One of the most well-known and widely practiced ancient disciplines of the church has been Lectio Divina. This phrase translates into English as “divine reading,” and refers primarily to the reading of sacred Scriptures as practiced by the early Christian Fathers and Mothers. Lectio Divina is “A slow, contemplative praying of the Scriptures which enables the Bible, the Word of God, to become a means of union with God.” (Father Luke Dysinger, O.S.B. Accepting the Embrace of God: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina (http://www.ccel.org/info/lectio.html.)
Lectio is a way of listening to the Word, being nourished by the Word, praying the Word, and letting the Word pray through you. Remember that God communicates with us all the time. This practice asks us to stop talking, open our ears, and listen deeply for what God is saying to each of us. Lectio Divina can be engaged using the scriptures, music, body, and art.
Millicent Fauntleroy reflects on the power of sacred reading during the time of Lent. Millicent states that one’s actions of studying, reflecting, and praying can help us to develop a deeper understanding of our faith and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Listen to Millicent at: https://youtu.be/FSJBQsXHWh0.
Practicing the discipline:
Invite group members to listen for an aspect of the prayer focus that strikes them (either positively or negatively); something that shimmers, beckons, stirs, addresses, unnerves, grabs, or touches them.
“Read” the text.
- For written text, read it aloud twice, once slowly and once more quickly.
- For music, play it twice, as time allows.
- For art, have them gaze at it for five minutes.
- For bodies, have participants scan their bodies from head to toe for five minutes.
- Encourage group members to contemplate the aspect of the prayer focus that has grabbed them, noticing what comes up in them as they do. (Allow several minutes of silence for this.)
- Invite group members to say, briefly, what they’ve noticed, leaving time between each person. You may need to slow the group down.
- For written texts, have them repeat the word or phrase that strikes them.
- For music or art, have them describe their response in a sentence or a phrase.
- For their bodies, have them name the area of their body to which their attention was drawn.
Invite group members to listen or watch for the aspect of the prayer focus that struck them last time. Perhaps it has changed. How does it relate to them? What feelings, images, ideas, physical sensations, memories, or hopes does it stir?
“Read” the text again.
- Allow several minutes of silence.
- Invite group members to share, in a sentence or two, how the aspect of the prayer focus that they chose relates to them.
Oratio (prayer) and Contemplatio (contemplation)
“Read” the text again.
- Invite the group to spend 15–20 minutes in silence. Tell group members that during the silence, they can speak to God silently about the new word spoken through this process, and any desires it has stirred in them.
- Consider any action they are being called to at this time.
- Rest silently in God.
- After the reflection time is complete, spend five minutes in silence.
- Ask if anyone noticed any “threads” that developed over the course of the sharing. Was there a theme? Can anyone give a title to the process that just happened?
- Close with prayer. You can decide if silent or spoken prayer best suits the group.