Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ” (NABRE, John 17:3). This “knowing” of God is available to all through a spiritual reading of God’s revelatory Word. But I could be like some who merely read the words of Scripture yet cannot find or ever know God (cf. John 5:39). No, I must slowly digest each jot and tittle, savoring in faith the reality that God is speaking to me. Magrassi said, “Our eyes will not skim rapidly over the page but will gaze peacefully at each word” (106).
I don’t drink wine. I cannot. But I do come to the Table.
I remember when I first partook of the Communion drink after my reversion experience. The liquid was like sweet fire, it exploded, and it swished around my palate all on its own. The blood was warm as it coursed throughout my body and into my veins. It was overwhelming. The momentary event lasted for days. And often still does, as I attend to it.
Mature wine tasters are spiritual readers of the fermented grape. They smell by deep, slow inhaling, they investigate with their intellect, they taste with their mouths and eyes, they find balance, and they measure length. Yet it is not a science, but an art that meets and then knows the beauty of God’s good creation. So too is the tasting and seeing of God’s Word, the spiritual reading of Scripture.
Magrassi tells us to slow down and relish–to read, to meditate, to pray and to contemplate (104). These, as he says are, “four rungs on an ascending ladder whose lower end rests upon the earth and whose top pierces the heavens” (104). To spiritually read is to be open and to attend, to be fully present to God’s speaking. “All haste is excluded” (Magrassi, 105).
Though there is not total agreement that the Hebrew term selah in the Psalms means to pause, it certainly does seem to make sense. In meditation, Magrassi says, “A poem demands that we pause at the end for silence” (109). Each swallow of every word requires an enjoyment that we might “grasp its full meaning, imprint it on our memory and taste its sweetness, find joy and nourishment…” (Magrassi, 109). The ancients called this rumination. I like Mirriam-Webster’s definition of rumination: “to chew again what has been chewed slightly and swallowed.” The reading is the chewing, the meditation is the chewing again, the swallowing, the ingesting—it is “The Word so deeply assimilated that it becomes part of us, molding our thoughts, feelings, and life” (Magrassi, 111). You become, literally, what you eat.
Through prayer I speak God’s word back to God in understanding. How else can I speak to God but with His words? His is a heavenly language, spoken with tongues of fire. Magrassi in recalling Pascal said, “Only God knows how to speak properly to God” and “To return it, I must I receive it and assent to it…” (113). In Hebrew the term to know God is yada. It is the same term that is used to express the intimate physical exchange that can only be experienced between a husband and a wife. Prayer can be that intimate relationship that becomes a scriptural dialogical exchange with God, carrying the metaphor a bit further. The Psalmist says, “Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss” (NABRE, 85:11).
The writer of the Proverbs speaks of wine as not something to be idolized: “Do not gaze at the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup… ” (NIV, Proverbs 23:31). Gazing is the loving activity that is reserved for God alone. To gaze is to contemplate God, “to enter into a relationship of faith and love with the God of truth and life, who has revealed his face to us in Christ” (Magrassi, 116). Thus the gaze of contemplation moves me through the icon of the Word into the very presence of God in the heavenly realms. This is what Magrassi says the ancients spoke of: “a particularly rich religious experience, a fruition that seems to anticipate the joy of heaven” (117).
Through lectio divina — the slow, abiding, and purposeful reading, meditating, praying, and contemplating of God’s Word — we will ultimately “taste and see that the Lord is good…” (NABRE, Psalm 34:9).
Magrassi, Mariano. Praying the Bible: An Introduction to Lectio Divina. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1998. Print.
New American Bible (Revised Edition). Washington DC: Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., 2010. Print.
New International Version. Colorado Springs, CO: Biblica, Inc., 2011. BibleGateway.com. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.
“rumination.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, 2011. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.
(c) Paul Dordal, 2014