Have you received a love letter from someone? Yes. Well, chances are you probably took your time to read and savour the note slowly, ruminating over every word that was written. Similarly, Lectio Divina is akin to reading a love letter from God. Through this practice, our hearts are cultivated to hear God’s voice more clearly in the silence of our hearts (1 Kings 19:12).
Originated in the monastic ages, Lectio Divina is also known as in Latin as “sacred reading”. The purpose of reading is to awaken one’s heart to prayer and not simply to accumulate more information. It is a slow, contemplative praying of the scriptures, converting scripture into prayer, and simply being in the presence of God through praying the Scriptures.
How to begin?
The four movements in Lectio Divina are not distinct steps, but rather a gradual process. These four movements of prayer can be used separately or together within a given period of prayer.
Disposition before Prayer:
Ask for a sense of God’s presence.
First Movement: Lectio
- Begins with cultivating the ability to listen deeply
- Read attentively with the ears of your heart
- Lectio Corresponds With Memory: Task Of Recalling And Connection
2. Allowing yourself to become silent
3. Read the Scripture text slowly, gently
4. Take the Word or phrase into yourself
5. Focusing allows the Intellect, the Imagination and the Senses to be activated (not thinking, but feeling)
6. Reread the text, two or three or more times
Second Movement: Meditatio
- Allows God’s Word to become His Word for us; interiorising and personalising the word
- “What is God’s Word saying to me?”
- “How does this apply to my life?”
- Repeating and relishing the Word
2. Relishing the words and touched by the unction they give
3. Reflect by putting the Scripture passage into a larger context
4. After being touched by God’s word, move to the third movement of prayer
Note: Interiorisation moves from the exterior to the interior; from the written and spoken word to interiorising and personalising that Word. Meditation is not thinking but interiorising (Recite them interiorly and relish them while you recite them without stopping to make any deep reflection upon them. Understanding the word in a larger context, e.g. in my life)
Third Movement: Oratio
- Allows our real selves to be touched and changed by the Word of God
- Moves from your head to your heart
- A time to speak to God and make your feelings known to Him
- Give to God what you have discovered in yourself during meditation
2. Stay with your feelings and try less to understand them (feel with your feelings)
3. Focus on God and away from yourself
4. Let the feelings express what you want to make known to God
5. Speak to God and give him your insights through your experience of meditation
Fourth Movement: Contemplatio
- A wordless, quiet rest in the presence of the One who loves us
- Goes beyond words and feelings to the silent presence of God
2. Resting in God’s embrace
3. Focused on the Lord completely. This simplicity of prayer causes us to surrender to the loving will of God our Father in union with His beloved son. Allowing the Holy Spirit to change us from within.
The grace of contemplation is granted only in response to a longing and insistent desire.
– St. Bernard of Clairvaux
Lectio Divina: In a Nutshell
- A practice of prayer with simplicity and freedom
- Grants an experience of God’s presence and love in the healing power of the Word
- Involves progress from your mind to your heart; praying with your heart is more important than cultivating your mind
Through the prayer of the heart, Lectio Divina teaches us about our God who truly loves us. In Lectio Divina, we dare to believe that our loving Father continues to extend His embrace to us today. And His embrace is real. In His word we experience ourselves as personally loved by God; as the recipients of the word, which He gives uniquely to each of us whenever we turn to Him in the Scriptures.