Traditionally, monks and nuns practiced lectio divina alone, perhaps walking around the cloister. There were four stages with Latin names: lectio (reading a short Bible passage slowly), meditatio (ruminating on the passage, entering into it imaginatively), oratio (prayer in any form which might arise from your ruminating) and finally contemplatio (resting quietly, beyond words, in trustful silence). Recently (well since the 1970s) this monastic practice has been adapted for use by us ordinary folk who go about our daily lives in the world (carrying our cloister within us) and practicing in a group is one of the adaptations.
There are dangers about doing it in a group however. The temptation to turn it into more of an intellectual exercise is greater. Cynthia Bourgeault says, “You’re not there to share or discuss or debate. It’s much more like a group meditation that shares its space with a scriptural text. Speaking happens, but the words are always framed in silence and must never overpower it.” We began with some basic stuff about contemplative prayer (see my blog post on February 27th this year) to get us in touch with the space, silence, stillness at the heart of each one of us.
Then we entered into the story in John’s gospel about Jesus at a well in Samaria asking a Samaritan woman to draw water for him to drink. (Chapter 4 verse 6). I am reminded now of words from Charles Wesley’s famous hymn, “Jesus lover of my soul”
Thou of life the fountain art;
Freely let me take of thee;
Spring thou up within my heart,
Rise to all eternity.
PS I have borrowed the title of this post from a book by my friend and colleague Patrick Woodhouse which sets out passages from the Gospel of Luke with helpful suggestions about using them for lectio divina.