VATICAN CITY, NOV. 6, 2005 ( Benedict XVI says the rediscovery of "the ancient practice of 'lectio divina,' or spiritual reading, of sacred Scripture" is one of the fruits of the Second Vatican Council.

Today, when praying the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Pope said that "'lectio divina' … consists of meditating fully on a biblical text, reading and rereading it, 'ruminating it' in a certain sense" and "squeezing all its 'juice' so that it nourishes meditation and contemplation and, like sap, is able to irrigate concrete life."

"As a condition," the Holy Father said, "'lectio divina' requires that the mind and heart be illuminated by the Holy Spirit, that is, by the inspirer himself of the Scriptures and to place oneself, therefore, in an attitude of 'religious listening.'"

In earlier addresses, Benedict XVI has strongly encouraged "lectio divina." This was the case on Sept. 16, when he met with 400 participants in the congress organized by the Holy See to commemorate the 40th anniversary of "Dei Verbum," the Vatican II constitution on Revelation.

"If this practice is promoted with efficacy, I am convinced that it will produce a new spiritual springtime in the Church," said the Pope on that occasion.

Its history

The first to use the expression "lectio divina" was Origen (circa 185-254), who affirmed that to read the Bible profitably it is necessary to do so with attention, constancy and prayer.

Later on, "lectio divina" became a mainstay of religious life. The monastic rules of Sts. Pacomius, Augustine, Basil and Benedict made the practice of dividing reading, together with manual work and participation in liturgical life, the triple base of monastic life.

On Oct. 3, when Benedict XVI addressed prelates at the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, he especially recommended the practice of "lectio divina."

He said, "In this sense we should follow the 'lectio divina,' listening in the Scriptures to the thought of Christ, learning to think with Christ, thinking the thought of Christ and thus having the same feelings of Christ, being capable of giving Christ's thought and feelings to others."

His words did not go unheeded. Among the propositions the synodal fathers sent to the Pope at the end of the assembly, No. 18 states: "To love, read, study, meditate and pray the Word of God is a precious fruit of the practice of 'lectio divina,' of groups of biblical study and prayer in the family and in small ecclesial communities."