Monday, March 3, 2008

Lectio--Not Just Reading

This past Saturday 30 oblates came to the Mount for a Lenten retreat afternoon. It was led by Sister Mary Lou Kownacki and revolved around the theme of lectio, the meditative reading of scripture or other spiritual works. Sister Mary Lou's primary source of lectio is poetry---poetry from all religious traditions. One of her favorites is the Sufi poet Rumi.

As part of the afternoon she shared what she called the four things she's learned about lectio in her years of religious life. Here are two of those four:

BE COMMITTED:
Don't read about lectio or make retreats on lectio...do lectio.
Take time every day to pray.
Be regular about it.
Find a place and a time.
You become a pianist by playing the piano.
You become a writer by writing.
You become a cook by cooking.
You learn to pray by praying.

BE HUMBLE: There is no magic formula for prayer, no easy way, no way on earth that you can force prayer, no "one way fits all" prayer. You can't find God by a method.


So why do we do lectio?

Well, the ancients give us this answer:

Once upon a time a disciple asked the elder, "Holy One, is there anything I can do to make myself enlightened?"

And the Holy One answered, "As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning."

"Then of what use," the surprised disciple asked, "are all these spiritual disciplines you prescribe--fasting, lectio, meditation, almsgiving?"

And the Holy One answered, "To make sure that you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise."

Here's a poem I found just googling "Rumi":

Where there is the fragrance of God,
The masses come in throngs.
Because the souls are thirsty for Him;
The thirsty hear the call for the water-bearer.
They are the suckler of His generosity and searching
For the direction from which mother may arrive.
They are in separation, waiting
For the union to draw near.
From Muslim, Jew, and Christian
Every dawn rise the sound of prayer.