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.
Feast of St Matthew
Proverbs 3:1-6, II Timothy 3:14-17, Matthew 9:9-13.
We are remembering with gratitude today the evangelist Matthew, author of the first of the four gospels contained in the New Testament. Matthew’s gospel was written to a Jewish-Christian audience and presents Jesus as the promised Messiah and King who has come to establish the reign of God upon earth. Matthew quotes the Old Testament (or Hebrew scriptures) extensively, arguing that Jesus is the fulfillment of the ancient prophesies that spoke of the coming of the Messiah.
Matthew opens his gospel with this proposition that Jesus is the Messiah, noting the circumstances that surrounded his birth, and explaining their significance. Then follow five sections, each containing narratives describing the words and actions of Jesus, and a block of Jesus’ teaching. The teachings elaborate what the kingdom of heaven is, and describe how those who belong to that kingdom are to conduct themselves in the world. The five sections bring to mind the five books of the law – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy — all of which have been traditionally ascribed to Moses. The comparison is intentional: Moses was the great teacher of the Old Testament and of Israel; Jesus is the great teacher of the New Testament and of Christianity.