Lectio Divina

6 Mar

Ecclesia is spending the season of Lent going through the spiritual disciplines. This week we are looking at scripture. I know that I could give an argument why would should read but instead I am going to talk about a method that followers of Jesus have found helpful for over a thousand years. It isn’t perfect and it isn’t the only way but I benefited from it personally. It is called Lectio Divina. Below is a rough draft of what I will be passing out Sunday as resource. There isn’t much here that is original since there is copying and pasting from several books/websites/blogs to put together a brief and practical summary. Enjoy, and if you want to practice it in a corporate setting you can join us on Sunday evening:

Lectio Divina (pronounced “Lec-tsee-oh Di-vee-nah”)
“Sacred Reading”
Lectio=Reading
Divina=Sacred

This practice goes back to ancient monasticism. It was promoted by Saint Benedict in the sixth century, and it eventually was developed into a four-stage process by a Carthusian monk named Guigo II in AD 1150. Protestant leaders such as John Calvin and Richard Baxter practiced this method of reflective meditation on scripture (Thompson, 1995).

Lectio Divina is an ancient spiritual practice from the Christian monastic
tradition. In Lectio Divina, we seek to experience the presence of God through
reading and listening, prayer, meditation and contemplation. Lectio Divina can be
done as an individual or as a group.

Preparation
Do what you must to quiet and prepare yourself to hear from God. If you
need to find a quiet room, or sit in silence for several minutes, or sit in a
comfortable chair, take whatever posture will help you prepare to receive and
experience God’s presence. Make sure that you have something to write with and something to write on.

Lectio (LEX-ee-o): Reading/Listening
When you sense that your heart is prepared, begin by slowly reading the passage
of scripture that you have selected. Don’t move quickly through any sentence
or phrase. As you read, pay attention to what word or phrase or idea catches
your attention. It is helpful to choose a passage of scripture that is 10 verses or less because you aren’t reading for width but depth. Passages that tend to work well for Lectio Divina are the Parables of Jesus and the stories of the people that Jesus encounters in the gospels. The genealogies, and book of Proverbs don’t work as well for Lectio Divina.
Action: Choose a passage and read it at least twice to get comfortable with the scripture.

Mediatio (meh-di-TA-tsee-o): Meditation
“Meditation runs counter to our busy culture, where speed reading, first impressions and skimming areas deep as we go. In meditation we gaze at something or someone long and longingly. We seek the treasure and truth of what we see.” (Calhoun, p. 173)
Next, begin to meditate on the word, phrase, or idea that captured your attention.
Repeat it again and again. What thoughts come to mind as you meditate on this
word, phrase or idea? What are you reminded of in your life? What does it make
you hope for? Meditation is no easy task. As you try to concentrate, don’t be
disappointed if random thoughts enter your head. As they do, offer them to God.
Action: Underline the word(s) or phrases that jump out at you. Write down the questions that begin to emerge as well. Don’t focus on answers or meaning yet. Give the text time to speak on its own before you try to figure things out.

Oratio (o-RA-tsee-o): Prayer
Now begin to speak to God. Tell God what word, phrase or idea captured your
attention and what came to mind as you meditated upon it. How is God using this
word, phrase or idea to bless and transform you? Tell God what you have been
thinking and feeling as you’ve listened and meditated. Tell God how you hope this
word, phrase or idea will change your heart to be more like his.
Action: After a moment of silence begin to speak (out loud or in your mind). Scripture isn’t just a monologue of God telling you what to do but an opportunity to lead you into conversation with Jesus who is the word made flesh (John 1:14).

Contemplatio (con-tem-PLA-tsee-o): Contemplation
The move from oratio to contemplatio is mostly an act of letting go. Contemplation is inner quietness. The transition from the active prayer of oratio to the silence of contemplatio is gradual and gentle.
Finish by focusing your attention on the fact that God’s presence is with you. If as
you try to focus on God’s presence you sense a need to read the text again, or
continue meditating, or to simply continue talking with God, allow yourself to do
so. As you do, know that you are in the presence of God.
Action: This isn’t a magic formula and you can’t force God’s hand but you can cultivate an inviting life to hear God speak. Have your journal handy in case you get the deep impression that God is telling or showing you something. A journal will give you a track record to see if the same things are being brought up again and again.

Here are two other ways to picture it:

A Phrase
“We read under the eye of God until the heart is touched and leaps to flame.”
We read (Lectio)
under the eye of God (Meditatio)
until the heart is touched (Oratio)
and leaps to flame. (Contemplatio)

Think of Food
Stage 1: Lectio = Taking a Bite
Stage 2: Meditatio = Chewing on the Word
Stage 3: Oratio = Savoring the Word
Stage 4: Contemplatio = Digesting the Word

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