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Lectio

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The Yeast a Woman Took

          

Jesus told another parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.”    
                                                                                      Mt 13:31-33

 

 


Lectio

Jesus told another parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.”    
                                                                                      Mt 13:31-33


Kilmallock PrioryThe Pope said a strange thing in Paris. It was in 2008. He said that the monasteries in the first thousand years of Christianity made Europe what it is. And he said that the prayerful reading of the Bible made the monasteries what they were. That prayerful reading was called lectio divina.


Around 250 AD people began to go out into the desert in Egypt to seek God in a life of solitude, prayer and penance. At first they lived in isolation from one another but gradually many came together to form communities; these were the first monasteries. The practice spread to Italy and to the Holy Land.  Beginning in 361 St. Martin of Tours founded the first monastery in France. St. Patrick studied in the monastery of Lerins in France before he returned to Ireland. From 500 AD Ireland’s monasteries became famous for their saints and scholars.


Back to Pope Benedict in Paris. He said that at the heart of the monastic life was the desire to seek God. In order to find him, God gave us his word in the books of sacred Scripture. Their search for God in the Scriptures put the monks in touch with reading and writing, and this led them to a love of learning in all its forms.  Naturally then the monasteries had libraries, scriptoria where books were painstakingly copied, and schools where the young were taught.  All forms of learning were valued and seen as a help in the search for God.

   
A new world coming to birth                                                              

The Monasteries came into being at a time of enormous economic, social and political change.  The Roman Empire was collapsing.  Hordes of foreign invaders - Visigots, Huns and Vandals - came over the borders from what is now Germany and from Asia. In 476 the Vandals sacked Rome; twenty-one years later the Western Roman Empire came to an end. These new-comers, known to the Romans as “barbarians,” were struggling to survive and had no interest in the thousand years of Greek and Roman learning and culture that had been enshrined in the Roman Empire.


An old world was dying and a new world was coming to birth.  Pope Benedict said that at that historic moment “the monasteries were the places where the treasures of ancient culture survived, and where at the same time a new culture slowly took shape out of the old.” The monks made copies of the writings of the great pagan scholars, poets and orators; they introduced their students to them, and thereby preserved them for future generations. 


The monastic community was a little like a modern parish. The monks were at the centre, the students were in the school and the neighbouring families worshipped in the church. These communities, at their best, pondered the Scriptures which were read to them and explained to them, and they lived those Scriptures. The word put them in contact with God, and made them attentive to one another, building up a spirit of community and neighbourliness.


They made Music                                                                          

The monks not only pondered the Scriptures: they sang them. The chanting of the psalms was part of their worship of God.  Conscious that they were in the presence of God and of all the angels and saints in heaven, their singing and chanting must be of the highest quality. Pope Benedict said that it was the monks’ commitment to create music that is worthy of God that gave rise to the great tradition of Western music.   

                  
They worked                                                                                                          The monks worked with their hands. The Bible encouraged them to do this.  It said that God made the world and rested after his work.  In the old Greek world, the highest divinity would not dirty his hands by creating the world, that was work for a lesser god.  Manual labour was for slaves  But Jesus worked as a carpenter.  He said, “My Father goes on working, and so do I” (Jn5:17). The Pope said, ‘Monasticism involves not only a culture of the word, but also a culture of work, without which the emergence of Europe, its ethos and its influence on the world would be unthinkable.’ 


Kilmallock PrioryYeast for today                            

The Pope tells us how the word of God was understood in the monasteries.  They believed that in order to find the meaning of a particular passage in a book of the Bible, we need to know about the world in which that book was written long ago, and we also need to reflect on the world in which we ourselves are now living.  There are dimensions of meaning in the word of God as we read it in the Bible that only come to light when we reflect on it in the light of the world in which we live today. 
In the Book of Isaiah, God says that the word that goes forth from his mouth does not return to him empty, without succeeding in what it was sent to do (Is 55: 10-11). The word of God that we read in the Bible today does not return to God without carrying out what he  sends it to do; the word is shaping our lives and the history of our time. The monks meditated on the Bible to recognise what God was doing in their lives and world, and to co-operate with that word, to say as Mary said: ‘Be it done to me according to your word.’  As the word of God transformed the lives of the monastic communities across the  lands of Europe, it was creating a new Christian culture. The word was like the yeast Jesus spoke about that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.

The Pope was surely remembering what the word of God did for Europe, when he spoke about lectio divina on another day in Rome; he said, ‘If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church – I am convinced of it – a new ‘spiritual springtime.’  

 

Acknowledgements: Cross:CC.Art.Com
                                   Kilmallock Priory

 



 

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