Monday, September 2, 2013

Your Bible: Ronald's RSV

Gone Wrong?
I once had a Murphy’s Law calendar which offered a daily page with a humorous variation on the famous maxim, whatever can go wrong will go wrong.  It may seem this piece is a perfect example of the truth of Murphy’s Law; I’m not following my gracious host’s plan that a few guest writers talk about the Bible they use daily for study and prayer.  Even so, I do propose to share a little about a Bible I use every day, just in another way.  It’s sitting on the desk next to me now, in fact, not being read, but still in an important way, in use nonetheless.  The story of this little Bible parallels my own faith journey; it’s been with me through it all and is with me still, every day.  I’ll begin by telling you about the Bible itself, and then how it fits into my story.
It’s easy to provide you a description of the volume – it's an RSV edition published by Thomas Nelson & Sons in the early 1950s.  It’s quite small, only 5 ½ by 7 ½ .  As you might expect with such a small book, the print is small although still legible; it has few study aids, no maps, concordance or the like.  It’s a no nonsense little volume, typical of Bibles its age.  Because of its age, the wear and tear it’s seen is clearly visible and so I no longer risk putting it through daily use.
As for my faith journey, when I was seven years old I was baptized in a Lutheran church in St Clair Shores, Michigan.  My parents wanted to let me choose when I was ready to take such a step, so I wasn’t baptized as an infant.  When they decided it was time to ask me, I agreed, obviously being led by the Spirit because I don’t think I clearly understood what I was doing.  After my baptism, on beautiful April morning, much to my surprise, my aunt and uncle gave me this Bible to commemorate the event.  It was enclosed in a maroon box wrapped in white wrapping paper and I loved it.  All through my elementary and high school years, by which time we were Presbyterians, I used my Bible for reading and taking to church each week for Sunday school and to refer to during the pastor’s sermons. 
Back then, I was pretty ardent in my faith and my Scot’s Calvinist aunt was absolutely certain I would grow up to become a famous Presbyterian pastor, along the lines of Peter Marshall.  It wasn’t to be; about the time I graduated from high school I decided that I was through with “organized religion.”  When I joined the Air Force soon after, I knew I was no longer a believer.  Yet, this Bible, now a little worn but still in good shape, went with me to Lackland AFB for basic training and, later, to Sheppard AFB where I spent two years of my enlistment.  I don’t know why I other than to say it was God acting in my life, maybe trying to keep me from straying too far.  It could only have been the Spirit which made me pick up my Bible now and then and read a familiar passage, Psalm 23 perhaps, or the first chapter of Genesis.  Perhaps God was reminding me that He was near and wanted me to come back to Him.
When I went to Viet Nam, however, the Bible stayed with my parents and I forgot about it, sort of like my faith, until my mother passed away roughly 15 years later.  One day I was sorting out her things and found it carefully stored in her dresser drawer.  She had kept it safe for me and must have used it herself, judging by the signs of wear it now showed. 
I was shocked and, surprisingly, elated at the same time; it was like finding an old, long lost but still much loved friend.  Even though I still claimed I didn’t believe in God, I think it was at His instigation that I again opened up my Bible on occasion and reread those familiar passages from my youth.   It must have been so, because it was only a couple of years later I began my journey back to faith by becoming a member of a Presbyterian church in El Paso, Texas.  Once more I was using my Bible regularly, but by now it was obvious it wouldn’t hold up to that, it was tattered and becoming fragile and so I purchased a nice new NIV version for daily use.
Within five years I found myself receiving the sacraments of the Church at the Easter Vigil in 1995.  Just a few days later I happened to spot my first Bible on the bookshelf. I picked it up and opened it to my aunt's inscription, written nearly 41 years to the day of our reception into the Church. 
It’s because of that inscription, and the occasion it marks, that my Bible is never far from me; I look at it often because it reminds me of the incredible journey I’ve been on, a long and hard one, beginning with my baptism so long ago.  While it started with an ill-informed decision, I see it could only have been through the working of the Spirit that I made it at all.  Also, I can’t help but see that, when I chose to run away from God, I left my Bible behind too.  And when I woke up to the truth, my old friend was there again to help me return to the God I thought I’d left behind so long ago. 

Finally, my Bible shows me that God can work in mysterious ways indeed.  I know my Scots Calvinist aunt had a plan that, in giving me that Bible, she thought she was guiding me to become a Presbyterian minister.  She could never have imagined it would lead me to Rome instead.  It calls to mind a saying from that old Murphy’s Law calendar: “The best laid plans of mice and men are usually about equal.”  My Bible offers daily proof of that, my own and my aunts.  Come to think of it, maybe things haven’t gone too wrong after all.
Thank you to Ronald for sharing with us.  If you would be interested in participating in the "Your Bible" series, just send an email to me at: mccorm45(at)yahoo(dot)com.


losabio said...

Thank you Ronald for sharing your story. It makes me happy to think of your mother's reading your old RSV, thinking about and praying for her son in Vietnam. God bless her!

rolf said...

Nice story, thanks for sharing!

Jonny said...

Isn't is amazing, how those powerful, familiar passages in Sacred Scripture resound through one's entire life?

That is the cool thing about the RSV... being over 50 years old, it is so familiar to many ears.

I was just musing about this, how if one considers the most popular Catholic and Protestant translations both new and traditional, the RSV meets them all smack dab in the middle. (On the Catholic side you have the DRC and the NAB, on the protestant side you have KJV and NIV.) The RSV is not too literal, not too dynamic, but yet has a high literary value. (This is also precisely the reason it was chosen to be the basis for the Ignatius Study Bible.)

When I did the "my Bible" post last month on the RSV-CE last month, I did not mention this reason for it's popularity among so many Catholics from lay people to authors and publishers: the fact that it has been a dependable, readable, enjoyable, official Catholic translation for almost 50 years.

I expect to see the RSV legacy continue for a long time even after the day we eventually see the NAB(LE) or (2RE) or whatever it will be called. The RSV is just a good piece of literature. I think the Ignatius 2RE proves that it only takes minor updating to bring it up to snuff with the Church's liturgical requirements.

When the new NAB is released, and the Revised Grail Psalms are in use across the board, perhaps the RSV-2CE will be appreciated more, although that will probably happen sooner, upon the release of the Ignatius Study Bible. Either way it goes for the 2CE, Catholics and Protestants can still find common ground in the excellent RSV Study Bible from Oxford!

Thanks for sharing, Ronald! I can tell by your picture with the 2CE that the RSV is still making an impact in your life! I must confess, that despite what I posted last month about using the RSV-CE for ministry at my parish, I really do prefer the overall format, paper quality, and sewn binding of the leather-bound RSV-2CE much better! Right now I am using the Oxford edition (NOAB) more for study, but I am eagerly anticipating a one volume Ignatius study Bible to be one of my main devotional AND study Bibles!

owen swain said...

I have, somewhere, a leather zippered bible that belonged to the only person in my childhood home who was a Christian, my cranky Methodist paternal grandmother. She was cranky! but she was also a woman of prayer and I can see her on her bony knees with that tiny KJV open, praying for our souls. It worked on two of us though what she might say if she knew I'd become Catholic?! Well, I guess she's say Hallelujah because, as they say, everyone is Catholic in heaven.

Ronald, thanks for sharing.