Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Peter on Lectio Divina


Many Quakers seem to get a lot of sustenance from the Bible. A Friend/friend of mine shared with me a few pages from her prayer journal the other day, and I was really struck by her careful, prayerful, Spirit-filled reading of the Psalms.

I read the Bible, too, but not like that. I attack the Bible the way I would tackle an immense Rubix cube, or a crossword puzzle in a foreign language. It's an exhilarating intellectual challenge, and it's got me digging through history with the excitement of a puppy finding new smells in the woods...but it's not prayerful, and it does not, by any stretch of the imagination, bring me closer to anything I could call the living G*d.

My friend's prayer journal got me asking myself, what is there that I could be reading with the same kind of attentiveness that Christ-centered Friends bring to the Bible? (What Cat, in a post a few months ago, called Lectio Divina.)

What I came up with were mostly poets (even though I read very little poetry) and also a few essayists: Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, Annie Dillard, Rainer Maria Rilke, Anne Lamott... For the moment, the list stops there.

I'm 6'1", but even I had to stand on tiptoes to get to my poetry shelf, which shows how often I take it out and reread it. But I did today, and here is one of Wendell Berry's poems that speaks to me this afternoon:


A Homecoming

One faith is bondage. Two
are free. In the trust
of old love, cultivation shows
a dark graceful wilderness
at its heart. Wild
in that wilderness, we roam
the distances of our faith,
safe beyond the bounds
of what we know. O love,
open. Show me
my country. Take me home.

5 comments:

Yewtree said...

My choice of lectio divina would be the Tao Te Ching.

I wrote a post about this, too.

Chris said...

I love Mary Oliver as well.

Mary Ellen said...

I have tried a psalm or two, but it sometimes becomes a wrestling match, as I have to bracket so much. But something about the NRSV Psalm 139, which I shared as a lectio divina exercise with a small newly-forming spiritual nurture group, was really powerful. But I haven't tried it since. Poetry - I should read more and savor it. Good plan.

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Mary Ellen--how amazing that you should mention Psalm 139, of all things! From the day a fFriend quoted it to me that particular Psalm has spoken to me quite strongly.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, "Surely the darkness shall fall on me," Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.


Especially to a Pagan, one whose understanding of Spirit is in its immanence, and whose traditions honor both the dark and the light, this psalm is very, very rich.

Approaching the Bible as poetry is the only way it works for me, thus far. I find myself unable to follow Peter's more studious path (though I do often take advantage of his work, using him as a kind of living footnote when I am puzzling over a passage a Friend has mentioned online or in meeting).

(Like Peter, I find spiritual nurture in Mary Oliver, too. I love her poem "Wild Geese" especially.)

Mary Ellen said...

Thanks, Cat, for that link - I have read and loved "Wild Geese" before, but tonight the poem "Journey" is speaking to me.

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