During the Middle Ages, a Carthusian Prior, Guibo II, (died in 1188) and is credited with writing down the four steps of Lectio Divina, It stressed four steps of a ladder to ascend to the ultimate goals of prayer, oneness with the One. St. Benedict stressed the importance of Lectio Divina (prayerful reading of Scriptures) as a way to relate to the energy of God. http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/what-lectio-divina. Many people use Lectio as a way to grow deeper in their spirituality.
Lectio — The Latin for Reading, refers to reading prayerfully, slowly, over and over, diligently, deliberately, resting on each word, relishing each word verbally, silently, in solitude, and forgetting about time and other preoccupations of life. Typically, Lectio is done with no more than a sentence until all the steps have been exhausted. In my case, I have used Philippians 2:5, my personal center, as the eight words of my Lectio Divina. I have not been able to move past these eight words since I first began Lectio in earnest, 2001. Beneath the surface, the assumption is that you place yourself in the presence of the Word, the Word which is pure energy, pure thought, pure service. This interaction causes change to happen. Lectio is not about you, but being present to the Word.
Meditatio— Meditation has been around a long time. My Lectio and Meditatio happen almost immediately. I read Phil.2:5 one time and I have thoughts that lead me down paths I never knew possible. Some would considering my thoughts as wandering but I prefer to call it wondering, wondering how I can have in me the mind of Christ Jesus.
Oratio — This means prayer, but prayer to become what you pray. The whole Lectio Divina process is a prayer. I have noticed that these steps in Guibo II’s ladder happen without my even thinking of them. I do retain the order, but don’t think about going through steps. Since my Lectio is always about Phil 2:5, my prayer is to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. There is progress there, but it is almost indisternable and certainly no big blast of movement, but there is movement from self to God.
Contemplatio — This is my favorite area, although one I reach only now and then, and then for only a moment or two. The other steps are there to allow me to reach my ultimate prayer, one with no words, no thoughts, no agenda, no timetable, no requests from God, no lack of focus on my center. I contemplate my very center, Philipplians 2:5, “,,,have in you the mind of Christ Jesus…”
I go to a place of silence and solitude, usually inside me, not outside. The image I have of this step is sitting on a park bench in the dead of winter, waiting for Christ to come by. I have never seen Christ in person, as did the Apostles, but that does not matter. I just sit there, usually in front of the Blessed Sacrament, but sometimes in front of Trader Joe’s Market, and empty my thoughts of all but Christ, just as Christ emptied Himself of all but his humanity, I don’t want to be presumptious as to think that Christ MUST come by my way, if I sit on that bench. That would be a subtle form of idolatry, the sin of Adam and Eve. I sit there on that cold park bench and wait for the Lord.
Actio — Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Verbum Domini, “We do well also to remember that the process of lectio divina is not concluded until it arrives at action (actio), which moves the believer to make his or her life a gift for others in charity” (no. 87) The Sun gives warmth to all on earth. It is the product of a chemical activity that releases energy. We humans are luckly to be just far enough away not to be part of an iceberg nor close enough to the Sun to become a fried egg. Why is that? There is a scientific reason, a mental reason but also a spiritual reason. When I am on the park bench and Christ sits down next to me, what transpires is transformative for me. I become more than just being human, but not divine. I am an adopted son of the Father, waiting on my inheritance in the life to come. I begin this journey NOW with actio, the energy of Christ with which I am suppose to do only one thing (which is actually everything), to love others as Christ loved me.
Actio is also the product of my spirituality as a Lay Cistercian. I want to do something with the great confidence Christ has for me as adopted son. Loving others as Christ loved us means several things:
SHARING — I wish to share not only what I know, but the Holy Spirit within me. I know that I am a beat-up, broken-down, old temple of the Holy Spirit, but I life up the fragments of my life each day in bread in a basket when the priest lifts up the bread and wine at consecration to transform these human elements into His own Blessed Self. Christ shares Himself with all of us and bids us to do the same.
CARING — The Last Judgement, contained in Matthew 25:31-46, gives me pause to remember that I cannot receive the energy of God in my heart on that park bench without caring for others. I wish them to know the richness of the joy that comes from emptying oneself and filling it up with God (capacitas dei). Christ cares for each one of us and bids us to do the same to our neighbor. Church is not about offering sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice but asking God for mercy, then receiving the product of that mercy.
BELIEVING — To receive God’s love in return, we must believe. No one can say Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit. No one can go to the Father except through the Son, or to anyone the Son gives that authority. It is much easier to believe that just God can forgive sins that to believe that a priest has been given that power through Christ. It is much easier to believe in the Holy Spirit than to believe that each one of us has the Holy Spirit in us and share that Spirit with each other in Christ’s name. Christ give us of Himself and bids us to do the same in the Eucharist.
Service to others is the product of our Faith, our Hope, and our Love. This is not the Faith, the Hope or the Love that the world gives or what we mean when we usually use these words. Faith, Hope, and Love all come from the Trinity. We share in that Oneness when we do not make ourselves into god with ourselves as our center.
My service, my ministry, what I choose to do from now until I pass the threshold of death, is to write down all my ideas. I don’t have lots of money to spend to get my word our to others, other than some books I cobble together and my blog. It is my actio, my praise to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is who was and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –-Cistercian doxology