All authentic and noble human activity is a preparation for prayer. All that is good, true, and beautiful in the world must be drawn up into and transfigured by the dynamic presence of Christ. In this way, we are called to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) in the sense that all aspects of life must come under the domain of Christ. We are not allowed to hold anything back if we seek our salvation because salvation demands total surrender to the working of the Holy Spirit.
In this sense, our reading of the scripture is a profound gateway into the Divine. However, such an opening must be based on a mind that has walked the path of understanding and study. Although not everyone has the time to dedicate to a thorough, all-encompassing knowledge of scripture, we all must know the Word of God and engage it on a daily basis. Before we can come to love and serve God, we must know him, and to know him we must come into contact daily with the ways he has chosen to reveal himself.
The key to reading the Bible is that we must study the sacred Word within the context of the Church. The Church allows us to enter into the continuous stream of Christian discipleship that connects our contemporary experience with the succession of saints, prophets, and faithful Christians who have lived the faith throughout the ages. The Church represents that consensus of faith which extends beyond the limits of any one culture or time. For this reason, we must seek scholarly materials which are faithful to this consensus, and we must apply ourselves to daily reading.
In this way, study becomes prayer as discursive reasoning is transformed into theology. Theology is not so much one academic subject among many, but that moment in which the mind stands before the profundity and grandeur of the truth and gives praise to God. In this way, our reading must be tied to theology as it transports us into the inner life of the Trinity, drawing us away from our selfishness and towards Christ’s infinite love.
Thus, we are all called to theologians in the sense that we must read with the heart of Christ. We must read the Word of God, and allow our study of the Word to take hold of everything else in our lives. This forms the first step of meditating on the scripture, or lectio divina. Before we can meditate on the Word, and allow that Word to sink into the depths of our heart, we must first read and understand the Scripture.
This article is the first in a series of articles on the four steps of lectio divina. Those steps are lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio (or in English: reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation).