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Lectio Divina: Daily Information for a New Life

by Fr. Adam Ryan

Descriptive Title

Lectio Divina: Daily Information for a New Life — Even Three Minutes At a Time


Fr. Adam Ryan discusses the value of holy reading. He shows us how to draw profit for our spiritual life from spending a few minutes a day reading the Scriptures.

Publisher & Date

Conception Abbey Website, Fall 2000

The Rule of Benedict arranges daily life to be punctuated with a rhythm of set times for formal communal prayer: the Divine Office, also known as the opus Dei, the work of God.

The rest of the day, other than time for eating and sleeping, is divided into periods for manual labor and for lectio divina, the prayerful reading of the Sacred Scripture. So important is lectio divina for St. Benedict that he provides that one or two senior monks make the rounds of the monastery while the monks are doing lectio divina to supervise and encourage this sacred activity.

In the monastery Sunday becomes a day especially devoted to lectio divina: “On Sunday all are to be engaged in reading except those who have been assigned various duties” (RB 48).

Why lectio divina? St. Benedict asks and answers the same question: “What page, what passage of the inspired books of the Old and New Testaments is not the truest of guides for human life?” (RB 73:3) The reading of Scripture makes us more human and more alive. St. Benedict sees daily life as a journey; on this journey the Gospels are our special guide. (RB Prologue 21)

Whenever we gather in prayer as Christians we celebrate the Word of God. The Scriptures are central to every sacrament, every privileged ritual moment on our journey. The Psalms in particular are our private and communal prayer expressing the widest ranges of our relationship with God. But what about our ordinary daily life? What role does the Bible have in our lives?

St. Paul teaches us:

“The righteousness that comes from faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down) or “Who will descend into the abyss?”’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart’ (the word of faith that we proclaim) . . .” (Romans 10:6-9 [NRSV])

St. Benedict’s teaching on lectio divina is an invitation and a challenge. How often is the Word in our mouth, or in our heart? St. Paul here is citing Deuteronomy, where Moses also states:

“Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9 [NRSV])

Reading the Bible every day shapes and forms us. It also in-forms all on our life’s activities: here and there, at home or away, in and out. Moses and St. Paul and St. Benedict envision for us a simple but rich intimacy with the Word of God.

Throughout the Bible, the Word of God is compared to food. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy: “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4 [NRSV]). We can think about ways of reading the Bible in our daily lives by analyzing how we eat.

We eat in various ways. Sometimes we sit down and eat formally, one course after another. However, often we eat informally and lightly. At other times we have a snack. It may be that when it comes to reading the Bible we think only in terms of formally sitting down for an extended period of time and reading and studying. The result is that we might not make the time in our day for the Word of God.

Just as we sometimes walk to the refrigerator door, open it, look inside it and grab a bite, so too we can open the Bible and take a nourishing Word.

In the middle of projects we might sometimes grab a handful of peanuts and a refreshing beverage; likewise we can open the Bible and pray one verse of a psalm or a saying of Jesus. We eat only a mouthful at a time. God wants to feed us His Word in the same way. We become what we eat — literally. We also become what we read. Why? Because of the creative power of the Word, which changes us!

God’s word is effective: it gets things done! In the opening words of the Bible we see the power of the Spirit of God’s Word hovering over the waters of chaos and non-being. Then God speaks! Whatever he said came to be. “Light!”

This is true in the chaos before time. It is also true in our complex challenges and in the hidden hopes of our hearts. What God says, happens. Throughout the day we can let God create new order out of our chaos and brighten any and all darkness that assails us.

The Second Vatican Council teaches boldly that when the Scriptures are proclaimed in the Christian assembly Christ is really present. When we speak a verse of God’s Word at our desk, in our favorite chair, on our porch, in our car, as we walk, Christ is really present.

We speak of the Bible as God’s living Word. If it remains a closed book then it is only dead trees and dead ink. But if we open it and proclaim it with our breath, our respiration, then we experience the inspiration which God intends.

We can read and ponder the story of the Annunciation in the first chapter of Luke. There Mary can teach us what the Word of God can be in ordinary life.

  1. Mary allowed the Word to enter the space of her day.
  2. Just like us she wondered: “What can this mean for me?”
  3. As God wants us to do, Mary “talked back” in honest prayer and asked: “How can this be?”
  4. Then Mary said: Let your Word happen in me.

The result is that the Word became flesh. Mary became the Mother of God. As Mother of God we revere her. Jesus calls us to imitate her.

If we think we would like to read and pray from the Bible more but feel that we lack the time, we might consider that three minutes is sufficient time to take a Bible break and read a verse or two. Then we can continue to think about this Word as we are “in and out and about.”

Since early times Christians have had the habit of a continuous reading of a book of the Bible at fixed times of the day. We might try this: just read a verse or two and make a pencil mark and resume when we take our next Scripture break.

May each of us experience the real presence of Christ the Word as we take it to heart in all the places and situations of our day. Like Mary may we ponder the Word and say: “Yes, let it be done to me, according to your Word.”

© Conception Abbey

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