“Sacred Reading” is the most usual translation for this ancient tradition and practice of the early monks and desert fathers. Through a few ‘simple’ steps they would enter into the essence of particular sacred text, thus igniting in themselves a union with God. So the first step would be to take a piece of scripture, a piece of the liturgy, as the ‘lectio’, which is then read aloud, or, as some accounts would say, ‘bitten off’ as food for the soul. Then follows the ruminating on the content, more usually described as the meditation, that the content is gradually taken up by the heart. Out of this process comes the third stage, that of the communication with God:- “Spontaneous acts of adoration and supplication leap like sparks from the iron of the heart as the Word of God strikes upon it.” The same author then adds:- “The whole process is a strenuous one, an activity involving eyes, ears, mouth and mind.” Gregory Collins – the above source – is a Benedictine monk at the Glenstal Monastery in Co. Limerick, S. Ireland. What is interesting is that he writes on the theme in a book dedicated to the monastery’s collection of sacred Icons. As he says, in the traditional language of orthodoxy icons are in fact written, not painted, which means that they can be read and be taken as the starting point, the content of one’s Lectio Divina. Even the orthodox church buildings themselves are often seen as being icons, holy writings reflecting the workings of the cosmos. They too, therefore, are legitimate subject matter for this spiritual path. In the well-known book “Staying Connected”, where Christopher Bamford introduces some of Rudolf Steiner’s writings on how to accompany those who have died, he also refers to Lectio Divina as a possibility in this context too: how we can reach from soul to soul across the divide.
It comes as little surprise that there is a real resurgence in interest for and practice of this path. On the one hand it offers a much missed access to the inner content of objects which are profoundly spiritual. On the other hand the range of such objects is much wider than one at first imagines. Content from Holy Texts of the world, from the Liturgy – lines from the Act of Consecration or our Epistles – are obvious choices. An Icon, (see the one in the guest room which was recently donated), opens up the extensive field of religious paintings, inspired poetry. Nature offers endless opportunity for such an exercise – the magnificence of a ripening berry, the poise of a cat, – all things which can pass us by too quickly. Each time a dialogue is initiated, by us, with an aspect of the spiritual world: be it for the deeper meaning of a particular text, a painting, be it for the God-given wonders of the world around us, be it a communing with souls who are distant or who have died, we are talking about prayer. As old as the hills but, in its many and varied forms it is being continually rediscovered and valued.
One final example: the best-selling book of Eckhart Tolle on “The Power of Now” is talking of something very closely related that has similarly been known and practiced for centuries. But he has made the discovery anew, and managed through writing of his ‘discovery’ to inspire countless others to explore this process of entering into the essence of something, in this case that of the moment, the Now. The outcome of Sacred Reading in its many guises.