Spiritual reading is not like our everyday casual reading for worldly information, where our eyes move rapidly over the words in a sentence, line after line. Rather, spiritual reading is listening to the Word of God. Hence, we need to use our heart, not just our mind, when reading spiritually. We should regularly engage in the three forms of spiritual reading: (1) lectio continua, (2) studious reading, and (3) lectio divina.
Lectio continua means “continuous reading” of Scripture, a complete reading of the whole Bible, one book after the other. Spiritual writer Louis Bouyer, in his book, Introduction to Spirituality, calls this way of reading “the foundation on which all the rest is to be built up.” This is because the Word of God, as given to us in the Bible, is a whole world, requiring knowledge of the whole in order to comprehend the parts. So, one starts with Genesis, the first book of the Bible; or as Bouyer suggests, one can be guided by liturgical tradition, starting with Exodus during Lent, the Acts of the Apostles during the Easter season, or Isaiah during the Christmas season.
Studious reading refers to reading for background information, for context, and for greater comprehension of the truths of faith found in Scripture. Any writing that sheds light on the Scripture is suitable for studious reading. The Catechism, or a book on Jewish culture and traditions at the time of Christ, or books by the saints would all be excellent examples of the types of books to read for studious reading.
Lectio divinia is perhaps the most familiar method of reading Scripture. It differs from lectio continua where we read to get the big picture; lectio divinia is prayerful reading, listening to God speak to us through the written word. Bouyer says it is “the basic food” or “the basic element of all spirituality” because “true lectio divina leads forthwith to prayer.” The idea here is to read short sections of Scripture, slowly, to discover what God is trying to tell us on any given day. When a passage grabs our attention, we stop, re-read the passage, and memorize it, allowing it to become part of our being, asking how it applies to our life. “Apply yourself wholly to the text, and apply its matter wholly to yourself.”