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 ever-learning 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 listener and scripter.

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, symbolically 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 symbolic 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.

St. Ephrem the Syrian, poet theologian and Doctor of the Church, tells us: “From manifest things it is easy to learn about hidden things.”

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

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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 of the First Week of Lent February 24, 2018

God saw how good the light was. Genesis 1:4

Light is the first declared good and the only named good in the first chapter of Genesis, which makes it very special. “God saw how good it was” is repeated six more times in the first chapter of Genesis and points to a commonality of good. Spiritually, how good is the light? The “how good” in this verse is referring to the first and highest of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Wisdom. Wisdom, as well as the other six supernatural gifts 1 God heralds in chapter 1 of Genesis he will bestow at Pentecost, the age of the Church. Initiates receive them at baptism, then they are strengthened at Confirmation so one can proclaim the truths of the faith. The Seven Gifts, the number seven symbolizing completeness, are listed together in Isaiah 11:1-3. While they are gifts, they are to be practiced by the soul in order to grow to their full stature according to God. The Holy Spirit is both giver and gift: The giver himself is Himself the Gift.

As stated earlier, spiritually and naturally the light God created reveals him to us. St. Paul tells us 2 that Christ is the Wisdom of God. With this verse, God saw how good the light was, God sees the Wisdom in the light that will be embodied in his Son, Jesus Christ – which is yet another reason Wisdom is the first and highest of the Seven Gifts.

music4life / Pixabay

The supernatural gift of Wisdom helps the soul to rightly order their relationship with God and creation. 3 Wisdom allows the soul to view creation as God does, as man’s avenue to his greatest good and not an end in itself.  The destination of the soul is God; the beauty of creation is his vehicle the soul will eventually disembark from.  As the Divine Host begins to create man’s place of pilgrimage with lavish hospitality, imbued in the new light is the Wisdom of the highest hope of man, God himself.

Now with you is Wisdom, who knows your works and was present when you made the world; Who understands what is pleasing in your eyes and what is conformable with your commands. Wisdom 9:9

In today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus exhorts his followers to perfection, emulating our heavenly Father.  The complete Readings, as always, are on the USCCB website:

USCCB Daily Readings February 24, 2018

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