Lectio Divina

Monkfish Modified: Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina means ‘divine reading.’ It is a form of meditation which starts with the written word and expands into a series of images, emotions, or understandings. Lectio divina is traditionally done with Christian texts, but can also be done with other holy tomes and inspirational writings, or with sacred images or objects.

As usual, here at Monkfish Abbey, we’ve modified this traditional practice to appeal to postmodern sensibilities. To see our take on tradition, scroll down. For more classical approaches to lectio divina, here are some further resources:

Fr Thomas Keating, St. Benedict’s Monastery

Fr. Luke Dysinger, St. Andrew’s Abby, Benedictine

Monkfish Modified:
Lectio Divina

To begin, spend a few minutes settling down and becoming comfortable and still. You might begin by asking that your heart may be opened, or by offering to be receptive. Let your breathing become more deep-seated, gentler, and rhythmic, as you invite revelation and inspiration to come to you today.

Phase One: Lectio

Read your selection very slowly with an open mind. Don’t study or analyze the text, just read it slowly, aloud if you find that helpful. This is the lectio, or reading.

Phase Two: Meditatio

Read the piece through again. This time, when a particular sentence or phrase or single word “lights up” or “rings a bell”, stop reading. Resist the temptation to go on go on because something more “ah ha!” might be up ahead. (You can always use this piece another time to see what might be revealed to you later on in the text.) Try not to get caught up in spinning out reasons why this particular word or phrases has caught your attention. Practice being present to the draw of this particular word or phrase at this particular time.

Phase Three: Oratio
This phrase can be difficult to explain. The oratio is a conversation or prayer with the Divine. You begin on the receiving/listening end of this conversation. Repeat the word or phrase that has been given to you. Try to let it flow over you, baptizing your mind, soul, and spirit. This is like a blessing or consecration over you – a gift from the Divine, bathing, informing and blessing your life. Let the repetition of this word or phrase be a balm; a word of praise; a blessing; or even a rallying cry.

St Andrew’s Abbey describes oratio in this way:

Just as a priest consecrates the elements of bread and wine at the Eucharist, God invites us in lectio divina to hold up our most difficult and pain-filled experiences to God, and to gently recite over them the healing word or phrase He has given us in our lectio and meditatio.

During the oratio stage, you may decide to respond to the word or phrase you have been repeatedly receiving. Now you are on the speaking end of the conversation. You may choose to respond verbally, pictorially, kinetically, or in writing. Use your primary or most natural language language. This response might be an act of thanksgiving, a cataloging of questions that your lectio practice has raised, or a memorial to help you preserve this time spent in the presence of God. If you do not choose to respond during the oratio phrase, you may move on to contemplation. Otherwise, complete your practice with a moment of contemplation when you are done making your response.

Phase Four: Contemplatio
When you are ready, you may close your practice with a period of silent contemplation. Rest in the presence of the Divine, and in the pool which the words you have been given has formed around you. You might focus on your breath to help still your thoughts, imagining the life, energy, or force of the Divine flow in and out of you as you rest in God’s presence. If you wish you may close with a word, prayer or image expressing gratitude for this meditative time.