Some 1800 years ago men and women retreated to lonely places to escape the stresses of daily life and developed Lectio Divina or ‘Sacred Reading’, a way of meditating that people have found helpful ever since. Traditionally it involved a ‘slow reading’ of a chosen text from the Bible and allowing the words to speak in new ways. There are four parts to a Lectio Divina exercise.
Reading (lectio) - Slowly begin reading a biblical passage as if it were a long awaited love letter addressed to you. Approach it reverentially and expectantly, in a way that savors each word and phrase. Read the passage until you hear a word or phrase that touches you, resonates, attracts or even disturbs you.
Reflecting (meditatio) - Ponder this word or phrase for a few minutes. Let it sink in slowly and deeply until you are resting in it. Listen for what the word or phrase is saying to you at this moment in your life, what it may be offering to you, what it may be demanding of you.
Expressing (oratio) – If you are a praying person, when you ready ready, openly and honestly express to God the prayers that arise spontaneously within you from your experience of this word or phrase. These may be prayers of thanksgiving, petition, intercession, lament, or praise. If prayer is not part of your journey you could write down the thoughts that have come your way.
Resting (contemplatio) - Allow yourself to simply rest silently for a time in the stillness of your heart remaining open to the quiet fullness of God's love and peace. This is like the silence of communion between the mother holding her sleeping infant child or between lovers whose communication with each other passes beyond words.
These four movements of Lectio Divina may not always follow a linear progression. Allow yourself freedom. The aim is to move into the depths of silence and stillness where we can hear the Word spoken to us in love and respond to this Word with our love and our life. This is a gentle invitation into a movement from silence into the Word and back into silence, dwelling there in the presence of God.
In modern times the scope of the materials used in the exercises has been greatly widened to include the visual arts and music. In today’s understanding it can be described as ‘attentive listening or looking’ – allowing what is listened to or looked at to speak to your situation in a fresh way.