Lectio Divina is one of Christianity's oldest methods of prayer. It was used in the desert communities of the Levant during the first few centuries of the Christian era, and was embodied in the work of the Pseudo-Dionysius, particularly in his book On The Divine Names. It was also enshrined in the Rule of St. Benedict, and became a distinctive feature of monastic life.
Designed to be used by both individuals and groups, Lectio Divina consists of the slow repetitive reading of a passage of scripture, followed by meditating upon its significance. Traditionally, the reading, termed LECTIO, is read aloud with the emphasis placed upon the act of listening; the text is repeated continually until the passage is known ‘off by heart’. In a group setting one person reads whilst everyone else listens attentively, fully engaging with the reading; repeating the words softly under their breath, as it were.
After a given period of time the reading stops and a period of reflecting upon the nature and significance of the passage takes place. This pondering upon the words of the sacred text is called MEDITATIO, that is, meditation. The movement of the will in response to such reflections is known as ORATIO, and often results in the spontaneous outpouring of inspired writing or other forms of creative expression. As the ORATIO subsides, the soul often becomes very calm and experiences a state of profound peace. In attending to that ‘Peace’ the soul may discover that it is resting in the ‘Presence of God’, a term that defies further explanation. This state is known as CONTEMPLATIO – Contemplation. Lectio Divina is not a pleasure ride, quite the opposite, it is a labourious undertaking requiring the full attention of the soul and may cause a surprising amount of discomfort. It is consequently not an obligatory discipline for Order members but is undertaken voluntarily .