Support the Café

Search our Site

The Bible as a place of sacramental encounter

The Bible as a place of sacramental encounter

Approached in a prayerful manner, the Bible is found to be always contemporary–not just writings composed in the distant past but a message addressed directly to me here and now. “He who is humble in his thoughts and engaged in spiritual work,” says St. Mark the Monk, “when he reads the Holy Scriptures will apply everything to himself and not to someone else.” As a book uniquely inspired by God and addressed to each of the faithful personally, the Bible possesses sacramental power, transmitting grace to the reader, bringing him to a point of meeting and decisive encounter. Critical scholarship is by no means excluded, but the true meaning of the Bible will only be apparent to those who study it with their spiritual intellect as well as their reasoning brain. ~Bishop Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, Revised edition (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladamir’s Seminary Press, 2001), p. 111.

According to the Catechism, we call the Holy Scriptures the “Word of God,” because God inspired their human authors and because God still speaks to us through the Bible. Both halves of this statement are important. The first, because it acknowledges the full humanity of the authors of the text and thereby authorizes our full engagement with relevant critical scholarship. Nevertheless, it is the second part that captures my attention. The Scriptures, it suggests, can anticipate the situation of any possible reader and convey God’s sovereign living Word of Truth. Truly they are the place of a sacramental, objective encounter with the living God for all who would engage with them. They are a means of grace and “addressed to each of the faithful personally,” and indeed to the whole world.

We need critical scholarship and traditional practices of wrestling with Scripture, both to get ourselves out of the way of God’s Word and because teachers mishandle the Word to support their personal agenda or buy into oppressive ideologies present in the text. We need a reverence for the Word, because God still speaks to us through the Bible, strong to judge, heal, and save.

Because they are a means of encounter with the living God, prayer provides a necessary key to opening the Scriptures. So too does participating in the sacraments and in the common life of the Church.

The Rev. Bill Carroll serves as Rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Athens, Ohio. His parish blog is at here


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ann Fontaine

The bishop of the Diocese of Oregon – is asking everyone to participate in one of these Bible reading plans.

Leslie Scoopmire

I am currently taking part in a Bible 365 program and it is really meaningful for me. Of course I have read the Bible before, but each time there is something new that strikes me in a fresh way.

(You all need to fix your link to the Rev. Carroll’s blog. It is at

thanks Leslie. ~ed.

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café