“Wait a minute, ” I interrupted. “Read that again. Is that really in Deuteronomy?”
My husband and I are reading through the Bible this year — together and out loud. Aside from the challenge of actually being in the same room (or the same vehicle) at the same time for this daily discipline and delight, we are both finding that reading the text out loud is affecting the details that we notice and deepening our understanding of the passage. We hear the repetition and the rhythm of recurring phrases as our mouths form the syllables and the sounds of Hebrew names and the nomenclature of ancient Middle Eastern geography. Without even knowing it, we have been joining hands with the medieval church fathers who understood that Scripture was meant to be read out loud. We are hearing the voces paginarum (voice of the pages). God speaks. We listen.
It is this type of realization — a validation, really, of beloved practices — that made Enzo Bianchi’s book from Paraclete Press a valuable and enlightening reading experience. Lectio Divina is aptly subtitled From God’s Word to Our Lives because the focus of Lectio Divina [divine reading] is “spiritual reading of Scripture that allows the Word sent by God to accomplish its course, yielding fruit in human hearts . . .” Although Lectio Divina comprises four stages, Bianchi’s book should not be understood as an add-water-and-stir model for the devotional life. He lays theological groundwork, establishing that the basis for our communion with God is divine condescension: God shapes His communication to the limitations of human language, a beautiful picture of Christ’s incarnation. Beginning with sound hermeneutical principles, Lectio Divina promotes a high view of Scripture, its unity in Christ, its inspiration, and the importance of faith to a right understanding of biblical content.
Beginning with the Bible’s own accounts of how the Word of God was read, Bianchi traces a brief history of Biblical interpretation throughout the ages into modern times. This historical perspective is a salient reminder that “any method that achieves dominance risks becoming an idol.” For this reason, it is important to underscore the point that Lectio Divina: From God’s Word to Our Lives is not a checklist but, instead, a way of communing with God through His own Words, while practicing the obedience of faith individually and in community with the body of Christ. Differentiating among the four stages of Lectio Divina is actually misleading, for Lectio, the reading/listening/attending to the Word of God becomes Meditatio (Meditation) as the reader reflects, studies, and applies the text. Answering God’s Word with a response from the soul is dialogue, Oratio (Prayer), with the God who speaks. Then, like Mary, the reader ponders these things in the heart, opening the way to Contemplatio (Contemplation).
The intended flow is Scripture – Prayer – Life, a stream in which Truth moves “from the page to our lives.” It is this reading/listening/prayer that set Israel apart as God’s people, and Bianchi argues that it is the hallmark of God’s people today. We are the people of the Book. “We should come to the Bible as we would approach a person we want to get to know better. We listen to learn . . .” His conclusions impact very practically on both child training and personal evangelism as “passing on our faith to others means handing down the Scripture.” His clear-eyed acknowledgment that the Bible makes for challenging reading for most present-day readers is balanced with the reminder that our reward is a more active inner life and an enhanced ability to think. As the Word became flesh in Christ, may it once again find its way into our flesh as we see Christ in the Word, and the world sees the Word in us.
This book was provided by Paraclete Press in exchange for my honest review.