Weekly Reflection – Read and Mark

08 December 2023

You might remember someone being told to ‘read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest’ – the four instructions telling someone to really get to grips with something important, to take something really to heart. The phrase comes from the special prayer for the second week in Advent from the old Prayer Book – these prayers are called ‘collects’ because they collect together the themes of the prayers and Bible readings for a particular day or week of the church’s year.

Of course, the prayer is not just about ‘digesting’ facts or information; it’s talking about the Bible, God’s word, the written witness of God’s activity in the world and in human lives. The fact there are four instructions emphasises how important it is to really pay attention and try and engage: more than a PS or an NB, more than just taking note in passing; it suggests really chewing something over.

Eating balanced meals, slowly and sensibly, allows life-giving nutrients to enter our bloodstream and keep us healthy. Likewise, this great prayer urges us to really chew over the words of the Bible so that its life-giving nutrients enter our spiritual bloodstream and keep our relationship with God and our inner selves healthy.

Perhaps the most basic building-block of any kind of relationship with God is the discipline, ideally each day, of chewing over some words of the Bible. It can be just a verse, or a passage, or a particular story, or one of the Psalms. Just like a balanced diet, a sensible portion each day is better than a great big binge and then nothing at all!

So here’s a suggestion in the run up to Christmas. Over the next few weeks time we’ll hear the Christmas story, maybe several times over, said and sung and on TV programmes and films! Why not take one of the key passages and try read it each day for yourself? You could try Matthew 1.18-25, or Luke 1.26-38, or Luke 2.1-20. Although these stories may feel very familiar, spending a little time chewing over them each day would be a great spiritual discipline – and maybe help us see or notice something new or differently about God and what he does. A good way to mark, learn, and inwardly digest as we read – as part of a daily, healthy, balanced spiritual diet!

With prayers and best wishes,

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Wakefield Cathedral

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