Monday, July 12, 2010

Connecting with God. What Is Lectio Divina?

12One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. (Luke 6:12)

Lectio divina means holy or sacred reading. Lectio is slow, contemplative praying of the scriptures, which leads us to union with God. The roots of Lectio can be found in the Jewish synagogue where the haga, or meditation on the Hebrew Scriptures, is practiced by rabbis and their disciples. Origen is given credit for coining the Greek term that in Latin is known as lectio divina.
Praying with lectio divina is a four-step process. Following an initial reading of a passage of scripture, the first step, called lectio (reading), was to allow a phrase or word to arise out of the text and to focus on it. The second step, called meditatio (meditation), was to ponder the words of the sacred text. The spontaneous movement of the will in response to these reflections was the third step, known as oratio (prayer). The fourth step, contemplatio (contemplation), was the practice of resting in God’s silence. Sometimes a fifth step is added to lectio, called operatio, or action. It is the moment when we end our prayer and return to daily life.
When beginning lectio divina, it is important to read the scripture passage out loud slowly at least twice, the first time for familiarity, the second time to enter more deeply into the text. We then try to notice what feelings or images arise. We must allow the Spirit to expand our ability to listen and to open ourselves to a fuller experience of scripture. When we rest in this experience for some time, it may be possible to hear God’s Word speaking to us in this moment.
After a time, as insight deepens, we will be moved to respond and say yes to God. We must take some time to explore how God is present to us and has called us to look at something in our circumstances. We may be led to speak from our hearts, write in a journal, or express our experience through some artistic medium or movement.
There are two very important aspects of lectio divina that we practice in order for our pray experience to be satisfying. The first is contemplation, which is a time for resting in the presence of the One who has spoken to us intimately and personally. We must stop all the busy activities of our lives and take quiet time to be in this moment. The other quality we need to develop is that of deep listening. Deep listening is a process of attuning ourselves to the presence of God.
We cannot be doing several things at a time for this type of prayer to be satisfying. We must stop what we are doing and take the time to be with God, just as we would if we were to have a friend or relative coming to visit. We need to spend quality time with God.
While praying with lectio divina, the ancients identified four senses of scripture: literal, allegorical, moral, and unitive. Modern biblical scholars focus primarily on the literal sense of scripture. As we pray with scripture and interiorize its message, we move into the allegorical sense. We begin to realize that the scriptures are about us. The allegorical approach shows us how each scripture passage is a multifaceted message that speaks directly to our hearts and lives. When we begin to live by scripture, we are engaging the moral sense, allowing it to inform, expand, or shift our sense of what is right and good. The moral sense leads us to the unitive level of scripture. This fourth level is reached when we are deeply immersed in God’s Word. We have assimilated the sacred texts and they have become a part of us.
Listening is the foundation that supports each step of praying lectio divina. To listen deeply, there needs to be silence and space. God is Word to us, a source of powerful communication inviting us into a deeper relationship. To hear God’s Word, listening must involve the whole person. The principle undergirding lectio divina is that God inspires each word that appears in the text, and that God continues to speak through that word.
The regular practice of lectio divina cultivates in us the ability to listen in a more intentional way. As we listen to God speak, we are called to be aware of our own patterns of resistance.
Communication is an essential aspect of relationship. Lectio divina invites us to become aware, to be the listeners we were created to be, and to listen for the sounds of God speaking to us in new ways.
We need to be humble. Humility in this sense means to be grounded in our earthiness and connected to the truth of who we are. We come to talk to God and to develop relationship with God by opening up our true selves to Him. There is no pretense or pretending. God accepts us as we are, we must learn to do the same and accept ourselves. God tells us that we are valuable as we are.
Conversation is a commitment to falling more and more in love with God. The practice of lectio divina challenges us to let go of our agendas and make room for God to surprise us with our truth and the truth of others. We commit not only to speak to God, but also to listen to him. Normal conversation goes both ways and in our desire to develop a relationship with God, we must both speak and listen.
The fundamental stance of the person of faith is to listen. When we practice listening, we become more and more aware of the internal and external things that distract us. We listen with the ear of our heart. The word heart does not simply refer to a physical organ or the seat of our emotions. It also includes other layers of meaning, such as inner understanding, feelings, will, desire, conscience, and the seat of courage.
In lectio divina, we need to learn to:
“Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10)
Solitude focuses on presence. It is often helpful to create a transition ritual to mark a time of prayer and silence. We must pray to the Holy Spirit to enlighten and inspire us.

In the silence, God speaks to us.

Peace and love,


"Then Jesus said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me". (Luke 9:23)

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