Dear Parish Family,
You may have heard me encourage you to dive into the Good Book and pray the Scriptures, but then I may not have followed it up with how. It can be intimidating because we don’t even know where to begin. Last Sunday’s homily answered the question, “How do you prayerfully read the Bible?” Your feedback told me you really found it useful, so I thought I would summarize the steps of lectio divina here. You can listen to the homily by clicking here.
We don’t read Sacred Scripture like it’s any other book (it’s actually 73 books in one!). Because it’s the inspired word of God, we approach it with reverence and really try to take it in. Lectio Divina is the ancient practice of praying the Scriptures that flourished in monastic life. Here are the five steps:
- Lectio (Read) – The first step is the most obvious, reading or lectio. You simply read the passage, and you read it slowly so that the it sinks into our minds. Read it a second time over, paying attention to certain words or phrases that hit you.
- Meditatio (Meditate) – The second step is the spiritual exercise of meditation or reflecting upon what you just read. Take the time to engage the Scriptures! The Catechism states: “Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire…necessary to prompt the conversion of our heart and…will” (CCC 2708). So you utilize all of those things…imagination, emotion, desire…in order to help make what we read our own and applicable to our own life. Allow God’s word become his word for you. Think of a cow chewing its cud; it takes time for us to digest God’s word, especially his more difficult teachings. So, chew or mull it over, imagine and ponder particularly the one or two phrases that struck you. You can repeat it to yourself like a mantra, allowing it to interact with your thoughts, memories of the past, desires, and hopes. Place yourself in the setting of the story, and imagine the sights, sounds, and smells.
- Oratio (Pray) – After these first two steps of reading and meditation, we go to the next step of prayer or oratio. This is our time of conversation with God. The dynamics of communication with another person apply in our prayer with God. You first acknowledge the other’s presence, so we recognize that God is here with us. Next, you relate. Relate those stirrings in your heart and mind, such as how that key phrase may have provoked a thought or fond memory or bitter feeling or experience. Ask how the teachings or events in the Scriptures are relevant to your own life. After you relate, then it’s time to receive.
- Contemplatio (Contemplate) – We wait to receive God’s response to us. This is pure grace and a total gift. We can dispose ourselves to that grace, but it comes at God’s initiative. If it comes, great. If we don’t sense it yet, that’s okay too. Sometimes people who love one another don’t need to say anything to each other; simply “be still and know that I am God.” The very same Holy Spirit that inspired Sacred Scripture is the same Spirit that was given to us at baptism and abides in us and applies God’s truth to our particular circumstances.
- Ruminatio (Ruminate). This last step is a later addition that helps us apply the fruits of our prayer to our everyday life. At the end of your prayer time, make a resolution to put into practice some lesson or virtue based on your time of lectio divina. In between your commitments, you ruminate or continually recall what came to mind in your prayer time and how it may apply to your daily activities.
If you’re just beginning to read Sacred Scripture, I would encourage you not to start from page one, but to begin with one of the four Gospels. May this ancient spiritual exercise of lectio divina help you deepen your personal relationship with the Lord Jesus in 2017!
Yours in Christ,