|Several weeks ago when a dear friend was visiting we decided to see an exhibit of the St. Johns Bible, the first handwritten and illuminated Bible commissioned by a Benedictine Abbey since the invention of the printing press. I was somewhat familiar with this treasure as Creighton has a heritage copy that is used a special liturgies. Yet, spending the time in the exhibit was very engaging visually, intellectually and most important spiritually. I learned that in the early days of the 15 year long project the artists would read scripture in the Lectio Divina way which creates the opportunity to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s word. The inspired illustrations were the results of that contemplative, communal prayer.
Today I decided to give myself some space and time to spend with the readings in the tradition of Lectio Divina. I understand the four phases to be reading, mediation, contemplation and prayer. A slow and careful reading of the text several times is important and a good reminder for me to slow down. As a person who spends a lot of time in her head, I challenged myself to pay attention to my feelings and reactions to the readings.
The theme of death and resurrection emerge for me from today’s readings. The first reading from Maccabees tells of seven brothers and their mother who are arrested and tortured for their faith in God. Today’s second reading from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians calls for us to be delivered from perverse and wicked people for not all have faith. And the Gospel reading from Luke focuses on the Sadducees who deny there is a resurrection.
Initially my prayer felt empty with all of the gloom and doom. But as I spent more time with the text I became open to the messages of faith and resurrection. Several phrases resonate with me. One of brothers being tortured expresses his abiding faith by exclaiming: The King of the world will raise us up to live again forever. Paul reminds us that we may be delivered from perverse and wicked people… as the Lord will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. The gospel today concludes with these powerful words: he is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him we are all alive.
As I contemplate these readings about death and resurrection I ask God to help deepen my understanding. I ask for imagery to come closer to God through the living word. I look out the window and see the mystery of autumn. The vibrant leaves are falling to the ground leaving barren tree branches. My pretty flower garden is a tangle of dead plants. The wind is cold. Yet I can totally trust that these trees, plants and flowers will bloom again in the spring. This becomes an ever-present metaphor for death and resurrection grounded in God’s love.
I pray to God to help me see beauty where it is not immediately evident. I pray that I am open to the artistry in any form of others living their faith. The Psalm reminds me: I in justice shall behold your face; on waking I shall be content in your presence.