If there is a monastic technique of prayer, it is lectio divina (sacred reading). Lectio divina is a slow, prayerful reading of the Scriptures. We warmly embrace the practice of lectio at New Melleray Abbey. When you practice lectio your intention is to open your heart to the power of God’s Word. According to an old monastic teaching, when the monk reads, the Word of God passes through his mind and drops down and comes to rest on top of his heart. Then, the monk’s heart breaks open and the Word falls into it. We monks at New Melleray Abbey can attest to this experience. As you come to know yourself through difficult times, through the experience of compassion, through friendship, your heart breaks open. Then God’s Word converts your hearts and makes you a new creation. Quite naturally and spontaneously, we find ourselves moved to the prayer of supplication, thanksgiving, or adoration in response to God’s love communicated to us in the Sacred Scriptures. Often our prayer moves us away from material words and into the stillness and quiet of contemplative union with God. Finally, our contemplative prayer bears fruit in our virtuous living in the service of our brothers.
At New Melleray, each of us has a simple room with a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp (see 2 Kings 4:10). This is not just a place to sleep in. Your room can be a garden where you encounter God in your lectio divina and in personal prayer. Among the monastic traditions that support the practice of lectio divina is the four-hour Great Silence of the early morning, an optimum time for our practice of lectio divina. Lent is a special time for renewing our practice of lectio. At the beginning of Lent the abbot gives each of us a book to use for lectio during that holy season.