Friday, August 6, 2010

What is Lectio Divina

"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." -- St. Jerome, A.D. 340-420

"To get the full flavor of an herb, it must be pressed between the fingers, so it is the same with the Scriptures; the more familiar they become, the more they reveal their hidden treasures and yield their indescribable riches."-- St. John Chrysostom, A.D. 347-407

"The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New" -- St. Augustine, A.D. 354-430

"All troubles of the Church, all the evils in the world, flow from this source: that men do not by clear and sound knowledge and serious consideration penetrate into the truths of Sacred Scripture." -- attributed to St. Theresa of Avila, A.D. 1515-1582

Lectio Divina (pronounced "Lec-tee-oh Di-vee-nah") Latin for "divine reading,"  refers specifically to a very ancient  method of Scripture reading practiced by followers of christ particularly monastics since the beginning of the Church. Lectio Divina  represents a slow, contemplative method of prayer and scripture reading intended to promote communion with God. The principles of lectio divina were expressed around the year A.D. 220 and encouraged by the church fathers, and early monastics particularly in the rules of Pachomius, Augustine, Basil, and Benedict. The early centrality of reading of Sacred Scripture, and then meditating and praying over its meaning, is evident in the 48th chapter of St Benedect's Rule (A.D. 480-453), written  to guide monastic life.

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, the hours, manual labor, lectio divina is part of the underlying spiritual rhythm of  monastic life.

  It was an 11th century Carthusian prior named Guigo who formalized Lectio Divina, describing the method in a letter written to a fellow monk. This letter, which has become known as Scala Paradisi
  -- the Stairway to Heaven -- describes a 4-runged ladder to Heaven, each rung being one of the four steps in his method of Bible reading. Those steps, and Guigo's brief descriptions of them, are:
Lectio - Reading the Bible passage gently and slowly several times. The passage itself is not as important as the savoring of each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the "still, small voice" of a word or phrase that somehow speaks to the practitioner.

Meditatio - Reflecting on the text of the passage and thinking about how it applies to one's own life. This is considered to be a very personal reading of the Scripture and very personal application.

Oratio – Responding to the passage by opening the heart to God. This is not primarily an intellectual exercise, but is thought to be more of the beginning of a conversation with God.

Contemplatio - Listening to God. This is a freeing of oneself from one's own thoughts, both mundane and holy, and hearing God talk to us. Opening the mind, heart, and soul to the influence of God.

No comments: