Lectio Divina

Soul ReadingTM is based on the ancient practice called Lectio Divina.

Lectio Divina can be pronounced lex-ee-o or lek-tee-o. Either is correct. The term is simply Latin for “divine reading.”

It is believed that Lectio Divina was formalized as a practice by Benedictine monks in the middle ages,
though the rationale for this type of reading can be traced back to Origen in the 3rd Century and the desert fathers and mothers. Some even point to Romans 10: 8-10 as Biblical encouragement for the practice.

Lectio Divina is a method of reading Bible which acknowledges the riches embedded in scripture and provides a simple process for exploring and savoring these riches. The process or method of Lectio Divina has four steps or movements. The scripture passage is to be read four times, once for each movement. These are lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio.

Lectio means to read. It is the first movement in which a passage is read and understood in its context as intended by the author.

Meditatio refers to the second movement of meditation when the reader should read and should notice what phrase or parts of the scripture are calling out for attention.

Oratio means prayer. During this phase of Lectio Divina, the reader should reflect on how this passage and especially the phrases and parts that are calling out for attention speak to the reader’s life. The reader then reads the passage, this time as a prayer for that part of the reader’s life.

Contemplatio is to contemplate. During this phase, the reader considers what bit of wisdom has been gained that can be carried into their life. The process is then closed out with one last reading.

Christians have found this to be a meaningful way to read scripture for centuries. It can be done alone or in groups.

Soul Reading adapts this practice for modern readers – people who love books and understand how their world expands through reading and that sometimes the deepest, most universal truths are found in the small specifics of a great story.

Soul Reading adapts Lectio Divina in two ways:
• By encouraging readers to find deeper meaning and relevant life lessens in contemporary books, not just religious scriptures
• By offering a process that can be used on book-length works instead of short passages of one-three paragraphs

The four steps in Soul Reading are:

Impression – consider your initial reaction to the book and where the book fits or ranks in your own reading life, a little bit about your context for reading it

Exploration – survey the elements of the story in order to better understand what captured your attention and why and develop a better appreciation or critique for what the author is doing for you.

Reflection – relate the book more specifically to your life: what lessons does it have for you based on your experiences, a problem you are facing? What knowledge you bring to the book and/or your current view of the world?

Transformation – how would you like this book to change you? What do you want to remember or forget, what questions does it raise?

Soul Reading can be done as a quiet, reflective exercise after reading a book with or without a journal to take notes. It can also be used to direct discussion in a book group. The Soul Reading Journal offers several specific prompts for each step in the Soul Reading process and is a helpful tool for Soul Reading that can become a nice keepsake for tracking your own reading life.

In 2009, Raymond Studzinski published a very thoughtful book, Reading to Live: the Evolving Practice of Lectio Divina. This book suggests that a more contemplative approach to reading could bring more meaning into our lives. I’ll close this post with some of his words from the conclusion of that book:

Lectio is an ancient method but one that has a future in a world adrift without secure moorings…To read in the ancient way is to read with a contemplative awareness that senses that the world and all that surrounds us is more than it seems…Lectio is “liturgy,” in its own way a public work, although often done in solitude, and it does what liturgy does for believers. It binds people together in a meaningful world and in a relationship to that which grounds all of reality…Here is a sacred encounter that changes people. What people read, they begin to live. So now, as for the desert elders of centuries ago, the Word is made visible in the performance that is the life of a faithful reader. The script comes alive. Words read live on in another visible form. Imaginations fire up in both readers and those who witness the impact that reading has on them. Lectio is not so much about the past as it is about the present and the future. It is a practice that once served the past but stands ready to open us for the future.