St. Benedict invites us, in the Prologue of his Rule, to listen deeply with "the ears of our hearts" to the voice of God in Scripture. This is done in the practice of Lectio Divina, a Latin word for "Holy, or Sacred Reading." Lectio Divina is a meditative and contemplative reading and praying of the Scriptures which leads to union with God. Praying with the Arts is a form of Lectio Divina called Visio Divina, the Latin word for "Holy Seeing, or Divine Looking."
Lectio Divina consists of four movements, or moments: First is reading the text with a listening ear; Second is meditation or reflection on the meaning and message of the text; Third is praying in response to God’s word to us in Scripture; and Fourth is contemplation, a quiet resting in God. These are movements or steps which may overlap like the colors of a rainbow. Lectio Divina can be envisioned as moments along the circumference of a circle, and in the center of the circle resides the Holy Spirit.
Faith in the Christ is a faith of the eyes and ears, a faith of reason and imagination, a faith of stillness and motion, a faith in the touch of His hand. Christ is the Word Made Flesh (John 1:14). God acts in the world, and because of our sacramental vision, the work of our hands, the flowers and trees, the cows grazing on the grass, the starry skies, all become doorways to a glimmering of God. God is the Great Artist. Art is incarnational, and the arts have long been celebrated by Christian tradition as a way of encountering Christ. Visio Divina proceeds like Lectio Divina, but instead of using the words from a page of Scripture to pray with, you use an icon, a sacred image, a work of art, or even a sunrise, a sunset, the flash of an oriole, the flight of a red-tailed hawk. Ask Our Lord to teach you what He wants you to know, and then give way to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. You are part of an encounter greater than yourself – you encounter the Resurrected Christ.
Select a work of art which draws you. Relax and come to quiet before it. In preparation, ask God to help you see and hear what He is saying to you through this work of art. Religious art seeks to convey the gospel message proclaimed by the words of Sacred Scripture. Focus on the image and let the words of Scripture and the work of art complement and illuminate each other.
Read the work of art. Explore it. Is it based on a passage from Scripture? What is the story being told? Notice the colors, the shapes, and the symbols. How do they work together to tell the story?
Meditate on what is being said. Does any part of the art attract you, or cause you to feel consolation? Allow it to fill your imagination and touch your memory. Does any part cause uneasiness or desolation? Allow it to prod your imagination, touch your memory, and move your conscience.
Pray to the Lord. Ask Him to enlighten you about the feelings you had as you gazed on the art. What is God calling you to do? Is God calling you to refrain from anything?
Rest quietly in the Lord. This is contemplation. Simply be with God. Pray as you bring your Visio Divina to a close. Discuss with God what has been revealed to you. Thank the Lord for the blessings and enlightenment received.