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Lectio Divina – A Way of Meditating on Scriptures or the Word in Daily Life

Sister Doreen’s Reflections

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Lectio Divina – A Way of Meditating on Scriptures or the Word in Daily Life – a review from last year

Lectio Divina is a contemplative way of reading the Bible. It dates back to the early centuries of the Christian Church and was established as a monastic practice by Benedict in the 6th century. It is a way of praying the scriptures that leads us deeper into God’s word.

There are different forms of praying the scriptures or listening for the Word in daily life, different forms suit different people.  Eventually, by trying different methods, you’ll become adept at using approaches that are appropriate to particular passages and are in harmony with your personality and needs, and the guiding of the Holy Spirit.

Lectio divina is a way of being nourished by the Word which comes from the monastic tradition.  It’s spirit is expressed in the following quotation from Abbot Marmion, OSB:

We read                                          – lectio
under the eye of God                   – meditatio
until the heart is touched            – oratio
and leaps into flame                     – contemplation
and into action                              – operatio

Put another way, there are five steps to Lectio Divina.

The basic format is to begin with a prayer to God.  Take up the bible (or take a ‘word’ from other contexts) and begin to read or imagine or remember (lectio).  Meditate on whatever word or phrase catches your heart (meditatio).  You may be moved to offer a prayer to God in response to the meditation (oratio). The words may fall away and you simply dwell in the presence of God (contemplatio).  Finally, we rise and begin or plan to put God’s love into action, to work in the world (operatio).

  • Relax and be comfortable, create an environment which helps remind you that you are in God’s presence.  Listen carefully to God’s word.
  • Read the scripture passage slowly and reflectively, so that each phrase can sink into the depths of your heart.  Read, and listen.
  • Rest in God, focus on the word, phrase or verse which has attracted you, grapple with its meaning, ask questions, use images.
  • Prayer is dialogue; speak to God and ask for understanding of the text, how it applies to you.  Listen deeply in your heart, and respond with whatever feelings come
  • Your words and prayers may seem inadequate and even unnecessary, let them fall away and relax in God’s love and presence in quiet contemplation.  Use a single word to focus your attention (as in centering prayer) or let your breathing be your prayer.
  • You may wish to write down the thoughts, feelings, insights or dialogue which has come to you (journaling).  Return to it during the day.  The journal provides a record you can return to especially in times of dryness.

Using Lectio Divina method: try listening to the Word in one of these ways – in whatever way the “Word” is speaking to you in your daily life today:

  1.  Creation – Take something from your life that speaks a word to you from creation – from the places that you find yourself.    Try psalm 19 as a help into prayer using the method described for praying the ‘word’.
  2. Scripture or the Newspaper / News – Take something from your life that speaks a word to you from a scripture passage or a news item: perhaps the Road to Emmaus – and become one of the travelers, or some other passage – one of the readings from the lectionary readings for today, or an article or reported event from the news: and listen to God saying to you “from all that you see take what you most desire” and stay with that as it leads you into conversation with God.
  3. The Gospels – Take something from your life that speaks a word to you from a Gospel story.  Imagine yourself as one of the people in the Gospel story and let it lead you into prayer, so that the Gospel story becomes your story.
  4. Conversation – Take something from your life that speaks a word to you and engage in conversation with the Lord.  Pour out whatever you are feeling and know that the Lord will receive it in love and compassion.  Take a psalm that mirrors a conversation that you might have.  Listen to God’s side of the dialogue.  Talk to God as one would talk to one’s best friend.
  5. Life hurts – Take something from your life that speaks a word to you in the valleys of shadow and darkness.  1 Kings 17: 2 – 6 was Elijah’s hard place.  Don’t deny the darkness and anguish … remember we can be led to that place where we are enabled to do what Elijah did in 1Kings 19:6!
  6. Action – Take something from your life that speaks a word to you in the busy-ness all around edges of your life – the still point and the busy-ness are what make up the whole – and both play a part in our journey to God and to wholeness.  Reflect on this busy-ness that is held within the still center of our lives where God holds us in the palm of God’s hand.  God is weaving the dream for us, and for all creation, not only in the stillness of our hearts, but in the whirling activity of our lived circumstances.
  7. Silence – Contemplative Prayer – Ezekiel 47: 1 – 12 this can be seen as the temple of our own life, of our own hearts where God is at home.  Take something from your life that speaks a word to you in the silence of the deep desire to be in a loving relationship with God – and express this relationship in prayer.  The water of God’s love continues to rise in our lives – and along the way there are leaves on the trees for the healing of ourselves and our world.  This is truly a picture of what prayer can become for each of us. 

    There is a story that every day the priest of a particular church in France noticed that a French peasant man came into the church each day and sat at the back for ½ hour, seemingly not doing or saying anything. After some weeks, the priest approached the man as he was leaving and asked what his prayer was like, and the French peasant answered: I just look at God.  And God looks at me.  And we are content