Lectio divina is a contemplative practice with its Christian roots in the Benedictine tradition. It combines slow, conscious reading of a biblical or sacred text with contemplation and silent prayer. It is meant to promote communication with God and a deeper knowledge of Christ, in our lives today.
During Lectio Divina we put aside thoughts of studying the text. This is not the time to consider the historical or theological meanings of what we are reading. We read with a willingness to enter into text in a felt sense. The purpose of this practice is to hear, in silence, the word of God, in this moment. What, through this reading, is God saying to me right now? What do I hear that helps me know what it means to walk the Christ path today?
Lectio Divina has traditionally been a communal practice; that is, one shared when in a group but it can be done when alone.
LECTIO DIVINA is divided into four movements:
- READ (LECTIO) Read a small section of Scripture, or sacred text, slowly and deliberately. Read the text, aloud at least twice with a slightly different emphasis each time. In the traditional Benedictine manner a passage is read four times.
- MEDITATE (MEDITATIO) Pay attention, ponder, allow words to penetrate your awareness through use of faculties such as imagination, senses, visualization, and feelings. Remain open to receiving a meaning rather than assigning one. What is the inner meaning of the text? What is the Holy Spirit saying to me right now?
- PRAY (ORATIO) Respond to text using language and the received sense of text to enter into silent prayer; pray in response to stirring that arises out of interaction with the text. In a group individuals may say aloud, out into the group, one or two words that have come to mind. It doesn’t matter if two or more people speak at once.
- CONTEMPLATE (CONTEMPLATIO) Rest in silence, the presence of God, and allow what you have heard and felt to be absorbed into your being. Let go of reasoning, thinking, feeling. This is the time to rest in love and grace. Silence is the ground in which this prayer takes root.
DIGGING A BIT DEEPER – UNDERSTANDING TEXTS AT DIFFERENT LEVELS OR SENSES OF THE TEXT
- LITERAL – words have meaning. What is going on here? History is part of the story and the meaning. If we think of this level bringing us to an absolute grasp of author’s original intention, we have moved beyond what is possible in relationship to the text.
- ALLEGORICAL/CHRISTOLOGICAL – there is a sense of the text that will only be evident to the eyes of faith. How does this passage relate to, shed light on the mystery of Christ?
- MORAL/TROPOLOGICAL – teaching regarding how we should act in response to the text. There is a direct summons to our life in the text.
- UNITIVE/ANAGOGICAL/MYSTICAL – eternal spiritual realities. At this level the Scriptures become the organizing principle of our life and our intelligence.
- CONTEMPLATIO – “To pray is to remain tranquil in spirit in order to enjoy God for as long a time as possible.” (William of Saint-Thierry 12c.) – rest in presence of God. Let go of reasoning, thinking, feeling. Silence is the ground in which this prayer takes root.
SUGGESTED TEXTS FOR LECTIO DIVINA
- Gospel of Thomas
- Lynn Bauman’s translation
- Marvin Meyers’ translation
- Elaine Pagels’ translation
- Biblical texts (The information below has kindly been provided by Christopher Page, Rector of St. Philip Anglican Church, Victoria, BC).
- MATTHEW – 7:7-11; 8:1-4; 8:23-27; 9:2-8; 9:18-25; 14:13-20; 16:13-20; 17:1-8; 18:1-5; 26:6-13; 26:36-46; 26:69-75; 27:32-44; 27:45-54; 28:1-10
- MARK – 1:9-13; 1:21-27; 1:40-45; 4:1-9; 4:35-41; 6:45-52; 8:1-9; 8:22-26; 9:2-8; 10:17-22; 11:15-19; 12:41-44; 13:32-37; 14:3-9; 14:43-50; 15:33-39; 16:1-8
- LUKE – 1:39-45; 2:25-32; 4:40-44; 5:27-32; 10:38-42; 11:9-13; 11:33-36; 12:13-21; 13:2232: 13:32-34; 15:1-7; 17:11-19; 19:41-44; 22:14-23; 22:39-46; 24:36-49
- JOHN – 11-9; 1:10-18; 1:35-42; 6:16-21; 6:35-40; 7:37-39; 10:1-5; 10:11-18; 12:1-8; 12:20-26; 13:1-11; 13:31-35; 14:1-7; 14:8-14; 14:15-21; 14:25-30; 15:1-11; 15:12-17; 16:12-14; 20:11-18; 20:19-23; 20:24-29
- ROMANS – 5:1-5; 8:1-11; 8:31-39; 12:1-5; 14:7-12
- I CORINTHIANS – 13:1-13; 15:35-41; 15:50-56
- II CORINTHIANS – 4:7-11; 5:1-5; 5:11-15
- EPHESIANS – 1:17-23; 2:11-22; 3:14-21
- PHILIPPIANS – 1:3-11; 2:5-11