Monday, October 20, 2008

May the Force be with you…

The word healing comes from a word meaning "entire" or "complete," and signifies a restoration to wholeness. For that reason it is a more "holistic" word than therapy. While many people are helped by psychotherapy, I suspect that there are also many like me who have benefited from occasional counselling but have received more help from spiritual practices such as prayer and lectio divina, or holy reading. Perhaps the most radical aspect of the psychology of the desert monastics is the extent to which they believed that Scripture itself had the power to heal. In The Word in the Desert, his study of how thoroughly the early monks integrated Scripture into their lives, Douglas Burton-Christie notes that they regarded these "sacred texts [as] inherently powerful, a source of holiness, with a capacity to transform their lives."

Appreciating this monastic perspective on the Bible means abandoning the modern tendency to regard it as primarily an object of intellectual study, or as a handy adjunct to our ideology, be it conservative or liberal. The desert father who expounds on the inherent value of meditating on Scripture by observing, "Even if we do not understand the meaning of the words we are saying, when the demons hear them, they take fright and go away," insults our intelligence. What is left to us, if we relinquish our intellectual comprehension? Isn't it necessary to retain more control than that? Maybe not, if we want to experience the Word of God as these monks did, as "a living force within them."

From Acedia & me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life by Kathleen Norris (Riverhead Books, 2008), with thanks to Vicki K Black

I just love this. I love it. I love it. I love it. I have for so long felt that there was a force, which I couldn't exactly name, in Scripture as you read it in the Daily Office, unvarnished, free from commentary or sermon, short of devotional notes. Just the Word of God, standing there before us, rather as Jesus stood before Pilate. We are changed merely by being in its presence. Healed. Made whole. And we do not need to know the mechanism behind our healing. There words of Norris' are such liberation: to read someone else describing just what I've been feeling is - for me at any rate, full of self-doubt as I am - healing in itself!


  1. Yes, this is a powerful truth.

  2. Kathleen Norris is one of my favorites. Like a good poet, she sees through to the essence of things.

  3. Thanks--I bought this book a few weeks ago but haven't started to read it. NOW I will!

  4. Yes I agree completely. The Word of God is filled with power and life which is the essence of healing. It somehow 'contains' and reveals the 'presence' of the Holy Spirit. Even the name of Jesus is alive and active(which is why we should never take the name of the Lord in vain).

    In short, all that 'examination and study' of the Word of God is a form of detachment from it and a desire to qualify and limit its use to suit our fancies (or ideologies). But the desert fathers were willing to expose themselves to the Word and to let it soak into their beings trustfully and beg God that it would transform them.

    (I've been away from the blogosphere for the last month...but I do enjoy your new banner. Pax et bonum.)

  5. Thank you, everyone.

    Tausign, thar's an extremely good point of yours that "'examination and study' of the Word of God is a form of detachment from it" - simply being present to the Word, without defences, is what beings real transformation.

    Glad you like the new banner - it's the small chapel at the Convent of St. Francis, Compton Durville, seen through the trees from the quiet garden. Good to see you back!