Tuesday, June 06, 2006

An Ancient, Desert Conference on Lectio Divina

The ancient art of spiritual reading, Lectio Divina, is another spiritual discipline of the primitive Orthodox Church now preserved primarily in the West. Like an earlier example, the ancient testimony comes from Abba Nesteros in St. John Cassian’s Conferences (Conference 14, 9-10):

Preserve that eagerness for reading, which I believe is in you, and hasten in all eagerness to acquire practical – that is, moral – knowledge...Then, having banished all worldly concerns and thoughts, strive in every way to devote yourself constantly to the sacred reading [Latin: lectio divina -- BJ] so that continuous meditation will seep into your soul and, as it were, will shape it into its image. Somehow it will form that Ark of the Scriptures (cf. Heb. 9:4-5) and will contain the two stone tablets, that is, the perpetual strength of the two Testaments. There will be the golden urn, which is a pure and unstained memory, which will preserve firmly within itself the everlasting manna, that is, the eternal heavenly sweetness of spiritual meanings, and of that bread which belongs to the angels…

Now all of these things are covered over the two cherubim, that is by the plentitude of historical and spiritual lore. Cherubim [emphasis his] means knowledge in abundance. They provide an everlasting protection for that which appeases God, namely the calm of your heart, and they will cast a shadow of protection against all the attacks of malign spirits.

Therefore, the sequences of Holy Scripture must be committed to memory, and they must be pondered ceaselessly. Such meditation will profit us in two ways: [I now shorten his words - BJ]

1. It keeps our mind from “being taken over by the snares of dangerous thoughts”; and

2. We may not understand their meanings at once, but when the mind is unoccupied, especially during sleep, “the hidden meanings and sense of them are bored into our minds.”

A most worthy form of meditation, so "we may also in heart and mind thither ascend [into the heavens], and with Him continually dwell, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen."

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