The Spiritual Art of Lectio Divina
Prayer is at the center of Benedictine life. Understood as “the work of God,” lectio divina and the liturgy of the hours are among the first works of monastic life. We come together each day to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and celebrate the Eucharist, but lectio divina, though usually a private practice, is also fundamental to the Benedictine life of prayer and is essential to living and growing in Benedictine identity and spirituality. As the common calling, prayer brings the differences and various pursuits of a community together to a unified role and identity as monks. Prayer is a comfort in times of distress, a resource when in need, a selfless sharing and outpouring in moments of success and joy. Prayer is so fully a part of the “ins and outs” monastic life, that it establishes the pattern and rhythm of the day through the dynamic interchange of worship and work.
“Lectio divina” translates to “divine reading,” meaning a prayerful reading of Scripture, but also includes the writings of the Saints and Tradition. Though often referred to in the Latin, and so may, unfortunately, strike some as distant or foreign, the practice is really very common, even if the practitioner does not realize they are praying in the lectio divina style of prayer. Active and fundamental to the whole of the 2,000 years of Christian Tradition and inherited from the Jewish reverence for Scripture, lectio divina is an open, hopeful, and faithful trust and listening to God revealed in the Old and New Testaments, as well as the Spirit-filled writings and instructions of the Church. In short, every time you take a moment from your day to read from the Bible in faith, hope, and love, you are practicing lectio divina.
A habitual, or even infrequent, resource to Scripture in lectio divina is a trustworthy spiritual practice, even without instruction. However, committing yourself to lectio divina can be challenging, and as a private spiritual practice, an exclusion of conversation and guidance within the Church community can lead to misunderstandings and isolation. As a 2,000 year-old Christian prayer, many words of advice and methods have developed and inherited throughout the Church Tradition for the purpose of helping establish this practice as a perpetual and reliable part of life and spirituality.
One comprehensive introduction we favor and recommend is, Accepting the Embrace of God:The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina by Fr. Luke Dysinger, O.S.B., from Saint Andrew's Abbey in Valyermo, California.