Today I continue the series on spiritual practices, sharing with the reader a spiritual practice a day. Today, we will be focusing on the practice of Lectio Divina, otherwise known as Sacred Reading. Connecting with a spiritual practice that works for you and making a commitment to this practice is an important step in the journey of spiritual growth, healing and enlightenment.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Lectio Divina – Sacred Reading
Sacred Reading is a spiritual practice that is available to every person, regardless of their specific spiritual beliefs. In sacred reading, a written text is used as the focal point of reflection and is approached as a vehicle through which we are able to connect with our deepest and most personal truths. Parker Palmer calls this approach The Third Way. In the Christian Contemplative tradition to which I ascribe, this approach is called Lectio Divina. Today, I will describe this approach from the perspective of Lectio-Divina which uses Judeo-Christian scripture as the focal point. Please know that you can use ANY written text as the focus of sacred reading, so if scripture doesn’t speak to you, find a poem, a fairytale, a myth or lyrics to a song as your vehicle for sacred reading.
The purpose of Lectio-Divina is to use a sacred text as a vehicle through which Divine truth can be revealed to us. Through Lectio-Divina, we discover what God wants us to receive at this point in our journey for our highest good through the sacred word (whether we are using scripture, song, poetry, etc.) Regular practice of sacred reading allows us to grow in knowledge of our deepest truths, connect more deeply with our truest nature, find healing, comfort, guidance and inspiration.
Lectio-Divina takes place in four parts:
Lectio – Reading
Meditatio – Meditation/Reflection on the sacred text
Oratio – Prayer/Our Response to God
Contemplatio – Resting in Silence in God’s presence
First we choose the text with which we want to work. (you might start with the scripture passage above) Then, we read the text slowly and prayerfully looking for a word or phrase that may jump off the page at us. This word or phrase is God’s message for us this day.
Once we have the word or phrase, we bring that word/phrase into prayerful reflection. We spend time ruminating on this word or phrase, reflecting on what it might mean for us today and how it may apply to where we are in our journey. We may find in the word or phrase a piece of inspiration, the answer to a question, Divine guidance, a challenge to ponder, nourishment or even healing or comfort. We may choose to use the word or phrase as a mantra, repeating it over and over in our minds, allowing it to bring us into a deep state of peaceful calm. We might take 10-30 minutes in this stage of Lectio-Divina
After meditating on the word or phrase and allowing it to nourish us, we offer our response to God. For many, this stage is when we pull out our journal and start writing. Recording our thoughts, reflections, responses to the meditation stage provides us with another perspective and frequently reveals additional truths, insights, etc. Sometimes we simply want to offer words of praise to God for the nourishment offered. This can be done in silence, in writing, or aloud.
In Contemplation, we simply REST IN GOD. In this stage, we refrain from doing, we calm the busy mind and allow ourselves to simply be. This stage can be done in silence after we have offered our oratio, but if time does not allow, we are invited to recognize that the contemplatio stage continues as we move throughout our day. We have planted the seeds through lectio, meditatio and oratio, now God will bring forth the harvest through contemplatio. In other words, it is God that does the work in this stage….we get to be the passive recipient of the additional fruits of this time spent in spiritual practice.
My Experience with Lectio-Divina
I had the fantastic opportunity to learn Lectio-Divina through Sr. Marie Schwan, one of my instructors in the Commissioned Lay Ministry Formation Program. The practice of Lectio-Divina quite simply CHANGED MY LIFE! Through the practice of Lectio-Divina, I discovered scripture as a rich source of Divine guidance, inspiration and healing. Through this practice I came to realize a deeply personal and intimate relationship with the Divine and with myself. I now use this practice in the classes that I teach and share this practice with clients. I have seen many lives transformed through the use of Lectio-Divina, along with other spiritual practices and I recommend this practice to anyone!
Authentic Freedom Ministries