By Luke Johnson | October 28, 2019
“Florilegia” is a sacred reading practice that comes to us from the Church Fathers, spanning from the 5th to the 12th centuries, and was largely used as a preaching tool.
The word “florilegia” is from the Latin flos (“flowers”) and legre (“gathering”), and is the act of collecting phrases from a larger text that pop out or “sparkle” at you from the page — sort of like gathering flowers into a bouquet. In Florilegia, these selected phrases are called “sparklets”.
A “sparklet” isn’t necessarily a whole verse. It might be a short phrase or a single sentence. The point is to capture the words that speak to you in your present moment of life. At its heart, Florilegia is a prayerful practice, meant to help you focus your mind as you seek to receive from God in scripture.
Florilegia on your own
As the reader, you would record your sparklets in a journal, and when you have finished, you can ponder your set of sparklets as a new text.
For example, if you read a selection of 5 or 6 psalms in one sitting and write down the phrases that resonate with you, you might end up with a set of 10 or 12 sparklets from the various psalms you read. With sparklets in hand, now read them over together. Approach them as a new text, as if your set of sparklets are themselves a new psalm.
Florilegia with friends
If you read a passage of scripture together with a couple of friends or in a youth group setting, here is how you might conduct Florilegia in a small group. (Or download the printable sheet.)
1. Choose your sparklets.
Read through the whole passage, and write down phrases that “sparkle” at you. Don’t worry about writing down a whole verse – focus on individual phrases or single sentences. What resonates with you? What speaks to you in this moment in your life right now?
2. Share your sparklets.
Pick one of your sparklets to share with your reading group. What drew your attention to it? How does it resonate with you? What do you like about it? Listen to each person in turn so you get to entertain each selected sparklet.
3. Explore your new text.
Assembled your selected sparklets into a new text: write them down one after the other. Read your newly combined text aloud and ponder it together. What does this new text say? What effect is made by placing these phrases next to each other? How do the different phrases play off of each other?
4. Reverse the order.
Put your sparklets into a different order and read it again. What has changed? Does it make a different impression on you now? Does it affect the meaning? Is there a shift from negative to positive? Is something different brough into focus? Or some aspect made stronger than before?
5. Find the thread.
Can you find a common thread that weaves through your text? Or a theme that seems to hold this text together? Discern a single word to describe the meaning or the theme of this new text. (E.g., “resilience”, “patience”, “love”, etc.)