Lectio Divina, literally meaning “divine reading,” is an ancient practice of praying the Scriptures. During Lectio Divina, the practitioner listens to the text of the Bible with the “ear of the heart,” as if he or she is in conversation with God, and God is suggesting the topics for discussion. The method of Lectio Divina includes moments of reading (lectio), reflecting on (meditatio), responding to (oratio) and resting in (contemplatio) the Word of God with the aim of nourishing and deepening one’s relationship with the Divine.
Like Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina cultivates contemplative prayer. Unlike Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina is a participatory, active practice that uses thoughts, images and insights to enter into a conversation with God. Lectio Divina also is distinguished from reading the Bible for edification or encouragement, Bible study, and praying the scriptures in common, which are all useful but separate practices.
The Monastic method
The monastic method begins with this prayer, followed by the four movements. The movements may be fluid and not necessarily followed in order.
A Prayer to the Holy Spirit
Come Holy Spirit and Living Flame, pour into our hearts from the depths of the Trinity the rays of your light. Help us to listen more deeply to the words of scripture you have enflamed. May your holy fire penetrate our hearts and minds so that we in turn may penetrate your words at ever deepening levels of understanding, insight and response. Amen.
READ softly aloud the selected passage
REFLECT in the sense of ruminating
RESPOND spontaneously in prayer
REST in God beyond thoughts and particular acts
The Scholastic method
Lectio Divina (“Sacred Reading” in Latin) is reading with the heart of a few lines from Scripture. The scholastic method of Lectio Divina has four moments and can be practiced alone or in a group.
The Scripture passage is read slowly 2 -3 times during each moment. If at any time we would like to have the Scripture passage read again during these four moments, we say so.
- Lectio – Reading the Word of God Listen carefully as the Psalm is read each time. Immerse yourself in the Word of God.
- Meditatio– Reflecting on the Word of God As the Psalm is read each time, notice what one Word or short phrase stirs your soul. Savor it. Absorb the Word or phrase that the Spirit speaks to you. Listen fully and allow the Word or phrase to take root in your heart. Offer up the Word or phrase aloud or silently.
- Oratio – Speaking to God As the Psalm is read each time, respond to the Word given to you by the Spirit. You may offer aloud or silently what you feel about the Word or phrase placed in your heart.
- Contemplatio – Resting in God As the Scripture Passage is read this time, the Word given to you by the Spirit becomes your Sacred Word during this time of Centering Prayer. The prayer period ends with final reading of the Psalm.
Each period of Lectio Divina follows the same plan: reflection on the Word of God, followed by free expression of the spontaneous feelings that arise in our hearts. The whole gamut of human response to truth, beauty, goodness and love is possible. As the heart reaches out in longing for God, it begins to penetrate the words of the sacred text. Mind and heart are united and rest in the presence of Christ. Lectio Divina is a way of meditation that leads naturally to spontaneous prayer, and little by little, to moments of contemplation – to insights into the Word of God and the deeper meaning and significance of the truths of faith. This activity enables us to be nourished by the “bread of life” (John 6:35) and indeed to become the Word of God (John 6: 48-51). ~ Thomas Keating, The Heart of the World
Reading Sows the Word in your heart
Reflecting Waters the Word in your heart
Responding Roots the Word in your heart
Resting The Word flowers and bears fruit in your heart
~ Father Carl Arico, Taste of Silence
History of Lectio Divina
Lectio Divina is an ancient practice from the Christian contemplative heritage. It was made a regular practice in monasteries by the time of St. Benedict in the 6th century. The classical practice of Lectio Divina can be divided into two forms: monastic and scholastic. The scholastic form was developed in the Middle Ages and divides the process of Lectio Divina into four hierarchical, consecutive steps: reading, reflecting, responding and resting. The monastic form of Lectio Divina is a more ancient method in which reading, reflecting, responding and resting are experienced as moments rather than steps in a process. In this form, the interaction among the moments is dynamic and the movement through the moments follows the spontaneous prompting of the Holy Spirit. To allow for this spontaneity, Lectio Divina was originally practiced in private.
The current resurgence of Lectio Divina owes much to the reformations of Vatican II and the revival of the contemplative dimension of Christianity. Today, Lectio Divina is practiced in monasteries and by laypeople around the world. New practices have also been inspired by the ancient practice of Lectio Divina, such as praying the scriptures in common, which uses the scholastic form of Lectio Divina for a group experience of praying the scriptures. Though the method of Lectio Divina has taken slightly different forms throughout the centuries, the purpose has remained the same: to enter into a conversation with God and cultivate the gift of contemplation. (from ConteplativeOutreach.org)