What Happens To Us in Meditation?
A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
Through your own study of books and Internet articles you will come across many excellent explanations of “Lectio Divina”. These are available from a wide variety of backgrounds.
What follows here is merely one perspective which attempts at the same time to give some practical suggestions. They are only suggestions — NEVER prescriptions! However, we do recommend that whatever routine you find works best for you, hold fast to it until you decide it needs modification. Try not to “chop and change”.
Meditation is essentially simple, and we should not complicate it with procedures. We hope this helps you find a routine suited to your life-style and approach to prayer. It is simple; we are called to Listen in the same way we are called to Love:— with all our heart, our soul, our mind and strength. (Mark 12: 30). It is thus a prayerful response to the commandments given by God through Moses, and brought to fulfillment by Jesus Messiah. (See especially Deut. 6 4 ― 9)
However, in prayer, as in any other worthwhile pursuit, we soon discover the benefits of being guided by a disciplined approach, and taking it one step at a time.
This short article is not so much an explanation of “Lectio Divina” as what happens when we come into the presence of the Divine Word and allow ourselves to be bathed in this loving presence. It therefore relates especially to Phase Two of our model of Scripture Meditation.
We Listen to God
• Jesus said: “When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is unseen” (Matthew 6: 6) Our booklet, Make An Oratory helps unpack this figure of speech.
• So choose a time, and a place which allow you to pray to God with full attention.
• If possible, keep to your regular time and place. This will help you not only to focus on the presence of Christ within you but also your place in his Body, the Church.
In Mark 9: 7 we read God’s only spoken command in the New Testament; “This is my son, whom I love. Listen to him“. Listening is the basis of our prayer and meditation. When we talk of “listening to Jesus” we mean listening to the holy and eternal Word of God. Jesus is the Word of God. In Him, God’s message of love for us is perfectly embodied (John 1). All scripture points to Jesus our Way, Truth, and Life. It is a “listening-to-do” that we are talking about: to know God’s will and to do it. As you will read in several of our papers ― therein lies the Jewish origin and basis of our approach.
We Rest with God
• Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”. Jesus is talking about both physical and spiritual rest.
• Sit or kneel and be still. Rest your arms and legs. Remain upright if this is comfortable and practical for you, to rest your spine. Whatever your posture, be kind to your body, and rest, rest, rest!
• Close your eyes gently, and remain relaxed but alert.
• Breathe in a natural, relaxed rhythm. (Music may help)
Stop! Rest! Don’t try to do anything! Be still! Meditation is Sabbath time with the Lord, when we celebrate our divine origin and heritage as children of God. It is time to rest with God — to catch our breath with God — to contemplate the God of all creation. It is a time of union, restoration, refreshment for God’s own designs, not ours. It is not a time for mastery over the body or any part of creation. If necessary we use techniques to relax and help settle down, so that we can be one with ourselves and God. It is time to celebrate with joy the harmony and magnificence of creation and our place in it.
We Commune with God
Jesus said: “My sheep listen to my voice” (John 10: 27). Also, “The Words I have spoken to you are spirit, and they are life”. (John 6: 63). That is, they are Spirit at work in you producing LIFE (Christ’s life): Life for sharing and passing on!
• Rejoice that you are a member of God’s family through Jesus Messiah.
• Listen within as you gently recall a thought, word, phrase, verse or passage from Scripture. Welcome the presence of the Word within you. This will lead naturally, to true communication!
• Relax and allow your inner thoughts and responses to be consciously present or to fade and simply be united with the Lord.
St Paul wrote, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3: 16). We keep this word of Christ present by gently recalling a chosen thought, word, phrase, or verse or (if need be) passage from the Bible. It is a time to listen, to behold, to treasure. We do this in the spirit of Deuteronomy 11: 18 to 20 as a means of keeping God’s Word before us at all times. Because God is present we try to avoid distractions, but we do not become focussed on the effort to stop them. We let them come and go, and simply return to God’s Word. We listen within to God’s word and allow His presence to draw us closer to Him.
We Dwell with God
• Jesus said to his Father: “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory…”. To his disciples Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you”.
• Through Jesus our Messiah we dwell with God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are members of His Household.
• Abide in the unceasing prayer of Jesus to his Father made present in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
• Remain in God’s loving embrace as His children ― as His family.
St Paul wrote, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2: 6). The risen Christ prays unceasingly to the Father for us. So we never pray alone or at the prompting of our spirit. We pray through the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ and our spirit unite in one voice. It is then it truly can be said we are with our Saviour where he wants us to be.
As Meditation Time Comes to An End, We Trust in God
• Jesus said: “Trust in God; trust also in me”. (John 14: 1)
• When it comes to the time to close our meditation we do not try to linger or prolong it. We close with simple expressions of praise, love, gratitude and trust.
• We pray, even if only momentarily, to focus back on our daily life and its (seemingly) mundane routines, and ask for help to do them well and in the spirit of prayer.
We emphasise, it is at this point we must place our total trust in God and consciously proceed in a confident manner with life as it unfolds for us.
Since it is time to bring our meditation to a close, we allow a short period for adjusting back to our ordinary routines. Even very brief prayers can help us return peacefully to our daily duties in a prayerful manner. This helps maintain an important link between stillness and activity. It avoids an unnatural or false separation of prayer and action, or of the spiritual and the physical. It also helps us to allow the LIFE of Christ to radiate gently and unobtrusively around us.
And so we therefore pause — and then gently rise and go about our duties.
We need to keep in perspective the very important teaching of our Lord in these words:
• “It was not you that chose me, it was I that chose you”
(John 15: 16).
We have spent time in the prayer of rest because He first called us. Let us not get it the wrong way round. He first called us. What we have to do at this point is to remember this and act accordingly, and live life to the full. After all, our Messiah, the Lord Jesus said:
• “I have come so that you may have life, and have it more abundantly”
(John 10: 10).