Introduction to lectio divina (sacred reading) in groups
Lectio divina is a reading, on an individual or communal level, of a passage of Scripture, received as the Word of God, which leads, at the prompting of the Spirit, to meditation, prayer and contemplation.
Its rediscovery runs parallel to a return to the study of the Bible on the part of the faithful. Both follow the recommendations of the Second Vatican Council. Originally practiced in monastic circles, today lectio divina represents a true grace of God with which to initiate all the faithful to a more fruitful life of prayer. -- Mario Masini, Lectio Divina: An Ancient Prayer That Is Ever New. Trans. Edmund C. Lane, SSP. New York: Alba House, 1998.
The elements of lectio divina
+ Lectio (reading): listening to and interpreting the biblical text
+ Meditatio (reflection): deepening and taking to oneself its message
+ Oratio (prayer): silent verbal prayer in which we give God thanks and praise
+ Contemplatio (contemplation): wordless prayer in which we seek to rest in God, putting aside thoughts, memories, and plans, in simple awareness, consciousness, and mindfulness, allowing ourselves to be, here, now
These are the movements of lectio as practiced individually.
Lectio on a communal level
When lectio divina is practiced in a group, members share, encourage, and support one another. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matt. 18:20
Description of lectio in a group
In both oratio and contemplatio we are transforming the word of God into prayer.
In addition, because as with Mary and Martha we are called both to hear and to do, there are collatio (comparison, bringing together), sharing the experience of the Word with others, and operatio (carrying out), witnessing to the Word as committed Christians.
The very nature of lectio divina is that it is unhurried.
The movements are not necessarily sequential. After lectio, there is no prescribed order in which one practices meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio. You can pass from one to another as the Spirit moves you. Indeed, there is nothing wrong with returning silently to lectio as well.
The purpose of contemplatio is simply to place ourselves in the presence of God. There is no way to fail at this: all you need to do is show up, that is, intend to be contemplative. There are no rules to follow, although guidance may be given. Memories, feelings, and thoughts will surely intrude. When they do, simply and gently let them go, and return to the Present. To be more fully in the present, you may want to attend to your breathing or (prior to starting contemplation) choose some word or image which will remind you of your desire and intention to be, here, now, in the Presence of God.
What passages to choose
We will start with a selection from the readings for the masses for the following weekend. Other good texts include selections from the parables, the psalms, the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus’ Last Supper discourse in John.
New participants are welcome at any time.
The group needs both a facilitator and leaders. The facilitator makes preparations for the meetings. The leader leads the group in lectio divina. Usually, the facilitor serves for some time, while the leaders may be anyone in the group.
The group as a whole decides where and how often to meet, how much time to spend in the sessions, and other matters related to group functioning.
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