Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: grant that we may in such wisehear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the Second Sunday of Advent, Divine Worship: The Missal
‘God comes to us in his word. That is why it does not seem altogether incongruous to devote the second Sunday in Advent to prayer about the Bible. In any case it was almost inevitable that in 1549, the period of the first English Book of Common Prayer for which this collect was composed, the pride and joy of the Reformers in the rediscovery of the Bible should find expression in one of the new prayers. The collect prays that this priceless treasure of God’s word may be used to the fullest advantage. It emphasises the truth that the scriptures comes from the hand of God.
…[T]hey should be read intellectually, like any other book. In such an approach there are a number of stages. One begins by simply reading them or hearing them read. One should at the same time ‘mark’ them or give particular attention to them. (And how hard that is sometimes, when for instance the lessons are read in church!) Then one should learn them, or at least select portions of them, by heart. What a relief it is in sickness, or in the ‘slow watches of the night’, to be able to repeat the beloved words to oneself.
And then, of course, one should ‘inwardly digest them’. That means to understand them and let their meaning enter into the very fibre of one’s being. And intelligent person will want to understand the purport of what he reads, particularly when the subject-matter is an important as this. He will therefore seek explanation od the more difficult passages either from published commentaries or from some of the clergy whose special province it is to expound the scriptures.
This means that he will study the Bible intelligently, not using it as a talisman, or fetish, not thinking that there is any special value in knowing the list of the kings of Israel or the journeys of St Paul, but realising that in the scriptures God uses the talents of chosen writers and through them speaks to his chosen people’.
from Reflections on the Collects, 1964
by William Wand KCVO, 1885-1977 (Bishop of London 1945-1955)
Fr Lee Kenyon