Lectio Divina explained!

  From the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2654: “Seek in reading and you will find in meditating, knock in mental prayer and it will opened to you by contemplation.”

One of the cornerstones of our prayer life as Disciples of the Divine Master is meditation on the Word of God. It is the first formal prayer time which we have together each day. We gather in the chapel to meditate on the Gospel of the day according to the specific prayer method of our Founder. We do this in silence before we celebrate Lauds and then join for the Eucharistic celebration. It gives a strong foundation to our day and by doing so we enter into the century old practice of praying Scripture over and over in our heart throughout the day (ruminatio). Then when we come to our Adoration, we take up the Gospel once more and carry out Lectio Divina. Once a week, we gather together and meditate upon the Sunday Gospel and share with each other what the Word says to each person. We open this gathering to our collaborators and Adorers and it is such a blessing to have their pearls of wisdom and grace-filled experiences too. So what is Lectio Divina?

 "Lectio Divina", a Latin term, means "divine reading" and describes a way of deeply reading the Scriptures. In the 12th century, a Carthusian monk called Guigo, described the stages which he saw as essential to the practice of Lectio Divina. There are various ways of practicing Lectio Divina either individually or in groups but Guigo's description remains fundamental.

He said that the first stage is lectio (reading) where we read the Word of God, slowly and reflectively so that it sinks into us. We look at the characters, the verbs, the actions, the locations mentioned.

 The second stage is meditatio (reflection) where we think about the text we have chosen and ruminate upon it so that we take from it what God wants to give us. Be open to seeing yourself or others in the people mentioned.

The third stage is oratio (prayer response) where we leave our thinking aside and simply let our hearts speak to God. This response is inspired by our reflection on the Word of God. We allow the Holy Spirit to lead us to make a spontaneous prayer in a manner that draws from the text. In a group setting, they may be done aloud for those who wish.

The fourth stage of Lectio Divina is contemplatio (rest) where we let go not only of our own ideas, plans and meditations but also of our holy words and thoughts. We simply rest in the Word of God. We listen at the deepest level of our being to God who speaks within us with a still small voice. As we listen, we are gradually transformed from within. Obviously this transformation will have a profound effect on the way we actually live and the way we live is the test of the authenticity of our prayer. We must take what we read in the Word of God into our daily lives

 These stages of Lectio Divina are not fixed rules of procedure but simply guidelines as to how the prayer normally develops. Its natural movement is towards greater simplicity, with less and less talking and more listening. Gradually the words of Scripture begin to dissolve and the Word is revealed before the eyes of our heart. How much time should be given to each stage depends very much on whether it is used individually or in a group. If Lectio Divina is used for group prayer, obviously more structure is needed than for individual use. In group prayer, much will depend on the type of group. Lectio Divina may involve discussing the implications of the Word of God for daily life but it cannot be reduced to this. The movement of the prayer is towards silence. If the group is comfortable with silence, more time could be spent resting in the Word.

The practice of Lectio Divina as a way of praying the Scriptures has been a fruitful source of growing in relationship with Christ for many centuries and in our own day is being rediscovered by many individuals and groups. The Word of God is alive and active and will transform each of us if we open ourselves to receive what God wants to give us.

It is best not to concentrate on a large amount at one time in order to allow yourself to go deeply into the text as we read it over and over. It is usually done on the current Sunday Gospel; this puts us in communion with our sisters and brothers throughout the world who are meditating on this same passage at this time. It is recommended to read the words aloud as was the custom in the ancient monasteries. This kind of reading is itself counter- cultural. In our culture we are taught that we should have something to show for our efforts. After reading it a few times we may be tempted to say,  'I know what is in this now and it doesn't have anything more to say to me.' We may feel discouraged when we read a passage over and over and find it says nothing to us. This may be a good spiritual experience if it makes us aware of our poverty and our total dependence on the Holy Spirit to bring the words to life for us. St. James’ advice is timely when we feel we are getting nowhere, ‘Be patient… think of the farmer; how patiently he waits for the precious fruit of the ground until it has had the autumn rains and the spring rains!’ (Jas. 5:7-10).

Happy Lectio-divining!!!