Won’t You Read a Few Verses for Us This Sunday?

I heard, as I am sure many of you did, that on Sunday the actor Olivia de Havilland passed away at her home in Paris. I remember the name, mostly because I heard my mother talk about her movies, but other than knowing she was an actor, I did not know much about her.

At least, not until I read a post on Facebook that a friend shared in the Facebook group, “Celebrate What Christians Have in Common.” She posted a piece by Bishop Pierre D. Whalon (an Episocpal Priest serving at that time at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Paris, France) which was shared in “Anglicans Online” in 2012 (© 2012 Anglicans Online). Ms de Havilland often served as a lector at the Cathedral and Bishop Whalon had the good fortune to interview her and ask her about how she prepared to read Scripture at services in the Cathedral. Maybe we don’t think of the public reading of Scripture as a spiritual discipline but after reading the following remarks of Ms de Havilland, I invite you to consider that.

Below is an excerpt from Bishop Whalon’s 2012 article:

She showed me the texts she had read last Christmas Eve. Each was printed out in large type, and festooned with underlines, semi-colons, and other diacritical marks. “I think I prepare in a way the Church would not approve — I add punctuations.” ….

“I start on the preceding Monday by reading the texts I am assigned. The next day I re-read them, and I think the night’s sleep often helps me see things I hadn’t noticed at first.”

Then Miss de Havilland wrestles with the text, to find its underlying “architecture.”

“You have to convey the deep meaning, you see, and it has to start with your own faith.”

During the days that follow, she tries to figure out what the text means to her, and then how best to get it across.

…. “But first I always pray. I pray before I start to prepare, as well. In fact, I would always say a prayer before shooting a scene, so this is not so different, in a way.”

… To sum up, reading the Scriptures in church has to be an authentic proclamation of the reader’s faith. Preparation is essential — there are far too many last-minute readings in our churches. In order to get across the words so that they become for the listener the Word, not only must the reader be trained in the rhetoric of reading aloud but must also be willing to risk wrestling with God over the meaning. Not all biblical texts are comforting, as Miss de Havilland pointed out. People of faith always have doubts — only those who have no faith have no doubts. It is when we have well prepared the text, rehearsed the inflections to give various key words to as bring forth the meaning, and prayed for the Spirit’s help, that we can be authentic proclaimers of the Good News that lies in the Word written.

Thank you Ms de Havilland for your insights and thank you Bishop Whalon for sharing the interview and thank you Gloriamarie for posting on Facebook.

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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