Created by Saint Benedict in the sixth century and developed further by the Carthusian monk Guigo II in the 12th century, the practice of “divine reading” is a way of approaching the Bible with a goal of formation more than information. The cool part of this is that the informational aspect comes automatically though more slowly, while the formational aspect becomes primary and intentional. Lectio divina (pronounced “lexio diveena”) is yet one more contribution of the monastic tradition that speaks powerfully to modern Christian leaders who desire greater rootedness.
Rather than simply reading a chapter a day and then praying over our day, as many of us have been taught, Lectio invites us to engage God and our souls in a way that is immensely simple, efficient, and profound. It begins by taking a relatively short passage of scripture, usually far less than a chapter—a paragraph or two is often ideal. A focused thought or story. Perhaps you will take these passages sequentially through a book or section of the Bible; perhaps you will take them from a Lectionary schedule of reading. Either way, here are four steps to the Lectio process:
- Read. Read through the passage once, slowly, thoughtfully, open-hearted. Let the words and the spirit of the passage wash over you. Be attentive to what word or phrase or thought catches your attention. If nothing jumps out immediately, just close your eyes and let the passage rest inside you for a few minutes. Eventually, something will rise to the surface.
- Reflect. Read the passage a second time, holding that word or phrase before the Lord. What is God wanting to speak to you through this piece? What is God’s invitation to you in your life right now? Where do these words challenge you, encourage you, or draw you towards the life of God, towards your true self?
- Respond. Read the passage a third time. In this step you allow your heart to respond to God’s invitation. This is your “yes” to the truth that the Holy Spirit offers you. There may be a specific action attached to your response, or it may simply be a matter of inner surrender to its claim on your life. You will know.
- Rest. As you read the passage a final time, place yourself in this sacred space and rest. Like a cow chewing the cud, you are ruminating, savoring, digesting, incarnating this food into one’s being. That’s what’s happening as you read this passage over and over. It is an act of worship. The sentence or phrase you are drawn to becomes embedded. You will likely memorize this piece without even intending to. Throughout the day your attention may be drawn back to this encounter.