Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

7/9/2014 (2 weeks ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

This is how we pray the the Bible - by falling in Love with Jesus the Lord who is the Living Word. Listening, Contemplating, Praying and then Resting in Him, placing our head on the breast of Christ

The early Christians received the scripture as a gift. Do we? They knew that the sacred words were meant to lead them into a deeper communion of love with their source, the Living Word of God. Do we believe that can still happen to us? Early theologians were mystics. My favorite definition of a theologian is from the Monk Evagrius of Pontus, someone who "rests his head on the chest of Christ."

Learning to pray the words of the Scriptures opens us to a deep encounter with the Living Word, Jesus, who speaks to us in and through them.

Learning to pray the words of the Scriptures opens us to a deep encounter with the Living Word, Jesus, who speaks to us in and through them.

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

7/9/2014 (2 weeks ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Lectio Divina, Bible, prayer, scripture, meditation, contemplation, scripture, mysticism, centering, spirituality, benedictine, monastic, Deacon Keith fournier


CHESAPEAKE,VA (Catholic Online) - Over the last six months I have been moved by the number of people who have come to speak with me because they want to learn how to pray and draw closer to God. In the midst of the barrenness of this age, with the ever increasing news of societal dysfunction - and the disillusionment it is all engendering - people are turning back to God.

They are discovering once again that the hunger in our hearts can only be satisfied by the Bread of Life. They are finding that the only firm foundation, the only Rock upon which we can build our lives, is Jesus Christ. People are turning to back to the One who offers us the meaning of Life and communicates Himself to us. St. Augustine of Hippo reminds us in his timeless prayer, "Our hearts are restless until they rest in You".

Blaise Pascal once wrote, "What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself."

Some Pascal enthusiasts bristle when the more oft quoted "there is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man" is attributed to him. However, I think it aptly simplifies the meaning of this quote and he would not be offended.

The bottom line is we are empty until we turn to God. We need God to be our compass in life if we ever hope to find the road - not only away from despair, but into human flourishing, happiness and fulfillment. That means we need to encounter Him, communicate with Him and learn to hear His voice. God communicates with us. One of the ways that happens is through the Bible, the Sacred Scripture, the Word of God.

In the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation entitled Dei Verbum (The Word of God), issued by the Fathers  of the Second Vatican Council, we find these tender words, "(I)n the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life." (Paragraph 21)

This is a key to what I mean by praying the Bible; Realize that the Living Word, Jesus, speaks to us through the written word. The Bible is more than words on a page, it is an invitation into an encounter with Jesus Christ, the Word of the Father, who is revealed in and through that written word.

Years ago a gathering of scripture scholars was held in Rome at the Pontifical Biblical Institute. The group sought what they called a "kneeling exegesis". I did not attend the conference but the name has stuck with me and comes back to mind every time I teach or write concerning praying the Bible.

Exegesis is a word which refers to the intentional academic study of the bible. It has taken turns in the last 100 years, some good and some bad. I loved the phrase "kneeling exegesis" because it speaks to what should be obvious, but sadly is not; only through prayer can we encounter the living Word of God in the written words of the Bible. 

The Bible is at the heart of the Church's worship, faith and life. It is the "Book of the Church." Christianity is not about me and Jesus but me in Jesus. Through Baptism we come to live in His Body, the Church. When God chose to reveal Himself He did not throw a book out of heaven. Rather, the Word was made Flesh. He became one of us and we are invited into a relationship with the father, in the Son, through the Holy Spirit.

Through the Incarnation - which includes the entirety of the life, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ- a new creation began. We are incorporated into living, Risen Christ when we are baptized into His Church. We become members of His mystical body and we enter into that new Creation, beginning right now.  

The Church is not some organizational afterthought put together after the Resurrection of Jesus by his followers to organize their new venture. It is the plan of God for the salvation of the entire human race. The Church is the Body of the Risen Christ and the seed of the kingdom to come. Jesus came to found the Church and continues His redemptive mission in and through her.

Through baptism into His death and resurrection all men and women can become sons (and daughters) in the Son. This has long been called divine filiation in the theology and spirituality of the Catholic Church. The Church is the new family into which we are reborn through the womb of that Baptismal font. This is why we call the Church our Mother. In the Church we live our lives in Jesus Christ, with one another, for the sake of the world. She is meant to become the home of the whole human race.

God has entrusted the Bible to this Church. It was first received by the early Church in the form of the Old Testament books, the Gospels and the letters of the apostles that were "circulated" (that is what the word "encyclical" means) among the early Christian communities. Later, the Canon" (which means measuring stick) which we currently have was finalized within the Church. It is intended to govern her life and worship. It is the guide for her in carrying forward the redemptive work of Jesus on earth until He comes again.

The Bible is an invitation into an encounter with the living God. Its words are not a formula to obtain "success" in life, but an invitation into a communion of Love with the Living Word which is meant to bear the fruit of a new way of living in the Lord. The Bible is not some-thing, but reveals "Some-One". In the words of St. Paul to Timothy, all Scripture is "inspired" by God. (2 Tim. 3:16) The Greek means "God-breathed".

As a young man, I searched for meaning and purpose in my life beyond the emptiness and materialism of the age. My search eventually they led to an encounter with the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn.14:6) and home to the Catholic Christian faith.

One of the first fruits of this encounter was an unquenchable attraction to the Bible. I wanted to understand its meaning for my life. I spent nearly two years in a Benedictine Monastery where I began reading the Fathers of the Church and practicing what is called "Lectio Divina". It has carried me in its transforming power me for many years as I have continued the journey of following the Risen Jesus in His Church.

The early Christians received the scripture as a gift. Do we? They knew that the sacred words were meant to lead them into a deeper communion of love with their source, the Living Word of God. Do we believe that can still happen to us? Early theologians were mystics. My favorite definition of a theologian is from the Monk Evagrius of Pontus, someone who "rests his head on the chest of Christ."

The image calls to mind the beloved disciple, John, depicted as doing just that in early Christian art. It also speaks of the indispensable prerequisite for any fruitful study of the Bible, a relationship with the Lord in the intimacy of prayer. Evagrius was also fond of saying that "a theologian is one who prays and one who prays is a theologian".

Early Christians viewed the reading of Scripture as a way of encountering the Living Word, who gives Himself as bread to those who feed on this written Word. This practice is kept alive in the Christian monastic tradition, particularly among Benedictines in the West. It is embedded in the Eastern Christian tradition and especially evident in the writings of the early Church fathers.

The early fathers  of the undivided Christian Church wrote in a sort of stream of scriptural consciousness, moving from inspired thoughts to actual biblical quotes and back; most often without any reference to the specific "chapter and verse". The text was living within them. To use a phrase from my childhood they "knew it by heart."

This way of encountering the Lord in His Word can be cultivated in our lives. It involves meeting the Lord in His word and being changed, converted, in that encounter. It can inform a rhythmic way of life steeped in the practice of the presence of God throughout the day. Participation in the rich and beautiful pattern of the Liturgical life of the Church, filled as it is with the Biblical texts that are arranged for the faithful daily, helps to develop this rhythm.

In the prologue to his rule, Benedict of Nursia offered to help monks hear God's words with the "ear of our heart." This relational approach is referred to in Western writings as "Lectio Divina", What, dear brothers, is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us? See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life. Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the Gospel for our guide - that we may deserve to see him who has called us to his kingdom. (cf,1 Thess 2:13). The steps of Lectio Divina are listening, contemplating, praying and then resting in the Word.

Listening
Mother Teresa wrote: "God is the friend of silence, in that silence he will listen to us; there he will speak to our soul, and there we will hear his voice. The fruit of silence is faith. The fruit of faith is prayer, the fruit of prayer is love, the fruit of love is service and the fruit of service is silence. In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you.. God is the friend of silence. His language is silence. 'Be still and know that I am God'."

The first step of Lectio Divina is to "hear". This is done through lectio or reading the biblical text and listening. This kind of reading is not like what one does with a newspaper or a book. It is done "in the Spirit", in prayerful reverence, in the grace of the encounter, learning to listen in silence. It is done from prayer, in prayer and for prayer. Lectio is listening for that whisper of God for us this day, that daily bread on the trail of our life.

Meditating
Once we read and hear the text, we meditate on that word or passage, realizing that the breath of God is in that wonderful Bread of Life. The same breath through which God breathed His life into Adam, that same breath that was breathed by Jesus Christ, after His Resurrection, upon His disciples, is present in this wonderful treasure of His written word. When we meditate upon the word we can breathe in the very life of God.

Praying
Now, in relationship with the word we have read and meditated upon, we pray. We converse with the Lord. We offer ourselves to God, pouring ourselves out, with absolute honesty, holding nothing back. We consecrate ourselves, setting ourselves aside and telling the Lord that He is our all in all, our love, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. We make ourselves transparent and honest, offering our pain, our brokenness, our failings; we give ourselves to the One who has given Himself to us. We enter into a holy exchange. Then contemplation begins.

Resting
In love with God, filled with His word, we now rest in His presence, like the beloved disciple John did at the table, placing our heads on the Lords chest, overjoyed to be with Jesus. Our intimacy with the Lord is a relationship where words are no longer even necessary. Nothing needs to be said because we are now in the loving embrace of the Living God. In Him we are changed, converted, transformed by love, instructed and awakened.

This is how we pray the the Bible - by falling in Love with Jesus the Lord who is the Living Word whom we encounter through the biblical text. Listening, Contemplating, Praying and then Resting in Him, placing our head on the breast of Christ.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2014
Sports:
That sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.
Lay Missionaries: That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.



Comments


More U.S.

Deacon Keith Fournier: The Courage of the Catholic Bishops, Religious Liberty, Hobby Lobby and ENDA Watch

Image of Deacon Keith Fournier is Founder and Chairman of Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance. A married Roman Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, he and his wife Laurine have five grown children and six grandchildren, He serves as the Director of Adult Faith Formation at St. Stephen, Martyr Parish in Chesapeake, VA. He is also a human rights lawyer and public policy advocate. Deacon Fournier is a graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville (Theology and Philosophy, BA), the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University (Theology of Marriage and Family, MTS), and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law (JD). He has completed requirements for the PhD in Moral Theology at the Catholic University of America and is writing the PhD dissertation on the teaching of St. John Paul II.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The Catholic Bishops are doing an excellent job standing up for Religious liberty as a fundamental human right. One of my growing concerns is that many Catholics do not even read what they are saying. Sadly, in a propagandized media where sound bites substitute ... continue reading


Thousands of Christians Flee Under Death Threat From Tyrannical Caliph and ISIS Jihadists Watch

Image of (Pictured: Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, or Caliph Ibrahim) At first, Christians were ordered to gather in a central place to receive the directive from the self appointed Caliph. Understandably, given the track record of this maniacal tyrant, few did. So, the text of the statement was issued as a formal declaration to all Christians - We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract - involving payment of Jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

By now, everyone who is in anyway concerned about what is happening to Christians in Iraq has heard the horrific news. The madman who claims to be a descendant of Mohammed, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi - who in his delusion and grandiosity has taken to calling himself ... continue reading


Catholic Bishops Decry Obama's LGBT executive order as imprudent act of religious discrimination Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The chairmen of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty and Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth have been strong in their condemnation of President Obama's legislation on LGBT employees. "Today's ... continue reading


A Tribute to Protestant Bishop Tony Palmer, Friend of Francis and Champion of Christian Unity Watch

Image of The late Bishop Tony Palmer with Pope Francis- He was catapulted into prominence in the broader Christian community when, while meeting with his friend the Pope in January, he was given a recorded message from Francis to deliver to a large group of charismatic, evangelical protestant leaders who gathered in the United States. The video went viral. It moved millions to sincere prayer for the healing of the divisions in the broken Body of Christ and is prompting a renewed commitment to common apostolic action between Christians.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

I never personally met Bishop Tony Palmer. However, I look forward to spending an eternity in the full communion of God's love with him. I appreciated his Christian courage and felt that his efforts were prophetic. He wrote his life - and lived his ministry - ... continue reading


Exclusive: Tribute to Bishop Tony Palmer, A Life Dedicated to Unity Watch

Image of (Pictured: Left to Right - Dirk West, Matteo Callisi, Bishop Tony Palmer, and Deacon Darrell Wentworth) - Faith to Bishop Tony Palmer was a dynamic, lived experience and, as a result, his life built up the whole Body of Christ and tore down the walls some have built to separate us from each other! What a legacy! A true example of living Jesus' prayer in John 17! (Deacon Darrell Wentworth)

By Deacon Darrell Wentworth

Monday, July 21, 2014, was supposed to be like most Mondays - the start of a work week. But Deacon Keith Fournier sent me a text informing me that my friend, Bishop Tony Palmer, had died. Shock went through my body as I processed that news; then disbelief as I ... continue reading


Anarchy in Chicago! Weekend of crime tears city apart Watch

Image of The weekend of July 18 saw the death of five people and the wounding of 47 in Chicago.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

There were 47 shooting victims in Chicago this weekend, five of which ended up being fatal, statistics from the Chicago Police Department report. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Chicago officials met on July 21 to discuss the city's recent surge in gun ... continue reading


The Contraceptive New York Nanny, Bill Donohue and the Catholic League Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The idea that the government is now in the business of arm-twisting women not to have more children - immediately after childbirth - is morally obnoxious and socially disturbing. It is so apt that this is happening in a city where its mayor lusts for abortion ... continue reading


Building a culture of life: Colorado clinic takes brave stand Watch

Image of Inspired to bring their mission home to Colorado, they decided to start a natural women's health clinic that would uphold the dignity of women and give them the care they deserve.

By CNA/EWTN News

A Colorado women's health clinic seeking to offer natural care that respects human dignity has drawn praise for helping to build up a culture of life. (CNA/EWTN News) - Authentic women's care "is essential to the pro-life movement," said Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, ... continue reading


When more than 80 percent of California faces extreme drought -- the spigots remain open Watch

Image of At the headquarters of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, fountains are still operating. The one change is that they turn off at mid-morning, and haven't been running full-time since the spring.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Extremely dry conditions in the state of California has 80 percent of the so-called Golden State in extreme drought conditions. Many couldn't tell the difference in many urban areas: Sprinklers go full blast on many lawns, and lots of waters goes wasted by ... continue reading


IT'S ABOUT TIME: Rick Perry deploys national guard to halt southern invasion! Watch

Image of Texas Governor Rick Perry will send 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to help secure the southern border, in an effort to stem the flood of illegals that have crossed over throughout 2014.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In an effort to stem the influx of tens of thousands of illegal immigrant children that have been entering the United States illegally in 2014, Texas Governor Rick Perry will send 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to help secure the southern border. LOS ANGELES, ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jeremiah 1:1, 4-10
1 The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15, 17
1 In you, Yahweh, I take refuge, I shall never be put ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:1-9
1 That same day, Jesus left the house and sat by the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 23rd, 2014 Image

St. Bridget of Sweden
July 23: Saint Birgitta was the daughter of Uppland’s Lagman, Birger ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter