My own experience with Lectio Divina has a twofold dimension. First, a horizontal one is a time I take before, during, and after my Lectio process. This is horizontal Lectio because it has a beginning and an ending, however long that may last. What is prayer happens within those parameters?
Vertical contemplation (my term to help me figure out more about contemplation) is the depth I go within the horizontal contemplative timeframe. My awareness of Lectio as I progress in my art of contemplation is still the four stages (lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio) but with a new appreciation that each of those steps has a depth to it because the Holy Spirit is involved.
I am setting forth the section on prayer in the Catholic Catechism for your reading and will make some thoughtful comments after this quote.
III. CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER
2709 What is contemplative prayer? St. Teresa answers: “Contemplative prayer [oracion mental] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.”6 Contemplative prayer seeks him “whom my soul loves.”7 It is Jesus, and in him, the Father. We seek him because to desire him is always the beginning of love, and we seek him in that pure faith that causes us to be born of him and to live in him. In this inner prayer, we can still meditate, but our attention is fixed on the Lord himself.
2710 The choice of the time and duration of the prayer arises from a determined will, revealing the secrets of the heart. One does not undertake contemplative prayer only when one has the time: one makes time for the Lord, with the firm determination not to give up, no matter what trials and dryness one may encounter. One cannot always meditate, but one can always enter into inner prayer, independently of the conditions of health, work, or emotional state. The heart is the place of this quest and encounter, in poverty and in faith.
2711 Entering into contemplative prayer is like entering into the Eucharistic liturgy: we “gather up” the heart, recollect our whole being under the prompting of the Holy Spirit, abide in the dwelling place of the Lord which we are, awaken our faith in order to enter into the presence of him who awaits us. We let our masks fall and turn our hearts back to the Lord who loves us, so as to hand ourselves over to him as an offering to be purified and transformed.
2712 Contemplative prayer is the prayer of the child of God, of the forgiven sinner who agrees to welcome the love by which he is loved and who wants to respond to it by loving even more.8 But he knows that the love he is returning is poured out by the Spirit in his heart, for everything is grace from God. Contemplative prayer is the poor and humble surrender to the loving will of the Father in ever deeper union with his beloved Son.
2713 Contemplative prayer is the simplest expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gift, a grace; it can be accepted only in humility and poverty. Contemplative prayer is a covenant relationship established by God within our hearts.9 Contemplative prayer is a communion in which the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image of God, “to his likeness.”
2714 Contemplative prayer is also the pre-eminently intense time of prayer. In it the Father strengthens our inner being with power through his Spirit “that Christ may dwell in [our] hearts through faith” and we may be “grounded in love.”10
2715 Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. “I look at him and he looks at me”: this is what a certain peasant of Ars in the time of his holy curé used to say while praying before the tabernacle. This focus on Jesus is a renunciation of self. His gaze purifies our heart; the light of the countenance of Jesus illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men. Contemplation also turns its gaze on the mysteries of the life of Christ. Thus it learns the “interior knowledge of our Lord,” the more to love him and follow him.11
2716 Contemplative prayer is hearing the Word of God. Far from being passive, such attentiveness is the obedience of faith, the unconditional acceptance of a servant, and the loving commitment of a child. It participates in the “Yes” of the Son become servant and the Fiat of God’s lowly handmaid.
2717 Contemplative prayer is silence, the “symbol of the world to come”12 or “silent love.”13 Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love. In this silence, unbearable to the “outer” man, the Father speaks to us his incarnate Word, who suffered, died, and rose; in this silence, the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus.
2718 Contemplative prayer is a union with the prayer of Christ insofar as it makes us participate in his mystery. The mystery of Christ is celebrated by the Church in the Eucharist, and the Holy Spirit makes it come alive in contemplative prayer so that our charity will manifest it in our acts.
2719 Contemplative prayer is a communion of love bearing Life for the multitude, to the extent that it consents to abide in the night of faith. The Paschal night of the Resurrection passes through the night of the agony and the tomb – the three intense moments of the Hour of Jesus which his Spirit (and not “the flesh [which] is weak”) brings to life in prayer. We must be willing to “keep watch with [him] one hour.”14
Copyright permission for posting of the English translation of the CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH on the Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church website was granted by Amministrazione Del Patrimonio Della Sede Apostolica, case number 130389
MY REFLECTIONS ON CONTEMPLATION
Meditation is your focus with your mind on words, thoughts, readings, and moving from words to prayer. Contemplation is your focus on this prayer to move to a deeper level of relationship with Christ where you don’t need words readings. You move from focusing on words to just being happy to sit in the presence of Christ in silence and solitude be still.
Contemplation means going within oneself to rummage around your life experiences to see what you can find out the meaning of a Lectio comment.
Anyone can “do” contemplation with their thoughts. When I use the word, I assume that it lifts me up to God’s mind and heart rather than me “pushing” my prayers up to God.
Contemplation is the method of prayer used by many lay organizations. Lay Cistercians are one such group. They base their practices and charisms on “doing” prayer in a contemplative way and other types of prayer (Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharist, Eucharistic Adoration, Reading Scripture, to name a few).
Vertical contemplation does not emphasize time but rather what is deeper and more profound about the idea.
The Holy Spirit enables me to go places where no one has gone before. In contemplation, there is no conscious effort to pray or meditate, but instead, these become automatic to the heart whose joy lies in the stillness of being in resonance with the vibrations of all creation. If you have not experienced this peace, no words can describe it. If you have experienced the peace of Christ at this level, no explanation is needed.
The joy of being an adopted son (daughter) of the Father is the product of the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. I experience this not only as human joy but with the energy of God that knows no limitations.
Within the timeframe for Lectio Divina, Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharist, Eucharistic Adoration, and Meditation using Sacred Scriptures, the depths of my presence with Christ are only limited by me.
Lay Cistercian practices and charisms, especially Chapters 4 (Tools for Good Works) and Chater 7 (Humility), are my most used passages from the Rule of St. Benedict. The whole purpose of capacitas dei (grown more in Christ and less in my false self) is transforming this temple of the Holy Spirit. It must happen each day.
This contemplation of limits (everything has a beginning and an end) happens within time.
What changes for me as I imperceptibly move from my old self (what I was five years ago in the depth of my contemplation) to my new self today (with the struggles to believe each day that Jesus is Lord) is the scope of my contemplation.
As I seem to progress in grace and favor, my awareness is that my horizontal contemplation scope (the time from when I begin to when I end) used to be five minutes, then one hour, then three hours, then many times a day. My latest awareness is that from when I say my morning offering to God when my feet hit the floor in the morning to when I fall asleep, I am in the horizontal time of Lectio Divina. My one Lectio saying from Sacred Scripture is from Philippians 2:5 and lasts all day.
Conversio morae (conversion of life) happens when I consciously place myself in the presence of Christ and ask the Holy Spirit to overshadow me. I am self-aware that each day is precious and to be savored for what it is, but I also am conscious that each day provides me with the opportunity to start over but with the accumulation of all the choices I have made, good and bad. Although each day begins anew, I face it with the accumulation of the choices that I have made.
As a Lay Cistercian in constant need of God’s mercy and energy to walk the minefields of human existence, I do not live in the world except as a basis for my existence until I reach my destiny to be with the Christ Principle.
Paradoxically, the more I give up or abandon my humanity and my free will to accept Jesus as Teacher, Master, and the Christ Principle, the more I feel that my purpose is to love God with all my heart and strength and all my mind. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:38) Freedom is not the act of free will itself but using our choices to choose what truly fulfills our destiny as humans.
Some get it, while others do not. Faith is not the absence of, nor even the opposite of, reason. Faith is living “out in front of oneself” with the conviction that the Resurrection of Christ, the Christ Principle, is real and a part of the progression of humanity towards a destiny described by Jesus, Son of God, Savior.
Do you think God is all-powerful? Think about this idea:
God cannot force you to do something you don’t want to do. God is not going to force you to believe this or that. Does that mean God is weak? The strength of God is that he allows us to choose good or bad. God tells us what will help us fulfill our destiny as humans and confront the Divine Equation. God, through Jesus, showed us the questions and even gave us the answers for us to solve this Equation. Remember, the Divine Equation doesn’t solve God’s existence but allows humans to fulfill their purpose on this earth for seventy or eighty years.
My Lay Cistercian Lectio Divina has opened up the dimensions of both horizontal and vertical contemplation possibilities. What I can offer to God is gratitude for adoption as a son (daughter) of the Father and heir to the Kingdom of Heaven. What I can do is take the unique choice that has been afforded me by being human and offering this back to God as a gift that God does not have. It doesn’t make God any more God but it does make me more like God and less like me.
Father and Reason