"One day while I was occupied with manual labor, I began to reflect on man’s spiritual work, and suddenly four steps for the soul came into my reflection: meditation, prayer, and contemplation. It has only a few separate rungs, yet its length is immense and incredible: for its lower part stands on the earth, while its higher part pierces the clouds and touches the secrets of heaven.
Reading is careful study of Sacred Scripture, with the soul’s [whole] attention:
Meditation is the studious action of the mind to investigate hidden truth, led by one’s own reason. Prayer is the heart’s devoted attending to God,so that evil may be removed and good may be obtained.Contemplation is the mind suspended -somehow elevated above itself - in God so that it tastes the joys of everlasting sweetness.
For the sweetness of a blessed life:
Reading seeks; meditation finds; prayer asks; contemplation tastes.
Reading, so to speak, puts food solid in the mouth,
meditation chews and breaks it,
prayer attains its savor,
contemplation is itself the sweetness that rejoices and refreshes.
Reading concerns the surface,
meditation concerns the depth
prayer concerns request for what is desired,
contemplation concerns delight in discovered sweetness." (St Guido II, 1140-1193).
Lectio Divina (Latin for divine/sacred reading) is a traditional Christian practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God's Word. It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied, but as the Living Word of God.
The most traditional formulation of the method of Lectio Divina is that of St Guido given above. Lectio can be divided into four (or five) stages. These are not rigid marks that must be passed in order for Lectio to occur - they are more like guidelines as to how this prayer normally developes.
The first stage is READING - an attentive prayerful reading of a piece of Scripture. Any book of the Bible can be used for Lectio Divina but at the start it is probably better to stick with a Gospel that you have some familiarity with. You can either plan to read the whole Gospel over a period of time or stick with the Sunday Reading as given in the Sunday Missal. The reading is not to be done quickly - Lectio Divina is not speed reading or reading a novel. It is slow reading. Read the (short) Gospel text a number of times till you can understand and remember it. You can also read any Commentary on the text to gain a deeper insight into it.
Meditation - the second stage is meditation where we digest and ruminate upon the text(or part of it). What is God saying to us in this text? Have we experience a situation in our own lives that is similar to what is described in the text? How does this text have relevance for me now?
The prayer should be based on the text and your meditation. Using the words of the text, pray to God. Let your heart speak to God.
Comtemplation. This is where we rest in God , where we let go not only of our own ideas, plans and meditations but also of our holy words and thoughts. We simply rest in the Word of God.
Some writers allow for a fifth stage of Lectio- that of action. Following our prayer, we return to the world to bring God word and peace to people.