Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode Two of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery where we are learning new and healthy ways of coping with our daily struggles.
With the healing power of the Holy Spirit as our guide, we are integrating traditional 12 Step recovery principles with Benedictine Spirituality and other contemplative practices which we will be discussing each week. Today our topic is: The Contemplative Practice of Lectio Divina.
If you haven’t yet, I want to encourage you to check out our highlighted book for this week on ReachingHurtingWomen.com which is: The Big Book of Christian Mysticism: The Essential Guide To Contemplative Spirituality by Carl McColman. I just finished reading it myself and found it a fascinating overview and explanation of contemplative spirituality; a valuable resource and reference book!
Let’s look at the definition of contemplation according to the Noah Wesbster 1828 dictionary:
- the act of the mind in considering with attention; meditation; study; continued attention of the mind to a particular subject.
- keeping the idea brought to mind, holy meditaion; attention to sacred things, the application of the foregoing definition
Here’s a wonderful quote, really a perfect definition from Richard Rohr:
“The contemplative life is being so present to the moment that you catch a glimpse of God in all that is.”
The glossary in the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines contemplation this way:
“A form of wordless prayer in which mind and heart focus on God’s greatness and goodness in affective, loving adoration; to look on Jesus and the mysteries of his life with faith and love.”
As you can see contemplation is intentional thought, prayer or meditative thinking on God, His word and His creations; to Jesus and the mysteries of His life in faith and love; trying to be more in the moment rather than just rushing through life; slowing down and looking for God in all.
As a recovering addict, this new mindset is helping me tremendously in this particular recovery season I’m working. It’s overused but the example of the layers of an onion being peeled off representing the layers of our addictive issues coming to the surface is so true. Just when you think you’ve got your life figured out, something new shows up to teach you otherwise. For me contemplative spirituality has been a valuable tool to help me work and live life in a healthier state of mind.
Over time we are going to talk about many contemplative practices. But today I’d like to focus on the practice of Lectio Divina or sacred reading.
You may be unfamiliar with these Latin words. Lectio Divina which means “holy or divine reading” is an ancient form of prayer using Scripture as the voice of God to our heart. This type of prayer is simple in concept but powerful in practice, taking us deeper and deeper in our relationship with God.
I like this quote from Richard Foster explaining what Lectio Divina means:
It means listening to the text of Scripture, really listening-yielded and still.
It means submitting to the text of Scripture, allowing its message to flow into us rather than us attempting to master it.
It means reflecting on the text of Scripture, permitting ourselves to be fully engaged by the drama of the passage.
It means praying the text of Scripture, letting the biblical reality give rise to our heart cry of gratitude or confession or petition.
It means applying the text of Scripture, seeing how God’s Holy Word provides personal guidance for our life circumstances.
It means obeying the text of Scripture, always turning from our ways and into the life everlasting.
The words of Richard Foster. So beautiful.
Before beginning our Lectio Divina practice we will want to choose our text. A chapter in the book of Psalms is a great place to start. But you can use any section of scripture or other sacred texts, writing from various church fathers are excellent also.
Be sure to set aside some uninterrupted time, 20 minutes or so. Then choose a quiet place to sit with the Lord. Focusing on our breath, we still our minds and prepare our hearts to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
The practice of Lectio Divina is divided into four steps:
- LECTIO: (Latin for reading) In this step we read a section of Scripture slowly, savoring each word as a delicious morsel that will nourish our soul. It’s helpful to read the passage aloud watching ever closely for a word or phrase that shimmers in our heart.
- MEDITATIO: (Latin for mediation) Here we take the phrase that caught our heart’s attention and ruminate on it through repetition and reflection. As we chew on the given text we connect it with our life situations. Reflecting: We can ask what in this passage touches my life today?
- ORATIO: (Latin for prayer) In this next step we actually begin our conversion with God, our closest friend and confidant who we can share anything with. Here we may find much needed joy and gratitude;…a renewal of hope and trust. We may respond to what we believe God is asking us to do today.
- CONTEMPLATIO: (Latin for contemplation) Here we stop doing and just be, we still our hearts and minds, find rest in God’s loving arms as His precious child. We may continue our reading, meditate on our experience, or end our prayer with thanksgiving.
Now that we’ve talked about the four steps of Lectio Divina, let’s practice with one of the world’s most familiar chapters of scripture: Psalm 23.
A Psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
For Step One: Lectio I’m going to read it through all the way slowly first watching for a word or phrase that shimmers in my heart.
For Step 2 MEDITATIO: we will take the phrase that caught our heart’s attention and ruminate on it through repetition and reflection. As we chew on the given text we connect it with our life situations. Reflecting: We can ask what in this passage touches my life today?
For Step 3 ORATIO: we will actually begin our conversion with God, sharing praise and gratitude, we may feel a renewal of hope and trust. We may respond by making a note of what we believe God is asking us to do today.
For Step 4 CONTEMPLATIO: we stop doing and just be, we still our hearts and minds and meditate on our experience, or end our prayer with thanksgiving.
This was a short example of the foundational contemplative practice of Lectio Divina. Many of the other contemplative practices we will be learning about are built on Lectio or can be combined with Lectio.
I hope you will take some time to try Lectio Divina for yourself. On your own you can take much more time and really soak in God’s presence. It’s a wonderful addition to your morning or evening devotions, and it will definitely change the way you read, not only Scripture but devotionals and other books as well.
There are so many rich passages of Scripture you can practice Lectio Divina with: Psalm 51; Psalm 91 and The Beatitudes are great ones to start with.
Well, thanks for joining me today on the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery, where we are finding new and healthier ways of coping with the hurts, habits and hang-ups in our daily lives.
I hope you enjoyed learning about the Contemplative Practice of Lectio Divina. I look forward to hearing from you. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Until next time… may the grace and peace of God be yours.
Be Still: 31 Days to a Deeper Meditative Prayer Life Howard Books 2007