Today’s Lectio Divina:
There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2nd Timothy 3: 15 (MsgB)
There is only one way of reading that is congruent with our Holy Scriptures…This is the kind of reading named by our ancestors as Lectio Divina, often translated as “spiritual reading,” reading that enters our souls as food, enters our stomachs, spreads through our blood, and becomes holiness and love and wisdom. Eugene Peterson
Ignatian Truth #6: Ignatian spirituality is all about Conversational Prayer. We are encouraged in the use of our God-given imagination – bringing together the right/left side of the brain. We walk with Jesus rather than just read about Him. We talk with God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as one converses with a friend.
As we mentioned earlier in this blog series, at the very core of the Ignatian Exercises, there is an invitation to draw closer to Jesus of Nazareth, the only begotten son of God. And just as it has been for every generation of Christ-followers (outside of those who were fortunate enough to walk hand-in-hand with the Master in the first-century), so it is with us: the very best way to grow in intimacy with our Savior is to:
- Read and ponder on Jesus as He is described in the Gospels using a reading style called Lectio Divina.
- Invite the Holy Spirit to reveal more of Jesus to us through Imaginative Contemplation as we read God’s Word.
- Converse with God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit through the use of Conversational Prayer.
These three ancient tools (Lectio Divina, Imaginative Contemplation, and Conversational Prayer) have been used successfully for many centuries by those who desire to walk more closely with the Master. Certainly, Ignatius was not the first to utilize these disciplines, but when they are combined in a structured way within the work of the Spiritual Exercises, many find new life in their pursuit of Christ.
Over the next three blog entries, allow me to describe these tools one at a time. Today, let’s look at Lectio Divina.
Lectio Divina is an ancient spiritual discipline, long used by Christ-followers as a means of listening deeply to the voice of God speaking through our sacred texts. A Latin phrase, Lectio Divina simply means ‘divine reading’ and is a powerful tool for the practice of listening, pondering, and enjoying the Presence of the Divine in the midst of reading God’s Word. Think of it as an intentional, slow meditative approach to the Bible, where you take extra moments to “listen between the lines,” allowing both time and space for what can, many times, be a powerful encounter with the heart of God.
In its truest traditions, Lectio Divina includes four readings (moves) of a text, with a fifth move added as the afterglow of resolve, where you take what you have received and ask God to show you what it means to have this word “live” in you.
Read (Move #1): As you begin to read your text, invite the Holy Spirit to “read” along with you. Take your time, reading slowly as you go. Pay attention for a word or phrase that seems to beckon you, that addresses you, that unnerves you, that disturbs you, stirs you, or seems especially ripe with meaning. More than likely, this is God’s Spirit highlighting something here you will want to pay more attention to.
Reflect (Move #2): As you read the text a second time, be aware if there is an image or feeling that stays with you as you read. What word or phrase is sparkling or shimmering for you right now? Ask yourself, “What is it in my life right now that needs to hear this specific word or phrase?” Then, as you hold onto that word or phrase, welcome into your heart whatever comes.
Respond (Move #3): As you read for the third time, ask yourself if there is an invitation waiting for you here? How is this specific word or phrase a special gift for you today? Give time here for the Holy Spirit to prompt a response to your questions.
Rest (Move #4): With a final reading, simply sit comfortably with the stirrings you’ve received. Be at peace as you reach this final step.
Resolve (Move #5): An action step now is to simply resolve to live out the word that you have received from God today. It is a gift so you might ask yourself: “What is it about this gift that needed to be given to today? In this moment?” Finally, if time allows, take some time to ponder, pray and journal what you have just experienced. Or perhaps you might consider taking a “pondering walk” as an action to your response to God’s Word?
Sadly, I must admit that as a pastor for over 30 years, I’ve been one who has been constantly in the Scriptures, but primarily for finding wisdom and truth to share with others. The Spiritual Exercises, and the use of Lectio Divina, has proven invaluable to me as it has helped me better appreciate my personal need to slow down in order to “read” the Gospel stories for myself. When combined with Contemplative Imagination, I must admit I’m reading God’s Word at a whole different level now than ever before! But more on that next time.
My prayer: Jesus, I’ve known You for over 60 years, but only until recently, as I have discovered the joys of Lectio Divina, combined with Contemplative Imagination and Conversational Prayer, have I found You in ways that have brought me into a deeper intimacy with You. Holy Spirit, I thank You for empowering and indwelling my slow reading of the Gospels, bringing life to these ancient stories and to me. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: The Gospels contain such familiar stories about Jesus, there’s a very good chance that I can close my mind and heart to learning or experiencing something new. Am I willing to slow down, open my heart, and ponder anew the stories of Jesus, inviting the Holy Spirit to “read” along with me, opening my soul anew to the amazing life within these ancient and holy texts?
How are you experiencing God as you ponder on these Ignatian truths today?
Over a period of twelve weeks (3 sessions per week), we will take this journey into Iggy’s Biggies, contemplating twelve foundational truths found within the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. We suggest you bookmark our blog series homepage to keep all the writings in one place for your future reference. Take note that each blog session begins with a short scripture reading. My suggestion is that you don’t hurry through, or skip the text, but treat it as a Lectio Divina reading where you slow down and sit a bit with God’s Word, allowing it to penetrate and influence you as you read.
If you’ve never journeyed through the Exercises, might I suggest that you find a qualified spiritual director and ask them to accompany you along the way? Here at The Contemplative Activist, we can offer a good number of highly qualified folks to do just that.
Oh, and if you enjoy what you’re reading here, we encourage you to share this page and our website, The Contemplative Activist, with your friends!