What is Lectio Divina? The ancient practice of Lectio Divina literally means “divine reading” and is a method of prayer, study, and meditation fundamental to Benedictine life since the 6th century.
Traditionally practiced individually and privately, the Lectio Divina approaches the study and prayer of scripture as something to be calmly and carefully absorbed and understood.
The ultimate goal to this spiritual technique is to spend some time, physically and mentally, with God through his word.
What are the steps of Lectio Divina?
- and contemplation.
The rhythm of the Lectio Divina is a gentle alternation between action and reception: reading the words and thereby entering a conversation with God.
By focusing on a selected scripture, one waits and listens for God’s voice. The individual practicing Lectio Divina is both listening to and speaking with God, united with Him via his words.
Though followers of St. Benedict have faithfully practiced Lectio Divina since the 6th century, it has experienced a revival in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Pope Paul VI with his document Dei Verbum and the establishment of the Second Vatican Council expressed the importance of this ancient practice in the 20th century.
Even more recently Pope Benedict XVI restated the significance of the Lectio Divina in 2005, explaining that “Lectio divina should therefore be increasingly encouraged [….]
It should never be forgotten that the Word of God is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path”.
How to do Lectio Divina?
Lectio Divina should be done in a quiet place, where you can be alone, without interruption.
First, choose a text to focus on.
For example the chosen text can be from Eucharistic liturgy, daily prayers or affirmations, or from the Gospel; there are no specific requirements regarding the texts used during this practice nor are there requirements on reading a certain amount each time you practice the Lectio Divina.
Next, embrace silence.
Focus on your breathing, or repeat a prayer silently, as you relax and allow yourself to let go of noise and distractions. Once you are silent and focused, you can start to intently read the text you chose.
Read the text
Take your time, read very slowly, in order to take in each individual word and its sound. While reading, be sure that you are also listening, as you wander calmly through the words of God. When you arrive to a word or phrase that you feel grabs your attention, stop, and repeat it, memorizing it, absorbing it.
You may find your thoughts wandering into memories, or current worries and distractions.
This is part of the process, this is you offering your thoughts, concerns, and mind to God and this in turn is God speaking and listening to you.
This should lead you to the next phase, of conversing with God;
Conversing with God
You can “speak” with your thoughts, ideas, your inner voice, or out loud. You should feel calm and relaxed: this is you interacting with God, who is happy to visit with you. Then you can remain in contemplative silence, in God’s company, and return to the text when you feel it’s right.
Remember that the goal is not to complete a certain amount of text or reading, but to connect with God by reading his words.