A Daily Lenten & Holy Week Reflection, Feb. 14, 2018 – April 1, 2018

GENESIS: THE LOVE STORY

THE SOUL IN THE WORD OF GOD

Prelude:

Welcome! These blog entries will be my humble Christ centered view of the spiritual mysteries contained within the Book of Genesis chapters 1 and 3; “connecting the dots” between Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and St. John of the Cross’ writings on the soul.  I’m not a lettered Bible scholar. I’m devout a lay Catholic and St. John of the Cross admirer who in January of 2017 saw something interesting in Genesis, and began to write it down.

Permission granted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for reprint of the Biblical Text from The New American Bible, Saint Joseph Edition. The USCCB has not reviewed or approved my comments on the Biblical text. The Biblical text is the only text highlighted by italics. It is my fervent hope that readers will be inspired to visit the USCCB website for further meditative reflection of the Daily Readings, The Catechism of the Catholic Church, and other Faith aids.

“Excerpts from the English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for use in the United States of America Copyright © 1994, United States Catholic Conference, Inc. — Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Used with Permission. English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Modifications from the Editio Typica copyright © 1997, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops—Libreria Editrice Vaticana.”

Much of what the Church has learned about the theology of the soul comes from the Saint and Doctor of the Church, John of the Cross, who has taught us the paths and pitfalls of the soul’s journey by faith toward union with God. The writings of the Mystical Doctor will accompany us in this reflection of Genesis, Chapters 1 & 3:

The Complete Works of St. John of the Cross, translated by E. Allison Peers 1953. Reference abbreviations: A: Ascent of Mount Carmel, D: Dark Night of the Soul, F: Living Flame of Love, C: Spiritual Canticle. Reference footnotes for St. John are in the order of: Work, Book, Chapter, Paragraph, as in: A2,3,1 = Ascent of Mt Carmel Book 2, Chapter 3, Paragraph 1.

Prayer for guidance:

Father of lights, from whom all good giving and every excellent gift comes down from above, illumine my heart, my mind, and my pen – let not the shadow of confusion dim these pages – but grant your perfect understanding to reader and writer.

Jesus, Light of the World, guide my pen in your truth made manifest in your body that is Holy Scripture. Eternally begotten from the Father, Light from Light – I pass on your light in these pages like the light of the paschal candle on Holy Saturday.

Most Holy Spirit, Author of Sacred Scripture, overshadow my weak efforts, so that the Word becomes incarnate by the ink of my pen.  Amen.

All For Jesus

Easter morning at the tomb of Jesus, Mary Magdalene arrived with ordinary expectations of what she would find there; a life at its end. Jesus shattered that presumption when he appeared to her alive, asking her who she was looking for. 1 That morning in the garden, age old beliefs about death along with the Genesis declaration, For you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return 2 collapsed before her and turned into dust itself. From now on, for followers of Jesus, death is the start of life everlasting. It is the new beginning…

                                         I: THE PRIMEVAL HISTORY                            

                                                      CHAPTER 1                                                                                     

 First Story of Creation.   In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters. Genesis 1:1-2

The book of Genesis, Greek for “beginning” or “origin,” contains beginnings important to the Catholic faith. It is the beginning of salvation history and God’s plan for every soul. As early as Genesis chapter 1 God reveals he had his Church in mind from time immemorial. The most precious of all his creations, the human soul, is manifested as well. Genesis chapters 1 and 3, besides natural creation, is the story of the creation of man, both body and soul, his fall from original grace and holiness, and God’s detailed, loving plan for humanity’s restoration. This is contained in Genesis chapters 1 and 3, allegorically and pre-figuratively.

Chapter 2 of Genesis is an older creation account of man. 3 It tells of God forming man out of the clay of the ground then breathing the breath of life into him. This chapter and interpretation is not what will be reflected upon here.

Holy Scripture is making it known in the very first sentence, when God created the heavens and the earth, that this is going to be an account of both spiritual and natural creation. The heavens and the earth, in Genesis 1, will be the dwelling places for God and man. Earth as the natural dwelling of man which includes his needs and all the rest of earth’s creatures, and the heavens as the dwelling place of God. But not the heavens above the clouds where we think of God, the angels, and the holy souls reside, for there are no subsequent verses of this place. The “heavens” Genesis is referring to is the other dwelling of God, which is the soul. St. John of the Cross tells us God is present substantially in every soul, even in the greatest the sinner in the world.4

In Scripture, especially in Jesus’ parables, we see God’s love for using nature to express spiritual lessons for it was his own will each reflect the other.  This is magnificently true in the vivid creation account in Genesis. Genesis chapters 1 & 3 are a grand tour de force of allegorical literary sense, telling the creation story of the soul and God’s plan for its salvation exquisitely woven throughout and veiled beneath the story of natural creation.

The spiritual unfolding in Genesis will often and naturally parallel the teaching contained in the Daily Scripture Readings on the USCCB website, making them relevant to your Lenten journey. For example, the creation of light in Genesis, which spiritually is the light of faith, parallels the Daily Readings at the beginning of the Lenten Season about faith. Then we’ll take up the Fall of Man in Genesis chapter 3 which also reveals surprising parallels to the USCCB Daily Readings of Holy Week.

I hope you will join me here, beginning Ash Wednesday February 14th, for a daily reflection unfolding the “wonders of his love” God has for souls in the mysteries of Genesis.

Julie Magolino created this blog and wrote this post on:

The Epiphany of the Lord  20 + C + M + B + 18

USCCB DAILY READINGS

 

Ash Wednesday February 14, 2018

                                         

1: THE PRIMEVAL HISTORY

CHAPTER 1

First Story of Creation.  In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.   Genesis 1:1-2

There are two truths illustrated  in the Genesis creation account. The creation of the natural world, which is apparent in the literal meaning of the text, and that of the spiritual – the creation account of the hidden soul and its parts in the text’s deeper meaning. Such a presentation of the natural and the spiritual gives us a replication of reality.  As I stated in the prelude, Genesis 1 & 3 is a grand tour de force of allegorical literary sense.

In the first verse, the Divine Host is creating man’s natural dwelling place, the earth. Darkness in Genesis without a speck of light is a palpable, thick darkness, unlike the semi-darkness one wakes up to in the middle of the night. This dense darkness covers not only the beginnings of natural creation but the spiritual caverns of the human soul as well, in Genesis called the abyss, which are the soul’s faculties of the understanding, will, and memory. An “abyss” is defined as “a deep or seemingly bottomless chasm,” Scripture footnotes notes 1,2 calls the Genesis abyss the “primordial ocean.” Comparably, St. John of the Cross calls the spiritual faculties “caverns…of which the depth is proportionate to their capacity for great blessings, for they can be filled with nothing less than the infinite,” which is God. 1

That is why finite goods fail to fill them, to satisfy them. The soul is ever hungering and thirsting while it attempts to satisfy itself with the goods of the world. The three faculties together are what enable the soul’s participation in the divine nature;2 they are, in addition to the light of faith, what unites the soul to God.3

The soul can sever its relationship with God with what it deposits into its caverns of the understanding, will, and memory. St. John tells us God is present in every soul, saint and sinner, otherwise it would fail to exist.4

God establishes the three faculties of the soul, their individual characteristics and their theological virtues of faith, love, and hope in the Genesis 1 creation account verses.

Just as natural creation is in darkness before God bestows life-giving natural light, the soul in this verse has yet to receive the life-giving spiritual light of faith. This means a soul without the light of faith is disabled (to put it mildly) in the same ways as natural creation is without its light – chilling words to ponder.

What disabilities does the natural world and the s piritual soul have in common in their darkened worlds? We know life cannot be sustained in perpetual darkness, either physical or spiritual. Disabilities in the physical world are easy to name. St. John of the Cross starts us off describing a soul who is floundering in spiritual darkness. Then we’ll read a short reflection on the Israelites and the Egyptians in the Book of Exodus which further answers this. But first, St. John:

“Until the Lord said, ‘Fiat Lux’ [be light], thick darkness was upon the face of the abyss of the cavern of sense [the spiritual faculties]; and the deeper is this abyss and the more profound are its caverns, when God, Who is light, enlightens it not, the more abysmal and profound is the thick darkness that is upon it.

 

Silvo / Pixabay

And thus it is impossible for the soul to raise its eyes to the Divine Light, or even to think of such light, for it knows not of what manner is this light, since it has never seen it; wherefore it cannot desire it, but will rather desire thick darkness, knowing not what it is like; and it will go from one darkness to another, guided by that darkness, for darkness cannot lead to anything save to fresh darkness.”5

Our Saint appears to be comparing the darkness of the “abyss” in Genesis with his teaching of the soul’s faculties in darkness – perhaps offering a spiritual interpretation of the Scripture verse as the abyss and the caverns of sense of the soul are one and the same.  Fiat Lux, or Let there be light, is in the next verse, Genesis 1:3.

The spiritual darkness covering the abyss of the faculties of the soul in the opening of Genesis pre-figures the spiritual darkness of both the Israelites and the Egyptians found in the Book of Exodus. The Israelites had grown comfortable in their bondage under Egyptian slavery, illustrating our Saint’s point. They were happy simply if their physical needs were met, revealing how this thick darkness prevents even the acknowledgment of the possibilities of spiritual freedom. They even complained to Moses they did not want to leave their servitude to the Egyptians.6 This darkness is so pervasive that even upon their departure from Egypt, Israel, under the slightest pressure or challenge, wanted to return to their comfortable sleep of bondage to the Egyptians, who represented slavery to their senses.

As for the Egyptians’ own dark spiritual abyss, this was represented by the 9th plague of darkness God sent to the them to persuade obstinate Pharaoh to release Israel. God caused an intense darkness over the whole land that could be felt; the word “smothering” comes to mind.  The Egyptians could not see one another, nor could they move from where they were at for three days. 7 This darkness represented their own spiritual slavery: blindness in that they couldn’t see each other, and immobility. Darkness, both natural and spiritual, prevents sight and mobility. Today’s culture’s inability to see the reality behind the most vulnerable and helpless among us is spiritual blindness similar to that of the Egyptians inability to “see” their fellow man. For the soul, mobility is commonly called “spiritual freedom.” Spiritual freedom includes, but is not limited to: freedom from slavery to sin, the need to keep up with trends, inordinate desires, appetites, comforts and concerns of what others think.

St. John of the Cross calls the theological virtue of hope, “Living Hope.”8 As we turn aside from the things of the world for love of God, theological hope for God and eternal life increases, along with spiritual sight and spiritual freedom. I encourage readers to further their Lenten reflections with the Daily Readings on the USCCB website. Today’s Daily Readings about reconciliation, prayer, fasting, sacrificing, almsgiving, and righteous deeds carry us into the Holy Season of Lent, the season of Living Hope.

The USCCB has not reviewed or approved my comments on the Biblical text.

USCCB Daily Readings February 14, 2018

 

Thursday after Ash Wednesday February 15, 2018

ronymichaud / Pixabay

“The first thing, O man, you have to venerate, is the age of the waters in that their substance is ancient; the second, their dignity, in that they were the seat of the Divine Spirit, more pleasing to Him, no doubt, than all the other existing elements. For the darkness was total thus far, shapeless without the ornaments of stars; and the abyss gloomy; and the earth unfinished; and the heaven unwrought: water alone – always a perfect, gladsome, simple material substance, pure in itself- supplied a worthy vehicle to God.”
Tertullian, Christian author, B. 160

 while a mighty wind swept over the waters.      Genesis 1:2

“Since the beginning of the world, water, so humble and wonderful a creature, has been the source of life and fruitfulness. Sacred Scripture [Gen 1:2] sees it as “overshadowed” by the Spirit of God.” 1

The Holy Spirit sweeping over the dark abyss of the waters of the soul is the same life giving, protective, healing, loving, “shadowing” God does to people throughout Scripture. The reason the word “shadow’ or “overshadow” isn’t used in this verse is that light hasn’t been created yet to cause a shadow. The ancient Hebrew concept of “overshadow” meant an actual shadow was cast on one for whom protection or blessing was given. The Virgin Mary was the recipient for all of humanity of the Holy Spirit’s overshadowing at the Annunciation, 2 which brought the life-giving Light of Life Jesus to a spiritually darkened world. In Genesis, the Holy Spirit is sweeping over a soul in darkness about to be enlightened with the life-giving light of faith.

Today’s 1st Reading tells of God offering the people a life or death choice, the Responsorial Psalm tells us those who hope in the Lord are blessed, and Jesus teaches those who lose their life for his sake will save it. The gift of faith will also be a life or death choice for the soul who receives it in the next Genesis verse, for faith always comes with a choice; a choice to continue to serve false gods, or the one true God.

The USCCB has not reviewed or approved my comments on the Biblical text.

USCCB Readings February 15, 2018

 

Friday after Ash Wednesday February 16, 2018

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Genesis 1:3

Free-Photos / Pixabay

With those glorious words, “Let there be light,” God bestows his gift of sight to creation.

It is not insignificant that Holy Scripture’s chapter verse 1:3 numbering designation announces the creation of light; the very same numbers used to express the Holy Trinity: One God in Three Divine Persons.  Let there be light, at its very core, is about making God known by sight; naturally through the created world, and spiritually through faith.  Let God be known is the meaning of Let there be light.  St. John of the Cross, the Church’s master of spiritual light theology, refers to God as, “Who is light.” 1

Darkness covers information, light reveals the information darkness covers; this goes for both spiritual and natural light. Sin and disordered desires foster spiritual darkness leading to spiritual blindness. The broadest definition of “information” is “what is conveyed or represented by a particular arrangement or sequence of things.” The definition of “sight,” or “visual perception,” is the “ability to interpret the surrounding environment by processing information contained in the visible light.” There is information, more commonly called knowledge, contained in spiritual light which also requires spiritual sight to interpret. God is the author of all good information in both natural and spiritual light. Both kinds of light, natural light indirectly through the beauty of creation and spiritual light directly and obscurely to individual souls, are God’s way of making himself known.

Individuals can have varying abilities to interpret information contained in both kinds of light. Those who are near-sighted or far-sighted have less ability interpreting the same information contained in natural light as those with 20/20 vision. Sensitive, injured eyes can’t stand much natural light; a soul weakened by sin can’t withstand as much spiritual light as one whose spiritual life has matured. Sin, St. John says, blinds the soul. 2Disordered affections and desires cause what St. John calls spiritual cataracts and clouds that cover the eye of reason, so that the soul cannot see what is right in front of them.3 Believing that which is intrinsically evil to be acceptable is an example of this type of blindness. Christians viewing abortion as acceptable fall under this spiritual blindness St. John describes.

In Reading 1 for the first Friday of Lent, God declares man’s sacrifices done by works of mercy produce for him light, healing, liberation, God’s glory and help. Jesus’ sacrifice accomplished the same for all who wish to partake of it.

USCCB Readings February 16th, 2018

Saturday after Ash Wednesday February 17, 2018

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Genesis 1:3

We continue with our reflection on this divine phrase – God’s very first spoken Scriptural words creating the means which makes him known naturally and spiritually to humanity.

Free-Photos / Pixabay

Both kinds of light, natural and spiritual, give the soul awareness and a sense of well-being; and of course, light gives life. Without light, natural and spiritual life could not exist.

Whereas before, darkness covered the abyss of the faculties of the soul, God has “opened the eye of its abyss to the Divine light, and so had made it pleasing to Himself.” 1

StockSnap / Pixabay

God draws the soul unto himself with the light. It is the light of faith, though small like a mustard seed, 2 it is the beginning of eternal life. It is God obscurely manifesting himself to the soul in light that will continue to grow as the soul’s spiritual life matures. With the gift of the light of faith followed by the soul’s acceptance, spiritual life is affirmed.

The light of faith is the gift of spiritual sight. The information contained in the light of faith is obscure, or dark (imperceptible) to the understanding. It is by its excessive greatness that it oppresses and disables the understanding, for its power extends only to natural knowledge. 3  It could be said faith’s excessive brightness blinds the understanding like direct sunlight blinds the eyes.

Faith alone, our Saint beautifully tells us, is the “proximate and proportionate means to the understanding whereby the soul may attain to Divine union of Love. For, even as God is infinite, so faith sets Him before us as infinite; and, as He is Three in One, it sets Him before us as Three in One; and, as God is darkness to our understanding, even so does faith likewise blind and dazzle our understanding. And, thus, by this means alone, God manifests Himself to the soul in Divine light, which passes all understanding. And therefore, the greater is the faith of the soul, the more closely is it united with God. [He] must walk by faith as he journeys to Him, the understanding being blind and in darkness, walking in faith alone; for beneath this darkness the understanding is united with God, and beneath it God is hidden.” 4

The soul will subsequently use reason in addition to the light of faith to determine if it will accept God as belief through guides, study aids, etc. “What he [St. John of the Cross] endeavors to show is that the coming of knowledge through faith excludes a simultaneous coming of natural knowledge through reason, and left, as it were, in blindness, so that it may be raised to another nobler and sublime kind of knowledge, which, far from destroying reason, gives it dignity and perfection.” 5

If the gift of faith is accepted, the soul proceeds to exercise its will in making an act of belief. The man in today’s Gospel Reading did so, most magnificently and in complete totality:

Jesus gifts the light of faith to a sinner sitting at his trade, saying to him, “follow me.” The man sitting at his post signifies dwelling in darkness; his customs post being the source of his sin through which he extorted. The gift of faith accepted, the man got up, left everything and followed Jesus – the Light of the world.

The link below will take you to the complete Gospel Reading, as well as Reading 1 and the Responsorial Psalm:

USCCB Daily Readings February 17th, 2018

The USCCB has not reviewed or approved my comments on the Biblical text.

 

First Sunday of Lent * February 18, 2018

Kapa65 / Pixabay

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Genesis 1:3

We continue today with our reflection on this sublime verse, focusing this time on natural light.

God communicates by manifesting himself through information contained in natural light, too. This lavish information that reveals the Creator behind the created is the natural world; from life in the tiniest single cell organism, up to his masterpiece that is the human being. The inexplicable wonder of the earth, the stars, and the universe pour out his Word for all to ponder.  God himself is beauty, truth and goodness. Humans are naturally drawn toward beauty, truth and goodness. God uses these human dispositions to his utmost advantage in the natural world. Creation makes known our Father, who art in heaven.

Yesterday we reflected upon how the spiritual light of faith sets God directly before the soul obscurely. Natural light achieves this indirectly. The information, such as one of God’s marvels, enters through the body’s senses where the soul reflects on it using reason. The conclusions drawn from reasoning will then reside in the faculty of the understanding as belief.

God even uses colors contained in natural light as a sign of his covenant with all the creatures of the earth: Noah and his descendants, all the birds and various tame and wild animals. God established that the colorful rainbow be this everlasting covenantal sign that never again shall all creatures be destroyed by flood. Color is defined as a “quality of light.” God again uses light to affirm life.

To read about God’s covenantal sign of the rainbow today in the First Sunday of Lent Reading 1 and comments on it in 1 Peter in Reading 2, click the link to be taken directly to both on the USCCB website:

USCCB Daily Readings February 18th, 2018

The USCCB has not reviewed or approved my comments on the Biblical text.

 

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent, February 20, 2018

God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” Genesis 1:5

qimono / Pixabay

Spiritually, “Day” is associated with reason, using information gleaned from the body’s five senses of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.

rkarkowski

Spiritually, “Night” is associated with spiritual knowledge that begins with faith, which is given passively by God to individual souls without the illumination of the understanding.

Holy Scripture beautifully sums up Day and Night, Reason and Faith, in Psalm 19:

Day pours out the word to day,
and night to night imparts knowledge. Psalm 19:3

The soul in the spiritual “night” is ideally a movement toward greater faith, hope and charity culminating in union with God. Saint John illustrates the movement through the spiritual night with three stages:  The beginning of this night is the night of sense during which the first major conversion from sin and bondage to the senses takes place. It is called night due to the privation and purgation of the soul’s senses and is represented by the time of the night just after dusk when sensible objects can no longer be seen, a perfect comparison. The second part is the night of faith. It is compared to midnight since it is farthest from the daylight of reason, leaving the understanding in darkness. In the coming days we shall see these first two parts of the night happen with the Israelites release from the Egyptians in Exodus. The third part of the night, when it is still dark but preceding dawn, is the dark night of the soul when God’s bestows his mystical prayer called contemplation. When these three parts of the night are almost over, God begins to illumine the soul with his Divine light, which is the beginning of the perfect union with him that follows – when it is nearer to dawn and the light of day, which is compared to God. 1

The light of faith, as said, has three primary functions: it gathers, guides and guards. Faith gathers together God’s people to worship, learn the Faith, and to serve others.  Second, faith is a guide for the spiritual journey; leading the soul toward and ever deepening relationship with God and eternal life; for faith is the beginning of eternal life.  Third, faith guards by its protection and concealment against the devil, 2 whose goal is to prevent that from happening. In this part of Genesis, we’ll look at faith as a guide; specifically with God’s example of Israel’s exodus from Egypt when we continue tomorrow.

If “gather, guide and guard” resonates familiarity, it is because they are the attributes of the Good Shepherd himself and light of the world, Jesus Christ.

The USCCB has not reviewed or approved my comments on the Biblical text.

In today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus teaches us how to pray the Our Father, bringing faith into our everyday lives. This link will take you to the USCCB website and directly to today’s Daily Readings:

USCCB Daily Readings February 20, 2018

We will take a short break and continue on Thursday, February 22.

Second Sunday of Lent February 25, 2018

Then God said, “Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters, to separate one body of water from the other.” And so it happened: God made the dome, and it separated the water above the dome from the water below it. God called the dome “the sky.” Evening came, and morning followed – the second day.  Genesis 1:6-8

pixel2013 / Pixabay

According to St. John of the Cross, there are two interrelated parts of the soul: the spiritual part and the sensual part. 1 Both parts form the whole unified human person. In our Genesis reflection, the waters of the soul below the dome of the sky which is on the earth, signify the soul’s sensual part. They include the soul’s body and its exterior senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell which it uses to remain in contact with its environment, and to receive impressions. These are the gateway to the soul’s interior senses – the imaginative powers – which uses the impressions from the five bodily senses to immediately form internal images of objects from the outside world, still belonging to the sensual part. 2 These lead to the interior faculties of the understanding, memory, and will; the spiritual part of the soul. They are the closest to God and are therefore given the higher place in Genesis in the waters above the dome of the sky.

Here is a quote neatly summing up all the faculties of spirit and sense from Toward a Model of Spiritual Direction Based on the Writings of St. John of the Cross:

“The intellect [understanding] is the knowing faculty and the basis for the psychological operations of thought, reason, judgement, and understanding. Figuratively, the intellect provides spiritual light for the soul. The memory is the repository for the sense faculties and ideas from the intellect, as well as the imaginative and discursive powers of the soul. The will is the affective faculty of the soul, the power to love and desire. It is the basis for the soul’s strength and energy. Figuratively, the will governs the soul by directing its other psychological functions toward their appropriate objects. Although each of these faculties is distinct from the other, they act interdependently.

The sense faculties, too, are distinct from the spiritual faculties but operate interdependently with them. The soul with its faculties give life to the body as a tabula rasa (clean slate), depending upon the activity of the sense faculties before the operations of intellect, memory and will can begin. John describes this relationship in the following manner:

‘The soul (el alma) as soon as God infuses it into the body, is like a smooth, blank board (tabula rasa) upon which nothing is painted; and, save for that which it experiences through the senses, nothing is communicated to it, in the course of nature, from any other source. And thus, for as long as it is in the body, it is like one who is in a dark prison and who knows nothing, save what he is able to see through the windows of the said prison; and, if he saw nothing through them, he would see nothing in any other way. And thus the soul, save for that which is communicated to it through the senses which are the windows of its prison, could acquire nothing, in the course of nature, in any other way.’ 3

With this view of the soul’s relation to the body, we can easily understand that John considered the body with its sense faculties as the lower, exterior, inferior, animal part of man, while the soul with its spiritual faculties as the higher, interior, superior, uniquely human part of man. The sensory part of the human person, in direct contact with the external world, communicates the information it receives from the outside through the senses to the spirit or interior part of the person where it is acted upon by the intellect, memory, and will in their operations of knowledge, reflection, and love.” 4

St. John quotes St. Paul in his use of “animal man”: The animal man perceiveth not the things of God; they are to him as  foolishness and he cannot understand them. St. John continues: “By the animal man is here understood the man that still lives according to natural desires and pleasures.”  5  Our Saint refers to those attached only to their natural operations, sensory or spiritual, but without a relationship to the supernatural influence of God.

St. John’s view of the soul reflects in Genesis the division of the waters of the soul’s two parts, the sensual below the dome of the sky on the earth, and the spiritual above the dome of the sky.

The separation of the waters of the soul in Genesis foreshadows the other great Scriptural parting of the waters of the Red Sea in Exodus, which initiated the beginning of Israel’s life of faith on a practical level. Scripture tells us:

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD swept the sea with a strong east wind throughout the night and so turned it into dry land. When the water was thus divided, the Israelites marched into its midst of the sea on dry land, with the water lake a wall to their right and to their left. Exodus 14:21-22

When the Lord “swept the sea with a strong east wind” thus dividing it in Exodus, it is the same “mighty wind [that] swept over the waters” in Genesis 1:2 God separates with the dome of the sky.

What does this separating and parting of waters in Genesis and Exodus mean spiritually?  These glorious and remarkable events proclaim God’s will for humans to be composed of both spirit and sense (including the body) and operate using both spirit and sense – and because, like the two great partings of the vast waters, a spirit and sense existence is glorious and remarkable.  The separating and parting of waters in Genesis and Exodus defines for the soul its spiritual and sensual parts upon receiving the light of faith. It is the soul realizing its spiritual principle.

A pilgrimage of physical endurance walking or biking  long distance to a shrine or holy place with spiritual devotion is an intense condensed experience of a person’s lifetime faith journey. The parting of the waters of the soul is God introducing it to pilgrimage – the way of both sense and spirit- just like he did with Israel and their physical guide Moses, the fiery cloud (of faith), the parting of the Red Sea, and on through the desert:

Thus says the LORD, who opens a way in the sea and a path in the mighty waters. Isaiah 43:16

The Catechism tells us what is brought about in the soul who accepts God’s invitation to traverse the path opened before them:

CCC 1221 states: “the Crossing of the Red Sea, literally the liberation of Israel from the slavery of Egypt, announces the liberation wrought by Baptism.” CCC 1253 states: “Baptism is the sacrament of faith.” 6 Since Baptism and faith are so closely related, in the coming days we will be exploring what the Crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus can tell us about its faith aspect, the fiery cloud, that will further help us understand what is happening to the separating waters of the soul newly gifted and enlightened by faith in Genesis. The illustration in Genesis and then again in Exodus makes one point obvious – that a soul receiving the gift of faith is as monumental as all the waters of creation making way for its path.

Israel’s march through the Red Sea with the Egyptians on their heels, no doubt a terrifying ordeal as is the relinquishing of addictions, sin and sensual comforts, was for them a stretch and strengthening of the spiritual legs of faith they received upon their departure from Egypt. While they had passively witnessed and reasoned the signs and wonders 7 in Egypt sent by God through Moses their physical guide, at shores of the Red Sea it was time for them to step up spiritually with a test of their faith.The Red Sea biblical passage is God’s affirmation to move forward in faith – that one is never permanently stuck between the deep of our human weakness and the pursuing powers of darkness.

In today’s first Reading on the USCCB website, you can reflect upon Abraham our father in faith, and the test of what turned out to be his enormous faith in God.

USCCB Daily Readings February 25, 2018

The USCCB has not reviewed or approved my comments on the Biblical text.

We will take a short break, then continue with reflections on March 1 when we will read an eyewitness account of the parting of the Red Sea from former slave and Levite, Abner. 8

Monday of the Third Week of Lent March 5, 2018

Alexas_Fotos

The two stages of light in the Old and New Testaments:

The light God called forth from nothingness on that first day so all might see and believe testified to him until that fourth day when the governor of light took over; the sun to shed light upon the earth, to separate the light from the darkness, and to carry on the testimony.

At that proper time, God sent his faithful servant John [1] born of a barren woman, whose light [2] testified to the Light so all might believe; until the arrival of that true Governor of Light, Jesus Christ, who came into the world so that whoever sees him sees the Father. [3]

[1] John the Baptist
[2] John 5:35
[3] John 12:44-46

Then God said: “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky, to separate day from night. Let them mark the fixed times, the days and the years, and serve as luminaries in the dome of the sky, to shed light upon the earth.” And so it happened: God made the two great lights, the greater one to govern the day, and the lesser one to govern the night; and he made the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky, to shed light upon the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. 

Genesis 1:14-18

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We continue with our spiritual interpretation.

On day one, God called the light he created “day” and the darkness “night.” Spiritually, we saw “day” represents knowledge the soul is aware of through the body’s five senses with which it uses to reason with, enlightening the understanding. “Night” is associated with light of faith whose spiritual knowledge of God is imperceptible to the understanding. St. John calls faith “unformed knowledge.”[4] God essentially bypasses the five bodily senses when he communicates knowledge (and love in advanced prayer) to the soul because, as stated earlier, he resides in the substance of every soul. Substantial knowledge stripped of all images is produced by God passively in the faculties, rather than produced in the intellect by reception of forms, fantasies and apprehensions.[5]

[4] C12,2; Another great illustrative definition of faith comes from Edith Stein’s Science of the Cross: “Faith is a dark knowledge: it acquaints us with something but we do not get to see it.”
[5] C39,12

One day four of creation in the dome of the sky, God “organizes” the light he created and separated from the darkness on day one. The sun, moon, and stars do this on the natural level of creation. These same lights in their natural operations in the sky offer a sublime spiritual meditation on the faculty of the understanding and the virtue of faith. With God’s grace and St. John’s wisdom, I’ll endeavor to share God’s wonderment of the faculty of the understanding, the virtue of faith, and the dome of the sky.

In our present Genesis verse, both great lights, the sun and moon, are to shed light upon the earth; which is to say spiritually, reason and faith are both to be used by the soul during their sojourn on earth.  Reason and faith are to keep the soul from intellectual and spiritual darkness: to separate the light from the darkness.  Just as the sun and moon are to provide natural light upon the earth to separate physical light and darkness.

[6] CCC 117

In Genesis, we find the faculty of the understanding and the virtue of faith between the parted waters of sense and spirit: in the dome of the sky where God places the sun and moon. More precisely, the dome of the sky becomes the faculty of the understanding on day four of creation when the great lights are placed therein to govern reason and faith, according to the will of the soul. This illustrative central location is most ideal for providing the soul’s sensual part below and spiritual part above their guidance.  The soul’s faculty of the understanding and the virtue of faith, the dome of the sky with the two great lights (sun & moon) in Genesis, and the dry path where the Israelites walked through the parted Red Sea in Exodus guided by the fiery cloud (of faith) and Moses who appealed to their reason, are all three symbolically one and the same.

Faith operates in the opposite way than that of reason. The soul does not glean knowledge from the night of faith the way the understanding gleans knowledge from the light of reason; rather, the soul obtains faith’s light because it’s understanding is in darkness. And the darker the soul’s understanding of God, the greater light of faith is given it. God has provided a heavenly, natural representation of faith by watching the moon in the night and daytime skies. A soul with a strong faith has its understanding of God resembling a black nighttime sky with the bright light of the moon giving light. The moon is bright because the sky is dark; therefore, the soul with strong faith receives light because it has placed it’s understanding in darkness and not using the light of reason to believe and know God. The darker the understanding of God the stronger the faith; the greater is the light from the moon in the darkened sky.

Let us read what our San Juan says about the dark night of faith, which resembles God’s illustration of the moon in the night sky:

“It is clear, then, that faith is a dark night for the soul, and it is in this way it gives light; and the more the soul is darkened, the greater is the light that comes to it.” [7]

[7] A2,3,4

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Alternatively, the moon in the daytime sky is like a soul with little or no faith. The moon is pale in the daytime sky because the soul has not placed its understanding of God in the darkness of faith. Therefore, the moon’s light is weak or absent due to the greater light (sun) of reason overwhelms it and takes precedence. This could be from the soul attempting to wrongly and habitually use the light of reason rather than the darkness of faith to know God, or it hasn’t been given the gift of faith by God. Here is another one of St. John’s sublime quotes on faith: “He that would journey towards union with God must not walk by understanding, neither lean upon experience or feeling or imagination, but he must believe in His Being, which is not perceptible to the understanding, neither to the desire nor to the imagination nor to any other sense, neither can it be known in this life at all. Yea, in this life, the highest thing that can be felt and experienced concerning God is infinitely remote from God and from the pure possession of Him.”  [8]

[8] A2,4,4

Notice our Saint is talking about concepts of God, e.g., an idea, notion, image, emotion, sensation, or experience. The highest of these, he says, is as far from God as one can get. These are likened to the weak light of the moon in the daytime sky – relying on the finite human operations of the senses, reasoning, thought and judgement to know the infinite God, which dilutes or extinguishes the light of faith. There is, of course, a right use of reason with faith. The soul uses reason to deepen their understanding of the truths of the kingdom. We will explore that when we return on Thursday, March 8.

Fitze /

St. John of the Cross’ extensive teaching on journeying towards union with God by the night of faith is legendary. I only briefly touched on it in these pages.

If I may suggest, today’s 1st Daily Reading tells of the army commander whose servants “reasoned” with him to make an act of faith, making our reflection today a good warm-up for today’s Word of God on the USCCB website.

USCCB Daily Readings March 5 2018

The USCCB has not reviewed or approved my comments on the Biblical text.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent March 13 2018

Today we’ll explore the four passions of the will, called the fish of the sea in Genesis 1:26&28. But first we need to understand the desires of the will since they are what the soul is passionate about.  Our Saint neatly sums up: “all pleasures, joys, and affections are ever caused in the soul by the will and desire for things which appear to be good to you, fitting and delectable, since the soul considers these to be pleasing and precious; and in this way the desires of the will are drawn to them [the passions], and it hopes for them; and rejoices in them when it has them, and fears to lose them.”[1]

[1] St. John of the Cross Letters n. 11

Here is a sublime explanation by St. John of the passions:

“These affections and passions are four, namely: joy, hope, grief, and fear. These passions, when they are controlled by reason according to the way of God, so the soul rejoices only in that which is purely the honor and glory of God, and hopes for naught else, neither grieves save things than concern this, neither fears aught save God alone, it is clear that the strength and ability of the soul are being directed toward God and kept for Him. For, the more the soul rejoices in any other thing than God, the less completely will it center its rejoicing in God, and the more it hopes in aught else, the less will it hope in God; and so with the other passions.”[2]

[2] A3,16,2

***  “These four passions have the greater dominion in the soul, and assail it the more vehemently, when, the will is less strongly attached to God and more dependent on the creatures. For then it rejoices very readily at things that merit not rejoicing, hopes in that which brings no profit, grieves over that in which perchance it ought to rejoice, and fears where there is no reason for fearing.”[3]

[3] Ibid 4

“From these affections, [passions] when they are unbridled, arise in the soul all the vices and imperfections which it possesses, and likewise, when they are ordered and composes, all its virtues. And it must be known that, if one of them should become ordered and controlled by reason, the rest will become so likewise; for these four passions of the soul are so closely and intimately united to one another that the actual direction of one is the virtual direction of the others; and if one be actually recollected the other three will virtually and proportionately be recollected likewise. For, if the will rejoice in anything, it will as a result hope for the same thing to the extent of its rejoicing, and herein are virtually included grief and fear with regard to the same thing; and, in proportion as desire for these is taken away, fear and grief concerning them are likewise gradually lost, and hope for them is removed. …the wings of each one of these affections [passions] are joined to those of each of the others, so that, in whichever direction one of them turns – that is, in its operation – the others of necessity go with it virtually also; and, when one of them descends, as is there said, they must all descend, and, when one is lifted up, they will all be lifted up. Where thy hope is, thither will go thy joy and fear and grief; and, if thy hope returns, the others will return and so of the rest.”[4]

[4] Ibid 5

*** “Wherefore thou must take note that, wheresoever one of these passions is, thither will go likewise the whole soul and the will and the other faculties, and they will all live as captives to this passion, and the other three passions will be living in it also, to afflict the soul with their captivity.”[5]

It is interesting to note that what the world calls freedom, St. John calls captivity.

[5] Ibid 6

One could just about substitute “school of fish” for “passions” in the above description by our Saint and still have it make sense. For his teaching on the virtual movements of the four passions also describes the movements of a school of fish in the open sea; as one fish descends so all the rest, when one ascends to the surface or goes left or right the others simultaneously follow, as is their practice for self-preservation. The soul’s four passions of joy, hope, grief and fear are therefore represented by the “fish of the sea” in the next paragraph in Genesis 1:26, where God directs the man and the woman to have dominion over the fish of the sea, which spiritually is their passions.  We are discussing them here since they are governed by the will and affect the virtues.

Represented by the fish of the sea, the passions are placed by God in the sea of the will with the other living creatures that are charity and the virtues; for according to what our Saint and the Catechism has told us [6], all are closely relational in their operations, so it makes sense they are all found together, teeming with life in the sea of love.

[6] CCC 1804

If time permits you, I suggest reading the charming story of Jonah and the Fish in your Bible before reading tomorrow’s reflection here, since part of Jonah is what we will be going over. See if you can connect what happens to Jonah with what we reflected upon today.  Hint: keep the above 2 paragraphs by St. John in mind that start with a ***  while reading about Jonah, specifically in chapters 1 and 2.  The whole Book of Jonah is very short, only a few pages.

Today’s Daily Readings are all about water; its cleansing and healing properties.

USCCB Daily Readings March 13, 2018

The USCCB has not reviewed or approved my comments on the Biblical text.