Word of God

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We're talking about the Word of God today.
You can't overemphasize its importance.
I remember how annoyed I used to get when people kept talking about the Word of God
and certain other things like the Paschal Mysteries after Vatican II,
when that theology came out.
You just got that drummed into you until you were numb.
It's a fact though, it's the truth.
There are certain elementary things in our Christian faith that we really can't have too much of,
although perhaps we can repeat ourselves in a certain way.
There's a kind of a challenge from the Eastern religions today,
which consists of the attraction of non-dualism,
a challenge to what seems to be the, call it the complexity,
or call it the non-unity, or call it the harshness,
or the tension of Christianity.
And also Judaism, with the Word of God and with man seemingly opposed to God.
There's an attraction towards a sort of absorption that you find in Eastern religions.
Already in PM, you know, sort of just descending into the ground again.
A type of meditation and also a type of philosophy.
And Christianity sometimes appears to be a kind of immature religion,
a kind of incomplete religion,
a kind of unfinished stage along the path of evolution of human spiritual development,
because it is dualistic.
Because the Word comes to us from outside,
the Word of God comes to us from outside and challenges us.
And the gurus will sometimes tell us, well, that's kid stuff.
When you really become spiritual, then you realize the non-duality of being.
Then you simply become one with all things.
And you don't have that confrontation.
You don't have that personal relationship anymore either.
Well, that's not what we believe.
The Word comes to us from outside and yet we're already created in the Word.
In other words, there's a non-dualism to start with.
And then we emerge into a dualism when the Word is spoken.
And then, once again, we have the problem of finding unity.
There are three phases, it seems.
St. Augustine, for instance, and a lot of the fathers have talked about
the time before the law, the time under the law, the time after the law.
The time before the law is the time of the word non-dualism.
The time of the, what do you call it, the infant's naivety.
The time under the law is the time of dualism.
When the Word of God confronts you, when God somehow,
man is separated from God by sin, and man is in that,
he gets in that divided condition himself, he's in full trouble at the moment.
The time after the law is the time of the gospel,
when Jesus comes and somehow transcends the law
and brings God and man back together again.
He brings them back together again in his own flesh, in his own body,
because he is God in a human body, God in man at once.
And then he brings them together in the church.
And, of course, that's a process that's still going on.
There have been, to back up a little bit, to go backwards a little bit,
there have been a number of attempts to sort of make a diagram
of the world's religions which corresponds to the Holy Trinity.
I spoke to you about one of those the other day.
Another one is that of Raymondo Panikkar, a brilliant theologian,
who lines up the world's religions in something like the way I told you about.
Whereas you would have Buddhism, I may be unfaithful to his thought,
I'm not trying to be exact, but there are a number.
Buddhism lines up with the epithet.
It would be the religion of the father, the religion of mystery,
the religion of the beyond, of the depths, of emptiness.
Hinduism would be the religion of the spirit.
Christianity and Judaism would be the religions of the word.
And, as it were, you would have three alternative ways of getting to God,
three alternative ways of getting to the Father.
You can go through Christ or you can go by the other ways.
Somehow, that pattern doesn't squirt through all the Christian theology, it seems to me,
because you do have the historical development.
And Christians are more likely to find the Trinitarian pattern,
even though there's a lot of truth in that one.
But, somehow, it doesn't account fully enough for history.
So, Christians are more likely to find the Trinity reflected in this way, in history.
First, you have sort of the era of the Father,
the era also of the cosmic religion.
Then you have the word spoken, the era of the word.
St. Augustine speaks about being under the law.
And then, finally, you have an era of the spirit.
Well, that's a little naive, too.
That is a little oversimplified.
You wonder where the time of the word stops and where the time of the spirit begins.
For instance, there was a scheme of Joachim of Flores, you may have heard of him,
who had a time of the Holy Spirit coming, which was going to be the monastic age, too,
when it would be a monastic church,
and where everybody sort of would follow the pattern of St. Francis.
A time of poverty, a time of detachment,
a really idealized period in the history of the church that never happened.
It hasn't happened yet.
It seems naive to expect that there's going to be an era of the Holy Spirit,
which will come after the time of Jesus, as they say,
which will come after the time of the word,
which will add something to the gospel.
Christian theology tells us that everything comes in Jesus,
that the era of the spirit arrives with Jesus,
that the kingdom of God comes with Jesus.
There's not another time that comes afterward
when the Holy Spirit is poured out in a new way,
as it were, a third period in history,
in which we go beyond Christ.
The Holy Spirit is poured out at Pentecost,
but Pentecost is part of the mystery of Christ.
Pentecost is part of the whole complex of the mystery of Christ,
which is life, birth, incarnation,
life, death, resurrection, ascension, Pentecost.
It's all one. It's all one.
It's all the expression of the coming of God,
or the coming of the Spirit of God,
into the world, into creation, into man.
And so we'd better not look for this era of the spirit.
And yet somehow the era of the spirit, the time of the spirit,
that kingdom, is inside history all the time.
It's rather that they flow along together.
They flow along together,
rather than one coming right after the other one.
And we're always tempted to think that the time of the spirit,
the time of the millennium, is just around the corner.
The Vatican, too, tempted a lot of people to think that.
The Pentecostal movement, when it broke out in the Catholic Church,
particularly, seems like the era of the spirit appearing.
But yet there's always the receding back into that, once again,
that law of invisibility we were talking about,
where you can only find the Spirit of God,
and the presence of God, with faith.
You don't see a temple now enforcing their key, it looks like.
The law of invisibility, the law of darkness, of obscurity,
the law of faith takes over again.
But where are we then?
Somehow we're between the second and the third faith, we Christians.
We're between the era of the Word and the full era of the Spirit.
We're between the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Between the letter and the Spirit.
Between the law and grace.
And why do I say between?
Jesus brings grace, Jesus brings the Spirit, Jesus brings the Kingdom.
And yet, somehow, we have to go through a process of accepting,
of assimilating, of integrating the Kingdom, of coming into that Kingdom.
We don't receive it automatically.
We have to start out, as it were, with the law,
and work our way through to the Kingdom.
And Jesus had to do it himself.
He had to do it during his life, and he did it in his death and resurrection.
He had to do it, why do I say that?
Not for himself, but for us.
Because, as St. Paul said, he was God to start with.
He didn't hold on to that, he emptied himself.
The letter of the Hebrews says that, though he was son, he became obedient.
He became like us, and learned obedience through his suffering.
He followed our path.
He moved through the law into the Gospel himself.
He ran the race, as our reading points to.
Okay, so it's as if we've got these three times, and we've got a choice where we want to live.
A choice which is not just a matter of an act of your mind, or your life has to be arranged.
We can move back to the Old Testament, and frequently Christians have done that.
Frequently the Church has taken a move back towards the law.
The rigidity which has often come into the Church,
in its theological structures and also in its theoretical structures,
is like a move back to the Old Testament.
A forsaking of the freedom of the Gospel,
to go back under the security of the law.
Of having something that, I don't know, that gives you some kind of status,
that gives you some kind of identity.
You can do that with rational principles, you can do it with law.
You can close yourself into a fortress.
But if you do that, then you don't have any freedom anymore.
The fortress which defends you becomes a prison which constricts you,
which encloses you, which prevents you from moving.
And so you move back into the Old Testament.
Move back into that old city of Jerusalem, the walled city.
We can move back into the city of Jerusalem that way, into the Old Testament.
But also we can move clear back into the cosmic religion period.
And that's what a lot of the young people do today.
You see, they don't want to...
They are repelled by what seems like the over-juridical,
or the over-dogmatic structure of the Church.
And so they move right out of it and they go back to that other time.
And they go back to that time before the law, the time of the cosmic religion.
And if you want to verify that, just come to California.
Because there's a different spiritual cult behind every bush.
It's a great big supermarket of spiritual plants, spiritual jungle.
You can make your own religion.
You mix it yourself like, I don't know, like granola.
And a lot of it is going back to a kind of cosmic worship
in which you seek a kind of merging with the universe,
a merging with all of life and all of being.
A sort of whole-earth religion, the Mother Earth culture, carried to a spiritual level.
So you eat your yogurt and you don't eat any meat, make sure of that.
And you probably do yogurt too.
And, I don't know, you live in the right kind of place and you eat it the right way
and you do all these things and that's your religion.
That's one species there, just going back to nature.
And sort of just checking out of the whole Western Christian civilization,
not only its religious connection.
Okay, one place you can go is back to the pre-word period, back to the cosmic religion.
And many of the young people do it.
Many of them do it geographically.
They go to India in search of a divorce.
In search of just a kind of religion of simplicity, of merging with the cosmos,
a religion of bliss.
And lots of times they're judgmental, not always.
You can go back to the Old Testament, like we frequently have in the Church.
And a kind of defensive, paranoid enclosure.
Or you can move forward into the true New Testament, into the freedom of the gospel,
into the time of the Spirit.
But the time of the Spirit is not found, as it were, ahead of the time of the gospel,
the time that we're in.
It's found inside of us.
It's a matter not moving ahead, but moving in.
Moving into the heart, as it were, of our history.
Of finding the gospel, as it were, within the Old Testament,
which is still part of our existence.
I say we can go back to the Old Testament.
Well, the Old Testament is still with us.
Somehow the Old Testament is connected with our body, and it's connected with our death.
And as long as we're in this flesh, as long as we're under the law of mortality,
somehow there's a good deal of Old Testament in our life and in our experience.
Death itself somehow belongs to the Old Testament.
Because the New Testament is centered in the resurrection,
and the law of the New Testament is the law of life, the law of the Spirit,
the law of liberty.
There isn't any more death in the real New Testament.
But the New Testament is inside the Old Testament.
The life is inside of the mortal body.
Remember how St. Paul talks in 2 Corinthians, chapters 3 and 4 and 5,
where he talks about our having seen the glory of God.
I can't help repeating that passage.
We've seen the light of the glory of God shining from the face of Christ Jesus.
And then he says we've got this treasure in earthen vessels, remember?
We've got this treasure in earthen vessels, and the earthen vessels are wearing away.
Our body is wearing down.
But he says if this earthly habitation, this house of mine,
in case the body wears down, I've got another house coming from God in heaven.
That other house somehow grows out from inside.
It grows out from that treasure that's in the heart,
which is the light of the face of Jesus, the light of the glory of God.
It grows out from there, and at the same time it's given to us by God.
And we don't know what it is. We haven't even understood it.
St. Paul begins to talk about it in 1 Corinthians 15,
when he talks about the spiritual body, where the law has become liberty,
where the body has lost its heaviness, it's lost its mortality,
where death has swallowed up in life.
We don't know how to think about those things.
We just sort of, the word opens up a little bit to those realities.
You get a little taste of them with that thought.
A transfiguration is to happen.
So, it's not a matter of being trapped in a kind of dualism.
It's a matter of moving into what? Into Trinity.
It's a matter of moving into the reality of the Trinity
by going beyond the dualism of the law,
by going beyond that kind of tension,
that kind of opposition that we find in the law.
The Ten Commandments, which are ten thou shalt nots, right,
ten negativities, ten vetoes, ten prohibitions,
into the affirmation of the Spirit.
The affirmation of the Spirit, which is somehow God's own self-affirmation,
God's own delight, God's own saying,
it is good.
We only get there by going through the law.
See, the law somehow is connected very much with nature.
We talk about the law of the Old Testament
as if it were something that came from outside,
something that God imposed,
but actually it's right there written into our nature.
Somehow the written word of the Old Testament expresses that.
Most of the Ten Commandments, not all of them,
but most of them are written right into the law of our nature.
They shalt not kill, they shalt not steal,
they shalt not covet, and all of those things.
The Word comes into the world and comes into us
and reveals to us and reveals to the world what we are,
what the world is.
It's marvelous that we wait for this light that comes,
and the light when it comes tells us who we are.
It isn't that the light comes from outside and remains outside
and it decorates us like a Christmas tree.
It comes in the middle of us
and illuminates us in the middle
and reveals our very meaning.
It becomes our very center.
We're waiting for our center.
We're waiting for our core.
We're waiting for our heart in a sense.
And our center, our core, our heart, our meaning,
our delight, our future comes to us in Christ.
It comes to us in Christ.
But not just in the Word of Christ,
as we hear the Word of Christ.
It comes to us somehow in the union of word and spirit that comes to us.
And the real core of it somehow is in that spirit
that's in the Word that comes to us.
The Word comes into our body,
and inside the Word somehow is the spirit.
And the two of them come into our heart.
And then we have a new heart.
And then the movement begins outward,
the movement of the resurrection,
which is not just of ourselves,
of our own bodies, but of the whole cosmos
and God's own power.
But meanwhile, this liberty, this joy,
is lived inside the law,
inside the law of mortality,
inside this earthen vessel, as St. Paul is talking about,
which is dying as we carry it around.
That's okay, because we have the gospel inside.
Because we have the life of Jesus inside of us.
Remember, he says also that
we carry around the death of Jesus continually
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in us.
The spirit of the burning bush is there too, isn't it?
The death and the life together.
But somehow we have to get to the point where
we can find the life in the death,
where we can get the two together in the right way,
so that we find our strength,
so that we move straight into the wind,
so that we move straight into the darkness
instead of having it diverted.
It's like a blade that moves in.
We have to learn how to do that.
Otherwise we can't cope with it.
Otherwise we fall victims to that law of the fear of death,
remember the Hebrews talked about.
And we get pushed aside.
Unless we move straight into something,
go through the needle's eye, which is death.
There's a passage in, about this light coming into the world,
in St. John, and it's hard to resist talking about it,
but it's in John chapter 8.
It's where Jesus says to the Jews,
I am the light of the world.
There's a statement that's up to make them,
make them jump with it.
He who follows me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.
So the Pharisees, they swallow once or twice,
and then they say,
you are bearing witness to yourself,
your testimony is not true.
It's remarkable that they should answer this to what Jesus is saying.
He says, I'm the light of the world.
And they say, well, you're bearing witness to yourself.
We want some references.
We want to check you with somebody else.
And Jesus says, even if I do bear witness to myself,
my testimony is true,
for I know whence I have come and whither I'm going.
But you don't know whence I've come or whither I'm going.
You see what he's saying?
He's saying that the light that comes in
doesn't need to be verified by anything.
The light is its own verification.
The light shows itself.
The light says it all.
The light illuminates.
The light explains everything else.
The light gives the meaning to everything else.
It doesn't take its meaning from anything.
The light that comes into the world
validates itself, speaks for itself,
is its own witness.
When you see light,
that light doesn't need any other witness.
The man born blind, when Jesus gave him his sight,
he didn't need, somehow, somebody to tell him
that he had his sight.
He saw the light, and that was enough.
The light that comes into the world
is its own validation,
its own proof, its own verification.
It doesn't need to be confirmed or witnessed.
And yet there are witnesses,
because everything witnesses to it.
Because the light that comes into the world, somehow,
is the meaning of everything else.
It's the end, it's the future,
it's the purpose,
it's the consummation of everything else.
And therefore, everything else confirms it.
But man only confirms it if he wants to.
He's free to confirm it, or he's free to deny it.
The light comes into the darkness.
The darkness can't overcome the light,
but it can choose not to receive it.
The darkness makes the option against the light.
It doesn't verify the light.
But that's okay, because the light verifies itself.
The light shines anywhere.
The darkness can't put it out.
Later on in the same chapter,
Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him,
If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples,
and you will know the truth,
and the truth will make you free.
There's the other verification of the light.
The light verifies itself,
but then it verifies itself in us
if we open ourselves to the light,
because it makes us free.
What does it mean to be free?
It means to find yourself.
It means to realize yourself.
It means, somehow, to sense your own being.
It means to become one with yourself.
And that's what the light does.
It makes us one with ourself.
It illuminates ourself for us.
It enables us to recognize ourself for the first time.
It doesn't only reveal itself,
but it reveals us,
because the light is the answer to all things.
The light is the meaning of all things.
And yet, when the light goes out,
you don't know who you are anymore.
That's the way it is.
As long as the light is shining,
we know who we are.
And we know that we belong to him.
Like Peter said, you know,
Lord, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
This is the word that, when it's spoken to you,
tells you who you are.
And it tells you what life is about.
And it tells you all that needs to be told at that moment.
And so you sit at his feet, and you listen,
and you know that I can hear it.
And that's it.
It's all there sometimes.
If we talk about the word and monasticism,
we don't have to search around
to make that connection.
You know how important Lectio is
in the monastic tradition,
especially in the Benedictine tradition.
Some of the Orthodox don't emphasize reading so much.
I've seen some Orthodox write,
see if they know the truth,
they don't read so much.
It'll distract you from the prayer of the heart, he said.
That's all right if you're there,
but most of the students are reading.
And, of course, the Lectio is principally,
first of all, is descriptive.
It's the word of God.
And in the monastic tradition, everything else that you read
is just a commentary on the word of God,
or a development out of the word of God, or something like that.
Because the monk, he devotes himself
to the word of God.
That's why he goes off from the world with all this noise,
is to give himself to the word of God.
Isaac the Syrian says that
the monk makes himself poor
so that the word of God can be his riches,
so that the word of God can be his,
can be the thing that he hoards,
not the thing that he runs through his fingers.
So that the word of God can be his treasure.
That's the reason for his poverty,
and his solitude, and his separation from the world.
The word of God, ultimately,
is Christ.
We've been talking about the word of God without explaining that.
There's this transition
from the words of God to the one word of God
that he's got to communicate with himself.
And you find it in Hebrews.
The beginning of Hebrews where it says,
many times, many ways, God spoke to us
in a fragmentary way.
Now he's spoken completely through this one word.
And that's the one word
which turns out to be Jesus,
which turns out to be Christ, and everything is in him.
That one word is a light,
and that means that it's simple. Light is very simple.
You don't need more than one light
as a word. Just one light.
That's enough to enlighten others.
And he's the light.
Originally, it seems that the monks
did their reading aloud.
Because the whole
of reading aloud is another factor.
You seem to fortify the effect on yourself
by hearing yourself speak.
That's something that we do inquire, also, of course.
When we read aloud together,
we sort of augment,
we reinforce the effect
of the reading.
Remember that sort of
ladder of contemplation?
I think Wego the Carthusian called it
the ladder of contemplation.
Lectio, meditatio,
or contemplatio.
Spiritual reading,
meditation, which is chewing the word,
prayer, which somehow
is the word which is first in the frame a little bit,
and then, which has begun
to become warm, which has begun to warm the heart.
And finally,
contemplation, which is the light,
as it were, that bursts out of that word.
And so,
contemplation is tied directly to
the word, because it's the word of God.
We're talking about it in this lecture.
Essentially and fundamentally, it's the word of God,
no matter what you're reading.
You're reading the father of the world.
So, contemplation,
then, for him as well as prayer,
is tied to the word of God.
And, of course, that's most evident
for us when we see
contemplation tied to the psalm.
That's what Cassian does.
When Cassian talks about contemplation,
it's in one of two ways.
It's either
this fiery prayer that he talks about,
the highest
and simplest kind of prayer,
a kind of volcanic prayer,
it's the understanding of the Scriptures.
And he slides right from
the understanding of the Scriptures
into contemplation,
without even, you don't even notice the move.
You don't notice that he's
begun to talk about contemplation
while he's still talking about reading the Scriptures.
Contemplation, for him, is understanding
the spiritual senses of the Scriptures.
There's a magnificent conference
of Cassian, number 14,
in the conference of
Avonestoros and Asteros
on spiritual knowledge,
which you should be familiar with,
but it's kind of basic,
where he talks about the different senses of Scripture.
And he talks about
the different kinds of spiritual knowledge.
It's funny that he should call everything
knowledge, because what he starts talking about first
is the ascetical life.
He calls it praxis, practical knowledge,
active knowledge,
as it aggregates.
And then he talks about spiritual knowledge,
and spiritual knowledge is the understanding of Scripture.
And then he talks about the various senses
of the Scriptures.
You move from the literal sense into the spiritual sense.
Let me read you a little bit
of that.
This is chapter,
you got this in one of the volumes
of Nicene and Post-Nicene Proverbs,
volume 11.
The one that's labeled,
Sophetius Severus,
probably you know that.
To return to the explanation of the knowledge
from which our discourse took its rise,
it's a kind of antiquated translation.
First, as we said above, practical knowledge,
praxis, the ascetical life,
is distributed amongst many subjects and interests.
You can do that in many ways.
You can do it by tending the sick.
You can do it by fasting.
But theoretical knowledge, that's the understanding
of Scripture, is divided into two parts.
First, the historical interpretation,
and second, the spiritual sense.
It's interesting how he gets the whole of the
monastic life, the active life
and the contemplative life, into the
notion of knowledge, which is a typically
Greek thing to do.
And he's deriving from a guy who's
a Greek philosopher.
But of spiritual
knowledge, there are three kinds.
Tropological, allegorical, and anagogical.
Three long words.
He gives an example later on,
maybe the best example,
which is the city of Jerusalem.
These four previously mentioned figures
coalesce, if we desire, in one subject,
so that one and the same Jerusalem can be taken
in four senses. Historically,
as the city of the Jews.
Allegorically, as the church
of Christ. Now, the allegorical
level is the Christological level,
a level of Christ and the church.
that's the
contemplative sense, or the eschatological
sense, whatever you want to call it.
As the heavenly city of God, which is the
mother of us all. Tropologically,
or the moral sense, or the spiritual sense,
as they call it. As the soul of man,
which is frequently
subject to praise or blame
from the Lord under this title.
Okay, now, there with that example, you have
the four senses of Scripture. The literal
sense in which Jerusalem is just Jerusalem,
that's the Old Testament city of the Jews.
first spiritual sense,
the Christological sense,
let's call it, in which Jerusalem
is the church of Christ.
The third sense,
call it the psychological, or
spiritual, or moral sense, in which Jerusalem
is your heart. And the
fourth sense, in which Jerusalem is the heavenly
city of Jerusalem, you see in the Apocalypse.
The city happens to furnish a
perfect example of this, of the four senses.
It's very important, too,
to have some notion
of this, for using the psalms,
in order to get all of the possibilities,
all of, sort of, the
keys, the optics, out of the psalms
if you can, the maximum
of meaning. Because in many
of the psalms, it seems that, like the city
of Jerusalem refers to the heart,
remember that psalm
on, I think it's 137,
By the waters of Babylon
we sat down and we hung up our hearts
and we wept, because of
our exile from Zion.
It's an exile from the Holy City.
For the Jews, it's the
exile from Jerusalem. It's
the exile from that heavenly
city of the Apocalypse, which somehow
is our mother, which is the desire of our heart
in some ways. We've only got that city in our heart.
The city that the letter of the Hebrew
is about.
And it's also the exile from the heart.
In other words, Babylon is the world
and Jerusalem is the heart.
And when we're exiled from
the heart, we're in Babylon.
And Babylon is somehow,
the false world, the murderous
world, that tries, the world of
untruth, corresponds to
Merton's false hope,
which tries to
destroy Babylon,
which tries to destroy Jerusalem.
And so did the war between the two.
There were two cities. The city of the
heart, which somehow is correlated with the church,
with Christ, and
the city of the world.
But that's only an example
of that movement from one sense to
another. Now the fathers were very
fond of that way of interpretation. Gregory
the Great does it all the time.
That whole immense work of his, the
Moralia, the commentary on Job,
moves between these four senses of
scripture. I think the literal
sense of the three other ones, one
after the other, and it can get kind
of, you know, kind of wearisome when you refer to it that way.
He brings the incense, the
margaret of incense. I've never
read the whole thing. Not many people
have that.
spiritual journey of the monk
is seen
often by the fathers as a
marriage with the word. It seems like a
very curious thing to us.
Until we realize that Jesus
who is the word, according
to Saint John, according to Hebrews,
Jesus is
also the bridegroom, and therefore the bridegroom
in some way is the word.
And this runs
as a constant through our
monastic tradition, even the pre-monastic
tradition. The first one that I know of,
it goes with his origin.
In his commentary on the Song of Songs,
he's got it in the ancient Christian writer's series,
number 26.
It starts out this way.
It seems to me that this
little book is an epithalamium,
that is, a marriage song, which Solomon wrote
in the form of a drama and sang under the figure
of the bride, the bride as he was
speaking, what's often in the Song of Songs,
about to wed and burning
with heavenly love towards her bridegroom,
who is the word of God.
deeply indeed would she love him,
whether we take her as the soul
made in his image or as the church.
Now here we get our different
senses of Scripture again, you see.
You can interpret
the bride, this woman
in the Song of Songs, as
being the church or the
individual soul, individual heart,
if you want to make it that way. And often
also it's been interpreted, because the other
sense is interpreted in terms of marriage,
as being the bride.
Also the bride in the Old Testament
is what? The bride is Israel.
The bride
is the people of God in the
Old Testament. So once again we find
our meanings, one on top of the other.
Old Testament meaning, the literal
sense, then
the meanings in the New Testament,
the church or the individual soul,
and then finally this anagogical
meaning, pardon the big words,
this analogical meaning, the heavenly
Jerusalem, who comes down out of heaven
like a bride adorned for her husband, remember?
So you see the same thing
running through there. And
Origen says that
we then are the brides of the
Word, that our spiritual life somehow
is a matter of his betrothal and marriage,
his romance with the Word of God.
That sounds pretty strange
to me. But you find the same thing
going right through, and Gregory of
Nyssa said the same thing, and then
St. Bernard picks it up, and in his
sermons on the Thorn of Thorns,
which seems to be his most mature work,
right? He's working at the end of his life.
That's what it's all about,
is this love
relationship between the soul
and the Word, the Word of God.
Now in Origen,
in kind of an intellectual sense,
it's understanding the senses of Scripture.
In St. Bernard it becomes a very
affective thing. It's a matter
of a real love
relationship with the person of Christ
rather than so much the Word
and the Scripture. Origen was an
exegete, you see. He was
an intellectual, so it was a different thing.
St. Bernard was a monk.
There's one place in here where Origen
talks about the
kiss of the Word. You remember
where the Thorn of Thorns says,
let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.
It's not the kind of language that we like,
is it?
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.
Let's see how Origen interprets that.
It's kind of beautiful.
He's talking about the soul now,
not the church, but the soul and the Word of God.
The soul is the bride,
the Word of God is the bridegroom.
The bride
first receives the
gifts or dowries, which are the law
and the prophets, the Word of the Old Testament.
But she wants the kiss. Now what is
the kiss? Since she
does not find the means of full and perfect
satisfaction of her desire and love, let her pray
that her pure and virginal mind may be enlightened
by the illumination and the visitation
of the Word of God himself.
For when her mind is filled with
divine perception and understanding without the
agency of human or angelic ministration,
then she may believe she has
received the kisses of the Word of God himself.
As long as she
was incapable of receiving the solid and
unadulterated doctrine of the Word of God
himself, of necessity she received
kisses, that is, interpretations
from the mouth of teachers. But when
she has begun to discern for herself what
was obscure, to unravel what was
tangled, to unfold what was involved,
to interpret parables and riddles
and the sayings of the wise along the lines of her
own expert thinking, then let her
believe that she has now received the kisses of
the spouse himself, that is, the Word of God.
There's something there.
He's saying that
when you begin to understand
the scriptures by yourself, without
having to get it through a commentary,
when the scriptures begin to open up for you,
that is a personal kiss
from the Word of God.
It's a kind of experience of the Trinity
in that the Holy
Spirit and the light of the
Word somehow spark
in you, and it's a personal contact
with God. It's not just
a matter of understanding something objective.
It's a personal relationship.
The Word of God has been spoken to you.
Now, it's not just a matter of
the Word coming from an intermediate.
It's God himself relating
to you in that way, and that's why he calls it
a kiss. He interprets a kiss in that way.
That's beautiful, huh?
So that when you read the scriptures,
that's what's supposed to happen.
That's what this lecture is supposed to lead to,
is the personal experience of God,
which doesn't mean that you brush
God as an it, as a thing.
But it means that somehow God looks at you,
God speaks to you, God touches you personally,
He communicates himself to you.
That's what we're supposed to find in the Word of God,
the kiss that he
talks about.
When the scripture begins to open up
to you by itself,
when sort of it
just speaks,
that's what he's talking about.
Passion talks about
the time when the psalms become to you
as if you were writing them yourself,
as if you were creating them yourself,
because they're coming out of your own experience
when you sing them.
That hasn't happened very often
for most of the time, but
he says that's what happens,
that you get to sing the psalms
so that it seems like they're
your own song, they're your own experience.
Now obviously that's impossible
in certain psalms and certain situations,
because the psalms, you go through
three or four psalms and you go from up to down,
you go from despair to delight,
you can't go through that kind of rainbow
of emotions in a
short space of time.
But once in a while we have to feel that way.
Because why?
Because it's the same experience.
Because the experience of the psalms is somehow
united with our own life,
in the Holy Spirit, in the one Word of God.
Somehow because we're
inserted into the mystery of Christ,
it all happens, it all
hangs together, the hub of the wheel
is Christ himself, the Word incarnate
of whose body we are,
to whose body we belong, to the Eucharist.
St. John on the Cross is
perhaps the most recent one,
it's the most recent one I remember,
that uses extensively the
metaphor, if we want to call it that, of the spiritual
marriage with the Word of God.
He uses it in a spiritual
canticle. It's beautiful,
the poetry.
The poetry somehow is
richer than the
interpretation, certainly less tedious.
It's the same thing,
it's the actuality
somehow of the
Christian spiritual experience,
the interior experience
of the individual.
It's very interesting
and exciting
that God should choose that kind of language
in which to express
his relationship with us.
He chooses a language of love,
and the most vibrant kind of love
is the love between man and woman,
to express
what is our destiny,
what he's inviting us to.
And of course what he's inviting us to far transcends
that which we know as the love
between man and woman.
Maybe that's as far as I should go tonight.
Any questions or comments?
I wanted to talk about the
heart, and that's directly related to
the Word. We'll get to that tomorrow
How do you mean the reality of death, sir?
You spoke of dying
in society?
Oh, yeah.
Somehow we've got to get to see
the giver. Somehow we've got
in our...
Can you really be religious
and deny the reality of death at the same time?
It seems that somehow
when we become religious, we have
to confront the reality
of death. We have to confront our own
limitations in some way.
We have to be on the boundary line
of our existence in some way.
Often people, to experience
a religious conversion, have to get to the end of their rope.
Or as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous,
they have to bottom out, or something like that.
Which means, in some
way, to confront death under one
appearance or another.
It seems just to be the other side of the
same coin.
There's certainly a lot of
spiritual hunger
among the young people especially,
and a rejection of the values
of our society and the whole
establishment, because they don't find
anything there that relates to
that hunger that they feel inside of them.
It's as if the whole of western culture,
American culture especially, has become
materialistic and extroverted,
right? Whereas the spiritual
hunger is felt within.
It's an interior thing.
And since the young people don't find anything
that responds to that interior hunger,
they go and they look for it elsewhere.
Whether in the Eastern religions,
or wherever.
And a lot of them
sort of get turned on in that direction
through some register
that opens up a certain
interior air.
What about India though?
There it goes way back, you know, you sort of have that jungle, that religious jungle in Hinduism, it seems.
Maybe that's something new, that kind of thing we have in telephony now,
which is a product in some way of Western civilization,
that, you know, multiplicity of different things.
You probably don't, I don't know if you find that anywhere in more ancient religions.
Hinduism is one and probably multiple at the same time.
It's not like one big basket which can contain a thousand different things at the same time.
That's what monastic tradition was, yes.
However, not everybody would buy that, of course.
But for a monk, I think it's a good principle.
It's not that we can't read anything else.
Sometimes we may need it for recreational purposes or for other purposes.
If you run a block plant, then you've got to read that magazine on making blocks,
which doesn't really translate to the word of God.
There are all kinds of reasons for reading other things.
But as far as our heart is concerned, it's got to find its deepest orientation in that word of God,
and the rest of our reading has to be as much as we can make it in that direction.
Because somehow the word of God becomes our identity, becomes our new personality,
becomes a part of our life.
And today when there are so many things to read, it's easy to forget that.
It's a mistake to get too narrow about it, though,
because sometimes we have to sort of take a trip away from the word of God
and cover a certain amount of ground and then come back
and incorporate that area into our understanding of the word of God.
For instance, is it a good thing to read contemporary literature for a monk?
Some people might say, no, you should only read scripture and only read the Fathers.
I think it is directly concerned with the word of God.
But that's debatable.
Sometimes you need to read contemporary literature or contemporary psychology
or something like that in order to understand yourself
and in order to be able to relate your own experience to the word of God,
to what you read in the scriptures.
So we don't want to be too narrow about it.
It's a guiding principle that sometimes our experience itself is going to tell us
that we need other things, too.
Just like we need vitamin pills.
Different translations of the Bible.
Sometimes there are two or three different meanings in one word in the original, you know,
like in the Greek or the Hebrew.
So it's good to know about the different possibilities of interpretation.
If you read somebody like St. John, he can intend three meanings at the same time.
He can use a word with a couple of different meanings deliberately.
But if you get somebody that just interprets it in a narrow sense and says,
well, no, it means this and nothing less, it's not enough.
There's a thing called the Amplified Bible in which they just spin out word after word
with a different sentiment or a different translation of it.
You need a kind of criteria in order to be able to judge which is perfect which is not.
I just want to talk about a few things.
I don't want to talk too much about it.
But, you know, we like to talk.
I've heard a lot of people talk about this, but I haven't heard of it.
Even Catholic preachers get on the front page of the Bible.
There's a lot of preachers, but they're all preaching the Bible.
And even Catholics, a lot of the people that get off, they're all trying to get something
with a Mexican that's on the Bible.
I think that's kind of the way we are in Catholicism.
That's the way things work in the streets.
And when I get picked up, there's a lot of big groups picking me up.
There's two sets of groups.
On the whole, it's kind of hard to tell.
But when you're in prison, you have a church of three people.
You get up at the second church.
Oh, on the three green.
I don't know how much it gets across.
Well, I just, I found it difficult.
But then, you know, I'll just give you one example.
For me, it's a symbol of my nature.
Now, when I'm driving along the road and I see these cows, and they're all sitting
in the same angle, and they're all just sitting there contemplating.
It's true of the word.
To me, that's an example I can get.
Because it just changes my mind.
My mind, when I'm getting up, I look at all those cows contemplating.
It turns me on.
That's right.
Yeah, the word they used to use, you know, for meditating in prison is ruminatio, ruminate.
And that's what a cow does when he chews his gut and moves it from one stomach to another.
Yeah, and they're just like monks and monasteries.
They're all sitting the same.
It's like horses, you know.
Some of them windblown, and some of them they all sit in such contemplation.
But all the cows are sitting in the same position, pretty close to each other.
The whole herd of them.
Yes, sir.
And there is peace and contemplation.
Yes, the community.
They turn me on to that.
Well, how about the American Indians?
Didn't they have a real good religion?
I don't know.
There are a lot of different tribes.
Some of them.
A lot of people have turned on to the Indians nowadays.
And that's part of that return to nature thing, you know.
There's a kind of idealization of primitive man.
A lot of young people think that the Indians were just great.
And then they get all disillusioned when they find out that they were, oh, I don't know,
torturing one another or something.
If they weren't all that...
Yeah, but they all got up when the sun was rising.
I mean, they respected God.
Well, yeah, most of them did.
I think most scientific people did.
But with a lot of noble things, you know, like in Indian religion, you find a lot of
barbarity and a lot of cruelty, too.
There's a mixture there.
And I don't know enough about it where to start.
I remember in this...
It doesn't happen with the Indians.
It's a piece of that.
They make you all over the place.
And then they say, we never take anything away from you,
unless we can put it back.
They have a real wisdom about it.
And they never tell anything, unless we can eat it.
And it's normal.
It's normal.
Well, they used to, what, say, bow to a tree before putting it down?
Yeah, they had respect for that.
And they really did.
They lived in California.
It's normal.
And hey, when they go on being dragged, you probably know that.
They buried all the dead straight up, because it's just a solid one.
Oh, he doesn't know a word of what I hear.
But he said, right?
The guy buys the mild thing.
They put up a great big compartment.
They do that for a couple of weeks.
It's called a section.
And they come on with it.
This is the guy that just left with it.
You take the gun, and they...
They spray the grass on it.
Yeah, in two weeks, it starts growing.
I can't spray that on you.
I thought it was just plastic grass that they spray on, but it does grow.
Well, then you have to cut it.
No kidding.
Buy it more greener.
Well, that's great.
Nothing wrong with that.
It's just helping nature.
Didn't you drive on the superhighway?
The I-24?
Two great big lanes.
And there was about two, three, four lanes in for that.
All that just for miles and miles.
Look at all the food.
It's growing on that.
All right.
This one is just not aware of it.
Well, there's a lot of land around here.
This one is just doing that.
Oh, now, this is what it does.
What did you mention about the bride and everything?
One of the things that's beautiful to me is that it's Christianity.
It's kind of a very peaceful, like a clean-up piece.
Yeah, yeah.
It seems to me that would be more of a blessing.
That's true.
Really what a person could expect in an ancestor's life.
That really is.
There's something very deep in that whole clean-up thing.
Somehow it seems to contain the whole of the mystery of faith.
In a very subtle and very beautiful way.
The marriage feast and the wine.
The marriage itself and the wine, both of them, they go together.
And the wine and the marriage are the same thing.
And the miracle of transforming the water into wine
corresponds in some way to the marriage of God with man.
To form the new man.
The new man who somehow is...
Call it androgynous or something like that.
The new man who somehow is male and female at the same time.
Masculine and feminine at the same time.
But not in a kind of short-circuited way,
like the psychology we're talking about today.
With the strength of what we associate with masculinity
and with the, what would you call it,
the tenderness that you associate with feminine things.
This is what man is supposed to be, ultimately.
This is what the human heart is supposed to be.
You find it in Jesus.
You find it already in King David, somehow, in the Old Testament.
He's the type of that synthesis of the masculine and the feminine.
The strength and the tenderness.
The musician is also a warrior.
The king, who is also kind of a child.
He dances before the archangel.
And then you find it a few places in the New Testament.
And Jesus, somehow, it's incomplete when he's on earth
because he has to still go through his death.
He still has to drink his chalice.
He still has to be baptized with that baptism.
It's only after the resurrection that that tenderness is realized.
Then we only find it in Jesus.
There's a glimpse when Jesus encounters Mary Magdalene
in the garden after his resurrection.
It takes you back to the Garden of Eden.
And there's something to do with that twin of marriage that we're talking about.
And he says one word to her.
He says, Mary.
And he's thinking, why does he not put that in?
Why does he put that word in?
That's Mary Magdalene, the woman of those seven devils.
Because somehow, by the resurrection,
she's put in the same state as Mary, the virgin, the mother of Christ.
And somehow, they're both back in the place where they had them.
And the whole thing fits together.
They're all sort of in this very nimbus of the resurrection of Mary.
Which is our resurrection, too.
It's very much a marriage.
That's kind of the final word that the scripture has on that.
On destiny.
On what we're supposed to become.
Why should we fear God?
Do you have to fear God?
Why should we fear God?
Why should I fear death?
Death is chaos.
Somehow, the fear of God and the fear of death is something we have to move through.
If we're not afraid that one time or another we're dope, because we should be.
Because we're so fragile, we're so vulnerable.
Man is a very tender, very delicate thing.
I mean, we're a very fragile being.
And, I don't know.
It's okay, you know that.
You know that God loves you.
But somebody starting from another position doesn't necessarily know that.
And you've got to get through that place with fear.
And somehow, the fear of God has got a whole process in it.
It starts out being one kind of fear and it ends up being another kind of fear.
It starts out being the fear of getting punished, the fear of getting hurt.
The fear of getting wiped out.
It ends up being the fear of offending God.
The fear of hurting a love relationship.
The fear of injuring love or refusing love.
And that fear of God, you have to have all of it.
There's a whole development inside that fear of God.
But sometimes it's been overstressed and there wasn't anything but fear.
And that's sort of the return to the wrong kind of old fashioned way.
Yeah, but you find plenty of it in the way Christianity has been taught.
The whole Jansenistic thing.
A lot of the way that religion was taught in the past 400 years is that way.
Even in the Catholic Church.
Too much fear.
Not enough love.
Not enough tenderness.
And no hope at all.
Hope is a thing we need.
Before we can talk too much about love.
Hope means that we believe in God's love and now we begin to feel it coming well enough inside of us.
So we're really convinced by experience that he loves us.
Then we can begin to think about loving somebody else.
We have to think about it long before.
Then it can begin to happen.
We've got to know that we're loved before we can love anybody else.
And that's somehow.
Because we know it's a fact.
And we don't give it to anybody else.
That's right.
I love you.
Thank you.
Thank you.
Somehow it's all connected with hope.
To be able to accept ourselves is connected with that thing of hope.
Before we get to the point where we can love other people in a very cruel way.
A lot of people don't have any hope and they can't accept themselves.
And those two things are the same thing.
It's like having a bad self-image.
Those things are all one package.
A lot of people do.
There's one theologian.
He's an Eastern theologian.
He says it's the deepest sin of all is self-hatred.
And when he says that he doesn't mean it's the worst sin.
He's just saying that's all it's good and that's all.
He means that in some way it's the deepest thing in our sin.
Now that it's in all of us.
In other words, you say God didn't make me right?
That's right.
Now that it's easy to think that if you've never known what love or joy is.
And a lot of people are in that pickle now.
And the families are broken up.
So many of our ills seem to come from our childhood and broken hearts.
Yes, sir.
I think that's very true.
What happens when there's a poor family life?
They say one of the most important things, if not the most important,
is the relationship between the father and the mother.
That basic love between, once again it's a love between man and woman,
which is the foundation of our own equilibrium.
If the father and the mother don't love one another,
then the climate in which the child comes into being
is going to be a climate of fear, a climate of doubt, a climate of hesitation,
a climate of some kind of neurosis.
And then the child himself grows up warped.
But if the father hasn't got the right role in the home,
if he's too passive, too submissive,
then the kid is going to grow up unbalanced and strong.
And then he gets into the monastic life and somehow
he can't really be a monk because he needs too much healing.
He needs something else, he needs psychotherapy
before he can sort of take up that gospel thing of the cross,
which is what being a monastic is.
So it's as if our monasticism today had to be also a kind of therapy.
It's as if the community today has to have a very healing function
as well as the kind of function that classically we thought of the community
as having, mortification, moving somebody along the road to another spiritual profession.
There has to be an awful lot of affirmation before we can ask people to give up their selves,
to take up the cross and to have anything else.
There's this Swiss doctor called Paul Junier.
Have any of you heard any of his books?
One of his books is called A Place for You.
He talks about two phases in the spiritual life.
I'm going to go talk about that later.
And he says one phase is acquiring a self and then the other phase is giving it up.
And if you haven't acquired it, you can't give it up.
And if you try to lead somebody in a way of mortification,
a way of self-denial, before you've got a self to deny, you're going to ruin it.
And, of course, the trouble with a lot of people now,
maybe with most of us in some sense,
is that we haven't been allowed to build a strong enough self.
We haven't acquired, we haven't got it, and so we can't give it up.
And so we're going into a kind of a rat race,
trying to deny something that we don't have.
That may not be clear from those two words.
There's a lot of truth in what he says.
Two phases.
The phase of sort of integration, the phase of growth,
and then the phase of giving up.
It's a parabola.
Which corresponds to man's life curve, sort of, you know?
He grows to kind of maximum vigor or something,
and then he begins to die.
And you have to accept that, that midlife crisis is coming.
And so when that's the case, somehow it corresponds to that second half of life that
we used to call learning how to die.
We don't like that term now.
It's criminal.
So learning how to die is learning how to live, actually,
or learning how to love, which means
learning how to live for something beyond yourself.
I just want to ask about that.
I mean, how do you go from health,
which is a very important thing,
to, you know,
to, you know,
basically the whole of life,
or at least, you know,
to, you know,
to, you know,
to, you know,
to, you know,
to, you know,
to think of death?
Well, it shows a lot of wisdom
that he was able to say that because
And also, the things were working out well.
And it shows wisdom that he was able to make those allowances in order to give those young monks what they needed,
and not consider that they were just being rebellious or disobedient or whatever, because they needed them.
They needed in order to find themselves before they could be asked to enter that dying process.
And the younger we take them, the more fear there is in them,
and the harder it is to have a real monastic orientation,
because the broader you have to make it, the more positive affirmation you have to supply,
the more you have to deal with people's needs, the younger you take them.
We have a lot of that at our place.
Well, it used to be 23 or 24, because we never succeeded with anybody below that age.
During the first couple of years, we've taken a couple of people who are 21 years old,
because now we have a much more centripetical formation.
So, we spend a good deal of time together, and the group dynamic helps them a lot in this way.
It keeps them healthy.
Any other questions?