I spend a good portion of my day reading. From news articles to books, e-mails to facebook posts, fiction and non-fiction, religious and secular, much of my day involves my brain translating letters into words and seeking some sort of meaning or instruction or perhaps distraction or entertainment. I notice that I read material printed on paper differently than I read electronic text. I read differently when I have a question that I want answered than when I want to learn something new or simply pass the time. As different as what and how I read may be, I realize that most of the time the reason that I read is centered on me. I read selfishly from my own point of view deciding each moment whether I agree or disagree, whether I should continue or stop, whether the author is worth listening to or not. Unfortunately, I often find myself reading Scripture from this same self-centered attitude. In these times, I need a new what, why, and how to read Scripture.
Since Scripture records God’s revelation of Himself to humanity and Jesus is the fullness of that revelation, I need a practice that removes me from the center of my reading and places Jesus as the focal point. I need a way to approach this reading anticipating an encounter with the Living God, an encounter in which I am no longer the judge of worth or choosing to agree or disagree, but an encounter in which I am transformed. The ancient practice of lectio divina or holy reading provides this was of encounter. This way of reading trusts Jesus’ promise that the Holy Spirit will come and lead us into all Truth. It trusts that the same Jesus who opened the Scriptures to Cleopas and his friend waits to open them to us.
The practice of lectio divina guides us through four movements of encounter. In the first, we prayerfully read the text anticipating that Jesus will speak to us through the text by the power of the Holy Spirit. We read listening for the word that He will give us, the Word we will take with us through the day, the Word of encounter. I find it easier to hear this word if I read the text out loud.
Once we hear the word that the Spirit gives to us, we reflect on that word prayerfully considering the meaning God has for us in this word on this day. We allow the word to descend from our head to our heart. We resist the temptation to selfishly distort the word to our own ends and instead allow the word to change and transform us.
After reflecting on our word, we respond by praying this word back to God in thanksgiving for His speaking to us, in obedience to His work in and through us, and in supplication that we might have grace to walk in the way that this word is leading us.
Finally, we rest in the Word through the word we are given. In silence, we sit with God allowing the word He has given us to draw us back into awareness of His presence when our attention wanders. We then carry this awareness with us through the day allowing the word from our holy reading to direct our attention to the Holy One who dwells within and among us.
I invite you to explore the ancient rhythm of lectio divina as you Read-Reflect-Respond-Rest in the Word of God.
(A note on selecting texts for lectio divina: While all Scripture is indeed “God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” some passages are more accessible to our minds and hearts. I find that the lections for the Daily Office or for Sunday are a good place to start. I find the Gospel lesson and the Psalms are particularly fruitful passages for the Spirit to provide a word for me).