Thursday, January 31, 2008

More of the Wisdom Tradition

Early Christianity maintained an enormous respect for both sacred text and "secular" wisdom, and shunned mere obedience and legalism for their own sake. Hence, it was a simple distinction to recognize the importance of spirit over law. Maximus the Confessor, a 6th-century abbot considers the Divine Wisdom, the Word or Logos:

The lamp placed on the lampstand, of which Scripture speaks, is our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father’s true light, who enlightens everyone coming into the world, (Jn1,9). As for the lampstand, it is the holy Church. It is upon her preaching that God’s resplendent Word rests, enlightening men the world over as inhabitants of his house and filling every soul with knowledge of God…The Word has no wish to remain under a bushel; it longs to be set well in view, on the Church’s summit. Concealed beneath the letter of the Law, as under a bushel, the Word would have deprived everyone of eternal light. It would have been unable to grant spiritual contemplation to those who try to disengage themselves from the seduction of the senses, which are subject to illusion and quick to see only material, passing things. But if placed on the lampstand of the Church, that is to say, founded on worship in spirit and truth (Jn 4,24), it enlightens everyone…

For the letter, unless it is understood according to the spirit, has only a material and limited value; of itself, it does not allow the mind to grasp the import of the written word…So let us not place the lighted lamp, that is to say the Word of God, under the bushel by means of our thoughts and actions. Let us not be guilty of concealing beneath the letter the incomprehensible force of divine Wisdom. Let us rather set the Word on the lampstand of the Church, at the summit of pure contemplation, which causes the light of divine revelation to shine out for everybody.

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