This home page represents approximately fifty years of reflections upon Scripture and Fathers of the Church. It may be divided into three general categories. The first gives special attention to St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, two Christian authors of the Greek and Latin traditions respectively. The second consists of works by non-Christian authors of the Greek Classical tradition, one of the most important being Plato because he has had an immense influence on the development of Christianity. The third is more general, consisting of a wide variety of articles related to lectio divina with the intent to expand upon it.
The phrase lectio divina, difficult to translate adequately, is the Latin for “sacred reading.” We could translate it as a reading which is sacred or better, a reading which is divine. Ordinarily lectio is confined to the slow perusal of sacred Scripture with regard to both Testaments. It is undertaken not with the intention of gaining information but of using the text as an aide to contact the living God. This contact with God in faith, in turn, is sustained by further reading.
There is no special program or technique to lectio. Even more importantly, one must resist the temptation to cover a given amount of material within a prescribed time frame, a particularly modern temptation. This is more difficult to sustain than first meets the eye, and one will run up against it sooner than anticipated. To counter this, it’s best to linger over a single word or phrase for an indefinite period of time, trusting that it will lead to further insights. Indeed, this is one of the most attractive features to lectio divina, for it is open-ended and subject to continuous growth.
Instead of the phrase lectio divina one would expect the adjective sacra dvina, the eminine form of sacer for “sacred reading.” The word “sacred,” whether in Latin or Greek, pertains to objects related to the holy such as a church or vessels of the altar. Instead, tradition employs the adjective divina or “divine.” This intimates that such reading is divine, not sacred, or more proximate to God himself instead of being an object related to his holiness. Furthermore, lectio derives from the verb lego, “to choose, pick.” In sum, lectio divina may be said to be a “divine picking” or choosing of a given sentence, phrase or word through which God himself communicates.
Lectio traces its origins to early monasticism and currently is enjoying wide acceptance among Christians of numerous denominations. In fact, many people show a spontaneous interest in lectio divina after having been initiated into some form contemplative prayer in line with Christian teaching and tradition. They realize that such prayer cannot continue without verification of their practice, and the best locus for those raised in the Judeo-Christian heritage is found in Scripture. Prayer enables one to penetrate beyond the letter of text and to see how the Holy Spirit is speaking to us through these inspired words here and now. Not long ago Pope Benedict the Sixteenth recognized this and remarked that lectio divina lies at the heart of the Church's renewal.
The approach to lectio divina in this Home Page relies heavily upon the biblical texts composed in the original Hebrew and Greek languages. Not only that, reference is made to authors of both the Latin and Syriac traditions. Despite frequent references to these original texts, a purely etymological or scholarly approach is avoided. That is to say, they are not presented as bits of information but as the fruit of Christian contemplative prayer which must remain primary to any subsequent reflections.
While some readers may find the transliterations wearing and somewhat dense, constant appeal to the original texts is integral to most reflections within this Home Page. Ideally, these documents should be read with that same slow, thoughtful attitude essential to lectio divina.These notes are made more palatable by a simple yet thorough explanation of the transliterated terms. If the reader is patient with them, he or she can allow the text to speak on its own terms minus my any personal take on them. Again, it is important to keep in mind that one must not rush through a given text but linger as long as needed to absorb it.
A special note of thanks to Joseph Cece of Little Falls, New Jersey who from the beginning had been instrumental not only in setting up this home page but in offering continued guidance.
This website is dedicated to many fine men and women in the country of Iceland who have adopted the practice of lectio divina. Since the mid 1970s its practice has expanded rapidly.
As for the Gregory of Nyssa CD (mentioned on the Gregory of Nyssa Home Page with which this page is linked), it contains Gregory of Nyssa’s Commentary on the Song of Songs, not available on the home page dedicated to him. It is available for purchase including first class postage. Please use the email address as posted in “contact us.”
Richard McCambly, ocso