The power of Lectio Divina

By Jeff Hedglen

North Texas Catholic

4/19/2016

It is often said that Catholics don’t read the bible or know much about Sacred Scripture. While in practice this might regrettably be the case, the Church not only does not discourage the reading of the Bible, we are highly encouraged to read and study this pivotal source of Divine Revelation. 

In the document from Vatican II called Dei Verbum (The Word of God) all Catholics are encouraged to read the Bible. The council fathers say that the faithful “should gladly put themselves in touch with the sacred text itself, whether it be through the liturgy, rich in the divine word, or through devotional reading …let them remember that prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that God and man may talk together” (DV, 25)

For people who have never opened the Bible, it can seem like a daunting task. To be sure, there is a lot to be gained through Bible study with someone who has a degree in biblical theology, but people with these qualifications are not hanging out in very many parish pews.
But this is not the only way to approach the Scriptures. One way that has born a lot of fruit in my life is called Lectio Divina (Divine Reading). This is a process of reading the Scriptures that dates back to the sixth century. There are five steps.

Step 1. Lectio (Read) 
Read the passage slowly and prayerfully. Ask yourself what is happening in this story, paying attention to any words or phrases that stand out to you. 

Step 2. Meditatio (Meditation) 
Prayerfully read the passage again quietly savoring the Word of God. Be fully present and open to the Lord. Now begin to think about the words or phrases that stood out to you. Come in faith with the expectation that the Lord will speak to you. To help you reflect more deeply ask God a question such as, “What does this mean?” or “Why this word/phrase, Lord?”

Step 3. Oratio (Prayer)
Cry out to God for the grace to be changed by what you have read. Respond to his Word from the depths of your heart either with a spoken or written prayer.

Step 4. Contemplatio (Contemplation)
Be quiet before the Lord enjoying his presence. In this stage set aside any words or thoughts and just rest in the Lord’s presence.

Step 5. Actio (Action) 
How is God calling you to live what you have learned? Try to think of one concrete thing you will do to respond to this time of prayer.
I like to do this form of prayer using the Gospel for the upcoming Sunday. Recently I was doing this with the parable of the Prodigal Son. Let me share a bit of my experience as a way of explaining how the process works.

The phrase that stood out to me as I read and meditated on this Gospel story was: “My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.” (Luke 15:31) As I reflected on this I thought about all the riches of the Church that are always there, but I do not take advantage of as much as I could; things like the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Adoration, the tabernacle at the parish, and many other opportunities to connect with God. I realized that too often I am like the older son, wallowing in my own self-pity, instead of indulging in the plethora of options that are always with me.

As I left that time of prayer I made a commitment to go to confession that week and take my rosary into the eucharistic chapel for some prayer time with Jesus. 

The power of Lectio Divina is in the reality that the Word of God is living. Jesus, the Word made flesh, is still speaking to us, even in the twenty-first century. When we come to the Scriptures expecting to hear from God and open to whatever the message is, we allow God to speak right to our hearts. Psalm 119 says that the Word of God is a lamp to our feet, but we have to open the page before the light can illuminate our path.

It is often said that Catholics don’t read the bible or know much about Sacred Scripture. While in practice this might regrettably be the case, the Church not only does not discourage the reading of the Bible, we are highly encouraged to read and study this pivotal source of Divine Revelation. 

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