"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....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.
... Lectio Divina is aptly subtitled From Gods 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 . . ." ... 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 Bibles 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 Gods 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 Gods 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 Gods people, and Bianchi argues that it is the hallmark of Gods 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. Calvin Morin
Bianchis remarkable accomplishment in Lectio Divina is reconciling recent scholarly trends in biblical interpretation with a devotional use of the Bible. As scholarship that draws from pre-critical hermeneutics proliferates, Bianchi shows how the insights of such scholarship can only be fully accessed through Spirit led engagement with the text. Some books that seek to revive ancient spiritual practices get bogged down in technique. Bianchi offers a broad theology of Scripture. He never dictates the minutia of how spiritual reading is to be achieved. Instead, he charts the basics of a path through the Bible that reads along the grain of the text, respecting the unity that the Spirit creates from a diverse set of books. Bianchis prescription of the lectio divina is sorely needed as a way of bringing coherence to our scattered spiritual lives. Andrew Stout for The Englewood Review of Books
This is not your ordinary book about lectio divina. For one thing, it does not begin to give indications about the how-tos of the ancient spiritual practice until two-thirds of the way through the book. The reason for that is that the author thinks it is useless to know techniques if you do not understand that the underlying principle, in this case the sacramentality of the Bible as the work of God, a concept which has been underground in the western Church for a long time. Another difference from many contemporary books on lectio divina is that the author does not suggest that just any old text (or new text, for that matter) will do.
Brother Enzo Bianchi, a Roman Catholic, is the founder and still prior of the ecumenical monastic Bose Community of men and women, which he and a few colleagues inaugurated in 1965 in northern Italy. Bianchis deep understanding of Scripture and the early monastic tradition has made him an important voice of the post-Vatican II era, and his influence in the Church as the founder of a new ecclesial community has dramatically increased under the last two Popes. Pope Benedict XVI invited him to the Synod on the Word of God in 2008 and the Synod on the New Evangelization in 2012, and in 2014 Bianchi was appointed by Pope Francis as a consulter for the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.American Benedictine Review
We have many books on theology and Christian living. What about how to read the Bible devotionally? According to the Enzo Bianchi, a Catholic layperson who founded a monastic community in Italy, he believes that reading the Bible well is the central part of discipleship. The author is founder of the Bose Community, an ecumenical monastic community of 80 brothers and sisters in Magnano, Italy. We need to be caught up in Bible reading. We need to be absorbed by the Word. We need to commune with God in the Word. Writing from his experience with a group of believers to surround their whole lives around the Word of God, Bianchi's overriding passion is to encounter Christ as he reads the Word of God.
...Part One of the book is "Bible and Spirit" which is about entering the rooms in the Bible with the Holy Spirit holding the keys to usher us in. The third century Church father, Origen explains it as "Scriptura sui ipsius interpres" (Scripture is its own interpreter).This means that the Bible is a unity that does not contract itself. It also means the Spirit teaches us. The Bible is not merely an objective document to analyze and study. It is a subjective living Word that puts us as the object as willing servants and God as the Person revealed to us. ... Reading the Bible involves listening as well for the Bible is dialogical and relational. We listen to God and sense God listening to us. Obedience is listening in faith. Listening in faith means learning to move from letter to spirit, to let the Spirit guide our understanding of the ancient texts to the practice of modern living. Soon, Bianchi launches into the four levels of lectio divina.
Historical-Literary level (lectio)
Glimpsing Christ (meditatio)
Dialogue that engages and interacts (oratio)
Seeing God face to face (contemplatio)
Part Two of the Book deals with Lectio Divina in the Church. It is an interpretive trip down historical lane. We note how the Old Testament books interpret each other. We learn about the Jewish midrashic as well as the Church Fathers' use of allegorical methods. Different eras tend to focus on different senses of Scripture at any one time. Some good tips are as follows: "Lectio divina, whether by ourselves or in community, requires a context of faith and prayer. We start in silence, confessing our faith that the Lord is speaking to us today through the biblical page. We invoke the Holy Spirit and open ourselves in humility to his action, because insight into the text is a Spirit-led event, not an intellectual pursuit." (90)
One chapter is dedicated to the foundations and practices of lectio divina and two chapters on the challenges of doing lectio divina. We learn about setting aside time and space intentionally, to enter into a place of solitude and silence. We cultivate our listening skills and discernment. We go through the exercises of lectio, oratio, meditatio, and contemplatio. Though brief, it offers readers a quick glimpse into what the exercises entail. ... The medium we use is important and can affect the way we do lectio divina. We need to learn the four senses of Scripture simply because the Word of God cannot be hemmed into any one dimension. Just as we know that the Bible has many genres, so too we need to be sensitive to the Word in their original contexts. At the same time, the Spirit of God can lead us to discern what it means then and for us now.
When I started to read this book, I thought it was a book that is about the practice of lectio divina. Instead, it is a book that lays the foundations of what Scripture is about first. It then shows us reading the Bible has to be done God's way, not human methods. Sometimes, an overly sola scriptura mindset risks reading the Word in humanistic ways. We need to go back to the sources, and be willing to be led by the Spirit to teach us as we participate humbly as a community of God. Conrade Yap
My love of scripture drew me to read Lectio Divina: From Gods Words to Our Lives, a book in which Enzo Bianchi examines the meaning of an ancient practice that has recently resurfaced in certain communities of the faithful. This practice, which is called Lectio Divina, is a beautiful spiritual reading and praying of scripture. As I had only limited experience with this specific type of worship before reading Bianchis work, I was immediately drawn to the subtitle "From Gods Words to Our Lives. The original version was written in Italian in 2008. Now I have the privilege of previewing this new English translation.
According to Origen (a third century church father), "There are three senses concealed in the words of scripture-literal, moral and spiritual." We need to draw all of this out of the Bible as we read. The author tells us "The Bible as the heart of the church was rediscovered in Vatican IIs conciliar document Dei Verbum." I love the description of scripture itself being God incarnate, not only as Christ (The Word) as he descends into flesh as a baby in the manger, but also as the written human words of the bible.
Lectio Divina begins with the history of how the bible has been interpreted, which has changed over time. Following this summary, Bianchi analyzes the importance of scripture in the church with the liturgy of the word.... Bianchi depicts The Bible as a call to an encounter with God. My favorite part of the work is the description of the four parts of lectio divina: lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio. Lectio is the literal historical part. Meditatio is about discovered revelation. Oratio is prayer and dialogue with God. Contemplatio is applying what we have read to our lives. There are several examples of how to integrate this breakdown and analysis into readings in the bible. Through my reading of Binachis work, I have developed a new reverence for the bible as a relationship, a relationship I can use to spend time with God in his word.
...I would highly recommend this book not only to those who are already experienced readers of scriptures, but also to those who are new to bible reading. While the Lectio Divina is a Catholic approach to bible study and prayer, all Christians will enjoy learning about a process of divine reading that was practiced by the early church fathers in the beginning years of Christianity. Patricia McKenna, The Catholic Bookshelf
The heart of this book by Br. Enzo Bianchi is found in Part One. This engaging section constitutes a theology of lectio divina, astutely grounded in patristic and monastic sources. Bianchi releases the Word of God from myopically-constructed cages, inviting readers to a larger perspective in which the Word of God "goes beyond the Bible and is not fully captured by it." Throughout, Bianchi quotes liberally and convincingly from Dei Verbum, Vatican IIs Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, solemnly promulgated by Pope Paul VI on Nov. 18, 1965
The four senses of Scripture, hermeneutical levels developed since the earliest centuries in the Christian tradition, are called into service to grasp the nature of an authentic practice of lectio divina. Bianchi clearly honors exegetical scholarship while inviting the seeker to embrace the Word of God on each interpretive level, using these four senses of Scripture to uncover the different strata of meaning in the biblical text. An authentic practice of lectio divina rests on these levels of hermeneutical approach--the literary or historical-critical approach, the tropological or moral sense, the allegorical or behavioral sense and the anagogical or mystical sense. The author endorses a living hermeneutic in the Word grows when the church interprets.
After a soul-expanding plunge into this large understanding of the Word in the first half of this little volume, reading Part Two with its instructive points for lectio practice is like coming down the mountain after the transfiguration to ordinary, worn-out daily discourse. Referring to Guigo IIs ladder image, Bianchi utilizes the term "steps," a term which tends to mislead moderns who often prefer a clear set of directions to tackle a job. However, if one can resist the lure of a more methodical approach and honor the fluid flow of the lectio process, an approach no doubt assumed by this master teacher, one finds enthusiastic encouragement for daily fidelity in praying the Scriptures.
Bianchi emphatically prefers the Scriptures themselves as the source for lectio. There is no room in Bianchis approach for cold analytical study of the Scriptures. "We understand Scripture to the extent to which we live it." In lectio, the pray-er encounters and savors the Word of God in Scripture, allowing the Word present in and beyond the Bible to penetrate bones and marrow, mind and heart.
Following Gregory the Greats hermeneutical key, exegesis in ecclesia--understanding the Bible by living with others as a church community--and drawing upon the wisdom of Dei Verbum (25), Bianchi reminds the reader that biblical interpretation is the prerogative of every baptized person.
I heartily recommend this volume to readers looking for both a theological breadth and depth to understanding the ancient art of lectio divina.Jeanne Ranek, OSB
When I first picked up a book from Enzo Bianchi, I had no idea who he was. As the founder and prior of the Bose Community (a lay monastic community in the Benedictine tradition) and as consulter of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (appointed by Pope Francis in 2014), he is a major voice in monastic and Christian spirituality. Lectio Divina: From Gods Word to Our Lives
is now the third book I have read from him (and the third book translated to English and published by Paraclete Press
). In each book, Enzo has challenged me to new depths in my spiritual life.
Bianchis treatment of Lectio Divina
was more than I expected. Most other Lectio Divina
books I have read, either give simple practical guidelines and a method for the practice, or are gleanings from the authors private devotional life. Bianchi does give practical advice on how to practice (especially in part two of this book) but he also gives a fuller treatment of the hermeneutics of spiritual interpretation. He references Ratzinger, De Lubac, Urs von Balthasar and others, as well as a range of patrisitic sources (Augustine, Origen, Ambrose, etc). For Bianchi, the practice of Lectio is not a subjective, privatized word from God, but an attentive reading (attending to the Spirit, to Christ and the text). He uses critical methods; yet reading in this way, is always about spiritual encounter.
In part one, Bianchi commends spiritual interpretation. In chapter one he describes Origens exegetical method. Origen is representative of the Christian biblical exegesis practiced until the sixteenth century, before the critical era began and we had simply one possible way of reading the Bible (9). So chapter two explores the relevance of spiritual exegesis for today, arguing for the Bibles centrality in the life of the church, and the way it testifies about Jesus throughout the canon; however this isnt a repudiation of critical gains in reading the Bible, though historical method is dethroned of ultimate importance. In chapter three, Bianchi explores Gods WordJesus Christand helps us think through how the Bible is also Gods word (both inspired and human, reflecting the incarnation). Chapter four examines the unity of scripture and the way both testaments testify about Christ its center. In chapter five, Bianchi connects spiritual interpretation with the classic four-fold sense of scripture (literal-historical, allegorical, tropological, and anagogical). He relates each of these four levels of meaning to the four stages of Lectio Divina
, and Contemplatio
). This was a new insight for me.
Part two is less conceptual and more practical. After giving a brief overview of the history of biblical interpretation in chapter six, Bianchi spends chapter seven walking his readers through the practice of Lectio Divina
: (1) set aside a time and a place, (2) pray for the Spirit to open up the Word to us, (3) Read with an eye to the literal-historical meaning of the text, meditating and investigating the scripture to get at its deeper
meaning, (4) pray and enter into the dialogue with the text in order to make more room for the Lord in your life, and finally (5) contemplate the passage and have our gaze transformed into Gods way of seeing. Chapter eight describes challenges during Lectio Divina
(i.e. that Catholics have experienced a long estrangement from the Bible, the need for dailiness, and failure to read the Bible critically, engaged and Christologically. Finally chapter nine describes other challenges to practicing Lectio Divina
(the texts otherness, the need for community, etc.).
Of the three books I have read from Bianchi, this may be my favorite. Bianchi takes us on a journey through patristics, spiritual theology, exegesis, contemporary Catholic theology and hermeneutics. Bianchi synthesizes these disciplines well and I came away with some fresh insights. I appreciate the way Bianchi connected the practice of Lectio Divina
to the theology of spiritual exegesis operating in the church for centuries. I loved that he incorporated critical insights and study into meditation. In Bianchis approach, the Lectio
part of Lectio Divina
involves reading with sensitivity and accuracy, discovering the intent and message of the original text (the literal-historical meaning). Meditatio
involves studychecking commentaries, study notes, etcin order to discover the theological and canonical connections. This, and Bianchis insistence that Lectio Divina
is a communal discipline, guards from its practice becoming purely subjective and private. Bianchis approach is theologically sophisticated.
And that is perhaps the weakness of this book. I tracked my way through Bianchis theology of scripture, Revelation, biblical exegesis, patristics and Christology. Had this been my first trek through these disciplines, I would have found this a hard read. Okay, I still found it a hard read, but I think a complete neophyte would be a little lost in places. I recommend this book highly to readers of theology and Christian spirituality, but I think Bianchis Echoes of the Word
(Paraclete, 2013) may be more accessible for the general reader. I give this book five stars!
Notice of material connection, I received this book from Paraclete Press in exchange for my honest review. James Matichuk
Just as no one can pass through life without the direction of others and grace from above, so too no one can wander into the pages of the Bible without a guide to reveal the path. Only someone who has sought to blend the Scriptures into his or her daily thoughts and actions, in turn, is capable of speaking credibly on the necessity of the Bible for the Christian life of faith and virtue. Enzo Bianchi possesses such an authoritative voice, thanks to his decades of meditation on Scripture within his monastic community of Bose, and his prayerful insights are spread across every page of his book Lectio Divina: From Gods Word to Our Lives.
The scope of the book is simple enough: to conduct the reader into the world of lectio divina, a manner of praying with Scripture that seeks a living dialogue with the Lord through the historical Word spoken in the sacred books. A proper orientation to lectio divina, however, requires a complicated overview of theology, Church history, and hermeneutics; fortunately, Bianchi is skilled at presenting the complex mysteries of Scripture and theology in an eloquent yet understandable way. He has clearly immersed himself in the refreshing waters of the Church Fathers, and their vision of Scripture, too unfamiliar to the vast majority of Christians today, guides Bianchis every step in this book. Citations of great patristic authors such as Origen, Jerome, and Gregory the Great are abundant; one of the great merits of the book is precisely this introduction to the thought of the Fathers. Yet Bianchi also manages to identify the Jewish roots of the Christian interpretation of Scripture, illustrating the dependency of several interpretative tools on principles found in the Mishnah and Talmud. The fundamental prayer of the Jewish people, the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4), begins with the word "Listen," and Bianchi devotes many helpful pages to the Christian understanding of the dialogue of speaking and listening between the individual and God.
He succeeds admirably in describing the various ways of interpreting Scripture, and makes a compelling case for lectio divina as a fundamental treasure of the Churchs Tradition which must nourish the present lives of Christians every day. A recurring theme in this book is the inspiration an individual believer finds within a community that searches the Scriptures together, drawing as from a fountain living waters of wisdom to nourish their faith. This epiclesis, or invocation of the Holy Spirit, conveys the same Spirit to readers of the Bible today that animated the biblical authors themselves, as well as those first Christians whose meditations on the prophets and Gospels form the bedrock of our faith today.
Bianchi explains the classic terms of lectio divina in accessible and practical language, and offers concrete suggestions for committing to this type of prayer on a daily basis. He also provides practical encouragement when faced with obstacles in prayer, whether those be difficult passages of the Bible or the myriad distractions of the modern world. In short, I am happy to recommend this book to those Christians in search of a knowledgeable guide through the dark yet inviting forest of Scripture- Bianchi has forged a path through them, and carries a lantern whose light reaches us in the pages of his book. Fr. Thomas