Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Open my eyes...

Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.
I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me...  
(Psalm 119.18-19)
It sometimes seems too easy to let Scripture slip into the background, especially if we normally read it  in our personal devotion as part of a daily office, where it can be a temptation to scamper through the office readings in order to get on to the more "interesting" times of intercessory or contemplative prayer.

A passage like this, from Psalm 119 - the longest Psalm, and the one most explicitly concerned with Scripture itself - reminds me that not only are there endless treasures concealed among the verses of the entire Bible, but that it is the Spirit that opens our eyes and hearts to them. Unless we read in the Spirit, the Bible will be nothing more to us than an ancient, obscure, contradictory and at times objectionable collection of texts. (See e.g. Peter Enns' How the Bible Actually Works Ch.1) To open the book quietly, in expectation, with such a prayer as the psalmist's for our eyes to be opened and our hearts prepared to encounter "wonderful things" is quite different.

Jean Khoury writes,
"...the less serious our conversion to God is, the less clear the Scriptures are to us." This is why the person who accomplishes and searches for the truth comes to the light (cf. Jn 3.21)... The more we do lectio, the more we dig deep, going down within ourselves and allowing God to descend within us. In fact, we are the ones who let God descend - or not - into our depths. This depends on the quality of our listening. Digging deep means descending into ourselves, letting the light penetrate our dark regions, at our deepest roots and our shadows. This depends on whether we open our door to him or not; our freedom decides this.
Scripture and prayer are indivisible in the life of faith, it seems to me. While of course it is possible to read the Bible prayerlessly, and to pray (perhaps!) without even unconscious involvement with Scripture, I don't think that's how either was ever intended to work. Another name, perhaps, for this intimate amalgam of word and prayer in the Spirit is Wisdom. Peter Enns again, op. cit.:
Wisdom isn't about flipping to a topical index so we can see what we are to do or think - as if the Bible were a teacher's edition textbook with the answers supplied in the back. Wisdom is about the lifelong process of being formed into mature disciples, who wander well along the unscripted pilgrimage of faith, in tune to the all-surrounding thick presence of the Spirit of God in us and in the creation around us.

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