Lectio Divina, which means Divine Reading is a method for listening to the word of God in scripture as if we were in conversation with Christ and He were suggesting the topics of the conversation. It is an excellent practice which allows us to spend time reflecting on the scriptures in a deep and meaningful way so as to inwardly "digest" them, making them more and more a part of our daily lives. Gregory the Great (6th century), in summarizing the Christian contemplative tradition, expressed it as "resting in God." This was the classical meaning of Contemplative Prayer in the Christian tradition for the first sixteen centuries.
Monastic Form of Lectio Divina
The monastic form of Lectio Divina is an ancient method that was practiced by the Desert Mothers and Fathers and later in monasteries both East and West. The monastic way is unstructured. One listens to the word of God in a particular passage chosen for the occasion and then one follows the attraction of the Spirit. This method can also be prayed in a group.
Guidelines for Monastic Lectio Divina
Moment One: (Lectio) Read the Scripture passage for the first time. Listen with the "ear of your heart." What phrase, sentence or even one word stands out to you? Begin to repeat that phrase, sentence or word over and over, allowing it to settle deeply in your heart. Simply return to the repetition of the word(s), savoring it in your heart.
Moment Two: (Meditatio) Reflect on the words. Let them resound in your heart. Let an attitude of quiet receptiveness permeate the prayer time. Be attentive to what speaks to your heart.
Moment Three: (Oratio) Respond spontaneously as you continue to listen to a phrase, sentence or word. A prayer of praise, thanksgiving or petition may arise. Offer that prayer, and then return to repeating the word in your heart.
Moment Four: (Contemplatio) Rest in God. Simply "be with" God's presence as you open yourself to a deeper hearing of the Word of God. If you feel drawn back to the scriptures, follow the lead of the Spirit.
A Scholastic Form of Lectio Divina
This way of practicing Lectio Divina was first developed in the Middle Ages at the beginning of the Scholastic Period and has been continually adapted since. At that time, there began a tendency to compartmentalize the spiritual life. As this tendency grew, the emphasis was placed more upon rational analysis and less on personal experience. The scholastic form divides the process into stages or steps in a hierarchical pattern. This scholastic method is a good way to learn Lectio Divina either privately or in a small group.
Guidelines for Scholastic Lectio Divina in Small Group
Step One: Read the passage, encouraging everyone to listen with the "ear of the heart." What word, phrase or sentence stands out to you? Allow a minute or two of silence, before going around the group having each person only speak the word, phrase or sentence that stood out for them-- having no other dialogue.
Step Two: Read the passage again and Reflect on the word of God, encouraging everyone to be aware of what touches them personally as they listen for what God is inviting me personally into in this moment? Allow a minute or two of silence, before going around the group having each person share only their reflection on the invitation they hear. No other dialogue.
Step Three: Read the passage again and Respond to the word of God by listening for what God is asking us, as the group, to do this very day. Allow a minute or two of silence, before going around the group having each person share only what they hear God asking of us today. No other dialogue.
Step Four: Rest in all that you have heard and experienced. Allow a few minutes of silence before going around the group and praying for the person on your right.