By Jon Stotts
In my last post, I talked about how Christ becomes present among us in a variety of ways. During this time of pandemic, the absence of the laity from the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist offers us an opportunity to recognize his presence in these other ways. In this post, I want to explore how the sacred Scriptures are a particularly powerful sign of Christ’s presence among us and identify three different ways that Catholics can connect to God through the Bible.
When I think of the Bible, I usually picture a single, handsome volume, bound in leather, perhaps with gilded pages and maybe a ribbon or two. (You’ll find many quality examples on this site.) In one sense, this is an accurate picture. The Bible is the book of the Church, the word of God given to us in writing by authors inspired by the Holy Spirit. There is a unity to the book, for it is the one record of how God gathers a people and gradually molds them, little by little, into the divine image, beginning with Adam and culminating in Christ.
In another sense, picturing the Bible as a single volume is somewhat misleading. Indeed, the word “bible” refers not to a single book but to a set of books, a series of volumes, a library. Rather than a single book, we instead might think of a shelf of books of varying size, some very thin (a few pages even), others larger. Seventy-three volumes in total, written over a thousand years by very different people in a variety of places and cultures.
As Catholics, we can hold both images in mind when we think of the sacred Scriptures. The Bible is a single book and library of very different books. We do something similar when we think of the Church. On the one hand, we think of a single people of God, journeying together toward the new Jerusalem. On the other hand, we think of all the individuals and groups whose particular liturgies, theologies, and histories demonstrate the mystery of God’s redemption in many ways. In Church and Scripture, God gives us unity in our diversity.
There are three particularly important ways that the Scriptures can connect us to God. Christ is present among us when:
- The Scriptures are proclaimed at Mass
- Christians pray the Liturgy of the Hours
- Christians practice lectio divina, or sacred reading.
Christ is present when the Scriptures are proclaimed at Mass
Before the Church can celebrate the liturgy of the Eucharist, we always celebrate the liturgy of the Word.
Our hearing of the sacred Scriptures as one gathered body of baptized Christians is what prepares us for the communion offered in the sacred bread and wine. And when we hear the Scriptures proclaimed, we can see that God always speaks first to a people, and only secondarily to individuals.
When the Scriptures are proclaimed at Mass, Christ is present to us when in who is speaking, in what is spoken, and in those who receive in faith what was spoken.
Christ is present when we pray the Liturgy of the Hours
The liturgy of the hours is the official prayer of the church, a rhythmic collection of psalms, readings, and prayers offered to God multiple times a day, week after week. When we pray the liturgy of the hours, we join in the entire Church as it offers God unceasing praise and cries for help. And in praying the psalms, which Jesus himself would have prayed, we recognize that Christ is present with us as a partner in prayer.
Christ is present when we practice lectio divina
Lectio divina refers to the practice of slowly and meditatively engaging the sacred Scriptures. When we practice lectio divina, we attempt to savor each word and phrase of the Scriptures, receiving them lovingly and carefully from the Holy Spirit and allowing them to slowly change our minds and hearts from the inside out.
Faithful practice of lectio divina reveals that Christ is present as the hidden mystery of our souls and the silent lover of God within us.
Jon Stotts is a professional lay ecclesial minister in Nashville doing Christian initiation, ongoing conversion, and parish enrichment at Christ the King Catholic Church. Jon has a Ph.D in Religion from Vanderbilt University and a M.A. in Theology from Saint Meinrad School of Theology. He’s married and has three kids. In his free time he writes, bakes bread, and dances with his family.