Lectio Divina Biology
Lectio divina is a monastic practice of reading biblical scripture, developed in the 3th century by the early Christian scholar, theologian and ascetic Origen of Alexandria, Egypt. (See image top right).
Origen discerned reading of the scriptures as a sacrament and wrote “When you devote yourself to divine reading… seek the meaning of divine words which is hidden from most people”. This is particularly true in (Luke 8:10) where Jesus only reveals the truth to those closest to him, his disciples. Jesus would equally preach the Kingdom of God in the form of parables to engage minds to think and contemplate his teaching. To dilute or over simplify theological concepts is like explaining a joke; it loses its zeal, emotional impact and robs a person of epiphany.
Lectio divina can be practised by anyone at anytime; all you need is a quiet place where you can sit down with a Bible (any translation of the bible) and read. To start with all you need is ten minutes of your day to practise.
Four steps of Lectio Divina:
- Lectio/ reading of scripture: Reading a text with no preconceptions, with no bias, to approach the text with a neutral mindset. To humbly receive the text as the inspired Word of God. This objective step is simple yet most difficult step in lectio divina.
- Meditatio/ meditation: Meditation deepens our understanding of how the text relates to our lives today. This is a moment in time during where we reiterate the text, whether silently, verbally and reflect on the words and meaning within context.
- Oratio/ prayer: Connecting with God in a form of quiet prayer. Prayer can take many forms whether a person kneels, sits cross- legged on the floor, sitting on a chair or lying in bed. However, the latter of these forms will reduce a person’s attentiveness and response to practising lectio divina.
- Contemplatio/ contemplation: After prayer, further review of text is required to recap the true meaning of the text and to reflect again on the life application. Contemplatio is not achieved within a day or a week. It is a small part of a continual life journey with God.
Through continual works of lectio divina and maintaining a strong faith in walking with Jesus Christ we can only then slowly awaken from our worldly sleep and truly experience the true beauty of this world with God’s grace.
When we live in Gods world and submit our lives to his keep and mercy we can expect to be rewarded with some natural benefits along the Way.
BioMedical benefits of Lectio Divina
- Reduced inflammatory markers such as INF-gamma and Interleukin 6 reduces the autoimmune damage our innate immune system conducts when we undergo prolonged periods of high stress subsequently elevated levels of the hormone, cortisol. This occurs when we become tired and/or after prolonged periods of psychological and physical stress.
- Reduction in cortisol levels; lower free radical oxidative stress results in less cellular damage. Human metabolism naturally protects itself from oxidative stress by calcium release in and around cellular function, however, this function is limited in excessive conditions.
- Research conducted in 2010 by the University of Bonn found regular meditation stimulated neural plasticity increasing grey matter in the brain and increased gamma wave frequency responsible for higher consciousness and awareness, this is not referring to an alternative universe, however, it does reflect our ignorance to our cognitive potential. (Luke 8:17)
- Traditional Lectio Divina would sometimes take place during prolonged periods of fasting or intermittent fasting as a practice of self discipline and peity. Intermittent fasting presents evidence of increased Brain- Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) which has been shown to stimulate neurogenesis, the regeneration of neurones in the brain. Moreover, improving cognition, synaptic connectivity and increase in longevity. A decrease in BDNF has been observed in individuals suffering from depression, anxiety and Alzheimer’s.
- Lectio divina can be practiced in small group sessions; this practice strengthens fellowship within the community. Reading, meditating, praying and discussing theology is continuously producing evidence of how it benefits mental health. Global research continues to identify how living a spiritual life strengthens an individual’s cognition when confronted with high stress and difficult situations. A study in 2011 at the University of McGill in Canada was one of many studies which identified the efficiency in severe mental health recovery in those who practiced private and personal prayer with regular attendance to meetings of Worship.
It is important to note when we receive Christ as our saviour from living a blind life and accept God as our creator we can slowly understand our perspective and knowledge of life is not the full reality. We have a choice to what we spend time; watching on TV, reading, doing or not doing and who we spend our time with or not. God gave us a gift of choice and freedom to follow him or the world.
Jesus came to show us the Way, the one path to true happiness in life (John 14:6), it is truly our own freedom we sacrifice when we allow ourselves to be distracted by the noise of the world and the flashing lights of secular ideas.
When we slow down in our busy lives and reconcile where we are, what we are doing and importantly where we place our hopes and ambitions. Lectio divina is a small gift in a moment in time to connect with God and open our eyes to the world around us and to reflect on where we are in God’s plan (Jeremiah 29:11, Proverbs 16:9)
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
Letters and a language is all I see, an ancient code of mysterious wisdom.
Excitement elevates my curiosity as I begin decoding logos.
Calm and at peace I feel in the stillness of silent solitude, as my body relaxes my mind races with anticipation.
Tracing each word with my finger and thought I slowly digest bread crumbs of truth.
Intellect serves me no assurance as I lose myself, entwined in words of divinity.
Obsession grips me, holds my eyes to each word. I close my eyes and take a deep breath while raising my head, I exhale.
Drenched in peace when mind victors over the battle cries of the world.
I pray to my creator to be filled with the spirit, as navigator and comforter.
Vanity disappears, humility replaces all expectations. The mind is willing but the body withers.
Inspired and lifted I open my eyes and smile.
Now I know the beauty, the peace and love of God through Christ alone. I am burdened yet overjoyed in receiving my mission.
Peace be with you,