Sensible Approach to Scripture

Benedict and Bartholomew at the Sistine Chapel.
Benedict and Bartholomew at the Sistine Chapel. (photo: CNS)

Lots of media attention was generated by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople’s Oct. 18 address to the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God.

Virtually all the attention was directed at the mere fact of the Orthodox leader’s presence, however, and almost none toward the theme of his talk.

Which is truly a shame, because Patriarch Bartholomew’s presentation was a fascinating exploration of the “doctrine of the five spiritual senses” applied by the early Greek Church Fathers to the study of Scripture.

This post can’t possibly do justice to that complex approach or even to the patriarch’s discussion of it. To learn more, visit the Chiesa website here to review the complete text of his remarks.

But it can be said in brief that the doctrine of the five spiritual senses outlines a way to contemplate the word of God by employing the spiritual counterparts of the five basic human senses — sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.

And it seems most appropriate that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew made his remarks to the Church’s assembled shepherds in one of the most sensory-rich sites in Christendom —  the Sistine Chapel — beneath Michelangelo’s glorious frescoes, highlighting the history of salvation as revealed through scenes from the Bible.

A spiritual sight to behold, indeed.

— Tom McFeely