Humans interact with our outside environment by using our five senses and reason to form thought processes that mean something. Language is such a set of signals that we identify to form ways to communicate with each other. Knowing the language is so crucial for any group of people. Physicians have their own language, which includes the sciences and healing physical and mental problems. Take it a step further; physicians specialize in their field of medicine in oncology, podiatry, surgery, and other specialties.

There are layers to knowledge. In Lectio Divina, I find that I have begun to use the layers concept to move deeper into communication with Christ. Let me share an example.

Contemplation, as I use it, comes from my learning to use Cistercian practices and charisms as a Lay Cistercian. Contemplation means praying within or seeking to find the answers to what it means to be fully human inside of us. This is a place that is available but seldom used by humans–the place no one wants to go. Yet, contemplative prayer, in addition to public prayers (Eucharist, Reconciliation, Rosary, Stations of the Cross, as examples), is just raising our hearts and minds to God, then waiting.

  • Contemplative prayer stresses listening “with the ear of the heart,” as St. Benedict points out.
  • There is sharing, but the sharing that comes first is what you receive when you place yourself next to the heart of Christ in silence and solitude and wait. This layering helps focus on Christ.
  • Silent prayer in a group refrains from “war stories” or what happened to you last year on All Saints Day. This is a loss of focus. Vulnerable groups let it go by because they don’t want to interrupt what may be the Holy Spirit speaking to them. Wisdom tells what is spoken for the individual from what is spoken to bring those present into the presence of Christ in their lives.

The example comes from a session in which my Lay Cistercian Discernment Group used two of the layers as their meditation at our last session.

The layers of my Lectio Divina are:

  1. Looking at an icon of Saint Charles de Foucauld for five minutes and asking, “What do you see?”
St. Charles de Foucauld

What do you see that is in the Physical Universe? (colors, shapes, images, halos,) In this first set of meditations, you only want to look at what your senses and mind tell you that you see. This is the physical universe of what is. You may want to list them on paper.

Take another five minutes and ask the same question, “What do you see?” but this time search for meaning. Don’t go for anything spiritual yet. You see two men, one with his arm around St. Charles. One holds a piece of paper, and one holds a book. This is the mental universe of meaning.

Take another five minutes and ask, “What do you see?” Now, you can use The Christ Principle to go to the spiritual universe, the deepest part of reality. There is no end to how deep you can go at this level.

2. Read the prayer St. Charles wrote about our abandonment to the will of God, the most challenging choice humans must make. Mary made it with her YES but only with the help of the Holy Spirit. Having read the prayer, reflect on it for ten minutes while looking at the icon of St. Charles and Jesus.

I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

3. The layer of music. Play any inspirational music as you look at the icon of St. Charles, having interiorized the prayer. List to the music with all these layers with the “ear of your heart.” Play it at least twice in silence and solitude. Just look and listen. You listen with the totality of your life.

Amen and Amen.

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