I was privileged to see some actual illuminated prayer book pages from the 1450s in person recently, the only thing between me and the fragile texts a thin pane of glass. I have seen pictures of these types of things in history books and on television, of course. I’ve read about the meticulous care that went into their production, about the years of toil a scribe put into producing page after painstakingly-created page of the Holy Word, working on fine details only by daylight or dim candlelight.
But nothing prepares you for seeing these pages in person. The details are so fine, the colors so vibrant, even after hundreds of years, that you know you are viewing the work of a true artist. Besides the steady, consistent typeface that some unknown scribe was able to achieve, using a quill trimmed by his own hand and ink produced from fruits and other natural elements, the illuminations were equally beautiful.
Coming from an age of technology where many of us have such atrocious penmanship that we often cannot read notes we have written to ourselves, I was especially struck by the dedication and love that went into producing the pages in front of me. Not only would the words bring me closer to God, I thought, the beauty these pages reflect could not help but do the same.
This experience made me wonder at just how much time I take to really soak in and appreciate the pages of my own, mass-produced Bible pages. Being human, and even a human who loves words in and of themselves, I am still moved even beyond words when multiple senses are involved in any experience. Music can make a moment something more; ask any filmmaker. A page illuminated by a loving hand appeals to the eyes in addition to the words penetrating our brains.
How often do I read a passage in the Word while something else is going on in the back of my brain, like what I need to do that day or whatever the latest thing is that I am worrying about? How is it that I don’t appreciate the tender work that happened for centuries by anonymous believers to ensure that the word of God was not lost or forgotten?
So, I am determined to figure out a way to read God’s word as if it is one of those illuminated pages from centuries past, whether that be creating pictures in my own mind that reflect what the words on the page are saying to me or playing inspirational music as I study. I will seek Him in the quiet places as I have been instructed to do. I will do my best to be still and know that He is God.
I’m sure that this last was the place inside where the anonymous scribe dwelled in order to lovingly create the beauty on the illuminated page that so wonderfully reflects the awesomeness of God.