Saturday, October 14, 2006

Lectio Divina

I think I've experienced the term lectio divina variously used in books, lectures, and events in a wide variety of ways. At root, they've been the same. Read the passage more than once. Do something different with it each time you read it.

Since it is an "art" rather than a science, it's not surprising that there are different descriptions or methodologies. Nevertheless, the dissimilarity of some portions of what gets called "lectio divina" has left me puzzled.

Historically, the term was described first by Guigo II in the 12th century:

Reading is the careful study of the Scriptures, concentrating all one's powers on it. Meditation is the busy application of the mind to seek with the help of one's own reason for knowledge of hidden truth. Prayer is the heart's devoted turning to God to drive away evil and obtain what is good. Contemplation is when the mind is in some sort lifted up to God and held above itself, so that it tastes the joys of everlasting sweetness.

This outlines what can be briefly stated with four terms:

Lectio- reading
Meditatio- application of mind
Oratio- prayer
Contemplatio- the cream of the crop, joyous contemplation

My Advent discipline will be to read the Bible regularly in this way, reducing my normal reading schedule substantially. I have heard, and will heed, the words of Bonhoeffer, a warning against using lectio as stealth study time. It is a constant danger for all pastors. We read the Bible in order to prepare for a sermon or class, but do not read it as it addresses us. Bonhoefer writes, "Do not ask how you should tell it to others, but ask what it tells you."


  1. The four-step model of lectio that you outlined is certainly the one that I know best. In my years at a very anglo-catholic seminary, I became quite well acquainted with lectio and other forms of contemplative prayer. I think you will find it greatly rewarding.

    Your warning to not use lectio as stealth study is right on ... But, you will certainly find your understanding and insight to the scriptures will expand and open in new ways. It will, undoubtedly, influence your preaching and teaching in ways you do not expect.

  2. I have deeply enjoyed and benefitted from the discipline as well. I have been offering a shortened version at the opening of some Church meetings at a small gathering in San Diego. It has been well received and I thought to create a blog as a way to encourage people to practice this reading/meditation daily.

    The purpose of the blog is really only to suggest passages daily and provide a place for sharing their experiences in a spirit of edification. You're all welcome to join us, and I would really appreciate any suggestions you might make about the functionality of the blog I've created. I want it to be as intuitive as possible.

    check it out at