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.

Starting Soon: The 2017-18 Renovaré Book Club

You’re invited to a journey through four soul-shaping books, like C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters and Chris Hall’s Living Wisely with the Church Fathers. Read intentionally with a guided plan. Go deeper with exclusive study guides, essays and podcasts. Engage meaningfully in online or in-person discussion groups. Running late October 2017—June 2018, join now to receive the included first book.

Learn more >