Lectio Divina and Tradition


Lectio Divina is one of the most important elements of monastic spirituality. We have spoken too little about this topic and I feelbackguilty for not reminding you about the necessity of being faithful to the practice of Lectio Divina. It is true that we of the Common Life read two chapters of the Old Testament and one chapter of the New Testament every day. But I do not think this kind of reading engages us as it should in the meditation, and even study, of the Word of God.

Certainly, Lectio Divina is not meant to be study or scholarly work; rather, it is meant to nurture our spiritual life.

Our Statute says that we should love Tradition and we must be men of Tradition [cf. CFD Statute, art. 5]. What does this mean? The Church recognises and venerates the 'Fathers'; thus, they are the ones who transmit life. We cannot have a father-son relationship with them if we don't even know them. Therefore, Lectio Divina cannot be restricted to reading and even meditating on the Bible. The Holy Spirit, who vivifies the Church, gives us His life through the words and writings of those who have had a special experience of God. We can compare Tradition to a river into which many tributaries flow along its course. From this river, we draw water to drink and to slake our thirst. We can say, as Tobit said to his son, "We are sons and daughters of saints." [cf. Tob 4:12] Spiritual paternity is the communication of holiness. Each one of is the product and synthesis of contributions coming from numerous sources. Both in the Old Testament and in the Gospels of Mark and Luke we find genealogies; we often find them boring to read; yet, these genealogies ensure a life line. Without this, life would die out.

I know that in a Retreat this year an exposition of the Beatitudes was given based on the writings of one of the greatest masters of Christian mysticism: St. Gregory of Nyssa; and those who participated in the Retreat experienced great joy and benefitted greatly from it. The Church herself invites us to a more living relationship of love with the Fathers of the Church in the second reading of the Office of Readings. Thus, during the Liturgical Year, we may get to know the main writings of the Church, or at least those of the great Fathers of the Church.

These writings are: the Letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch; the Letter to the Corinthians of St. Clement I, the Treatise on the Lord's Prayer by St. Cyprian; the Sermon on the Beatitudes by St. Leo the Great; On the Mysteries by St. Ambrose; the letter to Proba on prayer and the Sermon to Pastors by St. Augustine; the Five Mystagogical Catecheses by St. Cyril of Jerusalem. It is clear that the Church's intention is to acquaint us with the entire literary heritage of the Church of God. We also have writings of St. Ireneus, St. Athanasius, St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Dorotheus of Gaza, St. Cyril of Alexandria (Eastern writers); as far as Western writers are concerned we have St. Chromatius of Aquileia, St. Hilary of Poitier... what great treasures!

But even if we read these writings [in the Breviary], which are obligatory [for those with Vows], we feel that we have only scratched the surface. We wouldn't be able to say that we have really established a true relationship with them. If we are to feel that they are our fathers, and if they are to be really so, it is imperative that our veneration and love for them should be great; this can be happen only if we read their writings in a less hurried and distracted manner.

I already said last time that I wanted people to read, in addition to the writings cited above, the Conferences of Cassian; this work, together with the Discourses of St. Dorotheus of Gaza and the Ladder of Paradise of St. John Climacus sustained the spiritual life of Christians for centuries. We don't want to put too much on your plate, but maybe there is something that we could consider doing: that is, the Group Leader could introduce these Fathers or maybe one of them, whose extract was read in the Liturgy of the Hours.

All this wouldn't be enough for us of the Common Life. We read so many spiritual books that do not last more than a day. We should at least become familiar with the writings of the saints mentioned above. In this way, we may be aware that their spiritual experience has been handed down to us.

I hope this circular letter may inspire us to reflect more on our duty to listen to God who speaks to us through the Bible, but also through the great Tradition of Christian writers, most of all, the Fathers of the Church, whose testimony is the highest. 

The Father
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