In a recent Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), the thought of how lucky we are to have Sacred Scriptures presented itself to me. You can’t make this stuff up, with so many people writing about God. One thought, in particular, stood out for me: God communicates to humans through humans. How else can God do it? Some detractors say that all Sacred Scriptures is just the wild imagination of those living at the time. Maybe. Not so fast! Spiritual reading is not like reading the phone book, or a Jack Reacher novel by British author, Lee Child. My focus on selecting a spiritual book is intentional. I want to use it as an instrument to bring my mind and heart closer to Christ. Sacred Scripture is a good example of writings that were inspired by God, according to the Church. When I read it, I pray that I become what I read. Your levels of spiritual reading might be different than mine. Here is what I intend to pack.
Whenever I think of spiritual reading, there are five levels of books that are meaningful to me. Think of a dartboard with five circles on it. The first one is the bull’s eye, the most points, and the most difficult to hit consistently. Using this analogy, here are five levels of books that I consider spiritual reading.
SACRED SCRIPTURES: I use the term Sacred Scriptures rather than The Bible, because, at least in my spiritual reality, it denotes the holiness and primacy of the readings. When I read Sacred Scriptures, the words are transformative to help me grow from self to God. I read it daily in Liturgy of the Hours and private, spiritual reading. The Church Universal gathered together in prayer to the Holy Spirit to determine which books were inspired and which were spurious. Scriptures are transformative when I read them. With the Word of God, I pray to become what I read.
Resources: http://www.usccb.org/bible/books-of-the-bible/index.cfm http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations/index.cfm http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm http://www.usccb.org/bible/understanding-the-bible/index.cfm
ECUMENICAL COUNCILS: These are the interpretive results of how the Church Universal viewed Sacred Scripture and other housekeeping rules in order to maintain a unified approach to spirituality in each age. There were twenty-one such councils and you have the opportunity to look at their results. These Ecumenical Councils proposed the principles and policies of the age in which they are contained. The Pope ratifies the results, but it is the Ecumenical Council that is the Church Universal at work under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
EARLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH: From apostolic times, there have been commentators on Sacred Scriptures and how we should look on passages in order to increase Christ in us and decrease our false self. Some of these writers were considered heretical (not authentic according to the Church Universal).
THE REFORMERS: These writings come from those whom the Church has designated as Saints, Martyrs, Reformers, Doctors of the Church, Pastors, Religious Men and Women, our major league players of how we should keep ourselves centered on Christ alone. These Saints are the Hall of Fame for the rest of us saints. All the Saints, indeed everyone who ever lived, except Christ and Mary, were sinful and imperfect. We honor them not because they were perfect, but rather because they were imperfect and filled their lives by loving others as Christ loved us. They wrote of their journies from their false self to their true self. We gain inspiration and courage from their struggles to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). These reformers did not try to reform the Church in the time in which they lived, although they did just that, but focused on their own interior relationship with Christ.
FOUNDATIONAL WRITERS: There are exceptional Saints and Holy Men and Women who formed systematic approaches to loving Christ. Such persons are St. Dominic, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Benedict, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. John of the Cross, St. Scholastica, St. Mother Theresa of Calcutta, just to name a few who founded schools of love for their followers to focus on preferring nothing to the love of Christ (St. Benedict in his Rule, Chapter 4). I do have one recommendation for those seeking resources, one that I, myself, use frequently. Go to the URL, http://www.newadvent.org, then sign up to receive their newsletter.