Friday, August 22, 2008

C-o-n-s-c-i-e-n-c-e: A meditation

Giussani begins the chapter on obedience in Is It Possible to Live This Way? by asking the meaning of the word meditation. "It means becoming aware of a truth in such a way that it unfolds before your eyes, so that you can penetrate it" (pg. 116).

Last evening at supper my youngest daughter said that she did not think she would do well if she were to compete in a spelling bee. This was odd because she is a pretty good speller. I asked her to spell conscience. This word came to my mind because it was a word I remember from the only spelling bee I ever participated in, which was in eighth grade. It was a word that eliminated the student who went before me. Anyway, we began to analyze the word. Con, from the Latin meaning with and science, also from the Latin, scientia, meaning knowledge. So, to act in accord with conscience is to act in accord with knowledge. This is how we make judgments, by acting with knowledge. I suppose this constitutes a meditation on conscience.

One of the most common conflations in the spiritual life is the synonymous use of meditation and contemplation. It is here that the practice of lectio divinia can assist us. In this practice meditatio and contemplatio constitute different steps. Meditatio is when the practitioner ruminates on the word or phrase derived from the lectio. A frequent image used to teach meditatio is a cow slowly chewing her cud. Meditatio leads to oratio, that is, prayer, which, in turn, leads to contemplatio.

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