It is well known that contemplative Christians like to practice the lectio divina, the monastic practice of being deeply and silently with the Scriptures to receive what wisdom is there to speak to our hearts. And our minds.
Christian thinkers like Thomas Aquinas and St Francis expanded the source of the lectio divina. They were part of a movement in the middle ages that broke with monasticism because it was too privileged and too in bed with the feudal system of the day. They called their opposition movement the “poverty movement” whose motto was “voluntary poverty” to imitate the poor Christ who worked among the poor and was himself poor.
Aquinas’ teachings on lectio divina do not restrict it to Scriptural reading. There can easily be a kind of religious romanticism in thinking that God speaks to us exclusively through a book.
He extends it to nature itself, to all of creation, when he says “Revelation comes in two volumes: Nature and the Bible.” Francis also found his deepest prayer very often in nature and in caves (you don’t read a book in a cave).
Meister Eckhart too follows in that tradition when he says that “every creature is a word of God and a book about God.”
I am convinced that the most mature spiritual people are those who have learned to read about God’s revelation in three forms:
1. The Scriptures
3. Human nature.
All three are sources of revelation.
Human nature is the hardest to contemplate, for human nature is very complex and varied—it ranges from great generosity and courage and therefore holiness; to great evil and hypocrisy; and self-serving; and fear; and plenty of malfeasance (which is what usually makes headlines).
But read it we must. And study it (thus psychology and history and sociology and religion and art and so much more). And pray it.
This is how we pray the news. Find the four paths in reading all three of these revelatory books–Scripture, Nature, Human Nature.
Do not let the latter discourage you. Drink up the Via Positiva and Via Creativa along with the Via Negativa and Transformativa.
Human nature includes history and it is a small part of our lectio divina within nature itself. Nature precedes human nature. (Otherwise we have narcissism and anthropocentrism when humans read only from and about themselves.)
In talking of the Opus Dei lately we have invited you to meditate on the shadow side of human nature.
That too is lectio divina with its deep lessons to ponder including the obvious prophetic question: How can we interfere with evil?
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, p. 59.
See also From: Matthew Fox, Wrestling With The Prophets: Essays on Creation Spirituality and Everyday Life, pp.106-108.
And Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality.
Queries for Contemplation
Are you practicing the art of praying the news? It’s not easy is it? But it is necessary.
Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him. He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French). He gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way. The result is exciting!
Matthew Fox’s comprehensive translation of Meister Eckhart’s sermons is a meeting of true prophets across centuries, resulting in a spirituality for the new millennium. The holiness of creation, the divine life in each person and the divine power of our creativity, our call to do justice and practice compassion–these are among Eckhart’s themes, brilliantly interpreted and explained for today’s reader.
In one of his foundational works, Fox engages in substantive discussions with some of history’s greatest mystics, philosophers, and prophets on today’s social and spiritual issues on such challenging topics as Eco-Spirituality, AIDS, homosexuality, spiritual feminism, environmental revolution, Native American spirituality, Christian mysticism, Art and Spirituality, Art as Meditation, Interspirituality, and more.
A modern-day theologian’s call for the radical transformation of Christianity that will allow us to move once again from the hollow trappings of organized religion to genuine spirituality. A New Reformation echoes the Reformation initiated by Martin Luther in 1517 and offers a new vision of Christianity that values the Earth, honors the feminine, and respects science and deep ecumenism.