Lectio Divina was the way to pray of the early christians. The ancient monks developed a traditional method for doing that. The monks prayed as simple Christians with the good sense to base their prayer on the sacred Scriptures.
You will see how easy the practice is and how the busy meditator of our age can settle down in a short time and enter into the interior castle of deep recollection. We don't always need a quiet place; we need the resolve to be still! It takes a little discipline.
Lectio Divina means literally the divine reading. It is a monastic designation for the meditative reading of the Scriptures. Its elements are ingredients of a spiritual frame of mind, a holy discipline that intuitively and affectively dwells on a biblical text as a means of seeking communion with Christ. The practice could also be described as dwelling on a scriptural text in the divine presence for the sake of radical change in Christ. Yet again, we could say that lectio is making ones own a small selection, phrase, or word of the Bible, in pursuit of greater faith, hope, and charity. In any event, Lectio Divina is prayer over the Scriptures. The monastics of the early and medieval church developed this into a fine art.
The elements are four: 1) lectio itself, which means reading, understood as the careful repetitious recitation of a short text of Scripture; 2) meditatio or meditation, an effort to fathom the meaning of the text and make it personally relevant to oneself in Christ; 3) oratio, which means prayer, taken as a personal response to the text, asking for the grace of the text or moving over it toward union with God; and 4) contemplatio, translated contemplation, gazing at length on something. The idea behind this final element is that sometimes, by the infused grace of God, one is raised above meditation to a state of seeing or experiencing the text as mystery and reality; one comes into experiential contact with the One behind and beyond the text. It is an exposure to the divine presence, to God's truth and benevolence.
A classic exposition of these four elements can be found in The Ladder of Monks, a twelfth century monastic letter by Guigo II on the contemplative life, where lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio are presented as four rungs leading from earth to heaven.
We might sum up what Guigo II says of the four elements of Lectio Divina in the following ways: reading seeks; meditation finds (meaning); prayer demands; contemplation tastes (God). Or again: reading provides solid food; meditation masticates; prayer achieves a savor; contemplation is the sweetness that refreshes. Or yet again: reading is on the surface; meditation gets to the inner substance; prayer demands by desire; contemplation experiences by delight.
(Extracted from: Sam Anthony Morello, OCD, Lectio Divina And the Practice of Teresian Prayer, this article originally appeared in the Summer 1991 issue of Spiritual Life. Copyright Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, ICS Publications. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, if this copyright notice is included
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