This week the Meditatio House community sat together to read and reflect upon chapter 15 of the Gospel of John (vv9-17):
9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
We engaged with this text using a method called lectio divina, or divine reading. This method has been around for as long as Christian monasticism itself. It is a wonderful way to allow scripture to speak into our lives from our hearts. The Spirit within the text comes to resonate with the Spirit within us. With regular practice, scripture becomes an agent of change that can transform our personalities and from there our lives.
We don’t engage in lectio divina to have particular thoughts or ideas about God and life confirmed or dismissed. It is a heart exercise, one that asks us to move beyond our own agenda, our thoughts, our imaginings, and to simply be in the divine life. Lectio divina is a contemplative practice just as meditation is (1).
Typically, the way of lectio divina has four parts. There is the reading of the text (lectio); the repeating of a word or phrase of the text that we are drawn to (meditatio); the listening for that sense of what God might be saying through the text to us (oratio); and contemplation – simply being, without thought, in the experience of what is happening (contemplatio). See the ‘Four Stages of Lectio Divina’ below for a fuller explanation of the process.
This four part process should not be approached strictly as a step-by-step guide.
There is something wild and unpredictable about genuine lectio divina that will necessarily frustrate all our efforts to remain in control, or to channel its energies…experientially the way in which the different moments of the process interact is more circular than lineal. And there is no guarantee that having begun with lectio, a particular session will necessarily pass on to contemplatio.(2)
Our reading of John 15:9-17 became, as we shared together, a gentle and dynamic experience of the divine life moving through us for each other and the affirmation of community life.
The words of scripture in this text from John that drew me were….remain, love one another, bear fruit. As the other members of the house community shared their words, the way in which I received these words was affirmed:
Remain: Throughout the text there is the invitation from Jesus for us to remain in his life, in his love. This is the risen Jesus speaking to us. His life, his love, is God’s life and love.
As I repeated the word remain I sensed God inviting me to remain focused, attentive to the divine life within, the life of love that is doing the healing and integrating work as I remain in community. With time our conscious selves are healed enough to be forgotten and remaining in love can become our home and our way of being in the world.
Attention on the mantra, both at times of meditation and throughout the day, is also attention remaining in God, divine love, as healing and integration happen.
Love one another: Rather than being something that we make happen with (sometimes great) effort, loving one another, when we practice enough attention on and in God can be a simple act we do without conscious thought. Loving one another becomes a fruit of remaining in love, in Christ, even while we continue to feel our inner reactions to each other. Because we don’t dwell on the tension with our thoughts, the tension is not our focus. Love becomes more our focus and we grow in operating simply out of that.
Bear fruit: As I/we attend to Love and grow in remaining there, loving one another in small self-forgotten ways, and quietly integrating, the house community bears fruit. Just like any relating among people that value love and each other, there is a mysterious and tangible presence among us. This presence is God revealed through us, for others. This is the fruit that the world hungers for (though it may know nothing of its nature and source).
(1) Michael Casey OCSO has written wonderfully about the practice of Lectio Divina. Click here for the text of a paper he delivered to The Third Congress of Benedictine Oblates in 2013 called “Obsculta – the Oblate listening in the World”
(2) Michael Casey, p7.