therefore based on the Sacred Text like LD. It’s immediately obvious, too, that on Palm Sunday and on Good Friday our LD and MP coincide. In fact, during the Palm Sunday Mass and during the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday, we have as a Gospel reading the entire account of the Passion.
Equally significant is that both LD and MP are said to be powerful. Also, both rely on a reading of the Sacred Text. In a way, therefore, they seem very similar. How is this relationship derived?

The relationship between LD and MP is in fact complex. Both are fundamental forces: vital, powerful and therefore unavoidable. Let us see in which sense they are so:

1- LD is listening to God and putting his Word into practice. In this sense it encompasses the core of the message of the Gospel. It is the core of any prayer: “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21).

2- MP can be said to perform the Ephphata, that is, the opening of our inner capacity of hearing God’s Word. It is on the Cross and through His Passion that Jesus saves us and therefore opens what was closed by the disobedience of the first Adam. With the Passion, everything starts to make sense in our life because it is the starting point of our new life in Christ. So, in this sense, MP opens the way for LD.
It is necessary to be aware, too, that Isaiah 53 has a central place in the New Testament. It is a prophetical text, given many centuries before the Lord’s Passion, but was perceived by the Apostles and authors of the New Testament as talking about Jesus, and describing his Passion. This perception is the pure gift of the Grace of God, an opening in the mind performed by the Holy Spirit, allowing us to “see” in this text Jesus during his Passion (see Luke 24:44-47). This unique experience that only the believers have (see St. Paul below) is the corner stone of the New Testament. We can’t stress this point enough (see also Acts 8:26-40).

St. Paul states that only faith removes the veil that stops us from seeing Christ in the Old Testament: “We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were closed. For to this day the same veil remains at the reading of the old covenantIt has not been lifted, because only in Christ can it be removed. And even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord [by Faith], the veil is taken away.”(2 Co 3:13-16)

3- The account of the Passion of the Lord is the core of the Bible. It contains the most dense and powerful pages. It is the Holy of the Holies of the New Testament and of the entire Bible. Some exegetes even stated that some Gospels (think of Mark’s) are like a long introduction to the Passion and the Passion.
It is in the Passion of the Lord that the maximum point of the Love of God is manifest. Isaiah 53 exemplifies in fact the core of our piety and paradoxically the summit of the manifestation of God’s love for each one of us. When St. Paul contemplates the Cross, he says: “he loved me and died for me” (Ga 2:20)!

4- It is still important to underline the fact that each week can be said to be a holy week that leads to Sunday, i.e. the Resurrection. Some mystics lived the Passion every week, showing us the deeper spiritual meaning of each week and what happens in it. They reveal its ascending movement: from the Passion and Death to the Resurrection of the Lord. The application of the Salvation realised by Christ 2000 years ago is happening everyday. This is why St. Paul says: “I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the Church” (Col 1:24).

5- In Lent and mostly during Holy Week, we are called to practise MP, live the Passion and benefit from its powerful grace. 

6- The wisdom of the Church makes her decide not to centre the entire Liturgical year exclusively around the Passion. So, throughout the year we have all the other Mysteries of Christ (Advent, Christmas, Easter…): hence we are not in Lent throughout the year. Hence the rich variation in the daily readings. Hence LD. LD is focused on the daily readings that follow the different phases of the Mysteries of Christ's Life. In each tide of the Liturgical year we face a different facet of Christ Mysteries. Each one shows his great love, compassion, mercy and the joy and pain at times which they bring.

7- When we read the Passion and meditate upon it, whenever we feel a word or a verse is touching us, we stop and dwell in it, so it has time to touch us, and communicate to us the Power of Salvation. The Passion then becomes actual or real for us; we see Our Saviour saving us, we receive His Love and Salvation, Mercy and Forgiveness. We become contemporaries of the Passion. We might weep over our sins or just out of the unbearable love Jesus is giving us. Isn't this a powerful LD? (MP is a particular form of LD.) MP is where Jesus acts directly in us, where the Words of the Passion touch our substance and burn us, heal us. We are filled by the grace of God almost without our collaboration other than just going through His Passion. Aren't we in it? Part of it?

8- If LD is the most powerful type of Prayer, what is then MP??! If LD is the most powerful type of prayer, the Passion is the most powerful LD.

So, as we see, we can't separate LD from MP. MP is an LD. MP opens the way for LD. All LD is a contact with the Holy Spirit through whom Jesus communicates Himself. The Passion is that communication at its most intense.


On Meditating the Passion of the Lord:

Friday, 5 April 2019

194- Q&A on Lectio Divina

It is always advisable to have questions and answers, on any important issue, in order to gain some clarity. We have said in a previous article how important it is to check on a one to one basis session our own practice of Lectio Divina. A person with experience can very easily spot the pitfalls and also give more explanations and confirmation that the procedure one is following is the correct one.
Practical questions, from real practice of Lectio Divina help discernment even more. Below is a series of questions based on three days of experience.

Hi Jean,
Here are the words I got while practising Lectio Divina. I am just starting so if you please, I would like to know if I am doing it correctly or not.

First reading:      The statutes and decrees - words = Jesus Christ.
Gospel:                Christ, the Word, completes the law.
Act:                      Reflect Christ in my thoughts, deeds and words.

First Reading:    Listen to my voice', 'walk in all ways that I command', 'I sent you untiringly   all my servants' = Work and cooperate with God
Gospel:            Every kingdom divided against itself' = so we must be at one with God's kingdom = cooperating with Him.
Act:                      Unite my will with His.

First Reading:     The passage 'I will heal..., I am like a verdant cypress tree, because of me you bear fruit' = Rely on God in all aspects
Gospel:               'Our Lord our God is Lord alone' = He alone is all things; He is the only power to trust.
Act:                        He is to be my focus.

So my questions are:
- Are these actions specific enough or have I cut off too early?
- Also, might I have manipulated them according to my own fanciful desires? 

I did the latter at one point on the first day – where I saw the word ‘letter’- when it occurred to me, I may have to write an email with His words to my brother. But I had been thinking about writing the email to my brother, so I wasn't sure if that was actually from Christ or from my own procrastination?  So, I discarded it.

Friday, I thought He was telling me to forget some sweet temptations from friends to go out and have fun etc. but the kind of fun as I don’t think it is conducive to the spiritual life.  Again, I am not sure this is what He meant as these considerations had crossed my mind.

Thank you and God bless. 

Thank you NA for your questions. To start with, I have two points to underline and they are criteria of discernment.

1- First and foremost, your practice is already showing signs of the beginning of the supernatural action of God. The evidence for this is the fact that the two texts suddenly become one, having in each case the same message, which is what you seem to have found in the three days you mention, i.e. the fact that in one text you find a passage (word, sentence, expression) that resonates with the other one. The Holy Spirit allows this to happen because both texts are the Word of God, inspired, divine, therefore multi facetted and multi layered, so the Holy Spirit allows this unifying effect to happen: on a deeper level, crossing the skin of the fruit of the letter of the texts, or the shell enclosing the pearl, is tantamount to God himself who is showing you the same message as long as, of course, the text is not being excessively manipulated. Since in both passages it is the Living Word of God who speaks through the text, since only Jesus and we are here, the message is one.
You seem to have experienced this effect. Which is in itself already the beginning of the supernatural action of God and not the work of your mind.

2- Now, as you will notice the light or message you are receiving (you allude to it saying: Action), is still very general, capable of having many applications. It is still in the mind, but not in the lower discernment part of the mind that almost touches the will. Remember what we want is for the Divine Message coming from Christ to become flesh in us. We need to put it into practice. We don’t want a general indication, or a resolution. We need an act, a precise act.
Growth, real supernatural transformation, supernatural virtue is triggered by a synergetical act (two energies put together Hand in hand), i.e. an act suggested by God, an act that finds its origins in God… not a general piece of advice that you can apply in many different ways! No! An actual application. The action you mention is like a general law. What we need is one, only one, real application.
An act that finds in God its origin, its support and its finality, its goal – to render praise to God.

Q:  My LD today

First reading:   New heaven and earth, Jerusalem a joy, people to eat fruits they plant and house they build.
Gospel:             Come before my child dies, your son will live
Word:               God wishes life for all which is found in Jesus, if we live in Him.  He will heal us but it depends on how much we want it and trust Him.
Act:                   Pray and believe.

This lectio today, is very similar to yesterday’s LD. I am praying and I believe so why is He still telling me the same? Just want to check I’m not mishearing Him

Jean: “Pray and believe” as an action is too generic. What was meant by it?  In order to know it you need to ask the Lord during LD.  LD is a dialogue, where you have all the right to question, to ask for clarity. Remember Our Lady in the Annunciation: she asks the Angel: “how will this be?”
In this dialogue between you and the Lord, you need to keep insisting on asking for clarity on how to apply this general message of “pray and believe” today. We always need to insist with a beautiful trusting insistence until He answers. We humble ourselves even more, we create a space in us for the Word (here the explanation of the word He is giving us). We are ready for conversion, for a new step, for discovering something new about ourselves...

Q:  Actually, I haven’t told you everything about this “Pray and Believe”. In fact this message from the Lord was an invitation for me to pray for my non-believer friends and not to look at them like there’s no hope.

Jean: So He asked you to pray for a specific intention?

Q:  Since the weekend, I have been annoyed with a friend because he gets so angry when I mention God.  He had asked me why the world is so full of misery and I gave my opinion.  He got angry at the word God, so I have been saying to myself not to hope for him anymore as he has got too close to the other side.  He dabbles with all other spiritualties.  So perhaps Jesus is telling me not to be annoyed and pray and hope.  Or I’m just mishearing Him.

Jean:  When you started LD did you mention the issue to Him? Were you still annoyed? Did what He asked you to do surprise you? Or was it more or less expected. - Just checking, as in order to discern, I need to ask these questions.

Q:  No, I didn’t mention it to Him. Whenever I start LD, I only pray to hear His words and ask Him to tell me what He wants. Then I read the passages and look up commentaries to understand more. Then I read the passages again and pray.  I wasn’t in fact thinking of my friend or anything. BUT I did wonder what He was trying to tell me about my life personally and around me.  He suddenly popped into my mind.

It was during the weekend and I was thinking that there was no hope for my friend though I know it’s not my place to judge. I kept saying to myself that he was in too deep with the devil because he hates the Catholic Church and God. So this is my sin.

Jean:  Good. Since the Word you received looks like an unexpected turn, and not in your mind initially, I would rather believe that it is coming from Him.  Did you then discuss it with Him?

Q: No, I didn’t discuss it with Him, but I will try discussing it with Him tonight. 

Jean:  From now discuss with Him in your mind and heart. LD is for today not for tomorrow. Don't waste these hours. The act is meant to be implemented today.

Q:  Sure will do. One LD a day is enough to stress me out.

Jean:  No stress.  It is a GREAT JOY to meet the Risen Lord and know He came to you and talked to you.  

Q:  Yes, but the stress is whether I hear Him right. 

Jean:  No, you will learn to recognise His Word.  It fills you in the beginning of the day with excitement: “What will He ask me to do?”