There is a wonderful spiritual tool, generally, known as Lectio Divina [Divine reading], and it has an ancient and noble spiritual ‘pedigree’. Of Benedictine origin.
In many churches and faith-groups today, it is proving to be beneficial, and very good at encouraging a spiritual depth and communion with the Holy One, both for the individual and for groups. It may seem new, but it is ancient. It may seem novel and different, and truly it is a different way of regarding sacred text, but it does honour the text, and ‘open the doors’ to an experienced-understanding.
Lectio Divina, generally, has four stages. There are minor variations in structure, content and usage, but it is spiritually profitable to use and one example amongst many of maturing.
Below, is a generalised, standard model that you can use.
So, having found a text or story to use, find a place that is safe and one that provides a degree of solitude, and when sitting comfortably, relax, and work slowly through the four stages. These are:
Lectio: This is a focussed reading of a passage of the Bible, sacred or ancient story text. Take it slowly, gently and repeat the reading of the text several times. It is the savouring of each portion of the reading that is important, a constant listening for the ‘still, small voice’ of a word or phrase that somehow speaks to you, the reader. It is not about word analysis, so you don’t need a dictionary to hand, you don’t need to take notes, here. Let the passage speak for itself.
Meditatio: Having read the text, this is a meditating upon, a reflecting on the text, and pausing to wonder at the whole of the text (or a word) and how it might apply to one’s own life. This can be personal. Really go deep with the text or word. Don’t force an inner dialogue, but let it ‘ruminate’. Some like to imagine themselves ‘in’ the story, and so use their God-given imagination and wonder about the scene, the views, the smells etc that might have occurred. Very experiential. Very ‘Ignatian’.
Fios is an ancient Irish, Celtic word for knowledge, but knowledge from history and facts, and is a type of knowledge (almost) exclusively used today. The Celts, however, had several words for knowledge, and the one that ‘fits’ Lectio Divina well, and one that ‘modern’ men and women miss out on: is Eolas, pronounced ‘oh-lass’. Eolas is knowledge that comes from what you experience.
Oratio: Responding to the passage by opening the heart to God in prayer. This is not primarily an intellectual exercise, but is thought to be more of the beginning of a conversation with God. Words from us can be few and far between, but a dialogue will begin here. It’s not a time for a ‘shopping list’ of prayers, but more of a gentle request to the Holy One, to open up the text at a deeper, soulish level.
Contemplatio: Finally, we come to a point of silence, of complete rest, of contemplation. This is a listening stage. There is a point in a human loving relationship where the couple go beyond words. Just being (together) is important. This is akin to that stage. So, relax in wordless quiet. Accept the spiritual embrace, and revel in the Presence.
After a short period, you might like to slowly return to the hubbub of daily life, and if you wish to make notes of the experience, now is the time to do so.
Here are a few examples of Scripture that you might like to consider using:
Exodus 3:1-4: “Turn Aside to See the Burning Bush.” Learning from Moses when he encounters the burning bush
Psalm 3: A prayer for a time of difficulty or conflict.
Matthew 8:5-13: Jesus heals the Roman soldier’s servant in response to his great faith.
John 4:27-36: Jesus thrives on spiritual food and teaches us to do the same.
Soon, we’ll also look at variations and different styles of this way of maturing, such as the use of Lectio Natura (which may be subdivided into Lectio Ventus, Lectio Ignis, Lectio Aqua and Lectio Terra).