LECTIO DIVINA

The Upper Room endorses Lectio Divina as a way of praying and reading the scripture. This is primarily use individually and or as group meeting together for prayer and scripture reading.

I am posting some articles on how Lectio Divina was practice during the ancient time and how it can be adapted today for personal and group prayer and devotion.

Lectio Divina (UPPER ROOM)
Use lectio divina in your daily reading of scripture or as you read the quote for the week.
One of the most central and ancient practices of Christian prayer is lectio divina, or divine reading. In lectio divina, we begin by reading a few verses of the Bible. We read unhurriedly so that we can listen for the message God has for us there. We stay alert to connections the Spirit may reveal between the passage and what is going on in our lives. We ask, “What are you saying to me today, Lord? What am I to hear in this story, parable, or prophecy?” Listening in this way requires patience and a willingness to let go of our own agendas and open ourselves to God’s shaping.
Once we have heard a word that we know is meant for us, we are naturally drawn to prayer. From listening we move to speaking — perhaps in anguish, confession or sorrow; perhaps in joy, praise, thanksgiving or adoration; perhaps in anger, confusion or hurt; perhaps in quiet confidence, trust or surrender. Finally, after pouring out our heart to God, we come to rest simply and deeply in that wonderful, loving presence of God. Reading, reflecting, responding and resting — this is the basic rhythm of divine reading.
1. Read the scripture slowly. Watch for a key phrase or word that jumps out at you or promises to have special meaning for you. It is better to dwell profoundly on one word or phrase than to skim the surface of several chapters. Read with your own life and choices in mind.
2. Reflect on a word or phrase. Let the special word or phrase that you discovered in the first phase sink into your heart. Bring mind, will and emotions to the task. Be like Mary, Jesus’ mother, who heard of the angel’s announcement and “treasured” and “pondered” what she had heard (Luke 2:19).
3. Respond to what you have read. Form a prayer that expresses your response to the idea, then “pray it back to God.” What you have read is woven through what you tell God.
4. Rest in God’s word. Let the text soak into your deepest being, savoring an encounter with God and truth. When ready, move toward the moment in which you ask God to show you how to live out what you have experienced.
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1. THE PROCESS of LECTIO DIVINA

A VERY ANCIENT art, practiced at one time by all Christians, is the technique known as lectio divina – a slow, contemplative praying of the Scriptures which enables the Bible, the Word of God, to become a means of union with God. This ancient practice has been kept alive in the Christian monastic tradition, and is one of the precious treasures of Benedictine monastics and oblates. Together with the Liturgy and daily manual labor, time set aside in a special way for lectio divina enables us to discover in our daily life an underlying spiritual rhythm. Within this rhythm we discover an increasing ability to offer more of ourselves and our relationships to the Father, and to accept the embrace that God is continuously extending to us in the person of his Son Jesus Christ.

Lectio – reading/listening
THE ART of lectio divina begins with cultivating the ability to listen deeply, to hear “with the ear of our hearts” as St. Benedict encourages us in the Prologue to the Rule. When we read the Scriptures we should try to imitate the prophet Elijah. We should allow ourselves to become women and men who are able to listen for the still, small voice of God (I Kings 19:12); the “faint murmuring sound” which is God’s word for us, God’s voice touching our hearts. This gentle listening is an “atunement” to the presence of God in that special part of God’s creation which is the Scriptures.
THE CRY of the prophets to ancient Israel was the joy-filled command to “Listen!” “Sh’ma Israel: Hear, O Israel!” In lectio divina we, too, heed that command and turn to the Scriptures, knowing that we must “hear” – listen – to the voice of God, which often speaks very softly. In order to hear someone speaking softly we must learn to be silent. We must learn to love silence. If we are constantly speaking or if we are surrounded with noise, we cannot hear gentle sounds. The practice of lectio divina, therefore, requires that we first quiet down in order to hear God’s word to us. This is the first step of lectio divina, appropriately called lectio – reading.
THE READING or listening which is the first step in lectio divina is very different from the speed reading which modern Christians apply to newspapers, books and even to the Bible. Lectio is reverential listening; listening both in a spirit of silence and of awe. We are listening for the still, small voice of God that will speak to us personally – not loudly, but intimately. In lectio we read slowly, attentively, gently listening to hear a word or phrase that is God’s word for us this day.
Meditatio – meditation
ONCE WE have found a word or a passage in the Scriptures that speaks to us in a personal way, we must take it in and “ruminate” on it. The image of the ruminant animal quietly chewing its cud was used in antiquity as a symbol of the Christian pondering the Word of God. Christians have always seen a scriptural invitation to lectio divina in the example of the Virgin Mary “pondering in her heart” what she saw and heard of Christ (Luke 2:19). For us today these images are a reminder that we must take in the word – that is, memorize it – and while gently repeating it to ourselves, allow it to interact with our thoughts, our hopes, our memories, our desires. This is the second step or stage in lectio divina – meditatio. Through meditatio we allow God’s word to become His word for us, a word that touches us and affects us at our deepest levels.

Oratio – prayer
THE THIRD step in lectio divina is oratio – prayer: prayer understood both as dialogue with God, that is, as loving conversation with the One who has invited us into His embrace; and as consecration, prayer as the priestly offering to God of parts of ourselves that we have not previously believed God wants. In this consecration-prayer we allow the word that we have taken in and on which we are pondering to touch and change our deepest selves. Just as a priest consecrates the elements of bread and wine at the Eucharist, God invites us in lectio divina to hold up our most difficult and pain-filled experiences to Him, and to gently recite over them the healing word or phrase He has given us in our lectio and meditatio. In this oratio, this consecration-prayer, we allow our real selves to be touched and changed by the word of God.
Contemplatio – contemplation
FINALLY, WE simply rest in the presence of the One who has used His word as a means of inviting us to accept His transforming embrace. No one who has ever been in love needs to be reminded that there are moments in loving relationships when words are unnecessary. It is the same in our relationship with God. Wordless, quiet rest in the presence of the One Who loves us has a name in the Christian tradition – contemplatio, contemplation. Once again we practice silence, letting go of our own words; this time simply enjoying the experience of being in the presence of God.

2. THE UNDERLYING RHYTHM of LECTIO DIVINA
IF WE are to practice lectio divina effectively, we must travel back in time to an understanding that today is in danger of being almost completely lost. In the Christian past the words action (or practice, from the Greek praktikos) and contemplation did not describe different kinds of Christians engaging (or not engaging) in different forms of prayer and apostolates. Practice and contemplation were understood as the two poles of our underlying, ongoing spiritual rhythm: a gentle oscillation back and forth between spiritual “activity” with regard to God and “receptivity.”
PRACTICE – spiritual “activity” – referred in ancient times to our active cooperation with God’s grace in rooting out vices and allowing the virtues to flourish. The direction of spiritual activity was not outward in the sense of an apostolate, but inward – down into the depths of the soul where the Spirit of God is constantly transforming us, refashioning us in God’s image. The active life is thus coming to see who we truly are and allowing ourselves to be remade into what God intends us to become.
IN THE early monastic tradition contemplation was understood in two ways. First was theoria physike, the contemplation of God in creation – God in “the many.” Second was theologia, the contemplation of God in Himself without images or words – God as “The One.” From this perspective lectio divina serves as a training-ground for the contemplation of God in His creation.
IN CONTEMPLATION we cease from interior spiritual doing and learn simply to be, that is to rest in the presence of our loving Father. Just as we constantly move back and forth in our exterior lives between speaking and listening, between questioning and reflecting, so in our spiritual lives we must learn to enjoy the refreshment of simply being in God’s presence, an experience that naturally alternates (if we let it!) with our spiritual practice.
IN ANCIENT times contemplation was not regarded as a goal to be achieved through some method of prayer, but was simply accepted with gratitude as God’s recurring gift. At intervals the Lord invites us to cease from speaking so that we can simply rest in his embrace. This is the pole of our inner spiritual rhythm called contemplation.
HOW DIFFERENT this ancient understanding is from our modern approach! Instead of recognizing that we all gently oscillate back and forth between spiritual activity and receptivity, between practice and contemplation, we today tend to set contemplation before ourselves as a goal – something we imagine we can achieve through some spiritual technique. We must be willing to sacrifice our “goal-oriented” approach if we are to practice lectio divina, because lectio divina has no other goal than spending time with God through the medium of His word. The amount of time we spend in any aspect of lectio divina, whether it be rumination, consecration or contemplation depends on God’s Spirit, not on us. Lectio divina teaches us to savor and delight in all the different flavors of God’s presence, whether they be active or receptive modes of experiencing Him.
IN lectio divina we offer ourselves to God; and we are people in motion. In ancient times this inner spiritual motion was described as a helix – an ascending spiral. Viewed in only two dimensions it appears as a circular motion back and forth; seen with the added dimension of time it becomes a helix, an ascending spiral by means of which we are drawn ever closer to God. The whole of our spiritual lives were viewed in this way, as a gentle oscillation between spiritual activity and receptivity by means of which God unites us ever closer to Himself. In just the same way the steps or stages of lectio divina represent an oscillation back and forth between these spiritual poles. In lectio divina we recognize our underlying spiritual rhythm and discover many different ways of experiencing God’s presence – many different ways of praying.

3. THE PRACTICE of LECTIO DIVINA
Private Lectio Divina

CHOOSE a text of the Scriptures that you wish to pray. Many Christians use in their daily lectio divina one of the readings from the Eucharistic liturgy for the day; others prefer to slowly work through a particular book of the Bible. It makes no difference which text is chosen, as long as one has no set goal of “covering” a certain amount of text: the amount of text “covered” is in God’s hands, not yours.
PLACE YOURSELF in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent. Some Christians focus for a few moments on their breathing; other have a beloved “prayer word” or “prayer phrase” they gently recite in order to become interiorly silent. For some the practice known as “centering prayer” makes a good, brief introduction to lectio divina. Use whatever method is best for you and allow yourself to enjoy silence for a few moments.
THEN TURN to the text and read it slowly, gently. Savor each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that somehow says, “I am for you today.” Do not expect lightening or ecstasies. In lectio divina God is teaching us to listen to Him, to seek Him in silence. He does not reach out and grab us; rather, He softly, gently invites us ever more deeply into His presence.
NEXT TAKE the word or phrase into yourself. Memorize it and slowly repeat it to yourself, allowing it to interact with your inner world of concerns, memories and ideas. Do not be afraid of “distractions.” Memories or thoughts are simply parts of yourself which, when they rise up during lectio divina, are asking to be given to God along with the rest of your inner self. Allow this inner pondering, this rumination, to invite you into dialogue with God.
THEN, SPEAK to God. Whether you use words or ideas or images or all three is not important. Interact with God as you would with one who you know loves and accepts you. And give to Him what you have discovered in yourself during your experience of meditatio. Experience yourself as the priest that you are. Experience God using the word or phrase that He has given you as a means of blessing, of transforming the ideas and memories, which your pondering on His word has awakened. Give to God what you have found within your heart.
FINALLY, SIMPLY rest in God’s embrace. And when He invites you to return to your pondering of His word or to your inner dialogue with Him, do so. Learn to use words when words are helpful, and to let go of words when they no longer are necessary. Rejoice in the knowledge that God is with you in both words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity.
SOMETIMES IN lectio divina one will return several times to the printed text, either to savor the literary context of the word or phrase that God has given, or to seek a new word or phrase to ponder. At other times only a single word or phrase will fill the whole time set aside for lectio divina. It is not necessary to anxiously assess the quality of one’s lectio divina as if one were “performing” or seeking some goal: lectio divina has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God by praying the Scriptures.

Lectio Divina as a Group Exercise
THE most authentic and traditional form of Christian lectio divina is the solitary or “private” practice described to this point. In recent years, however, many different forms of so-called “group lectio” have become popular and are now widely-practiced. These group exercises can be very useful means of introducing and encouraging the practice of lectio divina; but they should not become a substitute for an encounter and communion with the Living God that can only take place in that privileged solitude where the biblical Word of God becomes transparent to the Very Word Himself – namely private lectio divina.
IN churches of the Third World where books are rare, a form of corporate lectio divina is becoming common in which a text from the Scriptures is pondered by Christians praying together in a group. The method of group lectio divina described here was introduced at St. Andrew’s Abbey by oblates Doug and Norvene Vest: it is used as part of the Benedictine Spirituality for Laity workshops conducted at the Abbey each summer.
THIS FORM of lectio divina works best in a group of between four and eight people. A group leader coordinates the process and facilitates sharing. The same text from the Scriptures is read out three times, followed each time by a period of silence and an opportunity for each member of the group to share the fruit of her or his lectio.
THE FIRST reading (the text is actually read twice on this occasion) is for the purpose of hearing a word or passage that touches the heart. When the word or phrase is found, it is silently taken in, and gently recited and pondered during the silence which follows. After the silence each person shares which word or phrase has touched his or her heart.
THE SECOND reading (by a member of the opposite sex from the first reader) is for the purpose of “hearing” or “seeing” Christ in the text. Each ponders the word that has touched the heart and asks where the word or phrase touches his or her life that day. In other words, how is Christ the Word touching his own experience, his own life? How are the various members of the group seeing or hearing Christ reach out to them through the text? Then, after the silence, each member of the group shares what he or she has “heard” or “seen.”
THE THIRD and final reading is for the purpose of experiencing Christ “calling us forth” into doing or being. Members ask themselves what Christ in the text is calling them to do or to become today or this week. After the silence, each shares for the last time; and the exercise concludes with each person praying for the person on the right.
THOSE WHO who regularly practice this method of praying and sharing the Scriptures regularly find it to be an excellent way of developing trust within a group; it also is an excellent way of consecrating projects and hopes to Christ before more formal group meetings. A summary of this method for group lectio divina is appended at the end of this article.

Lectio Divina on Life
IN THE ancient tradition lectio divina was understood as being one of the most important ways in which Christians experience God in creation. After all, the Scriptures are part of creation! If one is daily growing in the art of finding Christ in the pages of the Bible, one naturally begins to discover Him more clearly in aspects of the other things He has made. This includes, of course, our own personal history.

OUR OWN lives are fit matter for lectio divina. Very often our concerns, our relationships, our hopes and aspirations naturally intertwine with our pondering on the Scriptures, as has been described above. But sometimes it is fitting to simply sit down and “read” the experiences of the last few days or weeks in our hearts, much as we might slowly read and savor the words of Scripture in lectio divina. We can attend “with the ear of our hearts” to our own memories, listening for God’s gentle presence in the events of our lives. We thus allow ourselves the joy of experiencing Christ reaching out to us through our own memories. Our own personal story becomes “salvation history.”

FOR THOSE who are new to the practice of lectio divina a group experience of “lectio on life” can provide a helpful introduction. An approach that has been used at workshops at St. Andrew’s Priory is detailed at the end of this article. Like the experience of lectio divina shared in community, this group experience of lectio on life can foster relationships in community and enable personal experiences to be consecrated – offered to Christ – in a concrete way.

HOWEVER, UNLIKE scriptural lectio divina shared in community, this group lectio on life contains more silence than sharing. The role of group facilitators or leaders is important, since they will be guiding the group through several periods of silence and reflection without the “interruption” of individual sharing until the end of the exercise. Since the experiences we choose to “read” or “listen to” may be intensely personal, it is important in this group exercise to safeguard privacy by making sharing completely optional.

IN BRIEF, one begins with restful silence, then gently reviews the events of a given period of time. One seeks an event, a memory, which touches the heart just as a word or phrase in scriptural lectio divina does. One then recalls the setting, the circumstances; one seeks to discover how God seemed to be present or absent from the experience. One then offers the event to God and rests for a time in silence. A suggested method for group lectio divina on life is given in the Appendix to this article.

CONCLUSION

LECTIO DIVINA is an ancient spiritual art that is being rediscovered in our day. It is a way of allowing the Scriptures to become again what God intended that they should be – a means of uniting us to Himself. In lectio divina we discover our own underlying spiritual rhythm. We experience God in a gentle oscillation back and forth between spiritual activity and receptivity, in the movement from practice into contemplation and back again into spiritual practice.

LECTIO DIVINA teaches us about the God who truly loves us. In lectio divina we dare to believe that our loving Father continues to extend His embrace to us today. And His embrace is real. In His word we experience ourselves as personally loved by God; as the recipients of a word which He gives uniquely to each of us whenever we turn to Him in the Scriptures.

FINALLY, lectio divina teaches us about ourselves. In lectio divina we discover that there is no place in our hearts, no interior corner or closet that cannot be opened and offered to God. God teaches us in lectio divina what it means to be members of His royal priesthood – a people called to consecrate all of our memories, our hopes and our dreams to Christ.

:                              TWO APPROACHES to GROUP LECTIO DIVINA

1. Lectio Divina Shared in Community
(A) Listening for the Gentle Touch of Christ the Word (The Literal Sense)
1. One person reads aloud (twice) the passage of scripture, as others are attentive to some segment that is especially meaningful to them.
2. Silence for 1-2 minutes. Each hears and silently repeats a word or phrase that attracts.
3. Sharing aloud: [A word or phrase that has attracted each person]. A simple statement of one or a few words. No elaboration.

(B) How Christ the Word speaks to ME (The Allegorical Sense)
4. Second reading of same passage by another person.
5. Silence for 2-3 minutes. Reflect on “Where does the content of this reading touch my life today?”
6. Sharing aloud: Briefly: “I hear, I see…”

(C) What Christ the Word Invites me to DO (The Moral Sense)
7. Third reading by still another person.
8. Silence for 2-3 minutes. Reflect on “I believe that God wants me to . . . . . . today/this week.”
9. Sharing aloud: at somewhat greater length the results of each one’s reflection. [Be especially aware of what is shared by the person to your right.]
10. After full sharing, pray for the person to your right.
Note: Anyone may “pass” at any time. If instead of sharing with the group you prefer to pray silently , simply state this aloud and conclude your silent prayer with Amen.

2. Lectio on Life: Applying Lectio Divina  to my personal Salvation History
Purpose: to apply a method of prayerful reflection to a life/work incident (instead of to a scripture passage)

(A) Listening for the Gentle Touch of Christ the Word     (The Literal Sense)
1. Each person quiets the body and mind: relax, sit comfortably but alert, close eyes, attune to breathing…
2. Each person gently reviews events, situations, sights, encounters that have happened since the beginning of the retreat/or during the last month at work.

(B) Gently Ruminating, Reflecting   (Meditatio – Meditation)
3. Each person allows the self to focus on one such offering.
a) Recollect the setting, sensory details, sequence of events, etc.
b) Notice where the greatest energy seemed to be evoked. Was there a turning point or shift?
c) In what ways did God seem to be present? To what extent was I aware then? Now?

(C) Prayerful Consecration, Blessing (Oratio – Prayer)
4. Use a word or phrase from the Scriptures to inwardly consecrate – to offer up to God in prayer – the incident and interior reflections. Allow God to accept and bless them as your gift.

(D) Accepting Christ’s Embrace; Silent Presence to the Lord (Contemplatio – Contemplation)
5. Remain in silence for some period.

(E) Sharing our Lectio Experience with Each Other (Operatio – Action; works)
6. Leader calls the group back into “community.”
7. All share briefly (or remain in continuing silence).
One of the most central and ancient practices of Christian prayer is lectio divina, or divine reading. In lectio divina, we begin by reading a few verses of the Bible. We read unhurriedly so that we can listen for the message God has for us there. We stay alert to connections the Spirit may reveal between the passage and what is going on in our lives. We ask, “What are you saying to me today, Lord? What am I to hear in this story, parable, or prophecy?” Listening in this way requires patience and a willingness to let go of our own agendas and open ourselves to God’s shaping.
Once we have heard a word that we know is meant for us, we are naturally drawn to prayer. From listening we move to speaking — perhaps in anguish, confession or sorrow; perhaps in joy, praise, thanksgiving or adoration; perhaps in anger, confusion or hurt; perhaps in quiet confidence, trust or surrender. Finally, after pouring out our heart to God, we come to rest simply and deeply in that wonderful, loving presence of God. Reading, reflecting, responding and resting — this is the basic rhythm of divine reading.

GOING DEEPER
The simple process of Bible reflection known as lectio divina is intended specifically for spiritual nourishment. We often think of reading the Bible as a process of study. But there is a way of reading the Bible devotionally to satisfy spiritual thirst. Christians have long known a means of turning to scripture that transcends any time and culture-specific references, reaching into the reader’s present experience to facilitate spiritual growth.** Yet this older process has been set aside in the “rational” centuries from the Reformation (sixteenth century) through the Enlightenment (eighteenth century); that is, the time when a definitive split between sacred and secular emerged through dramatic changes in philosophy and the arts, politics and economics, trade and daily life. In general, our post-Enlightenment twentieth century tends to emphasize a historical and analytical approach toward any text. Systematic analysis of the scripture has yielded many valuable insights about events at the time of writing, the relationship between various editors, and the like. But these details have tended to overwhelm a more devotional method of presence to the scripture. While this approach has achieved many gains, it has neglected an older tradition that viewed the Bible as an aid to the spiritual life rather than chiefly a source of data or information!

It is now difficult for us to imagine what a devotional approach to the Bible might mean, much less how to go about it. Yet the ancient Christian art of Bible reading for spiritual growth has never been totally lost, and today it is gradually reemerging in several radically different Christian settings — from monastic communities in the United States to recently evangelized African Christians. Lectio divina offers a means of Bible reading available to all for spiritual growth.

The ancient Christian tongue twister name is lectio divina (pronounced lex-ee-oh dih-vee-nuh). This Latin phrase literally translates into English as “divine reading” and refers primarily to the reading of sacred scriptures as practiced by the early Christian fathers and mothers. In Latin as in English, the adjective “divine” refers both to the material being read (the divine word) and the method of reading (an inspired approach). The Latin also carries a tradition of meaning that is vaster than the literal English translation suggests. Therefore, we continue to use the Latin phrase and usually shorten it simply to lectio.

Historically, both individuals and groups use lectio with much variation in actual practice. It focuses on the good word of God as revealed in divine scriptures, although it can be practiced on other readings of spiritual depth and on events drawn from daily life also. Lectio looks to the Bible as the word of God, a privileged text from which Christians receive continued nourishment. Yet lectio is not Bible study, for it involves neither an analysis of a scripture passage nor an emphasis on text information. Scripture study is an essential supplement to ongoing lectio but is not directly involved in this process. Above all, lectio is undertaken in the conviction that God’s word is meant to be a “good” word; that is, something carrying God’s own life in a way that benefits the one who receives it faithfully. Lectio turns to the scripture for nurture, comfort, and refreshment. Lectio is an encounter with the living God; it is prayer.

Lectio is a way of deep prayer, of encounter with God. Yet this mode of deep prayer differs from much modern practice. It involves reason and discursive thought, an inner exploration of meaning. It connects daily prayer both with the credal truths of the Christian tradition and with life’s current issues. Lectio fully engages the mind and the body as active partners in spiritual nourishment. Lectio has both an active mode and a receptive mode; both are essential to its practice. For example, the meditative lectio phrase is not the same as a mantra, which is intended to quiet mental thought in order to deepen spiritual centering. On the contrary, in lectio we use the gifted phrase as a means of interacting directly with the actual situations of life, evoking new images and possibilities that empower us to live in congruence with our faith. The lectio phrase is the fruitful word of God in the sense that Isaiah intends it:

For as the rains and snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11, NRSV)

In Christianity, Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s Word.[1] It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied, but as the Living Word.[2]
Traditionally Lectio Divina has 4 separate steps: read, meditate, pray and contemplate. First a passage of Scripture is read, then its meaning is reflected upon. This is followed by prayer and contemplation on the Word of God.[3]
The focus of Lectio Divina is not a theological analysis of biblical passages but viewing them with Christ as the key to their meaning. For example, given Jesus’ statement in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you” an analytical approach would focus on the reason for the statement during the Last Supper, the biblical context, etc. But in Lectio Divina rather than “dissecting peace”, the practitioner “enters peace” and shares in the peace of Christ.[4] In Christian teachings, this form of meditative prayer leads to an increased knowledge of Christ.[5][6]

The roots of Scriptural reflection and interpretation go back to Origen in the 3rd century, after whom St. Ambrose taught them to St. Augustine.[7][8] The monastic practice of Lectio Divina was first established in the 6th century by Saint Benedict and was then formalized as a 4 step process by the Carthusian monk, Guigo II, in the 12th century.[3] In the 20th century, the constitution Dei Verbum of the Second Vatican Council recommended Lectio Divina for the general public. Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the importance of Lectio Divina in the 21st century.[9]

                                           The four movements of Lectio Divina
Historically, Lectio divina has been a “community practice” performed by monks in monasteries, and although it can be taken up individually its community element should not be forgotten.[16]

Lectio Divina has been likened to “Feasting on the Word.” The four parts are first taking a bite (Lectio), then chewing on it (Meditatio). Next is the opportunity to savor the essence of it (Oratio). Finally, the Word is digested and made a part of the body (Contemplatio).[21] In Christian teachings, this form of meditative prayer leads to an increased knowledge of Christ.[5][6]

Unlike meditative practices in Eastern Christianity (such as hesychasm) which repeat the Jesus Prayer many times, Lectio Divina uses different Scripture passages at different times and although a passage may be repeated a few times, Lectio Divina is not repetitive in nature.[12][28]

Lectio: read

“ “… these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” — 1 Corinthians 2:9-10.[29]

The first step is the reading of Scripture. However, it is generally recommended to prepare for Lectio Divina, in order to achieve a calm and tranquil state of mind.

[2] The biblical reference for preparation via stillness is Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”[2] An example would be sitting quietly and in silence and reciting a prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to guide the reading of the Scripture that is to follow.[16]

The biblical basis for the preparation goes back to 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 which emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit in revealing the Word of God.[29] As in the statement by John the Baptist in John 1:26 that “Christ stands in the midst of those who seek him”, the preparatory step should open the mind to finding Christ in the passage being read.[30]

Following the preparation the first movement of Lectio Divina is slow and gradual reading of the scriptural passage, perhaps several times.[2] The biblical basis for the reading goes back to Romans 10:8-10 and the presence of God’s word in the believer’s “mouth or heart”.

The attentive reading begins the process through which a higher level of understanding can be achieved.[16] In the traditional Benedictine approach the passage is slowly read four times, each time with a slightly different focus.[2]

Meditatio: meditate

Although Lectio Divina involves reading, it is less a practice of reading than one of listening to the inner message of the Scripture delivered through the Holy Spirit.

Lectio Divina does not seek information or motivation, but communion with God. It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied, but as the “Living Word”

The second movement in Lectio Divina thus involves meditating upon and pondering on the scriptural passage. When the passage is read, it is generally advised not to try to assign a meaning to it at first, but to wait for the action of the Holy Spirit to illuminate the mind, as the passage is pondered upon.

The English word ponder comes from the Latin pondus which relates to the mental activity of weighing or considering. To ponder on the passage that has been read, it is held lightly and gently considered from various angles. Again, the emphasis is not on analysis of the passage but to keep the mind open and allow the Holy Spirit to inspire a meaning for it.

An example passage may be the statement by Jesus during the Last Supper in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you”.

An analytical approach would focus on why Jesus said that, the fact that it was said at the Last Supper, and the context within the biblical episode. Other theological analysis may follow, e.g. the cost at which Jesus the Lamb of God provided peace through his obedience to the will of Father, etc.

However, these theological analyses are generally avoided in Lectio Divina, where the focus is on Christ as the key that interprets the passage and relates it to the meditator. So rather than “dissecting peace” in an analytical manner, in Lectio Divina the practitioner “enters peace” and shares in the peace of Christ. The focus will thus be on achieving peace via a closer communion with God rather than a biblical analysis of the passage. Similar other passages may be “Abide in my love” or “I am the Good Shepherd”, etc.[4]

Pray

In the Christian tradition, prayer is understood as dialogue with God, that is, as loving conversation with God who has invited us into an embrace. The constitution Dei Verbum which endorsed Lectio Divina for the general public, as well as in monastic settings, quoted Saint Ambrose on the importance of prayer in conjunction with Scripture reading and stated:[31][32]

And let them remember that prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that God and man may talk together; for “we speak to Him when we pray; we hear Him when we read the divine saying.”

Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the importance of using Lectio Divina and prayers on Scripture as a guiding light (cf. Light of the World) and a source of direction and stated:[9][31]

“It should never be forgotten that the Word of God is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path”.

Contemplate

Contemplation takes place in terms of silent prayer that expresses love for God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines contemplative prayer as “the hearing the Word of God” in an attentive mode. It states:[33]
“Contemplative prayer is silence, the “symbol of the world to come” or “silent love.” Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love. In this silence, unbearable to the “outer” man, the Father speaks to us his incarnate Word, who suffered, died, and rose; in this silence the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus.”

The role of the Holy Spirit in contemplative prayer has been emphasized by Christian spiritual writers for centuries. In the 12th century Saint Bernard of Clairvaux compared the Holy Spirit to a kiss by the Eternal Father which allows the practitioner of contemplative prayer to experience union with God.[34] In the 14th century Richard Rolle viewed contemplation as the path that leads the soul to union with God in love, and considered the Holy Spirit as the center of contemplation.[35]
From a theological perspective, God’ grace is considered a principle, or cause, of contemplation, with its benefits delivered through the gifts of the Holy Spirit.[36]

How to Practice Lectio Divina
A step-by-step guide to praying the Bible
BY: Father Luke Dysinger, O.S.B.

Lectio divina is a slow, contemplative praying of the Scriptures. Time set aside in a special way for lectio divina enables us to discover in our daily life an underlying spiritual rhythm. Within this rhythm, we discover an increasing ability to offer more of ourselves and our relationships to the Father, and to accept the embrace that God is continuously extending to us in the person of his son, Jesus Christ.

Very often our concerns, our relationships, our hopes and aspirations, naturally intertwine with our meditations on the Scriptures. We can attend “with the ear of our hearts” to our own memories, listening for God’s presence in the events of our lives. We experience Christ reaching out to us through our own memories. Our own personal story becomes salvation history.

How to Practice Lectio Divina
• Choose a text of the Scriptures that you wish to pray. Many Christians use in their daily lectio divina one of the readings from the eucharistic liturgy for the day (find the readings here); others prefer to slowly work through a particular book of the Bible. It makes no difference which text is chosen, as long as one has no set goal of “covering” a certain amount of text. The amount of text covered is in God’s hands, not yours.

• Place yourself in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent. Some Christians focus for a few moments on their breathing; others have a beloved “prayer word” or “prayer phrase” they gently recite.. For some, the practice known as “centering prayer” makes a good, brief introduction to lectio divina. Use whatever method is best for you and allow yourself to enjoy silence for a few moments.
• Turn to the text and read it slowly, gently. Savor each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that somehow says, “I am for you today.” Do not expect lightning or ecstasies. In lectio divina, God is teaching us to listen to him, to seek him in silence. He does not reach out and grab us; rather, he gently invites us ever more deeply into his presence.
• Take the word or phrase into yourself. Memorize it and slowly repeat it to yourself, allowing it to interact with your inner world of concerns, memories, and ideas. Do not be afraid of distractions. Memories or thoughts are simply parts of yourself that, when they rise up during lectio divina, are asking to be given to God along with the rest of your inner self. Allow this inner pondering, this rumination, to invite you into dialogue with God.
• Speak to God. Whether you use words, ideas, or images–or all three–is not important. Interact with God as you would with one who you know loves and accepts you. And give to him what you have discovered during your experience of meditation. Experience God by using the word or phrase he has given you as a means of blessing and of transforming the ideas and memories that your reflection on his word has awakened. Give to God what you have found within your heart.
• Rest in God’s embrace. And when he invites you to return to your contemplation of his word or to your inner dialogue with him, do so. Learn to use words when words are helpful, and to let go of words when they no longer are necessary. Rejoice in the knowledge that God is with you in both words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity.

Sometimes in lectio divina, you may return several times to the printed text, either to savor the literary context of the word or phrase that God has given or to seek a new word or phrase to ponder. At other times, only a single word or phrase will fill the whole time set aside for lectio divina. It is not necessary to assess anxiously the quality of your lectio divina, as if you were “performing” or seeking some goal. Lectio divina has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God by praying the Scriptures.

Lectio Divina as a Group Exercise
In the churches of the Third World, where books are rare, a form of corporate lectio divina is becoming common, in which a text from the Scriptures is meditated on by Christians praying together in a group.
This form of lectio divina works best in a group of between four and eight people. A group leader coordinates the process and facilitates sharing. The same text from the Scriptures is read out three times, followed each time by a period of silence and an opportunity for each member of the group to share the fruit of her or his lectio.
The first reading is for the purpose of hearing a word or passage that touches the heart. When the word or phrase is found, the group’s members take it in, gently recite it, and reflect on it during the silence that follows. After the silence, each person shares which word or phrase has touched his or her heart.
The second reading (by a member of the opposite sex from the first reader) is for the purpose of “hearing” or “seeing” Christ in the text. Each ponders the word that has touched the heart and asks where the word or phrase touches his or her life that day. Then, after the silence, each member of the group shares what he or she has “heard” or “seen.”
The third and final reading is for the purpose of experiencing Christ “calling us forth” into doing or being. Members ask themselves what Christ in the text is calling them to do or to become today or this week. After the silence, each shares for the last time, and the exercise concludes with each person praying for the person on the right of him or her.
Those who regularly practice this method of praying and sharing the Scriptures find it to be an excellent way of developing trust within a group. It also is an excellent way of consecrating projects and hopes to Christ before more-formal group meetings.

 

 

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