Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Book Review: Lectio Divina Bible Study: The Mass in Scripture

Drawing Our Worship From God's Word

Many fundamentalist Christians are capable of quoting Scripture word-for-word from memory, citing chapter and verse to support their various doctrines and beliefs. Unfortunately, Catholics are not as well known for their biblical literacy. The best Catholic memorization tends to focus on the parts of the Mass for which the congregation is responsible on any given Sunday. We know when and how to say, do, and respond to every word and gesture throughout the Liturgy, just as well as the average Protestant can quote John 3:16.

It may seem from this that we Catholics are an unbiblical people (a common accusation) - we are so wrapped up in our ceremonies, rituals and traditions. But the truth is that the Mass is a deeply biblical worship, rooted in both the Old and New Testaments, and expressing biblical truths in a most dynamic way. The Mass is a lived biblical experience. Our fellow Christians may be able to cite chapter and verse by heart, but the Mass shows us how to truly live out those words in heartfelt Christian worship. The Mass forms the basis of Catholic scriptural knowledge. We need only look deeper into the rituals and prayers of the Mass to make this connection. For this reason, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing has chosen The Mass in Scripture as the first title in its series, Lectio Divina Bible Study.

The book is structured, as one might expect, with sections covering each of the four parts of Mass: the Introductory Rites, the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and the Communion Rite and Dismissal. These are preceded with two other sections: one brief chapter entitled “Overview of The Mass in Scripture” and a separate section concerning “Covenant Worship.”

Each of these “Sections” is further divided into six individual “Lessons” which provide biblical passages and points for reflection that pertain to each part of the Mass. The biblical passages are quoted in full and are selected from both the Old and New Testaments. Within each Lesson we are asked to “listen” to the passages that are cited, and to “understand” the meaning of God’s Word in these passages; we then “reflect” on how God’s Word can be applied in our lives today, and “pray” for guidance in living out these truths. And finally we are encouraged to “act” on what we have learned. This approach is shaped by the ancient method of lectio divina – “divine reading” or “holy reading” – a traditional, centuries-old method of prayerfully and reflectively immersing oneself in God’s Word. It is designed to make Scripture spiritually accessible and relevant to the reader.

The Mass in Scripture is the first in a series of Lectio Divina titles from Our Sunday Visitor. A brief introduction to this series states that future volumes “will focus on worship, prayer, spiritual practices, and active commitment, helping participants make the Catholic Christian way of life more fully their own.” With that in mind, each of these books is intended for a broad range of uses: individual study, classroom work, RCIA preparation, or parish study groups. Considering the affordable price, the amount of material that is presented, and the quality of writing from author Stephen Binz this is a potentially valuable resource in any setting.

The timely release of this title is yet another mark in favor of The Mass in Scripture. With the new translation due out in Advent of 2011, there is sure to be a renewed interest in the study of the Mass among the faithful. Thankfully this book takes into account this updated translation. And so we find “And with your spirit,” as the response to “Peace be with you,” instead of “And also with you.” The section concerning the penitential rite includes the phrase “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.” Throughout the text, the author makes use of these new adaptations of the Mass text and the result is a book that will serve Catholics for many years to come.

It took much longer than anticipated for me to finish reading The Mass in Scripture. I had set out to read it as quickly as possible for the purpose of publishing this review. At just under 200 pages it is a compact size and would seem to be a quick read, but the structure of the text encourages one to linger over each Lesson and ponder its depths. The purpose of Lectio Divina is to cause one to pause and reflect - not to rush through the words and devour them, but to savor each syllable as God intended. His Word is meant to feed our souls. How fitting that the first of this series focuses on God’s Word made flesh and given to us as food in the Mass. This book, and those to come in this series, will surely provide much food for thought.

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This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Lectio Divina Bible Study: The Mass in Scripture . They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.

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