When we open the Bible and pray, we expect God to act and talk to us, giving us some Graces. What we often notice is that His Graces are rare. We explain this by saying: “God is free to give his grace when He wants, to whom He wants, how He wants”. It is not uncommon to forget the other truths that help us understand “how to deal with God” and how to receive His Grace: How He thinks, what He wants, what He wants to give us, His weaknesses, His deep and earnest desires to feed us giving us His Word, the necessity for us to use the General Help of His Grace and ask, beg, knock. In this case we might end up with being totally passive, saying to ourselves: “I will sit down and pray, if He wants to speak to me He will, nobody can stop Him; if not, I will continue to remain in His presence all the same”. This is in fact very close to a heresy called Quietism.
There are decisive differences between the general teaching on Lectio Divina (LD) in many places in the Church today and the way LD is taught and practised in the School Mary.
The way it is taught in the School of Mary may be called: “the Supernatural Lectio Divina” or “Working Lectio Divina” v. a vague, amateur, non-necessarily working Lectio Divina.
When we say “working” we allude not to an intellectual endeavour (intellectual analysis of the text), or a spiritual meditation on the Sacred Text, but the supernatural action of the Holy Spirit, that makes the Sacred Text become “Word of God” for us, addressed to us right now, to be put into practice forthwith – a full incarnation of a Word given by the Risen Lord today.
When we say “working,” therefore, we allude to the direct and personal action of the Holy Spirit in us, incarnating a Word given by the Risen Lord today.
In addition, we not only address the existence of a “working” LD and the challenges that it poses to many ways of presenting and practising LD present today in the Church, but we also challenge the received opinion that God doesn’t necessarily talk to us (or want to talk to us) on a daily basis.
This contrast, therefore, between teaching Lectio Divina in the School of Mary and the teaching present almost everywhere else, poses various interesting challenges:
Lectio Divina as Often Taught in the Church
SOM’s Lectio Divina
|1- How the Two Types of the Grace of God work||Stays vague and amateurish but often called “spiritual” or “spiritual meditation”. General Help is not used to its full extent. We don’t reach the meeting point with the Holy Spirit.
The General Help of the Grace of God is only vaguely accessed.
|The General Help is used in the “Begging” process to its full extent.
It triggers the Particular Help.
The Particular help of the Grace of God embodies God’s reply: He talks.
It is a Supernatural LD.
|2- How LD works||Leaving it to God’s freedom to act when He wants with whom He wants and how He wants.||Our part in it, using the General Help of the Grace of God.|
|3- Is it daily?||Not necessarily daily.||On God’s part, it is daily.|
|4- Length of LD||It can be done in 10 to 20 minutes (lay persons) or it has to be done in 3 hours (some Benedictines)||55 mins. to 1hr.15mins.|
|5- Practised on which texts?||It can be done on any text.||The daily Mass readings.|
|6- How many texts?||It can be done on one text. Even as long as a chapter.||The two daily readings of the Mass (Sundays and Solemnities 3 readings).|
|7- Contemplation:||Lack of clarity of what “contemplation” means (for instance here it is taken to mean: read, meditate, pray, contemplate)||A clear explanation is provided of what LD’s contemplation is v. PH contemplation.|
A Complete Theology of Grace
As stated in another article: when we compare any LD Practice and the SOM’s one, we find that the other LDs don’t function properly. Why? Because they are based on an implicit incomplete Theology of Grace. The Theology of Grace is the part of theology that explains how the grace of God works in an orthodox fashion.
The Theology of Grace says: God gives his Grace (think: “Grace” = “Particular Help of the Grace of God”, i.e. the supernatural, direct and personal action of the Holy Spirit that makes the Sacred Text become the living Word of God) when He wants, to whom He wants, the way He wants. This is a profound theological Truth, and nobody can challenge it, because it states the total freedom of God in giving his Grace. Nobody can merit His Grace, i.e. nobody can do anything that allows him to obtain God’s Grace. But this truth is only part of the total Truth about the workings of the Grace of God. There are other very important elements that should be added to this fundamental element in order to give us a complete understanding of – who God is, – how He works, – why He works in this or that way, – why He seems silent in many cases, – what His constant desire is, …
What are the other parts of the Theological Truths that govern the working of the Grace of God?
- God has the earnest desire to give Himself to us, to love us, to talk to us.
- Talking to us is not a “luxury” Grace that He might or might not give us!! It is a vital Grace that we need.
- We need this grace everyday: Jesus Himself stipulated this when He gave us the “Our Father”. So, in place of “bread” say “word” or “grace” and we have the full force of Jesus’ words revealed: “give us this day our daily word”. Our Mind and Will need his word in order to be nourished by it and in order to function, like food for the body.
- God respects our Freedom, our choices. If we do not express them, clearly, He won’t act – simply because He respects our freedom. He would never force Himself into our mind and will. He would never interfere where our freedom is at stake! The human being is the Paradise of the delight of God. In his Paradise, God swore not to touch a particular tree: the tree of the freedom of the Human Being created in His image and likeness.
- Since He wants to talk to us on a daily basis, why then does it not always work? It is because we haven’t learned to use the “General Help of the Grace of God” to do our part, to express our real desire, creating a space in ourselves for His Word to come and dwell in us! If the blind man or the Syro-Phoenician lady wouldn’t have insisted with Jesus, using the General Help of the Grace of God (given to all of us believers, and that should necessarily to be used), forcefully expressing clearly their need and desire, He wouldn’t have answered their request. God needs to see our clear desire as much as we need his Grace.
- One has to remember God’s main Secret: Mary. We can’t merit the Grace of God by any means whatsoever, we ourselves can’t merit it, only Jesus our Redeemer obtained for us all the Graces we need.
In the case of Our Lady, since She is Immaculate from Her conception in anticipation by virtue of the Lord’s Redemption, this allows the Holy Spirit to work in Her without any obstacle, allowing Her to merit more graces.
Therefore Her presence at our side in Spiritual Life is fundamental. She helps us obtain the Grace of God and in the case of LD She helps us reach the triggering point of obtaining the Particular Help of the Grace of God, i.e. the Holy Spirit acting through the Sacred Text making it the Living Word of Jesus for us.
The Sacred Text underlines this aspect seen when the Angel tells Her: “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God” (Luke 1:30). “Finding favour” is another way to underline the very deep nature of Our Lady being Immaculate and therefore being capable of finding favour, i.e. obtaining a grace from God.
Because of this, we need to have recourse to Mary. Mary’s Annunciation is the archetype of our daily LD. We know that since She is here, present among us, it can work.
This “secret” of God is deposited in the Gospel of Luke. (Please see the text: Luke’s Final Pentecost.)
When you teach LD in the School of Mary, you need to be aware that your way of doing LD is different from other actual ways. You also need to be aware that when compared with the others, your method is quite challenging.
This is so especially for those who have only a vague understanding of a God, who might or might not speak to them. They might also have a vague understanding of Contemplation which in fact turns out to be a Prayer of the Heart Contemplation and not the LD specific type of Contemplation. In the latter you understand what Jesus is asking you to do, and with the Holy Spirit you are enabled to put it into practice.
When facing other LD methods you must insist that it is better to base LD on the daily readings, i.e. two texts at least, and expect the texts to convey the same living “word”!
Keeping the differences of methods in your mind can be useful in certain circumstances where the student has heard another version of LD or is asking about them. You need to be wise and prudent when underlining the specific and clear-cut aspects of the SOM’s LD in order to be constructive and not purely antagonistic and/or superior. Humility and the spirit of service of the Grace of God are your ideal. Remember that what is at stake is the working or not of the Grace of God in the student. It is important to have on top of your own experience of LD, an intelligent and deep understanding of its mechanism in order to help facilitate it. Therefore it is your duty to complement the actual statement about the total freedom of God with the other points mentioned above.
Let your motto be: explain, explain, explain, in order to show, convince and motivate.