Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Lectio Divina

A few weeks ago, Carolyn, a good friend of mine, went on a Saturday “retreat of silence” with a group of friends from her church. They spent the day apart from each other--alone, in meditation, contemplation, and prayer. There were no organized lessons, lectures, or exercises. They had only their Bibles and pen and paper. It would be important to listen for God’s soft voice, speaking to them.

Carolyn said it was a little daunting at first. People are so used to constant noise—talking, music, television, traffic, cell phones. She wondered how she would get through the time. But it turned out to be a surprising time of closeness to God, of intimacy with his Spirit. The hours passed quickly.

What they were doing sounds loosely like lectio divina, an ancient technique of reading, meditating, and praying scripture; I just stumbled across a web site about it. According to an article by Father Luke Dysinger, lectio divina was “practiced at one time by all Christians.” Father Dysinger explains that this art involves

a slow, contemplative praying of the Scriptures which enables the Bible, the Word of God, to become a means of union with God. This ancient practice has been kept alive in the Christian monastic tradition, and is one of the precious treasures of Benedictine monastics and oblates. Together with the Liturgy and daily manual labor, time set aside in a special way for lectio divina enables us to discover in our daily life an underlying spiritual rhythm. Within this rhythm we discover an increasing ability to offer more of ourselves and our relationships to the Father, and to accept the embrace that God is continuously extending to us in the person of his Son Jesus Christ.

I have loosely done this myself, I realize, but I didn’t know to call it lectio divina; I always called it “praying the scriptures.” The Psalms, the book of John, the letters of John, and some of Paul’s letters especially lead me to read slowly, contemplating, praying, listening for God’s voice. Sometimes I use the references in daily devotionals by Oswald Chambers.

As my friend Carolyn said, “We’re always in such a hurry, even with our Bible reading.” Surely we can slow down and allow our hearts and minds to open to our God, who is always there when we seek him.

The Bible tells us that God says to the Israelites, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12-13). He says the same thing to us, through the scriptures—we can hear his heart speaking to ours if we listen.


This note was attached at the bottom of the web site about lectio divina:

“The author considers this article to be in the Public Domain. This article may therefore be downloaded, reproduced and distributed without special permission from the author. It was first published in the Spring, 1990 (vol.1, no.1) edition of Valyermo Benedictine. It has subsequently been reprinted as (1) “Appendix 2” in The Art and Vocation of Caring for People in Pain by Karl A. Schultz (Paulist Press, 1993), pp. 98-110; and in (2) An Invitation to Centering Prayer with and Introduction to Lectio Divina, by Basil Pennington and Luke Dysinger (Liguori/Triumph, 2001)”

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