Search for Wisdom

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Chipping away at our good old Catholic faith, criticizing it for not somehow germinating. Talking about the parable of the seed and the sower and the ground, and how we've been having so much trouble getting the seed to somehow get down into the ground and germinate and take life. And somehow, remember the mustard seed in the gospel, which is the smallest of all seeds and yet it's supposed to grow up and fill the garden. And so the seed, which is the word of God, has got that potency in it, it's got all the power of God in it, the power of the Holy Spirit, to find the center of the earth, that earth which is man's heart to start with, but which then is the whole creation, and to fill the heart and to fill the earth and to fill the world, to fill the garden, so that the words of the heavens come to rest in its branches, wherever they be, angels or whoever. So the seed is the word of God, the revelation of God, the self-communication of God, the


beautiful expression of God gives himself in his word. We give ourselves in our word to a certain extent, sometimes we give ourselves away. We give ourselves to a limited extent, we can't communicate the whole of ourselves, but our theology of the Trinity is that God communicates himself, expresses himself completely in that word. Remember the beginning of the letter to the Hebrews, that God spoke partially in a fragmentary way to our father, to the prophet, but now he's spoken fully through his word. Marmyn wrote that passage of Hebrews, how the Lord has spoken the whole of himself once, that one word which is sounded, one word which somehow contains everything, contains all meaning and gives existence to all beings, that word out of which we come and which at the same time is spoken to us. St. John of the Cross says that that word is spoken in the depths of our heart. God speaks only one word and that word is spoken in silence. We have to find it in the depths, in the silence, in that potential mystery that we were talking about.


So, the ground is the whole world, but the ground is also, and particularly man, the human being, the human person, somehow, is the place in the world where God can come in. I found it here. There was one of the Hasidim, the pastor he was called, the rabbi, his name was Abraham Mendel. And he asked some of the other rabbis, well, where does God dwell? Where is God? And they said, well, that's an absurdity to ask that because obviously God is everywhere. But he said, no, God is wherever man lets him in. It's up to man somehow to let God into this world by letting him into his own life because man is the key to this world. Man is in the center of this world. The key to the meaning of the universe is man. And the key to the meaning of man is Christ. So, God comes into man and thus the universe finds its center in God and begins to be transformed


as man is transformed. And the human heart is the place where that happens. The human heart is like the hole in creation, the hole in the universe through which God gets in, if we let him in, to the extent that we let him in. The problem isn't with the seed. We have the right seed. We have the whole truth. As Fr. Raphael said, the seed has all the answers in it. The problem is somehow getting the seed into the ground, getting the shell to crack, getting that seed to germinate. There's an article written by a Benedictine called Sebastian Blum quite a while ago called The Catholic Neurosis. Thomas Martin quoted it somewhere, I forget where. It's an interesting expression, The Catholic Neurosis. This is the way he describes this difficulty. He says, Something seems to be inhibiting a direct and simple approach to the routine


problems that life puts up. Something gets in our way which prevents us, we Catholics, from sort of approaching life in a common sense way or approaching life with the whole of ourselves or approaching life in a simple way. This is his thesis, at least. Every man needs some ideas, some principles for interpreting life to him and for guiding him in his conduct. But there needs to be some balance between this ideal structure and the unique life which it is guiding. A man needs to realize his ideas, to feed into them a personal discovery of their meaning and usefulness. Now with the Catholic, this ideal structure is most imposing. And he's writing a little bit before Vatican II. So he's writing at a time when the Church had a more triumphalistic facade than it does right now. It had more of that sense of that massiveness, the Gibraltar-like strength of the Catholic Church. And the imposing thing that that was.


And the, what do you call it, security, you know, the property that that gave to the Catholic. It is the creation of Christian faith working in great and holy minds, bringing forth their best insights. From the meditations of Augustine, from the speculations of Aquinas, and from numberless other sources, there has been built up this great body of objective truth. And then he goes on. The effect is peculiarly accumulated in the Church, whose law is that every significant Christian insight feeds and increases a common mind. And whether or not your individual Catholic is overtly aware of all that he carries, he does carry it. At moments he will surprise his non-Catholic friend by showing an astounding certainty about life and death and God and afterlife. Problems about which the greatest minds of anguish would have conclusion. Now this effort for certainty is a wonderful thing. And yet, as he goes on, if there must be some balance between a man's ideal structure and


his life as experienced, there's going to be a serious imbalance in the case of the Catholic. Between him and what he feels and fumblingly thinks about life, there comes what great and noble souls have thought about it. So he oscillates between two standards. This oscillation is not the same thing as the tension between good and evil, between the dictates of conscience and the importunities of the flesh. It is a division of the mind rather than of the will. It is better described as a neurosis than as a straight spiritual conflict. And it is the Catholic ideal structure, getting between the individual and his rudimentary common sense, that tends to inhibit a common sense approach to the problems of daily living. And he says this is particularly true of religious. The way he expresses it there seems to me a little confusing. It's clearer on the next page. The effect of being continually exposed to the truth which is doing one no good is distressing to the soul. That's an immortal sentence. The effect of being continually exposed to the truth which is doing one no good is distressing


to the soul. There can even result a kind of unbelief, an exhaustion of the spirit, which he equates with a shady act that the monastic fathers like to write about. And this, it seems, is our problem. We've got the truth but we don't know how to digest it very well. We've got the truth but we somehow have trouble assimilating it. And it's a problem especially in a monastic life where we have a particularly imposing tradition, where we have a particularly solid inheritance. And it's an inheritance of experience too, of lived life, not just of actions. And we too have particular trouble sort of getting into it or getting it into us. He gives a couple of examples of this thing. And then he gives what he thinks is the reason for it. What is the remedy for all this? He says that ultimately we Catholics remain surprisingly immature. That's one of the manifestations of it, kind of the general symptom of it.


What is the remedy for all this? First of all, perhaps we should not be too hasty to blame ourselves, but should recognize the problem as something bigger than we could have created by our impudence and inertia. There is a sense in which the Catholic Church has never really grappled with modern man as he emerged from the break-up of medieval culture. The Reformation was a movement that started within the Church, lost its head, left the Church, and provoked in the Church a powerful reaction which culminated in a counter-Reformation. The analogy with counter-revolution is not to be ignored. The Catholic Church today is still waiting to enjoy that sanity in religion which is to be found mixed with heresy in the Reformed Churches. The problem has its roots deep in history, and so there is no easy solution. Once this is realized, we may proceed to make a dramatic suggestion. So he complains, he laments that the Catholic Church has rejected a kind of human maturity, a kind of development of the human person that became possible at the time of the Reformation,


that became possible mixed with a whole bunch of hard-headed rebellion with, as he says, a lot of heresy. Well, now that has had a control in a different position. The Church has obviously, in the renewal of religious life, for instance, attempted very courageously to come to grips exactly with this question when the Church in particular clarified itself about the adaptation to the needs of the man of today. He's talking about that. We must come to see, he says, what are the factors which accentuate the rigidity of the Catholic ideal structure, which prevents it from being assimilated, which causes truth to drown the soul rather than water it? I think immediately there's two. Polemics and a partialization of the liturgy. And when he says that, he reminds me of two directions, that is, the Catholic Church is like in between, as he says, in between orthodoxy, which is rooted in the patristic tradition, and the center of which, really, is a kind of sacramental theology, is a kind of liturgical


theology. And the Catholic Church is in between that and the Reformation, in between that and, you might say, the modern secular world, the Protestant age. And in the Protestant age, what we have is that other end, that other dimension. And that's where our polemics come in. It is the polemics which have been established with the secular world, which have cut off the Catholic Church from the secular world. That's until the time of Vatican II. So it's as if we're between a rich, liturgy-centered, patristic tradition, a kind of integral tradition, Catholic tradition, Christian tradition, represented by orthodoxy, the Eastern Church, and between the modern world, and sort of shut off from both. Now, in our present moment, we're opening up to both. And so it's a time of great turbulence in the Church as these influences, both from the present and from the past, as it were, come in, these waves wash in. It's a time of great enrichment as well. And it's a time which offers us the hope of getting it all together, of getting the


seed all together, because the seed is, as it were, integral in its liturgical tradition, the sacramental tradition of the East. And in getting the ground somehow related to the seed, because the ground is what we're talking about when we talk about modern man. When we talk about modern man's psychology, and the need for finding a psychology which is able to relate our own experience to our theology, to revelation. So that seems to be where we are. He talks about this fossilization of the liturgy, and the word that he uses, and this is no longer true in the sense of the renewal of the liturgy, but it shows where we've come from. It shows sort of the narrow place that we've come out of, and says something about the directions in which we have to be open. What he says about the fossilization of the liturgy, however, is still true about some other things. It's true, still, I think, in the way that we tend to understand the word of God, or


not understand it. The difficulty that the seed of the word of God has in getting planted in our heart. Let me read a little of what he says. Even though his language is so pungent sometimes, it's kind of irritating. He's talking about the mass about 20 years ago. Indeed, the present rubrics illustrate well the tendency of the last centuries to take the Catholic thing away from life and wrap it up into a tidy parcel containing all the essentials, except what is essential for us. It's that seed with a hard shell which has been made into a kind of a pill. An indigestible one. So there's somehow tension in it. For the present mass, he says, this is the mass of the past, is an abstract of the mass liturgy, flattening out its many dimensions into a single plain surface which only the expert can penetrate.


Now the same thing sometimes is true of the word of God, which has been flattened out into that one dimension in which it's thrown in among our other words. In other words, the one dimension of rationality. It's lost the dimension of depth, the dimension of mystery, the dimension he said of the Father. And it's lost the dimension of immediacy, of participation, of union, of interiority, which we call the dimension of the Spirit. And so it comes across as a kind of denuded or compressed or flattened out word. Are we talking about that? Yes. He sees all this really as one problem. And I think it still is a problem, even though we're 20 years further ahead, maybe really a couple of hundred years further ahead, because Vatican II was a real explosion in the Church after 400 years of a lot of confinement, a lot of constriction.


He talks about a lot of these things as well, and he really is one of these poems. And then he says, It's just that we're such children. It is our faith that makes us so, and it shouldn't. When he says our faith, he doesn't mean our faith really. He means the way that we've got it. It should make us men and women, martyrs across and sent in the resurrection. I want to talk about the knowledge of God tonight. And if we talk about the knowledge of God, we're going to have to deal with this same situation, of course. Do you remember those dimensions of the word, or dimensions of the Christian thing, the Catholic thing, if we want to use Bloom's language, that I was talking about this morning, those dimensions that tend to be lost as the word is flattened out? They're also the dimensions of the knowledge of God, as you'll find it eventually in the scriptures. And in the scriptures, knowledge is more than knowledge.


It's more than knowledge as we know it. He said that the monastic life is a seeking for God that turns out to be a seeking for wisdom. The wisdom is to know God and to live according to God. Fourier. I mentioned his book, The Meaning of the Monastic Life, this morning, and the last chapter, the conclusion, is a kind of synopsis of the whole, a summary, a connotation of the whole of the tradition of wisdom as he was able to search it out, starting way before Christianity, starting even before Greek philosophy. And I'm not going to go through all of that. I just want to read you a bit from the last couple of pages, where he finds that the heirs of this whole tradition of wisdom are the monks. He says that the monastic life is the search for wisdom, which somehow is the channel into


which all of this flows. Whereas the seeking for wisdom elsewhere in the world, elsewhere in our culture, has gotten on to other levels. It's gotten on to the seeking for another kind of knowledge, or for other kinds of knowledge. For wisdom, very often, which are not ultimate wisdom, because they're enclosed within this world, because they're not really seeking for God, and he's the only ultimate source of wisdom. So a lot of channels of wisdom have dried up, but there's one channel which is still very much alive, even though it, too, is small. It, too, is a kind of a trickle, because not many people are really on the track of the monastic cause, monastic vocation. But it's this wisdom which is the seeking for God, in terms of sanctity. It sounds kind of banal, but it's not, because it opens up to a great richness. Let me read a little bit of what he has to say about this. There is no need to say much more in order to understand how monasticism is both the


heir and the fulfillment of the whole sapiential and monastic tradition. He was talking about wisdom and gnosis, and I won't go into the distinction between the two. Wisdom sought an art of living, but an art of living that was essential was political, in the old sense of the word. Let me go through a whole summary. In monastic Christianity, rather than simply Christianity at its maximum purity and intensity, the wisdom of the cross finally takes possession of a now-willing mankind, therein to fulfill those thoughts of God which are not our thoughts, in accordance with his ways which are not our ways. Do you recall that passage of 1 Corinthians, which we had as our second reading in the Mass this morning? I'll return to that later. But that's the wisdom of the cross, as St. Paul was talking about, which the great ones of this world didn't know about. He says if they did, if they had, they wouldn't have crucified the Lord of Glory. Why? Because they couldn't see that glory. They couldn't see what he refers to in 2 Corinthians as the light of the glory of God


shining from the face of Christ Jesus. Now, this is the light of our wisdom. This is the luminosity of our wisdom. And somehow our wisdom, our search for wisdom, focuses on that face, that face of Christ Jesus, the risen Christ. That's the point towards which we move, but it's also the luminous point within our heart, the source of light within our heart, because what we're moving towards is already inside of us. St. Paul says that in the same place in 2 Corinthians. Notice an offshoot from where it says, not directly to live, but to know. Yet its knowledge of man, of the universe, and of their common mysteries, who is this that returns towards life under its highest form, by the fact that it tends to what we call today mysticism? To a knowledge which shall be identification. Identification with the supreme intelligence is also the supreme being. In the mystery of the bleeding yet radiant heart of divine wisdom, Christ, the epignosis of the monk discovers in an experimental knowledge of the cross to which it brings him, the secret


of salvation, the secret of immortality. Thus the monk is the sole genuine inheritor of the whole movement which has borne our Western humanities along since the awakening of his consciousness. Well, that's a pretty triumphalistic, pretty grandiose claim to the name of the monk. And yet, and yet there's a truth in it. It's got the same paradox as the paradox of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians, the first two chapters, where he's talking about God taking the little ones of the world and using them somehow in order to, as it were, destroy the greatness of the world. Not to destroy them, but to destroy their false greatness. And so it is with the monks, with the few little ones who are onto the track of this ultimate wisdom, and they devote their lives to it. He alone is in the direct line of its highest and deepest, its most constant aspiration. He alone touches and realizes its most imminent desires, those which move a whole existence


but of which perhaps we shall never have a clear perception. I think that we would have to make maybe some qualifications of this, especially today, when a lot of people are monks in their heart, when a lot of people are seeking wisdom without knowing that they're seeking God, where even a lot of atheists are on the track of this wisdom, but cannot accept, as it were, the name of God, the name of Christ, because somehow they've been turned off on it. But there are a lot of people who are monks without knowing it. Ronald talks about anonymous Christians. I think there are also a lot of anonymous monks in the world. Everybody somehow has got this yearning, this movement, this dynamism, this hunger inside of them. And a lot of people are sincerely following it out, but they don't really have it, and they don't wear the name of monk. So I think we have to, at first, broaden out what we associate. Nevertheless, it is a monastic thing.


It is a monastic vocation, a monastic thing. The monk, by his vigilance, fortified with asceticism and nourished by prayer, has arrived for mankind in that awareness of self which is only fulfilled in the discovery of the other catholic life. He has recognized and finally assumes the true face of man by becoming close with the image of the ultimate man, of the final Adam, the God made man. And so the monk is the only true human being. The only true human being is the human being of the cross. There's a lot of rhetoric in his language here, but essentially it's true. The secret which the infatiable curiosity of man's mind seeks to decipher is not the secret of a dead universe. It's not the scientific mystery. It is the secret of a word, of the word, which the Father utters to us in all things.


But we only discover the mystery of the word if we only meet the Father, if we are moved by the don't-care. It must not be through a cold and bookish knowledge that we consecrate ourselves, but the knowledge which leads us to love, which is already love. Okay. Just to make the connection between this, this wisdom, this knowledge of God that we've been talking about on the monastic life. Let me read a little more of Saint Paulo and First Corinthians. Reading this morning was only a little chunk of it. We'll have more of it during the week, I believe. No, we're still in Hebrews, if you want. Christ did not send me to baptize, says Saint Paul, but to preach the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. Eloquent wisdom, I suppose, would be the wisdom of the Greeks, would be philosophical knowledge. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being


saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart. Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world did not know God through wisdom. Here Saint Paul is playing with words, as is often heard. It pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs, and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews, and folly to Gentiles. But to those who are called, to those who receive the gift, to those who are called, to those who receive the word, the call, a vocation, is a word. There's a word which calls us to Christian faith, there's a word which calls us to monastic life. And somehow they're the same word, and yet they're two different words, because not everybody is called to the monastic life. But the call to the monastic life is sort of a deeper uttering, or a deeper hearing,


of that same word, that same vocation to the wisdom of the cross, to see that light of the glory of God in the face of the one who is crucified. And to be able to see one's own whole life in the light of this paradox, that we find our life in death. To those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. That's magnificent. And that is not rhetoric. That's the kind of truth which can't be said any better, because it's just molten truth which is just truth itself somehow, which has become words, and it can't really be improved from. That's the way St. Paul's words are. That's the way the words of Jesus are. Then he goes on talking about this wisdom.


I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Somehow this wisdom has to do with power. It is a wisdom and it is a power, but not the kind the world knows. Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age who are doomed to pass away. Somehow there's... St. Paul was always talking... Just as Jesus is talking about two great ages, two great eras, two worlds really, one of which is passing away and the other which is coming. And it's a matter of detaching oneself from the one which is passing away, and which somehow corresponds with our mortal bodies, which somehow corresponds with the old Adam, which corresponds with everything else that has to die, and which is not evil, but which is passing away. And another one which is breaking through, which is coming in, and which as I said is entering through the human heart, and which is already present in our hearts.


It's present in the spirit, it's present in this wisdom which he's talking about, which is given to us. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification. A wisdom which... Hey, don't let me do a glory once again. Look at that light of glory on the face of Christ Jesus connected with the wisdom. Now it has something to do with glory. It's for our glorification, isn't it? None of the rulers of this age understood this. If they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. And they still don't understand it, because somehow this wisdom is antithetical to the wisdom of the world, just as this power, which is the glory of God, which is the power of the resurrection, is antithetical to the power of this world. They just don't go to get it. But as it is written, what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, but God is prepared for those who love him. God has revealed to us through the spirit, for the spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. What a statement that is.


The spirit searches everything, even the depths of God, even as it were the heart of God. And the spirit has come into our hearts, so that somehow we may commune with the depths of God, so that somehow we may commune with the heart of God. He's going to say a little later, we have the mind of Christ. And it's through the spirit that we have this mind of Christ. And this is the wisdom that we're talking about. And after this wisdom, there's nothing else. After this truth, there's nothing behind it, there's nothing beyond it. This is the truth. This is the knowledge of God. For what person knows a man's thoughts, except the spirit of a man which is in it? The spirit of a man is a very mysterious thing. The spirit of a human person, we don't hear much about it anymore. And it's hard to find out what Saint Paul and the other ancients were talking about when they talked about the spirit of a man. We have a theological notion of the spirit of God, but what is the spirit of a man anyway? Somehow it seems to be an image of that spirit of God. I'm still puzzled by it. Even, you know, after you read a book on biblical anthropology or something,


it's still a mysterious thing to me. It's got to do with the breath, of course. For the Hebrews, it has several different words for soul or spirit. And I don't see clearly the distinction between them. So also, no one comprehends the thoughts of God, except the spirit of God. And we have received not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God that we might understand the gifts He's poured on us by God. And somehow, the gift and the spirit are the same thing. Somehow, the gift is the spirit itself. And yet the gift is also other than the spirit, because the gift is a sacramental gift. The gift is belonging to the body of Christ. The gift is the body and blood of Christ, which we have as our sacramental union with Him. The gift is the Church. The gift is the mystery of the joining of the Gentiles and the Jews in the Church. The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the spirit of God, for they are polyphoric,


and he's not able to understand them because they're spiritually discerned. The spiritual man judges all things, but he's himself to be judged by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him among the prophets? But we have the mind of Christ. That's what the knowledge of God is about right now. It's the spirit of God, which comes from, in some way, within God, which comes, as he would say, from the heart of God. The spirit of man, somehow, comes from within man and expresses man. And it's in our speech, it's in our words, it's in our breath, somehow. And we articulate it. There are two other passages I'd like to make focus in. We talk about the knowledge of God. One of them is also sent forward in Philippians 2,


and which relates directly to our vocation in the Lord. Saint Paul is talking about all his prerogatives. As you've heard from many of his passages, he's talking about all of his privileges as a Jew, as a Pharisee. He was really a big man. He had a big reputation, all of his credentials. And he goes on to list them. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because it is the passing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Now, it's all there. This is the key to all this. This is the key to Saint Paul's vocation. This is the thing that makes him go. This is the thing that has set him on fire. This is the thing that came into him when he was knocked down on that road to Damascus and has never left him afterwards. And this is why everything that Saint Paul says is full of fire,


because it's coming from this gift, from this realization, from this thing that's awakened within his heart. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. That's it. And that's what the monastic vocation is about, too. That's what any religious vocation is about. To the man that David Knight wrote a book, I don't even know what it's called. It's called The Cloud and the Fire. And then if he talks about religious vocation, I'm completely out of my mind right now. The point is that when you have lived your vocation for a number of years, the motivation that drew you to the monastic life in the beginning may gradually begin to clear off. Some people may be under a monastery because they think they're under it, because they like the music, because they like to have it, because they like to have it, you know. But that gradually disappears and emerges if they say another motive.


And what is that motive? It's the love of Jesus Christ in their life. If it's a true vocation, then that's what shows up after five years, after ten years. That's the thing that keeps them there. The important thing is not what draws one in, but the thing that keeps them there. Because that's the real core of the vocation. Remember the parables of Jesus in the Gospel, the parable of the treasure that's buried in the field, and this man, the seller comes across it, unexpectedly. And then he goes and he sells everything he owns, and he comes back, he runs back and he buys his field. And he said, what did he say? For very joy he went off and he sold everything that he had and he came back and he bought the field for the treasure. And that's what it is to discover Jesus. That's what it is to discover Christ. That's what a vocation is. And then the other parable right after is the pearl. Remember the dealer in pearls who spends all his time looking for a precious one. And he finds one that's so precious that he sells out his whole business


to buy that one pearl. It's like the manner in which the business deals. That's what it's about. To discover that Jesus, with knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, is the pearl. That's the treasure. That's the one thing that makes everything else, makes everything else drunk is that pearl. Somehow it's all there. And we just follow that trend. We just follow that trend. And the rest of our knowledge just disappears as we go along. And we don't really have to know very much. All we have to know is him. We don't have to know a lot of things. All we have to know is that person. And he tells us what we need to know. It keeps coming from him, through his Spirit. That foolish wisdom that Saint Paul is talking about, that wisdom of the little ones, that wisdom which doesn't consist of a lot of stuff. It really consists of knowing one thing and then living from there. Living from there and living towards there. Now one thing is that it's Christ. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things


and count them as refuse in order that I may gain Christ. I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having the righteousness of my own based on law, but that which is true faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. And here he talks about two different ways of living. Now the way where you sort of live by your own resources. And he did it as a Pharisee. He did it by having this justice of his own. He did the disaster, the lovely persecution of the Christians, the whole business. But we do it in all different ways, you know. Whenever we're living by our own things, that's what he's talking about. And that's what crumbles when we find Christ. That's what becomes worthless. We may be rather slow in admitting it, in throwing it away, but it all collapses into rubbish when you just put it aside. And if you're stepping across from one hope to another, because the thing that counts is really where we put our hope. It's what we stand on. If you're stepping across from one ground to another, if you've stepped out and followed Jesus,


as we move back to him, we move over onto him. He becomes our ground. Or rather, our ground becomes the place where he is standing, which is the Father. And the monastic journey, I say Christian journey, essentially, is a journey of hope. We talk about faith. We talk about love. We don't talk enough about hope. Because a monastic life is about hope. And conversion itself, and a monastic life is a life of conversion, of perpetual conversion, as it's supposed to be, conversion itself is moving over from one kind of hope to another. It's moving over from hope in your own sense, which is the failure to the extreme, to the extreme of ignoring God, is just plain sin. Moving over from that to dependence on God. And as a person becomes more and more completely dependent on God, he becomes more and more detached from that which is behind. And that simply falls into rubbish. That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection.


And this is what the knowledge is like. It's not only just the personal knowledge. It's that. But it's more than that. It's certainly not just the knowledge of this thing. These are knowledges, of course, we need. That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and may share His suffering, becoming like Him in His death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Because to know Jesus Christ in the terms of St. Paul is, God means that, is to live the same life that He lived. Not only that, but somehow to live His life, that is to realize His life living within one, to be lived by Christ, if we may say that. To know Jesus Christ is to be lived by Him. It's to have His life operating in you. So we find that this thing we're talking about moves in two directions. Moving in two directions from the word that we hear. It moves away from us as we realize that our knowledge is somehow receding into mystery.


That the ground of our knowledge is mystery. The ground of our life is darkness. The ground of our knowledge is the unknown and the beyond. And it moves towards us as we realize that this knowledge of God in Jesus Christ is living the very life of God. It's living the life of Christ, as St. Paul says, where he says that I may know Him in His sufferings and in my experience of resurrection. It's living the life of the Trinity, as St. John says in his first letter. Remember? Where he says that what we have seen, what we have touched, what we have heard, we pass it on to you so that you may share this fellowship that we have. And this fellowship is you, the Father, and me, the Son, Jesus Christ. Now that's sharing the life of the Trinity, that fellowship. That's the life of the Church, which is the life of God. It's the very life of the Trinity. And so this knowledge which moves away from us into mystery moves towards us until the life of God becomes our own life. That's the kind of knowledge it is. And all this somehow is contained within the knowledge of the...


is contained within the reality of the Trinity. The Trinity which is mystery, which is the unseen God, the Father. The Fathers of the Church like to talk about the Spirit and the Word is in the arms of God. God the Father remains unseen. He remains the unknown God. He remains mystery. And He reaches down to us and communicates with us by means of His two hands. One hand is the Word and the other hand is the Spirit. And with those two hands He reaches down, picks us up, and brings us back to Himself. But He remains unseen. He remains mystery. We know Him through His Word, we know Him through His mystery, through His Spirit. We know Him through the Word that we hear and that we see. In St. John's we even touched it with our hands. Through the figure of Jesus that we see emerging out of the pages of the Scriptures. And we know Him through the Spirit in our heart, which makes His life our life. And that's the fellowship. We know Him actually by participation in Him. That's a big word.


We know Him by living His life. That's a simpler way of putting it. But we've heard it so much that it's not painful. It's not at all painful. All of the really precious things are pretty simple. One more passage from the New Testament. We'd have to read most of St. John's Gospel if we really wanted to talk about this stuff. Because St. John's always talking about it, even when he's not talking about it. Always talking about this knowledge of God. Always talking about seeing. Seeing Christ. Seeing God in Christ. And seeing through reality. Reality is so sacramental to St. John. But this other one, which has been called the... They call it the Ioannine Meteor in St. Matthew. It's like a chunk of St. John that landed in St. Matthew's Gospel by mistake. It's in chapter 11. These are some of the most comforting words of the Scripture.


I just want to read them in the context of the knowledge of God. At that time Jesus declared, Now, this echoes that passage of 1 Corinthians that we're reading. Where St. Paul is talking about the knowledge that the wise ones don't have. The wisdom that's been somehow hidden from the eyes of the wise. There's something, there's a way of understanding which keeps you from understanding. And so, Jesus can say, well, they have eyes that they don't see. They have ears that they don't hear. They see and they don't see. Remember the Pharisees that he was arguing with somewhere in St. John's Gospel. And they say, well, we're not blind, we see. Well, he says, if you were blind, you'd have no guilt. But because you say, we see, your sin remains. They see and so they can't see. There's a certain way of seeing which keeps us from seeing. There's a certain way of knowing which keeps us from knowing. All things have been delivered to me by my Father.


And no one knows the Son except the Father. And no one knows the Father except the Son. And anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal. Now, this is the knowledge of God. And this knowledge of God is somehow seen in the Trinity. It's a being brought into the Trinity in some way. And he doesn't say a word about the Holy Spirit. Where's the Holy Spirit? Perhaps the Holy Spirit is this knowledge itself. That elusive third person who is always there, yet seldom spoken of. Only a few times did Jesus speak about him. And that's what's wrong. Come to me, all who labor. Come to me are the words of wisdom in the Old Testament. Remember? That wisdom is personified as a woman. Come to me, all you little ones. This is a deliberate allusion to that wisdom passage. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. This means all you who are burdened by the Jewish law. But it means a hundred other things as well.


It means all you who are burdened by the law of your mortality. All of you who are burdened by the law of the fear of death. Simply all of you who are burdened by your being. Come to me. Come to me. And I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. For I am gentle and loving in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Now this come to me, coming out of the words of Jesus, who is wisdom incarnate, is the invitation to the knowledge of God. This knowledge of God, which is a turning over point, which is, in the words of the letter of the Hebrews, it's an entering in. An entering into the mystery, an entering into the heart, an entering into the sanctuary. It's a turning over from a kind of slavery to a kind of freedom. It's a turning over from the Old Testament to the New Testament. And this is something that is supposed to occur in the life of every one of us. It can occur a thousand times, you know, because it's a process.


And we break through and then we fall back. And we break through again. And we have a little life and we lose it. And we get a little liberty and we give it up. And so on. So that's what's going on in us. It's a death and it's a resurrection. Because we have to lose something. We have to let something fall away in order to get this life. We have to let another life go. We have to enter into the darkness. I better not go any longer tonight. I wanted to talk about Rahner's notion of mystery a little more. Maybe get to that tomorrow. Because, in some ways, it seems it provides a beautiful framework, as it were, for the scriptural notion of the knowledge of God. Just a little to conclude with this. The knowledge of God already in the Old Testament is more than knowledge as we usually think of it. If you read the prophets, for instance.


Isaiah. The beginning of Isaiah. Sons, have I reared and brought up that they have rebelled against me. The axe knows its owner and the axe its master is quick. But Israel does not know. My people does not understand. What is that knowledge? The knowledge, it turns out somehow, to be the knowledge of the ways of God. It's not the knowledge of a thing or of a statement or of a truth. It's not the knowledge even just of the existence of a person. It's the knowledge of God's will. And it turns out also to be a kind of intimacy with God. A going along with God, in some way. There's another passage in Jeremiah. Jeremiah's around the corner. Do justice.


In the Old Testament. There's something else too. You find this particular in Hosea. One place in chapter four. Hear the word of Israel, O people of Israel. Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel. For the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or kindness and no knowledge of God in the land. There is swearing, lying, killing, stealing and committing adultery. So the knowledge of God is the opposite of all those things. But then in chapter two, there's this passage. Which you're familiar with, I think. I will make for you a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the heathen kings of the ground. God's covenant of Israel. And I will abolish the bow, the sword and the war from the land. And I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice. In steadfast love and in mercy.


I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord. So that knowledge of God is the spousal, the nuptial knowledge of God. The intimacy of union with God. Which can only be described in terms of the intimacy between man and wife. And where this is to take place is in the desert. Therefore, behold, I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. And we get back to, once again, our monastic vocation. We talked about the renunciation of St. Paul being for the sake of this surpassing knowledge of my Lord Jesus Christ. And the solitude of the monastic life is for the sake of this intimate knowledge of God which is spoken of by the prophet. It's not for nothing that that poetic language is used. It's not in order to highlight something which is much more plain, much less exciting.


It's in order just to give a dim indication of the real intensity, the real depth, the real intimacy of what we're called to. The union of God with this knowledge of the Lord. That's enough. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be world without end. Amen.