Need Guidance on How to Read the Bible? Read This Book

BOOK PICK: Transformed by God’s Word

(photo: Ave Maria Press book cover, cropped)

Transformed by God’s Word

Discovering the Power of Lectio and Visio Divina

By Stephen J. Binz

Ave Maria Press, 2017

224 pages, $16.95 (paperback)

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“We tell Catholics that reading Scripture is an essential ingredient of Catholic life,” says biblical scholar Stephen Binz. “But we don’t teach them how to do it.”

In order to “help Catholics discover how to read the Bible,” Binz has written Transformed by God’s Word: Discovering the Power of Lectio and Visio Divina.

“I wanted to give people confidence that they can begin reading the Bible in a way that will make a difference in their lives.”

To that end, Binz combines two time-honored traditions — that of lectio divina (sacred reading) and visio divina (sacred seeing) — to create a powerful “multisensory experience” of Scripture.

“The Bible is the Book of the Church, the inspired literature of God’s people,” observes Binz. “It is not intended to just give us information about God, but to truly lead us to encounter God in the sacred text.”

Transformed by God’s Word facilitates that encounter by exploring 20 Bible passages, beginning with the Annunciation and ending with Pentecost. The essence of each passage is captured in a beautifully detailed, full-color icon. Accompanying text leads the reader through each of six steps or “movements”: reading, gazing, meditating, praying, contemplating and action.

The first movement — reading or lectio — invites the reader to read aloud the Scripture story “as if … hearing it for the first time.” This practice of reading “expectantly,” says Binz, allows the reader to “receive God’s word with as little prejudgment as possible.”  The corresponding icon, rich in symbolism, draws the reader into the second movement (gazing or visio), while a list of questions linking the “ancient forms of the Gospel and our contemporary lives” helps to spark meditation (meditatio).

The reader’s response to the Bible passage is verbal prayer (oratio), which eventually gives way to the “quiet resting in God” known as contemplation (contemplatio). In the final movement, the reader, having deepened his relationship with God through the experience of lectio and visio divina, is invited to “put God’s word into action.”

According to Binz, acceptance of that invitation results from the “personal growth and renewal” that is effected by a full experience of sacred Scripture. He writes, “Lectio divina and visio divina lead not only to a changed heart but also to a changed life.

“When we read the Bible we must listen for the voice of God and trust that the Holy Spirit lives in these ancient texts. We must read expecting that God will work in our lives through our reading of the text.”

Transformed by God’s Word: Discovering the Power of Lectio and Visio Divina is an exceptional book that will be of equal benefit to individuals with limited knowledge of Scripture and to avid readers of the Bible. Its gold-lit icons created by Ruta and Kaspars Poikan beautifully complement the book’s Gospel narratives and will summon all but the most hard-hearted of readers into the realm of the divine.

As an aid to meditation, the book is particularly well-suited to complement Marian devotion.

“Mary is the Woman of the Word,” explains Binz, “who nurtured the Word of God in her womb and gave birth to God’s Word in the world.

“She can teach us how to receive the sacred text, nurture it in our hearts, and make it present in the world today.”

Celeste Behe writes from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.