Music, miracles, and the lectionary
Living life through Scripture By Amy MacLachlan
Seitz is senior research professor at Wycliffe College. He joined the faculty in 2007, and is an ordained Episcopal priest and Old Testament scholar known for his work in biblical interpretation and theological hermeneutics. HIS PODCAST, INSIGHTS WITH SEITZ: The Symphony of Scripture, explores the idea of orderly reading (or, more traditionally, the lectionary) for Anglicans and non-Anglicans alike. Orderly reading— based on an ancient method of reading the Bible that looks at passages together and determines what one is saying about and to the other—includes Old and New Testament readings, a Psalm, and a Gospel lesson. It is related to how Jesus and the evangelists used the scriptures of Israel. “We often preach on the Gospel and ignore other texts,” says Seitz. “My hunch is that people sit and wonder, why this and why that? So my goal is to show the relationship between the texts.” He likens this connective process to a symphony. “My job is to make the preacher aware of what lessons are coming up [in the lectionary],” he explains. “So the strings, the oboe, etc.” Seitz says that the practice of drawing connections is something New Testament writers did as well. “They quote the Old Testament and use it to make associations between what God has done before and what God is doing now. “The lectionary doesn’t show the Old Testament as a ‘B.C.’ document, meaning something from the past en route to something more important. Rather, it’s analogous—that was so, so this is so…. The lectionary shows the relationship between stories.” Seitz’s personal story changed dramatically about six years ago when his wife Elizabeth was diagnosed with a rare form of lung disease, involving the deterioration of the lymphatic system in her lungs. Over
the next five years, she went from being a 50-something, healthy marathon runner, to needing oxygen 24/7. “And then your heart begins to go because there’s not enough oxygen to work with,” says Seitz. “It was a life-changing event.” Elizabeth was taken on as a patient with the National Institute of Health, which was studying the disease. The couple moved to France, motivated largely by the expertise of doctors there, and Elizabeth was placed on the urgent list for a lung transplant. “She had one or two days left,” Seitz remembers. “The surgeon phoned me on my birthday to say, ‘we have the lungs. We’re doing it today.’” Helicoptered in for the eight-hour surgery, Elizabeth was kept comatose for six days after. “It wasn’t clear she’d live,” he says. “I’d go in and read her the Psalms. The nurses told me to make sure she hears my voice and knows I’m here. But you have to say goodbye. Plan the funeral. “You do ask, why me?” While his wife lay in the hospital bed, virtually unresponsive, Seitz asked the nurses if he could play music for her. “I just had my iPhone, so I put it to her ear. I played her favourite—music from The Mission, by Ennio Morricone. And she began to move. I said, if you can hear me, squeeze my hand, and she did.” After six days, Elizabeth woke up. “And overnight, she was already getting better.” That was May 2017. Today, she spends her time in Paris at her own travel and culture business. “We need to spend time talking about this,” Seitz remembers saying. “We shouldn’t just go back to work as usual.” He mentions the amazing church com-
“I want to pay attention to the way the Bible communicates with itself,” says Christopher Seitz, during an interview from his home just outside Paris.
Christopher Seitz is pictured with his wife Elizabeth. munity—and larger French community— that strongly supported him. And how the Psalms came to life for him in a way they hadn’t before. “‘The cords of death enfolded me.’ I read those words and thought, this is it! This is written for this situation. ‘I cried out to the Lord and he heard my cry.’ “There are lots of stories of people who suffer terribly and don’t make it,” Seitz reflects. “That’s a story to tell. And it’s equally defying to have somebody make it. You wonder, ‘how did that happen?’” “Sometimes we have to fight to live. And my wife did it.”
Listen to Christopher Seitz’s podcast every week on the Wycliffe College website: wycliffecollege.ca/podcast
Insight Magazine by Wycliffe College