A Users Guide to Lectio Divina, or How to Feast on Words

I’ve been sending out daily readings on monasticism to a handful of artmonks at the Art Monastery. Why not post them here too?

Hence, I’ll be posting readings from a variety of traditions and sources, along with commentary from a secular monastic, art monastic or “monastech” perspective, as a new series of blog posts called Daily Lectio after the Benedictine tradition of “divine reading.”

About once a week, I’ll post something a bit… perpendicular. A poem or a piece of writing that has nothing overtly to do with secular monasticism.

Below are some instructions on how to “do” lectio divina, stolen shamelessly from Wikipedia. Naturally, if the Christian jargon is a put-off, you can replace it with whatever you please and still benefit. For example, no matter what tradition you come from, you can:

  1. spend a few moments opening yourself up (for beauty, for god, whatever)
  2. ask yourself “What do I long for? What is my intention?”
  3. read slowly,
  4. meditate on the text with broad awareness, and let the openness and clarity of your awareness illuminate the text for you,
  5. pray—connect your life, all that is ugly or lovely, obvious or hidden about it, to that awareness you’ve generated,
  6. step back from the text and into the wordless clarity of ever-present awareness.

Send comments or suggested readings to nathan@artmonastery.org.

The Four Moments of 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).

Lectio

This first moment consists in reading the scriptural passage slowly, attentively several times. Many write down words in the scripture that stick out to them or grasp their attention during this moment.

Meditatio

The Christian, gravitating around the passage or one of its words, takes it and ruminates on it, thinking in God’s presence about the text. He or she benefits from the Holy Spirit’s ministry of illumination, i.e. the work of the Holy Spirit that imparts spiritual understanding of the sacred text. It is not a special revelation from God, but the inward working of the Holy Spirit, which enables the Christian to grasp the revelation contained in the Scripture.

Oratio

This is prayer: prayer understood both as dialogue with God, that is, as loving conversation with the One who has invited us into His embrace; and as consecration, prayer as the priestly offering to God of parts of ourselves that we have not previously believed God wants. In this consecration-prayer we allow the word that we have taken in and on which we are pondering to touch and change our deepest selves. …God invites us in lectio divina to hold up our most difficult and pain-filled experiences to Him, and to gently recite over them the healing word or phrase He has given us in our lectio and meditatio. In this oratio, this consecration-prayer, we allow our real selves to be touched and changed by the word of God.

Contemplatio

This moment is characterized by a simple, loving focus on God. In other words, it is a beautiful, wordless contemplation of God, a joyful rest in His presence.