These words first appeared in St Peter's Eastern Hill E-Newsletter of the 14th May 2021 and were written by the St Peter’s Bookroom Manager, Carol O’Connor
If Jesus had had a library what titles would have been on his bookshelves? In his time the Jewish scrolls were accessible only in the synagogue. The Tanakh (which includes the Torah or teachings, Nevim or prophets, and the Ketuvim or writings) were scrolls stored in cabinets, the ‘Holy Ark.’
This past week a number of parishioners and friends have been sorting through many second hand books for the Book Fair. There’s a broad variety of subjects, including religious. As Christians we believe that Jesus himself was and is the Word of God. There’s been a lot books written on that subject. Half of our parish hall is currently filled with books about Jesus and the scriptures, donated from many people including clergy, academics and theological libraries. Sometimes, as we have been sorting, old letters, tram tickets or book marks tumble out of a book. Each book has had it’s own particular story of belonging and journey into our hall.
When just out of college and finding a job in a newly opened Borders bookshop, American essayist Sven Birkerts writes: ‘I’d always been one for books and reading but now I was truly combustible.’ We’d not like to have had the threat of fire in the hall this week, but the life of the mind, the imaginings, the subtle delicacies of thought tumbling around inside those flat rectangular bound sheaves of paper can be enough to set our inner life on fire.
Perhaps, if honest, we each would imagine Jesus to have had our own favourite books in his library. But the writing of the best spiritual books seem to begin from that place Elijah discovered in the Book of Kings, not the cacophony of noise and desire to say the greatest things about God, but the still small voice of relationship with Yahweh inside our very self. They seem to vibrate inside us something of what we might imagine Jesus to have experienced when he withdrew alone early in the morning to abide in Abba.
Sometimes a book can break open within us a new apprehension of heaven. We connect not only for a fleeting moment with the author, but seem to hear a whisper from God. A good book of any sort helps us grow a little bigger inside. The book becomes a tangible reminder of that moment when, after putting the work finally down, we head out into the world, blinking in the sunlight, now enabled to offer something more, maybe simply a deeper understanding of or compassion for the wider broken world in which we live, breathe and have our being.