§ 120. [A]t fixed hours time should be given to certain definite reading. For haphazard reading, constantly varied and as if lighted on by chance does not edify but makes the mind unstable; taken into the memory lightly, it goes out from it even more lightly. But you should concentrate on certain authors and let your mind grow used to them.
§ 121. The Scriptures need to be read and understood in the same spirit in which they were written. You will never enter into Paul's meaning until by constant application to reading him and by giving yourself to meditation you have imbibed his spirit. You will never understand David until by experience you have made the very sentiments of the psalms your own. And that applies to all Scripture. There is the same gulf between attentive study and mere reading as there is between friendship and acquaintance with a passing guest, between boon companionship and chance meeting.
§ 122. Some part of your daily reading should also each day be committed to memory, taken as it were into the stomach, to be more carefully digested and brought up again for frequent rumination; something in keeping with your vocation and helpful to concentration, something that will take hold of the mind and save it from distraction.
§ 123. The reading should also stimulate the feelings and give rise to prayer, which should interrupt your reading: an interruption which should not so much hamper the reading as restore to it a mind ever more purified for understanding.
§ 124. For reading serves the purpose of the intention with which it is done. If the reader truly seeks God in his reading, everything that he reads tends to promote that end, making the mind surrender in the course of the reading and bring all that is understood into Christ's service.
From: William of Saint Thierry (d. 1148), The Golden Epistle: A Letter to the Brethren at Mont Dieu 1.120-124, trans. Theodore Berkeley, The Works of William of St. Thierry, Cistercian Fathers 12 (Spencer, Mass.: Cistercian Publications, 1971) 51-52. In the Migne Patrologia Latina, volume 184, this would be Book 1, paragraph 31.
Illustration: Gospel book, Meuse valley, second half of the 12th century. © Copyright Koninklijke Bibliotheek. 76 E 17, folios 100 verso to 101 recto. Open to the beginning of the Gospel of John.
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