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In the light of spring, sit outside and feel the warmth of the day with the Word of God on your tongue

      Well, it’s May and we are basking in the glow of the Easter season. I love it when Easter is in the latter part of April, for then the Easter season stretches all the way into June. Warm days to sit outside and ponder the mysteries! Is your Easter going well? Doing anything special in regards to your prayer life?

      Lately, I’ve been thinking about this: my bible. I’m speaking, here, of my bible as a physical object.

      I’ve got a bunch of them; different translations for comparing and contrasting puzzling passages. Some bibles have sentimental value, like the one my grandmother gave me. She was a staunch Baptist (just an aside here. A pious Catholic is frequently called “devout.” However, I have never heard a Catholic referred to as “staunch.” On the other hand, I’ve never heard of a Baptist being called “devout.” My grandmother never referred to herself with either adjective; she called herself “a by-God Baptist.” But I digress!).

      Upon my baptism at age 12, she rewarded me with a King James Version of the Bible - the zipper-upper kind! I open it now and then (perhaps twice a year) just to leaf through its pages. Near the front of the bible is a page that reads “Presented To______, By______ On This Date______. The blank spaces are filled in with my grandmother’s own hand. I have her obit from the local newspaper between the pages, and I like looking at the color pictures therein. My favorites being the pictures of David slaying Goliath and Moses smashing the tablets.

      But my go-to bible, the one I use every day, is the Catholic Study Bible. Its pages are filled with highlighted passages, circled words, arrows point to other words, footnotes underlined and margins filled with gloss in either ink or pencil. My grandmother would have been aghast at my marking Holy Writ in such fashion, but I am of the opinion that if you’re not reading Scripture with pen or pencil or highlighter in hand, you’re not really reading Scripture (lectio divinaaside, perhaps).

      In Kathleen Hughes’ biography of the Benedictine monk Godfrey Diekmann, there is a photograph of a page from Diekmann’s bible (it’s the first page of the Book of Deuteronomy), and that page of his Bible is so full of annotations in his own hand that the page looks like a page from Talmud!

      That is one of the things that makes studying the Scriptures so great: the wrestling with the text. It reminds me of Jacob wrestling with the mysterious stranger (Genesis 32:23-31). All the annotations you make over the years become a collection of thoughts and prayers you can revisit again and again. With each revisit you recall what you were thinking at the time, and you can compare that with where you are now.

        And in order to do that you need a go-to bible; a bible that over time grows worn. The binding supple and soft. Crinkled pages. Gold leaf lettering on the spine fallen away. The pages smelling like a used bookstore. The monks of old, and even of today, compare reading Scripture to gnawing on food. The residue of such gnawing is a bible just described. Ah, that’s a bible!

      My grandmother puzzled over my entering the Catholic Church, but I believe she would have been proud of my love of Scripture. She read her Bible every day, and while her health held out, she attended Wednesday evening prayer service at First Baptist Church, at which, of course, was the reading of Scripture.

      I’m betraying my age, here. Electronic bibles are now ubiquitous, rendering moot everything I wrote above. The associate pastor at my parish, ordained just a year ago and who looks so young and spry, reads the Bible and breviary on his phone.

      I’m now an old fart, though, and I’ll stick with paper and pen. However, I confess that I frequently make use of Google to find biblical passages. But when I find the passage in Google, I immediately revert to my go-to bible. Leather and paper feel more intimate in my hand than metal and plastic.

      But back to sitting outside and pondering those mysteries. Whatever medium you use to read the Bible, feel the warmth of the day with the Word of God on your tongue. Winter is past, and the birds and flowers and green is back.

      God speaks to us that way, too, you know.

 

      Deacon Mark Plaiss teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Ill. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

       

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