Lectio divina (LEK-si-oh dih-VEE-nuh) is relaxed, attentive Bible reading that lets God speak to your heart and illuminate of your mind. It’s about what God does. Lectio divina was mentioned twice in the website’s first post: Contemplative Life for all Christians (Contemplative Life Defined).
Lectio divina is not reading for intellectual knowledge or analysis of the text. Using a Bible without verse numbering, footnotes, headings or cross references helps avoid distractions when doing lectio divina. A large print version (if in paper rather than electronic) is also better. One of the benefits of electronic versions of the Bible is being able to adjust many parts of the display including font, background color, and spacing to make reading more comfortable.
Direct Method. This is the easiest and most direct method and consists of (a) slow, restful reading of the Bible until (b) God’s illumination and (c) then stopping to contemplate and rest in that illumination to give it time to reorder your heart and mind.
The last part of the process consists of time in stillness immediately after reading and in keeping that illumination in mind sometimes for an extended period of time, days or weeks during which you stop doing lectio divina. Sometimes in that time after illumination there is a reordering of the heart and mind by God. The direct method is a unified process dependent on the Holy Spirit rather than a step-by-step process dependent on the reader’s action following steps.
What’s the illumination during reading? You will know it when it happens. What is the reordering that happens later? You will feel the reordering of your heart and mind.
Many people are taught the four-step method of:
lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation), oratio (prayer), contemplatio (contemplation).
The four-step method as commonly taught can seem mechanical by placing the person in control. Do this, then this, then this. However, the book describing the four-step method is actually closer to the direct method. The Carthusian, Guigo II. 2012. “The Ladder of Monks.” Translated by Sr Pascale-Dominique Nau, Lulu.com. Kindle Edition. From the book:
“May He lead us, from virtue to virtue, up to the top of the mysterious ladder, into the vision of God in Zion. There, His chosen will receive this divine contemplation not drop by drop or intermittently; on the contrary, they will always [be] inundated by the stream of joy, possessing forever the bliss that no one can take from them, immutable peace, Peace in Him!”
If you enjoy the four-step method, good!
Is Lectio Divina for the Bible Only?
Generally lectio divina is described in connection with reading the Bible. Does that mean you cannot do lectio divina with the writings of a holy church father or mother? No, because God can open hearts and minds at any time, in any situation. But it is also true most profitable lectio divina is done with the Holy Scriptures. When you want to do lectio divina, use your special Bible described above (the plain text one). So, do we read non-Biblical spiritual writings only while wearing our “I am reading for knowledge and intellectual analysis” hat? No, let’s always be open to hear God.