Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Art of Meditation

Another component of Lectio Divina is meditatio: to meditate on the text…

For many, whenever they hear the word meditate, it automatically gets sidelined into the “New Age” category of things…

Yet meditation has always been at the core of Jewish and Christian Spirituality.

The Book of Psalms opens with a famous passage....that deals with the idea of "meditating."

1-Blessed are those
who do not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2-but who delight in the law of the LORD
and meditate on his law day and night.
3-They are like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
(Psalm 1:1-3)

The process of pausing and reflecting was often called meditation.

The Hebrew word for meditate means “to mutter or to mumble, to make a low sound.” It is used of the gentle cooing of a dove, the low growl of a lion, and the soft music of a harp. It was the habit of people reflecting on the Scriptures to turn the words over and over in their mind, and they did this by speaking the words, often in a whisper that sounded very much like mumbling. They would do this on an early-morning walk, on a garden bench in the afternoon, or on their bed at night. Going over and over the words worked something like a root stimulator, allowing the words to penetrate their heart more quickly and more deeply.

The Biblical concept is less about emptying one's head of everything and more about filling it with something. In Hebrew thought, to meditate upon the Scriptures is to quietly repeat them in a soft, droning sound, while utterly abandoning outside distractions. From this tradition comes a specialized type of Jewish prayer called “davening,” that is, reciting text, praying intense prayers, or getting lost in communion with God while bowing or rocking back and forth. This form of meditation-prayer goes back at least to David’s time.

The process of reflection was not merely a rote exercise. Notice in verse 2 the word that stands in parallel to meditate. It is "delight."

The pairing of these two words reveals that both the heart and the mind are essential in the process of reflection. Like sap and the woody fiber of a tree. Sap without the fiber results in formless life. Fiber without the sap results in lifeless form. Delight means “excited attention.” The writer continues his thought in verse 3...

3-They are like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season and
whose leaf does not wither—
they do prospers.

The person who approaches the Word of God in this way is pictured as a tree.

But not simply a tree. A tree planted by and overhanging the “streams of water.”

This phrase is a technical term, meaning “water canals.”

The use of the term here indicates that the picture we are looking at is not of a tree that grows beside a river, which may flood or recede according to the weather.

It is a tree growing in a garden.

The eastern garden back then was usually walled and crisscrossed with irrigation ditches. These irrigation systems were often connected to some kind of water canal. The water could be shifted to different parts of the garden by simply moving a lever with your foot.

These trees in that garden grew under the care of a gardener who watched over it and controlled the flow of water into it. In such a well-cultivated and well-protected spot, the tree flourished. The picture is one of stability, security, beauty, vitality, and productivity. The tree is postured in a place conducive to absorb water...

“Meditation is the discipline we give to keeping the memory active in the act of reading," writes Eugene Peterson in his book Eat This Book. He continues,
"Meditation moves from looking at the words of the text to entering the world of the text. As we take this text into ourselves, we find that the text is taking us into itself.”

Lectio Divina - Marination, Lectio-Reading

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