Spiritual Practice– Lectio Divina (sacred reading): A Brief Summary (Lectio-pronounced: LEX-ee-o) Lectio Divina as a practice harkens back into early Christianity, to the desert fathers and mothers who practiced meditation on biblical texts. In about 220 A.D., Origen, an early church father, who first taught in Alexandria, and then later in Caesarea, extolled the advantage of combining Scriptural reading with focus, regularity, and prayer–hallmarks of lectio divina. Of course, attention to Scripture, for followers of Yahweh, is nothing new. For millennia, Jewish tradition has been renown for valuing the copy and preservation of Scriptural texts, meditation on God’s scared Words, and Scripture reading as a normal part of public and private life. Christian tradition follows in this stream as well, with reverence for the Word of the Lord. Lectio The first movement of Lectio Divina involves lectio–reading the text. The text is usually not very long, and is most often Scripture. However, some also dwell on passages of spiritual writing, by devout Christians, to draw them to deeper thought, prayer, or devotion. In this movement, one reads the text several times carefully with “wide eyes,” and with the whole mind. With active reading and awareness, one reads the text cognizant of God’s power at work through the text. Meditatio After a deliberate reading of the text, one moves into meditatio. St. Benedict mentioned that one listens to the Word of God “with the ear of the heart.” In meditation one ruminates, or chews on the textdigesting it, and working it over. One may find an association, poignant word, or image on which focus. In this way, he or she receives from God’s Word. Some present day applications of meditatio exemplify an intellectual preference. They involve consulting commentaries, digesting relating liturgy, or reading relating texts to study the sacred text more fully. Two styles are evident. Some use Scripture as an object of discovery remaining more “objective, theological, and cognitive.” Others tend to keep more “subjective, devotional, and affective” in their habits. Both styles are beneficial, and reflect either scholrly or monastic traditions. Oratio The meditatio movement flows into oratio–prayer that may be much like dialogue–both speaking and listening. Prayers of praise, worship, thanksgiving, supplication, confession, and so forth, may be a part of oratio. Lectio Divina ends in a contemplative phase, though oratio is sandwiched by a meditative phase and contemplative prayer. Some of oratio is cerebral and responsive, but it gives way to “prayer of the heart.” Kenneth Boa describes meditative prayer as a more “intellectual exercise.”It engages us more actively as we become thoughtful, vocal, and imaged based compared to contemplative prayer. Contemplatio In contrast with the meditative prayer of oratio, contemplative prayer is far more mysterious. One enters it in silence, and in the loss of activity and images. In this stage, one abides, and receives from God with “interior stillness.” The contemplatio movement of the lectio exercise exists beyond words. One may discover the deep knowing of the Almighty God who is within, as well as strength, comfort–a rich and powerful feature of the discipline. This contemplative way is so reflective and quiet as to be rather counter-cultural, existing against our noisy and fast-paced times. In this movement, our thoughts dim as we rest in God’s comfort, presence, and power. Our hearts find him, and he fills our hearts. This contemplative movement is a passive way. Why interact with God in such a way? Thomas Merton answers this question well in following quote:
“What is the purpose of meditation in the sense of “prayer of the heart”? In the ‘prayer of the heart’ we seek first of all the deepest ground of our identity in God. We do not reason about dogmas of faith, or “the mysteries.” We seek rather to gain a direct existential grasp, a personal experience of the deepest truths of life and faith, finding ourselves in God’s truth.” As it is, we do not find ourselves, but find ourselves in Him who is Reality. God is the source and the fullness of Reality itself.
come out on the topic. Perhaps the postmodern love of mystery coupled with the renewed interest in ancient church practices has piqued the level of interest. Various contemporary churches are reintroducing the practice into facets of worship and prayer venues. Lectio Divina has various specific practical uses in the contemporary church, such as devotional or inspirational Christian writing, group prayer and worship, and bible study. Sarah Butler notes the practice of Lectio Divina has allowed her to better hear the rhythm of the people entrusted to her ministerial care. The practice of listening and trusting God, in this way, has grown a deeper place in her heart for her people, and a greater compassion for them. She elegantly describes that lectio divina also increased the ability to experience “God’s embrace in the midst of suffering.” Gregory Polan explains that lectio divina is of particular contemporary benefit corporately for spiritual nourishment in Eucharistic Liturgy at the “Table of the body of the Risen Christ.”He finds Lectio Divina exceedingly rich for the church to bring added meaning and reflection to this corporate event. The experience of the regular practice of Lectio Divina reaps a spectrum of interactions with God from vivacious jubilation, poignant insights, and gentle comfort, to (felt) awkward silences from God. The spiritual journey consists of varying terrain. This practice should not be seen as a way to inject a quick tactic into one’s life to see a spiritual jackpot. It is best used by those desiring to ready themselves more for God’s gracious work and the seeds of grace he alone plants and nourishes.
 Schneiders, 140.  Boa, 182.  Ibid., 182.  Merton, Contemplative Prayer, 40.  Ibid., 82.  Jones, 54.
 Sarah Butler. Lectio Divina as a Tool for Discernment. Sewanee Theological Review, 43:3 (Pentcost 2000): 303.  Polan, 206.
Suggestions for Getting Started:
• Select a verse or two for reading out loud. times, absorbing all the richness therein. as the Spirit moves or prodes.
• Read the selection slowly and carefully, several
• Dwell on a portion, theme, associated image, etc.
• Mull over, hold, and rumination with this gift for a while, savoring it until the time seems good to move into prayer concerning it. • Speak to God, and also allow times of quiet.
• Move into a a time of quiet, rest, and yielding to as an offeriong to him.
God–giving up everything from your time together
Author: Lisa Colón DeLay holds a Masters Degree in Religion (’10) and concentrates in spiritual formation and growth. She prodcues useful materials, and assists groups and individuals in walking with God through her project Life As Prayer. Lisa enjoys questions or responses from readers. Find out more at: lisadelay.com
©2009 Lisa Colón DeLay May not be reproduced without written permission from the author.
Practical uses in the contemporary church:
 Jones. The Sacred Way, 54.
Lectio Divina is gaining in popularity in contemporary churches worldwide. Certainly within certain churches in North America, the practice has
 Gregory J. Polan. Lectio Divina: Reading and Praying the Word of God. Liturgical Ministry, no. 12 (Fall 2003): 203.  Schneiders. Biblical Spirituality,140.  Boa, 175.
growing appeal, and a number of recent books have