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Posted October 1, 2005

Lectio Divina

A source of spiritual strength for us all

ROME (CNS) -- The ancient tradition of "lectio divina" or sacred reading of Scripture should be promoted as a way to enrich the spiritual life of the church, Pope Benedict XVI said in an address to biblical experts.

"The church must always renew and rejuvenate herself" through "the Word of God, which never gets old or expires," he said.

The pope urged a renewal of this ancient tradition, saying he was convinced it would "bring a new spiritual springtime to the church if promoted effectively."

The pope's message came in a Sept. 16 address at his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo to some 500 biblical experts, scholars and pastoral leaders attending an international conference in Rome.

The Catholic Biblical Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity sponsored the congress commemorating the 40th anniversary of "Dei Verbum," the Second Vatican Council's document on Scripture and revelation.

Pope Benedict reminded his audience that he was "a young theologian" who took part in the "lively discussions" at the time that resulted in "Dei Verbum."

"The church and the word of God are inseparably linked," he said.

The Vatican II document affirmed that "the church does not live off herself, but off the Gospel, and it is from the Gospel that the church always and again draws guidance for her journey," he said.

The practice of "lectio divina" should be encouraged, even using "carefully considered new methods" as a mainstay in biblical pastoral activity, the pope said.

The pope described "lectio divina" as "the assiduous study of holy Scripture, accompanied by prayer, (which) initiates that intimate exchange" between God and the individual.

"By reading, we listen to God who speaks and, by praying, we reply to him with faithful openness of heart," he said.

"One must never forget that the word of God is the lamp for our feet and a light to our path," the pope said.

In a Sept. 14 address to congress participants at the meeting's venue in Rome, Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Christian unity council, also called for a renewal of the sacred reading of Scripture.

While "lectio divina" was "not a panacea that solves every problem in one fell swoop," the cardinal said it was "an important pastoral task" that would help remind the faithful that the Bible dealt "with God's word and God's reality" and not "human words and theses."

Cardinal Kasper said the word of God "is not intended as instruction on some supernatural facts or doctrines to which mankind has no access through the intellect alone."

Revelation is "a communicative process from person to person" in which God speaks to people "as friends out of the abundance of his love."

The sacred Scriptures, therefore, do "not give us something"; rather they give people "access to the Father" and allow the faithful "to participate in divine nature" and be in "fellowship" with God, Jesus and one another, he said.