During last week’s Wednesday General Audience at Saint Peter’s Square, our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI spoke on Monastic and Scholastic theology. He spoke about the importance of Sacred Scripture in the monasteries of the twelfth century and the occupation of lectio divina. This, of course, is still a treasured occupation today. In fact, the Holy Father said that “it is useful to treasure monastic theology.” Here’s an excerpt from his catechesis last week.
In the monasteries of the 12th century… biblical theology was particularly widespread. The monks, in fact, were all devoted listeners and readers of Sacred Scripture, and one of their main occupations consisted in lectio divina, namely, prayerful reading of the Bible. For them the simple reading of the sacred text was not enough to perceive the profound meaning, the interior unity and the transcendent message. Therefore, they had to practice a "spiritual reading," leading in docility to the Holy Spirit. Thus, in the school of the Fathers, the Bible was interpreted allegorically, to discover in every page, of the Old as well as the New Testament, what is said about Christ and His work of salvation.
Last year's synod of bishops on the "Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church" recalled the importance of the spiritual approach to Sacred Scripture. To this end, it is useful to treasure monastic theology, an uninterrupted biblical exegesis, as also the works composed by its representatives, precious ascetic commentaries on the books of the Bible. Therefore, to literary preparation, monastic theology joined spiritual preparation. It was, in fact, aware that a purely theoretic or profane reading was not enough: To enter the heart of Sacred Scripture, it must be read in the spirit in which it was written and created. Literary preparation was necessary to know the exact meaning of the words and to facilitate the understanding of the text, refining the grammatical and philological sensibility. Jean Leclercq, the Benedictine scholar of the last century titled the essay with which he presented the characteristics of monastic theology thus : "L'amour des lettres et le desir de Dieu" (The love of words and the desire for God).
In fact, the desire to know and to love God, which comes to us through His Word received, meditated and practiced, leads to seeking to go deeper into the biblical texts in all their dimensions. There is then another attitude on which those who practice monastic theology insist, that is, a profound attitude of prayer, which must precede, support and complement the study of Sacred Scripture. Because, in the last analysis, monastic theology is listening to the Word of God, one cannot but purify the heart to receive it and, above all, one cannot but kindle it with fervor to encounter the Lord. Therefore, theology becomes meditation, prayer, song of praise and drives one to a sincere conversion. Not a few representatives of monastic theology reached, along this way, the highest goal of mystical experience, and they constitute an invitation also for us to nourish our existence with the Word of God, for example, through more attentive listening to the Readings and the Gospel, especially in Sunday Mass. Moreover, it is important to reserve a certain time every day for meditation of the Bible, so that the Word of God is the lamp that illumines our daily path on earth.
Translation by Zenit
Translation by Zenit