Sunday, July 31, 2011

An Interlude on "Lectio Divina"

This entry accompanies my July 31 message at Bidwell Presbyterian Church, "The Savor of Scripture." (Click here to hear the message.) It's an entirely brief overview of the ancient spiritual disciple of lectio divina or “divine reading” of the Bible. 

As writer and Presbyterian pastor Marjorie Thompson presents in her fabulous book on the spiritual life, Soul Feast, reading the Bible is like savoring a letter from a good friend. (There was a time when we used to write letters instead of whip off an email?) And in this case, our friend is God, who wants our best. It is therefore reading for formation over information. (By the way, a good form of literature for this practice is poetry, which forces us to slow down.)
The Benedictines (a monastic movement that began in the early 500s) have developed a four-step spiritual reading called lectio divina that works well for those who want to practice biblical meditation.
  •  lectio (reading): Start with silence. Quiet yourself. Then read the passage several times, being careful to read slowly. Using other translations is helpful in this step.
  • meditatio (meditation): Think hard about the passage. Ask questions. Look up difficult words in an English or Bible dictionary. Mull over a verse or phrase that has arisen from the first step. Let it percolate.
  •  oratio (prayer): Pray through the themes that God is bringing to your attention. This step may engage a wide range of emotions.
  • contemplatio (contemplation): Simply enjoy the place that God has led you through this reading, perhaps even simply being in God’s presence. You may also want to think through the action to which God is leading you.
Try this and see how it transforms your life.


Anonymous said...

Enjoy your occasional posts, sounds like you have fun there.
Done some lectio divina (LD hereafter) on and off for several years. I agree it can be very helpful with a couple caveats:
- I wonder how much of the change of heart or life is related to the actual LD and how much just to carving out time in a day for intentional focus on God and his word; I don't have an answer to this, but it might be an interesting experiment.
- I have heard a fair bit of criticism, mostly from the restless/reformed camp and from conservative Lutherans. Some criticisms seem valid (e.g. how do you do LD with "and Judas went out and hanged himself") while some seems a little paranoid (e.g. LD leads to a subjective faith which leads to epistemic or religious relativism). Seems overall a good practice, but not one I would recommend to someone who doesn't already have a good foundation in Bible/theology. I don't tend to recommend it for anyone at my church, which has only the faintest shadow of any sort of catechesis (we're working on it, alright?). Thanks (tom goodnow)

GCootsona said...

Tom: I think everything you've written is on target. Lectio divina is one good, additional way to engage with Scripture. For some Protestants, it does offer a new way to slow down while they read, which is very helpful... Greg