The discipline of spiritual reading finds its classical expression in what is known as lectio divina. Lectio is a posture of approach and a means of encounter with a text that enables the text to become a place of transforming encounter with God. M. Robert Mulholland Jr.. Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual
The term lectio divina comes from the Benedictine tradition and refers primarily to the sacred or devotional reading of the Bible. My growing suspicion is that our competitive, productive, skeptical, and sophisticated society inhibits our reading and being read by the Word of God. Lectio divina means to read the Bible with reverence and openness to what the Spirit is saying to us in the present moment. When we approach the Word of God as a word spoken to me, God’s presence and will can be made known. The regular practice of lectio divina presents occasions when my story and God’s story meet, and in that moment something surprising can happen. To read the Bible in this way means therefore to read “on my knees”— reverently, attentively, and with the deep faith that God has a word for me in my own unique situation. The Bible is primarily a book not of information but of formation, not merely a book to be analyzed, scrutinized, and discussed but a sacred book to nurture us, to unify our hearts and minds, and to serve as a constant source of contemplation. Nouwen, Henri J. M. Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit
Lectio divina provides us with a discipline, developed and handed down by our ancestors, for recovering the context, restoring the intricate cate web of relationships to which the Scriptures give witness but that are so easily lost or obscured in the act of writing.
Lectio divina comprises four elements: lectio (we read the text), meditatio (we meditate the text), oratio (we pray the text), and contemplatio (we live the text). But naming the four elements must be accompanied by a practiced awareness that their relationship is not sequential. Reading (lectio) is a linear act, but spiritual (divina) reading is not – any of the elements may be at the fore at any one time.
In the actual practice of lectio divina the four elements fuse, interpenetrate. Lectio divina is a way of reading that becomes a way of living. Eugene H. Peterson. Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading
“I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of Lectio Divina: the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart. If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church – I am convinced of it – a new spiritual springtime.” – Pope Benedict XVI , September 2005
In Lectio Divina we seek not to master or grasp the sacred text, but rather through it, prayerfully and silently, to come into the presence of God. We seek to be humbly attentive to God’s Holy Word, to savour it, and to let it enter into our heart as much as our heads, so that it may transform us.
Lectio Divina is not intended to increase our intellectual knowledge of the Bible (though it also has that effect); instead, it is intended to draw us closer to God, and to transform our attitudes and behaviour. Lectio Divina is not a catechesis or a teaching but it is a prayer, a divine reading, a personal encounter with God in Sacred Scripture. Cardinal Thomas Collins