Lectio Divina, practiced at one time by all Christians, is the slow, contemplative praying of the Scriptures, allowing them to become again what God intended that they should be – a means of uniting us to God.
Lectio Divina teaches us about the God who truly loves us. In Lectio Divina we dare to believe that our loving God continues to embrace us today. In the Word we experience ourselves as personally loved by God; as the recipients of a Word which God gives uniquely to each of us whenever we turn to the Scriptures.
There are four or five actions in the practice of Lectio Divina:
The cry of the prophets to ancient Israel was the joy-filled command to “Listen!” “Sh’ma Israel: Hear, O Israel!” In Lectio Divina we, too, heed that command and turn to the Scriptures, knowing that we must “hear” – listen to the voice of God, which often speaks very softly.
The reading or listening which is the first step in Lectio Divina is very different from the speed reading which modern Christians apply to newspapers, books and even to the Bible. In Lectio we read slowly, attentively, listening to hear a word or phrase that the voice of God will speak to us personally — not loudly, but intimately.
Once we have found a word or a passage in the Scriptures which speaks to us in a personal way, we must take it in and “chew” on it. The image of the ruminant animal quietly chewing its cud was used in antiquity as a symbol of the Christian pondering the Word of God.
For us today this image is a reminder that we must “take in” the Word – that is, memorize it – and while gently repeating it to ourselves, allow it to interact with our thoughts, our hopes, our memories, our desires. This is the second step in Lectio Divina – Meditation. Through meditation we allow God’s Word to become His Word for us, a word that touches us and affects us at our deepest levels.
The third step in Lectio Divina is Oratio – prayer — prayer that is understood as dialogue with God, a loving conversation with the One who has invited us to speak with Him. In this prayer we allow the word or phrase that we have “taken in” and meditated on to touch and change our deepest selves. Just as a priest consecrates the elements of bread and wine at the Eucharist, God invites us in Lectio Divina to hold up our most difficult and pain-filled experiences, and to gently recite over them the healing word or phrase God has given us in our Lectio and Meditatio.
No one who has ever been in love needs to be reminded that there are moments in loving relationships when words are unnecessary. It is the same in our relationship with God. Wordless, quiet rest in the presence of the One who loves us has a name in the Christian tradition – contemplatio — contemplation. In this fourth and final step of Lectio Divina we practice inner silence, letting go of our own words; this time simply enjoying the experience of being in the presence of God.
Lectio Divina may conclude at Conemplatio, but some choose to add Operatio as a fifth step. Here, a practical resolution is made by which you hope to conform your life more perfectly to that of Christ or to bring his Word to the the world.
Lectio Divina Shared in a Group
- Listening for the Gentle Touch of God’s Word (Lectio)
- One person reads aloud a passage of scripture, as others are attentive to some segment that is especially meaningful to them.
- Each hears and silently repeats and memorizes a word or phrase that attracts.
- Sharing aloud a word or phrase that has attracted each person. A simple statement of one or a few words. No elaboration.
- How God’s Word speaks to ME (Meditatio)
- Second reading of the same passage by another person.
- Reflect for a few minutes on “Where, how does the content of this reading touch my life today?”
- Sharing aloud: (briefly) “I hear, I see…”
- What God’s Word Invites me to DO (Oratio)
- Third reading by still another person.
- Reflect for a few minutes on “I believe that God wants me to . . . . . . today/this week”.
- Sharing aloud: at somewhat greater length the results of each one’s reflection. [Be especially aware of what is shared by the person to your right.]
- After full sharing, pray for the person to your right.
Note: Anyone may “pass” at any time. If instead of sharing with the group you prefer to pray silently, simply state this aloud and conclude your silent prayer with: Amen.
- Accepting Christ’s Embrace; Silent Presence to the Lord (Contemplation)
- Remain in silence for some period.
- Sharing the Lectio Experience with Each Other (Action; works)
- Leader calls the group back into “community”.
- All share briefly (or remain in continuing silence)