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Scriptures opened

10 April 2012

David Adam reads a guide to exploring the Bible meditatively

Lectio Divina: The sacred art
Christine Paintner

SPCK, £10.99
Church Times Bookshop £9.90

IN 2005, Pope Benedict XVI recommended lectio divina: the reading of sacred scriptures accompanied by prayer. “If it is effectively promoted, this practise will bring to the Church a new spiritual springtime,” he said.

I rejoiced at this recom­mendation, but felt it would not get far without more teachers. Many have lost the art of reading slowly and of enjoying the space between words. Often the words then suffer from misuse and devaluation.

I recommend Christine Paintner’s book as a good introduction. The first part deals with the foundation practices for lectio divina. Chapter one explores the practice of sacred reading. Two deals with heart-centred prayer, with an invitation to “listen with the ears of our heart”. Three studies the Benedictine values of stability, obedience, and conversion. Four deals with the sacred text and selecting.

The second section explores each of lectio divina’s four movements: Lectio, Settling and Shimmering, dealing with prayerful time and space as well as reading: Meditatio, Savouring and Stirring, looking at and reflecting on the word: Oratio, Summoning and Serving, exploring the call and response to the word: Contemplio, Slowing and Stilling, is concerned with resting in God’s presence, simply being.

The third section expands the lectio divina to looking at the world around us, and nature is explored as a sacred text. The final chapter looks at our lives as a source of sacred texts. The afterword invites you to consider how life-changing lectio divina is, offering various practical suggestions. Throughout, there are numerous useful exercises and quotations from Christian, Jewish, and other wisdom tradi­tions.

The author is a Benedictine oblate, writer, artist, teacher, and spiritual director, besides looking after her home with her husband. She is also an online abbess of a virtual community (!) that nurtures contemplative practice.

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