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Sacred Reading: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina Paperback – 1996

4.6 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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Michael Casey, prior of the Cistercian abbey of Tarrawarra in Victoria, Australia, places the practice of lectio divina near the heart of the Benedictine tradition. Although this is not a "cookbook," it is a practical guide as well as a theological and historical introduction. For Casey, lectio divina is a spiritual discipline with particular relevance to an age marked by individualism and resistance to discipline. Readers will find his application of traditional imagery of a spiral journey into the depths of Scripture particularly illuminating as a guide to reading sacred texts. That a spiral journey is marked by repetition leads Casey to remark that "there is a kind of monotony that is not boredom but paves the way to a more profound experience." This is reminiscent of advice from Zen tradition: if you find something boring after a minute, do it for two; if you find it boring after two minutes, do it for four. "Enlightenment," Casey writes, "comes not by increasing the level of excitement, but by moving more deeply into calm." Readers will find this book a most helpful companion in making that move. Steve Schroeder

About the Author

Casey is a monk of Tarrawarra Abbey in Australia. He is well-known as a retreat master and lecturer on monastic spirituality and holds a doctorate from Melbourne College of Divinity in the area of the life and writings of St. Bernard of Clairvaux.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Triumph Books; 1st U.S. ed edition (1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0892438916
  • ISBN-13: 978-0892438914
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #163,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gerald J. Nora on March 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
I read this book during the first two weeks of Lent, and it has born fruit in helping me read Scripture more reverently.
Fr. Casey starts by contrasting modern literacy with the monastic experience: we are surrounded by words (e.g., wander around the immensity of Amazon's website!) and much of the content is in soundbites. We get quick news summaries, advertisements, and so forth, which can be often read in a few minutes or less. Medieval monasteries would often only have a relative handful of books, which were often hand-copied over a period of years. If the monastery were to get a new book, it had to be for the ages, of great importance.
Fr. Casey is quite balanced in that he does not suggest that the Medieval times were necessarily balanced--he is just as happy for modern ages as anyone--but says that we can learn from this older, slower way of reading. Following this perspective, he takes us through the discipline of lectio divina, "sacred reading", and the pattern of slow, reflective reading.
The book challenges, as Casey is supportive of St. Benedict's maxim that once you select a book for lectio divina, that you follow through till the end, and not switch books in the middle. This is to respect that Biblical texts are often structured in unfamiliar ways, and the full meaning does not come out till you finish the book. It is also to stay humble: we are not going to cut off God's word when it is convenient, but let it take us where it wants while we journey with a particular book of Scripture.
That said, there is an entire chapter on various distractions and barriers that people may encounter while prayerfully reading Scripture--Fr. Casey is clear that this book is not Gospel itself, and that different people will need to adapt his ideas to their own lives.
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Having read a few books on Lectio Divina I looked at my book case where "Sacred Reading" by Michael Casey waited to be read and almost decided against taking it up at the time. I knew that the author was a noteworthy man, and I considered maybe there was something offered here that I needed to know. Afterall, despite my thought that I knew it all, I really had a greater suspicion that I did not.

Fortunately, I did read with diligence the paperback whose full title is "Sacred Reading: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina," published by Liguori/Triumph. One thing the book explained was the value of using Lectio as a means of reading texts other than the Bible. It said the Fathers were a good source for this. I had not thought such all right to do, but had in my mind that only the Bible could be read. The title of the book, and its content, in meaning, broadens the approach to sacred reading, including other texts. I found this helpful, and personally broadening. In fact, I had some relief since I did want to do this kind of reading with other texts--but thought it inappropriate to the Godly.

Another thing about this book, it is on my reading list for Oblates, which was changed just after I spent ten years reading the old list. Now I am almost at the end, and this book comes at the end of reading the books on the list. I am pleased to see that it did refresh me.

I liked how it is helpful with The Rule of St. Benedict. In the Preface, it says, "You will find in this book many references to Saint Benedict's Rule for monasteries and to other classical works of the monastic tradition." This is a reliable book for those inclined to The Rule, and to "The Spirit of Monastic Lectio.
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Format: Paperback
I have underlined half of the words in this book! It was very readable, pertinent and usable as a guide to strengthening my connection with God and his Holy Word. Casey offers a very interesting history of lectio divina; however, practicality is what sparkles in this book. No longer intimidating, lectio divina will henceforth be practiced in my home.
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Format: Paperback
An outstanding book--the single best book on lectio that I have ever read or used. I recommend it highly.

Update: this review was originally written in 1999. Five years later, I still haven't changed my mind, and use it as a textbook for my classes on the Benedictine Way.
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Format: Paperback
Father Casey's book is a thorough and scholarly walk through the history and contemporary significance of the practice of Lection Divina; almost too much so for the beginner who wishes to learn how to incorporate the practice into his/her prayer or meditation. Don't get me wrong, it's a very good treatise on the subject, albeit perhaps a little too regimented and "monastic" for me... for instance, his insistance that the practitioner of Lectio work their way slowly through one biblical book rather than attempt to target meaningful texts, strikes me as a little over-controlling; applicable to a serious monastic maybe, but for us regular folks who are just interested in deepening our practice, a gentler technique may be just as useful. A great book for beginning inquiry into Lectio is S. Thelma Hall's "Too Deep For Words"; then tackle this book as you investigate more deeply.
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