Saturday 3 January 2015

Reading as spiritual practice

I've been thinking that what we really need to strengthen is spiritual formation and human formation. Filiberto quoted Chavez to me the other day: Chavez used to say, what we need is intellectual formation and formation of the heart. I was thinking: intellectual formation, well, we've done well for ourselves in that, the structures are in place, the programs are in place, we've done much in that field, there is already a system. But I think now that Chavez was right: there is a wealth and a possibility in the intellectual dimension of formation that we need to explore and insist on. And here I am not thinking only of improving the structures. I am thinking of the simple habit of reading. "Many religious are illiterate," someone once said. "They never read. They are too busy saving the world." The simple habit of reading: slow reading, meditative reading, of the gospels, of the New and Old Testaments. Because then there is the event of the word. "The coming to light of the text is at once the coming to light of the self." Cor ad cor loquitur. Deep speaks to deep. We are touched, changed, transformed. It is a way, a simple way, that cannot be neglected.
How many of us find time to read? and what do we read? and how? "As you eat, so you are." Deep insight there in the distinction between sattvic, rajasic and tamasic foods.
And reading, is one of the14 ascetical disciplines identified by the Protestant pastor Eugene H. Peterson in his wonderful book, Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness: spiritual reading, spiritual direction, meditation, confession, bodily exercise, fasting, Sabbath-keeping, dream-interpretation, retreats, pilgrimage, almsgiving (tithing), journaling, sabbaticals, and small groups. Wow.

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