Sunday, February 22, 2009

Lectio Divina - Twenty-seven

From The Book of Job 7:17 -21, NRSV translation of the Bible

What are human beings, that you make so much of them,

that you set your mind on them,

visit them every morning, test them every moment?

Will you not look away from me for a while,

let me alone until I swallow my spittle?

If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of humanity?

Why have you made me your target?

Why have I become a burden to you?

Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity?

For now I shall lie in the earth; you will seek me, but I shall not be.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lectio Divina - Twenty-six

Ann and Barry Ulanov. The Healing Imagination: The Meeting of Psyche and Soul. Daimon Verlag, 1999, 60.

The pictures of God given in scripture and by tradition are far-ranging, startling, even violent. God in Samuel is a punisher of false priests who are careless with their vows. God cuts them off and breaks the priestly succession. God is a military commander sending Israel into battle or a mysterious presence that hovers over the mercy seat set above the ark in the center of the tent of the Holy of Holies. God is a high tower, a doorway, the one who sees our fear when our daughter is sick, the one who breaks the rules, relativizing them, knocking them out from under us as a prop we constantly misuse to defend us against the immediate experience of the religious imagination. By tradition, God comes to us as the One who nurses our beginnings as in John of the Cross, as the One who awaits our entrance into the central rooms of our Interior Castle, as in Teresa of Avila, as the One mysteriously born in our souls, as in Meister Eckhart, a winecask, as in Catherine of Siena, or as a Trinity of gemstone, fire, and word, as in Hildegaard of Bingen, as the abyss of omnipotence, working on the soul with a relentless love that is “terrible and implacable, devouring and burning without regard for anything,” as in Hadewijch of Brabant. The task for each soul, and for the clergy as guardians of the soul, is always to ask, to ponder, and imaginatively to weave connections across the gap between the two kinds of images, the personal and the traditional. No preaching - or counseling or direction - can reach very far that does not take into account our unconscious and highly idiosyncratic images for God.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Lectio Divina - Twenty-five

Roberta C. Bondi. To Pray and To Love: Conversations on Prayer with the Early Church. Philadelphia: Augsburg Fortress, 1991, 65-6.

What about the names for God? Most of us in our prayer are stuck in a very limited number of “religious” names and images for God -- Father, Lord, Savior, Mighty, for example -- that narrows our ability to know God in more than the few ways we have known God since childhood. In some cases, if as children and even adults we associate God with important figures of authority in our lives who have hurt us, to pray to God using those names can do us injury. Not only does it limit our ability to know God in other and truer ways, it also keeps us from the healing love God intends for us. Where we know we are being hurt, in our private prayer we avoid those names, no matter how hallowed the tradition. At the same time, in praying Scripture daily we work hard to get to know the God of the Bible, a God who is infinitely complex and many faceted, mysterious, and at the same time intimately loving. We meditate on what kind of God can be described as “living water” for us. We try to hear deeply who our God really is when Hosea describes God as a gentle father who did not think it beneath him to teach baby Israel to walk. We ask to know the one who cares about us so much that our names should be written on the palm of God’s hand. While we are learning all this, we also begin to understand in our hearts the importance of the truth that so many writers of the early church fought for: God is so infinitely inexhaustible that none of the names Scripture gives to God, not even all of them put together, can ever finally define God. Whether we pray to God as our peace, rock, mother, wisdom, water of life, father, maker of the world, Spirit, friend, healer, comforter, redeemer, great bird -- all these names are finally provisional. The God we come to love who is our light, our life, and our joy is wonderfully beyond us.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lectio Divina - Twenty-four

Stephen Mitchell, A Book of Psalms: Selected and Adapted from the Hebrew. New York: HarperCollins, 1993. Psalm 139, final section, continued from last week.

You fashioned my inward parts;

you knit me in my mother’s womb.

My soul was not hidden from you

when I was being formed in secret,

woven in the depths of the world.

How can I keep from praising you?

I am fearfully and wonderfully made,

and all your works are marvelous.

Your eyes saw all my actions;

they were written down in your book;

all my days were created

before even one of them was.

How measureless your mind is, Lord;

it contains inconceivable worlds

and is vaster than space, than time.

If ever I tried to fathom it,

I would be like a child counting

the grains of sand on a beach.

Search me, Lord; test me

to the depths of my inmost heart.

Root out all selfishness from me

and lead me in eternal life.