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Archive for February, 2012

EXAMEN: Episode 1

A series of videos for Lent is being put together by the Church of the Incarnation.  I will post them here each week as they are released.  This week, Fr. Greg offers insights on examining our day, following, as a template of sorts, the prayer by Ignatius of Loyala entitled, “Examen”.

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Ash Wednesday by John Keble

“Yes–deep within and deeper yet
The rankling shaft of conscience hide,
Quick let the swelling eye forget
The tears that in the heart abide.
Calm be the voice, the aspect bold,
No shuddering pass o’er lip or brow,
For why should Innocence be told
The pangs that guilty spirits bow?

“The loving eye that watches thine
Close as the air that wraps thee round –
Why in thy sorrow should it pine,
Since never of thy sin it found?
And wherefore should the heathen see
What chains of darkness thee enslave,
And mocking say, ‘Lo, this is he
Who owned a God that could not save’?”

Thus oft the mourner’s wayward heart
Tempts him to hide his grief and die,
Too feeble for Confession’s smart,
Too proud to bear a pitying eye;
How sweet, in that dark hour, to fall
On bosoms waiting to receive
Our sighs, and gently whisper all!
They love us–will not God forgive?

Else let us keep our fast within,
Till Heaven and we are quite alone,
Then let the grief, the shame, the sin,
Before the mercy-seat be thrown.
Between the porch and altar weep,
Unworthy of the holiest place,
Yet hoping near the shrine to keep
One lowly cell in sight of grace.

Nor fear lest sympathy should fail –
Hast thou not seen, in night hours drear,
When racking thoughts the heart assail,
The glimmering stars by turns appear,
And from the eternal house above
With silent news of mercy steal?
So Angels pause on tasks of love,
To look where sorrowing sinners kneel.

Or if no Angel pass that way,
He who in secret sees, perchance
May bid His own heart-warming ray
Toward thee stream with kindlier glance,
As when upon His drooping head
His Father’s light was poured from Heaven,
What time, unsheltered and unfed,
Far in the wild His steps were driven.

High thoughts were with Him in that hour,
Untold, unspeakable on earth –
And who can stay the soaring power
Of spirits weaned from worldly mirth,
While far beyond the sound of praise
With upward eye they float serene,
And learn to bear their Saviour’s blaze
When Judgment shall undraw the screen?

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Haligweorc recently posted one of the best articles about the reading of Holy Scripture that I have read in quite a while.  His larger intent is to ask questions of how and why we read the Bible.  Specifically, he is comparing an “academic” reading of the bible with a “devotional” one.

He defines “academic reading” this way:

The academic of Scripture study focuses on a circumscribed set of questions: what were the circumstances around the writing of these books and their collection into one document? What do these texts teach us about what the people who wrote them thought? What do these texts reveal about the history and organization of the communities that created them? The bottom line is that the academic study of Scripture is securely located within the History of Ideas. It wants to know what things were thought by which people at which time and what would have been intended by what they wrote. The way that we typically wrap this up is to talk about the “literal” or “literary” meaning of the text and to make statements about “authorial intent.”

He never exactly defines devotional reading, but he uses medieval monastic readings as an example of devotional reading:

I look at how preachers, monks, ascetics, and liturgies have interpreted, re-used, or re-purposed biblical texts to further their own reading strategies and goals. What I found in my intensive study of early medieval monastic reading practices is that they had a very clear purpose in mind: how do we enact the text in order to become saints?

That question… How do we enact the text in order to become saints?… captured almost perfectly something I have been feeling for quite some time, and that I believe Anglicanism has been trying to say to the world for quite some time: What is at stake in the reading of scripture is not information, it is salvation… it is not merely about knowing something (although there are many important things to know), it is most importantly about becoming something.

Article 6 of the 39 Articles puts it as simply as it can be put:

Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation

 

Dr. Olsen continues in his post:

It’s not enough for us to read the Scriptures. Our work has not been completed until we have been transformed by them. And when I say “we” I mean “we,” not “you and me”—the whole community, the whole body of Christ, needs to be about the work of growing into the mind of Christ.

This is what the church needs to be about. This is the kind of reading that we have to be doing [before] the good results of well done academic scholarship are useful to us—but they cannot do our work for us. They are fundamentally not asking the same questions that we’re interested in; they are not finding the answers that will ultimately transform us.

He finishes his article by commending a type of reading that is informed by both patristics and by modern scholarship, but that has as its goal the salvation and sanctification of the reader.

This, I think, Anglicanism is uniquely qualified to do very well.  Interestingly enough, this sets Anglicanism over and against both protestant evangelical readings of scripture and modern liberal readings which are allied in the position that the dominant reading should be one informed by authorial intent & a scholarly understanding of the text.  Their methods are the same, they just disagree about the conclusions.  Dr. Olsen, and I believe Anglicanism, points us in another direction:

The literal meaning or the authorial intent is not necessarily the dominant reading. While it usually is one of the dominant meanings, there are times and places where it must give way in the face of more primary meanings.

Primary meanings being those given to us by the church catholic in her long life with the text in worship and formation.  I’ll give Dr. Olsen the last word:

The Scriptures are the Church’s book to be read paradigmatically within the Church’s liturgy that bring us into a deeper relationship with the God embodied, celebrated, and proclaimed within the Church.

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