A visit to a monastery can yield many new discoveries. We learn about ourselves, our faith and often come face to face with the Lord in some unexpected and unnerving ways. This learning can be seen as part of our spiritual education. But it is not only the time away from our “normal” lives, time in services and time of quiet in nature that does it. This school of theology also takes place around the table at meals. While the monks eat in silence one monk’s obedience is to read aloud from a classic spiritual work for everyone’s benefit. What is this and how can we do it?
From the earliest accounts of monastic practice – dating back to the fourth century – it is evident that a form of reading called lectio divina (“divine” or “spiritual reading”) was essential to any deliberate spiritual life. This kind of reading is quite different from the scanning a text for useful facts and bits of information, or advancing along an exciting plotline to a climax in the action. It is, rather, a meditative approach by which the reader seeks to savor and taste the beauty and truth of every phrase and passage. This process of contemplative reading has the effect of enkindling in the reader compunction for past behavior. At the same time, it increases the desire to seek a realm where all that is lovely and unspoiled may be found. There are four steps in lectio divina:
- to read
- to meditate
- to rest in the sense of God’s nearness
- to resolve to govern one’s actions in the light of the new understanding.
This kind of reading is itself as act of prayer. And, indeed, it is in prayer that God manifests His Presence to us.
 Thorton, John F. and Varenne, Susan, General Editors “About the Vintage Spiritual Classics”