Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lectio Divina - Part 8

How should we practice lectio divina?
           We will now enter into what many people will probably consider the “most useful” part of this introduction to lectio divina, the section that explains the “how-to” of reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation. We will begin with a brief review. As we saw in part 1, the twelfth-century monk Guigo II describes lectio divina as a ladder that lifts us up to heaven. “It's lower end rests upon the earth,” he explains, “but its top pierces the clouds and touches heavenly secrets.” (14) The ladder consists of four steps (or dimensions or times, etc.): reading or lectio, which is “the careful study of the Scriptures”; meditation or meditatio, which is “the busy application of the mind to seek with the help of one's own reason for the knowledge of hidden truth”; prayer or oratio, which is “the heart's devoted turning to God to drive away evil and obtain what is good”; and contemplation or contemplatio, which is “when the mind is in some sort lifted up to God and held above itself” in an intimate, silent, joyful union with God. (15) Each step or dimension flows smoothly into the next, back and forth as the Holy Spirit works within us, guiding us and leading us into the truth. (16) Once again, we must stress that these dimensions are never an end in themselves; the goal of lectio divina is meeting God and establishing a relationship with Him by spending time immersed in His Word, the Sacred Scriptures.

          Because we are seeking to build, to deepen, and to enrich our relationship with God (keeping firmly in mind that the entire process is initiated by Him and is His gift to us), we must approach lectio divina with a proper set of dispositions that will help us prepare ourselves for an encounter with God in our reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation. These include receptivity (or openness), humility, faith, reverence, recollection (or mindfulness), purity of heart, desire, commitment (or fidelity), discipline, perseverance, and love. (17) We shall examine each of these briefly, acknowledging that some of them overlap and that these are only a few of the attitudes that will help us open ourselves to the Blessed Trinity and receive the message the Scriptures hold for us.
          Before we read our very first word of lectio, we must cultivate within our hearts and minds a receptivity or openness to the words before us. We must put aside our presuppositions, so as not to impose them on the Bible, and allow the text to speak to us on its own terms. We must make ourselves vulnerable to the Scriptures, embracing a willingness to be led, challenged, and changed by God through His Word. This is absolutely essential, for if we begin our reading having already determined the message we wish to hear, we will perceive exactly that rather than what God wishes to say. (18) In other words, we must train ourselves in humility. Magrassi tells us, “The Word of God is too great, and we are too small to approach it with presumption or intellectual pride.” (19) We cannot open our Bibles with the arrogant certainty that we can master them, or even understand more than the tiniest part of them, with our own powers of reason. We should, instead, imitate God, Who humbled Himself in becoming Man and in using our “poor human language” to communicate with us. (20) Indeed, before we even open the Scriptures, we should be aware that they are truly the Word of God in human words. We must have faith that the text we read is not merely a human document but is the inspired and inerrant product of the Holy Spirit. (21) The Bible is both human and divine, but many today simply ignore its divine aspects to focus exclusively on its humanity. In lectio divina, however, we must approach the Scriptures with the “gaze of faith,” believing firmly in the divine realities mediated by the text and trusting that our loving God is waiting to speak to us as we apply ourselves to His Word. (22) Our faith in the Scriptural text as the Word of God leads us naturally to disposition of reverence. Casey defines reverence as “the sobriety of spirit that stems from an experience of the otherness of God which makes us want to subdue self, remain silent, and to submit.” (23) With a proper attitude of reverence, we recognize the mystery of God revealed in His Word, and we stand in awe before Him. Further, when we discern the presence of God in the Bible, we will see the need for our next two dispositions, recollection and purity of heart. The former refers to our stance of full attention before the Word of God. (24) We strive to be wholly present and completely mindful of what we are doing, and of Whom we are encountering, as we read, meditate, and pray the Scriptures. (25) We also make a concerted effort to purify our hearts before and as we practice lectio divina; we attempt to let go of anything that might prevent us from focusing wholly on God. (26) We set aside our worries, we repent of our sins, we renounce our worldly desires, and we concentrate “purely” on our relationship with the Lord. (27) As we do so, our desire for God increases, as does our “hunger and thirst” for the truth of His Word, and we come to lectio divina with a deep longing to receive God. (28) We are then ready to cultivate the dispositions of commitment, discipline, and perseverance. We decide to be faithful to the practice of lectio divina because we know that our firm commitment to spend time reading, meditating, and praying God's Word will only deepen our relationship with Him. (29) We also resolve to discipline ourselves in our lectio divina, determining that we will make a conscious effort towards concentration, continuity, and constancy as we fulfill the commitment we have made. (30) Further, we dispose ourselves to perseverance, especially when our reading seems incomprehensible, our meditation shallow, our prayer dry, and our contemplation non-existent. (31) We continue our routine of lectio divina nonetheless, knowing that eventually, if God so wills, we will see the fruits of our labors. Finally, we must always approach lectio divina with the disposition of love, for we know that “one who loves sees more, because love is also a way of access to the truth.” (32) We understand, too, that in our lectio divina, we are meeting Someone Who is completely and totally lovable and to Whom we owe all our love, for He is our Creator, our Father, our Savior, our Guide, our Brother, and our Friend.
          It may seem that we have spent a great deal of time discussing preparations for lectio divina. However, as humans, we approach all our activities with a set of presuppositions, and if we begin our practice of lectio divina with a closed mind, pride, unbelief, irreverence, distraction, division, indifference, unfaithfulness, inconstancy, negligence, impatience, or apathy, we will not meet God. We will not receive the message He gives us through His Word. We will not be able to grow in intimacy with Him. All relationships require work and appropriate attitudes if they are to strengthen and deepen, and our relationship with our Lord, which is intensified through lectio divina, is no different. If we practice lectio divina without the proper preparation, without the proper dispositions, we will likely find it to be an exercise in frustration rather than an encounter with God, and no matter how much we work, we will not progress in intimacy with the Blessed Trinity. Let us pray, then, for God to help us in cultivating dispositions that will open our hearts to His Word and to Him.
14. Guigo II, Ladder of Monks and Twelve Meditations, ed. Edmund Colledge and James Walsh (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1979), 68.
15. Ibid.
16. Masini, 71; Magrassi, 104.
17. Casey, Masini, and Magrassi all discuss the dispositions necessary for lectio divina. For specific references, see the notes that follow.
18. Casey, 6-12, 28, 30, 46-47, 54, 59, 84, 96, 98; Masini, 35, 78; Magrassi, 58, 63, 82.
19. Magrassi, 60.
20. Ibid., 61.
21. Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum, documents/ vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html (accessed 2 July, 2009).
22. Magrassi, 59, 24.
23. Casey, 26.
24. Magrassi, 64.
25. Ibid., Casey 70-72.
26. Masini, 77; Magrassi, 57-58.
27. Ibid.
28. Magrassi, 65.
29. Ibid., 57, 66, 70-71; Casey 16.
30. Casey, 20-21, 45.
31. Casey, 10; Magrassi, 70.
32. Casey, 51.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lectio Divina - Part 7

Where should we practice lectio divina?
           We must also be both committed and flexible about the place in which we practice our lectio divina. Our environment is important. Human beings are sensory creatures, made up of both body and soul, and we know from experience that our surroundings can make us feel relaxed or agitated, focused or distracted. Of course, when we read, meditate, pray, and perhaps contemplate the Sacred Scriptures, we ought to do so in what Michael Casey calls a “prayerful space.” (8) Let us listen for a few moments to Casey and Mario Masini as they discuss the “where” of lectio divina. Masini notes that lectio divina “should be practiced in a place which permits silence and favors recollection, reflection and prayer.” (9) This would naturally exclude most workplaces, public spaces like coffee shops and, unfortunately, many libraries, and even high traffic areas at home. This might seem obvious, but in this age of multitasking, it is worth mentioning. In lectio divina, we meet God; we should not be distracted by the chatter and busyness of others. Casey, too, emphasizes the need for quiet privacy, adding that we should even avoid practicing lectio divina in areas in which we perform other activities. (10) We might be easily distracted by the next item on the “to-do” list unless we remove ourselves to a location in which we will be less tempted to intersperse our prayer with work.
          So what characteristics should our lectio divina space have then? According to Casey, it ought to be comfortable (but not so much so that we will fall asleep), quiet and private (as we have said), and well lit (with proper reading light that is neither too bright nor too dim). (11) It should contain a Bible, a chair that provides the correct amount of support without inducing drowsiness, a table or desk, and a crucifix, icon, candle, or other religious symbol (we are, after all, sensory creatures, and material things can help us to raise our minds to God). (12) Casey also suggests the use of “flowers, incense, or essential oils” for a “pleasing fragrance,” and both Casey and Masini offer the possibility of background music, provided it does not prove too distracting. (13) Practically, this ideal space might be discovered in the corner of a bedroom, a spare room, a basement or attic nook, or even a large closet. Those who live in small spaces may have to improvise a bit, but our primary goal must always be to create a “sacred site,” somewhere special we can go just for lectio divina, somewhere we can forget the rest of the world for a while and reach out to God so that we can notice Him reaching out to us.
8. Casey, 91.
9. Masini, 74.
10. Casey, 80-81.
11. Ibid.; Masini, 74.
12. Ibid.
13. Casey, 81.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Lectio Divina - Part 6

A Relationship with Jesus
           In the first part of our introduction to lectio divina, we focused on defining this ancient practice of prayer and examining its theological foundations. Building on what we have learned, we will now turn our attention to the more “practical” elements of lectio divina, or as Jean LeClerq succinctly calls it, “prayed reading”. (1) In doing so, we shall continue to use the “journalistic” questions as our organizing principle, this time concentrating on “When should we practice lectio divina?”; “Where should we practice lectio divina?”; and “How should we practice lectio divina?”. In answering the last of these questions, we shall take some time to describe the dispositions we ought to cultivate before we even begin lectio divina and to present some useful tips for the practice of each of its four dimensions (lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio). Throughout our discussion, we must recall one essential point, namely, that lectio divina has as its primary goal the establishment of an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus Christ and, through Him, with the Father, in the Holy Spirit. In lectio divina, God speaks to us through the Sacred Scriptures, which the Fathers of the Church poetically portray as God's love letter to His human family. (2) We, in turn, listen to this divine Word and offer our response in prayer and in our daily lives. God touches our hearts, and we offer our entire selves to Him. Therefore, everything we do in lectio divina must serve to foster this divine-human relationship. From our preparation, through reading, meditation, and prayer, and if God so wills, into contemplation, we must focus our attention on God, seeking Him, building intimacy with Him, loving Him, and perhaps even meeting Him in a communion beyond our highest expectations.

When Should We Practice Lectio Divina?
          Let us turn, then, to the first of our “practical” questions and examine the timing of our lectio divina. Cistercian monk Michael Casey warns us that we must be “realistic” when it comes to planning our prayer schedule. (3) We should choose a time during the day when we are most alert and least distracted. This could be in the morning when we are rested and have not yet begun our daily activities. Or perhaps an evening time slot might work better because by then, as the Venerable Bede says, “We are weary after the day's work and worn out by our distractions. The time for rest is near, and our minds are ready for contemplation.” (4) In any case, we must choose a time when we are most able, or at least ready and willing, to put aside our daily concerns and interact with God. We might have to experiment a bit with timing to discover the best opportunity for prayer in our busy schedules, and we might even, as Casey says, have to develop a “backup” plan to help us cope with our ever-changing lives, but most importantly, we must make a commitment to practice lectio divina at some point each and every day and to be as consistent as possible in setting aside time to read, meditate, and pray so that God, as He wills, can draw up to meet Him in the intimate union that is contemplation. (5) After all, if we are seeking a personal relationship with Jesus, we have to make time for Him! Even human relationships cannot grow and develop if the people involved do not meet regularly to get to know one another. The same is true of our relationship with God. We must find the time, take the time, make the time, or if necessary even steal the time (from other activities, of course) to connect with God in the Sacred Scriptures. Only then will our relationship with Him grow broader and deeper, and only then will our hearts open up to His loving and changing touch.
           This brings us to one more question concerning the “when” of our lectio divina, namely, “How long must we spend reading, meditating, and praying the Bible?”. Again we turn to Michael Casey for our answer. He tells us, “Lifelong exposure to God's word is more like a marathon than a sprint. It makes more sense to get something started in an imperfect state than to procrastinate forever. It is better for morale to spend five minutes once a day and stick with it, than to plan on a longer duration and fail to find time.” (6) In other words, we can start slowly if we want to, scheduling a few minutes daily to meet God in His Word. Probably, however, as we discern the depth of meaning present in the Bible and realize how much God has to say to us, we will want to spend more time in lectio divina. Mario Masini suggests that to “allow for the tranquil development” of all four dimensions and avoid too much “effort and fatigue,” we should spend between one and two hours in lectio divina each day. (7) This may seem like a long time, especially to those who have little experience in reading, meditating, and praying the Bible, but when we think about how much time we spend, or perhaps waste, every day watching television or surfing the Internet, we might ask ourselves if an hour or two is too much to spend with the God Who has given us our whole lives. Ultimately, when it comes to making time for lectio divina, we must remain both committed and flexible, truly committed to meeting God regularly in His Word and flexible enough to select the times and durations that will best help us to do so.

1. Mariano Magrassi, Praying the Bible: An Introduction to Lectio Divina (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1998), 18.
2. Ibid., 79, 83.
3. Michael Casey, Sacred Reading: The Art of Lectio Divina (Ligouri: Ligouri/Triumph, 1995), 80.
4. John E. Rotelle, ed., Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1988), 85.
5. Casey, 80.
6. Ibid.
7. Mario Masini, Lectio Dvinia (New York: St. Pauls, 1998), 75.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Weekly Bookworm: Vatican II

I admit it; most people, even devout Catholics, do not generally go around reading the documents of Vatican II. The Council's bishops, however, intended for the entire Catholic family, and even for non-Catholics and non-Christians, to carefully peruse the sixteen documents they so meticulously prepared with the intention of setting the Church's faith before the world in a way that is accessible to modern people. These documents are meant to be read, to be studied, to be pondered, and, yes, even to be enjoyed.

Granted, Vatican II's documents are not necessarily easy reading, even though they are written in modern and relatively non-technical language. Vast amounts of meaning are packed into each paragraph, and readers must be prepared to devote some time to re-reading and reflection if they intend to truly understand the Council's message. The benefits, though, are definitely worth the effort.

All of the Vatican II documents are available online at the Vatican's website. I would suggest that readers begin with Dei Verbum, the Council's Constitution on Divine Revelation, and then move on to Lumen Gentium, the Constitution on the Church. Lay people should also take a close look at Apostolicam Actuositatem, the Council's decree on the apostolate of the laity. The riches in these three are enough to keep readers busy for quite some time before they move on to the other excellent documents Vatican II has to offer.

Pope John XXIII wanted Vatican II to be a new Pentecost for the Catholic Church, but it cannot be so if Catholics don't read and meditate on the actual content of the Council, which is found in its documents. If Catholics approach these texts with open minds and open hearts and then live out the faith they find therein, Pope John XXIII's dream will come true.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mini Meditation

Matthew 17:14-20 tells the story of an epileptic boy whose father brought him to Jesus for healing.  When the father approached the Lord's disciples, he learned that Jesus had taken Peter, James, and John and gone up onto the mountain to pray.  He didn't want to wait for Jesus to come back.  He was too impatient.  He wanted his son healed immediately.  Who could blame him really?  The boy was suffering horribly, and his life was constantly in danger from falling into fire or water.  So the father asked the disciples to heal the boy, and while they tried, they could not do it.  Without Jesus' healing power, the disciples were helpless.  The father was left disappointed and the boy still afflicted.  When Jesus came down from the mountain, He did heal the boy, but He also scolded the father and His disciples for their lack of faith.

We can apply this story to our own lives by asking a few questions.

*Do we wait for the Lord, or are we impatient and try to do our own thing with our own timing?  
*Do we seek the Lord and His power, or do we settle for "second best"?  
*Do we realize that God's timing is perfect and that He allows suffering and hardship for a reason?
*Do we have enough faith in the Lord?
*How might we grow in faith? 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Lectio Divina - Part 5

Why do we practice lectio divina?
          This brings us to our final question in the first part of our introductory study of lectio divina. God has given us an amazing gift, but why has He done so? What benefits are we to gain from His generosity? No one likes to see a gift he or she has given to a loved one shoved into a closet and forgotten! God is no different. He wants us to use His gift of lectio divina to reap, always with His help, of course, an abundant harvest of reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation. Let us examine a few of the blessings of lectio divina and reflect briefly on the theological foundations supporting them.
          First, when we practice lectio divina, we grow both in our spiritual lives and in our appreciation of the Bible. Our faith, hope, and love expand. Our minds grow as we open the door to receive Christ, and our receptivity to God's Word increases. (48) In fact, many Fathers and theologians have noticed that if we practice lectio divina over an extended period of time, we actually, in some way, receive the mind of Christ and are able to begin to think as He thinks, to feel as He feels, to love as He loves. Our lives become “stamped with the character of Christ” and imbued with the Word of God (49) Further, our appreciation for the Scriptures themselves increases. Through our reading, we learn the forms and contexts of the Bible. In meditation, we see how it can speak to us, or rather how God can speak to us, through it. We learn to pray the text back to God in His words and our own, and if God so wills, the Scriptures lead us to the intimate union with Him that is contemplation. Essentially, the longer we spend in lectio divina, the more we will assimilate the Bible into our very beings, and over time a “biblical mentality” is formed within us. We learn to turn to the text in times of trouble or emotional upheaval, knowing that we will find Jesus present within it. We learn to rely on God's Word for comfort and conviction, for encouragement and correction. As Magrassi says, “The Word is so deeply assimilated that it becomes part of us, molding our thoughts, feelings and life.” (50) We become “Biblical” people, and the Scriptures permeates us and transforms our very souls.
          Ultimately, however, lectio divina is not about our own personal, human growth. It is about encountering God, entering into dialogue with Him, and meeting Him in the intimate communion of contemplatio. Our goal, as Masini insists, is “to establish a heart-to-heart contact with God.” (51) We encounter Him in His Word, as we have seen in our discussion of the theology of the Word. He speaks to us in our reading. He guides us in our meditation. We speak to Him in our prayer. We enter into a dialogue with Him. (52) We reach for Him. He touches our hearts. Lectio divina, then, becomes “reading done by two people, with God, heart-to-heart with Him.” (53) Our love for Him grows through this dialogue, and we learn to perceive His love in the depths of our souls. The Uncreated Being reaches down to wrap our little, insignificant created selves in the wonders of His love, and when the time is right, He swoops us up into contemplation, the final “stage” of lectio divina, in which we enter into profound communion with God within our hidden souls. We experience, as St. Jerome says, an “intimate colloquy” with God as we discover “in the bottom of the heart, in the most perfect silence...the face of the Beloved.” (54) Here, in the presence of God, we “anticipate the joy of heaven,” “suspended by the thread of contemplation” and “lifted up above the weight of human frailty.” (55) Here the “awestruck soul is rapt in is filled with is utterly speechless,” as it shares in untold, indescribable intimacy with the Blessed Trinity. (56) This is indeed the ultimately goal of lectio divina, this profound union, this spiritual marriage with God by means of His Word, incarnate in Jesus, inverbate in the Scriptures, and present in our hearts.
          Why does God wish to join Himself to us in such intimate communion? Very simply, He has created us for Himself. He has created us for eternal life with Him in Heaven, but we are broken, sinful creatures who must be rescued by God and restored to the divine life we lost through the fall of our first parents. Here we enter into the realm of soteriology, the theology of salvation. Here we meet the saving power of the Word of God. (57) Because the Word of God is Christ Himself, Who died and rose again to save us from our sins, and because Christ is the “Word abbreviated” in Scripture, we know that the Scriptures themselves have an inherent power, a power that St. Paul describes as “the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith.” (58) As we read the Scriptures, meditate on them, and pray them in lectio divina, we come into contact with that power. We are transformed inwardly because of it. (59) We stretch upward to what Guigo calls “the perfection the blessed life.” (60) We are saved by God and made holy, rising up to Him, living in communion with Him, and preparing for the time when we will see Him face to face for all eternity.
          We have covered much ground in our reflections on the “why” of lectio divina, and we have soared up to the heights of Heaven in doing so, but now we must come back down to earth to discuss one more important reason to practice this ancient art. When, through our lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio, we have reached the highest realms of communion with God, when we have been transformed by Him, when we have received His mind, assimilated the Word, and become a “Biblical” person, we have one more thing we must do. We must share this gift with others, both through our verbal witness and in the way we live our lives. Our lectio divina should become a source of energy for us, giving us “an enhanced level of fervor and unselfishness in daily living.” (61) We must allow ourselves to be changed by the Word (and the words) we read, meditate, pray, and contemplate, to embrace God's will, to live His message each and every day, to reflect our union with God in our behavior, in our moral choices, in our words, in our attitudes, in our love. Our communion with God must flow over into our daily lives and into our relationships with other human beings. Only in this way will we truly complete the cycle of lectio divina.

          We have traveled a long way in our introduction to lectio divina. We have studied its definitions, examined it dimensions, and analyzed the theological foundations in which it is rooted. We have answered three key questions, “What is the proper subject matter for lectio divina?”; “Who performs lectio divina?”; and “Why do we practice lectio divina?” In the second half of this study, we will move on to more “practical” considerations and discuss the “how-to”s of this ancient practice. For now, let us pause to reflect upon one more aspect of lectio divina, namely, its complexity. Lectio divina is more than just a way to read, meditate, pray, and contemplate the Scriptures. It is a remarkable blend of human and divine, action and repose, thought and silence, word and deed, reason and faith. In lectio divina, we answer the call of Dei Verbum and immerse ourselves in the Scriptures; we reach up to God, and He reaches back to us, elevating us to Himself as we surrender to Him.

48. Ibid., 41.
49. Ibid., 14-16; LeClerq, 239; Casey, 39. 
50. Ibid., 111.
51. Masini, 3.
52. Ibid., 52;
53. Ibid., 58-59; Magrassi, 19.
54. Masini, 59.
55. Magrassi, 117.
56. Ibid., 118.
57. Ibid., 31-32.
58. Ibid., 32; see Romans 1:16.
59. Masini, 69.
60. Guigo II, 84.
61. Casey, 5.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Lectio Divina - Part 4

Who performs lectio divina?
          Perhaps, in light of what we have just discussed, it may be comforting to think that when we practice lectio divina, we do not do so all by ourselves. We have plenty of help! This brings us to the question of who actually performs lectio divina. Once again, the answer seems simple. We do, as individual Christians sitting quietly alone in Church or in our homes. Certainly this is true...even though after all we have said about reading Christ and standing before the Blessed Trinity during lectio divina, we may wonder how we broken, sinful people could ever be worthy to perform such an activity. Of course, without the grace of God, we would never be able to approach Him, but while we are indeed fallen and sinful, we are still God's creatures and even His children. The principles of theological anthropology and sacramental theology help us to understand this. We were created good, just like all of creation, but our first parents fell into sin and have passed down to us their fallen state. At Baptism, however, we were united with Christ. God now lives inside us when we are in a state of grace. He is present in our posterior or inner soul to greet us as we read, meditate, and pray. Further, He is aware of our human nature, of our frailty and weakness, so He helps us when we seek Him. He accommodates Himself to us by offering us signs, the words and deeds of Scripture, that speak to us of divine realities we could not otherwise comprehend. God offers us a material object, the Bible, a created thing, to help us created people reach up to Him, the Uncreated Being. What a marvelous God we have!
          God also gives us the Church to help us in our practice of lectio divina. Our Scriptures have come to us from the apostolic witness kept alive and well in the Church. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the People of God in the Old and New Testament eras created and canonized the Scriptures; therefore, we can know with certainty that when we approach the Bible, we are approaching the inspired Word of God. Today, the Church, under the guidance of the Magisterium, carefully listens to the Scriptures, guards them, and expounds them faithfully, particularly in the liturgy and in magisterial teaching. (37) Even as we read the Bible in our own private lectio divina, we remain immersed in the ecclesial context. (38) Mariano Magrassi stresses this point. The Church is the Body of Christ, and the mystery of Christ remains living and active in the Church, integrating its members into a profound unity. Further, every baptized member of the Church, Magrassi explains, contains, in some way, the “entire mystery of the Church” in his or her soul. He quotes Origen, who sees a “mircocosm of the perfect Church” in the soul of every believer, and Bernard, who wrote that “Each of us is also the Church,” to support this point. (39) With the whole Church contained within us, not to mention the support of communion of saints and all the angels, we certainly are not alone in practicing our lectio divina! We have the comfort and support of the entire Church, which reads, meditates, prays, and contemplates along with us.
          We can also be assured of an even high assistance as we seek God during lectio divina, for God Himself reads with us and in us as we peruse the Holy Scriptures. First, Jesus reads in us. Jean LeClerq has much to say about Jesus' role as Reader during lectio divina. “When we read,” he notes,” Jesus in us continues His reading of Himself.” He goes on, “Christian reading of Scriptures...will lead to understanding because Christ Himself did this same kind of reading, and our Christian reading at its best is the reading done by Jesus in us.” (40) How can this be? How can Jesus read in us during lectio divina? First of all, Jesus lives in us. He was united with us in Baptism and deepens that unity with us in every sacrament, especially in the Holy Eucharist. So it is no wonder that He is present to guide our minds and touch our hearts as we read the Scriptures. Second, Jesus reads with us as we imitate His style of reading the Bible. When He lived on earth, Jesus read the Jewish Bible continually. In it He found the mystery of His own Person and mission. He saw Himself, His relationship to the Father, and prophecies of His life, death, and resurrection. He knew that the Scriptures were all about Him, and He read them accordingly, discovering new and fresh meanings. (41) If we also do this, if we read the Scriptures with the attitude of searching for and finding Jesus Christ, we are imitating Jesus the Reader, and we can be sure that He is guiding us in our endeavors. Finally, Jesus reads with us when we practice lectio divina because He is the Divine Word. We have already discussed how God is the Author of Scripture, and when we read the Bible, we are really reading Jesus, God's single Word to humanity Who has been diffused into many words in order to accommodate weak human nature. When we read the Divine Word, then, that Word, which is living and active, pronounces itself in our hearts. Jesus Christ, the Logos, pronounces Himself. He practices lectio divina right alongside us.
          Divine guidance for lectio divina comes also from the Holy Spirit. Masini discusses the theology of the Holy Spirit in some depth as he explains how we are guided by the Spirit when we practice lectio divina. (42) We have already seen how the Holy Spirit inspired Sacred Scripture, essentially breathing the Word into human authors and the written text. We have also learned that the Spirit remains present in the Bible, “inhabiting” it as “a light which causes the grace of God's Light to be set free.” (43) The Holy Spirit, then, because of His constant indwelling presence in the text of Scripture, not to mention His constant indwelling presence within our souls, is the primary “exegete of Scripture,” Who “unlocks (the coffers), manifests and renders visible and comprehensible things hidden and closed,” “unseals the book,” and provides the reader with the true “spiritual” sense of the Bible. (44) When we approach the Biblical text, we must always be aware of our limitations. Scripture is God's Book, His Word “inverbated” into human words by the power of the Spirit. (45) We cannot, therefore, expect to be able to fathom the mysteries of Scripture on our own. Our humans minds are, as Magrassi notes, “too limited to understand a Word that comes from a place far above human intelligence.” (46) We are lucky to comprehend just a little bit of the most basic meaning of the Bible through our own power! We need to have the Holy Spirit as our divine exegete. We need Him to come into our hearts and explain to us mysteries of the Scriptures, the mysteries of Christ. We need Him to do His job as our Advocate, to stand beside us, to lead us into the truth, to guide our reading, our meditation, and our prayer, to intercede for us in sighs too deep for words, and to gently lift us into contemplation.
          Before we move away from our discussion of the “who” of lectio divina, we must pause for just a moment to recognize a very important principle. Lectio divina is God's gift to us. We may practice it (with, of course, a great deal of divine help!). We may put significant effort into careful reading, meditation, and prayer. We may use our intellects well as we work through the dimensions. We may even feel the calm, silent joy of contemplation. But we must never attribute our “successes” to ourselves. Whatever benefits we receive from lectio divina are given to us by our loving God, Who is the “principal agent” of all our reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation. (47) We may, and must, cooperate with God's work, but we must also be humble enough to give Him all the credit and thank Him for His wonderful gift of lectio divina.

37. Second Vatican Council. 
38. Magrassi, 4.
39. Ibid., 9.
40. LeClerq, 240.
41. Ibid., 244-247.
42. Masini, 8-12.
43. Ibid.
44. Ibid., 10.
45. Ibid., 9.
46. Magrassi, 43.
47. Ibid., 19.