Nurturing/ Teaching Courses
Q&A on Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina from Students
1. How different is the centering prayer from New Age meditation and how can we be sure that it is not a "slippery slope" to New Age meditation?
This is a valid and very important question. Many people are wary of centering prayer because of its superficial similarities with New Age meditation. Yes, there are some similarity between centering prayer and New Age meditation. Both require *sitting still and be quiet *both begins by relaxation exercises like a breathing exercise *both involving quieting and stilling our busy minds *both try to still our restless mind by focusing on a word These are spiritual tools that we use. New Age also have sacred books which they study like we study the Bible. They also pray like us but unlike us, pray to others. They also seek to extend mercy to the poor and needy, like us. Thus, just because the spiritual tools are the same, it does not mean that we cannot use them. But here the similarities ends. The important thing we must be aware of is the context. We are Christians and centering prayer is our desire to be quiet, to center ourselves so that we can be aware of God's presence within us. God is transcendent and immanent. It is His immanence we seek here. It is to seek to be with God in a 'quiet or sacred' place. Such a place can be within us. It is here that we rest, be in His presence and be aware that we are His beloved. The word that we use to help us focus our mind is not a magic word. Its only function is to help us focus and still our wandering mind. That is why centering prayer is a prayer. We seek communion with God. New Age meditation however is done in a different context. Its purpose is to empty the mind so that in the emptiness they can be one with the universe or attain another astral plane of existence. The word they use is a sacred word, one with power. Hence they often keep to the same word and it is a secret word. It is totally different from centering prayer where instead of emptying our minds, we seek to fill it with the presence of God. Can centering prayer be a 'slippery slope' that leads us into New Age meditation? As I have mentioned the context is different. We seek to fill not to empty. And we have to believe that the Holy Spirit will protect our minds in its time of rest. So, personally, I do not think it represents a 'slippery slope' that is dangerous to those who practice it.
2. The students have been taught in their biblical interpretation classes that "context is king." (when interpreting a passage). How does this fit in with what is advocated in Lectio Divina, the concept of imagining we are one of the characters, just allowing one word to "jump out" at you, etc ?
In hermeneutic classes the students have been rightly taught about the essential tools for the right exegesis of the text. That is reading for information while lectio divina is reading for formation. Lectio divina is reading with the heart and being open to the Holy Spirit. We must realise that we are not pure intellect but also emotional beings. Hence our spiritual life must have a balance between the intellect and the emotions. Textual criticism can led us only so far. Sometimes we can be so involved cognitively that we cannot hear what God is saying to us. Hence a session of lectio divina is very helpful for us as we are focusing on what God is doing in our lives. I agree that there is always the fear that this free flowing meaning from the text may lead us astray.
This is where our intellect and theological knowledge comes in. If what we receive or perceive is against the teaching of the Bible, common sense, and the counsel of our discerning brothers and sisters, then it cannot be from God. Hence lectio divina must be done in a community of faith setting where there is check and balance. Lectio divina is where the Scriptures speak into our lives.
|posted 21 April 2007|
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