What is Lectio Divina?
Lectio Divina is Latin meaning “sacred reading.” It’s a form of scriptural reflection dating back to the 3rd century which further developed through desert communities and in monastic living. By the 20th century, the practice of Lectio Divina was made available to the general public and is frequently used in churches, spiritual retreats, and for personal devotion. Lectio Divina is a way of engaging with scripture apart from gaining information.
The heart of this prayer practice is communion with God through four stages: reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation.
Lectio Divina is a slow, powerful way of digesting God’s word. Gilberto Cavazos-Gonzalez, OFM (Order of Friars Minor, also known as the Fransican Order) in his book, Beyond Piety, summarizes well the importance of this way of interacting with scripture when he said, “As Christians we are called to read the books of God’s word not just for the practice of Lectio Divina but in order to re-envision our lives as true disciples of Christ.” Lectio Divina is an invitation to cooperate with the Holy Spirit so that Jesus shines forth in you as you serve to establish God’s Reign here on earth. So blessings to you as you steep in God’s Holy Scripture. (Psalm 1: 1-2)
What is Advent?
The season of Advent has been celebrated as early as the 4th century. It marks the start of the Christian Church calendar. Traditionally, Advent is a season of fasting and prayer as we long for, anticipate, and wait for the second coming of Christ through recalling Israel’s longing for a Savior and King. The word Advent in Latin means, “coming.” So in Advent, we remember when Christ came in a manger to illuminate our darkened world by revealing himself as a God who longs to be with us while we simultaneously look to the future, alongside our brothers and sisters, awaiting the fulfillment of time when God will come again and make his final dwelling place among us. (Revelation 21:2-4) There are four Sundays in Advent leading up to Christmas, the order of focus is Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.
Who am I?
My name is Elizabeth Forshee. I am a spiritual director and have served in China for many years with my family. I currently reside in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I experienced my first celebration of Advent with our international community on the field. Since then, I’ve grown in my understanding of the Christian calendar and together with my family and church community, we are learning to live within its rhythms centered in Christ. My desire is to journey alongside others in soul care by offering invitations to draw near to Christ through spiritual practices like Lectio Divina. For Soul Tending Tuesdays throughout Advent, I’ll provide a Lectio Divina activity for you to tend your own soul.
Using Lectio Divina during Advent
Advent is a somber time of recognizing our spiritual longings for the fullness of Christ to be revealed among us. The past year or more have been sobering for each of us worldwide. As you enter Advent, consider the struggles and challenges you’ve faced concerning Covid-19 or other geo-political, religious, and social issues in your country.
Where have you felt disappointed or discouraged in ministry? Do you feel you’ve experienced too much loss and transition? During Advent you have permission to acknowledge the spaces where you long to feel hope, peace, joy and love and bring them before Jesus. Advent is the season Christ meets us in our laments and reveals himself as our eternal source of hope, peace, joy and love. Lectio Divina is a prayer practice that can help us lean into the one who hears our cries.
There will be four gospel readings throughout Advent in which we will practice Lectio Divina. I will give you four prompts with a new reading weekly for your sacred time. As you pray, give yourself plenty of time. Try to find a quiet space, perhaps light a candle to recall Christ being the light in the darkness and have a journal to write your prayers. Let’s begin our Advent prayer journey
Advent Reading Week One ~ Hope
Before reading or listening, take a moment to breathe in and out slowly. Invite the Holy Spirit to join you in this sacred reading. Read the following scripture slowly one time. As you read, let God’s word soak in. Try not to analyze the text. Remember, this is not about knowing information.
There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’ Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.Luke 21:25-33 (NIV)
You will read the scripture slowly a second time. During the second reading, notice if there is a word or phrase that catches your attention. Sit with the word given. Write it down or journal it.
As you sit with your word or phrase with receptiveness, take some time to reflect in silence on one or more of the following questions:
—What in this passage was hopeful to you?
—What in this passage challenged you?
—What might be going on in your life right now to which the word or phrase you wrote stood out to you? How might it apply or connect to that situation, circumstance, relationship or emotion?
—Ask Jesus, is there anything you want me to see? Is there something you want to say to me?
—The first week of Advent focuses on hope. Is there anything in your word or phrase that is hopeful to you in this season?
This time as you read the scripture, offer a praise, petition, or a thanksgiving that the passage has inspired in you. You may journal your prayer, draw, write a poem or engage in another form of prayer. This is a time for being in conversation with the Lord. Here are some questions to prompt your prayers.
—What praise can I offer God for this word or phrase spoken?
—How does this reflection move you to pray or praise? Spend time with this in prayer.
—Where do you desire to experience hope during this season of ministry?
—How can you pray for the hope Jesus is offering to touch your family, friends, co-workers, flat mates, neighbors or others?
Read the passage one final time. This time rest in God. Simply “be” with God and enjoy his presence with you. Open yourself to a deeper hearing of the scripture passage. You may use the following questions for this closing:
—What is God’s invitation to me in this reading?
—Is there hesitation, fear, excitement, or joy in the invitation?
—Where do I sense a deep desire for hope in my life? Talk with God about those desires.
—What conversion of mind, heart, and life is the Lord asking of me?
—How can you present that need to God?
As you close your time, offer a final prayer of thanksgiving for the gift God’s given you in this passage. Continue to let your word or phrase carry you throughout the week as a promise of hope to be fulfilled. God’s hope isn’t just for those you’ve come to serve, it’s for you as well. I’ll see you next week.
Have you gotten 5 Ways to Meet with Jesus This Advent? Or signed up for the song “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” to prepare you for Christ’s birth? You will receive an email each day from December 17th – 23rd that focuses on an attribute of Christ. Sign up for the series today and you’ll start receiving it on December 17th.