Lectio Divina 101

Every so often, Wonder Voyage travels back in time when a team has the opportunity to live in a monastery that has existed for hundreds of years. There is a significant connection to our roots of faith when we pray in places that have absorbed tens of thousands of prayers from ages past. We may open Holy Scripture and reflect on words that transform our lives and our world. This begs a question: how did the monastic seekers of God reflect on the scriptures when they had no personal Bible? The first printed Bible did not come out until the fifteenth century. That leaves hundreds of years where scripture was handwritten and in high demand. Each monastery typically had a singular copy of the scripture. So how did they learn and lean into the Word of God?

Several times a day, they gathered for prayers and a community reading of scripture called Lectio Divina. Lectio is an ancient spiritual discipline where a community comes together for divine meditative reading.  The purpose of this spiritual discipline is to listen to the Word of God with the heart in all situations.  The idea is to move from a conversation with God through His Word to communion with Him.  The communities’ desire was for the external Word of God in scripture to open us up to the interior Word of God in the core of each person’s being.  As we look for Christ in the written word, we find Him by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Lectio Divina is a favorite among our pilgrims. The Holy Spirit shows up through God’s Word, and our pilgrims often experience God speaking to them through the Holy Scriptures.  Here is a quick run-through of how Lectio Divina works.  Asking the group to journal through the process is invaluable.

  1. As a foundation, remember that Lectio is not a set of linear steps but a circular process of reading > reflecting > responding > resting > reading > 
  2. The leader reads the passage out loud while the participants listen for a word or phrase that stands out, or as the ancient monks described, “a word that shimmers.” Write the word or phrase in your journal.
  3. The leader asks the participants to reveal their words or phrase (nothing more).
  4. The leader reads the passage aloud again and asks the participants to focus on the word or phrase.  Then the leader asks each person to journal then share what his or her word or phrase means in general terms.
  5. The leader reads the passage for the third time.  Then the leader asks the participants to journal then share what their word or phrase means to them specifically.  The leader must keep the participants from speaking rhetorically and instead encourage them to ponder how God is specifically speaking to them through the word or phrase that shimmered.
  6. Journal the experience or take a few moments of silence to ingest the word.

After a decade working in parish youth ministry Shawn started Wonder Voyage Missions. Over the last 15 years, WVM has led thousands of pilgrims to over forty countries. Shawn is a storyteller and an award winning filmmaker. He is an author who brings the gift of engaging narrative to our journeys. Shawn is dedicated to creating voyages that give people abundant opportunities to encounter God.

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