Sunday 9 December 2018

#Pause for Advent 2

Here is the second in my '#Pause for Advent' posts. If you would like to read what other bloggers have written in this series, go to

This is the collect for the second Sunday in Advent, from the Book of Common Prayer;

BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

', mark, learn, and inwardly digest....'  these words are very familiar to me. I think it was the English teacher, or maybe my History teacher, who used to use them 'at us' in their lessons. They were both thin, grey-haired 'older ladies' who glared at us over half glasses and spoke in perfectly constructed sentences.

Some books are just full of quotations.... the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and Shakespeare being the three that first come to mind.

If I am going to 'mark, learn, and inwardly digest' something, then I will have to take time; maybe 'ponder the words in my heart' (Luke 2, 19), rather than rushing off to the next thing. Time to listen properly, or read attentively.

In the Lent book 'The Art of Lent' by Jane Williams, today's picture is this da Vinci sketch

Leonardo da Vinci - Virgin and Child with Ss Anne and John the Baptist.jpg
 Left to the 'devices and desires of my own heart' (General Confession, Book of Common Prayer) I would look at the picture for a few moments, and then move on to the next thing - tidying up, making a cup of tea, writing a letter...

and completely fail to notice the details and connections that Jane Williams brings to our attention - How St Anne (Mary's mother) is pointing to heaven, linking the scene to God above, how Jesus is blessing St John, how St John seems already to be on the edge, looking in, how St Anne is looking at Mary, but Mary is looking at Jesus...

It takes time to hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest.

The word 'wise' has pinged my brain - in its old meaning of 'manner' or 'way', and in the narrower modern meaning of 'wisdom'. Now 'manner' is adding its resonance to the phrase - as in 'respect' and also resonating with the Manna that God provided for the Israelites in the desert fleeing from Pharaoh...

The collect seems to adjure me to hear and read the Scriptures in a respectful, thoughtful way, and take nourishment from them. To chew over the meaning properly, and get the full benefit of the words.

What riches come to those who pause to meditate, not to empty their minds, but to fill them...   

The painting below is from the same wikipedia site, but by Bernadino Luini. He has clearly used the same composition.

Holy Family with St Anne and the infant John the BaptistBernardino Luini


  1. What a lovely post. As a Nonconformist, I'm not too familiar with Cranmer's Prayer book, beyond the well known phrases. But I love this injunction to ponder on Scripture and feed on the Riches of the Word of God. Thank you x

  2. It's amazing what we notice when we look carefully, take the the time to hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest.

  3. Thank you for your comments - Somehow I didn't manage to do whatever I was supposed to do to make them appear on the blog. Now I have a chance to revisit the post, and read your comments - with this year's Advent season nearly upon us. Thank you both for your comments.