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Today we will be looking at the ancient, four or five-part meditation, used by the Church since earliest times, known as Lectio Divina. The Church Father, Origen (d. 254) and the monk John Cassian (d.435) both wrote of the benefits of this type of meditative study of Scripture. The Twelfth Century monk Guido brought the process into sharper definition as a stairway of spiritual steps. It works well when done alone and is ideally suited for small groups. As a matter of fact, you may be using a similar process and have never heard of it referred to by its Latin name, Lectio Divina.
STEP ONE - LECTIO
This is a slow, contemplative method of reading the Scriptures that attempts to enable the Word of God to become a means of union with God. To those who have grown familiar with certain passages and are accustomed to reading them quickly, this can take some work. The first step is reading and active listening to the Word of God. To do this successfully, you must develop the ability to listen carefully to what is read and open your heart to hear God speak to you through his Scripture.
This is very different to the reading most of us do on a day-to-day basis. We’re used to skimming a page of text onscreen or in a newspaper or magazine. Lectio is reading or listening with both mind and heart. It sometimes helps to sit quietly for beforehand, centering your thoughts and stilling your mind. As God has said, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Ps 46:10. When you are ready, read a short passage…only a couple of paragraphs is fine or if you’re reading the Gospels complete one scene.
Listen fully expecting God to speak to you personally through what you are reading or is being read. As you listen, expect one word or phrase to stand out to you.
STEP TWO — MEDITATIO
After you have identified your special phrase or phrases and thought about it, read the passage a second time. Open yourself to the reading and let it speak to your thoughts, dreams, memories and ambitions. Maybe you hear Christ in your verse or perhaps the verse says something about you…where you are in life, etc.
Luke tells us that when the shepherds told Mary of the angels that appeared to them in the field, she “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” And later, where Jesus is found after three days in the Temple, Luke again tell us “…his mother kept all these things in her heart.” That is exactly what we want to do; ponder in your heart what these things mean. Now you are asking God to speak to you.
STEP THREE — ORATIO
Read the passage a third and final time. The next step of the Lectio Divinia is speaking to God in prayer, both as dialog and concentration. In the reading we have discovered a truth about ourselves. Now communicate this learning to God, thanking him for it and asking for validation. Now that you have it, what are you to do with it? Always remember, at its heart, prayer is a conversation between two lovers.
STEP FOUR — CONTEMPLATIO
Now we become still and know that God is God. Lay aside your thoughts, worries and concerns and simply experience God’s presence. If it helps to use some sort of centering word or phrase such as Abba-Father, Lord have mercy, Maranatha (Aramaic for Come, Lord) or something else to slow down your mind, by all means, do it.
OPTIONAL STEP FIVE — ACTIO
Some people suggest a fifth step based on the admonition, “But be doers of the word not hearers only…” Jas 1:22. In this step, being a true disciple, you would attempt to be someone who, “listens to my words, and acts on them.” Luke 6:47.
And there you have it. The Lectio Divina is a method of study, contemplation and prayer used by Christians since the earliest of times, and with good reason.
Until Next time, we wish you Peace and Blessings.
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