Now my 7th grader and I are reading the Old Testament at a pretty good clip. Genesis, which spans more time than the whole rest of the Bible combined, and Exodus were finished after three weeks of school. Tonight we began Leviticus.
A friend of mine recommended Peter Kreeft's You Can Understand Bible: A Practical and Illuminating Guide to Each Book in the Bible.
I am only through the completely awesome and illuminating introduction and through his chapters up to Leviticus, and now I give you my highest recommendation to buy and enjoy his insights and incredibly efficient writing style.
Kreeft says in the introduction:
Reading the Bible should be a form of prayer. The Bible should be read in God's presence and as the unfolding of his mind. It is not just a book, but God's love letter to you. . . . Reading it is aligning your mind and will with God's; therefore it is a fulfillment of the prayer "Thy will be done."
Once you have listened, do talk back. Dialogue with the Author as if He were standing right in front of you--because He is! Ask Him questions and go to His Book to see how He answers. God is a good teacher, and a good teacher wants his students to ask questions.
The Bible calls itself "the Word of God". But it points beyond itself to the "Word of God", Jesus Christ. . . . The words man can utter are not alive, but the Word God utters eternally is not only alive but divine. He calls Himself "the Son of God". Meeting Him is the point of the whole Bible (see Jn 5:39) and the whole point of our lives.
|Christ the Teacher (Icon Source: Monastery Icons)|
In his chapter on Genesis 1-2 I found the following beautiful and profound quote, with bold emphasis added by me:
If God created my very existence, I simply have no being, no essence, and no rights apart from or independent of God. My relationship to God is not an addition, however precious, to my being; it is my very being, my essence. Man is not man and then related to God; to be a human being is to be God's creature, God's servant, God's son or daughter. Not a second of my time, a cent of my money, a drop of my blood or my sweat or a thought in my head can I truly call my own unless I first call it His. I owe Him my all because I owe Him my being. The Bible does not present "religion" as a department of life. It presents life itself as essentially, totally, and inescapably religious, that is, God-relational, from its center.
After reading it awhile, my Bible flipped from Leviticus to Psalms 62 and 63. It kind of landed there. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen would say on his weekly broadcast, "Thank you, Angel."
The other reason is Psalm 63 in my New Jerusalem Bible Saints Devotional Edition has completely beautiful meditation by Blessed Angela of Foligno, called "Knowing and Loving God". I've read and re-read the Psalm and her meditation many times. You know why? Because, it is impossible to exhaust the riches of the Bible, even of a single Psalm, or as some would say, even of a single verse, like "Come to my help, O God, Lord, hurry to my rescue." (Ps. 70:1)
Here first is the first half of Psalm 62:
1 In God alone there is rest for my soul, from him comes my safety;
8 trust in him, you people, at all times. Pour out your hearts to him, God is a refuge for us. Pause
This passage did give me pause, because my friend and her family found their rock, their stronghold, and their source for hope in God! This is the friend that underwent surgery yesterday morning, to remove cancerous tumor in one of her breasts. They are all praising God tonight, as am I, and you are welcome to join in, that the lymph nodes extracted were clean. This means most likely no chemotherapy, and only localized radiation therapy. Thank you to all that joined with me in praying!
Here is the first half of Psalm 63, which is a Psalm of David when he was in the desert of Judah:
1 God, you are my God, I pine for you; my heart thirsts for you, my body longs for you, as a land parched, dreary and waterless.
2 Thus I have gazed on you in the sanctuary, seeing your power and your glory.
3 Better your faithful love than life itself; my lips will praise you.
5 All my longings fulfilled as with fat and rich foods, a song of joy on my lips and praise in my mouth.
6 On my bed when I think of you, I muse on you in the watches of the night,
7 for you have always been my help; in the shadow of your wings I rejoice;
8 my heart clings to you, your right hand supports me.
This verse captures what I think many of you who find your way to this less than lean blog (how long is this post?) feel. We do long for God. We pine for Him. Our hearts thirst for him. We go to our Churches gazing at the monstrance or the tabernacle, longing to see Christ in his power and glory, as Sts. Peter, James, and John saw him in the Transfiguration, and St. John and Daniel saw him as the Son of Man in heaven.
Blessed Angela of Foligno, 1248?-1309 writes on Psalm 63, a meditation Bert Ghezzi entitled, "Knowing and Loving God" (bold emphasis added):
The wise soul does not merely care to know God superficially, but strives to know him in truth and to learn his goodness and worth. To such a soul God is not only good, but the Highest Good. Thus knowing him, she loves him wholly because of his goodness, and loving him she desires to possess him. And then God, the Highest Good, gives himself to the soul, and she feels his presence and tastes his sweetness, and enjoys him with great delight.
Then as the soul partakes of the Highest Love, he touches her and she falls in love with her Beloved. She wants to hold him fast, and embrace him, presses him to her, and joins herself to God. And God draws her to himself with a great sweetness of love. The power of love transforms the lover into the loved, and the loved into the lover. The soul, inflamed by God's love, by the power of love is united to God, her Beloved. . . .
Do you realize what good things that knowing God brings us? In the way of God, the person who wants to possess God must first know him, and then God's love that transforms the lover into the loved will follow.
This is why we read, or rather pray, as we meditate on the words of Scripture. We want to spend time, even if it is just 15 minutes a day, striving to know God in truth, because knowing God, being loved and transformed by God, loving God, and loving our neighbor with the love he showed us, and transforms our hearts into hearts like his, well that is why we were created. It is the essence of our beginning, our eternity, and the joyous middle betwixt the trials, and sadness of our life on earth.
Note: The New Jerusalem Bible was the version used for the scripture quotes in this post.