Our Biblical Blog /'Examined Life'
Our Biblical Blog /'Examined Life'
‘For wisdom is a loving spirit; and will not acquit a blasphemer of his words: for God is witness of his reins, and a true beholder of his heart, and a hearer of his tongue. For the Spirit of the Lord filleth the world: and that which containeth all things hath knowledge of the voice… Therefore he that speaketh unrighteous things cannot be hid: neither shall vengeance, when it is punisheth, pass by him. For inquisition shall be made into the counsels of the ungodly: and the sound of his words shall come unto the Lord for the manifestation of his wicked deeds.’
There is so much talk about the need of ‘home’, being at home in our lives, today. Writers (the observers and chroniclers of their lives) are particularly sensitive to leaving their original ‘homeland’ behind, and trying to re-establish a rooted identity in their new surroundings.
The Christian experience adds something vital to this discussion. Regardless what our understanding of ‘home’ is, what our actual experience about it is, we relate to this home in a special way. Namely, there is a lasting, living imprint of our ephemeral earthly existence - that has been stored in the memory of the world. Actually, we remain present in God’s memory.
Christian existential wisdom goes even further. If we are not marked by a genuine yearning for our True Home (God), we will be marked by the forces of fragmentation. This yearning is, paradoxically, our lasting experience of a ‘home’. Without this yearning, we are exposed naked in the shower of arrows of forgetting. Love is our everlasting memory.
‘Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father…Behold, he cometh with coulds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him… I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last… Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore., Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.’
The Book of Revelation can be read as a vision of God’s Living Memory. This memory judges and makes us alive or leaves us in our spiritual death. ‘Fear not’, it says, you have kept alive the sense of ‘Home’ through the yearning of your faith.
This yearning for home, actually, is a good definition of the very special form of prayer, the Eucharistic Adoration. Besides its meaning in Sacramental tradition (The Resurrected Lord personally present under the sign of bread, in the consecrated host), the ‘silence’ of adoring Christ is the most significant meaning. The ‘silent interaction’ between the soul and Jesus is our archetypal confession. We yearn for a home. This desire for permanence is stronger than all the forces of fragmentation and uprooting with which we are necessarily marked in this ‘global’ world coming from nowhere and going nowhere.
The world as His coming (Ecclesiasticus, 1,1-10; Acts 1) /Monday after 23rd Sunday after Trinity, BCP lectionary, Matins./
‘The world of God most high is the fountain of wisdom; and her ways are everlasting commandments.’ The created world which surrounds us, including our social realm, is a window onto God’s - heaven’s life. We should spend sufficient amount of quality time in engaging this humbling vision: that our reality is rooted in God’s person. Recognising the world as God’s dwelling place (and working on it!) is a great motivation for our daily work.
The passage from Acts takes this thought further, from a new aspect. This is the event of Jesus’ ascension to Heaven after Pentecost. When it happened, ‘two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.’ We Christians, added to the above said, have a special sensitivity . We can look at our physical and social realm as an icon, which radiates the Lord’s return. Our world is never in idle running. In every moment, it vibrates to the frequency of God’s own life: his presence, his coming, his grace. This ‘tangible’ ‘second coming’ (His return) is our utmost motivation to prepare our world as the Messiah’s dwelling place.
Our countries are paralysed by the fear of ‘fake news’. Obviously, sometimes it is convenient for reigning governments to find a scapegoat country who is ‘poisoning our democracy by planting fake news’.
Then the collective trembling and desire to fight back comes. Fake news seem to be the straightforward consequence of the world becoming thousand and thousand times fragmented. The cyber-space and multi-channel communication technologies are just a good ground to increase this fragmentation when the ‘real’ becomes unscrutinizably un-real.
Whatever the source of this getting entangled with the ‘fake’, it seems that Christian’s have the ‘philosophers’ stone’. There is one thing, only one, according to our Creed, that can wash us clean from fake realities. There is only one option that unquestionably resists all reality-manipulations. This is the regular engagement with the Divine Word revealed in the Scriptures. The Benedictine lectio divina, and the ‘divine office’, the community’s regular prayers based on the Old and New Testaments - unifies the world in us as real. Outside this realm, everything else is manipulation and superficiality.
So let us read the words of the Gospel in this spirit, as the anti-dote to ‘fake news’. ‘And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? And what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass? And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them. But when ye shall hear of wars and commutations, be not terrified: but the end is not by and by.’ (Luke 21,5-end)
A distance from within (Ecclesiastes 3,1-15; Luke 20,1-26) /Matins, 22nd week after Trinity Sunday, Matins BCP/
‘To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to mourn, and a time to dance…’
‘Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? Or who is he that gave thee this authority?’
The two texts offer the conclusion: there is a time to recognise the Messiah.
‘And Jesus beheld them and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.’
In Jesus, we recognise the Messiah. He is the proper distance from history, and its ultimate judge. Jesus gives us this proper distance from within history, which distance makes possible all understanding. The nature of this distance reflects his geniality. What Jesus gives is not escapist narratives but our very transformation within that vast stream called history.
This inner freedom and distance is expressed in the coin, the closing image of today’s Gospel passage: ‘Give unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God things which be God’s’ We are placed into this world to acquire freedom and power to see Ceasar’s world not outside God, but within God’s light. History, our history thus becomes His story.
The importance of eyes (Proverbs, 1-22; Luke 14,1-24) /Wednesday, Twenty-first Week after Trinity Sunday, Matins BCP /
The Book of Proverbs makes the observation: 'A king that sitteth in the throne of judgement scattereth away all evil with his eyes.'
We have the (moral and spiritual) task of evaluating our age. Life, history itself, cannot pass by unexamined. Otherwise our eyes will be distorted by evil.
In Luke's Gospel we can see how the Pharisees 'watched Jesus', what he is doing on a Sabbath day. He heals a certain main who had the dropsy. The Pharisees condemn him for doing this on the Sabbath. The situation shows when Jesus, the heart of history, is misjudged. They remain blind because their eyes were already dead. 'And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?...Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightaway pull him out on the sabbath day? And they could not answer him again to these things.'
What follows is the parable of taking first the less honourable places, and then being elevated to the first places. 'When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not donwn in the highest room...Go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.'
The parable can, symbolically, be applied to the dignity (value) of a purified heart-sight. Which is well maintained, and kept fine-tuned to truth by not letting the world go by unevalauted. If our world is reflected upon and corrected by Love, it will not go astray.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..