In our modern age, we value rational thought, the awesome power of the human mind. With our minds, we are able to create satellites that can view the entire planet. But with those same minds, we can create the technology to destroy it. For our very survival, we need to nourish the heart and the soul to temper the power of the mind. Science satisfies the mind, but the arts touch the heart and soul. The great polymaths of the Italian Renaissance, Michelangelo and Leonardo, understood this, and used their art to bridge the mind/heart/soul divide. The bridge of creativity is both a gift from God and our gift back to God.
Consider, is poetry or logic the language of God? When I began to seriously study the bible in high school, I expected that it would be just a collection of religious history and law, because I viewed God as the divine engineer—the designer of the universe and the judge who enforced its laws. What I discovered instead was that much of the bible is poetry. The prophets, speaking directly for God, did not write prose. They wrote in verse. Like poets, they described images that were symbolic, not logical.
How do we relate to God creatively, fully, using heart, soul and mind? Lectio Divina is an ancient Christian approach to scripture that does not focus on analysis or study, but on contemplation, meditation and prayer. Until the 20th century, the practice was largely confined to Catholic monasteries and convents. Now, in the 21st century, it’s become popular among Christians, regardless of denomination. Whereas biblical study dissects the words of scripture, the goal of Lectio Divina is to unite our heart and soul with The Word, the Christ. And it has become my favorite way to approach scripture.
Lectio Divina is a five-step process that is traditionally described with Latin words:
1. Lectio (reading)—What is the obvious message after the first reading?
2. Meditatio (meditation)—What does the scripture say to me, today, in my life?
3. Oratio (prayer) –What can I say to God in response to the word?
4. Contemplatio (contemplation)—How am I transformed by this encounter with the divine?
5. Actio (action)—With this transformation, what action will I take?
Visio Divina, which we will be using in our Day Apart, takes this a step further by using religious art to augment these five steps. As a child, I loved our family bible. I wish I could say that I loved to read it, but truth be told, I loved to look at the pictures. Our family bible was illustrated with reproductions of the artwork of Michelangelo, and as an adult I was finally able to fulfill a lifelong wish and make a pilgrimage to the Sistine Chapel to see that artwork in person. For me, seeing those frescos was a transcendent experience, more powerful than any sermon I have ever heard.
Remarkably, Lectio Divina and Visio Divina are similar to the processes that secular experts recommend for appreciating poetry and art. There is a universality to this process that touches the heart, soul and mind.
In our culture that is so visually oriented, combining art with prayer satisfies a hunger in the modern soul. We invite you to a day apart to enter the Paschal Mystery. Using Visio Divina, we will journey with the Lord to Jerusalem, share in the Last Supper, stand at the foot of the cross, and ultimately triumph over death at the Resurrection. During “Actio,” we will allow the Spirit to inspire us to create our own personally meaningful forms of artistic expression.
Steve Mills is an artist, writer, songwriter, and scientist, and has worked on many space cameras imaging the Earth and the universe. Steve believes that science can and should be just as creative as the arts. In his paintings he prefers ...