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Lectio divina or prayerful, meditative, formative reading
“I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of lectio divina: the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart (cf. Dei Verbum, n. 25). If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church — I am convinced of it — a new spiritual springtime.”
— Pope Benedict XVI
Although monks and nuns first practiced lectio divina, lectio divina is in fact a treasure for all who seek a deeper relationship with God. Lectio divina is an ancient practice of sitting with the Word of God, praying with and over the Word of God, and being formed by the Word of God.
We Americans tend to read for information, for credit, to pass exams, to keep up — ultimately for power or control (get a passing grade, stay on top of things). Speed reading courses abound. We often skim books and newspapers or read the last chapter to find out the ending.
Lectio divina, however, does not focus on how fast or how much we read. Lectio divina is about transformation by the Word of God, about surrender, about coming face-to-face with the living God. Perhaps the Holy Spirit already speaks in the first sentence read or we may need to read longer to hear the Spirit’s voice.
The first element in lectio divina is the lectio or the slow, thoughtful reading of a section of Scripture, savoring the text and turning the words over in our minds and hearts, attentive for a word or phrase that may speak powerfully to us.
This is followed by meditatio or ruminating on the word or phrase that has spoken powerfully to our hearts and minds. Allow this inner pondering to invite us into further dialog with God.
Then speak to God (oratio) using words or ideas or images. Interact with Him as the One Who loves, cherishes and accepts us. We share with Him what we have discovered in our hearts.
Finally, we rest in God’s embrace (contemplatio). As our conversation with God dies away, we simply rest in His loving presence.
To read more about the practice of lectio divina, refer to Father Luke Dysinger, OSB’s article, Accepting the Embrace of God: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina.