By declaration of the blogging powers that be:
Mondays are now, "Mystical Mondays".
Together we'll draw upon the work of a favourite Mystic within the Christian Tradition
(with some help interpreting from Matthew Fox*) in order to shed new light upon familiar Bible passages.
"The very sight of God causes delight. At the sight of God the mind can do nothing but delight. - Thomas Aquinas"
"Like Mechtild of Magdeburg, Thomas Aquinas speaks of the mind undergoing the "must" of delight. For Aquinas in the thirteenth century, "mind" was much more than the "thinking brain" of Descartes and modern European thinkers. The mind included the imagination and memory, the capacity for wonder and for birthing creativity. In the presence of God, Aquinas says, humans don't suddenly "know"; they delight. All doubt, skepticism, and even thinking give way to overwhelming delight. Is it important that our understanding of human consciousness include delight at its base? Can we give delight if we have not tasted it first? Can we taste if we don't praise it as a goal and a value?"
Genesis 3:1-8 (with emphasis added)
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God,[a] knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
First, I notice the Temptor begins to ply fork-tongued craft by testing Eve's knowledge of what God has said. When Eve chooses to entertain this conversation she becomes somewhat distanced from what Creator is saying to her (continuously, in the present tense). Now Eve is listening to the Temptor as opposed to listening to Creator.
Second, I notice that the Temptor leverages the conversation with Eve in order to call into question the motivations of and the integrity of Creator. The snake accuses Creator of withholding wisdom from humans in order to hold onto a position of superiority over them. Of key importance here are verses 5 and 6. I notice how the Temptor is able to confuse Eve into believing that wisdom and knowledge are one and the same thing!
What is the end result?
Human beings horde knowledge,
mistaking it for wisdom.
In the process they trade their delight in seeing God
(and being seen by God)
for a terror at the prospect of being seen by God
and an active avoidance of seeing God.
First, I hear God encouraging and warning me through the text. The discipline of dwelling first and foremost in God's presence is what I am created for. There are forces in life that do not have my best interests at heart that seek to distract and keep me from this joyful and life-giving work.
Second, I hear Aquinas and Fox warning alongside the text, "knowledge is a good thing, and to be pursued, but never to be confused with the fullness of wisdom." Too often I come to scripture from a posture of trying to acquire knowledge as a commodity. This is to conflate knowledge and wisdom. The real purpose of reading/studying scripture is to draw intentionally into the delight of being in the presence of Our Loving Father - who wills to instruct to be sure, but also to bless us through the fullness of relationship as beloved children of God. To "know" this in theory is not the same as to experience the playful delight of being reformed again and again by the gracious hands that first formed and always protect and preserve us.
Daddy! You are so fun ... so big ... so good! Thank you for always being here. Thank you for reminding us that to be with and in you is less a chore and more playtime. Sheild me, I pray, from the constant temptations to entertain life-stealing conversations instead of resting and abiding in You. And, help me to share Your open invitation to frolic in Your living Word with all You place in my path. Amen.
*Quotations share on Mystical Mondays are gleaned from:
Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations, Matthew Fox, New World Library, 2011.