The Rev. Patrick Blaney
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Learning Lectio Divina (Divine Reading)

Today, we are going to depart from our usual format of a sermon and instead, Patrick has asked me to lead you through a spiritual exercise  called Lectio Divina Learning this practice will aid your prayer life and enhance your spiritual development if you continue to practice it.  So if you will bear with me, today we will all go to Sunday School today.

Lectio Divina, means divine reading.  It is a process of reading scripture in four specific stages, each followed by a period of meditation in which a quiet, attentive focus is held to discern the message that is embedded in the scripture passage.  It is thoughtful, contemplative and free from the exclusively rational processes through which we think about most things in our lives.  

We need to learn it because the western world has evolved to worship all things rational.  When we read, we use a journalistic approach.  We look for the facts: the who , what, when, where and why….. following which we critique or judge the material.   The uses of symbolism, metaphor and simile have been relegated to fiction where they are valued for their entertainment purposes.

It is with this journalistic lens that we commonly read scripture.  But is an incomplete approach because the scriptures were written during an era of oral tradition.  At a time when most people were illiterate and books were largely unavailable, information was shared through story-telling, metaphor and parable.  The message or moral of the story was all-important: the accuracy of the facts less so. Originally, all Christians were accustomed to discerning the embedded messages through prayerful contemplation but over time the practice was lost.

In the 5th century St. Benedict formalized and preserved lectio divina as a pillar of Benedictine spirituality where it has continued to be practiced.  The recent upsurge in contemplation practices has enabled this to be rediscovered  for the gem that it is.  If we start to practice lectio regularly, we will be changed because scripture will become our resource for conversation with God and the benefit we will receive will be a change from information to transformation.

A few preparatory steps help us start the process well.  Choose a time when you will be uninterrupted for 15-20 minutes and eliminate distractions.  Sit comfortably, in a quiet space.  Take a deep breath and slowly exhale.  This is calming and helps you to listen more carefully.  Offer a short prayer asking for God’s guidance.

So, please take a deep breath, exhale, gently close your eyes.   Let us pray:

Holy one, bless each of us during this prayer time.    May only your truth for us be heard. Amen

Step 1 is called Lectio which is Latin for “reading”

I will read the passage slowly so that the individual words or phrases can be heard more clearly.  As you listen, pay attention to any word or phrase that particularly stands out for you.  When doing this yourself, read the chosen passage slowly.  Reading slowly out loud is helpful to hearing the words.   You might be reminded of a situation that you are dealing with…or it may speak to your feelings….you may be able to see yourself in the story.  Whatever it is for you that stands out is the right thing for you to attend to.   Follow the reading by a brief period of silence as you reflect on the words or phrases that captured your attention.

Scripture Reading:  Philippians 2:1-13

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.  Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Step 2:   Is called meditatio which is Latin for meditaton.   After the passage is read again, there will be another period of silence.  This time, take the words or phrases that captured your attention or stood out and meditate on them.  Repeat them silently to yourself. Think about what the words or  the phrase mean for you and how it connects with your life: your challenges, opportunities, feelings and experiences.  Welcome any thoughts that surface, be they positive or negative.

REPEAT THE READING If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.  Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Step 3:  This step is called Oratio, or talking to God.  Tell God how you feel about this word or phrase; ask for clarification if you need it, talk to God as a trusted friend sharing any feelings,good or bad.  Be completely honest with God.

READ THE READING If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.  Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Step 4:  The fourth and final step is Contemplatio which is Latin for contemplate.  During this time of silence we stop doing.   We rest in silence in God’s lap.  We still our hearts and minds, we stop thinking and sit at rest in silence letting go and simply being in the presence of God. 

REPEAT THE READING If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.  Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

After the final time of silence, offer a prayer of thanksgiving to conclude your lectio.  You might like to journal or take note of your thoughts or inspirations.  As you go through the day, take the key words and your thoughts about them with you for periodic reflection.  From time to time, go back over your prayer journal and take note of any themes that are evident or quietly celebrate times of spiritual growth. 

I encourage you to start a regular practice of lectio divina.  Perhaps start by using one of the scriptures from the Sunday’s readings.  Over time you will perceive changes in your faith journey.  Avoid questioning whether or not you are doing it right.  Since God does most of the work here, all you have to do is show up and be intentional.   Do not expect fireworks or earthquakes. God usually works more subtly.  Trust that God is in charge and as long as you show up, God will lead you through it and nourish you with it.

Thank you.

Carolyn Iker