Lectio divina: rehydrating the words of Scripture in our lives

Spiritual theologian Eugene Peterson:

There is a sense in which the Scriptures are the word of God dehydrated, with all the originating context removed – living voices, city sounds, camels carrying spices from Seba and gold from Ophir snorting down in the bazaar, fragrance from lentil stew simmering in the kitchen – all now reduced to marks on thin onion-skin paper. We make an effort at rehydrating them; we take these Scriptures and spend an hour or so in Bible study with friends or alone in prayerful reading. But five minutes later, on our way to work, plunged into the tasks of the day for which they had seemed to promise sustenance, there’s not much left of them – only ink on india paper. We find that we are left with the words of the Bible but without the world of the Bible. Not that there is anything wrong with the words as such, it is just that without the biblical world – the intertwined stories, the echoing poetry and prayers, Isaiah’s artful thunder and John’s extravagant visions – the words, like those seeds in Jesus’ parable that land on pavement or in gravel or among weeds, haven’t take root in our lives.

Lectio divina is the strenuous effort that the Christian community gives (Austin Farrer’s “formidable discipline”!) to rehydrating the Scriptures so that they are capable of holding their own original force and shape in the heat of the day, maintaining their context long enough to get fused with or assimilated into our context, the world we inhabit, the clamor of voices in the daily weather and work in which we live. But it takes more than an hour in the bucket to accomplish what is needed. Lectio divina is a way of life that develops “according to the Scriptures.” It is not just a skill that we exercise when we have a Bible open before us but a life congruent with the Word made flesh to which the Scriptures give witness. The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that the word of God originated when “long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son. . . . Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard . . .” (Heb. 1:1-2; 2:1; emphasis added). These are spoken words delivered to us by “so great a cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1) and now written in our Holy Scriptures. It is the task of lectio divina to get those words heard and listened to, words written in ink now rewritten in blood.

Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading (pp. 88-89)

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