Lectio Divina, The Sacred Art begins with a historical introduction to the practice, which emphasizes that it was rooted in the Judaic tradition of Haggadah, an “interactive interpretation of the Scriptures by means of the free use of the text to explore its inner meaning.” Paintner also notes the monastic origins of lectio divina; many centuries before the invention of the printing press, when scripture was nowhere near as accessible as it is today, monks would memorize and ruminate on scripture, praying over it throughout the day and continually submitting themselves to the words of the text. It was out of this context that the four-fold practice of lectio divina would be formalized among the Benedictines in the twelfth century.
The heart of Paintner’s book, the middle of its three parts, focuses on exploring each of the four steps of lectio divina:
Lectio: Settling and Shimmering
Let go of distractions, assume a posture of prayer, and do an initial reading of the text paying attention for a particular phrase that stands out – i.e., that shimmers, “beckons you, addresses you, unnerves you, disturbs you, stirs you, or seems especially ripe with meaning” (10).
Meditatio: Savoring and Stirring
Slowly read through the text again, using the phrase that stands out as a lens to guide your reading and stir your imagination
Oratio: Summoning and Serving
Allow the text to speak into your own life (and the life of your church community). What light does it shine on the present situation? What are we being compelled to do? How is the text drawing us deeper into the life and way of Jesus?
Contemplatio: Slowing and Stilling
It is striking that following the Oratio stage, we do not jump up immediately and go follow the Spirit’s leading through the text, but rather, “[this] movement is about slowing yourself down and resting into the still presence of God. The idea is to simply be, rather than trying to do anything. This is a time for offering gratitude for God’s presence in this time of prayer and stilling yourself in silence” (11).
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