Hello Rosary Lovers! In this post we will ask: What is Lectio Divina, and what is Lectio Divina prayer?
What is Lectio Divina?
Lectio Divina is often translated into English as ‘Divine Reading’. It means that someone approaches the Catholic Holy Scriptures with the intent of reading in a spiritual manner, to derive spiritual benefit from it.
There are indeed many ways to read the Bible.
One can read it literally, that is, paying attention to the surface detail only. In such a manner, one takes interest in (for instance) the fact that Noah’s Ark was literally this tall, and this wide, and this deep, and so on.
One can read literally the articles that went into constructing the Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple.
But this method of reading the Bible doesn’t always yield spiritual benefit.
Certainly, the surface meaning of Scripture is very interesting. Many people find the Bible the most interesting book in the world. The stories are spectacular and hundreds of films have re-created adaptions of various biblical stories.
St Jerome even said something like (paraphrase): ‘The very surface reading of Scripture is precious/spiritual.’ I can’t remember the exact quote, but his point was to exalt and encourage even a surface reading of the Bible, because just the reading of the words is such a pleasure to the soul.
Notwithstanding, many of us need to delve deeper. Especially after we have been Christians for many years, our souls often long for more. We have become so familiar with the surface reading of Scripture.
Many of us know the Gospels very well. We’ve perhaps read them many times. We can perhaps quote many passages from Scripture by heart.
For such people, Lectio Divina will perhaps be an ideal option to extract new spiritual food from the holy word of God.
In fact, Lectio Divina will benefit even those who are not terribly familiar with Scripture. So it is recommended by the Church no matter how well or poorly we know Scripture.
The Method of Lectio Divina
This method of reading sacred Scripture treats Scripture as if it really is the divine word of the living God. Hence why Lectio Divina is called ‘Divine Reading’.
In my study of how to do Lectio Divina, I’ve discovered that there is a wide variety of ways to carry it out. Different people will carry it out differently. But the essential method is still the same for all.
The essence of this method is to read, re-read, re-read and perhaps re-read a few more times a small chosen passage of Scripture. It can be any part of Scripture, though the Gospels are recommended most highly.
During the re-readings of the passage of Scripture, the Holy Spirit takes us into meditation, chewing over the words and helps us in our imagination and thoughts to really think about what we are reading.
Perhaps a phrase or word will grab our attention for a reason known only to us. Perhaps a related thought will take our attention.
Maybe we will see one or more things we have never seen before, no matter how well we think we know the Bible.
So we read and we meditate. We might read the passage again, and maybe again. We let the words sink right into us.
Lectio Divina Prayer
Now we are already praying in a sense, because we have begun to lift up our minds and hearts to God.
But perhaps we will also begin to offer some words of prayer to God.
We might speak to God only in our hearts, or maybe we will offer some audible words.
Or we could even choose to be still in both heart and body, not saying anything, just bathing in the glory of the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit who penned them.
In this case, we choose, by an act of the will, to let ourselves just remain still in the presence of God.
This is the highest form of prayer, one that is the fruit of divine grace, and it’s called Contemplation.
Contemplation doesn’t always happen and we cannot mechanically produce it. It is up to God to gift this to us. Often we will have to settle for less than this.
The Goal of Lectio Divina
In essence, therefore, the point of Divine Reading is to come to God, to step into his presence through the holy text of sacred Scripture.
Scripture is a vehicle to God and to his grace and love.
It is certainly not the only vehicle to God, but it is a very important one.
God has chosen to incarnate himself in human flesh in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the living Word of Almighty God.
God has chosen to give his own flesh and blood to us in the Holy Eucharist. We can literally touch God, taste God, feed on God, handle God and see God in the Eucharist. This is the glory of Eucharistic Adoration.
But God has also chosen to sort of ‘incarnate’ or make physical and tangible to us himself through human words. And this is Holy Scripture.
To read and meditate on Sacred Scripture is to meditate on Christ, to meditate on God. God’s words, expressed by human authors, lead us into the divine presence.
The Benefits of Lectio Divina
We have already mentioned a few of these, but it is worth pointing out a particularly important one.
The holy Catholic Church offers only one way to get a plenary indulgence which is accessible to Catholics everyday of their lives whilst staying at home.
This highly accessible plenary indulgence is offered to Catholics if they but read with devotion Holy Scripture for 30 minutes.
It doesn’t matter which part/s of Scripture is/are read. So long as a Catholic reads the Bible for 30 minutes, reading with a sense that these words are sacred, the plenary indulgence is granted.
(It is worth mentioning that we also must fulfil the usual conditions to get any plenary indulgence, including this one. These are: we separate ourselves in our hearts and wills from all sin, even small sins; we pray for the intentions of the Pope; we go to Confession if we haven’t been in the last 20 days; we receive the Eucharist.)
To receive this plenary indulgence, a Catholic doesn’t need to be in a Church, or in any place in anyway related to Catholicism. They can even do Lectio Divina in bed.
That’s an amazing testimony of what the Church thinks of Holy Scripture!
Another benefit of Lectio Divina is, of course, that you will get to know Scripture in a much deeper way.
St Therese of the Child Jesus used to meditate constantly on the Gospels, and she testified that though she had read them so many times, there were always new things she saw in them which would thrill her soul.
New thoughts about what Jesus was doing at that particular moment, or a new imagination about a particular scene. We can only really get this by doing Lectio Divina.
So, Lectio Divina helps us to know Christ more deeply. We begin to see him in ways we haven’t before. New images of Christ, inspired by the Holy Spirit and the sacred words read carefully, are painted by our imagination.
Please comment below about your own relationship with Holy Scripture.
What does Scripture mean to you?
How might you go about improving your relationship with Sacred Scripture?
What passage of Scripture do you wish to read and meditate on?
Have you got any experiences to share of your precious times with Scripture?
I’d love to hear!
And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch, and I’ll try to respond as soon as I can.
God bless, through Christ, the End of all the prophets, and through Mary immaculate, Mother of the eternal and incarnate Divine and living Word of God.