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Meeting God in Virtual Reality: Using Spiritual Practices with Media [Secure eReader]
eBook by Teresa A. Blythe

eBook Category: Spiritual/Religion
eBook Description: Meeting God in Virtual Reality: Using Spiritual Practices with Media explores the holy ground of imagined or constructed reality, sometimes known as "virtual reality." The term "virtual reality" is here defined not only encompassing cyber space, but also film, television, and other media of popular culture. Presbyterian pastor and spiritual director Daniel Wolpert, and a faith-based media literacy advocate and spiritual director Teresa Blythe, know that people are searching for tools that bridge popular culture with Christian spirituality. The co-authors believe that this eBook will assist people in developing awareness of the Spirit of God that is present in media. This guidebook introduces six prayer practices and describe how they may be used with media, including: the Benedictine practice of lectio divina the Ignatian Examen (an awareness prayer) imaginative prayer the discipline of study spiritual discernment imageless centering prayer.

eBook Publisher: United Methodist Publishing House/Abingdon Press, Published: 2004
Fictionwise Release Date: May 2004

Chapter 1 -- Using Lectio Divina with Media

Your planet is really bright.
-- Prot

How many times have you read a newspaper or watched a TV news story and begun to pray for the people (usually victims) involved? Perhaps as you watched a film such as Schindler's List you felt a deep compassion for the Jews caught up in the horror of the Holocaust, and as a result were moved to prayer. Every moment in our day is an opportunity for God's Spirit to break through to us in some way. Considering that the average American spends more than seven hours a day in front of a screen, whether it is television, computer, or film, we had better hope that God meets us in and through visual media.

One way to notice this communication is with the Christian spiritual practice known by its Latin name of lectio divina. This simple and traditional prayer method that has made meditation on biblical readings meaningful for so many Christians can now transform our relationship with media.

What Is Lectio Divina?

Lectio divina means "sacred reading." The practice of slowly reading a biblical or sacred text and allowing it to touch you with new meaning and purpose dates back to early Jewish history, in which religious leaders would pour over the scriptures in prayerful adoration. The form we know best today as lectio divina comes from the tradition of St. Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century. The monastic order founded by Benedict was obedient to the Rule of St. Benedict, which states that members spend fixed hours of the day in prayerful reading.

The practice of lectio divina is enjoying a newfound popularity as more people, especially Protestant and Catholic laypeople, have begun to study and appreciate a variety of Christian spiritual traditions. It also was popularized by Kathleen Norris's best-selling book, The Cloister Walk, in which she describes how this meditative reading transformed her life, helping her become more attentive to God and creation.

When used with a written text, lectio divina is accessible to anyone who can read. Since it is more about listening with the heart than understanding with the mind, you do not need special training to do it. You do, however, need the capacity to slow down and savor a moment.

There are a variety of ways to do lectio divina, a few of which are introduced in this chapter, but primarily it consists of four steps. We will start by describing how Benedictines have used lectio divina with a piece of writing, usually a short passage from the Bible. For some people it may be best to experience lectio divina with a passage of Scripture before moving into the non-traditional use of it with media.

1. First, read (lectio) the short text slowly and carefully, allowing a word or phrase to gain significance for you. See if something about the passage "shimmers" or draws you to itself.
2. Enter that "shimmering" word or phrase by silently repeating it over and over. This is the ruminating phase called meditatio, or reflecting and meditating on what the special word or phrase may be saying to you about your life.
3. Then move into a time of silent resting with God -- a phase known as contemplatio -- in which you stay quietly open to God without asking or expecting anything.
4. Finish your session of lectio by observing a time of oratio in which you respond actively in some way to your experience of sacred reading.

In the Protestant tradition, former Augustinian monk Martin Luther (1483-1546) described his version of sacred reading in a book entitled A Simple Way to Pray, calling it "The Four-Stranded Garland." This method recommends that the person praying with a text reflect upon a word, phrase, or image that has, for him or her, a word of instruction, thanksgiving, confession, and guidance. In the exercises section, we will adapt both lectio divina and Luther's method for use with media.

Copyright © 2004 by Teresa Blythe and Daniel Wolpert

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