The four elements of lectio divina

Guigo the Second, a 12th century European monk:

Reading, as it were, puts the solid foods into our mouths, meditation chews it and breaks it down, prayer obtains the flavour of it and contemplation is the very sweetness which makes us glad and refreshes us.

Spiritual theologian Eugene Peterson:

Lectio divina compromises four elements: lectio (we read the text), meditatio (we meditate the text), oratio (we pray the text), and contemplatio (we contemplate the text). But naming the four elements must be accompanied by a practiced awareness that their relationship is not sequential. Reading (lectio) is a linear act, but spiritual (divina) reading is not––any of the elements may be at the fore at any one time. There is a certain natural progression from one to another, but after separating them in order to understand them we find that in actual practice they are not four discrete items that we engage in one after another in stair-step fashion. Rather than linear the process is more like a looping spiral in which all four elements are repeated, but in various sequences and configurations. What we are after is noticing, seeing the interplay––elements not marching in precise formation but one calling forth another and then receding to give place to another, none in isolation from the others but thrown together in a kind of playful folk dance. They are like sodium and chlorine, very dangerous, lethal even, in isolation but as a compound, sodium chloride, table salt, bringing life to otherwise bland foods. Each of the elements must be taken seriously; none of the elements may be eliminated; none of the elements may be practiced in isolation from the others. In the actual practice of lectio divina the four elements fuse, interpenetrate. Lectio divina is a way of reading that becomes a way of living.

–– Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading (p. 91)


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