Lectio Divina: An Ancient Practice for Today

Some people are naturally contemplative. Being quiet and present to the moment seems to come more easily for some. That’s not me. I’m a talker. As a natural extrovert I’m energized by being around people and being busy.

Yet for sometime I’ve been striving to find a balance between my tendency to talk and be busy and a longing to be more quiet, reflective, attentive. Four years ago I was introduced to Lectio Divina, a Latin term meaning ‘divine reading’.

This practice was introduced to Christianity in the third century by a bishop named Origen. In the 6th century a monk named Benedict began to incorporate Lectio Divina as a recommended practice for his fellow monks.

Benedict and the Word

The practice is simple. Lectio Divina is a practice of reading the ancient texts from the Judeo-Christian tradition and sitting in silence. The earliest practitioners believed that scripture was a ‘living word’, which when spoken becomes animated by the Spirit of God. Lectio understood in this way becomes a

place of meeting

between the reader, the listener and that great mystery we call, Spirit.

Each Friday morning for the past four years I’ve gathered with a small group of practitioners. Three times we read the scripture for that coming Sunday’s worship service. Each reading is accompanied by a question: What image or phrase speaks to you? What questions or insights come to mind? What wisdom will you apply to your life?

Following each question we sit for 5 – 10 minutes in silence. Sometimes we respond briefly to the second question. The ‘good stuff’ however comes with the silence.

Reading the same passage three times allows us to hear at a deeper level. The silence which follows allows the hearer to become ‘steeped’ in the ‘word of God’ (think of a good cup of tea that becomes richer the longer the leaves are allowed to steep in the water).

I must add that there is something wonderfully moving about sitting in silence with others. Together a collective energy emerges. All religious traditions know this to be true.

Our word religion is from the Latin ‘religio’, which means to attach or re-attach to that which is sacred. Since the third century Lectio Divina has helped people to attach and re-attach to that which we believe is good, lasting and true. Lectio takes to the heart the wisdom of the prophet Isaiah who 2700 years ago said: “Listen and your soul will live.” (Isaiah 55:3).

Note: First Baptist Church in Beverly has an open group every Friday morning 7:15 a.m. – 7:45 a.m. 221 Cabot Street, Beverly MA. Or, ask around in your local community for an existing group or invite a few friends to start one with you. As you listen you will be blessed and be a blessing to others.

7 thoughts on “Lectio Divina: An Ancient Practice for Today

    1. Neale, good to hear from you. John Cobb would be pleased to know you are doing Process Theology. The question for us remains, ‘how do we live our faith in the real world?’

  1. This is a sweet piece on a powerful practice.
    My friend Jamshed used this “read three times and reflect” model at Breitenbush’s Morning circle, choosing the daily readings for the season from Danaan Perry’s “Range Book of Days.”
    As you say, Kent, sharing group silent time is supposedly rich and moving!

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