Lectio Divina: Encountering God

Lectio Divina

How using the ancient practice can begin or revive a sense of prayer

DePorres Durham, OP

Lectio Divina is a way of praying with the bible.  The word literally means, “Divine Reading”. God speaks to us, and we respond to God.  So, Lectio Divina is not just reading, but rather, reading so we might encounter God, and so doing, responding to God. The roots of Lectio Divina go back to the 3rd century, to Origen.  It is thought he passed this practice of prayer on to Saint Ambrose, who taught it to Saint Augustine.  It was Saint Benedict who formalized it, and it is probably the Benedictines, and their approach to contemplative prayer that caused this practice to survive.

Almost all meditation, even the prayerful meditation of the Lectio Divina, begins by slowing ourselves down.

So just how does one go about Lectio Divina? While people discuss four parts of Lectio Divina, I would suggest there are five.  I add the importance of preparation for the encounter.  We cannot just rush into Lectio, but rather must prepare ourselves for it.  Just as a person might stretch before doing exercise, so too we do “spiritual stretching” by getting ourselves ready.

1) Preparation. Increasingly there is recognition of the power of taking some time to meditate.  Christians have been doing this for centuries.  By taking some time to relax, reflect and focus, the rest of our life can be more peaceful.

Almost all meditation, even the prayerful meditation of the Lectio Divina, begins by slowing ourselves down.  Our lives are quite busy.  Too busy, in fact.  You probably learned the secret to relaxing when you were little.  When you got too anxious, it was likely that some parent or teacher told you to “take a deep breath.” We prepare ourselves by taking a number of deep breaths.

This preparation is known as focused breathing.  Dr. Nick Lazaris suggests the following steps to engage in focused breathing.

6 Rules for Practicing Focused Breathing

1) Prior to practicing, make sure your spine is straight.

2) Inhale through your nose with a long, sustained breath

(not fast, shallow breathing)

3) As you inhale, imagine your lower stomach is filing with air (you are actually filling up your lower lungs)

4) Hold your breath for a count of 3

5) As you exhale slowly through your mouth, for a count of 6, picture tension and anxiety leaving your body.

6) Associate your focused breathing with words such as “Calm”….”Relax”. (Lazaris, 2018)

Do this a few times, releasing stress and anxiety, and filling with peace and calm. Know that this cannot be rushed, but rather, everyone needs time to let go of the stresses of the day and become focused. Since this is prayer, some find it helpful to focus on a word or two.  Often, simply saying the name of Jesus quietly can be a big help.

2)  Lectio (Read). The first step is simply to read the text, or if done in a group, to listen to the person reading it. Either way, the text should be read slowly.  As you read or hear the text, you pay attention to words or phrases that strike you. This is an exercise of listening to your “gut.” This is not an academic study. This is more an exercise of the heart rather than a task of the head. Allow a few moments of silence before reading again.

3) Meditatio. (Meditate). As you read or listen to the text a second time, you are know seeking to pay attention to the experience.  What do you feel as you hear this text again?  What emotions are coming to the surface? Are there other situations or current events that cause you to feel the same way, or is there any connection to them? And reflect on these feelings and your experience.

 4) Oratio. (Prayer). As you read or listen to the text a third time, take a moment to pray about it.  Some find it helpful to journal about it.  For others, it can simply be the case of seeking to make real the words needed to be spoken to God.

The prayer is about listening to God and responding to God. 

 5) Contemplatio. (Contemplate). Contemplation may at first seem to be no different than meditation.  Often the two words are used interchangeably.  But there is a real, if not subtle difference.  Meditation is about discovering the experience and feelings, and reflecting upon them.  Contemplation is about resting in the experience totally, resting in the presence of the Lord.

References.

Lazaris, N. (2018). Focused Breathing Tips for Reducing Anxiety. Retrieved from http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/focused_breathing_tips_for_reducing_anxiety.html retrievewd on January 6, 2018.

Manneh, E. (2017). Lectio Divina: A Beginner’s Guide. Retrieved from http://bustedhalo.com/ministry-resources/lectio-divina-beginners-guide January 6, 2018.

Lectio Divina for this Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday

Lectio Divina is a form of meditation rooted in liturgical celebration that dates back to early monastic communities. It involves focused reading of Scripture (lectio), meditation on the Word of God (meditatio), contemplation of the Word and its meaning in one’s life (contemplatio) and ends with prayer (oratio). For the Easter season, we have Lectio Divina resources for the Sunday Gospels and the Ascension of the Lord.

Lectio Divina For Easter

For the entire post, click here.

Lectio Divina is a form of meditation rooted in liturgical celebration that dates back to early monastic communities. It involves focused reading of Scripture (lectio), meditation on the Word of God (meditatio), contemplation of the Word and its meaning in one’s life (contemplatio) and ends with prayer (oratio). For the Easter season, we have Lectio Divina resources for the Sunday Gospels and the Ascension of the Lord.

USCCB Lectio Divina for Second Sunday of Lent

Lectio Divina is a form of meditation rooted in liturgical celebration that dates back to early monastic communities. It involves focused reading of Scripture (lectio), meditation on the Word of God (meditatio), contemplation of the Word and its meaning in one’s life (contemplatio) and ends with prayer (oratio). For this Lent, we will have a Lectio Divina resource for the readings for Ash Wednesday and the Sundays of Lent that can be used by individuals or in group settings.

Second Sunday of Lent Lectio Divina

Segundo Domingo de Cuaresma

Resources for Lent: Featured Website of the Day: Lecto Divina

Get Ready for this Sunday

Lectio Divina is a form of meditation rooted in liturgical celebration that dates back to early monastic communities. It involves focused reading of Scripture (lectio), meditation on the Word of God (meditatio), contemplation of the Word and its meaning in one’s life (contemplatio) and ends with prayer (oratio). For this Lent, we will have a Lectio Divina resource for the readings for Ash Wednesday and the Sundays of Lent that can be used by individuals or in group settings.

The US Bishops have put together a lectio divina for this Sunday’s readings.  This lectio divina is available in English and en espanol.

Resources for Lent – From the US Bishops

Lent begins this year on Wednesday, March 1, 2017.  It is usually a time where Catholics seek to grow deeper to the Lord by prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  In other words, Catholics attempt to intensify their prayer life, sometimes be going to daily Mass and other times by taking up a prayerful devotion or practice.  Catholics also choose to remove from their lives those things that keep them from growing in faith in God.  Catholics usually refer to this as “giving something up for Lent.”  It can also be doing something extra.  Some choose to visit a soup kitchen or volunteer at some other agency.  Below are some suggestions to help you to grow this Lent.

Lenten Calendar with links and activities.  During Lent, take inspiration from the words of St. Paul (2 Cor 8:9), and contemplate his invitation to live a life of evangelical poverty. Embrace the Lord’s call to being the blessed poor by “giving up” material things, including food, superfluous to your basic needs; “taking up” charitable habits directed to helping and caring for others; and “lifting up” those in need through giving alms, through praying for them, and by participating in devotional practices.

Fortify your Lenten journey with the words of the church fathers and Pope Francis featured on this calendar, and contemplate the suggestions for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Print the calendar in English or Spanish and post it in a prominent place to remind you of your commitment to give up, take up, and lift up, during this Lent.

Lectio Divina from USCCB.  Lectio Divina is a form of meditation rooted in liturgical celebration that dates back to early monastic communities. It involves focused reading of Scripture (lectio), meditation on the Word of God (meditatio), contemplation of the Word and its meaning in one’s life (contemplatio) and ends with prayer (oratio). For this Lent, we will have a Lectio Divina resource for the readings for Ash Wednesday and the Sundays of Lent that can be used by individuals or in group settings.

Seven Penitential Psalms and the Songs of the Suffering Servant Reflections.  During times when we wish to express repentance and especially during Lent, it is customary to pray the seven penitential psalms.  The penitential designation of these psalms dates from the seventh century.  Prayerfully reciting these psalms will help us to recognize our sinfulness, express our sorrow and ask for God’s forgiveness.

Within the Book of the Prophet Isaiah we encounter four poetic sections known as the Songs of the Suffering Servant. The specific identity of this Servant of the Lord remains the topic of scholarly debate. Perhaps it refers to the prophet Isaiah himself, perhaps the entire nation of Israel, or possibly the promised Messiah. Christian faith sees these prophetic utterances fulfilled in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Lord.

Stations of the Cross. The Stations of the Cross are traditionally prayed on the Fridays of Lent.  Follow the link above for more information on this popular devotional practice, including prayers for the Stations of the Cross prayed by Blessed John Paul II on Good Friday 1991 and an audio version for download.

Lenten Reflections from the Director of the CCHD.

A Week of Prayers for Lenten Devotions from the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development.  Every family and household is encouraged to take a renewed look at the penitential practice of prayer this Lenten Season. Below is a suggested format for each day of the week for the six weeks of Lent. If families gathered together once each day for the intentions and prayer for that day, we will have begun to deepen our understanding of our baptismal promises, and will be more prepared to “renew” these promises at an Easter liturgy. A parishioner living alone can also enter into this prayer. Those bringing Holy Communion to the homebound might consider calling one of the homebound each day and praying over the phone with them. There are many other creative ways to build a “habit of prayer” throughout Lent that can continue “forever and ever Amen!”

USCCB Prayer Library.

Resources for Lent – Lectio Divina for Ash Wednesday

Lectio Divina is a form of meditation rooted in liturgical celebration that dates back to early monastic communities. It involves focused reading of Scripture (lectio), meditation on the Word of God (meditatio), contemplation of the Word and its meaning in one’s life (contemplatio) and ends with prayer (oratio). For this Lent, we will have a Lectio Divina resource for the readings for Ash Wednesday and the Sundays of Lent that can be used by individuals or in group settings.

Lectio Divina for Ash Wednesday in English

Lectio Divina para el Miercoles de Ceniza

What is Lectio Divina?

 

What is Lectio Divina (Taken from the website of the Dominican Order)

Lectio divina (Divine Reading) is more than a method of prayer. It is an encounter with the Word of God in which a person is lead into a deeper awareness of the mystery of God as well as himself/herself. It is a graced event that centers on listening.

Granted we may have lost the skill and art of listening on many levels, nonetheless, it is one of the primary ways in which God converses with us. Lectio divina improves the way we listen with all of our senses while at the same time it calls into question the filters we use when listening.

This is perhaps the greatest challenge of lectio divina: our own conversion. One central key to a fruitful lectio divinia is simply repetition. The more a person engages in lectio divina, the more he or she strengths the habit of listening to the particular word that God is speaking to him or her in a very personal manner. This ‘word’ may not be a word at all but an assurance of Divine Providence and Presence that guides a person through the various joys and struggles of life.

At the same time, repetition is a doorway to discover something new that was not previously understood or that is now seen in a different and more relevant way. One need only to recall the stories of the Scriptures where God encounters men and women of all races and ways of life, to foresee that an encounter with the Word of God is never the same for everyone.

Each person is in a particular place. Each person, through the graces of lectio divina, is brought to another place. Where is this place? It is within the mystery of God, where the person is given some “hidden manna” and a “white stone” on which is written a new name that no one knows except God and the one who receives it (cf. Rev. 2:17).

How is it prayed?

The goal of the lectio divina is closer union with the Lord Jesus. There are many explanations of how to pray the lectio divina, but its basic structure is essentially the same. The four traditional steps are lectio (read), meditatio (meditate), oratio (pray) and contemplatio (contemplate). In the book, The Oblate Life, by Gervase Holdaway, it is described this way: “Lectio Divina has been likened to “feasting on the Word”: first, the taking of a bite (lectio); then chewing on it (meditatio); savoring its essence (oratio) and, finally, “digesting” it and making it a part of the body (contemplatio).”

The spiritual benefit is in hearing the same passage over and over, read slowly and prayerfully each time. Before praying the lectio divina, it is a good idea to slow oneself down, by asking for the presence of the Holy Spirit to come into your life through the prayerful bible reading. One other thing that is helpful is to think about your breathing, and to make it measured and calm, which also has the effect of making you calm.

In the traditional style, the passage is read slowly four times. One for each part of the lectio. The first step is to simply hear the reading, listening for the Holy Spirit to come into your heart. The first part, lectio, is not meant to be thought about much. Rather, it is simply in listening to the words as they are read aloud. Each successive step involves a slow, prayerful reading, with a desire to get deeper and deeper into the text. Meditatio is that careful consideration about what words or phrases might be striking me at this moment. Oratio is the attempt to be very attentive to the reading, considering what Jesus might be saying to me though this reading. This step is a reminder that the heart of prayer is about a dialogue with God, speaking and listening, not one or the other. Contemplatio is that step where we “let go” and simply rest in the Word of God.

There are many places where one can learn more about the lectio divina. Here are some suggestions:

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/what-lectio-divina

http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-what-how-why-of-prayer/praying-with-scripture

http://www.valyermo.com/ld-art.html

 

Discover the Lectio Divina

As part of the Dominican 800 Jubilee, each day will feature a Lectio Divina reflection. Below is the reflection from today:

Unprofitable mission!

Lectio

Jesus said to the Apostles: “Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at the table’? Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’? Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’”

Studium

Today’s passage completes the second part of the instruction on the meaning the Christian Way (Lk 13:22-17:10). At this point Jesus turns to speak to his apostles during his journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. After a long sequence of sayings and parables indicating the false legal piety of the Pharisees, the Master turns to his followers with a “positive teaching” on the nature and demands of discipleship. In the center of today’s lesson Jesus uses the household analogy of the master/slave relationship. In doing so, Jesus does not want to confirm nor to change social rapports, but he intends principally to use them as the help to understand the correct meaning of the “status” of His servant (doúlos). An ancient household servant/slave (doúlos) was someone who belonged to his master. He was responsible for many activities in the house, in farming or in shepherding. It was his obligation, for instance, after finishing different services in the field to prepare the meal and to serve it during the owner’s dinner. Only afterwards he could prepare and eat his own meal. The servant should not expect thanks for what he was undertaking: he was doing simply what he has been commanded. His only duty was to fulfill the orders of his master and not his own creativity. In today’s passage Jesus calls his disciples the “unprofitable servants”. In that way he describes the apostles – apostolos, the one sent by Him – as somebody who became His servants, who simply have to fulfil what they have been commanded. The adjective used by Jesus, however, does not designate the disciple’s work as “useless”, as we find in some translations, as if it were worthless or futile. Jesus calls them “unprofitable”, to highlight that whatever they receive from the master is not a payment, but a grace and a gratuitous gift. The servant “only” needs to do what he has been commanded, nothing more. He would be blessed and not extra paid.

– See more at: http://www.op.org/en/lectio#sthash.PuQDGj5N.dpuf

Novena of Saint Jude, Monday, May 25, 2015

Novena of Saint Jude, Monday, May 25, 2015
Daily Homilies

 
 
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I am preaching the Novena of Saint Jude, days 4-9. This is an audio recording of my day seven preaching, which focused on seeing the Bible as a method of prayer. Following religious commandments is not enough if we fail to come to know Jesus and follow him unreservedly. For more information about the Dominican Shrine of Saint Jude Thaddeus in Chicago, visit their website here.