Dear Colleagues and Friends,
The Second Sunday in Advent has often been called “Bible Sunday” because the Collect for the week emphasises the place of “all holy Scriptures” in the lives of those who “inwardly digest” them. Some of the phrasing closely reflects the words of St. Paul in Romans ch.15 verse 4, which heads up the Epistle for the week in the Prayer Book scheme of readings. The Collect is one of several that were newly composed (this one probably by Archbishop Cranmer) rather than being derived, with adaptation and translation, from pre-existing Latin prayers of the Church. The phrase “hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them” is particularly resonant, and has been used or adapted for encouragement on various occasions.
The “holy Scriptures” are not of course the sole literature in the world that conveys truth, but as Christians and indeed as Anglican Christians we have acknowledged the Scriptures to be uniquely special in forming within those in whom the chapters are inwardly digested a mind that searches for and values, loves and adheres to the truth. Such truth may be manifested in many fields, Isaac Newton and Michael Faraday being examples of truth-seekers in physical science, as well as before them others such as William of Ockham and Bishop Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln from 1235 to 1253. It is entirely consistent with this understanding of the rightful place of the Scriptures that we should fear that an ignorance and undervaluing of the Scriptures will bring in its train a departure from the value of the truth in every field of human endeavour, leaving in its place a dystopian society that values enforced power rather than discovery and conviction.
We cannot forget that the Lord Himself before Pilate declared that if He was to be called a King, His Kingdom was not like others based on force and lies and fear. His Kingdom was a kingdom of truth. The Holy Spirit too is called the Spirit of truth. We pray that as we read and study the Scriptures the Holy Spirit will form within us the truth that we seek and are especially in need of at the time.
The Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent is
Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
From the words of the Collect we glean that the holy Scriptures did not appear by chance, but were purposively “written for our learning” - in existence for the purpose of teaching us and all mankind. Although we may find it too easy to gloss over the words of Scripture as they are read (by us or aloud by others) and not apply thought to what we read or hear, this would be the very opposite of an appropriate response: indeed, we are to “hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them” for a serious purpose. For by applying patience to our hearing or reading them we may obtain comfort = strengthening and through them “embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life”, which the Lord God has given us “in our Saviour Jesus Christ.”
My practice, if reading Scripture alone especially as part of daily prayers, is to consider whether I am truly taking in the meaning of what I am reading. Whenever I find I have glossed over some part I discipline myself to go back and read it over again until the meaning has sunk in. Let us seriously consider whether we are “taking in” the words of Scripture so that along with the use of other Christian disciplines and the exercise of faith, hope and love we mature spiritually and usefully in our walk with the Lord.
For directions about the services this Sunday the 5th December, the 2nd Sunday in Advent, please see the website www.TruthWithLanguage.com .
In faith in the holy Name of our Lord Jesus, who will continue to provide guidance to us all.