Today, at St. Andrew’s Hespeler, I did not really preach a sermon. Instead I introduced a method that people can use to read the scriptures for themselves and to discover God in their reading. This method of Christian reflection is called Lectio Divina. Here is an excerpt from my message:
So what I’d like to do today is give you a simple and straightforward way to approach the Biblical text all on your own. The method is called Lectio Divina. It was developed mostly in the Middle Ages by St. Benedict but, in some ways, it is as ancient as Scripture itself – it is the kind of approach to the Bible that is spoken of in that passage in Joshua and in the part of Psalm 119 we read this morning. It is so old that the method itself and the steps in the method are still referred to in the Latin language.
The first step in Lectio Divina, is called the lectio — which is Latin for reading. During this time you simply read a given passage. But the reading may be a little bit different from your usual reading practice. It’s not like reading a newspaper or a novel. You read a short passage slowly and read it over several times. And you pay special attention to the things that jump out at you as you read it. Often there is a word or a phrase that just seems to be louder or more insistent as you read. Don’t worry, for the moment, about why those things grab your attention. Just take note of them and write them down.
The next step is called meditatioor meditation. This is when you start to look closer at the things that stood out for you in the passage. Ask yourself questions like, “Why did that jump out to me? Is there something going on in my life or something that happened to me recently that that word or phrase might be speaking to?” Think about these things and, once again, write down your reflections. This is also the time to make use of other resources, if you have them, to better understand some of the things about the passage that might puzzle you. The meditatio might lead you in many directions.
The next part of the Lectio Divina is the oratio – which is Latin for prayer. But think of it as prayer in the simplest sense. It is just talking back to God – reflecting back the things that you have seen in the passage, that have caught your attention and maybe focussed your attention on what’s going on in your life. It’s kind of like what happens sometimes when you talk with your really good friend. You can share with them what you’re going through, just talk it out with them and they don’t even have to say very much, but you come away from that talk with a better understanding of what your problems really are. That’s the kind of talking to God that you do.
After the oratio comes the contemplatio or contemplation. This ends the entire exercise by taking some time to simply sit in silence – to turn off your mind as much as possible and wait expectantly to meet with God. Various spiritual exercises like the centring prayer that we will discuss in a few weeks can be used to open the mind to hear what God might have to say.