It feels like a lifetime since the parish was open, and there were public Masses. Everybody’s routine continues to be dramatically altered by the restrictions we have been following in hopes of decreasing the spread of the Covid-19 virus. I know I don’t have to elaborate on how trying of time this is for everyone, especially when it comes to finding nourishment for your spiritual lives while away from the Sacraments. In the document, Dei Verbum, there is a beautiful reminder of something that all of us have right now to obtain spiritual nourishment at this time, the Scriptures.
The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God’s word and of Christ’s body. She has always maintained them, and continues to do so, together with sacred tradition, as the supreme rule of faith, since, as inspired by God and committed once and for all to writing, they impart the word of God Himself without change, and make the voice of the Holy Spirit resound in the words of the prophets and Apostles. Therefore, like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture. For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life. Consequently these words are perfectly applicable to Sacred Scripture: “For the word of God is living and active” (Heb. 4:12) and “it has power to build you up and give you your heritage among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32; see 1 Thess. 2:13).Dei Verbum §21
In this time of quarantine, one of those two tables is not accessible; however, one of them still is. Though the table of God’s word isn’t available like what many are used to, there is still access to it. Even though we may be at home, we can access God’s word in the Scriptures, most notably the New Testament, now that we are in the Easter season. During this time, while so many are not able to be nourished by the Eucharist, I want to encourage going to the Scriptures which Dei Verbum calls, “the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life.”
Scripture is not like any other book. As the above quote says, Scripture is God’s word, inspired by Him, and is the way He meets us with love and speaks with us. Scripture is something we read and pray through. I want to introduce a way of doing this that existed for a long time; it is called Lectio Divina.
There are four different parts to this type of prayer. One could look at it as a guided way to reflect on the Scriptures rather than just sitting down and reading it like a chapter book.
Lectio, or reading it, is the first step. In this first part, remember not to choose too much to read; instead, choose a parable, an event in the Gospel, nothing more than a chapter. The reason for this is because you will read what you chose at least three times. This step repeated a few times, really lets the passage sink in a little more each time. Pause after every reading and ponder on it. As you consider what you have read, be attentive if a particular word or phrase or passage got your attention. After three or more readings of your passage, it is time to move to step two.
Meditatio, or meditation, is when you bring to prayer whatever caught your attention in step one. If nothing got your attention, there are two things that you could do. One of these would be to stay in step one until something does catch your attention or bring to your meditation why this part of Scripture didn’t do anything for you. We are weak humans, and not every time will this process be easy or free from distractions, so don’t get encouraged if that happens. Moving on, in this step, you take what got your attention and meditate on what God might be telling you. Take ample time to meditate on how this applies to you right now.
Oratio, or prayer, is our response to what this is saying. For example, what got your attention could also be stirring up thoughts of further conversion. This step is responding to that notion of that further conversion. This step is going to God and acknowledging that need for conversion, and ask for His help to accomplish it. It doesn’t have to be anything drawn out, just let it be the best response you can make.
Contemplatio, or contemplation, is a part that God initiates. All the steps before this prepare a person’s mind and heart to let God in to give this grace. Rather than you guiding what you are meditating on, God can place something in your mind and your heart that He wants you know above and beyond what originally got your attention, or it might be an insight as to what you need to do to reach that further conversion.
I hope this makes sense. If you want more reading, there is an article on the USCCB site.
In the future, I would like to write some examples from passages to give you an idea of how this devotion looks and how it can help all of us stay close to God in His word. Until then I hope you give this a chance and that you can find some food for your soul.