“For haphazard reading, constantly varied and as if lighted on by chance does not edify but makes the mind unstable; taken into the memory lightly, it goes out from it even more lightly.” ~ William of St. Thierry
The “Rule of Seven” in marketing is based on the understanding that the average person needs to hear or see something seven times before making a decision to purchase a product. It affirms the value of repetition when it comes to having something sink into our minds.
Lectio Divina Catholic Practice
Lectio divina is a spiritual practice based on a similar understanding. In prayer, we certainly aren’t deciding to buy something, of course. Instead we are seeking to open our hearts. The process of lectio divina draws us into Sacred Scripture through careful listening, meditation, prayer, and contemplation. It moves us from the head – where we can get stuck in cerebral pursuits – to the heart, where the Word of God rests most comfortably.
Lectio divina first appears in writing in the Rule of Saint Benedict. His invitation to listen with “the ear of the heart” draws us into a spaciousness with God’s Word, one that deepens as we move into the process. Four movements in lectio divina keep us from the kind of “haphazard reading” William of Thierry described centuries ago. The first of these is lectio – listening. It is often suggested that the reading be done aloud so that the words move beyond the mind and reverberate in the heart. Author James Finley notes that “to practice lectio consciousness is to die to the temptation to think or to say something too soon.” He calls it “sustained receptivity to a beauty not yet thought about.” I love this description as it invites a slow and mindful way to engage with the Word of God.
The second movement is meditatio – meditation. To meditate upon the text draws us further into it through establishing a connection with it. This doesn’t mean we pull out the concordance and delve into exegesis, however. By remaining centered in the heart, we open ourselves to flashes or tastes of insight. This meditative movement cultivates inner understanding by inviting us to consider how the sacred text resonates with our lives and with the world around us.
The third movement is oratio – prayer. This way of praying often occurs in wordless form. We simply let arise in us that which inspires us, draws us closer to God, weans us away from self-reliance and into total surrender to God’s will and desire.
The final movement is contemplatio – contemplation. We step back and give the Word space, allowing it to rest in us as we rest in God. This allows the text to unfold as we are drawn into a deeper awareness of God’s presence. The “ear of the heart” then becomes attuned to that movement all around us. What a lovely way to experience Scripture and to make it a vital part of our lives.
In another We Believe and Share blog, I noted how Psalm 23 is well suited for lectio divina. Share the blog in your home or parish and then use one or two verses from the psalm to enter into this beautiful spiritual practice.
Download my Prayer for Reverence as a way to open your heart, no matter which spiritual practice you choose.