I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame, for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.
- Psalm 119.46-48
I and Pangur Ban my cat, ‘Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight, Hunting words I sit all night...
Practice every day has made Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night Turning darkness into light.
- Anonymous, Pangur Ban, Irish, 12th century?
Robin Flowers’ translation of “Pangur Ban” (here just the first and last stanzas) is one of the little delights of Celtic Christian literature.
This poem was scribbled in the margin of an academic manuscript, sometime during the afterglow of the Celtic Revival, a moment’s diversion and amusement amid the tedious, difficult, but – apparently – delightful work of studying.
In this poem the scribe compares his love for study, which would have included study of God’s Word, to his white cat’s (Pangur Ban) quest for mice. As Pangur stalked, waited, and pounced, so our scribe stalked meanings, waited on divine illumination, and pounced on understanding and wisdom. Each was diligent, expert in his work, and took great joy in the discipline.
Do we delight in studying like this? In studying the Word of God? Do we even think that way? Job insisted that he esteemed his time in God’s Word more than the food he required each day (Job 23.12).
We may read the Bible, perhaps carry it to church, have some favorite stories or verses, and maybe even enjoy some of our studies. But can we say that we delight in the Scriptures of our Lord? That we look forward to our time in God’s Word, and carry away from each session something to savor for the rest of the day?
Reading, meditating on, and studying the Bible can be a source of great joy and enrichment every day of our lives. But we have to come to this discipline not grudgingly or half-heartedly; instead, let us imagine ourselves like Pangur Ban, on a mission to locate, capture, and consume a prize.
Nothing satisfies the deep desires of our souls the way Scripture can. The more we cultivate delight in God’s Word, the more time we’ll spend in it, and the more we will reflect on and seek to learn from those times.
When that begins to happen, our delighting in God’s Word will translate into joyous living according to the commandments and promises of the Lord.
As Jeremiah put it, “Thy words were found and I did eat them, and Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart...” (Jer. 15.16).
Do the people who know you best know that you delight in the Word of God?
Psalm 119.12-16 (Passion Chorale: “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”)
Be blessed, O God our Savior: Teach us Your holy Word!
Our lips proclaim with favor the statutes of the Lord.
How great our joy, dear Jesus, to follow in Your ways.
What more than this could please us, or brighten all our days?
Help me to delight even more in Your Word, O Lord!
To aid and encourage your reading and study
Thanks to those of you who have made gifts to the ministry of late. Your copy of The Landscape of Unseen Things, 24 studies “behind the veil” that separates the material and spiritual realms, is on its way. For the remainder of October we’re offering a copy of The Landscape of Unseen Things for your gift in any amount to The Fellowship of Ailbe. You can use the donate button here or at the website, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Dr., Essex Junction, VT 05452.