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.