Lectio Divina as a UU spiritual practice
In the Christian tradition, the practice of Lectio Divina, or the “divine reading” of holy text, comes from the Benedictine orders of monasticism and contain four parts, the reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation. This practice contains a similar format, which seeks to invoke the spirit and central idea of our chosen reading. At the core of the lectio divina practice, is the divine spark within each selection from a piece of writing, whether it be the Gospels, secular poetry, our own UU principles, a pagan invocation, or the prose of a gifted hip-hop artist.
Begin by taking a few breaths, seeking to approach a place of deep listening and contemplation.
Now, read silently, or aloud, the words of your chosen reading and let the words wash over you, noticing the whole text, from the shape of the sounds, the connections between breaths, the joining of thoughts, to the conceptual whole.
From the Rev. Dr. Andrew Pakula:
Let there be light
The light of joy, the light of happiness, and the light of contentment
May it illuminate our paths and fill our lives with peace
And let there be dark
For it is from our dark places that we are brought forward
Tried and tested
And impelled toward growth
It is in these places that we realize compassion and learn to love
And there was day and there was night.
And there was joy and there was sorrow.
And it was good.
MEDITATIO: (Listening and Meditation)
Look at this reading a second time, grab hold of a word or phrase that speaks to your heart, and meditate upon it deeply for a minute or two, letting your associations arise, and fall away, holding firmly to that word or that phrase as the core.
ORATIO: (Prayer and Response)
You may wish to light a chalice or candle as you respond to this reading. This time is for prayer, response, journaling, or art which “replies” to the reading which you are pondering. Allow yourself to freely associate and be creative in this time, using the reading as a springboard to people and issues which are most present in your life.
You may wish to ask yourself questions like:
What does this reading mean to you?
How are you inspired by the text?
Is there a piece that gives rise to emotions or where you feel stuck?
Where are there images or sounds that hold literal or metaphorical meaning for your life?
Now integrating this piece in its whole and its parts, as you leave this practice, how will these words, and your contemplation on their divine core, guide you through your week? Once you have found an answer which satisfies you, thank yourself for taking the time to deepen your faith practice and blow out your candle or chalice to bring your prayerful time to a close.
You may return to this piece in weeks to come, or find other readings, long or short, a piece of music, a bit of conversation that you can listen to with deep attention and turn over in your heart to gain wisdom and compassion for its gifts.
May this spiritual practice of deep listening, of finding the divine in what is said and heard, help you grow in your understanding of what each of our relationships can be, to one another, to our world, and to that which gives meaning to our lives.
Spiritual practice adapted from traditional Catholic monastic practice by Ministerial Intern Elizabeth Mount in 2017