How to Practice Lectio Divina - A Sacred Journey
Lectio is reverential listening; listening both in a spirit of silence and of awe. We are listening for the still, small voice of God that will speak to us personally - not loudly, but intimately. In lectio we read slowly, attentively, gently listening to hear a word or phrase that is God's word for us this day. Meditatio: Meditation. 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 "ruminate" 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 these images are 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 or stage in lectio divina - meditatio.
Through meditatio we allow God's word to become His word for us, a word that touches us and affects us at our deepest levels. Oratio: Prayer. The third step in lectio divina is oratio - prayer: prayer understood both as dialogue with God, that is, as loving conversation with the One who has invited us into His embrace; and as consecration, prayer as the priestly offering to God of parts of ourselves that we have not previously believed God wants. In this consecration-prayer we allow the word that we have taken in and on which we are pondering to touch and change our deepest selves.
God invites us in lectio divina to hold up our most difficult and pain-filled experiences to Him, and to gently recite over them the healing word or phrase He has given us in our lectio and meditatio. In this oratio, this consecration-prayer, we allow our real selves to be touched and changed by the word of God. Contemplatio: Contemplation. Finally, we simply rest in the presence of the One who has used His word as a means of inviting us to accept His transforming embrace.
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. Once again we practice silence, letting go of our own words; this time simply enjoying the experience of being in the presence of God. The Underlying Rhythm of Lectio Divina. If we are to practice lectio divina effectively, we must travel back in time to an understanding that today is in danger of being almost completely lost.
In the Christian past the words action or practice , from the Greek praktikos and contemplation did not describe different kinds of Christians engaging or not engaging in different forms of prayer and apostolates. Practice and contemplation were understood as the two poles of our underlying, ongoing spiritual rhythm: a gentle oscillation back and forth between spiritual "activity" with regard to God and "receptivity. Practice - spiritual "activity" - referred in ancient times to our active cooperation with God's grace in rooting out vices and allowing the virtues to flourish.
The direction of spiritual activity was not outward in the sense of an apostolate, but inward - down into the depths of the soul where the Spirit of God is constantly transforming us, refashioning us in God's image. The active life is thus coming to see who we truly are and allowing ourselves to be remade into what God intends us to become. In the early monastic tradition contemplation was understood in two ways.
First was theoria physike, the contemplation of God in creation - God in "the many. In contemplation we cease from interior spiritual doing and learn simply to be , that is to rest in the presence of our loving Father. Just as we constantly move back and forth in our exterior lives between speaking and listening, between questioning and reflecting, so in our spiritual lives we must learn to enjoy the refreshment of simply being in God's presence, an experience that naturally alternates if we let it!
In ancient times contemplation was not regarded as a goal to be achieved through some method of prayer, but was simply accepted with gratitude as God's recurring gift. At intervals the Lord invites us to cease from speaking so that we can simply rest in his embrace.
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This is the pole of our inner spiritual rhythm called contemplation. How different this ancient understanding is from our modern approach! Instead of recognizing that we all gently oscillate back and forth between spiritual activity and receptivity, between practice and contemplation, we today tend to set contemplation before ourselves as a goal - something we imagine we can achieve through some spiritual technique. We must be willing to sacrifice our "goal-oriented" approach if we are to practice lectio divina , because lectio divina has no other goal than spending time with God through the medium of His word.
The amount of time we spend in any aspect of lectio divina , whether it be rumination, consecration or contemplation depends on God's Spirit, not on us.
Lectio divina teaches us to savor and delight in all the different flavors of God's presence, whether they be active or receptive modes of experiencing Him. In Lectio Divina we offer ourselves to God; and we are people in motion. In ancient times this inner spiritual motion was described as a helix - an ascending spiral. Viewed in only two dimensions it appears as a circular motion back and forth; seen with the added dimension of time it becomes a helix, an ascending spiral by means of which we are drawn ever closer to God.
The whole of our spiritual lives were viewed in this way, as a gentle oscillation between spiritual activity and receptivity by means of which God unites us ever closer to Himself. In just the same way the steps or stages of lectio divina represent an oscillation back and forth between these spiritual poles.
In lectio divina we recognize our underlying spiritual rhythm and discover many different ways of experiencing God's presence - many different ways of praying. The Practice of Lectio Divina. Choose a text of the Scriptures that you wish to pray. Many Christians use in their daily lectio divina one of the readings from the It makes no difference which text is chosen, as long as one has no set goal of "covering" a certain amount of text: the amount of text "covered" is in God's hands, not yours. Place yourself in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent.
Use whatever method is best for you and allow yourself to enjoy silence for a few moments. Then turn to the text and read it slowly, gently. Historically, Lectio Divina has been a "community practice" performed by monks in monasteries. Although it can be taken up individually, its community element should not be forgotten. Lectio Divina has been likened to "feasting on the Word": first, the taking of a bite lectio ; then chewing on it meditatio ; savoring its essence oratio and, finally, "digesting" it and making it a part of the body contemplatio.
Although a passage may be repeated a few times, Lectio Divina is not essentially repetitive in nature. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. The first step is the reading of Scripture. In order to achieve a calm and tranquil state of mind, preparation before Lectio Divina is recommended. The biblical basis for the preparation goes back to 1 Corinthians —10 which emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit in revealing the Word of God. Following the preparation the first movement of Lectio Divina is slow and gradual reading of the scriptural passage, perhaps several times.
The attentive reading begins the process through which a higher level of understanding can be achieved. Although Lectio Divina involves reading, it is less a practice of reading than one of listening to the inner message of the Scripture delivered through the Holy Spirit. It does not treat Scripture as text to be studied, but as the " Living Word ". The second movement in Lectio Divina thus involves meditating upon and pondering on the scriptural passage.
ISBN 13: 9781459636156
When the passage is read, it is generally advised not to try to assign a meaning to it at first, but to wait for the action of the Holy Spirit to illuminate the mind, as the passage is pondered upon. The English word ponder comes from the Latin pondus which relates to the mental activity of weighing or considering.
To ponder on the passage that has been read, it is held lightly and gently considered from various angles. Again, the emphasis is not on analysis of the passage but to keep the mind open and allow the Holy Spirit to inspire a meaning for it.
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An example passage may be the statement by Jesus during the Last Supper in John : "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you". An analytical approach would focus on why Jesus said that, the fact that it was said at the Last Supper, and the context within the biblical episode.
Other theological analysis may follow, e. However, these theological analyses are generally avoided in Lectio Divina , where the focus is on Christ as the key that interprets the passage and relates it to the meditator. So rather than "dissecting peace" in an analytical manner, the practitioner of Lectio Divina "enters peace" and shares the peace of Christ. The focus will thus be on achieving peace via a closer communion with God rather than a biblical analysis of the passage. Similar other passages may be "Abide in my love", "I am the Good Shepherd", etc.
Related Opening to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer
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