A conversation I had this weekend with a friend of mine, whose background is firmly Protestant and who therefore relates to the Bible quite differently to me, has made me think a little of how I relate to scripture.
I've been thinking for a while about how I should go about establishing a regular habit of actually studying scripture. As the Liturgy of the Hours is a significant part of my prayer life, it constitutes my most frequent exposure to scripture. Every day I read a few of the psalms, the short readings at Lauds and Vespers and a much bigger chunk of something either from the Old Testament or from the Epistles at Matins. There are a lot of snippets from scripture in the antiphons and in other places. There are also the readings as Mass, when I get to church. Most of my exposure to scripture is in the context of liturgy, then, I suppose.
When I was preparing for baptism, I spent a while working my way through the Bible methodically, reading each book (although not starting at Genesis and working straight through to Revelations) and also reading brief overviews of them in order to give myself a little context and understanding. I'm glad that I did, because I feel I do now have some general idea of what most of the books are about although there are some bits (especially some of the New Testament epistles and the minor prophets) that have completely failed to stick in my memory.
Once I had finished this initial read-though, however, I lost momentum and didn't quite know where to go from there. I think the liturgical use of scripture is good in that it does make sure you are exposed to a lot of the Bible in the course of its cycle, but if this is my only exposure then it will just wash over me. The books are also split up in a why which can be unhelpful. There a some bits, the psalms especially, which are actually quite suited to this kind of reading but I have long wanted to look at one book at a time in depth and pick it apart.
There is lectio divina, of course, and I have considered this although I find it very hard indeed. It takes some discipline to read slowly and mindfully, and it would do me good to make a habit of it, if I can. But I feel that I also need a more knowledgable grounding in scripture. What do the various books set out to do? What is their historical context? How have they been used in Church teaching? That sort of thing.
I decided a while ago that I would start with Romans, as I find the Pauline epistles a difficult challenge and Romans in particular addresses some fundamental issues. Perhaps I can work out some sort of schema for myself and apply it to Romans, then see when I go from there.