With more Catholics reading the Bible, the ancient practice of “lectio divina” (divine reading) has gained favor in many homes.
The practice, which seeks to let God’s word work within one, features four elements: reading and listening to a passage from Scripture; meditating on a phrase or word as the Spirit moves you; opening up your heart to God through prayer; and, finally, contemplation – resting in God’s presence.
Tell me more about this process:
As developed by Saint Benedict -First came the lectio, reading the Scripture until a phrase was found that inspired the person to stop. Our natural tendency would be to read the phrase and think about what it means, what it has to do with our lives and then move on. But that was not part of sacred reading.
The next step was to memorize the phrase, repeat it over and over and over from memory without reading it, without thinking about it, just repeating it, until it seemed to be coming from the heart not the voice, until the power of the Word of God could take over.
When the phrase had lost all meaning except that power, the person would fall silent, still not thinking, but letting the inspiration of the Holy Spirit speak about the meaning in the heart.
And finally the person would sink into contemplation, going beyond the voice, beyond the intellectual understanding, to sit in the presence of God in the divine Word.
In one story of Benedict's life, a poor man came to the monastery begging for a little oil. Although Benedict commanded that the oil be given, the cellarer refused -- because there was only a tiny bit of oil left. If the cellarer gave any oil as alms there would be none for the monastery. Angry at this distrust of God's providence, Benedict knelt down to pray. As he prayed a bubbling sound came from inside the oil jar. The monks watched in fascination as oil from God filled the vessel so completely that it overflowed, leaked out beneath the lid and finally pushed the cover off, cascading out on to the floor.
In Benedictine prayer, our hearts are the vessel empty of thoughts and intellectual striving. All that remains is the trust in God's providence to fill us. Emptying ourselves this way brings God's abundant goodness bubbling up in our hearts, first with an inspiration or two, and finally overflowing our heart with contemplative love.