16 July 2011

Holy Scripture

Sacred studies, and particularly reading the Bible, have always been in honour in the Carthusian Order. This ardour and attraction comes from Bruno himself who for many years had been one of the most famous Masters of scriptural interpretation. There are unending praises of him on this account in the Funeral Notices. Titles such as 'Light of clerics', 'doctor of doctors', 'remarkable commentator of the Psalter', etc. are bestowed on him by those who had heard his teaching.

The truth is that, rather than a science, the study of Scripture was for Bruno a delectable initiation into the mystery of God. In his letter to the Brothers of the Chartreuse, some of whom did not even know how to read, he writes: "We rejoice that the mighty God Himself -- since you are ignorant of letters -- is writing directly on your hearts, not only love but also knowledge of His holy law. Indeed, what you love, what you know, is shown by what you do." And in his hermitage of Calabria, Bruno had taken care to have around him "religious brothers, some of whom are full of knowledge."

The spirit that inspired Bruno is manifest. It is in order to nourish charity and contemplation, and to stimulate these, that the monk must apply himself to sacred studies. If he studies, let it not be "from an itching desire for learning, nor from a wish to publish books," but to give solid nourishment to his heart. So he is to keep to simplicity in his studies, and to thirst for limpid, living waters. Then, far from distracting the religious, his studies will immerse him in prayer, and will keep him in humility and recollection.

Denys the Carthusian, who was and remains one of the greatest Carthusian authors, wrote thus in the last years of his life: "I am not aware of having studied through vanity, on the contrary: it was so that working daily on the Holy Scriptures, I may live in accordance with their teachings."

It was all very well to want to read and study the Scriptures -- but with what books, at a time when printing did not exist and manuscripts were very costly? The Fathers worked therefore at copying sacred texts. When Guigo, in the Customs, listed the items to be contained in each cell, he wrote: "A writing-case, pens, chalk, two pumice stones, two inkpots, a pen-knife, two cutters for work on parchments, an engraving tool, an awl, a plumb-line, a ruler, a piece of wood for fixing the page, tablets and a style." Unfortunately, most of these precious manuscripts have been destroyed in successive fires and other calamities.

-Saint Bruno and the Carthusians-