Lectio Divina in the experience of Israel and of the Church

Origen proposed theía an a gnosis to the jewish rabbinic school. Saint Jerome punctuated his reading of Scripture with prayer. John Cassian gave an example of meditation. The Carthusian Guigo Il called lectio divina the monks' 'Stairway to Paradise'. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux extolled Scripture as honey on the heart's palate. William of Saint Thierry, in his Golden Epistle and many other works, outlined the method of lectio divina and tried to encourage all Christians to pursue it as the golden way to dialogue and to the ineffable colloquy with God.

This method nourished the faith of whole generations right through the 1300s, and even then Saint Francis of Assisi practised it regularly. But in the High Middle Ages, the scholastic method began to turn lectio divina into lectures on Scripture by introducing the quaestio and the disputatio. During the centuries when lectio as prayer was eclipsed, the way was opened to the more psychological and introspective methods of the devotio moderna and the ignatian forms of meditation. Lectio divina was preserved as a method only in monasteries and among the Servants of Mary. But it was there, waiting to reappear when the Second Vatican Council recommended it in Dei Verbum 25: 'There is a need for all to keep in constant contact with Scripture, using lectio divina . . . , the method of careful meditation, and let all remember that the reading of Scripture should be accompanied by prayer.'

Surely it was the Holy Spirit who willed that this way of listening to the Word and praying over it should not be lost over the centuries.

From: ENZO BIANCHI, Praying the Word, An Introduction to «Lectio Divina»,
Cistercian Publication, Kalamazoo 1998
, pp. 85-86.

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