In our last post, we looked at the scriptural foundation of Christian meditation. Today we will look at the discipline through the lens of Christian Tradition. We have a rich history of God moving, influencing, and engaging himself with us and there are bound to be some gems to pick up along the way.
Christian Meditation has its roots in the monastic movements around the 3rd Century wherein we see an emphasis on withdrawal from society and the pleasures of the world. Among the first were the Desert Fathers (and Mothers) who found refuge in the Egyptian wilderness. Most notable among them due to his writings was Anthony the Great who took Matthew 19:21 literally:
Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
I want to pause for second and think through the monastic movement. There is value in breaking away, for in the seldom moments of solitude that I find myself in, all my weakeness bubble to surface. Have you ever been stuck in the examination room at a doctor’s office with a dead phone? I become antsy from the lack of entertainment and I can only read the diagrams on the wall so many times….
Those are definitely moments where the Holy Spirit can hone our hearts & cultivate a closer relationship with the Father.
At the same time, community is a vital part of the Christian faith. Without evangelism, our faith dies. In a way, lengthened solitude becomes perverted into selfishness. Those things that God shows us are designed to be shared with others. They are gifts of grace & encouragement. We work as one body.
By the end of the 4th century, Christianity spread westward and you see the rise of Lectio Divina (Latin for “Divine Reading”) made popular by the Pope Saint Benedict. The practice encouraged Christians to follow four steps:
- Read – Prior to reading the passage, attempt to achieve a calm state of mind. The basis of this is Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.” Understand that the Holy Spirit is instrumental in your understanding of scripture (1 Cor. 2:9-10). Now, slowly read through the passage.
- Meditate – Think about the message of the passage in light of what the Holy Spirit is revealing to you. The point of this exercise is not to seek information, but rather communion with God.
- Pray – Talk to God about the scripture you are reading.
- Contemplate – Sit in silence and allow the Holy Spirit to speak on your behalf (Romans 8).
Can I be honest with you for a second? I suck at this form of meditation. I’m impatient and find my mind wondering away from the Scripture that I should be focused on. So that will be my challenge this week. I am going to continue to attempt Lectio Divina.
Interested in reading more about Christian meditation. Be sure to check out the other posts:
- Spiritual Discipline: Meditation
- Meditation: Lens of Tradition
- Meditation: Lens of Tradition II
- Meditation: Lens of Reason
- Meditation: Lens of Experience