Lectio Divina, or “divine reading,” is an ancient way of praying with Scripture. We move from the words on the page into intimacy with Jesus, the Living Word who speaks to us today. Lectio divina has four steps:
Lectio – Reading
LECTIO DIVINA begins with a prayerful reading of Scripture. This prayerful reading differs greatly from the fast and cursory reading of novels, magazines, or online material. It is different from the information–gathering task of reading textbooks or instruction manuals. There is a reverential and prayerful listening that accompanies the reading. With a spirit of silence and hopeful anticipation, I listen for the words that speak to me personally and intimately. In lectio I read slowly and attentively, honing in on the word or phrase that attracts me, draws me; the words with which God is inviting me to rest.
Meditatio – Meditation
ONCE WE have found a word or a passage in the Scriptures that speaks to us in a personal way, we must take it in and “ruminate” on it. The image of the ruminant animal quietly chewing its cud was used in antiquity as a symbol of the Christian pondering the Word of God. Christians have always seen a scriptural invitation to lectio divina in the example of the Virgin Mary “pondering in her heart” what she saw and heard of Christ (Luke 2:19). For us today these images are a reminder that we must take in the word – that is memorize it – and while gently repeating it to ourselves, allow it to interact with our thoughts, our hopes, our memories, our desires. This is the second step or stage in lectio divina – meditatio. Through meditatio we allow God’s Word to become His word for us, a word that touches us and affects us at our deepest levels.
Oratio – Prayer
THE THIRD step in lectio divina is oratio – prayer. Prayer here is understood both as dialogue with God—that is, as loving conversation with the One who has invited us into His embrace—and as offering to God our very selves, including our thoughts, feelings, desires, fears and weaknesses. We allow our real selves to be touched and changed by the word of God.
Contemplatio – Contemplation
FINALLY, WE simply rest in the presence of the One who has used His word as a means of inviting us to accept His transforming embrace. No one who has ever been in love needs to be reminded that there are moments in loving relationships when words are unnecessary. It is the same in our relationship with God. Wordless, quiet rest in the presence of the One Who loves us has a name in the Christian tradition – contemplatio, contemplation. Once again we practice silence, letting go of our words; simply enjoying the experience of being in the presence of God. Contemplation, strictly speaking, is a gift of God, so we cannot produce it ourselves, but we can dispose ourselves to receive it as a gift—for as long as God wishes to give it to us.
The more you practice lectio, the easier it gets, and the easier you will begin to move through these steps, disposing yourself more and more to the gift of contemplation.