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LECTIO DIVINA: THE TRADITIONAL WAY

OF PRAYING WITH SCRIPTURE


Lectio divina, a Latin term that means holy or sacred reading, is an ancient way of reading, meditating, and praying with Scripture.

In the centuries before the time of Jesus, Jews had been turning with joy to study and pray the Lord's teaching to find light for their paths (Psalm 119:105) and drink from its overflowing river of wisdom (Sirach 24:22-28). This way of engaging Scripture continued into Christianity, where it's been a treasured approach to God's word for centuries. Through its traditional four stages of lectio (reading and understanding); meditatio (considering the message for you); oratio (praying your response); and contemplatio (waiting and listening for God's response), many Christians have opened themselves to deeper relationship with Christ and to personal transformation.

As you grow in your knowledge and love of Scripture, you'll want to learn and practice lectio divina. It's a practice Pope Benedict XVI has recommended for every Catholic, as a way to "bring about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading [Scripture] hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart."*

Recognizing that the life of today's average Catholic is quite different from the lives of Christians who practiced lectio divina in earlier times, the pope also called for "new methods, adapted to the times."* Yet even before his call, the practice of lectio divina was being renewed in the Church.

Today, additional stages may be added to the traditional four stages, such as acting on what you hear. You'll find discussions of how modern Bible study relates to lectio divina (a question ancient practioners never needed to ask!) and how it can be done by groups as well as individuals.

As a result of the renewed interest in this ancient practice, many excellent modern resources for lectio divina are available to help people at all levels. Every beginning guide to praying and reflecting on Scripture (such as the resources listed on How to Begin) includes a basic explanation of lectio divina. The books described below are a few of the resources that focus on this method.

* From a speech made in Rome in 2005 to an international congress on Sacred Scripture in the Life of the Church. Summary here.


RESOURCES: Lectio Divina

The Catholic Prayer Bible: Lectio Divina Edition

Paulist Press (2010)

A resource for Catholics who would like to pray the Bible using the ancient tradition of lectio divina, holy reading—even if you have no idea what lectio divina is! Fr. Lawrence Boadt, who was president of Paulist Press and a leading Catholic biblical scholar dedicated to teaching the “average Catholic” about Scripture, opens with a short and simple introduction to this reflective way of prayer (no Latin terms!) as well as advice on how to use this method for different biblical texts: Old Testament books, the gospels, and Paul's letters.

Then, for every chapter of every book of the Bible, you receive a suggested reflection following the four steps of lectio divina. As you pray your way through individual books following the reflections, you'll learn the method, come to a deeper sense of your life with God, and more fully understand each biblical book. Uses the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.

A unique and excellent new resource for individuals as well as groups. When used with a basic introduction to the Bible, this Bible edition could become the basis of a Bible study group. A great resource for beginning with lectio divina. Plus, you get a good Bible translation!

Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction

to Lectio Divina

By Dr. Tim Gray Ascension Press (2009)

An introduction to traditional lectio divina that also teaches the reader about prayer in the Christian tradition. The author, a biblical scholar and educator known for his work with EWTN and various Bible study programs, sets lectio divina within the context of Church Tradition, with many references to the writings of the saints and Church teachings.

A fine basic introduction to lectio divina, suitable for individuals or groups. Placing lectio divina within the context of Church Tradition is especially helpful. Includes a nice discussion of how Christian meditation differs from non-Christian meditation and how every Christian is called to mystical union with God.

Lectio Divina: Renewing the Ancient Practice

of Praying the Scriptures

By M. Basil Pennington The Crossroad Publishing Co. (1998)

This introduction includes everything you need to begin this way of prayer with Scripture, but all the information about lectio divina comes through the author's long personal experience practicing and teaching methods of contemplative prayer and his deep understanding of lectio divina itself. Describing it as "the art of letting God, our divine Friend, speak to us through his inspired Word, Fr. Pennington addresses what it means to listen to the Word, how to support your practice of lectio divina, and how lectio divina relates to non-Christian meditation.

A beautiful introduction to traditional lectio divina that inspires, points to the profundity of this practice, and is easy and pleasurable to read, all at the same time. The words of a wise man, useful for individuals and including advice for groups.

Conversing with God in Scripture:

A Contemporary Approach to Lectio Divina

By Stephen J. Binz The Word Among Us Press (2008)

A complete yet concise introduction to lectio divina, written by a biblical scholar with much experience producing books and Bible study programs aimed at the average Catholic. As a contemporary approach, the book addresses the "new moment" for lectio divina in the Church today and includes chapters on additional stages of lectio: living your response to lectio divina and forming community through Scripture. The individual chapters on the Bible as a living book centered on Christ and the four traditional stages of lectio divina both teach and inspire. Includes questions for reflection and discussion at the end of each chapter, as well as step-by-step examples of how to practice lectio divina with a variety of Old Testament and New Testament texts.

An excellent and complete introduction to contemporary lectio divina that draws on the author's deep sense of the Bible as Sacred Scripture and is suitable for both beginners and those who already practice lectio divina. Especially useful are the step-by-step examples and the many discussion questions. Individuals will learn a lot. An excellent resource for groups.

LECTIO DIVINA


1. Lectio divina means holy or sacred reading.

2. It's an ancient way of reading, meditating, and praying with Scripture.

3. Traditionally, the method of lectio divina involves four stages, described by Latin words: lectio, meditatio, contemplatio, and oratio.

4. These four stages involve reading and understanding a text, reflecting on its message for you, praying your response, and listening for God's response.

5. In recent years, as Catholics grow in their knowledge and love of Scripture, this ancient practice is being used by more and more people in a renewed way.

6. Pope Benedict XVI has called for new methods of lectio divina, adapted to the times.

7. Additional stages, integrating the spiritual practice of lectio divina with modern Bible study, and developing ways to practice this method with a group are some of the new approaches.

8. Learning lectio divina is a wonderful way to grow in your relationship with God through Scripture.


ACTIVITY 1

Look for opportunities to learn lectio divina, in addition to the resources on this page. Your diocese or parish may offer speakers on lectio divina.


ACTIVITY 2

If you're in a Bible study group, suggest the group learn lectio divina and practice it individually and as a group. Notice how your connection to Scripture deepens.


KEEP LEARNING

St. Andrew's Abbey, Valyermo, CA, web site:

Accepting the Embrace of God: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina.

Contemplative Outreach web site: Lectio Divina.