Thursday 27 December 2018

Lectio divina

Lectio divina is a spiritual practice translated from the Latin as "divine reading". Originating from the third and fourth centuries, and used by monastic orders for centuries, lectio divina usually concentrates on a passage of Scripture. It is usually used in community, but can be used in individual reflection also. 

There are four movements in lectio divina. These are lectio (read or listen), 
meditatio (meditate/reflect), oratio (pray/respond) and contemplatio (rest/contemplate). These movements are experienced in many different ways today as people have adapted and kept the practice relevant. Essentially, the text is read aloud three times. Each reading takes those participating through the four movements at deeper levels each time. As I practice lectio divina, I ask myself during the first reading which word or phrase particularly grabs my attention. On the second reading, I ask myself what emotions are tied to this word or phrase. How does it speak into my life at this time? In the final reading, I ask myself what God might be inviting me to this day? What might God be saying to me through this text?

My Community Group at WCC Conference in 2004
My most memorable experience of using lectio divina in community was in Greece at the World Council of Churches Conference on Mission in 2004. Each morning we met in our community groups. People from all across the globe - different languages, different cultures, different theologies - were thrown together in small groups of about ten to engage in Bible study. You can imagine the problems that might have arisen. The process used, however, was lectio divina. No one commented on others' responses. The time was held in a prayerful way, that did not lend itself to theological debate. This practice enabled us to meet on a common ground that would have been near impossible using traditional Bible study methods.

Since this time, I have used this practice in my own personal life and in small groups. The text has not always been Scripture. Often we have reflected on a poem together (I particularly enjoy Mary Oliver) or perhaps the words of a song. The same process is used to take the participant deeper into the text. The aspect of this practice that particularly appeals to me is that it treats a text as living. Each time the text is heard there is an opportunity for it to speak freshly into our lives again. Lectio divina is not simply reading, it is a prayerful, meditative reading that invites the divine to enter the story and intertwine with ours. In this way, no two readings can ever be the same.

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