What is it?
The first time I heard about Lectio Divina was two years ago on a silent retreat. I read this book by Anselm Gruen: ‘Bronnen van spiritualiteit’ (sources of spirituality) which handled the topic of this ancient Benedictine meditation practice.
Daily life in a Benedictine monastery consisted of three elements: liturgical prayer, manual labor and Lectio Divina: a quiet prayerful reading of the Bible. This slow and thoughtful reading of Scripture, and the ensuing pondering of its meaning, is their meditation. This spiritual practice is called “divine reading”, “sacred reading”, or lectio divina
Lectio Divina has been likened to “Feasting on the Word.” The four parts are
- first taking a bite (Lectio),
- then chewing on it (Meditatio).
- next is the opportunity to savor the essence of it (Oratio).
- finally, the Word is digested and made a part of the body (Contemplatio).
What do you need?
- the decision to take some time out of your day every day, for example 20 to 30 minutes.
- a candle, an image or an icon of Christ or a Bible to look at
- a dedicated space to sit down comfortably
- a passage from the Bible
- pen and paper
How to do it?
- Sit somewhere comfortable (like on a pillow) and breathe slowly.
- Close your eyes or keep them open. Do whatever gives you the least distraction.
- Be silent.
- Be present to God/Jesus and focused on Him alone. If you experience thoughts, imagine throwing them in a stream of water and letting them float along.
- Accept all your present emotions: stress, restlessness… They are present. Accept them and they will lessen.
- Greet God, thank Him that He loves you. Open your heart to Him. Trust that He wants to be with you too.
- Read a small passage from the Bible out loud.
- Start pondering a word (or a few words) from the text that particularly speaks to you. Chew and re-chew it so that it can do something to you. It is more important that the word is doing something to us than that we do something to the word. Let the word sink into your heart.
- Every time you are distracted, you speak the word in order to let it bring you back into silence. Then be silent. Be focused on Him, be present in the moment, you don’t have to do anything. Let your heart speak to God.
- Let go of your own ideas and plans. And you can go deeper: let go of your holy words and thoughts. Simply rest in the Word of God. Listen at the deepest level to God who speaks within you with a still, small voice.
Conclude with a simple prayer of thanksgiving, greeting or signing yourself with a cross: in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Of course all of this takes practice. I personally find it really hard to take the very first step to find the rest to actually sit down and be quiet. I often feel a fear of failure or an urge to be busy. I ask God to help me with this and to grow in intimacy with Him despite my own thoughts and feelings.
What are your experiences in Christian meditation? Please feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter.
- ‘Nieuwe wegen, oude bronnen’ by Victor van Heusden (‘New paths, old sources)
- United Church of Christ