Welcome to our new section on Lectio Divina
Method of Bible Reading.
Method of Prayer.
Method of Doing Theology.
(At the same time)
A discipline that is at once simple and profound.
The three stages of Lectio Divina.
The three principles of Lectio Divina.
The text is sacred (text is more than message).
The text speaks to imagination (life experience).
The text is life-giving (celebration of grace and confession of sin).
Fruits of lectio Divina.
Growth in Love (heart of Jesus).
Growth in Wisdom (mind of Jesus)
Growth in Kingdom of God (dream of Jesus).
Stage 1, Lectio (Reading the text).
Reader is in “spectator mode”.
This stage is characterized by a deep respect for the text, listening to the text, familiarization with the text.
Read text. Read text aloud. Read again and again for familiarity with content and language.
A. Observe what is given in Text:
Become accustomed to the words, images, metaphors. Hear the words. Feel the words. Enjoy the words. Allow words to sink into consciousness.
Uncover meaning of words (not passage) if required – words in general or particular “biblical words”.
B. Observe the context.
This can be helpful for meditation but not essential in order to enter into and experience ‘the riches’ of the passage.
C. Dividing up the passage for the purposes of Meditation.
Dividing up the passage into sections can make it more accessible for meditation. A ‘section’ is a slice of the passage that contains movement, activity or dialogue.
A helpful principle here is that it is more important to go deeply into one section of the passage rather than to try to cover the whole passage and to end up doing it superficially.
On coming to a passage for the first time a good ‘lectio stage’ will set us up well for meditation but this is not the end of the ‘lectio stage’ because as the other stages unfold we will find ourselves returning to the lectio stage again and again, as the three stages spontaneously begin to flow into each other and to interact with each other.
So while there is a definite discipline in the method of lectio divina, and while initially with each passage it is important to observe all three stages in that order, after a while as we journey more and more with the passage we will experience greater freedom and flexibility in our movement back and forth from one stage to the next.
2. Meditation (Entering into the text)
Reader is in “participative mode”.
In the Meditation stage the Reader is now becoming a participant: entering into the passage.
What we mean by Meditation in Lectio is different from what is currently meant by Meditation. In popular understanding today Meditation describes a practice of quietening body, mind and heart and coming to a place of inner silence, stillness and centeredness. There are various techniques employed to bring one to this point.
Meaning of Meditation in lectio is something quite different: mind is active - particularly the imagination through memory and making connections - but also feelings, emotions and intuitions.
No one can decide for us where we are going to enter the story. Passage respects us.
The following “keys” can be helpful in recognizing where our meditation might begin.
What does the passage remind us of?
What memories does it evoke in us?
Where do we feel drawn by the story?
What touches us or moves us in the story?
Who do we find ourselves feeling with in the story?
When and how have we been/ or seen Jesus (or any other character) in this passage.
Listen to whatever life experience surfaces in us. Respect it. Stay with it.
It may an experience from our own personal journey or that of our family, parish community or wider church, or that of our own society or country or indeed that of other countries. It may be in the area of one to one relationships or that between one community and another, or one church and another, or one people and another. It may be something from the past or something that we see going on today. Ideally, we will find the section of the passage fulfilled at a number of different levels of life experience as this will foster a real sense of solidarity with one another as children of God.
Let the memories surface in all their historical reality.
As we do so we are invited to relive the memory with the help of the passage (details from the passage opening up and illuminating aspects of our life experience). At the same time we relive the passage with the help of the memory (aspects of our life-experience throwing light on the passage). It is a process in which the passage and the life experience get to know each other, converse with each other, discover each other – both what they have in common and their differences. The meditation stage is characterized by a coming together or growing “communion” between the passage and life experience.
We continue with this process until we can spontaneously exclaim:
“I now recognize that passage”
“That passage is true to my life experience.”
“I can now appreciate that passage in a new way.”
“I can now appreciate a new sacred depth and meaning in my life- experience.”
Finally, the process of meditation is not tied to any particular time, place or circumstance. It can be going on as we engage in many of our daily activities, and in this way encourages a greater integration of prayer life and “ordinary life.”
3. Prayer (Praying the text).
Reader is in “encounter mode”.
Spontaneously we feel to turn to God in prayer.
A. Thanksgiving. B. Repentance. C. Petition.
Primary prayer - the desire to pray a prayer of thanksgiving is the hallmark of a good meditation.
In recognizing the passage in life experience there arises a spontaneous desire to give thanks for the passage, for the memory, for the communion, for the “holy communion”.
It could be expressed in words such as these:
“Thank you for the gift of this beautiful passage.
“Thank you for the precious memory it evoked in me”.
“Thank you for showing me your presence in my life, in the world.”
“Thank you for the joy and peace this has given me”.
“Thank you that Jesus is alive today: alive in my personal history, in the history of my family or community, or the history of the world.”
We are invited to pray in solidarity with all who have experienced this passage as good news.
At the same time we also feel humbled by the experience: while we recognize a little bit of Jesus in our story we know it could have been more. Every passage is at the same time an invitation to profess the story of grace in our lives and world and to confess the story of sin.
It could be expressed in words such as these:
“Lord, for the failure to recognize before now that your Word is alive and at work in our lives. Lord have mercy.”
“Lord, for those actions and attitudes that obstruct or diminish your Word from becoming fully and truly flesh in our lives and in our world, Christ have mercy!”
“Lord, how different our world would be if it ever became the kind of place that you want it to be! Lord have mercy!”
Again we are invited to pray in solidarity with all who have experienced in this passage a call to repentance.
At the same time we just feel to ask God’s help, that more of the attitudes and actions of Jesus might live in us, in our church, our world.
The prayer of petition can be expressed beautifully in the words “Maranatha” - Come Lord Jesus!
“Come more perfectly than you have come before”.
“Increase your presence within me and within all of humanity”.
“Your kingdom come.”
Again the invitation is to pray the passage in solidarity with all who long for a radical change of mind and heart.
In relation to all three types of prayer there is an invitation to bring some of the words of the passage, indeed as many as possible, into our prayer. Praying our life experience in the language of the passage lifts it up, gives it a new dignity, clothes it with a new beauty, invests it with a new power.
“In the Scriptures by the Spirit
May we see our Saviour’s face.
Hear His word and heed His calling
Know His will and grow in grace.”
(Hymn from Midday prayer in the Divine Office)
Next up Lectio Divina and contemplative prayer.
Joseph Ralph O.P.