There is a form of contemplative meditation that has become more mainstream in Christian Spirituality (both Catholic and Protestant) in recent decades called Lectio Divina. I have used this practice in staff devotions at my school occasionally. Lectio Divina simply means ‘divine or sacred reading’. It is a way of meditating, contemplating on the Biblical text that comes out of the monastic tradition of the church. For centuries, monks, whether they lived solitary or in community would use Lectio Divina for their private and communal devotions. The process involved what is called in Latin; Lectio (reading the text), Meditatio (meditating on the text), Oratio (praying) and Contemplatio (contemplating). What is particularly noteworthy of this practice from a Lutheran point of view is Luther’s experience of the Lectio.
Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk. His reforms of the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages was birthed out of his experience of monasticism. And in many ways, Luther reacted against the monastic practices he was formed in. He reacted against many of them as he saw them contributing to his image of an angry God who needed to be pleased. They were works he tried to perfect to obtain God’s grace and favour. Indeed Luther vigorously tried to be the best possible monk he could. He prayed hard, he worked hard, he confessed every sin, yet he still felt it was not enough. Worse still, his failures towards God lead him to deep spiritual despair where he doubted God’s grace and mercy.
When it came to the Lectio, which was embedded into every monk's daily life, Luther reacted against it becoming a performative work in which we try to interpret what the Holy Spirit is saying through our ideas, our thoughts, our contemplation. Even meditating on the Bible can become a work to get the favour of God, a ladder to climb to heaven.
The gospel which Luther rediscovered is the opposite of this. We meditate on scripture as God comes down to us. In Jesus, God became flesh and blood, so in the Bible, God comes down to us as the Holy Spirit is given to us through his word as gift and promise. When viewed through this upside-down lens, scripture has the capacity to interpret us rather than we trying to interpret scripture. When we come to the text with humility, the Holy Spirit becomes our teacher through faith in Christ.
Luther reformed the monastic Lectio by changing the order of devotion from ending in contemplation to ending in something entirely different. Something that speaks to Luther’s theology of the cross. Luther’s Lectio went like this; Oratio, Meditatio, Tentatio. Prayer, meditating on the text, then testing and spiritual attack. Luther went so far as to say from his study of the Psalms that this triad of oratio, medtitatio and tentatio is what makes a theologian. Theology is learnt not from academic study or speculation about who God is but by praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, dwelling on God’s word to us, and experiencing the cross as we endure with Christ the trials and suffering in our lives. In the end, when we meditate on the word we meditate on the cross. For it is only through the cross that God fully reveals himself.
About this site
"Meditations & Musings" is my humble attempt to share what I have found useful in ministry in an Australian Lutheran School setting. It contains chapels, devotions and other resources I have written, used and adapted in my K-12 school context. If you would like to also share your ideas, resources or start a conversation about mission and ministry in your church- school location, feel free to contact me.
Links I Like: