Reading the Bible: A Conversation with the Lord
One of the central aims that Bishop Boyea has set out for the Year of the Bible is to find in the Scriptures a place of encounter with the Lord. The daily question for lectio divina is meant to do that by helping to initiate a conversation with the Lord, based on the text of the daily chapter.
What is Lectio Divina?
Lectio divina is a “diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer,” writes Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. This ancient way of approaching God through the Scriptures, Pope Benedict continues, “brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart (cf. Dei Verbum, n. 25). If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church—I am convinced of it—a new spiritual springtime.”
Since God is the primary author of the Sacred Scriptures, praying with the Bible takes the form of a conversation: listening to what God is saying, taking what was said to heart, responding to God from your heart, and resting in God’s presence. Lectio divina describes the parts of this conversation:
As you enter into this conversation with the Lord, it is helpful to reflect on how conversations happen:
After we’ve listened to what a person says to us, we then try to understand—literally we endeavor to “stand among” those words, to bring the words into ourselves and stand in them, trying to understand what these words mean and how they apply to me. If it’s a question I hear, I bring it into myself and ask myself that question. For example, if I’m asked, “How are you?” I turn that question to myself, asking:
“How am I?”
And I respond with what I discover within myself: I’m tired, I’m upset, I’m hungry, etc.
The Blessed Mother gives us an example of this when she hears the words of greeting that the Angel Gabriel addresses to her: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28). Mary doesn’t answer immediately, but rather turns the words over: Mary was “greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be” (Lk 1:29). Just so, when we hear God’s word and something from what is being said strikes us in a particular way, we might ask, what does that mean? why is that phrase striking me? why is that word jumping out to me? why is it being used in this passage? what is it about my daily life that is making this word hit me so much? Pope Francis describes several of these kinds of questions:
“Lord, what does this text say to me? What is it about my life that you want to change by this text? What troubles me about this text? Why am I not interested in this? Or perhaps: What do I find pleasant in this text? What is it about this word that moves me? What attracts me? Why does it attract me?” (EG, 153).
The best conversations happen when we respond with what’s really in our hearts. If you’re reading Isaiah 63, you might be struck by verse 19 where it is written, “We have become like those over whom you have never ruled, like those who are not called by your name.” This verse might make you feel sad and lonely because it illustrates how sin isolates us and alienates us from God. Maybe it makes you reflect on ways that your sins separate and distance you from God. Since we received this verse as part of a conversation, we simply respond to God by expressing what’s on our heart. Maybe something like this: “Lord, I’ve felt like that before—when I choose to put other things ahead of you I feel lonely and isolated. I don’t want to feel that way anymore. Help me to struggle against putting other things ahead of you so that I can know your closeness.”
When you have spoken to God everything that’s on your heart, the conversation then moves to the rest phase. This is really the goal: to allow your mind and heart to rest in the Lord, to contemplate Him in what He has spoken to you, to be in union with Him. Some of the closest friendships I’ve ever had are marked by the ability to dwell in a closeness to each other through a conversation we’ve shared. It’s like resting in the joy of holding a newborn baby, or when the lover and the beloved stare into one another’s eyes. When that happens, we don’t need to speak anymore words. It’s for good reason that the classical tradition of prayer calls this step of lectio divina, contemplation, because it carries the sense of “to gaze attentively.” Contemplation includes the ideas of turning toward each other and dwelling upon the One being contemplated. As one man said of his contemplation of the Lord in Eucharistic Adoration: “I look at Him and He looks at me” (CCC 2715).
The goal of intimate conversation is to share yourself with another and to arrive at some level of communion. Obviously, good conversation doesn’t happen all at once. It takes work to hear and understand each other. Following the steps of conversation isn’t an end in itself, so don’t cling to them rigidly. Just as it’s always more important to breath than to be able to describe the biological process of breathing, so it’s more vital to be able to share intimate dialogue with someone than to be able to follow or describe the parts of a conversation. Nevertheless, using these steps as a guide will help move the conversation toward that “intimate dialogue” where, as St. John Henry Newman would say, “heart speaks to heart.”
The Conversation of Lectio Divina - Follow this Pathway:
Read the passage with care.
Take it into yourself. Ask questions. What is striking you? Why?
Speak to God out of what you read and what you’re feeling. Be open. Share your heart
Dwell with God in what you’ve heard and discussed with Him. Rest in the things you’ve shared together.
You might use the following prayer to begin your time of lectio divina:
Lord, I know that you are here. I know that you are present. I know that you see me, that you hear me, that you love me. I adore you with profound reverence. I ask pardon for my sins and the grace to make this time of prayer fruitful. My Immaculate Mother, Saint Joseph my father and lord, my guardian angel, intercede for me.