For the past two weeks we’ve been talking about re-interpreting and re-imagining our daily lives, our stories, and our journeys through a particular lens. A couple of weeks ago we looked at the Bible through the lens of pilgrimage, and I offered an Old Testament Retelling through the lens of pilgrimage (download it here). Last week, I shared my interview with Ronna Detrick about how she is re-imagining the stories of women in the Bible, bringing new life and wisdom where there has been oppression and neglect.
Today it’s your turn to re-interpret and re-imagine through the spiritual practice of lectio divina. Lectio divina (pronounced “lexio”) is a style of reading and gleaning, and while traditionally used with scripture, it can also be used with poetry, music, or even art. No matter the medium, lectio divina (literally, “divine reading”) involves sacred encounter and guidance.
Lectio divina is a perfect spiritual practice for the pilgrim. In fact, the process of lectio divina is no different than the way the pilgrim encounters the world, both while traveling and at home. Filled with intentionality, curiosity, and desire, the pilgrim takes in (1. read), ponders (2. meditate), encounters (3. pray), and reflects (4. contemplate).
As you continue practicing viewing your daily life, your stories, and your journeys through the eyes of a pilgrim, lectio divina is a wonderful spiritual practice to engage in regularly at home, while on retreat, or while traveling.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
Begin by first selecting your medium, whether a passage from the Bible, a poem, a song, a work of art, or something else you’d like to spend time with (it could even be outside!). If it is a passage, make sure it isn’t too long – it’s easier to focus in when the passage is smaller. Consider starting with a (shorter) psalm or the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12). If you’d like to use poetry, try “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver or “The Guest House” by Rumi (two of my favorites that I continually come back to). As you continue to practice, start a list of passages, poems, songs, etc. that you’d like to use with lectio divina.
After you’ve decided your medium, I suggest setting a timer for 20-30 minutes. Certainly you don’t have to stop when the timer goes off, but I find it best to set a timer for a longer period because it invites my westernized over-stimulated self to go deeper. Alternatively, you could set a timer for 5-10 minutes for each stage.
Now you’re ready to begin!
1. lectio | read
Read the passage through many times. Read it aloud; read it silently; read it slowly, pausing between each line or phrase. If you’re doing Lectio Divina with a group, have different voices read the text each time, and pause for a few moments of silence between each reading.
If you’re listening to a song, play through it a few times. And if you’re looking at a work of art, simply take it in.
As you continue to read the text (or listen to the song or take in the art), note what stands out to you: What draws you in? What resonates with you? What makes you uncomfortable? What leaves you with questions? You will take this phrase (or with art, an image) with you into step 2, meditation.
2. meditatio | meditate
Now it’s time to focus in on the phrase (or image) that stood out to you. Bring the phrase to mind and meditate on it; repeat it in your mind slowly, noticing what comes up for you. As feelings emerge, let them sink in without distracting you from your meditation – the phrase might still have more to give.
3. oratio | pray
As you transition from meditation into prayer, begin communicating with God about the phrase (or image) that stood out to you. Explore what made the phrase stand out to you initially and share any feelings that came up for you during your meditation. As you share these things in prayer, take note of any new insight you are given in regards to the text and/or what has been awakened in you through your phrase.
4. contemplatio | contemplate
As your time in prayer comes to a close, spend a few minutes in God’s presence contemplating what has happened within you throughout the time of reading, meditation, and prayer. Bring to mind any new insights you’ve received during this time, whether personal or in relation to the text, and let them sink in, coloring your way of being. You might be surprised how much such a simple and quiet process can alter your perspective and give you new direction.
I want to hear about your experience with lectio divina: Is it a new practice for you? What new insights or experiences have come from your lectio divina practice?