Opening up the treasures of God’s word, and bringing about an encounter with Christ, the living Word of God.
INTRODUCTION TO LECTIO DIVINA
Lectio Divina, or sacred reading, is reading the Scriptures in a reflective and prayerful manner. The ancient practice of lectio is mentioned many times in the Rule of St. Benedict as he instructs his monks that there should be time for “prayerful reading” each day (RSB 48:1b). The rationale behind the practice of lectio divina is two-fold:
- The word of God is at the basis of all authentic Christian spirituality, and it possesses the power of calling people to conversion and renewing people by its own unique and mysterious power
- Do we believe that the word of God possesses a power to touch lives, transform hearts, and draw people to conversion?
- Encountering the word of God in a prayerful way draws us into communion with the One who speaks the word to us
- “Let the faithful go gladly to the sacred text itself, whether in the sacred liturgy, which is full of the divine words, or in devout reading, or in such suitable exercises and various other helps” (Dei verbum)
A word of caution: One must avoid the risk of an individualistic approach to scripture, and remember that God’s word is given to us precisely to build communion, to unite us in the Truth along our path to God. While it is a word addressed to each of us personally, it is also a word which builds community, which builds the Church. Consequently, the sacred text must always be approached in the communion of the Church.
- A communal reading of Scripture is crucial because the living subject in the sacred Scriptures is the People of God, it is the Church… Scripture does not belong to the past, because of its subject, the People of God, is always the same, and therefore the word is always alive in the living subject. It is important to read and experience sacred Scripture in communion with the Church, that is, with all the great witnesses to this word, beginning with the earliest Fathers up to the saints of our day, up to the present-day magisterium
- The privileged place for the prayerful reading of sacred Scripture is the liturgy, and particularly the Eucharist, in which, as we celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ in the sacrament, the word itself is present and at work in our midst
Mary, Our Model: For every member of the faithful, Mary is the model of docile acceptance of God’s word, for she “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19; cf. 2:51); she discovered the profound bond which unites, in God’s great plan, apparently disparate events, actions and things
BASIC STEPS TO LECTIO DIVINA (from Verbum domini)
Lectio (reading): Lectio divina opens with the reading of a text, which leads to a desire to understand its true content
- What does the biblical text say in itself? Without this, there is always a risk that the text will become a pretext for never moving beyond our ideas
Meditatio (meditation): What does the biblical text say to us?
- Here, each person, individually but also as a member of the community, must let himself or herself be moved and challenged
Oratio (prayer): What do we say to the Lord in response to his word?
- Prayer, as petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise, is the primary way by which the word transforms us
Contemplatio (contemplation): During this step, we take up, as a gift from God, his way of seeing and judging reality, and ask ourselves what conversion of mind, heart and life is the Lord asking of us?
- In the Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul tells us: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (12:2)
- Contemplation aims at creating within us a truly wise and discerning vision of reality, as God sees it, and at forming within is "the mind of Christ" (1 Cor 2:16)
Actio (action): We do well also to remember that the process of lectio divina is not concluded until it arrives at action, which moves the believer to make his or her life a gift for others in charity
HOW TO PRACTICE LECTIO DIVINA: A Guide from Fr. Luke Dysinger, OSB
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 work slowly 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 the 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 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 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 the quality of your lectio divina anxiously, 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.