When we participate in Lectio Divina we pray and read. We read and pray. The essential idea is that we read the sacred Scriptures not critically or even to gather information, but so that the Word of God might be a bridge into the presence of God.
There are four stages to this devotional discipline which were first outlined in the twelfth century by a Carthusian monk named Guigo.
The first stage is leggere “Reading”. We use a short passage of Scripture and simply read it slowly. It is fine to use the gospel reading from Mass for the day or to use the Scripture passage from the Office of Readings or to work you way slowly through a particular book of the Bible.
Because we are so quick to speed read, some people use techniques to slow them down. Reading the passage out loud our mouthing the words slows your reading. Some people trace the words with their fingers on the page to slow down.
The second stage is meditare “Meditate”. In this stage we take time to ponder the passage explicitly–imagining what the scene was like, asking questions in our mind about the passage and ruminating on its message and how it might connect with our lives and our prayer intentions.
The third stage is pregare “Prayer”. Now we allow our hearts to turn to the Lord in prayer, prompted by the passage. If the passage is challenging to us we ask the Lord for further insights. If it prompts prayer requests or needs in our lives or those for whom we pray, we allow the passage to lead us into prayer.
The final stage is contemplare “Contemplation”. In this stage we open into the silence and stillness of God’s presence. We simply remain with him and he with us. In this way the truths of the Scripture penetrate and enter into the world beyond words. In contemplation the Word moves us beyond the words.
Even a quick look at the monastic life will reveal how important the psalms are to the spiritual life.
In choir, singing the psalms is the major part of the Divine Office. In some monasteries in the Middle Ages the monks would work their way through all 150 psalms in a week. In most places the majority of the psalms are sung through in a month.
Priest and deacons are still required to recite the Divine Office, and when the whole office is said–even in its modern abbreviated form we recite fifteen psalms a day: the Invitatory, three at the Office of Readings, three at Matins, three at Mid Day Prayer and three at Vespers and two at Compline.
Is this just to fill the time? Of course not. The psalms give us words for worship. We want to “pray without ceasing” but we lack the words. We run out of things to say and the psalms are just the words we need.
The psalms are not only the inspired word of God, but they are also the words of men, and they are not only the intellectual thoughts of men or the inspiring ideas of men. They are words of worship, words of prayer, words of supplication, words of anguish–all from the heart. The psalms are therefore important because they are one of the key ways for our faith to make the long journey from the head to the heart.
When we recite or sing the psalms our heart opens to God, and we step past the worries of the world to open not just our minds to the Lord in thought and logic, but also we open our hearts to God who’s sacred heart is always open to us.
If you go to confession just because you feel it is your duty and you scrounge around to find a few things you think might be a “sin” but you’re not really sure and you think you probably haven’t done anything bad because you’re a nice person and after all, you didn’t commit adultery or rob a bank or hit anyone…
This is not perfect contrition.
If you go to confession because you’ve done something that embarrasses you when you think about it, or maybe you just feel guilty or you are ashamed of what you’ve done or maybe you’re scared you’re going to get caught. The fear of punishment includes the fear of hell. You might also desire heaven. These are some of the good emotions you should have, and this is better than nothing, but this is not perfect contrition.
This is what the church calls “imperfect contrition.”
Perfect contrition is when you have learned to accept the love of God and you love God so much that you are truly sorry for your sins because you have offended the one who loves you and gave everything to redeem you.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you lost your temper and slapped your mother. Think of the look of hurt and sadness in her eyes. Suddenly you see that and you are terrified at what you’ve done. You are truly and completely sorry because you have hurt the one who loves you.
THAT’S perfect contrition. When you are given the grace to truly repent because you have understood how much your sin has wounded the purity, goodness, beauty and truth of God himself.
Pray then, during Lent for the gift of perfect contrition, but to get there you must first understand and accept at the core of your being the totally perfect love and mercy of God.
Pray then, for this gift.
PS: One way to enter more fully, and experience the complete and total love of God is through my book Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing.