Going deeper with lectio divina

Lectio divina or “divine reading” is a reflective method of praying with Scripture by letting the words “touch” the listener. It finds its foundation in the works of third century Father of the Church, Origen Adamantius. Later used by monastics and refined by St. Benedict in the sixth century, this form of prayer brings Scripture alive and helps lay and religious alike, experience a personal encounter with the Word of God. In this Year of the Eucharist, many parishioners in the Diocese of Orlando are taking their prayer life up a notch by participating in ‘Living the Eucharist’, a Lenten study that explores the weekly Lenten readings through lectio divina, leading participants to a more profound encounter with Christ and one another.

The four-step method consists of: lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation), oratio (prayer), and contemplatio (contemplation). In lectio divina, the passage of Scripture is read slowly four times—each step taking the reader to a deeper, more personal understanding of the text. The prayer is an exchange or dialogue that gradually transforms the person to see the events of everyday life through the lens of Scripture. At first, the Lord speaks His message to the heart and mind. Then, upon reflection, the person responds to God’s invitation to see the text in an intimate way. Some practice a fifth step, actio (action), which encourages the reader to live the Scripture in daily life.

Father Esaú García, pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Orlando, says he was first attracted to lectio divina because, “It is communion with God, a communion with Christ.” He added, “The methodology is a very simple, yet very profound way to pray with the Word. It is not a theological analysis of the Word, but a personal encounter with Christ in the Trinity, especially in the passages of the New Testament.”

During lectio, the passage is first read slowly. The reader listens for a word or phrase that stands out and sits with it, allowing it to resonate with them. A second reading is followed by meditatio, a meditation on the word or phrase. Here, in stillness, the Lord invites the reader to unwrap the word or phrase, exploring it as a personal message from God.

The third step is oratio—one’s very personal response to what the Lord has revealed. The response can be a prayer of commitment, a plea for assistance, or a prayer of thanksgiving for what God has disclosed.

In the final step, contemplatio, the Word simmers within as God prays with the reader. Here the mind is open, imbuing the reader with grace and a more profound integration of the Scripture. It is in this contemplative step that God does His work of transformation, healing and nurturing the reader. “Lectio has transformed my prayer life in every way because, through the method, the word becomes life within me,” explains Father García. “It also helps me because it is the method I use to preach. I use the basics of lectio divina to prepare the text and assimilate the texts in my life and then give my homily.”

In ‘Living the Eucharist’, small faith groups pray the upcoming Sunday’s Gospel message in this way. Together, they voice their word or phrase after lectio, share what Christ has unveiled during meditation, and offer the prayers (oratio) God put on their hearts. As a community, the groups delve into the depths of the readings to unearth its treasures while sitting in contemplation (contemplatio). The prayer and sharing unites them in the mission of the Church.

Often a final step is added, actio (action). Although Father García notes that actio is debated as a step by some scholars, he feels that it is significant because “action is where you put that practice into your real life.”

Julie Gregory, a parishioner at St. Joseph and St. Maximillian Kolbe Parishes in Orlando, attends one of 32 ‘Living the Eucharist’ groups at the church. She testifies to its application, “Everybody is just thrilled by the way that, now when we go to the Mass, we go to the liturgy with a different approach because we’ve been reflecting and acting on it thanks to the lectio divina and we are more prepared.”

Facilitator Rosa Parker agrees saying, “Often, members of the group have commented how hearing the reading again on Sunday really makes the Scripture come alive. People have shared some wonderful insights about how these Scriptures have shown them how God is working in their lives.”

César Sánchez also helps teach ‘Living the Eucharist.’ “The small groups are wonderful,” he explains. “Most of us had experience with lectio divina, but it has deepened our understanding and allowed us to receive a concrete message from God.”

Father García recommends after you learn the method, “You start to practice, practice, practice. Take a little time… the Holy Spirit is guiding the whole process. It is a beautiful methodology—very simple and very powerful.”

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – March 6, 2018