WHAT IS LECTIO DIVINA?
Lectio (Latin)-lesson, teaching, or a group of texts. Reading in it’s most basic form.
Divina (Latin)- divine, of a deity, divinely inspired, or prophetic.
Lectio Divina– divine readings, or spiritual readings, to put it plainly. This is how people used the term for the majority of the middle ages which would suggest that lectio divina is synonymous with sacra pagina, “from the sacred page.”
Of course, the Desert Fathers who created the practice of Lectio Divina used it as a form of contemplative meditation on the scriptures. In typical Alexandrian fashion these early monks internalized scripture until their actions became a walking interpretation of the Word of God. Origen had always urged the Church of Alexandria to study and pray God’s Word. Speak to God through scripture and when scripture is read one should be listening (lectio). St. Benedict would say we are meant to “listen with the ear of our heart.” To pay careful attention to our internal dialogues as we move towards union with God through our hearts is another of those signs of just how blended Alexandria was.
“The aim of every monk and the perfection of his heart tends to continual and unbroken perseverance in prayer, and, as far as it is allowed to human frailty, strives to acquire an immovable tranquility of mind and a perpetual purity, for the sake of which we seek unweariedly and constantly to practice all bodily labors as well as contrition of spirit.”-St. John Cassian (Conference 9)
Lectio Divina was developed as a means to stay in constant prayer. To contemplate on God day in and day out is write to the Words of God on their hearts. It’s a beautifully simple concept.
THE SIMPLE FORMULA FOR PRACTICE
- 1. Lectio (reading),
- 2. Meditatio (meditation),
- 3. Oratio (prayer),
- 4. Contemplatio (contemplation).
1. READING is the first condition of lectio divina. We go with the most basic answer we can and seek to understand what the passage says in as plain a language as we can, We find the literal meaning of the text define and the lessons everyone should see. Just ask a question:
2. MEDITATION is the next direction lectio divina explores. We ask, what does this text say to me, today, and to my life? We allow God to show us any memories of people, places, or events in our lives that relate to the passage. We write the scripture on our hearts until our hearts ask questions. Like-
– We come to a deeper appreciation of how God is working in our lives through the sacred word. By personalizing the Wisdom and putting return to the present and consider the areas in our own lives that God is calling us to contemplate.
3.PRAYER in lectio divina should become the response that thoroughly meditating on Scripture produces. When we allow the Words to internalize making engravings on our hearts we can speak to Godhead from our highest level of intellect. We may ask ourselves:
4. CONTEMPLATION is the natural succession of lectio divina. We come to grips with the areas of our lives that desperately need transformed. We consider grace and humble ourselves before the Glory of the Absolute Power of transformation that remains the only real ruling principle in our domain. We must approach the Godhead in trust with a genuine willingness to change. Never forget, we all eventually surrender our personas and submit our wills to the will of the Divine or we continue to have ears and not hear. We have to decide to surrender parts of our character to God to be free from them. The final question should come to mind a bit after that:
This is the basic formula for lectio divina. It’s a sort of mystic introspection that puts the Wisdom texts deep within our being. Study that touches the depth of our souls leads us to understand passages beyond the level of intellect. As our hearts begin engaging with the Logos and seeking Sophia we begin to intimately know the mysteries.