Lectio Divina & Suggested Readings
Lectio Divina literally means ‘divine reading’. It is a contemplative practice that we find in all the monastic traditions — where the practitioner rests quietly with a text, allowing themselves in their unhurried reading to be open to the many layers of its meaning.
In the monastic traditions of all cultures, great spiritual texts have emerged from the personal lectio practice of their major teachers. These texts will speak to us on our retreats today, if we learn to read and listen to them.
Most of us have forgotten how to read spiritually.
It may help to have some guidance on lectio divina — on how to read as a way of listening to the text as an experience unfolding from within and for you. The experience is of ultimate reality, absolute love. It communicates itself through the text and will show you that the same experience is awakening in your heart.
In everyday reading, we read as we were taught at school — to get to the end of the text with as much information and as quickly and efficiently as possible. The aim being to apply the text for whatever needs to be accomplished — knowledge then becomes power. So we plunder texts, rushing through them or we want a text to entertain and distract us. In fact, today we do this more often by ‘reading’ Netflix or web-browsing.
Monastic and contemplative wisdom teaches that spiritual texts are also windows into higher reality. They are aspects of “revelation” and so deserve our quiet and still attention. We surrender the habit of “getting to the end of the text” and learn the habit of “being caught and held by the text”, “opened” by it, “communicate to” by the text.
This is especially true of the sacred texts of humanity. They deserve our reverence and our time and attention. In fact, it takes time, a life-time, to really get to know these texts and let them teach us so we are read by them. In the great spiritual texts, there are ever deeper layers that seek to be in conversation with us.
Texts for the contemplative practitioner are vehicles for the divine intimacy. They lead us from reading the text as an observer to:
- feeling a deeper empathy with what it means for you
- identifying and resonating with your own experience
- calling you deeper into the life of the Spirit
In Lectio Divina there will be moments:
- of reflection when you stop to ‘chew’ a word or phrase that captures you.
- to savour the wisdom that it is secreting.
- to ruminate and ponder in a moment of insight of opening your heart in humility and gratitude.
- of realising that we are reading in the presence of God consenting to being read by God.
- and for the Word to become Flesh in us.
During Lectio Divina, you may be sitting in your favourite chair by your favourite window with a cup of tea or in a structured moment of your timetable, like morning prayer. Be free. Open your mind and then your heart by paying attention to the text moment by moment. Be ready and willing to be surprised. Let yourself be taught. Allow the text to be your teacher. Let the the Word become the silence of “I AM.”
Some Additional Resources
- WCCM app; with gong for timing meditation
- The Bible
- Use your own Bible if you have one,
- or Bible GateWay offers all the translations and versions in many languages (www.biblegateway.com)
- The Hebrew Psalms are beautiful ancient poetry-songs that reflect almost every kind of human state of mind. You can read them selectively. An excellent selection for a retreat experience is The Psalms edited by Bede Griffiths
- The traditional Morning and Evening prayer in the monastic daily rhythm include the Benedictus or Song of Zechariah and the Magnificat or Song of Mary
- Universalis is a free online resource for prayer at set times of the day
Four Key Pocket-Size Texts
- Christianity: The New Testament
- Hindusim: The Upanishads
- Taoism: Tao Te Ching
- Buddhism: Dhammapada
● Lao Tsu, Stephen Addis (Translator)
The Bhagavad Gita
Kabir (Translation Andrew Harvey)
Mystics from all Traditions…
…are Common Friends to Accompany the journey. For example:
- St Paul
- John Cassian
- Evagrius Pontus
- The Cloud of Unknowing
- St John of the Cross
- Julian of Norwich
- Hildegard von Bingen
- Meister Ekhart
- Simone Weil
- Ettie Hilesum
- Abhishiktananda, Satchidananda
- Ramana Maharsi
- Sayings from the Zen Masters