Lectio Divina Explained

Are you familiar with Lectio Divina? It is an old form of prayer that has become popular again in the Church. The phrase is Latin for ―divine reading, and it means to pray with Scripture. Here is a nice description from ignatianspiritualty.com:

When a person wants to use Lectio Divina as a prayer form today, the method is very simple. When one is a beginner, it is better to choose a passage from one of the Gospels or epistles, usually ten or fifteen verses. Some people who regularly engage in this method of prayer choose the epistle or the Gospel for the Mass of the day as suggested by the Catholic Church.

First, one goes to a quiet place and recalls that one is about to listen to the Word of God. Then one reads the scripture passage aloud to let oneself hear with his or her own ears the words. When one finishes reading, pause and recall if some word or phrase stood out or something touched one’s heart. If so, pause and savor the insight, feeling, or understanding. Then go back and read the passage again because it will have a fuller meaning. Pause again and note what happened. If one wants to dialogue with God or Jesus in response to the word, one should follow the prompting of one’s heart. This kind of reflective listening allows the Holy Spirit to deepen awareness of God’s taking the initiative to speak with us.

Lectio Divina can also be an effective form for group prayer. After a passage is read, there can be some extended silence for each person to savor what he or she has heard, particularly noting whether any word or phrase became a special focus of attention. Sometimes groups invite members, if they so desire, to share out loud the word or phrase that struck them. This is done without discussion. Then a different person from the group would read the passage again with a pause for silence. Different emphases might be suggested after each reading: What gift does this passage lead me to ask from the Lord? What does this passage call me to do? The prayer can be concluded with an Our Father.

Whether one prays individually or in a group, Lectio Divina is a flexible and easy way to pray. One first listens, notes what is given and responds in a way one is directed by the Holy Spirit.

Our Tuesday Bible study group at Assumption uses Lectio Divina and it’s been very helpful to open all of us to the Holy Spirit vis-à-vis the Sunday readings. Here are some examples of Lectio from theologians, saints, and Fathers of the Church in regards to today’s Gospel (Lk 24:11-35):

Jesus asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast (v. 17).

  • St Thomas Aquinas: ―Of all the passions, sadness causes the most injury to the soul.
  • St. Augustine: ―They were so shattered when they saw him hanging on a tree that they forgot his teaching. They did not expect him to rise, nor did they hold on to what he had promised.
  • Pope Francis: ―We need a Church unafraid of going forth into their night. We need a Church unafraid of going forth into their night. We need a Church capable of meeting them on their way. We need a Church capable of entering into their conversation. We need a Church able to dialogue with those disciples who, having left Jerusalem behind, are wandering aimlessly, alone, with their own disappointment, disillusioned by a Christianity now considered barren, fruitless soil, incapable of generating meaning.

Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures (v. 27).

  • St. Gregory the Great: ―The reader of the Bible must raise himself from the story to the mystery.

And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him… (Vs. 30-31).

  • A Lapide: ―See here the power and effect of the Eucharist. It opens and illumines the eyes of the mind to know Jesus and to enter into heavenly and divine mysteries.

May you know the peace of the risen Christ,

Fr Greg