Monday, November 4, 2019

Reflections on reading scripture

Read the scriptures regularly.
Read good books, a little at a time

I've been hesitant to write about reading scripture. I felt like I didn't really have anything to say about it except that Fr. Hopko's advice to read scripture regularly is excellent and you should take it!

But when I looked at the next precept "read good books, a little at a time", I realized that I did have some reflections to share after all.

I have been reading and hearing scripture all my life, both as a child and an adult. From children's Bible stories to my own private reading, from church gospel and epistle readings to Sunday school lessons, I find that over the years the words have become familiar, comfortable.

I have followed different plans for reading, most often doing the daily lectionary readings throughout the year, other times using a read-the-Bible-in-a-year plan, sometimes choosing a specific book to read for various reasons. Most recently, aside from doing the daily readings with the kids, I have begun listening to Dr. Jeannie Constantinou's podcast on Ancient Faith Radio, called Search the Scriptures (it's excellent by the way).

Somewhere in the beginning of her series, Dr. Jeannie talked about how the Bible was put together and the work that it took to preserve and spread the gospel in the early centuries of Christianity, long before the invention of the printing press. As she was talking about all this it occurred to me that it might be interesting to try and copy out a book of the Bible myself. Obviously I don't have hours of time to dedicate to such a project, but as I thought about it I realized that I could commit to writing just a little bit every day.

So I began. 

And I'm not sure I'll ever stop. 

I haven't suddenly had all kinds of enlightenment or understanding revealed to me, and that was not my purpose in taking up this practice. But by taking time to pair the physical act of writing with my reading I have begun to pay better attention.

If I am honest I have to admit that all that comfortable familiarity with scripture that I mentioned above means that sometimes when I read or hear it I'm not actually listening. The familiar words flow in one ear and out the other and I forget what I read as soon as I close the book. Somehow the act of writing things down helps them to stay with me longer and I find myself pondering and reflecting more than I ever have before.

I purposely limit myself when I am copying out verses and I write out only 1-3 verses at a time. It would be easy to get carried away, and then burnt out, if I were to allow myself to do more than that. By only allowing myself to write a small amount I have found that I am better able to stay with this practice because it doesn't require too much from me on days when my time is short or there are other things that need my attention. 

These two maxims, regular reading of scripture and reading good books a little at a time, are powerful, life-giving tools that are easily incorporated into our everyday lives. My own practice is one way to live them out, but there are plenty of other ways to do so as well. I will perhaps write more on reading good books in a later post, but in the meantime I'd love to hear from you about how you make time to read scripture and to read good books. I always enjoy hearing from my readers, so please do share! 

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