Visio Divina

Keep my eyes to serve and my hands to learn.

~Mumford & Sons

From time to time, you will find posts on this blog labeled “Visio Divina”.  If you are not already acquainted with visio divina, the best way for me to explain it is by reference to the ancient practice from which it has been adapted: lectio divina.  Literally translated, it means “divine reading” and it is a method of reading Scripture.  It consists of four stages: lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio.

Lectio.  First read the passage of Scripture slowly and preferably out loud.  Read it one or two more times, visualizing the details and attending to the words of the passage.

Meditatio.  Read the passage another time.  This time, incline your heart toward the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit as God brings to your attention a word or phrase that affects you more strongly than the rest of the passage.  Ask yourself and God what He might have to say to you through that word/phrase.  Why does it stand out?  What might it mean to you in your current life situation?

Oratio.  After dialoging with God, respond to His faithfulness in prayer.  If He has given you a word of encouragement, praise Him.  If He has given you a word of action, ask Him for strength.  However He has spoken to you, respond to Him appropriately.

Contemplatio.  Finally, after you have heard God and responded to Him, spend time basking in the warmth of His presence.  Much as people who have known each other for years have periods of quiet attentiveness with one another, so this is a time when you can silently attend to His

With visio divina, which we could say is “divine viewing”, I encourage you to apply the above steps toward the image that I provide.  Although I will normally provide image-specific questions for you to reflect on, I encourage you to engage in the whole process as follows, using the questions I provide below and in the post as part of the period of meditation (meditatio).  First, simply attend to the image, noting details and taking in all that is in the image.  Then, meditate on the image – what detail/s stand out to you?  What do you feel that detail might mean to you and what might God be saying to you through that detail?  Third, engage in further dialogue with God by praying your response and then allow time for His truths to you and His presence to sink into the depths of your being.

As you view the visio divina posts, you might notice that they are all focused on some aspect of urban/suburban life, or daily life as most people experience it.  While most of the visio divina exercises that I have usually come across use beautiful and inspiring vistas from nature, in keeping with the theme of this blog the images I select will intentionally be more down-to-earth.  However, though the images may be of ordinary and mundane aspects of life, we are instructed to set our “minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2).  In other words, as you view these earthly images, keep in mind that the goal is to train youself to see reality as God sees it.  Think of visio divina as spiritual boot camp exercises to enable you to attend to God’s work in a world of need as we are called to be co-laborers with Christ.

To view all the visio divina exercises on this blog, use the “Categories” drop-down menu on the home page and select “Visio Divina” or simply click here.

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For more information on lectio and visio divina, check out the following resources:

Bill, J. Brent and Beth A. Booram.  Awaken Your Senses: Exercises for Exploring the Wonder of God.  Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2012.

Pennington, M. Basil.  Lectio Divina: Renewing the Ancient Practice of Praying the Scriptures.  New York: Crossroad, 1998.

Wilhoit, James C. and Evan B. Howard.  Discovering Lectio Divina: Bringing Scripture into Ordinary Life.  Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2012.

Paintner, Christine Valters.  Lectio Divina – the Sacred Art: Transforming Words and Images into Heart-Centered Prayers.  Woodstock: Sky Light Paths Publishing, 2011.

“Like” the Anam Cara Facebook page as it provides frequent visio divina exercises.

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