I live in the East Bay, near Berkeley, CA. In my opinion and based upon personal experience this is a region that is ripe for evangelization.
What strikes me is that people are searching for God and at the moment many seek him through non-Christian Eastern religions and philosophies, and it is why Buddhism; and New Age spirituality is so popular. This is despite that the fullness of what they seek can be offered to them through the Faith; and we have a mystical tradition that is richer than any other. However, most are unaware of this.
As Christians we have a duty become people who not only are capable offering Christian mysticism to the curious because the know about it and practice it; they must inspire that curiosity in others by demonstrating the fruits of such a life in their daily living. In short, if we live the Christian life fully and we are joyful.
The Argentinian order of priests and lay people, the Institute of the Incarnate Word, called IVE (from the Spanish title) promotes and embodies such a spirituality.
This is one reason why I have asked them to contribute a series of articles on the Christian life for Claritas. I am delighted therefore to introduce the first, by one of their longest standing priests, a friend of mine, Fr Marcelo Navarro Muñoz, who is based at their house in Rome.
Fr Marcelo writes:
Pope Benedict XVI left us a wonderful reminder of the importance of Lectio Divina. This practice of Scriptural meditation is key to build a solid spiritual foundation to be in communion with God. On n. 87 of the post synodal exhortation Verbum Domini, the Pope writes: “… we find ourselves before the mystery of God, who has made himself known through the gift of his word…” (VD, 1).
In the word of God given to us in the divine texts, we find strength for our spiritual life. Approaching the Scriptures in the spirit in which they were written is always fruitful for the prayerful soul. Lectio Divina is an excellent way to pray and to enter into the heart of God himself. Here is the main text that explains how to do it:
“…lectio divina … is truly “capable of opening up to the faithful the treasures of God’s word, but also of bringing about an encounter with Christ, the living word of God”. I would like here to review the basic steps of this procedure.
It opens with the reading (lectio) of a text, which leads to a desire to understand its true content: what does the biblical text say in itself? Without this, there is always a risk that the text will become a pretext for never moving beyond our own ideas.
Next comes meditation (meditatio), which asks: what does the biblical text say to us? Here, each person, individually but also as a member of the community, must let himself or herself be moved and challenged.
Following this comes prayer (oratio), which asks the question: what do we say to the Lord in response to his word? Prayer, as petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise, is the primary way by which the word transforms us.
Finally, lectio divina concludes with contemplation (contemplatio), during which we take up, as a gift from God, his own way of seeing and judging reality, and ask ourselves what conversion of mind, heart and life is the Lord asking of us?
In the Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul tells us: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (12:2).
Contemplation aims at creating within us a truly wise and discerning vision of reality, as God sees it, and at forming within us “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16). The word of God appears here as a criterion for discernment: it is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).
We do well also to remember that the process of lectio divina is not concluded until it arrives at action (actio), which moves the believer to make his or her life a gift for others in charity.” (VD, 87)
Fr. Randy Soto, SThD has produced a two-page pdf on lectio divina summarizing the Pope’s text, which is a wonderful resource. It can be found at the link here:
Pope Benedict XVI tells us that the Mother of God is “the supreme synthesis and fulfilment of this process” … “Mary is the model of docile acceptance of God’s word, for she “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19; cf. 2:51) …” (VD, 87)
By imitating our Blessed Mother in her love for the scriptural word of God that she meditated and pondered in her heart, we will give birth –spiritually in our minds and hearts- to her Son, the Word of God Incarnate.