Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Praxis: Lectio Divina

The first practical exercise we'll explore here is called Lectio Divina, Sacred or Divine Reading. This is an important exercise, since we, among other faiths, have a large collection of texts at our disposal (such as the Bible and the Nag Hammadi finds). While we must, by all means, utilise our intellect in our approach to these texts, it is also important to "read" them in another manner, to allow the truth that is hinted by their words to filter into our heart and change us. In this sense, reading such scripture becomes a form of prayer, a method of communion with the Divine.

This process generally takes the following form, though don't feel limited to it, as each individual reader and reading will follow its own path when allowed to, and communication with God is never truly defined by the bonds of structure. Take it as a guideline and go from there:

1. Lectio

This is the reading part itself, but unlike some other forms of reading, where we may be merely skimming the lines or trying to hurry through to the next paragraph, this should be a slow, deliberate reading of the selected material. Several rereads are also good practice, to allow the verse (etc.) to sink in.

2. Meditatio

This is the part where you meditate upon the words and meaning of the reading you have chosen. Try to uncover its meaning and how it applies to you, but don't force it; let it flow naturally from the piece itself, letting key words lead you on trains of thought and new meaning.

3. Oratio

This is the part where you make a response to the piece and your findings through meditation on it. It is where, effectively, you "talk" to God, expressing what you have discovered about the world and yourself via the reading.

4. Contemplatio

This is the part where God makes his response, and this is accomplished by trying to clear the mind from your own conscious and unconscious thought patterns and allowing the voice of the divine to descend upon you. While this is expressed in terms of a dialogue, it's important to note that this is primarily an inner dialogue, so expect "contact" via thoughts, ideas, etc. that arise during your contemplation.

While some of the above stages may seem similar to each other, the subtle differences can only truly be known by actually practicing it. It's also important to note that you should not select a huge piece of scripture to read, as this may distract from the exercise itself. You are more likely to have success with this exercise if you take small passages individually and allow them to sink in without battling for attention with other passages.

And that's that. Remember, this is not merely a form of reading. It is a sacred act of communion with the Divine, an act of prayer that opens the channels on both ends. With that I wish you the best with practice of this. Feel free to leave comments on how you are progressing.

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