STEWARDSHIP OF TIME: OUR PRAYER RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
THE WORD MADE FLESH IN LECTIO DIVINA
St. Augustine’s phrase “ever ancient, ever new” describes a renewed interest in praying with Scripture. As we celebrate the birth of our Savior – the Divine Word made Flesh – we are challenged to gain a renewed sense of who we are – redeemed believers taught how to love and live by the God who loved us enough to become one of us.
A simple, insightful way to hear and experience the Word of God is an ancient prayer form called lectio divina. It is a form of meditation that dates back to early monastic communities. It was practiced by monks in their daily encounter with Scripture, as they prepared for the Eucharist and as they prayed the Liturgy of the Hours. It continued in the Middle Ages in religious orders, such as the Benedictines and Carmelites. They practiced lectio divina daily and passed this treasure on to future generations. The practice is resurfacing today as a wonderful way to meditate on God’s Word.
“Lectio divina” may be translated as “divine reading.” As one reads and invites the Word to become a transforming lens that brings the events of daily living into focus, one can come to live more deeply and find the presence of God more readily in the
events of each day.
The method of lectio divina follows four steps: lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation), contemplatio (contemplation), and oratio (prayer). The early monks understood that the fruitfulness of a person’s prayer depends upon the simplicity, reverence and openness to the Spirit with which the “reader” approaches the Word of God. The goal of this reading is not to rush through several chapters of Scripture. The reader, rather than trying to take in large sections of Scripture, adopts a reflective stance towards a short Scripture passage, pauses on a single word or phrase that resonates with the mind and heart.
This “reading” leads to the second step, known as “meditatio” – Latin for “meditation” – which invites one to reflect upon what was read. The ancients explained this as a deep, unhurried thinking about the Word one has read – a rumination, a pondering. As the Word is read in this step, the process of ruminating gradually draws the meditator’s focus from concerns of the mind to concerns of the heart.
The Word moves a person more deeply with the third step called “contemplatio” or “contemplation.” Contemplation is characterized by an openness of the heart by which the reader experiences God as the One who prays within, who allows the person in contemplation to know the Word wordlessly and without image. By God’s grace, contemplatio gives one a unique ability to connect one’s newly discovered insights to daily life experiences with the inspiration that comes from the Word of God and that has the gracious capacity to refresh the heart and mind.
The fourth and final step, “oratio,” meaning “oration” or “prayer,” invites one’s personal response to God. This response is dialogical and can be understood as “a conversation between friends,” as St. Teresa of Avila defined prayer. One takes the time to talk to God about what was read, heard, or experienced, or about the questions that have arisen
in the depths of one’s being. This response can become transformative when one accepts the promptings of the Word toward an embrace of all that life now holds. One can find God in the ups and downs of life, in times of joy and pain, as well as in ordinary, everyday moments.