Mystery - Word of God

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#set-search-for-wisdom

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This morning we were talking about the knowledge of God. Tonight I'd like to talk about the Word of God, but first to say a little more about mystery. Remember that we arrived at two poles for our knowledge of God, our experience of God. One of them is that remoteness of God that we described under the name of mystery, which somehow relates to the Father, the Invisible God, the God of the Old Testament, the God whom nobody can see when the system is flushed, and to the essence of God, as the Eastern Theologians talk about Him. And the other dimension is the dimension of nearness, of union, of participation in God, which somehow relates to the Holy Spirit, and somehow corresponds also to the energies of God, as they talk about that in the Eastern Theologians. I'd like to read you just a page of Tolstoy's first book, where he talks about these two poles, these two dimensions.

[01:05]

What or who is God? The traveler upon the spiritual way, the further he advances, becomes increasingly conscious of two contrasting facts, of the otherness yet nearness of the eternal. In the first place, he realizes more and more that God is mystery. God is the Holy Other, invisible, inconceivable, radically transcendent, beyond all words, beyond all understanding. This is the apathetic notion of God, the apathetic way of thinking of God. Surely the babe just born, writes George Tyrrell, knows as much of the world and its ways as the wisest of us can know of the ways of God, whose sway stretches over heaven and earth, time and eternity. Our knowledge of God at its best is just a baby's knowledge of God. A Christian in the Orthodox tradition will agree with this entirely. It's a Roman Catholic writer's quote. As the Greek fathers insisted, a God who is comprehensible is not God. A God, that is to say, whom we can claim to understand exhaustively through the resources of our reasoning brain,

[02:12]

turns out to be no more than an idol fashioned in our own image. That's so obvious, I don't know why people keep repeating it. But can you really think of the possibility of a God whom we could understand, whom we could somehow enclose with our mental concepts? There have been some heretics, I guess the Aryans were accused of trying to do that, I don't know. Never did they really believe them. Such a God is most emphatically not the true and living God of the Bible and the Church. Man is made in God's image, but the reverse is not true. Yet in the second place, this God of mystery is at the same time uniquely close to us, filling all things, present everywhere around us and within us. And somehow these two things correspond. We move out of that middle range where we think we can conceptualize God or see God or imagine God, and when we release him, as it were, into that remoteness, into mystery, we find him also infinitely close. And he is present not merely as an atmosphere or nameless force.

[03:17]

A lot of the Eastern spiritualities tend in this direction, as if God were an ocean of being or an ocean of bliss or something like that. But not so, the God that we know. In a way, he's that too. I mean, there's that dimension to God. There's that aspect of God. But it's not the most important thing. But in a personal way, the God who is infinitely beyond our understanding reveals himself to us as person. He calls us each by our name and we answer him. Between ourselves and the transcendent God there is a relationship of love, similar in kind to that between each of us and those other human beings dearest to us. We know other human beings through our love for them and through theirs for us. So it is also with God. And then he quotes Nicholas Tavassilis, as I read this morning. God is more affectionate than any friend, more just than any ruler, more loving than any father, more a part of us than our own limbs, more necessary to us than our own heart.

[04:20]

I think St. Augustine said something like that, didn't he? Closest, closer to us than our own heart, closer to us than we are to ourselves. These then are the two poles in man's experience of the divine. God is both further from us and nearer to us than anything else. And we find paradoxically that these poles do not cancel one another out. On the contrary, the more we are attracted to the one pole, the more vividly we become aware of the other at the same time. Advancing on the way, each finds that God grows ever more intimate and ever more distant, well known and yet unknown, well known to the smallest child, incomprehensible to the most brilliant theologian. In some way, God often seems closer to children because they can approach him more simply. It's easy for children to believe in God. It's very easy. Maybe that's why he just says it. Unless you become, as children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Somehow we need to become one to become simple.

[05:21]

We need to forget a certain kind of self-consciousness. We need to let go of something in order to be able to know God. And children know how to do it without knowing anything, without knowing how to do it. Okay. The two poles, the two dimensions. I wanted to follow Rana with his notion of mystery, and I hope that it won't be too abstract. It's well worth being in touch with the way he sort of reopens our theology to mystery and sort of defines man and man's relationship to God in terms of mystery, thereby liberating both God and man, if we could be allowed to talk that way, from a kind of deadlock that we've had. Somebody said that we had constructed ourselves an Oedipus type of theology, where God is against man. Sometimes in our theology we close ourselves and God into a box because of our way of thinking.

[06:29]

Our way of thinking in mechanical terms, our way of thinking maybe in overgraphic terms. So we need a kind of theology which liberates, a kind of theology which is open instead of closed, and therefore a kind of theology which is not essentially defensive or polemic. And the notion of mystery helps us a great deal. It sort of punches a hole in the wall of theological structure, theological thinking, and allows a little of that light to come through, which really comes from where God is, which is everywhere. Okay, first of all, Ronald talks about the notion of mystery as we've commonly used the word in our recent Catholic tradition, and he begins to find fault with a few qualities of his use of the word mystery. First of all, we usually regard mystery as pertaining to a statement, something that's true, whereas he would say that no mystery pertains to reality. Mystery pertains to the being of God.

[07:31]

And then we usually talk about mysteries. We talk about the mysteries of the rosary, we talk about the liturgical mysteries, and so on. That's okay. The problem is when we get down to theology and we talk about theological mysteries, and we see them somehow as being independent, Ronald asks, is it really so that there are mysteries that they are somehow distinct? He says, no, really there's only one mystery, and that is an essential quality of God. Mystery is the property of God. Mystery is the property of the unbounded, of the infinite. Mystery is the property of the source, the ground. Mystery is the property of being, with a capital P. It's the property of God. And other things, other truths, other realities borrow that quality of mystery as they approach God. And so he speaks of there being really three basic mysteries. The mystery of the Trinity, of God himself. The mystery of the Incarnation, the mystery of grace.

[08:34]

And he says that all the other mysteries of our faith can somehow be found within those three. And we talk about that at another time. He says that man is a being who is oriented towards mystery. We spoke of man as a question before. And to be a question, in this sense, means that man somehow has mystery at his core. If you look at his heart, look at the center of him, you're going to find this empty space, this curiously void place, this opening. And that opening, we might say, is his capacity for God. His capacity for God. It's also his contemplative faculty. Remember in the Middle Ages, or in the patristic era, they used to think of the mind as being something quite other than we think of it. We think of the mind as being a reasoning mind, ratio. But in those days they thought of it as being intellectual. An intellectualist was capable of knowing God. The intellect was not what we mean by intellect, but it was a contemplative faculty.

[09:36]

We had a caliphate where I played a long time, and he was president, I think he was mainly in charge of the Cessation Monastery. That was a couple of years ago. And we asked him, what is it that has caused the falling away from the deep contemplative point of view of, say, the medieval church or of the Eastern church in our modern time? And he said, it's the loss of the notion of the contemplative intellect. The loss of the notion of that sort of core of man's being, which is able to know God. Because when you lose that, you lose the center, and then man becomes a being who exists on another level. Man becomes a being who exists for the sake of things that are external to himself and somehow less than himself. He exists for the sake of the world. And psychology never gets him back together again, after you lose that point. If you forget that man is centered in God, that man is centered in that mystery, that man is capable of knowing God in his own core,

[10:40]

then man explodes somewhere, like Humpty Dumpty. You don't get him back together again. Anyway, man is oriented towards mystery. Disorientation being a constitutive element of his being, both in his natural state and in his supernatural elevation, honestly. Because the language is so thick here, I'm not going to read very much of it. He says that in everything that we know, in everything that we love, in everything that we seek, in everything that we do, somehow we're moving into this dimension of transcendence. We're moving towards God implicitly in every act of our spirit, every act of knowing, every act of willing, every act of loving. Do you see how close that brings God? And yet implicitly. Do you see how God becomes sort of woven into the texture of our whole life? And so that our response to God somehow is expressed in everything that we do, everything that we do consciously. This too is very important. It brings God very close.

[11:41]

The most pre-ordina- Man in his knowing and willing is a being of absolute and unlimited transcendence. All his spiritual acts, no matter what their object, are founded on this transcendence, which is a reaching forward of knowledge and will. Now this transcendence finds its terminus, finds its end. He calls it the withered. That's the translator's effort to find an equivalent to the German word. I know what the German word is. Probably the Rauf Gehege. But he calls it the withered transcendence, which is where our transcendence, where this reaching out is going. That's God. So that in every reaching out, there's a movement towards God. So that in everything man does consciously, in everything he does with his mind, with his will, with his heart, he's moving towards God. This is immensely important. And that it opens our whole life up to the presence of God. Even when we're not conscious of God. And of course, it corresponds with what we really do. When we were talking about the knowledge of God before, remember we were talking about the knowledge of God as living according to God,

[12:48]

the knowledge of God as somehow participating in God's being by doing God's will. This is the same thing, isn't it, put in other language. Put in the language of this transcendent movement of the spirit, of the mind. Let's call it the heart. I think that's better. The heart which knows as well as wills, which decides as well as loves. The heart which is somehow the center of man. We'll talk about that at another time. The wither of transcendental experience is always there, as the nameless, the indefinable, the unattainable. God is always there. He's always the horizon of the world, the boundary, the unbounded boundary of our experience. It's a difficult notion to master because it doesn't have any boundary lines, it doesn't have any confines. You can't sort of get it under your belt, this notion of mystery. It eludes you all the time. All conceptual expressions about God, necessary though they are,

[13:53]

always stem from the unobjectivated experience of transcendence as such, this reaching out of our spirit, which explains in some way the restlessness also of our hearts. St. Augustine says that our hearts are restless till they find their peace in you, because we were made for you, our hearts were made for you. He's talking about God. He's talking about the same thing. We're always reaching out, we're always looking, we're always seeking something. And what has the monk got to do with all of this? The monk is the one who somehow finds out where this seeking is going and tries to seek it directly instead of through the mediation of other things. He tries to seek it directly instead of through the sacramentality of things, even though he knows that sacramentality and he's helped by it, and he finds God also in that way. But instead of finding God through marriage, he tries to find God directly. Instead of finding God primarily through his work, he seeks to find God through his prayer and so on.

[14:53]

Instead of the exterior, the interior. Instead of the indirect, the direct. The wither of transcendence that is God is at no one's disposal. It is that which disposes of us silently and ceaselessly at the very moment when we begin to dispose of anything. When we make a judgment on something and try to submit it to the a priori laws of our understanding. So the wither of transcendence is there in its own proper way of aloofness and absence. It bestows itself upon us by refusing itself, by keeping silence, by staying afar. Once again you see the nearness and the distance at once. Thus the wither of transcendence is only there in the form of a distant aloofness. It can never be approached directly or experienced immediately. It is there only by referring us to something else, something finite, which is the object of direct regard. The thing that we're looking at directly. And yet in some way, in contemplation, this wither of transcendence is known.

[15:56]

It's known in the dark. It's not known in the light, except in a rare experience. One of your Cistercian brothers said that contemplation is like a face-to-face look in the dark. Like looking at somebody face-to-face in the dark, which is funny. And it was just true. The Mark of Neptune. The wither of transcendence can further be designated as the holy when the transcendence is regarded as that of freedom and love. When it's a question of the will. When it's a question of purity of heart. Thank you. Man always lives by the holy mystery, even when he is not conscious of it. The lucidity of his consciousness derives from the incomprehensibility of this mystery. The proximity of his environment is constituted by the distant aloofness of the mystery. The freedom of his mastery of things comes from his being mastered by the holy.

[17:01]

God, which is itself unmastered. All of these paradoxes are built into this transcendent reach of this mystery into which we reach. Grace is also the grace of no longer being able to be deceived about the incomprehensibility of God. It is the grace of loving the divine darkness without reserves. The divinely given courage to enter this bliss, which is authentic and unique, and to enjoy it as the nourishment of the strong. The grace to be able to let God be God. And to love him as that. As that which we know without knowing. Because this isn't the only experience of God. God can give experiences of himself which are very personal and intimate, and very, in a way, distinct and unforgettable.

[18:01]

The visions and vocations that we read about in the mystery. The mystery is, in its incomprehensibility, the obvious thing. This is the Zen quality of this mystery that he's talking about. The holy mystery is the one thing that is self-explanatory. The one thing that gives its own self-sufficient reason, even in our eyes. For all insight is based on this transcendence. All light on this orientation towards the inexpressible darkness. If this is how one wishes to term the bright incomprehensibility of God. It's a fascinating thing. It's the one thing that's self-evident. And it's the one thing in the light of which we know everything else. And yet it itself is invisible to us. It's a light which at the same time is darkness. It's a remoteness which at the same time is luminous. This mystery he's talking about, in which it's found. The Father is talking in this language also. I think it's Gregory of Nyssa who talks about God as being a ray of darkness.

[19:07]

Or is it Dionysus? A ray of darkness. An illuminous darkness that Gregory of Nyssa talks about. Okay. Now, Roner insists that this mystery, this quality of obscurity, this quality of incomprehensibility, let's call it that, persists even in the beatific vision. That in the beatific vision, in heaven, when we know God face to face, we know him as mystery. We know him as that which cannot be fully grasped. And this is true whenever we love somebody, isn't it? Or love something. What do we love in that thing? Could we love it if it didn't have a depth that we couldn't penetrate? Could we love it if we could grasp it completely? Certainly, I don't think we could love any human being if we could. There's a mystery in the human person already which makes it possible to love a person. And that mystery somehow finds its source and reflects the mystery of God. And that's why love is possible.

[20:09]

Love isn't possible between two purely finite creatures, I don't think. There has to be this dimension of measurelessness, this dimension of depth, this dimension of mystery. And so man is centered in mystery himself, and thus is the image of God. So all of that's a little abstract, seemingly, but it makes good background for what we're going to talk about. What's the relation of this mystery to faith and hope and love? There's one last text here which I wanted to read. It opens right up. Nothing is more familiar and obvious to the alerted spirit than the silent question which hovers over all that it has attained and mastered, the challenging question, humbly and lovingly accepted, which alone makes it wise. It reminds us of Merton's dread that he likes to talk about. In his heart of hearts there is nothing man knows better than that his knowledge, ordinarily so called,

[21:11]

is only a tiny island in the immense ocean of the unexplored. What we know, whatever we know in our minds, is only a little chunk, is only a very circumscribed little island in this unbounded ocean of the unexplored, which ultimately is God, which ultimately is the mystery of God. He knows better than anything else that the existential question facing him in knowledge is whether he loves the little island of his so-called knowledge better than the ocean of the infinite mystery. That's his one choice that he has to make, whether he prefers the island and sort of tries to forget about the ocean, tries to shut the ocean out of his consciousness, or whether he commits himself in some way, abandon himself to the ocean and lets it be. He's still going to be, he's still going to have that island, but the island will be surrounded by the ocean

[22:12]

and he will accept that, he will live in the light of that. Whether he thinks that the little light with which he illuminates this little island, we call it science, you can also think of it as being a house, as we were saying before, a house which has its little electric light inside, but outside is the luminosity of the sun, or the heavens, or the stars, or whatever you want. Whether the little light with which he illumines this little island, we call it science, should be the eternal light which shines on him forever, which would be hell. Or whether he's going to allow the totality of God in some way to catch him, to contact him, whether he's going to guide his life, base his life on that. And here we get down to something which is very much like two ways of being. I was reading this article by Eric Fromm that I just happened on, I guess it was last night, about the two ways of being. The choice that we have in this life is to be or to have.

[23:13]

We were talking about this in the text today, weren't we? You can have or you can be. If you have, you have to build a wall around it. If you have, you only have what you have. If you have, you've chosen the little island. If you choose to be, then everything is yours. Okay? It's that less is more thing again. There are two ways of living. You can live in security or you can live in trust. Unfortunately, both of those are adopted by banks, it occurs to me. In fact, you'll have a security and trust company somewhere, I'm sure. As well as savings and loans. You can choose these two avenues, basically. The choice that we have to make in life. You can choose to hold on to something or you can choose to let go. You can choose to possess or you can choose to give up. You can choose to live in possession and guarding of what you have

[24:15]

or you can choose to live in trust. You can choose to base your life on your own self as separated from anything else, from all of being and what you can get for yourself. You can choose to base your life on your ego and let it stop there or you can choose to base your life on trust in the all. And this even before we think of God. You can choose a closed point of view and a closed life which knows nothing beyond this world, nothing beyond what you can see and count and buy and measure and possess. Or you can choose an open way of living which is based on something beyond this world, beyond what is visible, beyond what you can have. That seems to be the fundamental choice for human life. So Brother David Stendhal wrote an article called The Structure of Mystical Experience in which he said nowadays there are only two choices possible for man.

[25:15]

There are only two ways you can live. You can live in the open way or you can live in the closed way. You can live with walls around you or you can live trusting in life, trusting in existence, trusting in being. Now, one side, one choice is the choice of faith, of hope and of love. The other choice is something else. Call it what you will. The choice of security, the choice of possession, the choice of, St. Paul would call it ultimately the choice of the flesh. But the flesh there is not just, you know, not just the sinful flesh. It's not just that passionate flesh that he's talking about when he talks about lust and discord and drunkenness and all those things. But the flesh is also the state of the Pharisee who has built a wall of spiritual riches, or built a castle filled with spiritual riches, let's put it that way, and isolated himself from everybody else in that way and even shut himself off from God. The walled city of Jerusalem.

[26:16]

So, I just wanted to set that out and we can come back to it later on. It's the thing that recurs, those two ways of living. It comes back again and again. Remember Thomas Merton's sort of axis that he lays out for the spiritual life. There's a movement between the false self and the true self. It's the same thing, basically, put another term. And there are differences. That single choice, that one choice that we have to make in life. I wanted to talk this evening about the word of God. I've spent maybe too much time on this already. Let's begin, at least naturally, from discussing the knowledge of God. Man is a question, we said, which opens to mystery.

[27:23]

And that word question suggests something to it. We say man is a question. Remember, in St. Benedict's chapter, I guess it's 58, where the chief sign of discernment of the monastic vocation is this, si revera quere saem, that he is really seeking God. Quere is to seek and question. They come from the same root, don't they? If man is a question, then man is a seeker. Or man is a quest, perhaps. But man and quest, man and seeking, are identified there. And so we see, really, not just in a funny way, not just by a play on words, that the monastic life is very much related to this notion of what man is. And the monk is a person who sort of is trying to let what he is be manifested in him more fully than other people do, because they get taken up in other things. The monk is a man becoming conscious of what he is. So it is that some of the monks give a lot of importance to that one question,

[28:26]

Who am I? And some of the British monks ask themselves time and time again, meditate upon that question, Who am I? And if you keep meditating on that question, you're likely to end up with a hole, just like the hole in the donut. Fortunately, a Christian has something better than a hole in a donut, because he knows that he's the son of God. He knows that his identity, somehow, has been caught up into God. He knows that, like St. Paul says, I live, not I, but Christ lives in me. So we're not just a donut with a hole. Something has come into us to give us a new identity, a new existence. Something is being born in us. This search that we're talking about is guided by the light which is manifesting in Jesus Christ. Remember the liturgy of this morning, the liturgy of the presentation in the temple? The light comes into the temple, and the candles that we hold somehow reflect and symbolize that light.

[29:31]

We welcome the light with light, like the virgins in the parable. The light comes into the temple, and the light which is Jesus Christ, he himself is the light, comes into this world and illuminates it. And so this quest becomes something else, becomes changed. This light is seen in the heart, according to St. Paul in 2 Corinthians. We have seen in our hearts the light of the glory of God shining in the face of Christ Jesus. The face of Christ, the light of the glory of God, and our hearts are centered. We spoke about that emptiness being, that mystery, that darkness growing. In the prologue of St. John's Gospel, the light is also the word. Did you ever notice how he sort of moves very quickly from talking about the word,

[30:33]

which is God, which has come into the world, and the light, which somehow is also God and has come into the world. And the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. And then he talks about the light which was coming into the world, which shines in the darkness. And he doesn't make any transition, he just moves from one to the other. Somehow the word is identified with the light. The word is identified with the light. Similarly in his first letter, when John says, The word of life has appeared. We've seen, we've heard, we've touched it, our hands. We've seen it, we've seen the word of life. And then he says immediately that God is light, and in him there is no darkness. Somehow the word of life which has appeared is saying this, that God is light. The word of life is also light. We hear and we see. This knowledge of God which is implicit in mystery, implicit in the very striving of our hearts,

[31:34]

somehow becomes crystallized, becomes explicit when the word is spoken. And when a word is spoken to us, and when the word becomes flesh, it becomes something that we can see, something that we can touch with our hands. Even we touch that word with our hands when we celebrate the Eucharist. When we talk about the word of God, we can go right back to our Holy Father Benedict. Remember, he starts out his rule saying, Listen, my son. It's as if the whole rule is based on the notion of listening to the word. Listen, my son, to the precepts of your master. And that reflects a lot of things in the Old Testament. It reflects the Shema, remember in Deuteronomy? That prayer, not exactly a prayer, what is it? A proclamation that the Jews would say to John the Baptist, like we would say to our father. Dear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one God.

[32:34]

And you should love him with your whole heart, with your whole strength, with your whole soul. It's as if Saint Benedict was echoing that. And in this we sort of catch a glimpse of the Jewishness of our monastic tradition. The Jewishness, the way that we're rooted in a tradition, the way that we're rooted in fidelity to a word, the way that our life is a life of covenant. All of this, which I'll say more about later. Also in the Wisdom Book, and I think it's the Book of Proverbs, the chapters start out like this. Very often it's, listen, my son, the same tone that Saint Benedict would take. In the Book of Proverbs, My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding.

[33:36]

It sounds like Saint Benedict is deriving directly from this. Yes, if you cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom. Saint Benedict is a teacher of wisdom. He's in a wisdom tradition. And he's in this tradition of the speaking of the word and the listening. My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments. And so on. It goes on and on. Hear, O son, your father's instruction. Each chapter begins in that way. Saint Benedict is talking the same way. There's a story of the Hasidim which I've always liked. It's about Ziusia. I don't know if any of you have read the story of the Hasidim. The story of the Hasidim. Buber has collected them. And Ziusia was sort of, he wasn't a fool for Christ, but he was God's fool.

[34:39]

He was the sort of irrational and the crazy one among the Hasidim. A number of them were sufficiently crazy, but Ziusia was something special. He was one of the disciples of the great Magid, who was a great teacher. A great philosopher, too. A fascinating person. And he was the only one of the teacher's disciples who didn't get down in his notes and who didn't recall what the Master had said. And another of the disciples explained it in this way. All the pupils of my ancestors, the one talking is one of the descendants, I guess his son or grandson or something, of the great Magid, transmitted the teachings in his name, all except Rabbi Ziusia, God's fool. And the reason for this was that Rabbi Ziusia hardly ever heard his teacher's sermon out to the end. For at the very start, when the Magid, the preacher, the teacher, recited the verse from the Scriptures which he was going to expound and began with the words of the Scriptures, And God said, or and God spoke.

[35:41]

Rabbi Ziusia was overcome with ecstasy and screamed and gesticulated so wildly that he disturbed a piece of the table and had to be taken out. And then he stood in the hall or in the woodshed and beat his hands against the walls and cried aloud, And God said. He did not quiet down until my ancestor had finished expounding the Scriptures. And that is why he was not familiar with the sermons of the Magid. He never heard them past the first three days. What is it about that, huh? It's that fact that God has spoken. The fact that God has really spoken to us. You know, we've talked so much about God. The fact that he's spoken. Somehow it's all there. The fact that he has addressed us. The fact that he has said a word. The fact that he's looked at us and he's communicated with us. God has spoken. And if he's spoken, we've really got something in our hands. We've really been given something. The Word of God. That's the story about this here. It somehow expresses it. Because you don't need to go past the first three words. The important thing, very often, is not so much what God has said, but the fact that God has spoken.

[36:46]

Sure, we've got to do what God has said. But we can always go back to the beginning. Go back to the fact that God has spoken. And already we've got this whole fullness of love there. We've got the whole self-communication of God somehow. Late somehow. Already there. And the fact that God has spoken to us. Here's another story. This is maybe by the same grandson of the Medivh. Many a time when my ancestor taught a table, his disciples discussed what their teacher had said on the way home. And each one quoted him differently. And each was positive he did it in this way and no other way. They disagreed. And each one was stuck on his own interpretation. And yet what they said was quite contradictory. Reminded us of the Gospels, which somehow, in matters of literal fact, contradict one another now and then. There was no possibility of clearing up the matter, because when they went to the Megid and asked him,

[37:47]

he only repeated the traditional saying, Both these and those are words of the living God. But when the disciples thought it over, they understood the meaning of the contradiction. For at the source, the Torah is one. It is the word of God. The Torah means the whole word of God. In the world, her face is seventyfold. If, however, a man looks intently at one of these faces, he no longer has need of words of teaching. For the features of that eternal face speak to him. Do you get the idea? It's the same thing. God has spoken, and the important thing is to look into the face of God. It's not the precise interpretation. And some of the randomness that we find in the Scriptures, sometimes we can be scandalized by the way that our fathers interpreted the Scriptures, you know? As modern Scripture of scholars kicked down the literal sense to atomic precision, you know? And we see the fathers sort of fooling around with the Scriptures, playing games with the Scriptures. St. Augustine, St. Bernard, St. Jerome,

[38:48]

and maybe they were even using a text which would be thrown out today. Maybe they were even using an inaccurate translation. And we can get scandalized. We can find that stumbling block. Until we realize that the important thing is to look into the face of God, to hear God speaking to me, and then sort of to play in His presence. And that's what they were doing very often, the fathers. The Cistercian fathers knew it too. St. Bernard does it. You've got a book in your library by a man named Bowman. He's a Protestant Scripture student. And it's entitled, I think, The Greek and Hebrew Ways of Knowing, something like that, B-O-M-A-N. Very interesting book. He sees the Greek way of knowing, the Greek consciousness is based on seeing, okay? So that everything is visual.

[39:48]

And there's a lot of mention of light. If you're familiar with Greek patristic mysticism or theology, you'll know how much use they make of that notion of light. But he says that the Hebrews, the Jews, are concerned with hearing. The Jews are concerned with hearing. Now what is there about vision? It tends to be seeing. It tends to be multiple. It tends to be analytical, perhaps, descriptive, exterior. It tends to pertain to the head, the mind, the intellect, the reason. And so it is with Greek thought. It becomes speculative. It becomes philosophy. What is it about hearing? Hearing is personal. If you hear a word, it's spoken from an eye to a vowel. So Google, you know, the Jew who writes his philosophy, more or less, is interpersonal, relational, I-N-L. A word is a personal thing, and it's not seen outside.

[40:51]

It doesn't draw you outside of yourself, but it comes into you. It comes into your ear. Remember how St. Henrik talks. He says, Listen, my son, and incline the ears of your heart. It comes into the ear and goes to the heart, if it's that kind of word. And somehow it doesn't become multiplied. It doesn't become split up. It doesn't lend itself to analysis, but it draws into one, the word. So the Greek way of thinking and the Hebrew way of thinking. And somehow in our patristic literature, we've gotten the two fused. We've gotten the two interlaced, the visual and the auditory, the personal and the speculative, the synthetic and analytical, and so on. It's interesting to pick them out a bit. And when we do, for instance, if we think about the fathers of the Church, the monastic fathers are very much more interested in the Jewish way of thinking, generally, than in the Greek way of thinking, whereas the dogmatic fathers tend to go in the other direction

[41:53]

when they're setting up a structure of thought. So this business of hearing, this Jewish way of knowing, pertains to the monastic life, particularly. So St. Benedict talks to us in that way. Listen, writes my son. And remember that to listen is directly connected to obedience. He says, Listen, my son, and carry out the word, and be turned by the labor of obedience to him from whom you departed by the flow of the disobedient. So to listen and to obey are two steps in the same action. You're probably familiar with the language, the etymology, audere and obaudere in Latin, right? The word to obey is simply adding a prefix to the word for hearing. It's similar in Greek and also in some other languages. Listening and obedience. And you begin to see why this listening is so integral to the monastic life,

[42:56]

why the spoken word is so important. Somehow our consciousness is between the seeing and the hearing. Somehow it's between the seeing and the hearing. And according to St. Benedict, we have to listen to him before we can see him. Remember in his prologue, the first thing he says is to listen, my son, open the ears of your heart, obey, respond. And then he says, run in this way if you want to see him who has called us to his kingdom. If you want to see, then you have to listen first. Obedience and then vision. Obedience first and vision afterwards. The person who insists on seeing first and then listening, well, maybe he's going to do it his own way. The person who listens first is going to do it someone else's way. It's as if we're between, in our consciousness, between the seeing business.

[44:01]

The world is outside of us. The world, as you know, which is passing away, as St. Paul says. And inside of us is something which has come into our ear. St. Paul says that faith is through hearing. The word of God has come into us through our ear and it dwells in our heart. And we live between these two. Between what has come into us and dwells in our heart, the word of God, which is carried within us like an embryo, carried within us like a child in the womb, like a marionette, like vision. But if we don't understand it according to your word, and the word becomes flesh, you can see. Between that word which has been spoken to us and dwells in our heart, and somehow is a new life, and the world which is around us which is, in a sense, a single word, the world which is passing away. Now, life is lived out between those two. Mahner says that man was made to listen for a possible word of God.

[45:03]

To listen for a self-communication of God. We're talking about the creation as sort of being prepared as a vessel into which God is going to come. So man is made as the hearer, the recipient, into which God is going to come, through his word. The word we know is Jesus Christ, the word which has become flesh, which has become one of us, which has become part of us, which dwells within us, through the Eucharist. Dwells in our hearts, dwells in our very bodies, through the Eucharist. And that is the seed of the new world. When we're talking about this word of God, it's good to keep in the back of our minds that parable of the seed and the sower. The seed, which is the word of God. The sower, the word of God. And the ground, which is us, which is our heart, which also is the whole world. Because we receive that seed of the word of God in our hearts so that his light may be brought into the world, so that the world may be transformed. Okay, sir.

[46:04]

Thank you. Excuse me. Okay, now, let's look at that further. That's one of the Ten Commandments, isn't it? Keep holy the Sabbath day. Now, we're not going to find an explanation that will satisfy them, probably. But somehow, when Jesus comes into the world, there are certain things in the Old Testament that he discontinues, certain things that he continues, certain things that he perfects, okay? Certain things in the Old Testament that he discontinues, like the animal sacrifices and the feasts and things that they have to keep, and the circumcision, and a lot of things in the Old Law, okay? Now, one of those things is the Sabbath. However, in a way, he not only discontinues the Sabbath observance, but he carries it on and perfects it. The Sabbath has been changed into Sunday for us. Now, what does that mean? For one thing, the Sabbath has been confused into every day, but the Sabbath has also been changed into Sunday.

[47:31]

Jesus is, in some way, the Sabbath. The kingdom which he brings in his own person is the Sabbath. The reason why he transgresses the Sabbath in the Gospel, I don't know, to the seventh day Adventist, what do they do with that, with Jesus and the New Testament? What role do they get to be there? Do you know? Well, he's the son of God. He's the authority to do what he wants. Do they admit that? No, they stick to New Testament. Ah, yeah, they have to, yeah. But if they won't accept this fact of Jesus, you see, his authority to change the Sabbath, or to consummate the Sabbath, then there's nothing that will convince them. But we believe that Jesus has taken the Sabbath up into his own coming, up into his own events, into the resurrection, and transformed it in that way. Now, we do have a day that corresponds to the Sabbath, which is Sunday. So, in a way, we still observe the Sabbath.

[48:35]

We change the day, and that doesn't make any difference. We shouldn't quibble over the sixth or seventh day or whatever. But that notion of Sabbath is very important. We should talk more about it. The Sabbath is the New Testament to Jesus Christ. The Sabbath is a symbol, just like the sacrifices in the temple, just like the Passover observance, which is to be superseded by what Jesus brings. As Jesus transforms the Passover celebration of the Jews, which they had to do by law, and transforms the sacrifice in the temple to his Eucharist, so he takes the Sabbath and transforms it into the celebration of his resurrection, okay? Because the resurrection is the true Sabbath. Those things are signs and symbols of what is to come. Now, the fact that that stands in the Ten Commandments, that's the only one of the commandments, I guess, that isn't preserved. Well, my position is to keep both of them. That's the only.

[49:37]

Well, I'm sure the workers would be in favor of both of them. Both of them are fairly early, you know. Yes. Yeah, I don't think... I think if we keep one day for the Lord, if we keep the Lord's day, I don't think they have any argument. The fact that it's not the same day, that it's not Saturday, doesn't seem to be important. It seems to me that... And we are left with the... Okay, but that's only... Call it a... I don't know. That's a small distinction. The fact that we keep the seventh day as a holy day, as a day of non-work, seems to me to satisfy perfectly. Because God is not interested in six or seven. Just as God is not interested in dates, you know. He's not interested in the date of the celebration. St. Paul says that kind of thing. Why do you worry about months and seasons

[50:39]

and years and dates? He's a liberator. He's a spirit. But the fact that we keep the day holy seems to satisfy perfectly. We can't give them any more than that. What did you say? Well, I want to say that the church is like the little horn that was produced by Daniel. Oh, yeah. Yeah. I took their basic course, and I got an E on it. I did excellent there. Well, you should have flunked. If you're a good Catholic, you should have flunked. I think I've never heard of Daniel and Revelation. And that really gets involved. What are you going to do when you get all... When you get all that heresy in you, what are you going to do? Well, why do they... They almost hate the Catholics. Oh, sure. But, you know, a lot of these people... These people start from the Reformation. Okay, they start...

[51:40]

They start their identity with the rejection of the Catholic Church. So that's not a very good place to start on your walk of faith, is to start by rejecting something. And see, if you find your identity in opposition to something else by not being a Catholic, well, sometimes you have to work pretty hard at that in order to keep up your confidence. And they do work pretty hard at it. You know, they call the Church the heart of the fable and so on. All these horrible things that they throw at the Catholic Church. They make it demonic at a certain point some of the time. Because that's the way they fortify their own identity. But it's all belonging. If there's anything demonic, it's that kind of attack. It's that kind of hatred and division among Christians. I don't know. I don't know them very well. But I've heard that sort of thing from others. Yes. Right.

[52:46]

That's right. His first attack, his first approach was a question. However, this business of questions can be taken in more than one way. In some ways, the young people have a right to question because their questions have been suppressed for too long. We have a right to question. As long as you do it in faith. As long as you do it with patience. Well, if you start out with a person who hasn't got any faith, what are you going to do? He's right to ask questions. Maybe he's seeking. A lot of the young people are like that. If they start from that place, they have to ask questions. That's their only way of seeking. You can't simply accept the answers. Especially if we don't look like the answers have done us any good. The answers that we have. If they don't find that witness of the proofs of the gospel, the proofs of our truth in us, how can we insist that they accept our answers? Somehow.

[54:07]

They have to be convinced. Yes. That's exactly what I was talking about. Today, Catholic Church, they say they have no foundation. You can go to church, you can go to communion, you can go to priesthood, you can go to any club, you always have some rules. But if you lie all the time, you'll say you've got nothing. I don't know what to come up with. It's different. We have the advantage of being brought up to that in the Catholic faith, or at least with some solid faith. But what can we ask of a person who doesn't have that advantage? What can we ask of him? Or maybe we've received the grace of a conversion from God. But we can't insist that other people accept those answers in faith the way we can with the gift of faith that we've been given. Somehow, it seems to me, we've got to let them ask their questions. And there's a thing about not being afraid of questions, right? If you really believe, then why fear questions? And why try to avoid them?

[55:11]

We know where the answer is. We know that God's truth is adequate to silence every objection and to answer every question. We have to rely that the Holy Spirit will give us the grace to be able to give that answer at the proper moment. Because I think it's good if the young people ask questions if somehow we can trust that God will give us the answer to them. And I think he will. That's right. He said, yep, be ready to give an answer, to give a reason to those who ask you about the hope that's in you, about the faith that's in you. That's the reason for these theologians like Ronald, you know. It's as if the work of the theologians is to be able to put the answers in the language of the questions of our day, okay? To re-express the answers so that they correspond to the questions that come out of our particular time. I think so, yeah.

[56:12]

We've got to have confidence that the Lord knows how to handle these things. And this isn't... Well, he gets in there. No, but Christianity doesn't have to be afraid of questions. And the advantage of the questions is that they make us re-examine our own answers, in a way, and get deeper. See, the questions force us to go deeper. But you can go as deep as you want to and you'll still find the Lord. You can go as deep as you want to and you'll still find truth. You never run out of it. So the questions are really on our side in the end. That's right. It doesn't really have to be that complicated. It really... I think the answer somehow is very simple. The kids know it better than we do. The ones who haven't got to the age of questions. Now, how many... How many priests and preachers practice as a priest?

[57:16]

Now, you're a good Christian. Why don't you... Would you show it to them? Why would I even say that? Well, they probably can't find very few. That's a very embarrassing question, actually, for priests and for preachers. Because to speak the word and to live the word are two different things. And nobody can claim to be living it on its own level. No preacher really can claim to embody the word fully, to live it fully. I think a priest and a preacher always has to admit that he can't give a perfect witness to the word. And the word itself carries a conviction even when we can't live up to it. But often the young people are very demanding and they want to see that sign of life. Even a bad priest can somehow have the gift of the word, you know, can have the gift of preaching and can convert people, you know. Just like sometimes a bad priest can perform miracles

[58:20]

or a person who is not holy can perform miracles. Because those are gifts that God gives and they're independent of holiness sometimes. But people nowadays are suspicious of any word, especially young people, skeptical about any word that isn't backed up by life. Even if it isn't backed up by the witness of life or that doesn't give them an experience. If they don't trust words, if you can tell them how to experience God, OK. If you just tell them about God, they're not very interested. Yeah. They're too easily scandalized for this. Yeah. Scandalized for the humanity of the church. Yeah. Well, they've got to practice it too. Go ahead.

[59:33]

What did you tell him? First of all, it's not a uniform. Well, anyway, I got through it. OK. Well, that's a hard one. That's a hard one. OK, then. Yeah. The next question was, when did St. Benedict live? And how come 15 centuries later we're still wearing it? And how did you answer that one? You mean your clothes are that old, you mean?

[60:40]

OK. And why do practice don't eat meat? Are you all vegetarians? How'd you answer that one? This is still true in Europe, you know, in some places. It was a lecture, you know. OK, that's one reason, but there are other reasons. Well, like, monks all over the world, mostly are vegetarians, right? Most monks don't eat meat, whether you're talking about Buddhists or Hindus or whoever. Now, why is it? It's because, first of all, for ascetical reasons. They believe that meat, you know, encourages the passions and so on. Somehow it's against purity of heart.

[61:44]

Secondly, for reasons of poverty. They believe that they should live like the poor. OK? Now, Christians, and also for reasons of nonviolence, because they don't believe in taking lives, OK? Especially these people. We don't think about that very much as Christians. And then, of course, our Old Testament tradition is so full of threats, you know, that we tend to forget. And there's another reason, which would be orthodox, you know, would be really a good one. That monks also don't want to take life in order to feed themselves, for this reason. That they want to, in some way, witness to the world of the Resurrection. They want to witness to the world of the Kingdom of God, when the lion will lie down with the lamb, when creatures no longer exist by devouring one another. OK? So the monk gives a kind of a witness to that, symbolically, by not eating meat. I think that's a good Christianization of that notion of nonviolence. To give some kind of witness to the Kingdom of God,

[62:46]

where there will not be one creature existing at the expense of another. One creature existing by eating up another. And this has a parallel, then, to human love, I think. Yes? That's right. That's right. So our Christian tradition doesn't condemn eating meat, and much less the Jewish tradition. And St. Paul says, you know, meat and drink, it doesn't matter. So Christian religion doesn't tell us not to eat meat, but the monks often have tried to go a step further, or tried to say something further. So it's certainly not a commandment not to eat meat. The monks have taken it up voluntarily. There's a kind of instinct in the monastic life that seems to lead in that direction, whichever way you explain it. But I like that orthodox explanation, that idea, sort of living in the world of the resurrection,

[63:48]

by not killing other people for our own existence, killing other creatures for our own existence. That's one of the universal things, I think. There are a lot of universal things. It doesn't have to be all over the world. All right. Oh, yeah. Now, come to think of it, you've got a real stock of... Oh, I see, there's a little personal motivation here. I'm sorry. They're the fatted cats, aren't they? There's something about the Hebrew tradition that scandalizes a lot of people. A lot of young people, too, are scandalized by the amount of bloodshed that we have in the Old Testament.

[64:50]

Not only human blood, but animal blood. The sacrifices and so on. It's a hard thing to explain to young people. Especially if I don't understand it myself, it's really hard. So it's a... It's a kind of a thing that has many reasons, too. A lot of the young people are so into this whole earth culture, too. And it's this nature cult. Which is connected with nonviolence and with a kind of brotherly attitude towards animals. It's hard for them to accept those things. The violence and all that sort of stuff. I'm a Baptist. So is every Jew. Or a Mormon. Search me. But you know, that's another...

[65:52]

Some of those Protestant sects or other Christian sects go back to the Old Testament a bit. In fact, they lose some of the freedom of the Spirit in the New Testament. The Catholic Church has always had a kind of a... Partly because it comes out of a Latin... Christianity, out of a Latin culture. But it's had a freedom which has often been narrowed down and crimped. Constricted by Protestantism. Consider the Puritans, for one thing, okay? Lots of times, they've had to substitute a strict moralism for something else that they have told us. In a Protestant church. And so, that's what we've got in the New Testament. In Catholicism, consider the fact that we have wine in our mass. And the alcohol of wine is built right into the center of our sacramental structure. And this is something that can be a scandal too. Right? Exactly.

[66:53]

Sometimes they go back a little bit to John the Baptist and his water, you know? And go back to the Old Testament sometimes. Trying to substitute, in a way, make up for what they've lost by losing the richness of Catholicism. Losing the richness of the Old Tradition. Who says that? Oh, I see. You must have run into a lot of us. Is that when you go to town? When I go to work, that's when I go to town. Even when I sell the blocks, I'll have a couple come back. I say, I'm a Catholic. Do you know how many followers I have? Well, he's teaching.

[68:00]

Well, he's a real old. But, thank God, my sister's a Jew. I said, well, you go to church, I'm going to buy that stuff. She says, you don't work on Sundays. It's not in the Bible. No, I don't go with you. See, they go back to the word thereof, to the Bible. And don't allow the Tradition of the Church. It's got to come from the Bible. And don't send them back to the Old Testament very often. If you want to get more precision when you go to the New Testament, and you really believe just in the Bible, and you don't have the Church to guide you, then you have to go back to the Old Testament pretty soon to get the maximum precision out of the Bible. Then you're in trouble. You go back to the Old Testament, you begin to get in trouble. Because you've got to stop somewhere. Boy, something's wrong with me. You know, I get to get really emotional and worked up and everything.

[69:06]

Oh, and then the two Mormons come here. You want to kick me right out of here now? Yes. Yes. Well, the Mormons are... They're not... They don't even believe in Christ, do they? What do they make them, on the cross? Yeah. And when you're married, and you've got a family, and you're dying to have them, you're all going to die. Yeah. Right. But they're good. Sometimes they can give us good examples of those people, with their fervor, their sincerity. Yeah, they're real good. Also, their ethical traditions, I've heard, that the Mormons are really very upright people. Yeah, that's... Yeah. I can't even explain what I just wanted to say. To me, the Church is not the Church, and I think that's the key to all of this. Well, it started out, I think, when we brought with the Reformation, the Protestant Church of Knox, the Catholic Church, just to give themselves a good send-off. They've been doing it ever since. Yeah. Well, if you've got enough different churches,

[70:14]

then you have to justify your own existence in some way, by being able to distinguish yourself from the others. That means that you're able to, in some way, disprove the others, or criticize them, of course. Prove your point. And prove why you have a reason for existing. That's a good point. Except the Eastern Church and the Orthodox Church. And they claim that we split off from them. And they're really... They can be really good at this. The Orthodox. It's very hard to talk to them. But we all come from the same root. We all come from the same... One tradition.

[71:15]

Okay.

[71:18]