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The Senses of the Story

So yesterday as I shared how the Harry Potter series can help in cultivating a life of Christian virtue, I made mention that the best stories prepare us to engage more fully with the Story.

How is that the case? Because the more we prepare our hearts and minds, the better able we can dive into the essence, purpose and meaning of the Story found in Sacred Scripture and discover all four of its Senses.

And when we experience all four senses, we prepare our heart and mind to receive the fullness of the Word.

So what are these four senses? Well, to begin with, they are different from our five physical senses, but each of the literary senses taps into a different aspect of our mind and heart.

The four senses of Scripture are: literal, allegorical, moral, and analogical.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

“…one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.

The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: “All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal.”

The spiritual sense. Thanks to the unity of God’s plan, not only the text of Scripture but also the realities and events about which it speaks can be signs.

1 The allegorical sense. We can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ; thus the crossing of the Red Sea is a sign or type of Christ’s victory and also of Christian Baptism.

2 The moral sense. The events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act justly. As St. Paul says, they were written “for our instruction.”

3 The anagogical sense (Greek: anagoge, “leading”). We can view realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland: thus the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem.

…these rules help towards a better understanding and explanation of the meaning of Sacred Scripture…” (Catechism, 115–117)

As the Catechism states, the senses assist in a better understanding and explanation of Sacred Scripture because it is only when we are reading in consideration of all the senses of that the full meaning of God’s Word can be made evident.

And it is only when we are able to experience the fullness of the power of the Word that we are then capable of being transformed into who God created each of us to be.

So it appears that discovering the Senses of Scripture is a worthy endeavor indeed, particularly on this day in the Catholic Church that we remember Christ’s own Transfiguration on Mt Sinai.

Know of my prayers that each of you are transfigured by the power of your encounter with the Living Word, and hope to see you on the Way tomorrow.