I haven`t written much about theology yet on here, despite the fact that it is one of the subjects I have set myself. It is important for me as a Christian and as a Catholic to integrate what I learn about God into how I live my life and I would like to take a moment (and an extra post) to mention a few things that have struck me recently from my studies at Dominican University College.
The first thing I have found especially interesting this week is something my Synoptic Gospels professor said in class. We were talking about interpreting Scripture, mainly because translating the Bible is already interpretation through the translator`s choice of words, pronouns, syntax etc. My professor than went on to say that sometimes God speaks to us through the Bible by asking us to interpret Scripture for ourselves, from English words to thoughts, ideas and actions, making decisions about how to read it and therefore apply it to our lives. We used as an example Jesus` teaching about divorce in Mark, comparing some Protestant and various Catholic interpretations and how those have influenced Christian life in various denomination, cultures and time periods.
It was all very interesting at the time, but what I took away was that we don`t have to wait for thunder and a booming voice from heaven, or even randomly pointed-at verses to guide us in our interaction with Scripture. Sometimes the greatest revelations come from reading, asking ourselves questions and meditating on what has been given to us. My professor also mentioned the practice of Lectio Divina (you can read about it here), a spiritual exercise in which one lets go of one`s own preconceptions about a passage and follows a program of reading, meditating, allowing for your heart to interact with God and then resting and waiting in what has been read and absorbed, simply allowing the Spirit to work. I have heard about it before, but never explained so well, so it is definitely something I will try and report back on.
The second thing from my week was from my Mystery of God class, which is sometimes more mystery and less God. This week, however, we talked about names of God and what we can properly say and metaphorically say about Him. The difference is important: saying something metaphorical, like `God is a shepherd`, is different from what can be said properly, for example, `God is caring, loving and protective`. In the first God is not literally a shepherd, but He has the characteristics of a good one, being concerned for and protective of His flock. What can properly be said is simply attributes that we know must be His.
The thing that really interested me about all this, apart from what my professor was trying to impart to us, was that in poetry we often use the metaphorical to point us toward the proper. We might talk about God as a mother in order to properly say that we find acceptance, protection, sustenance and caring love in Him. No matter where we use them, neither one of these methods of speaking about God is lesser; they both convey in language the Being we create (perhaps with Scripture or poetry`s help) mental images of and interpret in human qualities. I think the truly amazing thing is, despite everything that has been said about Him for thousands of years and regardless of the many millions of words written about God and His qualities and characteristics, we are still so wonderfully far from understanding Him. It often feels like He is very far away, but I think the very fact that we can form metaphorical images of God which correspond to some of the best human things on this earth is a reminder that:
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything (…) that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’.
Acts 17, v. 24-28