MacCulloch on Reading and Piety

Interesting point by Diarmaid MacCulloch:

As reading became a more prominent part of religion for the laity (as it had long been for the clergy), the shift in priorities encouraged the more inward-looking, personalized devotion we have already begun noting in a number of spheres in the fifteenth century: lay enthusiasm for the writings of the mystics, meditation on aspects of the life of Jesus, the ethos of the Devotio Moderna. For someone who really delighted in reading, religion might retreat out of the sphere of public ritual into the world of the mind and the imagination. Reading privileges sight among the other human senses, and it further privileges reading text among other uses of the eye; it relies not at all on gesture, which is so important a part of communicating in liturgy or in preaching. So without any hint of doctrinal deviation, a new style of piety arose in that increasingly large section of society that valued book learning for both profit and pleasure. (72)

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