Meditation and Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading)

Teachers of meditation in the Christian tradition, like John Main, Laurence Freeman, and teachers of centering prayer like Basil Pennington and Thomas Keating, all agree that Lectio Divina is a basic spiritual discipline and that meditation / centering prayer works best in the context of Lectio, which is a method of praying with scripture.  I Like Lectio because it encourages a heart-felt response to scripture.   The text only gives life when the Spirit engages the listener with the text.  Read in a cold, detached way the text will not do anything for you.  “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.”  (Luke 2:19)

The stages of Lectio are:

  1.  Lectio: slowly reading the text, out loud, if possible.
  2. Meditatio: reflecting on a word, phrase or verse, which rings a bell for you or comes alive in some way.   Think about why it rings a bell for you and what associations come to you.  It may be a negative association or a positive one.
  3. Oratio: talking with God about your reaction to the text or the feelings evoked in you.  Also consider any invitation you hear from the text.  You may do some journaling at this point.
  4. Contemplatio: the active part of Lectio is followed by listening in silence, awaiting God’s presence, with no conditions or expectations.  This is the time for being not doing.

Meditatio (stage 2) is the older use of the word “meditation” in the Christian tradition, but it refers to a thinking process.  Contemplatio (stage 4) is much more akin to meditation as it is understood by most people today.  If there is any difference in the modern use of the words, we might say that meditation is the method and contemplation is the state achieved by it.

I follow the four steps of Lectio every morning, concluding with silent meditation using the mantra, as taught by John Main.  It takes about 30 – 40 minutes in all and is a good way to begin the day.

For a more detailed description you might check the following article by Luke Dysinger, O.S.B.  He also has suggestions for group Lectio Divina.

About John Fisk

I am a retired pastor, who served churches in New England for 33 years. I emigrated to the USA from England in 1974 and completed two graduate degrees in theology and pastoral practice at Andover-NewtonTheological School. In retirement I am focused on the teaching of Christian meditation, providing spiritual guidance, leading retreats and occasional preaching. I am particularly interested in contemplation, the mystical path and social justice.
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One Response to Meditation and Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading)

  1. Pingback: The Four Spiritual Types (Part 2) | The Still Point

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