Friday, 5 December 2008

Real Lectio Divina (Part I) - and the Office

Today a few responses to comments on yesterday's post on saying the Office.

The Office in English and Latin

Firstly, where to find the Office in English and Latin.

If you are going to say the Office regularly, you will end up buying a book, so here are my suggestions, but I'm sure others will chip in.

My personal recommendation would be to start with the Little Office of Our Lady. It stays more or less the same each day (except for Matins) and so is easy to follow, is a manageable length, and is devoted to Our Lady! Baronius Press have recently put out an edition with some particularly nice features, including a little history of the Office, and all the music necessary to sing it (notwithstanding that the psalms and so forth aren't laid out in a very singer-friendly way!).

If you want something that uses more of the psalter, I'd highly recommend the Monastic Diurnal put out by Farnborough Abbey. It gives the Benedictine Office in the 1962 version. It doesn't include Matins, but the heroic efforts in that regard by Joshua over at Psallite Sapienter (and a few others I know of), Matins (especially the monastic version which has 14 psalms in it) is really beyond the time available to most laypeople, and anyway, something to add down the track I'd suggest!

In terms of the Roman Office, Baronius have been saying (for quite a long time now) that an edition of the Office in English and Latin will be released very very soon...In the meantime, an edition containing Prime (morning), Sext (noon) and Compline (night) hours is available from Angelus Press.

There are quite a few websites where you can get a feel for the Office, Here is a selection:

  • Breviary net is by far the nicest to use, but uses a much older version of the Office (the site itself is run by Sedes, but don't let that put you off using their excellent resources!)
  • Divinum Officium has the Little Office and the Roman Office, but isn't that easy to use (at least for me!)
  • The Hypertext Book of Hours offers the Little Office of Our Lady and a number of other short Offices.
There are also several yahoo groups around that will help you get started once you've chosen your preferred form of the Office! And I'd also like to mention the fabulous Kellerbook website as a resource for anyone interested in the Office and all its innumerable variants!

On lectio divina

After reading a few comments on my post yesterday I gritted my teeth and took another look at the Advent Lectio Guide from the Bishop of Broken Bay up on the Canberra-Goulburn website, and decided that the time has come to set out my thoughts on the subject.

Because I do think reading Scripture regularly is important. And I do think lectio divina is a useful way of approaching this.

But I also think that the bowdlerised material that passes for lectio divina on most modern books and websites does more damage than good. I agree with the concern that the 'just take a reading and let it talk to me' approach (and I agree with quasi-seminarian that this is essentially what this booklet is, albeit dressed up with lots of 'fancy schmancy' words!) presents a considerable danger of heresy.

Lectio is more than just my personal reaction to the text

The first and most fundamental point to bear in mind is that Scripture is not self-evident. If it was, we'd be fundamentalists, not Catholics.

At the recent Juventutem catechesis session for WYD, Bishop Eliot drew a very useful analogy, suggesting that Scripture is a bit like a family photo album - anyone can look at it, but without the context they won't really know who the people are, what they were doing and why.

So reading a section of the Gospel through a few times and then 'meditating' in order to find out 'What the text tells me', as this Lectio guide, recommends, unless you have a strong theological background already, will inevitably lead to at best trite, at worst heretical, conclusions.

Yes, reading Scripture must be guided by the Holy Spirit. But God gave us brains and expects us to use them! He also gave us the teaching of the Magisterium, the Fathers and the Theologians to guide us. Scripture has to be placed in context, and that means thinking with the Church.

Lectio is about personal transformation

The second key point I'd like to make is that while the fruits of lectio can sometimes be useful to others - for example when they come from great saints or theologians - mostly they are meant for ourselves alone. Most of us are just not capable of producing the kind of great commentaries that were the fruit of lectio of the Fathers, or even the insights of the trained theologian (particularly not in the context of an on the spot meditation at the start of a parish meeting!).

Rather, lectio, I'd suggest, is about facilitating our own inner transformation. Sometimes, very rarely, we will hear or read a particular text, and feel it is speaking directly to us: St Antony, for example, was sitting in Church when he heard the text calling on the rich young man to sell everything he had and follow Christ; he went out convinced that he was meant to do take up this call.

More often though, it helps us see ourselves, and is a tool to help us change behaviour. My favourite text on this point comes from the Cloud of Unknowing:

"God's word can be likened to a mirror. Spiritually, the 'eye' of your soul is your reason: your conscience is your spiritual 'face'. Just as you cannot see or know that there is a dirty mark on your actual face without the aid or a mirror, or somebody telling you, so spiritually it is impossible for a soul blinded by his frequent sins to see the dirty mark in his conscience, without reading or hearing God's word."

Lectio is about a personal engagement with God - but as with any conversation, there is a danger that we only hear ourselves or what we want to hear, rather than genuinely listening. Active listening is hard work.

The stages of lectio

I'd like to begin a little series on each of the stages of lectio (and see if I can convince quasi-seminarian that extended study of the subject can be worthwhile!), and some ideas I have on how to tackle them. There are several formulations of the phases of lectio around, but the one I personally try and use is a conflation of those proposed by Dom Paul Delatte (third abbot of Solesmes, 1848-1937) and one from St Hugh of St Victor (1096-1141).

It goes as follows: read, think, study, meditate, pray, contemplate, work.

More here....


David said...

Was that just a random image?

"Ashrei", being the first word of Psalm 83, 5 I think in the D-R.

Which would be: "beati qui habitant in domo tua in saecula saeculorum laudabunt te diapsalma".

It's also part of the Jewish Liturgy:

Ashrei yoshvei veytecha, od yehallalucha Selah
Ashrei ha-am she-kacha lo, ashrei ha-am she-haShem Elokav

Happy are those who sit in your house, they will still praise you [Selah]
Happy is the people that are like that, happy is the people whose God is [HaShem] Jewish - [The LORD} - Christian.

The Beatitudes probably began with a word such as Ashrei!

Terra said...

No not random at all, well picked!

You are on the right lines David, but it is actually an manuscript illumination for Psalm 1: "Blesed the man that followeth not the counsel of the wicked, nor standeth in the path of sinners, nor sittith in the company of scoffers. But hath his delight in the law of the Lord and on his law doth meditate day and night."

I particularly like it because it seems to point to the imagery the Pope used at WYD, about Scripture being a means of wandering in God's garden.

Quasi Seminarian said...

I apologise for being misunderstood, I believe that extended study is worthwhile and extremely useful, I still find my notes to be valuable in aiding me in my prayer and devotion.

I do not believe that slapdash teaching is worthwhile.

I do apologise.

Sadly I agree with you that many of the books in English are not that impressive. The sources of my lecturing were not from English and I think 3 or 4 people are the only ones in the world with the English translations of what I was taught. I did however learn it naturally by spending time in the Chapel before I was taught formerly. The lessons made me aware of what I was doing and that it had a wonderful historical tradition in the Church.

If anyone can find the time to learn any form of Meditation be it Lectio Divina or Ignation Method, or Carmelite Method or Alphonsian Method, do so! It is invaluable. But do not skimp on time, too many Seminaries skimp on time and proper study of the method. It does show that those in Charge know not what they are doing.

Terra said...

Sorry I misinterpreted you quasi-seminarian! Want to share what the books you found useful were? Some of us read a few languages other than English.

Quasi Seminarian said...

Unfortunately I was taught from Private Notes and Conferences not readily available.

I did read a short book which I might be able to chase in a week or two which was written by an Italian published by the Paulines. It was a standard introduction with a few good points. Unfortunately I don't know of anything solid in English and I am in more of an Ignatian state at the moment. If I find something I will be sure to let you know.

David said...

Interestingly, אשרי is generally used to mean happy. It's even used in modern Hebrew. The more commonly used modern Hebrew word מאושר is from the same root. Heh! the "happitudes"!