The Incredible Power of the Holy Spirit

Imagine a Bible without chapters and verses. That was the situation in the 13th century when Fr. Stephen Langton was ordained a priest and then appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. King John of England, however, feared him and exiled him to Paris. While in exile, Stephen Langton was inspired to do a number of things that might surprise you.

The Old Testament was already separated into paragraphs and sections but did not have a specific numbering system. Also, traditionally both the New and Old Testaments were transmitted orally. In particular, chanting sacred scripture was an ancient way of passing on the words of Divine Revelation to the next generation. Christians learned this method from the Jewish people, who have been chanting the words of scripture for thousands of years.

For this reason, in ancient and early medieval homilies, there is no citation of biblical verses. Quotations from scripture came from memory or were copied from scrolls or books used by clergy and religious. The laity did not have access to any physical copies and passed on the Bible to their children from what they heard at Mass as well as through the artwork seen in paintings and church architecture.

Then everything changed with Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury in the 13th century. When the King of England exiled him to Paris, he was inspired and came up with a     system of dividing up the Latin Vulgate into chapters. His system was soon accepted in 1227 AD, and since soon all other modern Bibles have based their own numbering system.

But, Stephen Langto was inspired to do more. He is the one who composed the hymn “Veni Sancto Spiritus” –“Come Holy Spirit”, which called the Sequence that we sing on Pentecost Sunday before the Gospel.

“Come Holy Spirit…"

Monsignor John S. Mbinda