‘Tis a Mysterie Nigh the Highest of Degrees…

So… I’m sure that everyone that might stumble across this blog (and their mother, for that matter) have probably heard of the 40 day fast we are in the middle of here in Kansas City.  Fortunately for all of you, that isn’t my main concern for this post… rather, I am more concerned with what I have been doing during this time (for the record, 9 days down, 31 to go).  Firstly, I have been reading a book that I recently purchased (The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism by Bernard McGinn, for the curious) and it is rocking my world at the moment.  Things I have learned from reading this book… (1) God is gooooood; (2) modern people have a serious lack of linguistic ability; (3) my vocabulary isn’t quite big enough; (4) Gregory of Nissa is my boy…

I know what I say next is going to make a lot of people itchy, but most of my other thoughts do anyway.  I am convinced that there are two meanings to most scripture.  There is the literal, “plain sense meaning” that all scripture inherently contains (for example, when God tells Moses to come up the mountain, He is actually telling Moses to come up the mountain), and then there is a “revealed meaning” to some, if not all, scripture as well (for example, the allegorical understanding of the book of Song of Solomon).

Let me give a specific example.  In the book of Exodus, Moses has three specific theophanies (times where he saw God).  Namely, the burning bush, ascending Mount Sinai, and the “hollow of the rock” “face to face” thing in Exodus 33.  All of these are very literal scriptures in that Moses actually experienced a burning bush, climbing Mount Sinai into a cloud, and climbing a different mountain to see God “face to face”.  However, Gregory of Nissa discerned a very deeply felt spiritual meaning behind the words on the page.  Here are a couple selections of what this man learned from the theophany of Exodus 33…

The soul is forever inflaming its desire for what is hidden by means of what it has already grasped.

On the one hand, the divine generosity grants the fulfillment of desire; on the other hand, it promises no end to desire nor satiety of it.  In fact, He would never have shown Himself to His servant if what was seen were enough to still the desire of the beholder.  For, He declares, “My face you shall not see; for no one shall see my face and live.”

And the true vision of God consists in this, in never reaching the satiety of the desire.  We ought always to look through the things that we can see and still be on fire with the desire to see more.  So let there be no limit to curtail our growth in our journey upwards to God.  This is becauseno limit to the beautiful has been found, nor can any satiety cut sort the progress of the soul in its desire for the beautiful.

Now, I will not give a wholesale endorsement of any one author (save those of the Bible), but the mystics are rapidly becoming some of my favorite people.  I will say this, having some theater in your background really helps when reading their stuff, because their language came from another period.  So some of the word orders, word choices, and even verbal imagery is easiest understood from a thespian point of view.  If you want to dabble in this world, bring a bible, a dictionary, and a good mug of tea… then dig in and hang on for the ride.



~ by xristosdomini on July 9, 2008.

One Response to “‘Tis a Mysterie Nigh the Highest of Degrees…”

  1. Gracious me; that’s deep.

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