Lec­tio div­ina is often described as includ­ing four key aspects or move­ments: lec­tio (read­ing), med­i­ta­tio (med­i­ta­tion), ora­tio (prayer), and con­tem­pla­tio (con­tem­pla­tion). In this blog, I want to explore a bit the the­o­log­i­cal foun­da­tion of the first of these movements. 

Under­ly­ing lec­tio or the read­ing of a text is a fun­da­men­tal the­o­log­i­cal propo­si­tion that is deeply Trini­tar­i­an: the Eter­nal Word, sent by the Father, has become incar­nate in Jesus Christ and con­tin­ues to speak to us through the Holy Spirit. 

The incar­nate Word — Jesus of Nazareth — speaks and acts in an infi­nite­ly per­son­al and lov­ing way; Christ is God the Son come to us in the flesh to save us from the hav­oc of sin and to restore us ful­ly into his image. In and through the incar­nate Son’s words and actions, then, we encounter and are called to embrace the redemp­tion, regen­er­a­tion, restora­tion, and recre­ation he offers us. 

As we embrace Christ in faith by lis­ten­ing faith­ful­ly and intense­ly to his words and imi­tat­ing his actions as his appren­tices, trans­for­ma­tion occurs. By recep­tive­ly allow­ing Jesus’ words and deeds to sink down deep with­in us — a move­ment ignit­ed and ener­gized by the pow­er of the Spir­it — we are increas­ing­ly formed into Christ’s image. In our embrace of Jesus’ words through our focused, intense lis­ten­ing to them, we are increas­ing­ly changed into what we were always meant to be, what we can call real human beings,” recre­at­ed and reformed into the image of the” human being, the incar­nate Word. 

Andy Crouch, in his book Cul­ture Mak­ing: Recov­er­ing Our Cre­ative Call­ing, draws our atten­tion to the sto­ries God gives us in the ini­tial chap­ters of Gen­e­sis and reminds us that the first man and woman — Adam and Eve — found them­selves in the midst of a world,” a sto­ry, if you will, that God was already telling. We, like that orig­i­nal cou­ple, always and every­where” find our­selves in the midst of a story.” 

The prob­lem is that our sto­ry — the sto­ry of the human race and our indi­vid­u­at­ing of that sto­ry — has gone ter­ri­bly wrong. We have attempt­ed to rewrite God’s orig­i­nal script, mak­ing our­selves both the authors and main char­ac­ters – and in doing so have ter­ri­bly skewed the sto­ry line. It is in lec­tio div­ina that we open our­selves to a God who changes his­to­ry,” the sto­ry-line that has gone wrong. We not only receive guid­ance and sup­port.” We offer the oppor­tu­ni­ty to rev­o­lu­tion­ize the whole tenor of that seg­ment of his­to­ry that is my lit­tle life.” 

Lec­tio div­ina, through its insis­tence that we relearn the sto­ry through our immer­sion in it, teach­es us to tell and live the sto­ry right, reori­ent­ing and reform­ing us in the process. The goal of our read­ing is the reshap­ing of our thoughts and actions through an imi­ta­tion of Christ ground­ed in an intense, respon­sive, recep­tive read­ing. As we read, our con­scious­ness, as Michael Casey puts it, increas­ing­ly con­forms to the mind of Christ. 

When our minds and hearts are formed accord­ing to Christ, then our actions can be vehi­cles of grace to oth­ers. The pre­con­di­tion is, how­ev­er, that our con­scious­ness is shaped to agree with that of Christ. And this is pre­cise­ly the role of lec­tio div­ina. It is a school in which we learn Christ … Lec­tio div­ina helps us to encounter Christ, it ini­ti­ates us into the way of Christ.” Or, in Eugene Peterson’s words, lec­tio div­ina leads to the fusion” of my sto­ry and Christ’s story. 

To repeat, the the­o­log­i­cal foun­da­tion of lec­tio div­ina is the entrance into our his­to­ry — per­son­al and cor­po­rate — of the incar­nate Word sent by the Father. Christ has spo­ken and con­tin­ues to speak as the Holy Spir­it enlivens the words of Scrip­ture, apply­ing them to our minds and hearts as we allow his divine speech to sink down with­in us, seep­ing into every crack and cranny.

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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