I’ve been here long enough now that when new guests arrive they think I know what I’m doing. It’s such a hoot. It is the pace of worship that seems to throw new people off the most – that, and the deliberate periods of silence. I’ve already spoken about the psalms, which are read or chanted, slowly and deliberately, each time we gather. What I hadn’t mentioned is that, in between each reading there is silence – lasting between one and two minutes. The silence between each reading slows us down on purpose; it stills us; grounds us.
The confirmation classes – both youth and adult – will remember the practice called lectio divina (“divine reading” or “spiritual reading”). Lectio divina is a slow and deliberate way of reading Scripture which allows time to ponder and meditate upon words and phrases in the text that seem to shimmer. It is a central practice of monastic life and while public worship is not the same as lectio, the intentionally slow pace of worship here at Saint John’s lends itself to a kind of lectio process in the gathered community.
Another lectio practice integrated into worship is lectio continua (“continuous reading”). In lectio continua, the scriptures are read in sequence – with the lesson from today picking up where the lesson from yesterday left off. Since the monks worship four times a day, there are four opportunities to make progress through the biblical text. During the time I’ve been here, we’ve been making our way through Genesis, 1 Kings, and 1 Corinthians — with the Gospel always read at Community Eucharist.
I’ve never read the scriptures in quite this way before – slowly, deliberately, continuously, out loud, in community. (When our congregation gathers, we are picking up where we left off one week ago – and frequently, where we pick up is not exactly where we left off.) This deliberate and prayerful way of hearing the scripture affords many opportunities for the text to shimmer, and when it shimmers, it speaks.