Saturday, February 8, 2014

Lectio Divina with Monks

A week ago, I'd have been at Mepkin Abbey.  A group of college students was making a retreat there, and the monk in charge of spiritual direction invited all retreatents to join them as they explored the ancient practice of lectio divina.

At 9:00 a.m., we explored lectio divina as an individual practice.  The monk read a passage from Sunday's lectionary selection, Malachi 3:  1-4.  We were instructed to listen for a word or a phrase that seemed significant.  Then we sat in silence.  We went through the sequence several times again, with different meditative prompts, like how God calls us to act in the world and/or to live out the word.

At 4:00 p.m., we returned to see how we might practice lectio divina as a group.  We worked with the Gospel text for Sunday, Luke 2:  22-40.  The first reading had us listening for the word or phrase that spoke to us.  After the second reading, we went around the group and said the word or phrase--and then we had another reading of the text.  We had different readers each time.  After the 3rd reading, we went around the group and if we felt like it, we said a sentence or two about the word or phrase.  Then, we had another reading.  After that reading, we went around the group, and if we wanted to, we said what we felt called to do in response to the word or phrase.  We were especially encouraged to think about what we'd do in the coming week. 

At no point in the process were we allowed to talk about what anyone else said.  I found that hard, but also incredibly powerful.  The monk explained that this practice let us experience listening and being heard as a gift.

We were not allowed to talk about what anyone else said, but at the end, we did pray, and we were encouraged to pray for the person on our right.  From the beginning, we knew that we would be doing that, and that knowledge made me pay attention in a way I might not have otherwise.

I happened to be sitting to the right of the monk leading the session.  I had talked about listening, after I fastened my attention on the phrase "the consolation of Israel."  The monk prayed that God would bless my ears and said, "Let her listen to show others their gifts."

It was wonderful in terms of meditation and lectio divina, but it was also wonderful as a group exercise.  At the end, I felt like I had come to know the others in a way that I wouldn't have otherwise.  It was also good because the process allowed no one person to monopolize the process.  I have found that in many groups, there's a tendency for one or two people to run away with the process.  Not here.

I have never experienced anything quite like it.  I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to do so--one more way that Mepkin Abbey has enriched me.

No comments: