Earlier today, I gave a presentation on Lectio Divina to a group of schoolteachers. It was well received, so I thought I'd share it with you today. The art of Lectio Divina, Latin for divine reading might be new to you. At one time in the history of the Church, however, it was actually quite common. Then, lives became busy with many other things, and it was left to those in religious life, especially the monastic orders such as the Benedictines, to continue the practice.
But over the last few decades, more and more lay people have found this ancient practice of praying with the Scriptures to bear much fruit in their lives. I like Lectio Divina because it reminds me that I need to slow down. Sacred Scripture is not meant to be speed read. We need to take time, and prayerfully ponder what God is trying to say to us through His Word. Lectio Divina is a way to pray with Scripture that calls us to study, ponder, listen and finally, to trust that God continues to speak to His people.
In 2005, Pope Benedict stated:
I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of Lectio Divina; the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading heard God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart. If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church – I am convinced of it- a new spiritual springtime.”
So, how do we practice Lectio Divina? Around 1150, a Carthusian monk wrote a book entitled “the Monk’s Ladder”, where he set out the four parts to this prayerful study of Scripture. Those parts are reading, meditation, prayer and contemplation. Lectio Divina has been likened to “Feasting on the Word.” I love this image! The four parts are first taking a bite (Lectio), then chewing on in (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).
For me, one of keys to success with Lectio Divina is to take your time. We need to slow down to effectively read God’s Word. Read the information below, then choose one of the passages from St. Matthew's Gospel and give it a try. I hope your experience with Divine Reading gives you a new appreciation of Sacred Scripture. Try it out with your own favorite Gospel story :) I know this is a rather long post, but give it a try!
STEP 1: LECTIO (Reading/Listening)
Read each of the Scripture passages below, then choose one to focus on. Take your time with your chosen Scripture passage and re- read it slowly and intentionally, listening as if God is saying it directly to you, because He is doing just that. After you get done re-reading the passage, take a few moments to reflect. Some questions you may want to ask yourself are:
- Who speaks in the passage? What do they say?
- What is the main action in the passage?
- Is there anything you don’t understand?
STEP 2: MEDITATIO (Meditation)
Read the passage again. This time, instead of focusing on the action in the passage, you are looking for a word or a small phrase that really spoke to you or made the passage seem to come alive. When you have your word or passage, take some time to pray about what you found.
For example, if the word “afraid” leapt out at you some things you could pray about are:
- What is your biggest fear or worry? Can God give you the courage to face it/deal with it?
- To you, does having courage mean not feeling any fear or being able to control your fear? Which do you think God asks us to do?
- How much faith do you honestly have in God? Can you trust Him the way the first disciples did?
- Are you living out your faith daily? Or, do you make compromises because you’re afraid of what people will think of you?
- Do you have the courage to offer God everything you have, even what you treasure most?
- Jesus is asking you, “What do you want me to do for you?” Do you have the courage to answer?
STEP 3: ORATIO (Prayer)
Open this step with a small prayer asking God to help you better understand Him and help you to see Him revealed in Sacred Scripture. Then, have a conversation with God about your word or passage. Remember: a conversation involves both talking and listening. Some things you may want to ask or talk to God about during this step are:
- In what areas of your life do you need God to heal you?
- How does your word or phrase relate to your relationship with God right now?
- Is God calling you to change your life in some way after reading this passage?
STEP 4: CONTEMPLATIO (Contemplation)
This step is more about God and less about you. Re-read the passage one final time and after you are finished, just be present with God. Don’t have an agenda or a list of questions. Just let yourself rest in God’s love, peace and mercy.
Taken from The Gospel of St. Matthew
The Baptism of Jesus 3:13-17
The Calming of the Storm at sea 8:23-26
Anointing at Bethany 26:6-13
The Resurrection of Jesus 28:1-10