A 17th Century Anabaptist witness remarked that, “God has revealed [Himself through His Word to] the weavers at the loom, to the cobblers on the bench, and to bellow-menders, lantern tinkers, scissors-grinders, brass-makers, thatchers and all sorts of riff-raff, and poor, filthy and lousy beggars. And to us ecclesiastics who have studied from our youth, night and day, God has concealed it” (Sugirtharajah, 405).
To enter into a real, deep relationship with God through His Word requires that I prepare to meet with Him Face-to-face in dialogue. But I cannot do this as an intellectual, merely studying the words on the page. In this preparation I must dispose myself for a God-encounter through purification, humility, faith, and obedience.
Magrassi said, “The exegete can discern the sensus plenus only to the extent that he or she possesses purity of heart” (59). There is a necessary repentance that I must undertake each time I come to God’s Holy Word. I will not enjoy the fullness of God’s voice if I have unconfessed sin, and the truth that God wants to speak into my life will be unheard if I am not penitent. Cassian said, “Truth does not reveal itself to the impure….” (Magrassi 58).
In spiritually reading God’s Word, I realize that it is an act of God to bring me to the heavenly places to commune with Him. Yet I cannot, without a pure heart, ascend to the “mountain of the Lord” (NABRE, Psalm 24:3). I must also humble myself in order that God will bring me to Himself: “Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you” (Jas 4:10). Though I may gain some understanding by studying the words of Scripture, though I may endeavor even to become a scholastic, I will remember always that, as Magrassi has said, “The content of this language is a divine Word which is mystery.”
The purely intellectual pursuit of knowledge is one that seeks to conquer or obtain power. St. Paul said, “Knowledge inflates with pride” (1 Cor 8:1), and so I come to the Word, not only to humbly learn but to surrender myself to God’s Word to me. In the Word Christ meets me Face-to-face, as a Person to a person. Magrassi reminds me that, “‘the Word’ is not just a word (a text, as Bengel used to say); it is a Person. Our full attention must express itself in total adherence, full submission” (64). Later, Magrassi said, spiritual reading, “is not intellectualism. It is the discovery of the mystery of a Person deeply loved, in whom every truth comes together like the lines on his face.”
Thus, before I engage in reading the Word, I commit myself to believe it. I see the words on the page, not with the eyes of my body, but with the supernatural vision of Christ or, “the gaze of faith” (Magrassi, 59).
Meeting God ‘at the loom’ means that two people are coming together to dialogue. Dumontier calls lectio divina, or spiritual reading, “Reading done by two people” (Magrassi, 78). And Magrassi adds that “When I read, he speaks to me; when I pray, I respond to him” (78). And in my response, I act. As I pray, the Word becomes, as St. Benedict has said, “instruments of good works” (Magrassi, 87). Scripture is always beckoning me to align my will to God’s will. St. James reminds us to, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves” (Jas 1:22).
Finally, in reflection I know that those who work at the loom and bench get dirty. When Jacob wrestled with the Lord, the Hebrew root word for wrestled is the dust. And the Latin word for humble is humus, which means the earth or the soil. If I am to struggle with the Lord face-to-face in the Word, to understand Him, I must immerse myself in it. I will humbly commit my whole being to His Word with the goal of, as Magrassi said, “vital assimilation” (90) and “unconditional surrender to God who intervenes in my life by speaking” (93).
Magrassi, Mariano. Praying the Bible: An Introduction to Lectio Divina. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1998. Print.
Sugirtharajah, R.S. Voices from the Margin: Interpreting the Bible in the World. Mayrknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1995. Print.
New American Bible (Revised Edition). Washington DC: Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., 2010. Print.