by Fr. Casey Bailey
The life of monks and nuns of the Benedictine family is often summarized by the brief phrase “ora et labora,” prayer and work. But it seems to me that this “motto” leaves something crucial out of our lifestyle. What more accurately captures our monastic commitment is “lectio, et ora, et labora.” This “lectio”, reading, is most often accompanied in the Latin west with the adjective “divina,” the very adjective itself surely pointing to the supreme importance of this spiritual practice in the lives of contemplative monks and nuns. So what exactly is this divine reading, and why is it so central to the monastic ascesis and witness?
is paying attention
to the Word of God
revealed to us
in Sacred Scripture”
of a love letter is to convey the love of the author to the recipient(s), is it not? This can only be received with the attention of the heart.
Therefore, to really engage in lectio divina is to seek to accept God’s infinite love for us as He conveys it to us through His Scriptures. This is not to say that the various disciplines of scriptural exegesis are not to be respected and learned from. But it is to say that they are not, in themselves, lectio divina. The ultimate point of being a contemplative monk or nun specifically, and of being a Christian generally, is to be fully conformed to the truth of God’s love. For the monastic, lectio divina is a central, daily, yes hourly, discipline in the ongoing primary mystery of human life: becoming one with the one love.