Inspired by Archbishop Cardinal Collins, lately I have come into the practice of Lectio Divina as a part of my daily prayer life. This has grown out of a desire to read and meditate on the daily readings set out by the Church.
An ancient tradition, dating back to Origen in the Third Century Lectio Devina can be simply translated as either Holy or Sacred Reading, referring to one reads and meditates on Sacred Scripture. This understanding of Lectio Devina is reiterated by Cardinal Collins in the introduction to his book Pathway to our Hearts, where he is quick to point out that Lectio Devina should not be approached as a course in Bible study (exegis). Although Cardinal Collins recognizes that Scripture study is important, he reminds us that Lectio Divina is meant to be a prayerful encounter with our living God through the inspired word of Sacred Scripture.
There is no official format for Lectio Divina, however, there are certain elements that will help one get the most out of this spiritual practice. Reading, prayer, meditation and contemplation are all a part of Lectio Divina, however, the order you do these in depends on the amount of time you have to dedicate to Lectio Divina and finding a formula that works best for you. Since I can only dedicate 15 minutes to my daily Scripture reading (unlike the 45 minute Lectio Divina sessions Cardinal Collins offers monthly at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto), I follow the simple formula of prayer, reading, and then combine my meditation and contemplation.
I start with prayer to focus my mind and settle my heart. I find that this helps me ready myself to receive the Word of God and to meditate on how He is speaking to me. The prayer is usually quite simple, I either allow the Holy Spirit to guide my prayer: Lord, please allow me to hear your will for me today in your word; or I will recite the words of the prophet Samuel: Speak Lord, your servant is listening. If I am feeling particularly agitated, I may even recite a decade of the Rosary.
My heart and mind ready to listen to the Lord, I turn to the passage I have chosen to read that day. I usually read the Bible readings for the day, but there are other times when I feel I need to return to Sunday’s Gospel throughout the rest of the week; and still other times there is a particular passage that I feel is pertinent to my life right now. Since Lectio Divina is meant to be a prayerful encounter with God through Scripture I read the passage slowly and out loud, imagining that I am proclaiming the Word at Mass. I let the Word linger on my lips, savouring what God is saying. Searching for what God is trying to tell me.
This is where meditation and contemplation on the Word comes in. I will often read, re-read and read the passage again. There will be key phrases and words that jump off the page for me. There are times when I have returned to a reading and God has prompted my attention in a new direction, peeling back the layers of his will for me. Usually I am surprised by how there is something in the reading that speaks directly to something going on in my life. I have even laughed out loud when the Lord has offered me a solution to a problem that I had not thought of, but with His help seems so obvious.
I will then finish my meditation with an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be.
My Lectio Divina complete, I find renewed strength to take on the day. I take courage in knowing that God has a plan for me, and that I am setting out to do His will.