The Sayings of the Fathers on reading Scripture

The nature of water is soft, that of a rock is hard. But if a narrow-necked bottle is hung above a stone, drop by drop the water wears away the rock. So it is with the word of God: it is soft and our heart is hard. But when a person hears the word of God, often then his heart is opened to the fear of God.

The Apophthegmata Patrum (the Sayings of the Fathers) is a collection of proverbs and quotes from 4th-5th c. monks.   This quote is from Everett Ferguson, Inheriting Wisdom, Readings for Today from Ancient Christian Writers. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004, page 229.

Gregory the Great on reading Scripture

Holy Scripture is presented to the mind’s eye as a kind of mirror so that our inner appearance can be seen in it. In this mirror we recognize both the ugliness and the beauty of our soul. We can tell what progress we are making, or see our utter lack of progress…The virtues of people in the Bible may support our hope, and their faults may clothe us with the protection of humility. The former, through the joy they cause, give our spirits wings; the latter, by causing fear, put a check on our actions. By listening to Scripture the soul learns both the confidence of hope and the humility of fear.

Gregory, a moral theologian, was Bishop of Rome from 590-604. This quote is from Everett Ferguson, Inheriting Wisdom, Readings for Today from Ancient Christian Writers. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004, page 229.

Basil of Caesarea on reading Scripture

The best way to discover our duty is to study the divinely inspired Scriptures, for in them we find both instructions about conduct and the lives of blessed men, delivered in writing. They are laid before us like having images of the godly life for the imitation of their good works. When we devote ourselves to the imitation of what is offered there, we find the appropriate medicine for whatever deficiency or illness we feel we have, as from a pharmacy.

Basil was Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia from 370-379. This quote is from Everett Ferguson, Inheriting Wisdom, Readings for Today from Ancient Christian Writers. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004, pages 228-229.

Origen on reading Scripture

You then, my true son, give primary attention to reading the divine Scriptures. Be attentive: for we must be attentive when reading the things of God, so that we not say or think anything too reckless about them…Being attentive to divine reading, seek correctly and with unwavering faith in God the meaning of the divine Scriptures that is hidden to the many. Never cease knocking and seeking, for prayer is indispensable in understanding divine things.

Origen was a teacher and writer in Alexandria, Egypt ca. 185-250. This quote is from Everett Ferguson, Inheriting Wisdom, Readings for Today from Ancient Christian Writers. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004, page 228.

Theonas on reading Scripture

Let no day pass by without reading–at a suitable time–some portion of the sacred lessons, allowing time for meditation.  And never cast off the practice of reading the sacred Scriptures; for nothing feeds the soul and enriches the mind as much as those sacred lessons do.

Theonas was Bishop of Alexandria, Egypt ca. 281-300.  This quote is from Everett Ferguson, Inheriting Wisdom, Readings for Today from Ancient Christian Writers. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004, page 228.

Helpful Lectio Divina quotes

This from Guigo II, a Carthusian monk:

“Reading is the careful study of the Scriptures, concentrations of one’s powers on it.  Meditation is the busy application of the mind to seek with the help of one’s own reason for knowledge of hidden truth.  Prayer is the heart’s devoted turning to God to drive away evil and obtain what is good.  Contemplation is when the mind is in some sort lifted to God and held above itself, so that it tastes the joys of everlasting sweetness.”

…and…

“Reading seeks for sweetness of a blessed life, meditation perceives it, prayer asks for it, contemplation tastes it.  Reading, as it were, puts food whole into the mouth, meditation chews it and breaks it up, prayer extracts its flavour, contemplation is the sweetness itself which gladdens and refreshes.”

…and this from Bernard of Claivaux…

“In the ocean of this reading the lamb can paddle and the elephant swims.”

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The Guigo quotes are from The Ladder of Monks, a medieval work on the contemplative, monastic life.  I found all three quotes in James M. Houston, “Toward a Biblical Spirituality”, The Act of Bible Reading, ed. Elmer Dyck. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

I uploaded to the Spoken Word pagelectio exercise I led this morning at church on Acts 20.1-16.  It is the same approach I used about a month ago.  I’ll use it again next week, if the Lord wills, on 20.17-38.

Looks like I need to hit the Vandy Div. School library for a little more research on lectio in group settings.  So far what I’ve found helpful (in addition to Earl’s Meditative Commentary on Acts…our text for the class) are Living God’s Love by Earl Lavender and Gary Holloway (Leafwood, 2004), Opening the Bible by Thomas Merton, A Little Exercise for Young Theologians, by Helmut Thielicke and The Act of Bible Reading, edited Elmer Dyck (especially the article I mentioned above). 

For this morning’s exercise I (spent too much time introducing lectio, but that’s another issue…) began with a song.  We sang Break Thou the Bread of Life as a preface to silence.  I like the aspect of including song(s), especially this particular one, since it is a rich blend of worship, prayer and study.  I’m still trying to land on a song or two for next week (Acts 20.17-38).