What is Lectio Divina?
It begins with silence.
Distinct from other ways of approaching the Bible, the ancient Christian practice of lectio divina (spiritual reading) is the primary mode of reading the Bible for transformation. There is a place for reading large portions of the Bible in one sitting, such as an entire book, but this is not it. Here we are concerned with depth rather than breadth. There is also a place for Bible study, in which we apply exegetical tools of interpretation, but this is not "study" per se. Rather, lectio is a way of allowing the mind to "descend" into the heart, so that both mind and heart might be drawn into the love and goodness of God. Our goal is immersion. We are shaped by the environment in which we live and breathe and interact. Lectio immerses us in the deep and timeless waters of God, that more of God's eternal life might flow into our time-bound lives - a slow, contemplative praying of the Scriptures which enables the Bible, the Word of God, to become a means of union with God.
In its classic form, lectio comprises four elements, although there are many variations on them with different wording and emphasis:
lectio (reading with a listening spirit, intimately, slowly, attentively, reverentially; listening both in a spirit of silence and of awe, gently, quietly listening to hear a word or phrase that is God's word for us this day)
meditatio (reflecting on what we are "hearing", "ruminating", allowing it to interact with our thoughts, our hopes, our memories, our desires)
oratio (praying in response to this hearing, in dialogue with God, that is, as a loving conversation, an embrace; and as consecration, to hold up our most difficult and pain-filled experiences and to find healing), and
contemplatio (contemplating what we will carry forward into our lives, wordless, quiet rest, enjoying the experience of being in the presence of God).
We can also refer to these basic elements of lectio as listening, reflecting, praying, and obeying. Lectio divina has no other goal than spending time with God through the medium of the Word. The amount of time we spend in any aspect of lectio divina, whether it be rumination, consecration or contemplation depends on God's Spirit, not on us. Lectio divina teaches us to savor and delight in all the different flavors of God's presence.
When these elements are combined—regardless of sequence, for they overlap and intermingle in a circular rather than a linear way—they lead the human spirit into a dynamic interaction with the Holy Spirit. In Lectio Divina we offer ourselves to God; we are people in motion. In ancient times this inner spiritual motion was described as a helix - an ascending spiral. Viewed in only two dimensions it appears as a circular motion back and forth; seen with the added dimension of time it becomes a helix, an ascending spiral by means of which we are drawn ever closer to God. The whole of our spiritual lives were viewed in this way, as a gentle oscillation between spiritual activity and receptivity by means of which God unites us to Himself and ...
we discover that there is no place in our hearts, no interior corner or closet that cannot be opened and offered to God and ...
we dare to believe that our loving God continues to embrace us today.— Richard J. Foster & Fr Luke Dysinger