The Spiritual Art of Lectio Divina
Prayer is at the center of Benedictine life. Understood as “the work of God,” lectio divina and the liturgy of the hours are among the first concerns in the day of monk. As a shared calling, prayer brings the differences and various pursuits of a community together with a common role and identity as monks. Prayer is a comfort in times of distress, a resource when in need, a selfless sharing and outpouring in times of success and joy. Prayer is so fully a part of the “ins and outs” monastic life, that it establishes the pattern and rhythm of the day through the dynamic interchange of worship and work. We come together each day to pray the liturgy of the hours and celebrate the Eucharist, but lectio divina, though usually a private practice, is also fundamental to the Benedictine life of prayer, and is essential to living and growing in Benedictine identity and spirituality.
“Lectio divina” translates to “divine reading,” meaning a prayerful reading of Holy Scripture, and other spiritual texts. Though often referred to by its Latin title, striking some as distant or foreign, the practice is really very common. It may be that the practitioner does not realize they are praying in the lectio divina fashion. Active and fundamental to the whole of the 2,000 years of Christian Tradition, and inherited from the Jewish reverence of Scripture, lectio divina is an open, hopeful and faithful trust and listening to God revealed in the Old and New Testaments, as well as the Spirit-filled writings and instructions of the Church. In short, every time you take a moment from your day to read from these writings in faith, hope and love, you are practicing lectio divina.
Beginning and returning again and again to Scripture in lectio divina is a trustworthy spiritual practice, even without extensive instruction. However, committing yourself to lectio divina can be challenging, and as a private spiritual practice, an exclusion of conversation and guidance within the Church community can lead to misunderstandings. As a 2,000 year-old form of Christian prayer, many words of advice and methods have been developed and inherited throughout the Church Tradition for the purpose of helping establish this practice as a perpetual and reliable part of Christian life and spirituality.
An excellent introduction we favor and recommend is Accepting the Embrace of God:The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina by Fr. Luke Dysinger, O.S.B., from Saint Andrew's Abbey in Valyermo, California.