his home page represents approximately forty years of reflections upon Scripture and Fathers of the Church with frequent references to St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, two Christian authors of special personal interest. In more recent years I became interested again in the Greek Classical tradition, one in which I had been educated, because it had an immense influence on the development of Christianity. This includes Homer, the tragedians, Aristotle, Plotinus and above all, Plato.
The phrase lectio divina, difficult to translate adequately, is the Latin for “sacred reading.” Personally, I like to translate it as reading which is sacred. Ordinarily lectio is confined to the slow perusal of sacred Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments; it is undertaken not with the intention of gaining information but of using the texts as an aide to contact the living God. Basic to this practice is a union with God in faith which, in turn, is sustained by further reading. There is no special program or technique to lectio. Even more importantly, one must resist the temptation of covering a given amount of material within a prescribed time frame, a particularly modern temptation. This is more difficult to sustain than first meets the eye, and one will run up against it sooner than anticipated. A person is well advised to linger over a single word or phrase for an indefinite period of time, trusting that it will lead to further texts. Such is one of the most attractive features to lectio divina, for it is open-ended and subject to continuous growth.
One would expect that instead of the phrase lectio divina, the adjective sacra (the feminine form) or “sacred reading.” The word “sacred,” whether Latin or Greek, pertains to objects related to the holy such as a church or vessels of the altar used for Mass. Instead, tradition employs the adjective divina or “divine.” This intimates that such reading is divine, not sacred, or more proximate to God himself instead of being an object related to his holiness. Furthermore, lectio derives from the verb lego, “to choose, pick.” In sum, lectio divina may be said to be a “divine picking” or choosing of a given sentence, phrase or word through which God himself speaks. While certainly sacred (or sacra), one quickly discovers that lectio appeals directly to the heart of God and does not beat around the bush, so to speak.
Permit me to add an example which demonstrates the uniqueness of lectio divina. One parallel to this practice is “sacred tradition” or the heritage of the Church. “Sacred” properly modifies “tradition” instead of “divine” as in “divine tradition,” a phrase which would make one feel uncomfortable. So if we compare lectio divina...divine reading...side by side with “sacred tradition,” we see better the uniqueness of this ancient practice.
The contents of the home page represent a wide variety of examples of this ancient practice. Lectio traces its origins of monasticism and currently is enjoying wide acceptance among lay persons. In fact, many people show a spontaneous interest in lectio divina, often after having been initiated into some form contemplative prayer in line with Church teaching and tradition. They discovered that such prayer cannot continue without verification of their practice, and the best locus for those raised in the Judeo-Christian heritage is found in both the Old and New Testaments. Prayer enables one to penetrate beyond the letter of text and to see how the Holy Spirit is speaking to us through these inspired words here and now. Not long ago Pope Benedict the Sixteenth recognized this and remarked that lectio divina lies at the heart of the Church's renewal.
The approach tolectio divina in this Home Page is unique in that it relies heavily upon the biblical texts composed in the original Hebrew and Greek languages. Not only that, reference is made to authors of both the Latin and Syriac traditions. Despite frequent references to these original texts, I wish to avoid a purely etymological or scholarly approach. That is to say, I do not wish to present them as bits of information but as the fruit of Christian contemplative prayer which must remain primary to any subsequent reflections. While some readers may find the transliterations wearing and somewhat dense, this constant appeal to the original texts is integral to most reflections within this Home Page. Ideally, these documents should be read with that same slow, thoughtful attitude essential to lectio divina. I have tried to make these notes more palatable by a simple yet thorough explanation of the transliterated terms. If the reader is patient with them, he or she can allow the text to speak on its own terms minus my any personal take on them. Again, it is important to keep in mind that one must not rush through a given text but linger as long as needed to absorb it.
A special note of thanks to Joseph Cece of Little Falls, New Jersey. In the mid 1990s he encouraged me to organize notes I had taken over the years and fashion them into a website, so under his kind and patient guidance, it has come to fruition. I owe him a lot, to be sure!
This website is dedicated to many fine men and women in the country of Iceland who have adopted the practice of lectio divina and have been supportive of my endeavors over the years. As for lectio, interest in this practice has grown steadily in Iceland for the past thirty-five years and is now flourishing, albeit in small but vibrant groups.
As for the Gregory of Nyssa CD (mentioned on the Gregory of Nyssa Home Page with which this page is linked), it is available for purchase including first class postage. It contains Gregory of Nyssa’s Commentary on the Song of Songs, not available on the home page dedicated to him. If interested, please contact me through email.
Richard McCambly, ocso