We’re on Day 8 of Thy Kingdom Come, and today we’re going to talk about a way of reading prayerfully, which Christians throughout the ages have used as a way to connect with God and listen to his voice. It is called Lectio Divina, a Latin phrase that means ‘Godly Reading’ or ‘Divine Reading.’ Or perhaps we could call it ‘Reading with God.’
It’s first and foremost a way of reading Scripture, although you could apply it to any sort of literature—a poem, say. It involves going through four stages, each of which deepens and changes our awareness of what the text is saying. It is reading, but it is also a prayer. We are asking God to speak to us and change us through what we read.
The first stage—and thank-you to Father Richard Peers, our former diocesan director of education, for sharing this way of approaching Lectio Divina—we will call acquainting ourselves with the text. We read several times, slowly and thoughtfully, and understand the literal meaning of the words. What is the reading about? Who is speaking, and to whom?
The second we will call friendship with the text. Again, we read through slowly and thoughtfully several times. We may wish to home in on just a handful of verses. Use your imagination to place yourself in the scene. Sounds, smells and images may come to mind. We may visualise the setting or the people mentioned in the text. We get a sense that we’re part of what’s happening in the text.
The third stage we call intimacy. We have understood the plain meaning of the text and sealed the reading in our imaginations. Now we want it to really get inside us and change us. How do these words change my thoughts? Will I change my actions because of them? We read prayerfully and allow God to challenge us and form us.
The final stage we will call union. We read slowly, as a kind of prayer. We soak in the words, and we rest in God’s presence. We don’t have any particular aim, and having already thought consciously about what it means and how it might change us, we just ‘let the word dwell in us richly,’ as St Paul says. We let God imprint it on our hearts and minds.
Today we’re going to read the words of the prophet Isaiah, from Isaiah 61.1-4. We’ll read the whole passage, and then we’ll home in on just a few verses—those which Jesus himself read aloud when he began his public ministry. Father Jeff has kindly volunteered to read for us, and we will listen to him at the beginning of each stage of Lectio Divina, then spend some time reading ourselves, whether aloud or silently. Fr Jeff begins reading at 3:22, and the full text (with the part Jesus read in bold) is below the video.
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.