Each day the monk meditates on scripture. This is Lectio Divina - the practice of sacred reading. It is not just reading or study, although there is time for these also in the monastic life. Lectio Divina is an encounter with God. In it the monk centres his whole attention on seeking God. He listens to his voice, and lets his mind and heart be formed by God's creative Word. By tasting his Word, the monk comes to know God in a personal experience of his love. Christ gradually becomes our world: he becomes the air we breathe.
THE Art of lectio divina begins with cultivating the ability to listen deeply,to hear with the "ear of our hearts" as St. Benedict encourages us in the Prologue of the Rule. When we read the Scriptures we should try to imitate the prophet Elijah.
We should allow ourselves to become men and women who are able to listen for the still, small voice of God (1 Kings 19:12); the "faint murmuring sound" which is God's word for us, God's voice touching our hearts. This gentle listening is an "atunement" to the presence of God in that special part of God's creation which is the scriptures.
THE Cry of the prophets to ancient Israel was the joy-filled command to "Listen!". "Sh'ma Israel: Hear, O Israel!" In lectio divina we, too, heed that command and turn to the scriptures, knowing that we must "hear" - listen - to the voice of God, which often speaks very softly. In order to hear someone speaking softly we must learn to be silent. We must learn to love silence. If we are constantly speaking or if we are surrounded with noise, we cannot hear gentle sounds. The practice of lectio divina, therefore requires that we first quiet down in order to hear God's word to us. This is the first step of lectio divina, appropriately called lectio - reading.
THE Reading or listening which is the first step in lectio divina is very different from the speed reading which modern Christians apply to newspapers, books and even to the Bible. Lectio is reverential listening; listening both in a spirit of silence and of awe. We are listening for the still, small voice of God that will speak to us personally - not loudly, but intimately. In lectio we read slowly, attentively, gently listening to hear a word or phrase that is God's word for us this day.