One of the great joys and privileges of monastic life is dwelling in a world that is absolutely permeated with Holy Scripture, the Word of God. The creative force of God is all around us in our worship. The daily readings in morning and evening prayer, the Eucharistic lections, the psalmody which forms the heart of our office, as well as all the places it is woven into collects, canticles, and suffrages.
“The effect of the scriptures upon us in the liturgy is largely subliminal,” as our Rule states, but as we are enfolded into this life our hearts begin to be transformed in profound ways. As the Rule continues, “These hearts of ours are not empty vessels but inner worlds alive with images, memories, experiences and desires. It is the Spirit dwelling within us who brings the revelation of Scripture into a vital encounter with our inmost selves, and brings to birth new meaning and life.” The Word of God comes to us not only in a rarified Church language segregated to a single aspect of our lives. It comes to us in the language of our work and our play, our teaching and rebuking, our encouraging and counselling. The Word of God comes to us in the language of our hearts.
And for that, we have people like St. Jerome to thank. Just a few hundred years into this Jesus movement, shifting cultural tides were bringing Latin into the mainstream of Roman life and work replacing the Greek that had been prevalent in the days of Jesus. Jerome had been a gifted student in Rome coming like so many to study rhetoric, indulging in all the worldly pleasures that the metropolis had to offer he was eventually converted to Christianity sometime in his late teens or twenties sometime after the year 360 AD. As the sharp, two-edged sword of truth pierced his soul he took on the white martyrdom of early monastics eschewing power and privilege to seek an ascetic repentance turning his heart to God. Travelling to some of the earliest places of monastic life in Syria and Egypt, he gleaned from teachers like Didymous the Blind, who was himself a student of St. Antony of Egypt, the veritable father of monks.
Jerome was eventually able to settle in Palestine. In the caves that pock mark the landscape of Bethlehem, he drew near to the Word of God incarnate both in geography and in study. The major project of his life, the translation of the Greek Old and New testaments into the common Latin tongue, would become the solely accepted translation of scripture in the Christian West up to the time of the Reformation. As God’s holy Word, living and active would not return empty, others were inspired to bring the revealed word of God into the languages of the people. Martin Luther in German, and his contemporary William Tyndale in English, gave the same gift to God’s people, the Word of God in the language of their hearts.
This covenant, the Law which been put into our hearts, and written on our minds is an inexhaustible gift of the revelation of the incarnate Word, Jesus himself. This sacrament of the Word, which leads us to the Sacrament of the Table is nourishing fare that is worth recollecting and cherishing. In it we find Christ and all things necessary to salvation. Praise God for the gift of God’s word who came to us in Christ Jesus, and who remains with us always in the scriptures, in the language of our hearts.
Please support the Brothers work.
The brothers of SSJE rely on the inspired kindness of friends to sustain our life and our work. We are grateful for the prayers and support provided to us.