Reading the Bible in Protestantism and CatholicismOct 2nd, 2014 | By Andrew Preslar | Category: Blog Posts, Catholic Life and Devotion
Louis Bouyer is one of the best resources for understanding the theological and devotional genius and goodness of Protestantism from a Catholic perspective. I was re-reading one of his books this morning and came across the following:
There is a kind of print or engraving popularized by Rembrandt, which conveys the very essence of Protestant piety. It shows a man or a woman with the Bible open on the knees, the hands joined, and the mind evidently completely absorbed both in what has just been read and in God, whom the person has thereby encountered. As if overcome by the abundance of riches it brings by this immediate, personal meeting with God . . . the person wants to fix the whole attention on him who speaks in [Scripture], who must be answered now as a child answers his father or mother. . . . Direct, familiar, heart-to-heart intercourse with God, created, upheld, ceaselessly renewed by individual reading of the Bible, with a prayer to God, which is felt, above all, as a response to his own Word–this, taken as its source, seen in its living heart, is Protestant spirituality.
(The Word, Church, and Sacraments In Protestantism and Catholicism [Ignatius, 2004], p. 14-15)
What Bouyer depicts here is of course a beautiful and salutary form of devotion, though it is worthwhile asking questions about the implicit context in which it occurs. G. K. Chesterton once illustrated the difference between Protestant and Catholic devotion to Jesus, in relation to Mary, by invoking the concept of the Baby Jesus suspended in mid-air, alone, versus the traditional, historical, and Incarnational image of the Holy Child in the arms of His Blessed Mother. I think that something similar applies to Bouyer’s depiction of Protestant devotion in relation to Catholic devotion to God as revealed in the Bible. In this case, Sacred Scripture is analogous to Christ, and the Church is like the Blessed Virgin Mary, in whose arms Catholics read and meditate upon the text, which is the traditional, historical, and Incarnational mode of feeding upon the written word of God.