Eucharistic Discipleship, Part III: Lectio Divina

Last week I began writing about the basic requirements for full, conscious, and active participation in the Mass in order to walk the path of Eucharistic discipleship. The three basic requirements are that we enter in to be instructed, that we enter in to be healed, and that we enter in to seek union with God.

Last week I wrote about entering in to be instructed. The basic instruction for all Catholics is provided Sunday after Sunday in the readings of the Mass. That basic instruction is expanded in the cycle of readings for the daily Masses throughout the year.

It is not really enough though simply to come to Mass and listen attentively. We should come prepared and we should go away remembering what we have heard, treasuring it in our heart and reflecting on it after the example of the first Eucharistic Disciple, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

One way to do this is through the traditional form of prayer called Lectio Divina or “Sacred Reading”.

We can easily learn this way of prayer if we can remember the four or five simple steps: Read, Reflect, Respond, and Rest – the fifth step that can be added is Resolve. There is a logical sequence in these steps of ‘Sacred Reading’, but when we practice them as part of our living dialogue with the Lord, guided by the Holy Spirit, we will easily and naturally move back and forth between the different steps as the occasion demands.

Read: We can start with the Mass readings for the coming Sunday or for the day.

The first thing is simply to read through all the readings slowly and attentively, but without delaying to puzzle things out.

Next there could be a few ways of preceding. We could choose to focus on one of the readings or a small part of a reading that caught our attention the first time through. Or we might choose simply to work through the whole from the beginning.

In any case, we will next want to read a small portion, paying close attention to repeated words or phrases or important themes. We also should note anything that catches our attention in a special way or any questions that might arise.

Reflect: Following this attentive reading we then begin to reflect upon or think about what we just read. What is the meaning? What is God saying to his Church? What is God saying to me?

Respond: The process of reading and reflecting is a way in which we learn to listen to God speak to us through his word. After listening to God we then respond. We speak to God. Often this is how people think of prayer – speaking to God. Really, though, prayer should be seen as a conversation with God in which he takes the initiative and we respond to him. Our response comes in light of what we have learned by listening and reflecting.

The response can consist in praise and adoration because of the greatness of God and the wonderful wisdom of his loving plan of salvation, of thanksgiving for the countless blessings we have received in our life, desire to live worthily of the gift we have received and so attain the fulfillment of his promise, and petition to request all that we need to put our good desire into practice.

Perhaps this is also the proper place for the fifth step (“Resolve”) because in a way this flows naturally from the petition. I will, however, place it at the end because it is the immediate connection between the prayer and our daily life.

Rest: This is the contemplative step that is very important for us to take in our results oriented culture. Prayer is first of all about God, not about getting some desired result. The supreme practicality of prayer comes, we might say, from its impracticality. By ‘wasting time’ in prayer we learn that our value does not come so much from what we do or accomplish, but from who we are in the sight of God.

So after we have exercised ourselves, so to speak in the active steps of prayer, it is good to just spend some time resting in the presence of the Lord, welcoming and receiving his love.

The more we learn to simply rest in the presence of the Lord, relying on the spirit of faith, the more also we make ourselves ready should he in his goodness decide to manifest that presence and visit our soul in any of the myriad ways that belong to his wisdom, his power, his grace, and his love.

Before we leave this time of rest, however, it would be good to gather what St. Francis de Sales spoke of as a ‘spiritual bouquet’, some brief thoughts and reflections, maybe a passage of Scripture, or a short prayer, that we can return to during the day in order to renew the grace of our prayer time. (To be continued)

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Fr. Joseph Levine graduated from Thomas Aquinas College and after a long journey was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles on the Columbia River.