St.Benedict's

 

MONASTERY

 

Good Friday Service

Br. Benito Williamson

practicing lectio divina

Contemplation

defies simple definition

or explanation.

It is a state of being

and resting in God,

the mind passive,

open and empty of words and concepts,

listening to God who speaks in the silent depths

of the human heart.

HOW WE PRAY

MONASTIC PRAYER is both communal and individual. In his Rule, Benedict

emphasizes the importance of monastic prayer in common: “Nothing is to be

preferred to the Work of God [Liturgy of the Hours]” (Chapter 43), but he does

not discuss the method or structure of personal prayer. A description of prayer

in the monastic context, initiated by the Desert Fathers in the early formation of

monasticism, and developed over centuries of practice, follows.

 

SACRED READING [LECTIO DIVINA] is the expression first used by the 2nd century theologian Origen to describe the primary step in the monastic method of

meditation. Lectio divina is intentional concentrated attention on the Scriptural

reading in whole or in part, allowing the text to speak a word, phrase or idea

that seizes the emotions and stimulates the imagination. The twelfth-century

Carthusian monk Guigo II defines lectio divina simply as “the careful study of

the Scriptures, concentrating all one’s power [of thought] on it,” explaining it

metaphorically as the first rung on a ladder of consciousness climbing to

contemplation. Rather than reading to be informed, the reader reads to be

formed by the sacred text.

 

MEDITATION is conscious active engagement of the intellectual and rational

faculties of the mind to focus on the idea or image that in a moment of insight

has emerged from the sacred reading. Guigo II describes meditation as “the

busy application of the mind to seek with the help of one’s own reason the

knowledge of hidden truth.” The goal of meditation is to assimilate the depths

of the text’s meaning, applying it to the specific life situation of the one who

prays.

 

PRAYER is active “verbal” mental or oral response to meditation on the Word of

God, offered in a spontaneous, personal “conversation” with God. It is,

Cistercian monk Michael Casey writes, “an attempt to realize the love that

unites us to God, allowing it to become more present to us, and giving it greater

scope to act upon us and change us.” At this stage, affection and emotion

predominates with prayers of gratitude, repentance and adoration.

 

CONTEMPLATION defies simple definition or explanation. It is a state of being

and resting in God, the mind passive, open and empty of words and concepts,

listening to God who speaks in the silent depths of the human heart. As the

unknown medieval author of The Cloud of Unknowing wrote of those who seek

to move to the level of contemplative prayer: “Thought cannot comprehend

God…..You will seem to know and feel nothing except a naked intent toward

God in the depths of your being.” Words and thoughts are engulfed by

awareness of unity with the divine, “as an experiential grasp of God as present

within the inner self” (Thomas Merton). This overwhelming awareness of God’s

presence comes “like a flash of lightning” (John of the Cross), “like a clap of

thunder” (Thomas Merton).

St. Benedict's Monastery | 1012 Monastery Road | Snowmass, Colorado 81654

     970/279-4400 | EMAIL librarystben@gmail.com