Satiate yourselves with the sacred words
Thursday in the third week of Advent
Isaiah 54:1-10; Psalm 30; Luke 7:24-30
When the messengers of John had gone, he began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
From Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on Luke (Sermon XXXVIII)
Ye who thirst for the knowledge of the divine doctrines, open once again the treasure-house of your minds: satiate yourselves with the sacred words: or rather, give way to no feeling of satiety herein: for gluttony in things that tend to edification is a quality worth the gaining. Let us approach, then, the Savior’s words, not carelessly, and without due preparation, but with that attentiveness and vigilance which befits those who would learn. For so alone can those subjects for contemplation, which are difficult of comprehension, be rightly understood. Let us, therefore, ask of Christ that light, which he sends down upon the mind and heart, that thus being enabled correctly to understand the force of what is said.
The excerpt from Cyril of Alexandria is really just the opening to his sermon, before he gets to the bits about John and Jesus. But I think Cyril gives us an important reminder: the scriptures demand more than a casual reading. We do well to prepare ourselves to hear and to engage the Word.
If we were to apply this to our Sunday worship, perhaps we would
- encourage lectors not only to practice by studying the lessons ahead of time but by praying before reading in public worship.
- begin with silence and prayer before the service begins, so that we might all pray for Christ’s light in our minds and hearts.
- read the lesson from something other than a photocopied service leaflet, as the prayer book suggests, a book of sufficient dignity.
- leave silence after the readings so that the still, small voice might speak.
- expect our preachers to address one or more of the lessons, rather than some other topic, as the primary focus of the sermon.
Just a few thoughts on a Thursday night…
Cyril really says it best: “Ye who thirst for the knowledge of the divine doctrines, open once again the treasure-house of your minds: satiate yourselves with the sacred words.”
Photo by yours truly of a Greek Orthodox deacon carrying the Gospel book around the Aedicule in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem.