Lectio Divina is held fortnightly on Thursdays, in the parish hall, after the morming mass.
What is Lectio Divina?
Lectio Divina (Latin which is often translated as Divine Reading) is a practice of reading scripture to enter into communion with God. This meditative form of prayer aims at gaining a deeper understanding of God’s Word. It was formerly considered an exclusively traditional monastic practice. Like many of the contemplative practices it can be traced back to the Desert Mothers and Fathers. Encouraged by St Benedict in his Rule. Nowadays, this contemplative scriptural reading method has gained popularity in more secular environments.
Christopher Jamison, former Abbot of Worth, the Benedictine Abbey in Sussex, wrote in his book Finding Sanctuary about the three key features of Lectio Divina: The first is that “the text is seen as a gift to be received, not a problem to be dissected….. let the text come to you.” The second is that the Lectio Divina tradition “teaches us that in order to receive what the text has to offer we must read slowly.” The third is that Lectio Divina is “a way of prayer. Before reading, pray that God will speak to you through the text.
So, Lectio Divina is not Bible study. It is an understanding that Scripture is a meeting place for a personal encounter with God. We believe that Christ is present in scripture. God comes forth to speak lovingly with us on a personal level.
So that’s Why we do Lectio Divina – to encounter God. Next is What do we read? The simple answer is some sacred scripture – but we read everything in our chosen book from the start omitting nothing. If we are reading alone a good place to begin for those new to the practice is with one of the gospels – perhaps Mark’s is the easiest.
Also we are not racing to finish the passage or the book. We can take 6 months, 9 months, a year, longer. We can read so far, go back, read a bit more, go back and so on – a bit like painting a wall.
We can do Lectio Divina alone or in a group. There are four stages – Lectio, Meditatio, Oratio, Contemplatio ; (NB – these stages are not necessarily linear)
Read Aloud – slowly. (lectio) Hear the Word. Hear Jesus speaking.
Receive the word (meditatio) – a personal address from God to me.
Respond – pray with the word (oratio).
Wonder – (contemplatio) – love and adoration.
Thomas Cranmer in his Homily on Scripture ended it with an exhortation to read scripture in this way: “Let us ruminate, and, as it were, chew the cud, that we may have the sweet juice, spiritual effect, marrow, honey, kernel, taste, comfort and consolation of <the words>.
How to enter into Lectio Divina
Make sure you are sitting comfortably. Breathe slowly and deeply. Ask God to speak to you through the passage that you are about to read. God wants to speak to us and will do this through the Scriptures. So don’t worry if nothing jumps out at you at first. At some point you will be given something and led to understand its meaning, for you. If not today, perhaps tomorrow, perhaps next week when working, shopping, going to the cinema.
1st reading of the passage Aloud: (even when alone) to hear the Word of God. Not too much, just 6,7,8 lines, maybe 10.
Listen – hear the Word of God. 5-6 minutes read it over slowly to yourself a few times. As you read then listen for a word or phrase that attracts you. Sit in silence repeating the word or phrase in your head. If you hear nothing, don’t worry.
Group – Respond, if you feel like it. Just the word or phrase that attracts you – or discomforts you – for now.
2nd reading of the passage Aloud. Ponder. ‘Chew the cud’ 5-6 minutes. Read the passage over again and ask how this word or phrase speaks to you and why it connects with you.
Remember, we are not looking for historical meaning. Is there something in your life now, today, to which it speaks? If you haven’t found a word or phrase yet keep reading, thinking, chewing. Offer it to God. Sit in silence and frame a single sentence that begins to say what this word or phrase says to you.
Group – Respond, if you feel like it. Just a word or sentence is fine e.g. family, work, church, social activity. All of your sentences should begin with I. It is not about what God is saying to us or what Jesus said to his disciples or the Pharisees. It is what God is saying to me, now.
3rd reading Aloud: Pray 2-3 minutes. Sit in wonder 2-3 minutes.
As you read the passage for the third time ask God what is being asked from you in this particular context. What is it that you need to do as a result of what God is saying to you in this word or phrase?
Response – In a group you may wish to share this. Please remember: Group lectio involves an invitation to share but is not compulsory.
Anything that we hear from another we must keep confidential. It is not a discussion. We do not comment on what another person shares. We do not agree with or disagree with what another person says. All comments should be ‘I’ focused. It is not about us or you. It is about ‘me’!
Of course, setting out the steps feels a bit mechanical and as I said earlier they are not necessarily linear. In fact they should flow but I think particularly at the start we need some sort of discipline, some sort of structure to guide us, to help us.
5th stage Doing the word – action. Once we have heard God’s message then we need to do it, take action.