COLUMN: A love that goes beyond Scripture

Scripture is an invaluable and irreplaceable resource for any traveler on The Way of Christ. We must immerse ourselves in the Word, and in it find God’s instruction and His nourishment for our souls along life’s path.

But, is there more we must do to understand and truly digest God’s teaching beyond mastering the written word of Scripture? St. Thérèse of Lisieux takes up this question in chapter eight of her autobiography, “Story of a Soul.”

The young saint, who at this point is just taking her vows as a nun at Carmel de Lisieux, France, describes feeling helpless as she searches for a deeper relationship with Christ.

“In this helplessness, Holy Scripture and the Imitation (“The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas à Kempis) come to my aid; in them I discover a solid and very pure nourishment.”

There is no replacement for Scripture, and Thérèse finds special nourishment in the Gospel.

“But it is especially the Gospels that sustain me during my hours of prayer, for in them I find what is necessary for my poor little soul. I am constantly discovering in them new lights, hidden and mysterious meanings.”

Thérèse, God’s “Little Flower,” lays out for us what we all should seek and find in Scripture: a bottomless well of wisdom, strength, guidance and the ever-flowing love of God, revealed in His Word.

But, is the written Word enough? Or, is there a deeper, personal, intimate relationship we must seek beyond the pages of Holy Scripture? St. Thérèse tells us we must have that deeper intimacy with Christ, not just through, but beyond Scripture.

“I understand and I know from experience that: ‘The kingdom of God is within you.’ Jesus has no need of books or teachers to instruct souls: He teaches without the noise of words. Never have I heard Him speak, but I feel that He is within me at each moment; He is guiding and inspiring me with what I must say and do.”

Writing five years before the birth of St. Josemaría Escrivá, St. Thérèse lays out the core teaching of the Opus Dei founder: to find God, deeply and personally, in the midst of everyday tasks.

“I find just when I need them certain lights that I had not seen until then, and it isn’t most frequently during my hours of prayer that these are most abundant but rather in the midst of my daily occupations.”

Again, there’s no replacement for Scripture. It is essential. Prayer and meditation are essential. For St. Thérèse and those of us in the catholic, apostolic tradition, liturgy is essential. But, she teaches us to go beyond all these, to go deeper, to go within ourselves, and to discover an intimacy with Christ that goes beyond the realm of any written word, even Scripture.

How do we get there? St. Thérèse tells us to simply let go. We must abandon ourselves, and give ourselves with reckless abandon to Christ.

“Now, abandonment alone guides me. I have no other compass! I can no longer ask for anything with fervor except the accomplishment of God’s will in my soul without any creature being able to set obstacles in the way.”

Never let go of Scripture. But, to fully harvest its bounty, we must abandon ourselves, and cling to Christ.

O Christ, my only King, my Savior, love of my soul, give me the discernment and discipline to read and digest, to feed on, your Holy Word; but beyond that, give me the strength of faith, the courage, to completely abandon myself into your arms, to lose myself entirely in You, and to there find my true being, inseparable from You, from my neighbor, and from God’s creation. I ask this in the name of Christ, eternally One with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Neal is health, military affairs and religion reporter and columnist for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @jamesnealwriter, and online at jamesrneal.com or emmauspath.church.

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