Since today is the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, it seems appropriate to focus in this reflection on the importance that the Word of God has in St Dominic’s life and preaching. It can be said that St Dominic truly lived and was granted the grace asked for in today’s opening prayer: “grant, we pray, to you servants, that, listening to the voice of your beloved Son, we may merit to become coheirs with Him.”
We know that he always carried with him on his journeys one of the Gospels and the letters of
and it is said that he knew them by
heart. The study of Scripture is, of course, an important part of the life of
the Order so that the “seeds of the Word of God” may be given to others through
preaching. But, of even more significance is the example Dominic left us of his
use of Scripture in his prayer. In the little booklet “The Nine Ways of Prayer
of St Dominic,” which dates from the 13th century, a number of those
Ways of Prayer involve Scripture. St Paul
Most of the Ways of Prayer (e.g. the Second, Third, Fourth, Sixth
Ways) included the frequent repetition of short
phrases from Scripture (e.g. Lk 18:13 “God be merciful to me a sinner”, Mt 8:2,
the Psalms etc).
Fifth Way of Prayer “he held himself,
standing with great respect and devotion, as if he were reading in the presence
of God. Deep in prayer, he seemed to meditate on the words of God, and as it
were to repeat them over and over to himself with delight.” A practice that he
would also adopt while on his journeys.
The Eight Way of Prayer, is much like what we now speak of as Lectio Divina: Dominic “in the spirit of devotion roused in him by the divine words chanted in choir or in the refectory, would go speedily to some solitary place, in his cell or elsewhere, to read and pray by himself and in the presence of God. … then he felt his soul gently moved, as if he heard the Lord speaking.” This image of Dominic prayerfully contemplating the Gospels is particularly familiar thanks to Fra Angelico’s presentation of the Crowning with Thorns.
Ninth Way of Prayer, involved this type
of prayerful mediation on the Word of God, as he walked on his journeys,
indicating how well he knew the Scriptures.
“In the opinion of the Brethren, it was by praying thus that the Saint attained that fullness of knowledge of the Holy Scripture, penetrated into the very marrow of the sacred words, acquired the holy daring of his ardent preaching, and lived in that intimate familiarity with the Holy Spirit from which he drew the knowledge of hidden things.”
May our holy Father Dominic intercede for us, that we may have the same ardent love for the Word of God and may imitate him and our Lady in treasuring the Word of God and pondering it in our hearts (Lk 2:19).