Tuesday 11 April 2017

Lectio Divina for Holy Week

Wikipedia tells us that 'Lectio Divina (Latin for "Divine Reading") is a traditional  Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God's Word. It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied, but as the Living Word' Which, I think, means that we need not be overly bothered with context but that if we find a passage, clause or word then we hold it in our mind and simply gaze at it with the eyes of the heart. That is to say, we don't do the intellectual analysing which we might do in other situations but we hear it as a lover speaking out of the fulness of His heart directly to our own heart.

One such text for Holy Week, when we recall the turbulent events culminating in the drama of Easter, might be this-
 I abode in the wilderness.
I waited for Him that hath saved me
(Psalm 54:8-9)

On the Cross our Lord told the penitent rebel "I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43) The Creed informs us that Jesus descended to Hell that same day from which we can conclude that paradise is where He is. The opposite case, then, is that where He is absent we are cast out into the wilderness there to wait His coming. When we, by mortal sin, kill grace in our soul we place ourself apart from Him in the desert. Sometimes too we experience abandonment even when we have done nothing amiss since such is the Father's will for us. In either event all we can do is compose ourselves to wait for the One that has saved, is saving and will save us, our dear Lord, Jesus Christ.

An icon of this text is the Blessed Virgin Mary on Holy Saturday that agonising time between the burial of her Son and His rising again. Of the first of those events she was certain with the certainty of sight of the second she had only the certainty of hope for things unseen. In the wilderness, without Jesus, waiting in sorrow and in faith was all that she could do.

How often during that day must she have said 'O Jesus, O my Jesus, O Jesus' Words that came from the centre of her grief laden being. Repeated over and over with an emotional and personal force that came from more than thirty years of loving relationship with her Divine Son. The word Jesus had for her all the associations that flowed from the great joy of Annunciation and Nativity through the hidden years to the apotheosis on Golgotha. There is much debate about the use of mantras in Christianity but if we could say them as Mary said her Son's name on that day of darkness we would be nearer to heaven than we are. As we can't it might be wiser to use the texts and prayers that our mother the Church gives to us.

At all events full of grace and virtue as Our Lady was she still had to abide her sorrow in patient waiting. The gifts of God come to us when He wills to send them. We cannot call them down simply by the strength of our own efforts. We must give of ourselves in our sorrows and in our joys and then wait.The Spirit visits us not because we deserve Him but because we need Him and He comes only at the times which He knows to be best for us. Until then we are in the wilderness, but we do have this sure and certain knowledge, the One for whom we are waiting loves us more than we can possibly love Him and His blood has been shed for us.

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The painting is in a Book of Hours from the Workshop of the Master Francois.

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