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[CarmelReflections] Lectio Divina as School of Prayer [AntiVirus checked]

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  • Ruel Santos
    Lectio Divina as school of prayer among the Fathers of the Desert Note: This is the translation of a talk given at the Centre Saint- Louis-des-Français, in
    Message 1 of 13 , Feb 1, 2006
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      Lectio Divina as school of prayer among the Fathers of the Desert

      Note: This is the translation of a talk given at the Centre Saint-
      Louis-des-Français,
      in Rome, in November 1995

      Scripture, school of life

      The vocation of Antony, as it is described for us by Athanasius in
      his Life of Antony, is well known. One day the young Antony, who had
      been brought up in a Christian family of the church of Alexandria
      (or at least in the region of Alexandria), and who had therefore
      heard the Scriptures read since his childhood, enters the church and
      is particularly struck by the text of Scripture that he hears read:
      the story of the call of the rich young man: "If you would be
      perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and come,
      follow me; you will have a treasure in heaven". (Matt. 19,21; Vit.
      Ant. 2)

      Antony has undoubtedly heard this text many times before; but this
      day the message strikes him most forcibly, and he receives it as a
      personal call. He therefore answers the call, sells the family
      property - which is quite considerable - and distributes the profits
      of the sale to the poor of the village, keeping just enough to
      support his younger sister for whom he is responsible.

      A little later, on entering the church once again, he hears another
      Gospel text which affects him as much as the first: "Take no thought
      for the morrow" (Matt. 6,34; Ant.3). This text too goes straight to
      his heart as a personal call. And so he entrusts his sister to a
      community of virgins, (such communities have been long in
      existence), rids himself of everything that remains to him and
      undertakes the ascetical life near his village, under the guidance
      of the ascetics of the region.

      This story shows clearly the importance and the meaning that
      Scripture had among the Fathers of the Desert. It was first of all a
      school of life. And because it was a school of life, it was also a
      school of prayer for the men and women who desired to make of their
      life a continual prayer, as Scripture demanded of them.

      The Fathers of the desert wished to carry out faithfully in their
      lives all the precepts of Scripture. And, in the Scriptures, the
      first concrete precept they found on the frequency of prayer was not
      that they ought not to pray at this or that hour of the day or
      night, but that they ought to pray without ceasing.

      Athanasius writes of Antony: (Vit. Ant. 3): "He worked with his
      hands, having heard that he who is idle, let him not eat (2 Thes.
      3,10). And he spent what he made partly for bread, and partly on
      those in need. He prayed constantly, since he learned that it is
      necessary to pray unceasingly in private. For he paid such close
      attention to what was read that nothing from Scripture did he fail
      to take in -- rather he grasped everything, and in him the memory
      took the place of books.

      We should notice at once in this text of Athanasius, that continual
      prayer is accompanied by other activities, in particular work, and
      also the expression Ahe paid such close attention to what was read@.

      Obviously, we cannot speak of Scripture as a school of prayer among
      the Fathers of the Desert without reference to the two admirable
      Conferences which Cassian devoted explicitly to prayer, both
      attributed to abba Isaac, the 9th and 10th.

      The fundamental principle is given at once at the beginning of Conf.
      9: "The whole aim of the monk and the perfection of the heart
      consists in an uninterrupted perseverance in prayer". And Isaac
      explains that all the rest of the monastic life, ascesis and the
      practice of the virtues has no meaning or reason unless it leads to
      this end.


      What does "lectio divina" mean?

      Before going any further, I would like to make clear at once that
      when I speak of lectio divina among the Fathers of the Desert in
      this conference, I do not understand the expression lectio divina in
      the technical (and reduced) sense which has been given it in
      spiritual and monastic literature in these last decades.

      The Latin word lectio in its first sense means a teaching, a lesson.
      In a second, derived sense, lectio can also signify a text or a
      group of texts transmitting this teaching. Thus we speak of the
      lessons (lectiones) from Scripture read during the liturgy. Finally,
      in a still more derived, and later sense, lectio can also mean
      reading.

      This last sense is obviously the one in which this expression is
      understood today. In our days, in fact, lectio divina is spoken of
      as a specific observance; and we are told that it is a form of
      reading different from all others, and that above all we must not
      confuse true lectio divina with other forms of simply "spiritual
      reading". This is a completely modern vision, and as such,
      represents a concept foreign to the Fathers of the Desert, and to
      which I shall return presently.

      If we consult the entire early Latin literature (which can be done
      easily in our day, either by means of good concordances or with the
      CDRoms of CETEDOC), we notice that each time we find the expression
      lectio divina among the Latin writers prior to the Middle Ages, this
      expression signifies Holy Scripture itself, and not a human activity
      on Holy Scripture. Lectio divina is synonymous with sacra pagina.
      Thus we are told that lectio divina teaches us such and such a
      thing ; that we should listen attentively to lectio divina, that the
      Divine Master, in lectio divina, reminds us of such and such a
      demand, etc.

      Examples: Cyprian: "Sit in manibus divina lectio", (De zelo et
      livore, cap. 16)

      Ambrose: "ut divinae lectionis exemplo utamur", (De bono mortis,
      cap.1. par.2)

      Augustine: "aliter invenerit in lectione divina", (Enarr. in
      psalmos, ps.36, serm.3. par.1)

      This is the sole meaning of the expression lectio divina during the
      period of the Fathers of the Desert. It is thus the sense in which I
      shall use it in this conference, except when I make allusion to the
      contemporary approach. I shall not speak of a particular observance
      having Scripture as its object, but of Scripture itself as School of
      life and therefore School of prayer of the first monks.

      Reading

      To speak of the "reading" of Scripture among the Fathers leads,
      moreover, to confusion. Reading properly so called, as we understand
      it today, must have been, in fact, quite rare. The monks of
      Pachomius, for example, who came for the most part from paganism,
      were obliged, on their arrival at the monastery, to learn to read if
      they could not already do so, so as to be able to learn the
      Scriptures. A text of the rule says that there should be no-one in
      the monastery who does not know by heart at least the New Testament
      and the Psalms. But once memorised, these texts become the object of
      a "meletè", a continual meditatio or ruminatio all the day long and
      for a good part of the night, in private as well as in the common
      prayer. This ruminatio of Scripture is not understood as vocal
      prayer, but rather as a constant contact with God through his Word.
      A constant attentiveness, which itself becomes a constant prayer.

      A story from the apophthegmata shows clearly this relative
      importance of reading compared with the absolute importance of the
      contents of Scripture:

      "At a time of great cold, Serapion meets in Alexandria a poor man
      who is completely naked. He says to himself: "This is Christ, and I
      am a murderer if he dies without my having tried to help him." So
      Serapion takes off all his clothes and gives them to the poor man,
      then he remains naked in the street with the only thing he has left,
      a Gospel under his arm... A passer-by, who knows him, asks
      him: "Abba Serapion, who has taken away your clothes?" And Serapion,
      showing his Gospel, replies: "This is the one who has taken away my
      clothes." Serapion then goes to another place and there sees someone
      who is being taken to prison, because he is unable to pay a debt.
      Serapion, seized with pity, gives him his Gospel, so that he can
      sell it and so pay his debt. When Serapion returns to his cell, no
      doubt shivering, his disciple asks him where his tunic is, and
      Serapion replies that he has sent it where it is more needed than on
      his body. To his disciple's second question : "And where is your
      Gospel?', Serapion replies: I have sold the one who continually told
      me: Sell your goods, and give to the poor (Lk. 12,33); I have given
      it to the poor that I might have greater confidence on the day of
      judgment" (Pat. Arm. 13, 8, R: III, 189).

      As we saw at the beginning, Antony, a Christian from birth, was
      converted to the ascetical life by lectio divina, or the sacra
      pagina, proclaimed in the local ecclesial community, during the
      celebration of the liturgy.

      Pachomius, who, on the contrary, came from a pagan family of Upper
      Egypt, was also converted by Scripture, but by Scripture interpreted
      and incarnated in the concrete life of a Christian community who
      lived the Gospel, that of Latopolis. You know the story: The young
      Pachomius was conscripted into the Roman army and sent on a ship
      that took him with the other recruits to Alexandria. One evening the
      ship stopped at Latopolis and as the conscripts were put in prison
      the Christians of the place brought food and drink to the prisoners.
      That was Pachomius= first encounter with Christianity.

      For Antony, representative par excellence of the anchoritic life, as
      for Pachomius, representative of the cenobitic, Scripture is above
      all a Rule of life. It is even the only true Rule of the monk.
      Neither Antony nor Pachomius wrote a Rule in the sense in which it
      would be understood in the monastic tradition after them, although a
      certain number of practical rules of Pachomius and his successors
      have been brought together under the name of the "Rule of
      Pachomius".

      Scripture as the sole "Rule" of the monk

      To a group of brothers who asked Antony for a "word" he
      replied: "You have heard the Scriptures? they will do very well for
      you". (Note the word: "heard" - èkousate) (Ant. 19).

      Someone else asked Antony: "What must I do in order to please God?"
      The old man replied: "Pay attention to what I advise you: wherever
      you go, always have God before your eyes; whatever you do, do it
      according to the testimony of the Scriptures." (Ant. 3).

      Let us notice at once three things in this brief apophthegm. First
      of all, the monk who questions Antony is not seeking a theoretical
      or abstract teaching. His request, like that of the rich young man
      of the Gospel, is very concrete. "What must I do?" -"What must I do
      in order to please God?" (This is an attitude, moreover, that is
      found constantly in the apophthegmata). Antony's response is two-
      fold. One pleases God if one has God always before one's eyes, that
      is to say, if one lives constantly in the presence of God - which is
      the concept the Fathers of the Desert have of continual prayer; and
      this is possible if one allows oneself to be guided by the
      Scriptures. Antony is not speaking here of reading or meditating on
      the Scriptures, but of truly doing everything according to the
      testimony of the Scriptures.

      One day, Theodore, the favourite disciple of Pachomius, asked the
      latter, with the fervour of a neophyte, how many days one ought to
      remain without eating during The Pasch, that is to say during Holy
      Week. (The rule of the Church and the general custom was to observe
      a complete fast during the Friday and Saturday of Easter; but there
      were some who went for three or four days without eating.) Pachomius
      advised him to keep to the Rule of the Church, which demanded a
      total fast during the two days only, in order, said he, to have the
      strength to accomplish without weakening the things that are
      commanded us in the Scriptures: unceasing prayer, vigils, reciting
      the law of God and manual labour.

      What is above all important for the Fathers of the Desert, is not to
      read the Bible, but to live it. Obviously, in order to live it one
      must know it. And like all Christians, the monk learned the
      Scriptures in the first place by hearing them proclaimed in the
      liturgical assembly. He also learned by heart the important parts of
      Scripture in order to be able to ruminate them all day long.
      Finally, certain ones had access to manuscripts of the Scriptures
      and were able to read them privately. This private reading was
      merely one form among others, and not necessarily the most
      important, of allowing oneself to be constantly challenged by the
      word of God.

      The hermeneutics of the desert

      The few narratives I have mentioned give us a glimpse of the lines
      of force of what might be called the hermeneutics of the Fathers of
      the Desert - hermeneutics which are certainly never expressed in the
      form of abstract principles, but which are hermeneutics
      nevertheless. The great masters of modern hermeneutics, who
      considers every interpretation as a dialogue between the text and
      the reader or the hearer, and for whom every interpretation should
      normally lead to a transformation or a conversion, invented nothing.
      They gave expression to a reality which the Fathers of the Desert
      lived, certainly without being able to formulate it, - or in any
      case without being concerned about formulating it.

      In the desert, Scripture is constantly being interpreted. This
      interpretation is not expressed in the form of commentaries and
      homilies, but in actions and gestures, in a life of holiness
      transformed by the constant dialogue of the monk with the
      Scriptures. The texts do not cease to be ever more significant not
      only for those who read and hear them, but also for those who meet
      these monks who have incarnated these texts in their life. The man
      of God who has assimilated the Word of God has become a new "text",
      a new object of interpretation. Moreover, it is in this context that
      we should understand the fact that in the desert the word of the
      Ancient is considered to have the same power as the Word of
      Scripture.

      I have mentioned above the apophthegm of Antony when he replied to
      the brothers: "You have heard the Scriptures? they will do very well
      for you. In fact the brothers were not satisfied with this reply and
      said to him: "Father, we would also like a word from you". Then
      Antony told them:"The Gospel says: if someone strikes you on the
      right cheek, turn the other to him also". They said: "We cannot do
      that." The old man said to them: "If you cannot offer the other one,
      at least allow him to strike you on one cheek." - "We cannot even do
      that" - "If you cannot even do that", said he, "do not pay back the
      evil you have received." And they said: "We cannot do this either".
      Then the old man said to his disciple: "Prepare a little broth of
      corn for them, for they are ill. If you cannot do this, and you will
      not do that, what can I do for you? You are in need of prayer."

      Sons of the Church of Egypt and of Alexandria

      This manner of understanding Scripture as Rule of life was not,
      moreover, peculiar to monks. We must not forget that the Fathers of
      the Desert who are known to us through the Apophthegmata, the
      Pachomian literature, Palladius and Cassian, etc. are above all
      Egyptian monks of the end of the third and the beginning of the
      fourth century. These monks are sons of the Church. They belong to a
      specific Church, that of Egypt, formed in the spiritual tradition of
      Alexandria.

      The myth according to which most of the first monks, beginning with
      Antony, were illiterate and ignorant, no longer stands up to
      scientific research. Many recent studies, particularly those of
      Samuel Rubenson on the Letters of Antony, have shown that Antony and
      the first monks of the Desert of Egypt had assimilated the spiritual
      teaching of the Church of Alexandria, which was still profoundly
      marked by the teaching of the great masters of the School of
      Alexandria, and in particular by the mystical inspiration given it
      by its most illustrious master, the great Origen.

      The Church of Alexandria was born from the first generation of
      Christianity in the heart of a highly educated Jewish diaspora
      counting, according to Pliny, about a million members; this explains
      the fact that this Church of Alexandria and of Egypt had from the
      beginning a very marked Judeo-Christian orientation. It explains at
      the same time its openness to the scriptural and mystical tradition
      that had marked the Judeo-Christian Churches of the first
      generations of Christians..

      The School of the Desert is, from many points of view, the replica
      in solitude of the School of Alexandria where we know that Origen
      had lived with his disciples a form of monastic life completely
      centred on the Word of God. According to a beautiful description of
      Jerome's, this life was a continual alternation between prayer and
      reading, reading and prayer, night and day. (Letter to Marcella
      43,1; PL 22:478: Hoc diebus egisse et noctibus, ut et lectio
      orationem exciperet, et oratio lectionem.)

      Nor was this peculiar to Egypt. At almost the same time Cyprian of
      Carthage was formulating a rule which would later be quoted by
      almost all the Latin Fathers: "Either pray assiduously or read
      assiduously; sometimes speak to God, at other times listen to God
      speaking to you" (Letter 1,15; P.L.4:221 B: Sit tibi vel oratio
      assidua vel lectio: nunc cum Deo loquere, nunc Deus tecum - which
      became the classic formula: "when you pray, you speak to God, when
      you read, God speaks to you").

      If all the Egyptian monks were not Evagrius, and if few among them
      must have read Origen in the text, the fact remains that they were
      formed to Christian spirituality by the teaching of pastors who
      remained strongly influenced by the orientation Origen had given to
      the Church of Alexandria through the School which he directed there
      for many years.

      That explains the solid biblical spirituality of primitive
      monasticism. One could object immediately that biblical quotations
      are, when all is said and done, few enough in the Apophthegmata,
      even though they are much more frequent in the Pachomian literature.
      The answer is that Scripture had so fashioned the manner of life of
      these ascetics, that it would be superfluous to quote passages from
      it. The Apneumatophoros@ monk was the one who, living according to
      the Scriptures, was filled with the same Spirit as had inspired the
      Scriptures. (They were far then from the modern custom which demands
      that no statement, no teaching be taken seriously unless it is
      embellished with a footnote indicating all the people who have said
      the same thing before us.)

      The tradition of what is now called lectio divina, that is to say,
      the desire to allow oneself to be challenged and transformed by the
      fire of the Word of God, would not be understood without its
      dependency, beyond primitive monasticism, from the tradition of
      Christian asceticism of the first three centuries, and even from its
      roots in the tradition of Israel.

      From the catechesis received in his local Church, the monk learned
      that he was created in the image of God, that that image was
      deformed by sin and that it must be reformed. For that he must let
      himself be transformed and reshaped to the image of Christ. By the
      action of the Holy Spirit and his life according to the Gospel, his
      resemblance to Christ is gradually restored and he is able to know
      God.

      We have seen that the goal of the monk's life, as expressed by
      Cassian, is continual prayer, which he describes as a constant
      awareness of the presence of God, realised through purity of heart.
      It is not acquired through this observance or that, nor even through
      reading or meditating on Scripture, but through letting oneself be
      transformed by Scripture.

      Contact with the Word of God - no matter whether this contact be
      through the liturgical reading of the Word, the teaching of a
      spiritual father, the private reading of a text or the simple
      rumination of a verse or some words learned by heart - this contact
      is the starting point for a dialogue with God. This dialogue is
      established and pursued in the measure in which the monk has
      attained a certain purity of heart, a simplicity of heart and
      intention, and also in the measure in which he has put into practice
      the means of arriving at this purity of heart and of maintaining it.
      This dialogue, in the course of which the Word unceasingly
      challenges the monk to conversion, sustains this continual attention
      to God, which the Fathers considered as continual prayer, and which
      is the goal of their life.

      For the monks of the Desert the reading of the word of God is not
      simply a religious exercise of lectio which gradually prepares the
      spirit and the heart for meditatio then for oratio, in the hope that
      it may arrive even at contemplatio (... if possible before the half-
      hour or hour of lectio is over). For the monks of the desert contact
      with the Word is contact with the fire that burns, disturbs, calls
      violently to conversion. Contact with Scripture is not for them a
      method of prayer; it is a mystical encounter. And this encounter
      often makes them afraid, insofar as they are conscious of its
      demands.

      Hermeneutic circle

      Scripture constantly takes on a new meaning, each time one reads it.
      Here again modern hermeneutics concur with the intuitions of the
      Fathers of the Desert: These would have identify with the statement
      of Augustine: "Yesterday you understood a little, today you
      understand more; tomorrow you will understand still more: the very
      light of God becomes stronger in you" (In Joh. tract. 14,5, CCL 36,
      p.144, lines 34-36).

      For the monks of the desert, the words of Scripture (as also,
      indeed, those of the Ancients), transcended the limited dimension of
      the "event" in which these words were first encountered and in which
      their meaning was discerned. These "words" projected a "universe of
      meaning" into which they tried to enter. The call to sell
      everything, to give the proceeds to the poor, to follow the Gospel
      (Matt. 19:21), the exhortation never to let the sun go down on one's
      anger (Eph. 4:25), the commandment to love; all these texts formed
      the life of the fathers of the desert in a particular way and
      projected a "universe of meaning" into which they strove to enter,
      which they strove to make their own. Sanctity in the desert
      consisted in giving a concrete form to this universe of
      possibilities which sprang from the sacred texts, in interpreting
      them and making them a reality in daily life.

      Abba Nesteros (in Cassian, Conf. 14), tells us that "we must have
      the zeal to learn by heart the sacred Scriptures in their order, and
      to go over and over them without ceasing in our memory. This
      continual meditation - says he - will procure for us a double
      fruit." First of all, it will preserve us from evil thoughts. Then,
      this continual recitation or meditation will lead us to a constantly
      new understanding. And Nesteros has this wonderful sentence: "In the
      measure in which our spirit is renewed by this study, the Scriptures
      also begin to take on a new face (scripturarum facies incipiet
      innovari). A more mysterious understanding is given us, whose beauty
      grows with our progress." (Again, we find this indissoluble link
      between putting the Scriptures into practice and the ability to
      understand them at a deeper level).

      We could once more compare this vision with the modern approach of a
      Ricoeur, for example, who says that once a text has come out of the
      hand of its author it acquires an existence of its own, and assumes
      a new meaning each time it is read - each reading being an
      interpretation, which is a revelation of one of the almost infinite
      possibilities contained in the text.

      According to the modern method of lectio divina, one should read
      slowly and stop at a verse long enough for it to nourish the heart
      or the spirit, if not the emotions, and pass to the following verse
      when the feelings have cooled or when the attention is lost. The
      first monks, for their part, stayed with a verse as long as they had
      not put it into practice.

      Someone comes to abba Pambo asking him to teach him a psalm. Pambo
      begins to teach him psalm 38: but hardly has he pronounced the first
      verse:"I said: 'I will be watchful of my ways, for fear I should sin
      with my tongue?..." the brother does not wish to hear any more. He
      tells Pambo, "this verse is enough for me; please God I may have the
      strength to learn it and put it into practice". Nineteen years later
      he was still trying... (Arm 19, 23 Aa: IV 163).

      Likewise, someone asked abba Abraham, who was an excellent scribe as
      well as a man of prayer, to copy psalm 33. He copied only verse
      15: "Turn away from evil and do good; seek after peace and pursue
      it", saying to the brother: "Put this into practice first, and then
      I will write the rest..." (Arm 10, 67: III, 41).

      The Bible, for the Fathers, is not something that one knows with the
      intellect, or even with the heart, as we like to say these days,
      (often enough, however, confusing the biblical concept of heart with
      a notion of "heart" more recent and somewhat sentimental). For the
      Fathers, one knows the bible by assimilating it to the point of
      translating it into life. All other knowledge that does not lead to
      this is useless.

      Understanding Scripture

      But all this is not to say that we must not approach Scripture with
      the intellect also. The monks are concerned to understand the
      literal sense of Scripture before applying it to themselves. In the
      Pachomian monasteries, for example, there were each week three
      catecheses in the course of which either the superior of the
      monastery or the superior of the house would interpret Scripture
      during the synaxis, after which the brethren would discuss among
      themselves what they had understood, in order to make sure that
      every one had been understood correctly.

      The interpretation of a difficult text calls for an effort of the
      intellect; but this effort would be useless without divine light,
      which must be asked for in prayer. In this sense prayer ought to
      precede lectio as well as being its fruit. When two brother
      questioned Antony on the meaning of a difficult text of the Book of
      Leviticus, Antony asked them to wait for some time, while he went to
      pray, begging God to send Moses to him to teach him the meaning of
      this text. (Arm. 12,1B: II, 148). Before him, Origen did the same,
      asking his disciples to pray with him to obtain understanding of a
      particularly difficult sacred text, in order, said he, to find
      the "spiritual edification" contained in this text. (L. Doutreleau,
      Origène. Homélies sur la Genèse. Trad. et notes -- SC 7, Paris 1943,
      Hom. 2,3, p. 96). (Notice the expression "contained in the text".
      The spiritual meaning of Scripture is not something artificially
      added to it; but something contained in the text, which must be
      discovered.)

      In the same way, a great monk, Isaac of Nineveh, wrote: "Do not
      approach then words of Scripture, full of mystery, without prayer...
      say to God: "Lord, make me perceive the strength that is to be found
      here". (Voir J. Wensink, Mystic Treatise by Isaac of Nineveh
      (Amsterdam, 1923), par. 329, ch. XLV, p. 220). What we seek in a
      text is not an abstract, immaterial meaning, it is a power capable
      of transforming the reader.

      Modern theories on lectio divina generally insist on the fact that
      lectio is something completely different from study. The Fathers
      certainly would not have understood this distinction and this
      division into separate compartments. Their approach to Scripture was
      unified. Every effort to learn Scripture, to understand it, to put
      it into practice, was simply an effort to enter into dialogue with
      God and to allow oneself to be transformed by him in this dialogue
      which became a continual prayer. Neither they nor Origen, nor above
      all Jerome, for whom ignorance of the Scriptures was ignorance of
      Christ, (In Esaiam, Prol. CCL 73,2, CCL 78,66) would have understood
      a study of Scripture which was not a personal encounter with the
      living God.

      For Jerome, prayer resides not primarily in the heart but in the
      intellect from where it goes into the heart. It is necessary to know
      God first in order to love him. He who truly knows cannot help
      loving. Hence the importance of studying deeply and understanding
      the Scriptures with the intellect.

      Of Marcella, who more than all the other disciples of Jerome had
      studied the Scriptures in depth and read them assiduously, he
      said: "She understood that meditation does not consist in repeating
      the texts of Scripture... for she knew that she would only deserve
      to understand the Scriptures when she had translated the
      commandments into life." (Ep. 127,4, CSEL 56, 148).

      In his 14th Conference, Cassian, as a good spokesman for the
      spirituality of the deserts of Egypt where he lived for several
      years at the same time as Evagrius, distinguishes two forms of
      science, practikè and theoretikè, this last being the contemplation
      of things divine, and the understanding of the most sacred meanings.
      This theoretikè, or contemplation of things divine, he also
      calls "the true science of the Scriptures", which he divides into
      two parts, the historical interpretation and the spiritual
      understanding. Both one and the other belong to contemplation.

      Cassian adds: "if you wish to attain to the true science of the
      Scriptures, hasten first of all to acquire an unshakeable humility
      of heart. It is this that will lead you, not to the science that
      puffs up, but to that which illumines, by the consummation of
      charity". Thus, what decides whether the study of Scripture is a
      contemplative activity or not, is not the method of reading or
      interpretation used, but the attitude of the heart.

      Pre-comprehension

      The hermeneutic of Ricoeur teaches us that when one reads an ancient
      author one enters not so much into relations with the thought of the
      author as into the very reality of which the author is speaking.
      That is why there is no possible understanding of a text without a
      pre-understanding which consists in a certain relation already
      existing between the reader and the reality of which the text is
      speaking. Now, one already finds a similar intuition in Cassian at
      the end of the tenth Conference. Isaac, after having explained the
      means of arriving at pure prayer adds: "Brought to life by this food
      (that of the Scriptures) on which he does not cease to nourish
      himself, he penetrates to the point of all the sentiments expressed
      in the psalms, which he recites henceforth not at all as having been
      composed by the prophet, but as if he himself were the author, and
      as a personal prayer... " And he adds: "This is, in fact, what the
      divine Scriptures reveal to us most clearly, and it is their heart
      and in some way their marrow that are shown to us, when our
      experience not only allows us to know, but makes us anticipate this
      very knowledge, and the sense of the words is made known to us, not
      by some explanation, but by the proof that we ourselves have made of
      them. (Conf. X, 11)..."Instructed by what we ourselves feel, the
      things that we learn by hearsay are not, properly speaking, for us,
      but we examine the reality in them, so to speak, in order to
      penetrate to their depths; in no way do they have the effect of
      having been entrusted to our memory, but we bring them to birth in
      the depth of our heart, as natural feelings which are part of our
      being; it is not the reading which makes us penetrate the sense of
      the words, but the experience we have acquired." (ibid.)

      There is no understanding and interpretation without a pre-
      understanding. From this point of view it is clear that the life the
      monks led in the desert, a life entirely of silence, solitude and
      asceticism, constituted a pre-understanding which to a large extent
      conditioned their understanding of Scripture. Silence and purity of
      heart were seen as pre-conditions for understanding and interpreting
      the Scriptures in their full sense.

      One can only understand what one already lives, at least up to a
      point. This is why Saint Jerome points out an order in which to
      learn Scripture: first the Psalter, then the Proverbs of Solomon and
      Quohelet, then the New Testament. And it is only when the soul has
      been long prepared through a long relationship of loving intimacy
      with Christ that it can fruitfully approach the Song of Songs.

      Word of the Ancients

      The Fathers of the Desert sometimes responded to a question put to
      them with a word from Scripture, but they also replied with other
      words, to which their hearers gave practically the same importance.
      They were convinced that the power of these words came from the
      great purity of life of the holy old man who uttered them, for he
      had himself been transformed by Scripture.

      The modern notion of lectio divina

      I would like, now, to give some reflections on the conception one
      has today of lectio divina, in the light of the teaching of the
      Fathers of the Desert which I have just presented.

      What is today called lectio divina is presented as a method of
      reading Scripture and also the Fathers of the Church and the Fathers
      of monasticism. It consists in a slow and meditative reading of the
      text, a reading made more with the heart than with the mind, it is
      said, with no practical aim, but simply to allow oneself to be
      impregnated with the Word of God.

      This method, insofar as it is a method, has its origins in the 12th
      century and is not unrelated to what has been called "monastic
      theology". In this epoch, the pre-scholastics had developed their
      method which passed from lectio to quaestio, then to disputatio. The
      monks' reaction was then to develop their own method: lectio leading
      to meditatio then to oratio... and a little later they added
      contemplatio which was then distinguished from oratio.

      Even though the approach to Scripture which I have described as
      being that of the Fathers of the Desert was in reality an approach
      which they had in common with the people of God as a whole, the new
      approach or new "method" -- since it was now a matter of an
      exercise, of an important observance of monastic existence -- took
      refuge in the monasteries.

      Much later, at the time of the devotio moderna, "spiritual reading"
      became popular, and care was taken to distinguish it clearly from
      monastic lectio divina. Following a general trend, the spiritual
      life became specialized, or divided into watertight compartments.

      It would be foreign to the theme of the present conference to
      analyze this long evolution. I will, however, allow myself a few
      observations. The first is that one may wonder how theology would
      have developed if the monks had not rejected the method that was
      coming to birth. In fact, what has been called "monastic theology"
      had nothing specifically monastic about it up to the twelfth
      century. It was the way theology developed among the people of God,
      with, certainly, as much pluralism in the monasteries as outside
      them. This discerning and contemplative way of expressing theology
      up to then knew how to take up and transform (inculturate, we would
      say today), the contributions of diverse methods and diverse
      currents of thought. One could legitimately wonder how the theology
      of the following centuries would have evolved if the monks had not
      rejected the method that was coming to birth and had known how to
      assimilate it as they had assimilated so many others before. In any
      case, for better or worse, a way of doing theology called monastic
      was upheld in the monasteries, while scholastic theology developed
      in schools outside the monasteries. By a Thomas Aquinas, it is true,
      the new method was still used in a profoundly contemplative
      perspective. Among the commentators - and the commentators of the
      commentators - it became drier and drier.

      It was the same situation with the study of Scripture. Up to this
      time the monks had played a predominant role in the interpretation
      and use of Scripture, even though their approach was not essentially
      different from that of the people of God as a whole. From the time
      when, falling without realizing it under the influence of the new
      thought, they develop their own method of reading, parallel to that
      of the scholastic, there exist in the Church two clearly distinct
      approaches to Scripture: one which concerns a reading with the heart
      (and which in certain epochs will forget to bring the intelligence
      along) and one of scientific orientation, which will become drier
      and drier.

      On the other hand, we should realize that the monks , in devising
      their own method of lectio, were already dependent on the new, pre-
      scholastic mentality which had created the need for a method. The
      first monks had no method. They had an attitude of reading.

      Often in the course of the past centuries the monks forgot their own
      characteristic way of reading Scripture and the Fathers and of doing
      theology, and adopted everyone else's. It was therefore necessary
      for the monks of our time to return to a way of doing theology other
      than that of the scholastic text-books, and to return to a way of
      reading Scripture and the Fathers other than that of modern
      scientific exegesis. We owe a debt of great appreciation to Dom Jean
      Leclercq for having pointed contemporary monasticism in this
      direction. Moreover, we could say, with a smile, that the concepts
      of monastic theology and lectio divina, as we understand these two
      realities today, are the two most beautiful creations of Dom Jean
      Leclercq.

      It was important, I repeat, that monasticism rediscover this way of
      reading Scripture and this way of doing theology. But it has to go
      further: it has to recognize that this way of reading Scripture and
      of doing theology is in no way specifically monastic. It is the
      entire people of God who must rediscover it, since it was the way in
      which, at one time, the entire people of God used to read Scripture
      and do theology.

      We must, however, take another step. We must go beyond the
      separation of the life of the monk from that of other Christians. We
      must rediscover the primitive unity that has been lost on the way.

      In fact, if it is true that we should rejoice at the place lectio
      divina has taken in the life of monks and also in that of many
      Christians outside the monastery for the past forty years or so, it
      is also true that the present attitude in regard to this reality is
      not without danger.

      The danger is that, very often, although sometimes imperceptibly,
      lectio is transformed into an exercise - one exercise among others,
      even if it is considered the most important of all. The faithful
      monk makes a half-hour or an hour and even more of lectio each day,
      and moves on to his spiritual reading, his studies and his other
      activities. He adopts a gratuitous attitude of listening to God
      during this half-hour, and often gives himself up to other
      activities during the rest of the day with the same frenzy, the same
      spirit of competition, the same distraction, as if he had not chosen
      a life of continual prayer and constant seeking of the presence of
      God.

      Not only is all this totally foreign to the spirit of the monks of
      the desert, but this attitude is in contradiction of the very nature
      of lectio divina. What is the essence of lectio, as described by its
      best exponents, is the interior attitude. Now, this attitude is not
      something that can be put on for half an hour or one hour of the
      day. One has it all the time or not at all. It impregnates our whole
      day, or the exercise of it is a pointless game.

      To allow oneself to be questioned by God, to allow oneself to be
      challenged, formed, throughout all the elements of the day,
      throughout work as throughout fraternal encounters, throughout the
      harsh ascesis of a serious intellectual work as throughout the
      celebration of the liturgy and the normal tensions of community
      life - all this is terribly demanding. To relegate this attitude of
      total openness to one privileged exercise which is supposed to
      impregnate bu itself the rest of our day is perhaps a too facile way
      of running away from this demand.

      For the Fathers of the Desert, reading, meditating, praying,
      analysing, interpreting, examining, translating Scripture - all that
      formed one inseparable whole. It would have been unthinkable for a
      Jerome to consider that his elaborate analysis of the Hebrew text of
      Scripture to discover all its nuances was an activity not meriting
      the name of lectio divina.

      It is certainly fortunate that we have rediscovered the importance
      of reading the word of God with the heart, of reading it in such a
      way as to let it transform us. But I think it is an error to make an
      exercise of it rather than to impregnate with this attitude the
      thousand and one facets of our approach to Scripture.

      Furthermore, to believe that the text of Scripture can meet me in my
      profound life, can challenge and transform me only when I come
      before the naked text without recourse to all the instruments which
      can let me meet it in its first meaning, runs a strong risk of
      leading to a fundamentalist attitude - not rare in our days - or
      again to a false mysticism, which is also frequent enough.

      Since it is generally admitted in our days, that lectio divina can
      have as its object not only Scripture but also the Fathers of the
      Church and, for monks and nuns, in particular the Fathers of
      monasticism, I will allow myself a reflection on this also.

      Monastic tradition, being a lived interpretation of the Word of God,
      has an importance similar to it, although secondary to it. (We have
      seen, moreover, how the Fathers of the Desert tended to give the
      same power to the Word or example of an Ancient transformed by the
      Spirit as to the Word of God or an example from the Bible. But this
      lived word which is the monastic tradition also needs to be
      continually interpreted and re-interpreted.

      In our days the Fathers have been re-discovered in monastic
      communities. And we should praise this re-discovery. But their
      message, even more than that of the Scriptures, is shrouded in a
      given culture which is not, as is too often assumed, the monastic
      culture -- as if there were only one -- but rather the cultural
      context of such or such a particular epoch in which the ancient
      monks lived their monastic vocation. The modern reader must expose
      himself/herself without any critical mind set to the transforming
      force of the grace which they lived and which they convey; but
      he/she can only do this after having peeled off, with a very fine
      critical sensitivity, the cultural shroud under which this precious
      nourishment is hidden.

      Just as there does not exist one Christian culture, parallel to all
      the profane cultures, but many local cultures that have been
      christianized, - and these in differing degrees; in the same way,
      there does not exist one monastic culture, but many diverse cultures
      transformed by their encounter with the monastic charism. The use of
      the Fathers as matter for lectio divina requires a serious work of
      exegesis and study to recapture the reality which they lived beyond
      the cultural shroud. Otherwise, one reads oneself into the texts one
      admires, and, obviously, the more one finds oneself there the more
      one admires them.

      The monk of today will be challenged, called to conversion,
      transformed, by reading the Fathers of monasticism, solely on
      condition that he allows himself to be touched by them in all the
      aspects of his monastic experience. And that will only come about in
      the measure in which he unites himself to them in the whole of their
      experience: which presupposes a detailed analysis of their language
      and of their manner of speaking, of their thought, both
      philosophical and theological, of the cultural context in which they
      lived. It seems to me artificial and even perilous to distinguish
      this study from lectio properly so called, as if it were only a
      prelude...

      The monk of today necessarily belongs to a definite culture, and to
      a local Church, therefore to a definite Christian culture. This is
      the culture which, in him, meets the monastic tradition and must let
      itself be challenged and transformed by it. I am afraid that, too
      often, in our approach to the Fathers, we push the young to put on
      like a garment the monastic culture of a past epoch, at the risk of
      transforming our monasteries into cultural refugee camps.

      Conclusion

      The Fathers of the Desert remind us of the primordial importance of
      Scripture in the life of the Christian and the necessity of letting
      ourselves be constantly transformed in the crucible of the Word of
      God.

      Moreover, even such a rapid study as we have made of the way in
      which they approached Scripture, of its very nature makes us call
      into question certain aspects of the modern conception of lectio
      divina, or more precisely, calls us to go beyond them to arrive at a
      deeper understanding of the unity of their lived experience. The
      monk, more than anyone else, cannot allow himself to be divided. His
      very name, monachos, reminds him unceasingly of the unity of
      preoccupation, of aspiration and of attitude proper to the man or
      woman who has chosen to live one sole love with an undivided heart.


      Rome, November 7, 1995.

      Armand VEILLEUX, o.c.s.o.

      Note: Several of the quotes from the ancient monastic authors, in
      this conferences, were borrowed from: Louis Leloir, "Lectio Divina
      and the Desert Fathers", Liturgy, Vol. 23, n. 2, 1989, pp. 3-38.
      Shorter version of the same: "L'Écriture et les Pères", Revue
      d'Ascétique et de Mystique 47 (1971), pp. 183-199.











      "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." 1 Samuel 3:10b

      For the name of someone in your area
      from whom you could obtain
      further information about the Carmelites
      or with whom you could discuss
      the possibility of becoming a Carmelite,
      please visit:

      Fr. Jerry Sabado, OCarm.
      OCarm. Vocation Director
      http://www.ocarmphi.allhere.com

      Fr. Ernesto Montuerto, OCD
      OCD Vocation Director
      http://www.ocdphil.org


      If you have stories, insights, reflections that can help each one of us in
      the journey, please feel free to post at this address:
      CarmelReflections@yahoogroups.com

      "Lectio Divina" used with permission from the O.Carm. website
      "Reflections from the Readings" used with permission from the Irish
      Carmelites
      "Selected Meditations" used with permission from "the Word Among Us" 9639
      Dr. Perry Rd., #126 Ijamsville, MD 21754
      Yahoo! Groups Links
    • klimushyn
      Hi Ruel, Thank-you very much for posting this lecture on the nature of the Desert Father s reading of scripture. It took me a while to work through the piece
      Message 2 of 13 , Feb 8, 2006
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        Hi Ruel,

        Thank-you very much for posting this lecture on the nature of the Desert Father's reading of scripture.  It took me a while to work through the piece (printed it was 20 pages) but I didn't want to let it go by without commenting on it.

        If I understood correctl,  Armand Veilleux's main points regarding the Desert Father's and scripture were:

        1.  Scripture wasn't a part of their Rule, it was THE RULE they lived by.  Memorization of large parts of scripture, if not the entire bible, was the norm. The teachings in scripture were expected to be put into practice--immediately.

        2.   The reading of the Holy Scriptures was for want of a better term, "holistic".  The Desert Fathers did not separate the heartfelt reading that today we call Lectio Divina from a historical-intellectual understanding.  They read the bible for both types of knowledge--usually at the same time.  Such reading wasn't a 30 minute, one hour endeavor, put took up large portions of their day. 

        3.  Our general use of Lectio today has been too compartmentalized in our spirituality.  We have our Lectio time, our inner prayer time, our vocal prayer time, and our spiritual reading time.  The Desert Fathers would have saw the reading of scripture as being the hub of all these activities and permeating each of the others. 

        I wonder if these views of the Desert Fathers might have been more closely mirrored in the early generations of the Discalced Order?  I'm reminded of this passage from Michael  D. Griffin's, "Commentary on the Rule of Life:"

        Frequently it has been noted that in conferences and discussions much emphasis has been placed on Carmelite authors and little stressed is given to the life of Christ and of the Scriptures.  When one reads the lives of the saints of Carmel, one is amazed to see they did not do anything similar.  They went directly to the Scriptures and nourished their spiritual lives by reading the Word of God.  This lesson must not be lost on us (p. 40).

        In the interpretive notes of the, "Study Edition of The Way of Perfection,"  prepared by K. Kavanuagh we have this point made about Padre Tomas de Jesus:

        Padre Tamas de Jesus, who made his profession as a discalced Carmelite in Valladolid in 1587, five years after the death of Teresa and five years before the death of St. John of the Cross, learned a method of prayer, taught in the discalced Carmelite novitiates at the time, that was divided into seven parts: preparation, reading, meditation, contemplation, thanksgiving, petition, and epilogue.  The contemplation followed as the natural term of discursive meditation (p. 349).

        To me this seems a closer to the integrated approach to scripture reading and our entire spiritual life alluded to in this lecture.

        I wonder if English translations of Padre Tomas de Jesus' writings are available and if someone could kindly point me to them?

        Thanks again Ruel for posting this interesting article!

        Peace, -Chuck


        --- In cincarm@yahoogroups.com, Ruel Santos <santos.ruel@...> wrote:

        >
        > Lectio Divina as school of prayer among the Fathers of the Desert
        >
        > Note: This is the translation of a talk given at the Centre Saint-
        > Louis-des-Français,
        > in Rome, in November 1995
        >
        > Scripture, school of life
        >
        > The vocation of Antony, as it is described for us by Athanasius in
        > his Life of Antony, is well known. One day the young Antony, who had
        > been brought up in a Christian family of the church of Alexandria
        > (or at least in the region of Alexandria), and who had therefore
        > heard the Scriptures read since his childhood, enters the church and
        > is particularly struck by the text of Scripture that he hears read:
        > the story of the call of the rich young man: "If you would be
        > perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and come,
        > follow me; you will have a treasure in heaven". (Matt. 19,21; Vit.
        > Ant. 2).....

      • Gara Anderson
        OCDS Study Guide for Community and Growth by Jean Vanier Who has more...I have chapters 1,2,3... but there are at least five ...chapters If you have the
        Message 3 of 13 , Apr 24, 2006
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          OCDS Study Guide for
          "Community and Growth"
          by Jean Vanier

          Who has more...I have chapters 1,2,3...
          but there are at least five ...chapters
          If you have the study guide that were emailed
          to us for the last chapters of the book...
          would you please
          send them to me...Thank you

          May God reward you

          Gara Anderson

          Praised be Jesus now and forever!
        • Carol
          Dear Gara, Is Jean Vanier an OCDS? I would love to purchase all of his chapters, please tell me where to get the information.I have been praying for years to
          Message 4 of 13 , Apr 24, 2006
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            Dear Gara,

            Is Jean Vanier an OCDS? I would love to purchase all of his chapters,
            please tell me where to get the information.I have been praying for
            years to meet him.
            Thank you for the information.
            Carol


            At 11:03 AM 4/24/2006, you wrote:

            >
            >
            >
            >OCDS Study Guide for
            >"Community and Growth"
            >by Jean Vanier
            >
            >Who has more...I have chapters 1,2,3...
            >but there are at least five ...chapters
            >If you have the study guide that were emailed
            > to us for the last chapters of the book...
            >would you please
            >send them to me...Thank you
            >
            >May God reward you
            >
            >Gara Anderson
            >
            >Praised be Jesus now and forever!
            >
            >
            >
            >Yahoo! Groups Links
            >
            >
            >
            >
          • Elizabeth M Korves
            ... No, he s not. However, his book on Community and Growth is included in the formation guidelines for the Oklahoma Province because its all about how to be
            Message 5 of 13 , Apr 24, 2006
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              --- In cincarm@yahoogroups.com, Carol <teresaje@...> wrote:
              > Is Jean Vanier an OCDS? I would love to purchase all of his chapters,
              > please tell me where to get the information.I have been praying for
              > years to meet him.

              No, he's not. However, his book on Community and Growth is included
              in the formation guidelines for the Oklahoma Province because its all
              about how to be community.

              Elizabeth M Korves OCDS
              korves@...
            • Elizabeth M Korves
              ... As it states at the beginning of the study guide, these questions are being provided by one of our communities that is going through the book for on-going
              Message 6 of 13 , Apr 24, 2006
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                --- In cincarm@yahoogroups.com, "Gara Anderson" <garamttc@...> wrote:
                > Who has more...I have chapters 1,2,3...
                > but there are at least five ...chapters
                > If you have the study guide that were emailed
                > to us for the last chapters of the book...
                > would you please
                > send them to me...Thank you

                As it states at the beginning of the study guide, these questions are
                being provided by one of our communities that is going through the
                book for on-going formation. We're waiting the next set of questions
                still. Chapter 4 is pretty long and they've said that they spent
                three months on it before moving to the next. I'll drop the folks
                doing a question another reminder and maybe the news that the
                questions are in demand will nudge them to get the next set to me to post.

                Elizabeth M Korves OCDS
                OCDS Provincial Council
                Oklahoma Province
              • Lonnie Sorensen
                Community and Growth by Jean Vanier JMJT Dear All, this book is a fabulous help for seculars to grasp Fr. Deeney s exhortations on becoming more of a
                Message 7 of 13 , Apr 26, 2006
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                  "Community and Growth"
                  by Jean Vanier

                  JMJT
                  Dear All,
                  this book is a fabulous help for seculars to grasp Fr. Deeney's exhortations
                  on becoming more of a community. Remember that he said that being formed as
                  community is more important than the teachings (the information).

                  We had a community anniversary party on Sat. and I had these quotes from the
                  book around the house. This will give you an idea of what we are to become
                  to each other. We have a lot more to do about this in USA. As Father
                  reminded us, our "individualism" here gets in the way of our success at
                  community.

                  Here are some Quotes!

                  The more a community deepens, the weaker and the more sensitive its members
                  become. You might think exactly the opposite – that as their trust in each
                  other grows, they in fact grow stronger. So they do. But this doesn’t
                  disperse the fragility and sensitivity which are at the root of a new grace
                  and which mean that people are becoming in some way dependent on each other.
                  Love makes us weak and vulnerable, because it breaks down the barriers and
                  protective armor we have built around ourselves. Love means letting others
                  reach us and becoming sensitive enough to reach them. The cement of unity
                  is interdependence.
                  Jean Vanier

                  Community is the place where our limitations, our fears and our egoism are
                  revealed to us. We discover our poverty and our weaknesses, our inability
                  to get on with some people............ While we are alone, we could
                  believe we loved everyone. Now that we are with others........we realize
                  how incapable we are of loving, how much we deny to others, how closed in on
                  ourselves we are.
                  Jean Vanier


                  So many people enter groups in order to develop a certain form of
                  spirituality or to acquire knowledge about the things of God and of
                  humanity. But that is not community; it is a school. It becomes community
                  only when people start truly caring for each other and for each other’s
                  growth.
                  Jean Vanier


                  An experience in prayer and the experience of being loved and accepted in
                  community, which has become a safe place for us, allows us gradually to
                  accept ourselves as we are, with our wounds and all the monsters. We are
                  broken, but we are loved. We can grow to greater openness and compassion;
                  we have a mission. Community becomes the place of liberation and growth.

                  Jean Vanier


                  ....where people pretend to live community. Everybody is polite and obeys
                  the rules and regulations. They speak in platitudes and generalities. But
                  underlying it all is an immense fear of conflict, a fear of letting out the
                  monsters. If people start truly to listen to each other and to get
                  involved, speaking from their guts, their anger and fears may rise up and
                  they might start hitting each other over the head with frying pans. There
                  are so many pent-up emotions contained in their hearts that if these were to
                  start surfacing, God knows what might happen! It would be chaos. But from
                  the chaos, healing could come. They realize what a terrible mess the
                  community is in, what horrible fears inhabit them. Then they feel lost and
                  empty. What to do; what road to take? They discover that they have all
                  been living in a state of falsehood. And it is then that the miracle of
                  community can happen! Feeling lost, but together, they start to share their
                  pain, their disillusionment and their love, and then discover their
                  brotherhood and sisterhood; they start praying to God for light and healing
                  and they discover forgiveness. They discover community.

                  Jean Vanier
                • Elizabeth M Korves
                  Thank you, Lonnie, for the handful of quotes from Vanier s book. I especially like the last one on when there are problems in community. I ve met so many
                  Message 8 of 13 , Apr 27, 2006
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                    Thank you, Lonnie, for the handful of quotes from Vanier's book. I
                    especially like the last one on when there are problems in community.
                    I've met so many people who think that because we are Carmelite,
                    there should never be problems in the community nor between individual
                    members. And yet, we are human and so such things do happen. I know
                    my own community when through a time about 10 years ago that I simply
                    call "the turmoil" when we were truly challenged to overcome some
                    difficulties. I firmly believe we came through it as a much stronger
                    and deeper community. The difficult times in community do call us to
                    an experience of reconciliation and the great challenges of love.
                    Many times it is just like family. A particular person may drive me
                    absolutely crazy in some way and yet I love him or her deeply. And I
                    recognize that I am just as capable of driving someone else as crazy. :-)

                    Elizabeth M Korves OCDS
                    korves@...
                  • Marjorie Schafer
                    Some more about Vanier and community life . . . Margie ... From: cincarm@yahoogroups.com [mailto:cincarm@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Elizabeth M Korves Sent:
                    Message 9 of 13 , Apr 27, 2006
                    • 0 Attachment
                      Message
                      Some more about Vanier and community life . . .

                      Margie
                      -----Original Message-----
                      From: cincarm@yahoogroups.com [mailto:cincarm@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Elizabeth M Korves
                      Sent: Thursday, April 27, 2006 9:23 AM
                      To: cincarm@yahoogroups.com
                      Subject: [cincarm] Re: Jean Vanier

                      Thank you, Lonnie, for the handful of quotes from Vanier's book.  I
                      especially like the last one on when there are problems in community.
                      I've met so many people who think that because we are Carmelite,
                      there should never be problems in the community nor between individual
                      members.  And yet, we are human and so such things do happen.  I know
                      my own community when through a time about 10 years ago that I simply
                      call "the turmoil" when we were truly challenged to overcome some
                      difficulties.  I firmly believe we came through it as a much stronger
                      and deeper community.  The difficult times in community do call us to
                      an experience of reconciliation and the great challenges of love.
                      Many times it is just like family.  A particular person may drive me
                      absolutely crazy in some way and yet I love him or her deeply.  And I
                      recognize that I am just as capable of driving someone else as crazy.  :-)

                      Elizabeth M Korves OCDS
                      korves@...



                    • amdg@pennswoods.net
                      Lonnie, Where can we get this book? Would it be good for formation?
                      Message 10 of 13 , May 12 2:48 AM
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                        Lonnie,
                        Where can we get this book? Would it be good for formation?





                        Quoting Lonnie Sorensen <allisgrace@...>:

                        >
                        >
                        >
                        > "Community and Growth"
                        >
                        > by Jean Vanier
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        > JMJT
                        >
                        > Dear All,
                        >
                        > this book is a fabulous help for seculars to grasp Fr. Deeney's exhortations
                        >
                        > on becoming more of a community.  Remember that he said that being formed as
                        >
                        > community is more important than the teachings (the information).
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        > We had a community anniversary party on Sat. and I had these quotes from the
                        >
                        > book around the house.  This will give you an idea of what we are to become
                        >
                        > to each other.  We have a lot more to do about this in USA.  As Father
                        >
                        > reminded us, our "individualism" here gets in the way of our success at
                        >
                        > community.
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        > Here are some Quotes!
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        > The more a community deepens, the weaker and the more sensitive its members
                        >
                        > become.  You might think exactly the opposite – that as their trust in each
                        >
                        > other grows, they in fact grow stronger.  So they do.  But this doesn’t
                        >
                        > disperse the fragility and sensitivity which are at the root of a new grace
                        >
                        > and which mean that people are becoming in some way dependent on each other.
                        >
                        > Love makes us weak and vulnerable, because it breaks down the barriers and
                        >
                        > protective armor we have built around ourselves.  Love means letting others
                        >
                        > reach us and becoming sensitive enough to reach them.  The cement of unity
                        >
                        > is interdependence.
                        >
                        >                                         Jean Vanier
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        > Community is the place where our limitations, our fears and our egoism are
                        >
                        > revealed to us.  We discover our poverty and our weaknesses, our inability
                        >
                        > to get on with some people............   While we are alone, we could
                        >
                        > believe we loved everyone.  Now that we are with others........we realize
                        >
                        > how incapable we are of loving, how much we deny to others, how closed in on
                        >
                        > ourselves we are.
                        >
                        >                                           Jean Vanier
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        > So many people enter groups in order to develop a certain form of
                        >
                        > spirituality or to acquire knowledge about the things of God and of
                        >
                        > humanity.  But that is not community; it is a school.  It becomes community
                        >
                        > only when people start truly caring for each other and for each other’s
                        >
                        > growth.
                        >
                        >                                                         Jean Vanier
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        > An experience in prayer and the experience of being loved and accepted in
                        >
                        > community, which has become a safe place for us, allows us gradually to
                        >
                        > accept ourselves as we are, with our wounds and all the monsters.  We are
                        >
                        > broken, but we are loved.  We can grow to greater openness and compassion;
                        >
                        > we have a mission.  Community becomes the place of liberation and growth.
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >                                 Jean Vanier
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        > ....where people pretend to live community.  Everybody is polite and obeys
                        >
                        > the rules and regulations.  They speak in platitudes and generalities.  But
                        >
                        > underlying it all is an immense fear of conflict, a fear of letting out the
                        >
                        > monsters.  If people start truly to listen to each other and to get
                        >
                        > involved, speaking from their guts, their anger and fears may rise up and
                        >
                        > they might start hitting each other over the head with frying pans.  There
                        >
                        > are so many pent-up emotions contained in their hearts that if these were to
                        >
                        > start surfacing, God knows what might happen!  It would be chaos.  But from
                        >
                        > the chaos, healing could come.  They realize what a terrible mess the
                        >
                        > community is in, what horrible fears inhabit them.   Then they feel lost and
                        >
                        > empty.  What to do; what road to take?  They discover that they have all
                        >
                        > been living in a state of falsehood.  And it is then that the miracle of
                        >
                        > community can happen!  Feeling lost, but together, they start to share their
                        >
                        > pain, their disillusionment and their love, and then discover their
                        >
                        > brotherhood and sisterhood; they start praying to God for light and healing
                        >
                        > and they discover forgiveness.  They discover community.
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >                                    Jean Vanier
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                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        > SPONSORED LINKS
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        > Catholic prayers
                        >
                        >
                        > Catholic saints
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        > YAHOO! GROUPS LINKS
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >  Visit your group "cincarm" on the web.
                        >  
                        >  To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
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                        >  
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                        >
                      • Lonnie Sorensen
                        Lonnie, Where can we get this book? Would it be good for formation? JMJT I got it from www.amazon.com I believe it is very necessary for formation and I
                        Message 11 of 13 , May 12 7:46 AM
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                          Lonnie,
                          Where can we get this book?  Would it be good for formation?

                           JMJT
                          I got it from www.amazon.com
                          I believe it is very necessary for formation and I received that wisdom from Oklahoma Province!
                          They include it in their "approved by Rome" formation guidelines.  You can see their statutes and guidelines at:
                           
                          Blessings,
                          Lonnie
                        • betty lamantea
                          Thanks Lonnie! It is also available at www.overstock.com (even a little cheaper) : ) Blessings, Betty Lonnie, Where can we get this book? Would it be good
                          Message 12 of 13 , May 12 7:55 AM
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                            Thanks Lonnie! It is also available at www.overstock.com  (even a little cheaper) : )
                            Blessings,
                            Betty
                            Lonnie,
                            Where can we get this book?  Would it be good for formation?

                             JMJT
                            I got it from www.amazon.com
                            I believe it is very necessary for formation and I received that wisdom from Oklahoma Province!
                            They include it in their "approved by Rome" formation guidelines.  You can see their statutes and guidelines at:
                             
                            Blessings,
                            Lonnie
                          • maelal2002
                            I am now reading the book Impact of God by Iain Matthews (Irish Carmelite) about St. John of the Cross with a foreword by Jean Varnier. I wonder about his
                            Message 13 of 13 , May 14 7:14 AM
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                              I am now reading the book Impact of God by Iain Matthews (Irish
                              Carmelite) about St. John of the Cross with a foreword by Jean
                              Varnier. I wonder about his Carmelite connection is?

                              In Christ,
                              Mary
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