Guigo's Ladder of Monks

This work (available here) is about lectio divina, a traditional method of prayerfully reading Scripture. This was our edition, from which I have quoted a little in the post. Guigo was a Carthusian monk of the 12th c. At the seminary each Monday we use the method he described to pray over the readings for the coming Sunday's Mass. We have the gospel proclaimed to us, and then lectio with it for 45 minutes or so, and then are able to share our reflections with each other.

The four rungs of the ladder are:
lectio (reading)
meditatio (meditation)
oratio (prayer)
contemplatio (contemplation)

Lectio is a careful study of scripture; it is the seeking of a blessed life. In lectio try to pick out the words/phrases that move you, in a good way or ill, so that you can focus on them later. See what words connect in your mind to other parts of scripture, or to the liturgy. Ask what is the good while you read: what is the good I'm supposed to be getting out of this, here and now? Repetitive reading is characteristic here.

Meditatio is the application of the mind and reason to the reading; it is the perception of a blessed life. Think about the benefit of the good about which you read, that desire for it might be built up in you. Ask, what does this reading mean for my life? For me, lectio and meditatio are very intertwined. I flow between them easily and maybe don't even distinguish them as much as I ought. But this whole process is a guideline, you can't pray to a method. In my marginal notes from class, I have "try n think of related Scripture passages" in the meditatio section, though in practice I think of that as part of lectio. Clearly this is a fluid process, and the rungs are just meant to guide you along your prayerful way.

Oratio is the heart's turning to God to obtain the good; it is asking for a blessed life. It is taking all the matter from lectio/meditatio and taking it to God in prayer; taking a desire born by the meditatio to God.

Contemplatio is "when the mind is in some sort lifted up to God and held above itself, so that it tastes the joys of everlasting sweetness"; it is the experience of a blessed life. I tend to think of this as theoretical, something I haven't had, but re-visiting its definition, I think I have. "Contemplatio" sounds very up-there in the spiritual life, having ecstasies like St Teresa of Avila. But if you think of it as a sweet fruit of prayer, then sure, I've been given that.

Guigo gives a simile for lectio from eating: lectio is like putting food in the mouth; meditatio is mastication; oratio is extracting the flavour; and contemplatio is the sweetness and savour of the food gladdening and refreshing us.

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