The art of Lectio Divina (Divine Reading) is an ancient monastic practice that we are called to participate in as oblates of St. Meinrad Archabbey. St. Benedict instructs his monks in this practice (Rule of Benedict, 48) and allots quite a bit of time for it. But what exactly is Lectio Divina and how should we put it in to practice?
Much information can be found online about how to practice Lectio Divina. Formulas have been created as to how one can go about putting it in to practice – “Reading, Meditation, Prayer and Contemplation” is the typical steps one tries to take when doing Lectio Divina, yet we are not bound to this form.
Some may wish to go through an entire book of the Scriptures while others may feel more comfortable taking the readings from Mass. Personally, my desire is to sit with one book of scripture and go through its entirety. Currently, I am in the Book of Isaiah.
My practice of Lectio Divina has been a struggle. I am not one who likes to follow set rules and or steps, hoping that the Spirit will speak to me through it all. Maybe this is a little pride on my part of maybe it is simply my attempt to pray as I can and not as I can’t.
As I sit with the scriptures I slowly read the passage before me. Throughout the reading there may be a word or a phrase which stirs my soul or prompts me to stop at that moment. I am reminded of one instance in the Gospel of John when the word “alone” stuck with me for quite some time. That simple word lead me to a place in prayer that I can remember to this day.
As I continue to read what has been placed before me I try to remember that this is a conversation I’m striving to have with God. In the Divine Office it has mostly been me who speaks or Christ who speaks through me. In Lectio Divina I am to listen for a response. It’s not so much an active listening. For me it is more passive. The moment I try to hear what God wants me to hear, the more I seem to get in the way of it all and silence God’s voice. Simply being present to the word which is read allows me to be more receptive.
When stirred by a word or phrase I then sit with it. I allow it to sink a little deeper in to my mind and soul and allow a response to come forth from within. Again, the moment I try to think my way through it is the moment Lectio stops being what it needs to be for me. Being passive and receptive is extremely necessary for me when it comes to practicing Lectio Divina.
After allowing that word or phrase to sink in I strive to respond to God in whatever way seems appropriate at the time. That might be praise, adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, or all of the above. It might be a moment to also sit and allow my response to be silence. Again, striving to be passive and respective is necessary here for it is God who is really at work during Lectio Divina. I’m simply here to receive that which He wishes to give me.
As someone who likes to try and control everything I find myself a little vulnerable during this time. That may be why Lectio Divina has been so difficult for me. Numerous excuses come to mind as to why I cannot practice Lectio today. Putting off Lectio Divina has been the biggest defect in my vocation as an oblate and it is something I most certainly need to work on.
Sitting here writing on this topic has not been easy and I’m not so sure that I shared much about my experience with Lectio Divina, or at least not so much that was really helpful. Advice that I recently received on this topic keeps coming to mind, “be faithful to Lectio, it is an important part of monastic life.”
Maybe we accomplish more with Lectio Divina not so much by where we end up but through the journey it takes us on when lead by the Spirit of Christ. May He helps us all to keep this practice which is so important to the vocation we have been called to!