Thomas Merton’s Most Mystical Book: How “The Wisdom of the Desert” Teaches Us to Live in Direct Relationship with the Holy Spirit Today

Thomas Merton’s The Wisdom of the Desert,

and His Knowledge of the Mystical Psalm Structures

Pope Francis, when addressing the U.S. Congress, spoke of Thomas Merton. Merton was a Trappist monk who wrote excellent books, and was active in social movements of the 50’s and 60’s. Participating in inter-religious dialogue, he was also a friend of the Dalai Lama.

Merton’s slim book, The Wisdom of the Desert, is a collection of sayings of the great Ammas and Abbas of the Egyptian desert, the first Christian monks. In his “Author’s Note,” Merton says that he has chosen the sayings in no particular “order”; actually, he says this twice. This is a sign for us to look for an organizing order in the collection of desert sayings.

Is there a hidden order to the book?

Merton chose 150 sayings of the ancient monks for this book. There are 150 Psalms of the Bible (151 according to the ancient Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), known as the Septuagint (LXX); however, Merton is going, for the most part, with the Hebrew Psalter (as arranged in the Masoretic text). This fact of Merton’s book having 150 stories gives us a fine clue about Merton’s project. His chosen sayings from the first Christian monks, numbered in Latin from I – CL, will be in direct conversation with the Psalm of the same number, from the first to the last Psalm, 1 – 150. This conversation will be rather subtle and hidden; however, if we decide to work at it, we can discover it; indeed, as we discover more and more of the connections, their clarity becomes undeniable.

In choosing this hidden literary arrangement, Merton joins many who write in this same pattern.

Why does Merton do this? Why does Merton, and many before him, choose to make their own numbered compositions have this parallel relationship with the Psalms?

To be sure, the Psalms were second nature to the monks. Perhaps the Psalms eventually became first nature to them. Indeed, Christianity has made more use of the Psalms than our Jewish friends have. The Psalms are called the prayer book of the Church.

However, Merton and at least two dozen earlier Christian writers knew something else about the Psalms. They knew the Mystical Psalm Structures. These are fantastic true mystical structures that are in the Book of Psalms. Modern Psalms scholars have made great progress in the detective work of figuring out how the Book of Psalms came together. Some scholars say that the final editing of the Psalms occurred as late as 70 C.E. (A.D.), west of Jerusalem, on the shores of the Mediterranean, in ancient Jamnia. This being the case, it is almost certain that Christians were involved in the final redaction (editing) of the Book of Psalms.

And the New Testament is chock full of conscious, though hidden, knowledge of the Mystical Psalm Structures. It is possible that the Psalm Structures may have been taught to most of the New Testament authors by Jesus himself, and/or by the Holy Spirit, and/or by Paul. This essay further presents the Mystical Psalm Structures. It is a draft of the introductory chapter of a forthcoming book: https://www.academia.edu/85547714/The_Mystical_Psalm_Structures_Revised

Ancient authors (often monks) who know these mystical wonders wrote in the manner of numbering their reflections according to the parallel numbers of the Psalms, and of having subtle relationships of vocabulary and theme between their reflections and the Psalm of the same title number. (While most New Testament authors are very aware of the mystical realities in the Psalms, they do not write in numbered sequences, and so will not be discussed here.) Some of the authors writing in parallel numerical order to the numbers of the Psalms include:

-The Gospel of Thomas: Found at Nag Hammadi in the Egyptian desert mere decades ago, the beautiful Gospel of Thomas has 114 Logoi (sentences or small paragraphs). These numbered sayings have a parallel relationship with the Psalm of the same number. Pope Benedict XVI recommends that Scripture scholars read the Gospel of Thomas. (The Gospel of Philip, also discovered at Nag Hammadi, may have the same feature, but there are questions regarding the divisions and the numbering of the Logoi in the Gospel of Philip.)

-Evagrius Ponticus’ 153 Chapters on Prayer: In this masterful treatise on life in the Holy Spirit, Evagrius, an early desert monk, makes a joke in his book’s forward comparing his “153” chapters to the catch of 153 large fish in John 21. This is a rhetorical feint; what he is really doing is constructing a parallel conversation between each of his “chapters” with the Psalm that shares the same number.

-The Qur’an. There are 114 Surahs (Chapters) of the Qur’an, the same number of reflections in the Gospel of Thomas. To see a bright example of the relationship here, please compare the short Surah 1 of the Qur’an to Psalm 1. This is a huge discovery for inter-religious dialogue. This essay considers this connection that unites the Scriptures of the Abrahamic religions: https://www.academia.edu/33048365/The_Dialogue_between_the_Quran_and_the_Psalms

-St. Maximus Confessor. Several of his works are constructed in this style.

Maximus is very much in conversation with Evagrius, and he knows exactly what Evagrius is doing in his work. However, while Evagrius makes some of the connections between his individual “Chapters” and the parallel Psalms obvious and even humorous, Maximus is rarely overt. The connections drawn by Maximus between his “Sentences” and the Psalms are very understated and subtle. Only on occasion does he make a connection easy to see.

-Gregory Palamas, a saint in Eastern Churches (as is Evagrius), and a beloved theologian to Pope Saint John Paul II, wrote 150 Chapters. This book is a powerful condensation of theology and spiritual reflection.

-Perhaps other authors of the Philokalia. The Philokalia is a collection of holy texts of Eastern Christianity.

-Later Christian authors who write in this pattern, using numbered sequences in their writings. However, their writings do not have the brief, aphorism-like structure of the works mentioned above.

-Finally, there are many other Christian authors who know of the Mystical Psalm Structures, and who allude to these marvels, hiddenly, in their own writing, with or without numbered sequences. These include the four Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), Paul, Peter, the authors of Hebrews and Revelation, the desert monks of Egypt (especially some of the Ammas and Abbas in the Apophthegmata), Saint Benedict, Saint Romuald, Saint Hildegard of Bingen, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Teresa of Avila, her friend Saint John of the Cross, Saint Robert Bellarmine, and perhaps many more. However, space will not allow them to be discussed in this brief essay. (Saint John Climacus, also known as Saint John of the Ladder, is doing complex, albeit hidden, commentary on the Psalm Structures in his work.)

All of these books and authors are familiar with the Mystical Psalm Structures. They teach us about the Mystical Psalm Structures, and how to work with them.

In this essay on Merton’s book, we shall now show the direct correlations between the stories Merton chose, and the Psalm of the same number.

We shall also mention when particular stories are carrying conscious knowledge of the Mystical Psalm Structures.

Verbum I and Psalm 1

Abbot Pambo questioned Abbot Anthony saying: What ought I to do? And the elder replied: Have no confidence in your own virtuousness. Do not worry about a thing once it has been done. Control your tongue and your belly.

-This Verbum opens The Wisdom of the Desert with a simple question about how one should live life. Its parallel partner, Psalm 1, also teaches how one should live life.

-Psalm 1 begins with three negative behaviors to avoid, giving three proscriptions against these life-hurting errors. Parallel to this, Verbum I has Saint Anthony the Great’s three suggestions to Abba Pambo on how to conduct oneself.

-In the first of his three suggestions, Abba Anthony mentions “virtuousness.” In Psalm 1, the word “virtuous” appears twice in the last two verses of the Psalm, as the person who is meditating on the Word of God becomes ‘virtuous’. (Also, the first chapter of Evagrius’ book mentions the noun “virtue,” the human truth that is “virtue.”)

-Psalm 1 urges us to avoid bad company now and in the future, because bad company leads to bad actions. In Abba Anthony’s second suggestion, he tells us not to worry about mistakes of our past. In this instance, the Psalm and the Verbum don’t say exactly the same thing, instead, they complement each other.

-The third of the three negative proscriptions that begin Psalm 1 urges us not to sit with people who abuse the immense gift of human speech. The third of Abba Anthony’s three suggestions includes control of the tongue, that is, control of our speech.

Now, all of these connections are good and helpful. We see, clearly, that Verbum I and Psalm 1 have deep literary connections between them, and are placed into this dialogue by Thomas Merton.

Let us now plunge to deeper levels of the dialogue:

-Psalm 1 states that the person who meditates upon, and wrestles with, the Torah will eventually become a “virtuous” person. Abbas Pambo and Anthony have memorized the Torah, and they’ve been meditating upon it for decades in the desert. But these Christians also have the Gospels and New Testament, and Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and the already burgeoning Tradition of Holy Church 300 years after Christ.

Psalm 1 promises that the person who stays close to the Torah will be like a fruit tree. Yet with all these extra gifts of God that come to us because of Christ and Christ’s Church, Abbas Pambo and Anthony are like fruit trees as large as the cedars of Lebanon, and sequoias, and redwoods.

They know that the “letter of the law” has been superseded by Christ. In this radical freedom, Abba Pambo chooses to don the yoke of humility, and walks to Saint Abba Anthony the Great for a highly personalized word that Anthony would tailor precisely for Pambo. Anthony was so brilliantly Spiritual that Pambo knew it would be a word that carried guidance from the Holy Spirit. Pambo’s humility, and the wisdom of their dialogue in the Holy Spirit, have now entered the living Christian Tradition to strengthen us as well. This conversation is alive and active.

Verbum II and Psalm 2

Abbot Joseph of Thebes said: There are three kinds of men who find honour in the sight of God: First, those who, when they are ill and tempted, accept all these things with thanksgiving. The second, those who do all their works clean in the sight of God, in no way merely seeking to please men. The third, those who sit in subjection to the command of a spiritual father and renounce all their own desires.

-Abba Joseph begins this second Verbum by urging us to think of how God sees things. In Psalm 2, the rebels plot against God’s societal order, while the Psalmist implies that they are utterly forgetful that God is watching them; Psalm 2 also states that God, after watching enough rebellion, will respond with angry punishment if the rebels don’t change their ways. This also implies that God will respond favorably to the prayerful monk who is striving for closeness to God.

-Those who will “find honour in the sight of God” are also ill and tempted, just like the angry antagonists of Psalm 2. However, these Christian heroes respond with the Christian instrument of “Thanksgiving.” This thanksgiving is for God and neighbor, Church and Creation. The rebels of Psalm 2, however, choosing not to be thankful, instead mutter, gossip, scheme, and rebel.

-The third kind of person that Abba Joseph delineates are those who “renounce all their own desires” in order to follow the command/will/direction of their spiritual father. This is similar to the people of Israel honoring the proper king in Psalm 2, a king who has a relationship to YHWH, similar to how a senior monk has far more experience of relationship with God than the rookie monk has. Both the king and the Abba are divinely gifted leaders (Of course, we know that most kings have been lousy; but an Abba wouldn’t be an Abba unless he were close to God). The subjects of the Godly kingdom of Psalm 2 obey their earthly king, and those of Abba Joseph’s third category obey their Spiritual guide, their Abba, so that their own “human will” may be corrected, strengthened, and learn to radiate the power of the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, this obedience to a Spiritual Father prepares the way for the enthronement of Jesus Christ in the soul as its true king. Obedience has always been important to monasticism; one reason for this is that in obeying a Spiritual guide, one learns about one’s own desires, and learns how to work with these desires, and emerges from the training with a newly empowered will that is stronger and more perfectly formed than the monk would have achieved without obedience to a guide.

-Verbum I and Verbum II are in dialogue too. The statements of Abba Anthony (Verbum I) and Abba Joseph (Verbum II) are both in three sections. So we have a set of three followed by another set of three. What might this mean?

Verbum III and Psalm 3

A brother asked one of the elders: What good thing shall I do, and have life thereby?

The old man replied: God alone knows what is good.

However, I have heard it said that someone inquired of Father Abbot Nisteros the great, the friend of Abbot Anthony, asking:

What good work shall I do?

and that he replied: Not all works are alike. For Scripture says that Abraham was hospitable and God was with him. Elias (Elijah) loved solitary prayer, and God was with him. And David was humble, and God was with him. Therefore, whatever you see your soul to desire according to God, do that thing, and you shall keep your heart safe.

-Like Verbum I and Verbum II, Verbum III has a triple structure. This leads us Christians to think of the inner life of the Trinity, and the radical love shared between the three Divine Persons.

God wants to share this life of love with us. It is God’s plan to share with us the inner life of the Trinity.

Similarly, when a student asks one of the elders for suggestions of good actions that lead to “life,” a life that approaches the fullness of the Trinity’s life of love, the unnamed elder picks up a model tri-partite conversation from earlier desert monks and replicates it, re-presents it, to the young person. This images the inner life of the Trinity being shared with the individual soul through the medium of Christian koinonia, Christian community.

Many theologians who write about the Trinity state that the inner life of the Trinity is to be replicated (initially, this imitation will be childlike and feeble) and imitated by the Christian person in their inner life of the soul, and in the living relationships that Christians share.

The conversation that the elder chooses is an earlier sharing between “Father Abbot Nisteros the great, the friend of Abbot Anthony,” and an anonymous person seeking wisdom from Nisteros. This remembered response of Nisteros comprises the rest of the Verbum.

Now, let us go through this stocked Verbum more closely.

-Guiding by Editor Thomas Merton’s title number (III), this Verbum is aligned with Psalm 3, which initially was the very first Psalm of an earlier version of the Psalter (Book of Psalms). Psalm 3 begins with a superscription which, while it is part of the Scriptures, is not part of the body of the Psalm. This superscription says, “A Psalm by David. When he fled from his son Absalom.” Now, this is a shocking way for an earlier version of the Book of Psalms to begin, as it depicts the toxic fallout from David’s giant sins against Bathsheba and Uriah; some years after his sins, David had to flee Jerusalem to escape his son Absalom, who wanted to murder him.

So: An early version of the Psalms begins in the worst situations of human sin—situations so bad that a king has to flee from his own patricidal son, a situation that is brought about by the king’s own deplorable sins. This tells us that no matter how far we have strayed, the good God always wants us back. And God will guide us back to better life if we follow God’s lead in the Holy Spirit. No person is ever completely lost, or beyond hope.

Verbum III begins in a similar, though milder, vein. A brother, a younger and newer monk, approaches an unnamed elder. This relative newcomer to the desert is nowhere near perfect yet. The young monk asks, “What good thing shall I do, and have life thereby?”

The elder monk seems to rebuff the young inquirer, saying, “God alone knows what is good.” This reminds us of Jesus Christ’s response to the rich young man. Ah, we have a clue: This good elder has already read the young monk, and sees that he is bound, like the rich young man, to something—perhaps not riches, but to something of the world that the monk intends to leave behind. So the fact of the younger monk’s sinful attachment to things of the world has been ascertained by the elder (certainly this is something that all young monks have to deal with in their lives—the exposing of their own attachments, and the fact that their Spiritual guide reads them like an open book).

After this mild rebuke, the elder continues:  “However, I have heard it said that someone inquired of Father Abbot Nisteros the great, the friend of Abbot Anthony, asking: ‘What good work shall I do?’”

This loving elder has done several interesting things in beginning his response to the young monk. First, he repeats the exact words of this young inquirer when he repeats the conversation from some years earlier, establishing a living connection between this young monk sitting before him, and the young monk who approached Abba Nisteros at some earlier time. This gives historical comfort. It tells that youngster that, despite his imperfections, he is on the right path. The young monk is doing exactly what he should be doing in his inquiry of how to live the life better.

-Additionally, he says something interesting about Nisteros—he heaps titles and praises upon Nisteros:  “Father Abbot Nisteros the great, the friend of [the magnificent] Abbot Anthony…” Now, it is usually Abba Anthony who is called “Great!” So what is the unnamed elder doing here in his transferring of the word “great” from teacher to student, from Saint Abba Anthony to Abba Nisteros?

He is saying that Nisteros was helped to a higher place than had been achieved previous to him because he was a disciple and friend of Saint Anthony the Great. Jesus Christ himself says, “You’ll see greater things than this.” This means that the building up of the Church in time and history will lead to great things for humanity. Great saints want their disciples to be better than they are. This is love—to want the best for those who follow us, for our posterity. Saint John of the Cross said, “Do as much for our posterity as you can.” This is about the building up of the Body of Christ, the Church.

The unnamed elder is telling the unnamed student several messages at once: “I love you as my student, I will expose your faults for you, I will lead you to better growth, and I want you to become more advanced than I am.”

Now we get to the repeated word of Abba Nisteros. In the earlier conversation, Nisteros answers his own younger visitor:

“Not all works are alike.

For Scripture says that Abraham was hospitable and God was with him.

Elias (Elijah) loved solitary prayer, and God was with him.

And David was humble, and God was with him.

Therefore, whatever you see your soul desiring according to God, do that thing, and you shall keep your heart safe.”

Abraham received the three visitors, an early image of the Trinity.

Elijah heard God in silence. After Elijah had told God about his own zealousness for God, God sent three tumultuous natural cataclysms for Elijah’s observation; after these, God appeared to Elijah in silence.

David…David?! Why, from the earlier discussion of the relationship between Psalm 3 and Verbum III, we know that David’s big sins are the clearly stated background for Psalm 3! So why is Nisteros praising David’s humility here?

God was doing deep surgery on David’s heart. In Psalm 51, immediately after David’s big sins, David asks God for a pure heart. God gives him a years-long process of teaching and humility that results in this pure heart; However, this process culminated in the death of his own son, Absalom, for whom David weeps powerfully, showing the world that David’s heart was pure and working just fine. God indeed helped David achieve an empowered, pure heart.

There is much here about atonement, and the ensuing empowerment in the Holy Spirit. As one is more deeply incorporated into the Body of Christ, one also becomes more involved in the life of the Trinity. Also, for the young monk, and for Christians new to the direct relationship with the Holy Spirit: the trials that come to us may indeed be medicinal for our soul’s healing.

The three men in Nisteros’ story receive miracle babies. Abraham was promised a son, and was given Isaac. Elijah was given a spiritual child, Elisha, the great prophet who boldly asked for a double-portion of the spirit given to Elijah, his teacher. David, after Absalom’s death, was indeed rewarded by witnessing the rise of his fabulously wise son, King Solomon.

The relaying of this tripartite conversation from Anthony’s friend Nisteros, to Nisteros’ unnamed student, to this unnamed elder, to his unnamed student, represents also the incorporation of more Christians into the inner life of the Trinity. It is the growth of the Body of Christ.

Perhaps this unnamed elder was the same person as the disciple of Abba Nisteros. If so, we have a direct line of continuity from Abba Anthony to Abba Nisteros to this unnamed Abba to this unnamed young Christian (who represents you and me). This shows the great organic depth of the connection of all members of the Body of Christ, where the Saints want all the other people to become greater than they themselves were. What a beautiful legacy we inherit.

There are four speakers in this story. However, if the unnamed elder is the actual student of Abba Nisteros, then the four become three. And another soul is introduced into the inner life of the Trinity—and maybe our souls are too.

…………………………

Verbum IV has three sets of three items. However, there is not enough space in this brief essay to take it up here. Also, the reflections below shall be shorter.

Skipping two Verbi, we come to:

Verbum VI and Psalm 6

They said of Abbot Pambo that in the very hour when he departed this life he said to the holy men who stood by him: From the time I came to this place in the desert, and built me a cell, and dwelt here, I do not remember eating bread that was not earned by the work of my own hands, nor do I remember saying anything for which I was sorry even until this hour. And thus I go to the Lord as one who has not even made a beginning in the service of God.

The plaintiff of Psalm 6 is very ill physically, and is close to death, perhaps at death’s door. This is an obvious connection between the Psalm and Verbum. The deaths of holy people are truly special times, and those in Pambo’s cell are indeed blessed to be there with him at the time of his departure to heaven.

Psalm 6 is also the first of the Psalms that build up the Mystical Psalms Ladder (the Ladder is comprised by all the Psalms that are multiples of the number 6). Pambo mentions “beginning,” and this is the beginning Psalm of the Ladder.

Jacob’s Ladder, of Genesis 28, is seen by Jacob in a vision within a dream. There was a Ladder connecting heaven and earth; therefore, there is a sort of joining of heaven and earth. On the Ladder, plural angels are ascending and descending. God is “standing by” Jacob and/or the Ladder, like the “holy men standing by” Abbot Pambo.

Regarding the Psalms Ladder, when one has seen the proper climbing sequence, the final Psalm of the “first climb” that the new discoverer makes is Psalm 90. This is the only Psalm attributed to Moses, “the man of God (Ps 90:1),” by the Biblical text. At the end of the Psalm, Moses pleads with God, twice, saying, “Prosper the work of our hands, prosper the work of our hands (Psalm 90:17).” Moses is pleading for all of God’s children here, and for all humanity, as the “work of our hands.” Abba Pambo speaks of the “work of his own hands.” We can now interpret Pambo’s statement as also meaning that he loves and has cared for his own spiritual children. His dying prayer is that they may continue his work of building the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. They are to complete the work that he humbly claims that he “has not even begun to do.”

[See also the hard-to-comprehend conversation between Jesus and Nathaniel at the end of the first chapter of John’s Gospel.]

Verbum VIII and Psalm 8

We shall not quote the relatively long Verbum here. However, Psalm 8 and Verbum VIII both take place largely at night, and this Verbum happens to involve the Psalms.

The basic storyline is this: Some young monks are out visiting various Abbas. They visit one Abba and are rude to him. So he gives them a message to take to the next Abba. The message involves telling him “not to water the vegetables.” This alerts the next Abba to give them a challenging time, which he does, after he correctly interprets the message that the hapless rookies unknowingly bring to him from the first Abba.

The relationship of the two senior Abbas is very spiritual and deep, like the implicit married couple of Psalm 8. The Abbas actually communicate with each other by means of the words of the uninitiated “vegetable” young monks; parallel to this, we hear in Psalm 8, “in the sounds of babes and nurslings you have found praise to foil the enemy.” Indeed, the collaboration of the two senior monks has taught the young monks important lessons in the life, helping them to overcome their own deficiencies. The young monks would learn from this episode for years to come, as children learn so much from their parents.

This pairing, made by Merton, is particularly meaningful and humorous.

Verbum XII and Psalm 12

Abbot Arsenius, when he was still in the King’s palace, prayed to the Lord saying: Lord, lead me to salvation. And a voice came to him saying: Arsenius, fly from men and you shall be saved. Again, embracing the monastic life, he prayed in the same words. And he heard a voice saying to him: Arsenius, fly, be silent, rest in prayer: these are the roots of non-sinning.

Arsenius, before becoming a monk, was a gifted politician who had the ear and the respect of the Emperor. He was regularly at the royal court.

When Arsenius prays to Jesus, Jesus tells Arsenius to “fly from men.” Psalm 12, parallel to this Verbum, describes a sick society, in which people cannot trust each other. Perhaps this is why the Lord tells Arsenius to fly away from the corruptions of the royal court.

Psalm 12 also has a word cognate with “Yeshua,” Salvation, which is the aim of Arsenius’ prayer to Jesus (Yeshua).

The Lord’s first command is to “fly from men…” Once Arsenius has begun his monastic life, he starts hearing more from God, with greater multiplicity of various good meanings, such as light that goes through a prism and beams out great colors. The second communique from Jesus includes an expansion from one to three words, a triple command, “…fly, be silent, rest in prayer…”

Now, these apparently simple words dive deep into technical terms about prayer and life in the desert, as great monks like Evagrius developed with some systematic arrangement. We will not discuss this now.

Noteworthy, however, is the fact that the initial command of “fly from men” is reduced to a single word: “fly.” What might this mean? Psalm 12 is the second of the Psalms that form the Mystical Psalms Ladder, upon which angels (and hopefully humans) are flying. It is also Psalm 12 where the actual flight of the angels, in precise choreography, begins.

Verbum XVIII and Psalm 18

Abbot Macarius said: If, wishing to correct another, you are moved to anger, you gratify your own passion. Do not lose yourself in order to save another.

In Psalm 18, God is so angry that sulfur and smoke pour out from his nostrils, and he knocks the water out of the ocean. God saves the Psalmist in a dramatic rescue. In the Verbum, the elder tells the junior not to give way to anger.

Also, Psalm 18 is the third Ladder Psalm, and we learn how to climb the Ladder by working with our anger. We find ways of transforming the anger into the energies of Love. We can pray Psalms, exercise, make art, volunteer to help people, and much more.

Verbum XXXV and Psalm 35

One of the brethren had been insulted by another and he wanted to take revenge. He came to Abbot Sisois and told him what had taken place, saying: I am going to get even, Father. But the elder besought him to leave the affair in the hands of God. No, said the brother, I will not give up until I have made that fellow pay for what he said. Then the elder stood up and began to pray in these terms: O God, Thou art no longer necessary to us, and we no longer need Thee to take care of us since, as this brother says, we can and will avenge ourselves. At this the brother promised to give up his idea of revenge.

Psalm 35 begins, “YHWH, fight those-fighting-me, and battle those-battling-me.” In this arrangement, Merton has cleverly made the young monk assume the opposite stance of the Psalmist. While the Psalmist asks God to fight for him, the young monk decides to take the task of revenge upon himself.

By showing him the logical conclusion and folly of this plan, Abba Sisois shows him the error of his ways, and brings him back to the mindset of the Psalmist.

This is also the first of 5 Psalms (35, 70, 40; 42 & 43) that feature battling mantras (the victory of good Scriptural mantras over the bad mantras of nay-sayers and our own self-doubts). The mantra takes up the words of God as our sword and armor, as God fights for us within our prayer. However, we will save that for a future essay.

Verbum XLII and Psalm 42

A certain brother inquired of Abbot Pastor, saying: What shall I do? I lose my nerve when I am sitting alone at prayer in my cell? The elder said to him: Despise no one, condemn no one, rebuke no one, God will give you peace and your meditation will be undisturbed.

Psalm 42 is both a Ladder Psalm and a Pillar Psalm (of the Mystical Psalm Structures). We have another triplicate formula of advice from an Abba (there are three negative proscriptions, as we saw above in Psalm 1). Speaking of three, indeed, 3 x 42 = 126, and Psalm 126 shares important connections with Psalm 42, as we shall discuss below. Psalm 126 is also both a Pillar Psalm and a Ladder Psalm.

The action of Psalm 42 is this: Jerusalem has just been steamrolled by the mighty Babylonian army. The lone Hebrew wakes up as a slave in far-away Babylon. However, good things are happening, percolating down below the dismal topical arrangement of the sudden external situation:  With the temple gone, the patriarchal monarchy smashed, and the culture vanished, the lone Hebrew has to dig deeper and cultivate a genuine personal relationship with God. In this search for God, Psalm 42 opens with some of the best poetry of history: “As the deer yearns for running water, so my soul longs for you, O Lord. My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When shall I go and see the face of God?” The Psalmist yearns to return to Jerusalem, to community, and to the life they knew before. However, this is not possible. We can only live life forward. Yet, if we do live life forward, great things will happen.

The Psalmist is scared and lonely in faraway Babylon. However, she coaches her own soul, and repeats a Scriptural mantra-word that will give her strength. She perseveres and grows in strength and confidence. Additionally, her relationship with God deepens tremendously.

It is during this Babylonian Captivity that the Wisdom literature of the Israelites began to be composed. Also, the individual human being emerged in new ways at this time, as the individual had to rely less upon the society they knew in the past, and lean more upon their personal relationship with God.

In this Verbum, the same situation obtains for the young monk. He becomes anxious in his cell. He is in a radically new environment. He has left behind everything to come to the desert, largely similar to the protagonist of Psalm 42. Yet it is here that his relationship with God deepens greatly. Abba Pastor gives him a word that will remove his concern from the earlier horizons he is trying to leave behind, and helps him focus on God, Who, indeed, will give the young monk support.

Verbum LXXXVIII and Psalm 78

Some elders once came to Abbot Anthony, and there was with them also Abbot Joseph. Wishing to test them, Abbot Anthony brought the conversation around to the Holy Scriptures. And he began from the youngest to ask them the meaning of this or that text. Each one replied as best he could, but Abbot Anthony said to them: You have not got it yet. After them all he asked Abbot Joseph: What about you? What do you say this text means? Abbot Joseph replied: I know not! Then Abbot Anthony said: Truly Abbot Joseph alone has found the way, for he replies that he knows not.

This is a joyful gathering of the desert monks! And Abba Anthony is asking them questions about mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures! What Mystery and Joy!

And it concludes with something like a Zen koan, as Abba Joseph says that he does not know what the Scripture passage given to him by Abba Anthony means! Mystery upon mystery!

Additionally, Abba Anthony is proceeding in a very definite order. He starts with the youngest, arriving finally at the elder Abba Joseph.

Psalm 78 is a “maskil” by the wise wisdom writer, Asaph. It begins with an elder speaking to a group of listeners gathered about: “Listen, my people, to my ‘teaching’ (cognate with “Torah”), incline your ear to the words of my mouth. I will speak a parable, I will utter riddles/mysteries from antiquity.” And Psalm 78, a long Ladder Psalm, is imbued indeed with mysteries.

Merton has chosen mystery-gatherings and good deep discussion as the common ground for this pairing of Verbum and Psalm.

The Psalm goes on to consider the first generation of the Exodus, and all the subsequent generations that lead all the way to today. In the manner that this Psalm features a roll call of each generation until the present day, so too does Abba Anthony have the monks, from youngest to oldest, answer intriguing, exciting, mystery questions.

As Psalm 78 is also a Ladder Psalm, and there are features in the Psalm that have powerful, palpable connections to the Ladder: Abba Anthony’s moving in a linear fashion through the monks, according to the number of their age, is also a ladder-like feature of the Verbum.

Verbum LXXXIV and Psalm 84

One of the elders was asked what was humility, and he said: If you forgive a brother who has injured you before he himself asks pardon.

This is an understated Verbum about the glory of forgiveness.

Psalm 84 is about pilgrimage to the temple. It is one of the central Psalms of the Psalter, and is both a Pillar and Ladder Psalm. Perhaps only Psalm 128 is more central than Psalm 84. Skipping over much about Psalm 84, we can say that the journey to the temple, the voyage to the temple, the pilgrimage of life, is what this Psalm is about.

But for the Christian, the old stone temple does not even approach the infinite importance of another human person. As Paul says, “You are the temple of God.” And, “You are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.”

Merton chooses a saying that reveals a pinnacle of recognizing the temple of the Other Person: forgiveness. The Divine temple in you recognizes, the temple that is your heart, recognizes, remembers, and reverences the temple of the other, the temple that is your sister or brother.

The journey is reversed. The pilgrim does not travel to the stone temple seeking God’s forgiveness. Rather, the temple that is the living sister or brother, this temple picks himself/herself up and moves, walking to the offending person, and forgives that person.

The reversing of the direction of the pilgrimage also images the angels/persons traveling both up and down the Ladder, true to the text of Genesis 28 and John 1:51.

Verbum LXXXVIII and Psalm 88

Abbot Pastor said: Any trial whatever that comes to you can be conquered by silence.

Psalm 88 has the worst trials perhaps of any Psalm in the Psalter. It is the only Psalm that has no hope (at least on the surface level of its words). Yet Abba Pastor says that any trial whatsoever can be conquered by silence.

Certainly this speaks of the power of silence. What makes silence so powerful?

And the holy Abba almost personalizes these trials, saying that each of these trials “comes to you,” as if it were a messenger, or even a friendly assistant. What might this mean?

[By the way, these ancient sayings are not meant for literal interpretation and application to our lives today. Never would I advise modern people to merely shut up about their biggest injuries—every counselor knows that this is not the way to help people. Rather, Abba Pastor is saying this to a fairly senior and accomplished monastic person, who has a certain amount of maturity and experience already about their person. Today, when counseling people, we very much want to get people to talk and feel free to be open.]

Verbum LXXXIX and Psalm 89

Abbess Syncletica of holy memory said: There is labour and great struggle for the impious who are converted to God, but after that comes inexpressible joy. A man who wants to light a fire first is plagued by smoke, and the smoke drives him to tears, yet finally he gets the fire that he wants. So also it is written: Our God is a consuming fire. Hence we ought to light the divine fire in ourselves with labour and with tears.

If Psalm 88 is about the destruction of an individual person, then Psalm 89 is about the destruction of a nation and the end of the Davidic monarchy.

The smashing of the Davidic throne was promised when David sinned with Bathsheba (it is interesting that God also never liked the idea of a monarchy anyway, but the people insisted upon it (see 1 Samuel 8)). Paired with this Psalm, Merton chooses a story about a great lady monastic, Amma Syncletica.

David had “labour and great struggle” at many times of his life. In the stage of his life that might be called “the circumcision of David’s heart,” he emerges into a greater depth of personhood when he weeps uncontrollably at the death of his son Absalom.

So too, Amma Syncletica urges young monks to persevere through the difficult, even the worst, parts of the monastic life. To persevere through the circumcision of the heart; this challenging time is a process that may also occur in young monks’ lives and in our personal life too, and not merely in David’s. Then, we will score the goal, and the good fire will be ignited.

[After Psalm 88, the darkest of the “dark night of the soul” Psalms of one of the Mystical Psalm Structures, the Interwoven Menorahs blast into holy flame with the Resurrection of Psalm 96. Verbum XCVI celebrates the birth of charity in the human heart, which indeed is a miracle similar to that of Resurrection.]

Verbum XCII and Psalm 92

Once Abbot Macarius was travelling down from Scete to a place called Terenuthin, and he went to spend the night in a pyramid where the bodies of the pagans had been laid to rest years before. And he dragged out one of the mummies and put it under his head for a pillow. The devils, seeing his boldness, flew into a rage and decided to scare him. And they began to call out from the other bodies, as if calling to a woman: Lady, come with us to the baths. And another demon, as if he were the ghost of a woman, cried out from the body the elder was using as a pillow: This stranger is holding me down and I can’t come. But the elder, far from being frightened, began to pummel the corpse, saying: Get up and go swimming if you are able. Hearing this, the demon cried: You win! And they fled in confusion.

Psalm 92 features the strength of older virtuous people, who actually become more like fresh young trees. This humorous Verbum features the strength of people as they grow in virtue.

With the “lady” and the “baths,” we also have David’s sin with Bathsheba, who spotted her while she was bathing. And there are also the lecherous old judges of the Book of Daniel, who spied on the virtuous Susanna while she bathed, and hatched a plot to lie with her, and then to kill her when that scheme failed.

Perseverance. Evolution (both in our individual life, and as a Church and human family). By perseverance, we overcome the past sins of our souls, and emerge into healing and strength. “Confidence,” the word, means “with-faith-ness.” The faith we know blossoms in us in many ways, as we persevere.

Although Psalm 92 is not a Ladder Psalm, there are allusions in this Verbum to the Ladder. The “pillow” in the wilderness echoes the unusual rock pillow that Jacob slept upon when he saw the Ladder in Genesis 28. And the ancient ziggurat or pyramid, with their steps, also image the steps, like a Ladder, that connect heaven and earth. This story also overcomes the shame of the past, both in our individual lives, and in human civilization and history. [This overcoming of shame includes also the horrors of blood sewers of the two temples in Jerusalem, and the cult of animal sacrifice there; this Verbum considers this as well, but we’ll save that for a future reflection.]

Verbum CIII & CIV, and Psalms 103 & 104

A certain Philosopher asked St. Anthony: Father, how can you be so happy when you are deprived of the consolation of books: Anthony replied: My book, O philosopher, is the nature of created things, and any time I want to read the words of God, the book is before me.

Psalms 103 & 104 form an interesting pair. They both begin and end with the same formula, “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” These statements about the soul, appearing at the beginning and end of both Psalms 103 & 104, form an inclusio, a pair of powerful bookends, around the entirety of each Psalm of this pair. The Psalmist is saying: “The soul that is holy contains the content of Psalms 103 & 104.”

What, then, is the content of Psalms 103 & 104?  Their content is: Time and space.

Psalm 103 is not about mere time, but also about Salvation History, and the fascinating procedures and courses of redemption and atonement in the lives of individuals. Psalm 104 is not merely about space, but also about the sheer goodness, simplicity, complexity, and beauty of Creation, and the intrinsic compatibility of nature and humanity, in this cosmos that God has created.

Let us turn to the words of “Saint” Anthony, the only time in this book that someone is called a “Saint.”  Now, if we see a wonderful sunset, or a beautiful tree in springtime, we might say something like, “Wow, that sunset, or that tree, really makes one think of God’s beauty.” In a sense, we are learning about God in the Creation around us, a Creation that is created by God.

This is good. This is getting us into the habit of us making connections between the Creator, and the loving Divine Creator’s messages and gifts to us that appear in Creation. But this is not what Saint Anthony is speaking about here. Rather, Saint Anthony is speaking of something the Merton, in another book, calls, “natural theology.” Saint Anthony is talking about an ongoing, personal, real conversation with the Holy Spirit.

Saint Anthony is deep friends with the Holy Spirit. Decades earlier, Anthony had memorized the Bible. Anthony was now reading the direct signs of the Holy Spirit, personally tailored by the Holy Spirit for Saint Anthony to glean, in the environment around him. He is able to have a conversation between himself and God by observing the environment around himself, and responding to God in his quiet internal prayer. That is what Anthony, a Saint, is meaning in his response in this Verbum.

Today, in the time of Vatican II, which Pope Saint John XXIII says is the Second Pentecost, this same opportunity is available to us, if we cultivate our relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Something similar happens with Abba Moses back in Verbum XIII. Most of the desert monks were from Egypt or nearby. Abba Moses, who has a fascinating life story, was from sub-Sahara Africa. He had very dark skin, and was large and strong. Saint Abba Moses is a Saint in many Churches, including the Catholic Church.

A monk went to Abba Moses and asked for a good word. Abba Moses responded, “Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.”

When I first heard this Verbum, I thought a lot about prayer and the cell. Only later did I make the connection to John 14:26:  “The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything.” [Note too the Trinitarian aspects of the verse: When we get to know the Holy Spirit better, so too we are moving into the life of the Trinity more deeply.]

We see that Saint Abba Moses is saying something similar to Saint Abba Anthony. He is pointing to the developmental expectation for monks, that they will enter into this relationship with the Holy Spirit, who will communicate with the monk about everything.

This mature dialogue with the Holy Spirit has elements of humor on occasion. In Verbum CIV, there are some humorous notes, especially when compared with Psalm 104.

Reflection

One of the reasons for these apothegms, and for tracking the correlations between the Psalms and the numbered sentences of the ancients like Evagrius, Maximus, the Gospel of Thomas, Gregory Palamas, and more, all the way to Merton, is this: This sort of “recognition,” yes, this “image recognition,” is a central part of the languages of the Holy Spirit. As we enter more deeply into relationship with the Holy Spirit today, in the time of the Second Pentecost of Vatican II, this is great practice for learning how to communicate with the Holy Spirit.

Also, the cover picture for this essay is an icon of an Abba from the Egyptian desert. The icon is of St. Abba Mina (aka Menas) and Jesus. Indeed, the direct relationship that many of these monks shared with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Love, the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Jesus is shown in this icon.

Verbum CXIV and Surah 114

In the middle of the Verbum, Abba Agatho speaks of the “custody of the mind.”

Surah 114 is the final Surah of the Qur’an. Though short, it is enigmatic and not easy to understand. However, a central message of this amazing Surah is the vital importance of the custody of the mind.

For the Church, today is the time of Vatican II. Pope Saint John XXIII says that today, the currently blossoming event of Vatican II, is a Second Pentecost. What is a “Second Pentecost,” what does this mean? It means 1) a new immediacy of relationship with the Holy Spirit, and 2) a new birth of the Church. If the Holy Spirit will be coming closer than ever to individuals and communities, if this will be a greater event than those depicted in the Acts of the Apostles, then the conducting of our own interior life will be more important than ever. A forthcoming essay shall discuss this at greater length.

For its part, Psalm 114 has some of the most dramatic physical action of the Book of Psalms. At the event of the Exodus, mountains leap up and down.

As we learn how to work with the Holy Spirit, and as we become a far more greatly unified Church and humanity, we will have the ability to move mountains: If we learn how to listen to the Holy Spirit, and if we lovingly follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Additionally, Psalm 114 is a Psalm of the Ladder of the Mystical Psalm Structures. The jumping up and down of the mountains is an image of the climbing of the Ladder. Vaulting into the future of our calling, Surah 114 and Verbum CXIV alert us to the fact that the “custody of the mind” ensures that we shall continue climbing the Ladder to the heights that God wants us to achieve. If humanity can survive the near future, then God will lead us to remarkable things.

Verbum CXXVI and Psalm 126

Abbot Mathois said: Better light work that takes a long time to finish than a hard job that is quickly done.  [emphases added]

We discussed Psalm 42 earlier, and the deportation of the Hebrews who became slaves in Babylon. Among the 7 Pillar Psalms, Psalms 42 and 126 balance each other, as the 2nd and 6th Psalms of the Pillar, respectively. And Psalm 126 is the radically joyful return of the Hebrews to Jerusalem, as they returned from the Babylonian Captivity.

The joy of Psalm 126 is stupendous. The returning Israelites are like “dreamers,” and there is “laughter.” But this is the stuff of modern pop songs, not the ancient Scriptures! Yet here it is, in the Hebrew Scriptures. This return to Jerusalem and to the rebuilding of the temple happened because the virtuous Iranian emperor Cyrus defeated the Babylonians and decided to free the Hebrews, about 70 years after the Babylonian Captivity began. In the Book of Isaiah, YHWH calls Cyrus “My Shepherd” and the “Anointed.” (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1)

……………………….

At another level of meaning of the Verbum-Psalm pairing: The Israelites, during the Babylonian Captivity, were perhaps the first missionaries in human history, even if they were largely unaware of this role. They taught Babylonians about the One God. It was a work that initially took decades, before the return of many of the Hebrews to Jerusalem.

In this Verbum we have references to the Mystical Psalm Structures. It took centuries to weave them into the Book of Psalms. Psalm 126 is a very important Psalm. Also, in this mature Psalm reflection after the captivity, with Psalm 126 the Hebrews take into their language and Scripture words of their former slave-masters, who, with time, had become their spiritual children and friends. Psalm 126 is a model of all peoples working through hurt and hate to attain a unified humanity. For the last 2500 years, Iraq has had communities of Jewish people who have been full and joyful citizens of Iraq.

Verbum CXXVII and Psalm 127

The Fathers used to say: If some temptation arises in the place where you dwell in the desert, do not leave that place in time of temptation. For if you leave it then, no matter where you go, you will find the same temptation waiting for you. But be patient until the temptation goes away, lest your departure scandalize others who dwell in the same place, and bring tribulation upon them. [emphases added]

Psalm 127 celebrates the human family, and the family home. It forms a great pair with this Verbum.

Verbum CXXVIII and Psalm 128

Abbot Zeno, the disciple of Abbot Sylvanus, said: do not dwell in a famous place, and do not become the disciple of a man with a great name. And do not lay a foundation when you build yourself a cell. [emphases added]

Deeply connected with Psalm 127, Psalm 128 is an even more powerful celebration of the human family and the family home. Psalm 128 may be the most important Psalm of the Book of Psalms. It is a meeting place of many Biblical themes. Pope Francis gives us a beautiful interpretation of this Psalm in Amoris Laetitia.

Verbum CL and Psalm 150

A longer story closes the book with Verbum CL. This story features an interesting wedding, a birth, and several departures, and a radical new beginning.

Psalm 150 closes the Psalter. It is a short Psalm, and it is only half a Psalm. It opens to the glory of heaven, and of deeper life in Koinonia, community, and in God. There is music and dancing.

Conclusion

Merton, in his “Author’s Note,” twice says that there is no order to his book. Like Evagrius’ sidestep bravado and discussion of 153 fish, this is a rhetorical feint by Merton. He clearly has placed a complex and beautiful order into this work.

The reader’s recognition of the echoes between the Verbi of the ancient monks and the Psalms of the same number is great practice for learning the languages of the Holy Spirit. This is especially important for people to do today, in the “Second Pentecost” that is the era of Vatican II.

Note to the reader:

If you are interested in reading Merton’s book, it is easy to obtain a copy of his The Wisdom of the Desert. I would suggest that the reader temporarily forget this present essay, and read Merton’s book, and its 150 sayings of the desert monks, with fresh eyes. How do you find these amazing apothegms?

And Merton’s introductory essay is excellent.

Acknowledgment:

When I was a monk, I was privileged to take a course on the sayings of the desert monks, during studies in Rome. Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B., who taught the course, led us to see how deeply the Scriptures inform the words and the actions of the ancient desert Christians. Special thanks to Abbot Jeremy.

Jesus Christ Secretly Heals David’s Big Sin

Jesus Christ Forgives David
(An Analysis of Mark 2:1-12)

Jesus Christ secretly forgives David in Chapter 2 of Mark’s Gospel.

Before discussing this Gospel, we have to first review the David Story—the part that concerns his big sins with Bathsheba and Uriah.

David, after decades of his life and growth, his years of being hunted by deranged old king Saul, having his wives stolen from him, his many labors, and his childhood difficulties as the youngest of many brothers who didn’t like him—finally became king and consolidated Israel as a nation, for the first and only time in Israel’s history.

There is a nanosecond of bliss. In triumph, he brings the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, David himself dancing naked before it.

Then, just as things got good, the stunning and difficult springtime of 2 Samuel 11 happened. While David has legitimate hopes and desires, he also starts having visions of grandeur. When it is time to fight the battles of spring, he actually skips out of his role of leading his army, opting instead to stay home and have drinking parties at the palace, while his army fights. One afternoon, waking up from a rooftop nap, he spots Bathsheba, and abuses his authority by inquiring who she is. He was on the roof of his palace. This is Biblicalese: He was on the roof of his palace! His pride was bloated! He was a floating blimp of pride and hot air!

He again abuses his authority by having her brought to him. He seduces or rapes Bathsheba, who becomes pregnant. To cover his crime, he recalls her husband, Uriah, from the front, and receives a report from him. He then tells Uriah to go to his house. All that Uriah has to do is step into his own house for a moment, and he, not David, will be regarded as the father of the child, and the situation will be favorably resolved for David.

But Uriah, surprisingly, does not go home. He is such a loyal fighter for the nation that he sleeps, as did many others, right outside the doors to the royal palace, which was a sign of solidarity with the king and with the distant troops. Many people of Jerusalem slept outside David’s doors in times of battle.

The same thing happens the next night, even after David has made Uriah get drunk. Uriah won’t go to his own house. David’s plan, and even his kingdom, are in jeopardy.

David is flummoxed. He writes an order to his army commander, Joab, telling him to place Uriah into the lead position of the army’s attack, then to suddenly withdraw the army, so that Uriah, left without support, will be killed. He rolls up the paper order and places it into Uriah’s own hand, who dutifully takes it to Joab, and is then killed according to David’s plan.

“But the thing (Dabar, word, thing) that David had done was evil in the eyes of YHWH.”

David has just fallen from the zenith to the nadir of his existence.

Over the next decade of his life, YHWH opens up a can of whoop-ass on David.

There are many things involved in this long process. It is not the case that God is being merely vindictive; rather, God is doing deep surgery on the human heart, and empowering it for great growth. The forthcoming Red Line of Hope discusses this much more.

We jump forward a millennium, to Mark 2:1-12.

The scene seems simple enough. Jesus, the great holy man and healer, is in a crowded house teaching everyone about Reality. Four people bring a paralytic upon a mat, break through the top of the house, and lower him down to Jesus. Jesus congratulates them for their faith. He forgives the paralytic, then heals his body. The former paralytic leaves, presumably joyous. Jesus has a chat with the pharisees, the people are amazed, and the story draws to a close.

At a deeper level, this story is about:

-the precise healing of David’s sins, and

-the healing of each one of each person’s sins, and

-the further empowerment of humanity in the Holy Spirit, and

-the power of Faith.

The 1st verse of the New Testament mentions David, and the 6th verse of the New Testament alludes to David’s big sins against Bathsheba and Uriah. (Matthew 1:1, 6)

This sounds a clarion call: The New Testament, and the person of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, is about the redemption from sin, the healing from the effects of sin, and our empowerment in the Holy Spirit. Atonement, Old English meaning “at-one-ment,” is a key NT theme.

We shall see that David’s sin looms large in this episode of Mark.

Everything in the story has to do with Bathsheba, Uriah, and David.

Jesus is in the house; David was in his palace. This may seem like a loose initial correlation, and rather flimsy. It is, however, interesting that not many of the stories about Jesus take place indoors.

After this initial verse, the music of correlations, resonances, and text-to-text dialogue will deepen tremendously.

“At once there assembled many…”  Here we have a slight echo to people flocking to the king’s house in time of war, as discussed above. The verse continues, “…so as no longer to have room even at the door.” Remember, the people were crowding, spending the night, and sleeping at the door to David’s palace.

“And he spoke to them the Word (Logon).” This Word, taught by the Logos himself, this Word of Life, that penetrates the heights and depths and every level of Creation, stands in dramatic contrast to David’s anti-word, his letter of death, his divinely-bestowed royal power utilized, so wrongly, to selfishly destroy. This is David’s nadir, his horrible abuse of speech, language, communication, and hierarchical power, which should be used for good organizing towards a Just community.

The Zenith of Creation, God-become-Human, has come to rescue David and all people from this nadir, this low point, this terrible fall.

David the paralytic arrived, being borne by the number 4. Not 4 people, not 4 men—just the number 4.

Not being able to go into the house (recall Uriah not going into his house, and again the crowded door to David’s palace), they go to the roof (recall David’s roof), and they “unroof the roof where he was,” to put it literally. “And digging through, they lower the cot on which the paralytic was lying.” The Greek word for “digging through” almost has the sense of doing “excavation,” and that is definitely what the Evangelist Saint Mark and the Holy Spirit are doing here.

The cot was on the roof. David’s nap and cot were on the roof, and his sin with Bathsheba was on the roof. (And his son Absalom later raped 10 of David’s concubines on that same roof.) It’s as if all the sins of David and humanity are being examined, as the prophet Nathan said, in the “sight of this very sun,” and “before all Israel” (2 Sam 12).

David is the paralytic. His rectangular pallet is the rectangular letter he wrote to Joab that so hampered the rest of his career. He put the letter into Uriah’s hand. The 4 who carry the pallet are holding the pallet with at least one hand each.

Much of the artwork of this scene shows the four people lowering the pallet by ropes.

[The 4 women of the Red Line of Hope: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba, help lead humanity’s evolution to the fruit that is David and Solomon. The virtuous women and men who have helped our growth continue until today have helped this Gospel to be able to be written by Mark and read by us, and to show the inner meanings of the repentance for these sins, and how God and Christ remedy all sins for us, and how we continue to grow greatly with the closer friendship with the Holy Spirit that we now have.]

The royal road to Solomon, the son of David, was paved by David and Bathsheba, and by the loving presence of Wisdom-filled Ruth in that family too, and by all the virtuous people who led to that great development that was Solomon (a midrash says that Ruth was present too at Solomon’s coronation). Jesus Christ is a later son of David, and Mary and Joseph helped pave the way for him.

Jesus knows/sees the faith of the 4, of all the people who have helped humanity forward.

Jesus says to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”

The scribes squawk.

“But some of the scribes were sitting there, reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this person speak blasphemies? Who is able to forgive sins except One (1), God?’”

“And instantly knowing in his Spirit that such [is] the reasoning among themselves, he [Jesus] says to them, ‘Why do you reason these things in your hearts? What is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Rise and take up your cot and walk?”; but so that you may know/see that the Son of Humanity has the authority to forgive sins on earth’—he says to the paralytic, “To you I say, Rise, and take your cot and walk to your house.” He rose at once, and taking up his cot, went out before all, so that all were amazed, and glorified God, saying, “Never thus we knew/saw.”’

If David represents humanity, then Jesus has just healed David, and all humanity with him, in forgiving him. Jesus is at once a better prophet Nathan and a better wise king Solomon.

When this Gospel passage is read in the First Week of Ordinary Time (Friday), in the Catholic liturgical calendar, the Gospel Acclamation is from Luke 7:16, “A great prophet has risen in our midst and God has visited his people.” This would seem to relate to Jesus as a new prophet Nathan. Yet this verse is uttered in Luke right after Jesus raises a dead man and gives him to his mother; nearly Solomon’s first action as king is to give a son back to his mother. So we have Jesus as the new Solomon as well. And a Divine healer sent from God.

Such is the holiness and wisdom of those who prepare the Liturgy for the Church.

That liturgy’s First Reading is from 1 Samuel 8 (Year II), when the people demand a king. Neither Samuel nor YHWH is happy about this development. Having a king will be bad news for the people, as even the best of the kings, David, has shown. Yet God tells Samuel to go along with the desires of the primitive human community for now. There are many other connections between this First Reading and the Gospel.

The Psalm of this day is from Psalm 89. This is the Psalm where the Davidic monarchy is smashed, which disappointed the ancient Israelites. However, the short passage that is chosen today from this long Psalm is not about that event; rather, the passage today declares Beatitude, blessedness, upon those who walk in the light of the Lord (which we could interpret as relationship with God’s Holy Spirit). The Psalm passage concludes by speaking of God, or Jesus, as the true King.

Then we arrive at the Gospel, and the healing of the entirety of the human past, including the worst sins of all people; David’s sin, and its being forgiven, are held up as an example of the great forgiving power of Christ.

Christ then gives us the Holy Spirit.

A new epoch of humanity begins.

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Afternote:

This account of the David Story being addressed by Mark will be referenced in a forthcoming essay. One reason why this discovery is so important is:

David’s much earlier sin, which happened in the narrative of the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures), is hinted at in the New Testament. It is forgiven by Jesus, even though the Prophet Nathan told David that his sin had been forgiven by YHWH (2 Sam 12:13).

Why does Saint Mark, a great Evangelist, do this?

Let’s consider the elements of this story: David sinned. A time later, this sin is subtly alluded to in a different event. However, to those familiar with the story of David’s sin, especially David himself, the allusions to his earlier sins are simply unmistakable. The later events are meant to remind him of his earlier sins. It is as if an intentional coincidence, or Synchronicity, is intelligently functioning through the scene.

This model is exactly how the Holy Spirit works in our lives today!

Let’s see how this works:

First, why the reminding of our earlier sins?

Unfortunately, we’ve committed sins in earlier times of our life. Later, when the Holy Spirit comes to town, that is, when the more Spiritual phase of our life begins, we have the task of participating in the healing of our sins. As the forthcoming essay discusses, this is exactly what Peter and Paul do in Luke-Acts, the Scriptures written by the “Beloved Physician,” Saint Luke. Long after the time of David, Peter and Paul are actually real people, and Luke secretly narrates the healing that Jesus and the Holy Spirit perform in their lives; this healing is accompanied by their gradual, growing empowerment in the Holy Spirit.

Today, in the time of Vatican II, the Second Pentecost, all of us are offered this gift, this opportunity.

When this happens to the individual, a new epoch in our personal and communal life begins.

(Note the rope-like central column)

Jesus and Nicodemus; The Holy Spirit and Our Conscience

Jesus and Nicodemus;

The Holy Spirit and Our Conscience

(A very tiny Season-of-Easter essay)

 

The human conscience is not a stop sign.

For those human beings who, happily, have not obliterated their conscience[1], the conscience is actually the organ of communication with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God. We communicate directly with God through our conscience.

Yes, there are many times in our life when the human conscience stops us from doing things that are not good for us individuals and the family-community. In fact, the development and strengthening of our conscience is very often accomplished by obeying the voice of the conscience when it tells us to stop. But our understanding of the conscience should not end there. The conscience is far more vast, powerful, deep, and artistic than a mere stop sign. Through the conscience we begin the more conscious development of our living relationship with the living God. Through the conscience we learn how to become agents and athletes of the Holy Spirit.

 

Today’s Gospel

Mother Church loves all people very much. She teaches us.

So when Mother Church repeats our today’s Gospel on two consecutive days, we should really listen and attend to what She wants us to hear.

The Easter Octave has just ended, with Divine Mercy Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter. The 8 days of the Octave are also 1 day of Kairos time, the time of God’s eternity-beyond-time, which God wants to teach us to enter into.

Yesterday, Monday, was the first day of the Season of Easter. Yesterday’s Gospel was the beginning of the story of Nicodemus’ visit to Jesus, under cover of the night. Today, Tuesday, is the second day of the Season of Easter, which leads us all the way to the Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit begins the Church on the Feast of the Pentecost. The Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. (And when Pope Saint John XXIII said that our time today, the time of Vatican II, is a New Pentecost, he said something shocking for a Pope to say: He is saying that not only is our time today a new birth of the Church, a second birth, but also that this time today is introducing a new immediacy of relationship with the Holy Spirit. Wow!)

And today’s Gospel continues the Nicodemus story of John 3, but it repeats a part of it. Here is the repeated portion of yesterday’s and today’s Gospel:

“[And Jesus repeated to him] ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”                         -John 3:7b-8

Here in the first two days of the Season of Easter, we are already being led by the Church to consider the Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, and the human conscience.

Let us examine this amazing Scripture more closely:

“ ‘You must be born from above.’

The wind blows where it wills,

And you can hear the sound it makes,

But you do not know where it comes from or where it goes;

So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

This verse is an amazing crossroads, and junction, a growing joining-together of many key themes of the New Testament and of Christianity. Let’s focus on three of these themes:

-The Holy Spirit

-The Will of God

-The Human Conscience.                    And how these three work together.

 

The Holy Spirit

John’s Gospel is wondrous in how it teaches all of us about the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the Comforter. The Holy Spirit will teach us “everything,” says Jesus in his Farewell Discourse (John 13-17). Something remarkable is that the Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) words for “Spirit”: The Hebrew word, Ruach, and the Greek word, Pneuma, can both be translated as Spirit, breath, or wind. This is a remarkable coincidence, although it’s not really a coincidence. Synchronicity (including coincidence) is a sign of the Holy Spirit.

This Gospel begins by speaking of how we are to go through a second birth. This is obviously a significant event. In Mark’s Gospel, after Jesus’ Baptism, the Holy Spirit literally “drives” Jesus into the desert, for his 40 days of praying, developing his new relationship with the Holy Spirit, and fasting. When we meet the Holy Spirit, really consciously, for the first time, it can come as a bit of a surprise. It can even be a big surprise. Birth is difficult for both the mother (or the community) and for the baby being born (or the one being led to deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit). This second birth marks a new phase in our life, as Vatican II’s New Pentecost is just beginning now to form vital new ways of being Church and of living in closer harmony with the Holy Spirit of God….

 

The Will of God

Perhaps one of the best descriptions of the Holy Spirit is that the Good Spirit can show us God’s Will. Now, doing the will of “another” might seem like a burden, an unwanted set of tasks, and something to be avoided. However, God’s will is different. God’s will shall deliver to us precisely what is the absolute best for our ongoing life and development. The New Testament says that God “wills all people to be saved/delivered, and to come to a full knowledge of truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)

An early understanding of God’s Will could be this statement: “Whenever we do what is according to love and the Gospel and morality, we are abiding in God’s Will, and doing it.” Fair enough. It is good to teach our children that, and to always be examining our own lives to see if we are staying true to Christian teaching and morality. However, what if the Holy Spirit could lead us to be much, much more knowledgeable about what we could do to help God in a precise moment? If God should directly say to us in a given instant, “Don’t turn right up here, rather, turn left,” and we obey the Spirit’s quiet prompt, perhaps we’ll find ourself encountering someone a minute later who precisely needs our help. This makes us even more an effective soldier, ambassador, and agent of God. This makes us much more powerful construction workers of the Kingdom of God here, now, on earth. The Will of God empowers us to give greater love to the world, and to build our communities in joy. And by doing the Will of God, we begin to “put on” God’s knowledge. We learn far more about who God is, and how God works.

But how do we learn how to listen to the direct suggestions and messages of the Holy Spirit, and so to know and to do the Will of God? Ah, this is where the Human Conscience enters:

 

The Human Conscience

The Human Conscience is so very slightly alluded to in the Old Testament. Hebrew does not have a word for “conscience.” However, the persons of David, Elijah, and especially Daniel begin to point towards this mysterious development that God is calling forth within us.

In the New Testament, the Human Conscience, and our developing relationship with God’s Holy Spirit, is nearly on every page, and in many of the NT’s books the discussion emerges into plain sight.

Let’s look at John 3:8 more closely, with a bit of Greek. After Jesus repeats that we must be born from above, we hear:

“The Spirit breathes where [the Spirit] Wills….” Here we have two of the themes that meet at this joyful intersection: The Holy Spirit, and the Will of God. As the verse continues, we hear first of the wind, and the audible sound that the wind makes for us; but underneath the wind, St. John the Evangelist is teaching us about the Human Conscience: “The Spirit breathes where [the Spirit] Wills, and the voice of [the wind] you hear, but you do not know where he comes from or where he goes….”

Bishop Robert Barron has a wonderful video on the conscience, and in this talk, he speaks of Elijah. Elijah is on the mountaintop, and he knows that God is about to visit him, in person. There is a hurricane force gale that breaks rocks, an earthquake, and a fire, but God is in none of these. Then, there is a whisper, and the slightest breeze! And Elijah knows that God is here! He covers his face, and goes to speak with God.

Bishop Barron speaks of this as the awakening of the conscience.

And this will be much more understood and developed in the New Testament, for the Holy Spirit has already begun directly inspiring the early community, and the Gospel writers and other authors of the New Testament.

Through the Human Conscience we can, literally, have conversation with God. We can be in a state of direct communication with God. And perhaps this is the only way that we can navigate our Church, and lead the world, to a brilliant future.

 

Next station of wonder, next stage of the journey:

Once we cultivate our living relationship with the Holy Spirit, by obeying moral rules and obeying our conscience (and in this we show the Holy Spirit that we can actually listen and hear, which makes the Holy Spirit want to talk with us more and more), are there more ways in which the Holy Spirit will speak to us?

Does the Holy Spirit have languages, or systems of signs that the Spirit uses to teach and to guide us? The answer is: Yes.

Here again is the repeated portion of yesterday’s and today’s Gospel: ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

The last phrase indicates that people are used to certain shared realities in the hearing and understanding of the voice of the Holy Spirit. Can these be learned and taught? Yes.

 

Recap and Conclusion:

Absolutely, stop at the stop sign when the Holy Spirit and/or your conscience (or the rules) tells you to stop. And then immediately get ready, for a stop is always followed by an acceleration on this amazing road trip to the fullness of life.

 

[1] The continued abuse of political and social power, by those politicians and wealthy people who do anything to obtain more and more power, is the most trammeled path towards the destruction of the conscience. Without realizing it, they become walking taxis for, and rather effective instruments of, the demonic.

John’s Gospel’s Re-Presentation of the Four Women of the Red Line of Hope

John’s Gospel’s Re-Presentation of the Four Women of the Red Line of Hope

The previous appendix discussed how John’s Gospel recasts the David Story, and strives to show motifs of Salvation for all or some of the characters therein. It also demonstrates how John’s Gospel is making a powerful commentary on the refrain of Paul, that “We are all parts of each other.” (Ephesians 4:25; Romans 12:5)

This chart shows how the four women of the Red Line of Hope’s segment from the Hebrew Scriptures—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba—are all re-presented in stunning new ways in John’s Gospel.

 

Mother of Jesus (Mary), John 2                             Bathsheba (mother of Solomon)

First verse of chapter highlights importance of Mary, by saying that she is at the wedding, before the text even says that Jesus is there (John 2:1) Bathsheba’s importance is highlighted by Solomon setting out a throne for her.
The women of the RLH paved the way before Solomon arrived.
Jesus and his disciples invited to the wedding celebration (John 2:2) Adonijah holds a feast to celebrate his appointing himself as king (1 Kings 1)
Wine runs out David kills Uriah, destroys marriage of Uriah and Bathsheba
Woman, what to you and to me? David’s refrain to the three sons of Zeruiah, discussed above.
Do whatever he tells you Solomon basically says to Bathsheba: I will do what you tell me to do…. (1 Kings 2:20)
Jesus’ response, has, to this point, rejected Mary’s implied request. Then he does what she has asked him to do. Adonijah wrongly assumes that Solomon will do whatever his mother tells him to do. So he tries to get Bathsheba to get Solomon to give him Abishag, David’s last mistress.

Bathsheba tells Solomon that she has a request for Solomon the king. Solomon says that he will do whatever his mother asks him. She presents Adonijah’s request. Solomon, instead, executes Adonijah.

The master of the feast (a Wisdom figure) compliments the groom’s plans for the feast The Queen of Sheba (a Wisdom figure) compliments Solomon on his table, court, and more.
“The good wine.” Jesus is a far better development for humanity than Solomon. Solomon was extraordinary for his time.

 

 

Samaritan Woman at Well, John 4                                  Rahab, Book of Joshua

Initial discussion of Baptisms, around the Jordan River, by Jesus and/or his disciples, in John 4:1 In the beginning of the Book of Joshua, the Israelites crossed the Jordan, and the spies met Rahab at Jericho, near the Jordan.
Jesus comes to Samaritan city of Sychar, and meets the woman at the well 2 spies come to Jericho and meet Rahab
The main body of the party, the disciples, is missing and arrives later The main body, the Israelites, is missing and arrives later
The land that Jacob gave to Joseph his son…. (John 4:5) The patriarchs settled in the land of Canaan. Then, Joseph went down into Egypt, and his father Jacob followed him. More than 400 years later, Joshua will recommence the Israelite occupancy of Canaan, picking up where the story left off at the end of Genesis.
Woman at well is an outcast in her society;

 

After meeting Jesus, she will become an apostle to her people

Rahab is an outcast in her society;

 

Rahab remains on the outside also of Israelite society, all the way up to the Samaritan woman’s time….

Jesus was tired from the journey

(John 4:6)

When the two spies arrive at Rahab’s house after their journey, “they lay down there.”

(Joshua 2:1)

Woman speaks to the people after encounter; she becomes an evangelist of the Logos, the Word, Jesus Rahab speaks to the men of the city; lies to save the spies, ensuring the destruction of Jericho
Jesus stays there for two days…. The two spies stay there, and then sneak away
Jesus is alone; he has sent the Apostles ahead to get food for the journey. The two spies are alone; they have been sent ahead by the journeying Israelites to scout the land and prepare to destroy Jericho.
Jesus converts the city of Sychar. The Israelites destroy Jericho.
Woman has a bucket and a rope to draw water Rahab lets spies down the rope, then puts another cord, the shani (literal “Red Line” in the Red Line of Hope), and saves their lives.
She feels tension with Jesus because he’s a Jew; then she becomes a believer and an apostle, leading her people        (John 4:9ff) Rahab knows about YHWH; but the people of Jericho are annihilated by the Israelites
She does not have a husband now At the time, Joshua did not have a wife; Matthew says he married Rahab, see above
I know that Messiah is coming (the one called Christ); when he comes, he’ll announce all things to us.” I know that YHWH has given you the land….” (see Joshua 2:9-13)
Enter into labor of others Evidently, God promises Israelites that they will despoil the labor of others

 

 

Mary, sister of Lazarus, John 11 & 12                                Ruth, Book of Ruth

11:2   Using dramatic foreshadowing, John tells us that this is the same Mary of Bethany who will anoint Jesus in the following chapter. Acts and discussion of anointing/washing will happen in Chapters 11, 12, and 13, when Jesus imitates Mary in washing the disciples’ feet.

This episode will end with a sweet odor filling the house.

Using dramatic foreshadowing, the inspired author of the Book of Ruth, in the book’s final verses, points forward in time to the birth of David.

 

 

 

 

The tragic initial chapter of Ruth will lead to a glorious development in the house of Perez, foreshadowing David.

Mary’s brother Lazarus died, but Jesus raised him to life.

This will lead to Jesus’ death, followed by Jesus’ Resurrection.

Ruth’s husband died; she finds a new husband, Boaz, and they are important to Salvation History
He stayed/abode in the place he was for two days (John 11:6) Elimelech and his family “stayed” (Ruth 1:2) in Moab; additionally, in Chapter 1 of Ruth, forms of the word two appear nine times.
-Naomi departed from the “place” where she had been.
Let us go to Judea (11:7) Naomi tries to dissuade her two daughters-in-law from going with her to Judea. Ruth goes with her nonetheless.
The disciples warn him about returning to Judea, because the Jews are seeking to stone him. (11:8) Naomi hears that the drought in Judea is over, and so decides to return to Beth Lehem (house of bread) because God had given lehem (bread) to his people. (1:7)
If anyone walks in the day he does not stumble because he has the light of the day.

(11:9)

Ruth leaves the threshing floor of Boaz just when the early light is appearing, but before people could be recognized in the light. (3:14)
Lazarus’ “sleep” is interrupted, and Jesus is going to “wake him.” (11:11) Boaz’ sleep is interrupted by Ruth (3:8)
“Then Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘let us go, even us, that we may die with him’.” (11:16) The name “Thomas” is from the Hebrew word “ta’am,” meaning twin; his Greek nickname Didymus also means “twin.” At the end of the Book of Ruth, the twin Perez is oddly highlighted, twice, as the beginning of a new lineage.
The people console Mary and Martha (11:19) Her two daughters-in-law console Naomi
“Therefore Martha, when she heard that Jesus is coming, met him; But Mary was sitting in the house.” (11:20) After the night with Ruth, Boaz goes to the gateway of the city to meet the other potential legal ‘redeemer’, and has him “sit down here.” (4:1)
A bit later, Martha “called her sister Mary secretly, saying….”           (11:28)

 

 

The Gospels, Acts, and the Letters of the New Testament are full of hints and hidden lessons of many new modes of communication with the Holy Spirit.

“And she (Naomi) saw that she (Ruth) had strengthened herself to go with her, and she ceased to speak to her.” (1:18)
There may have been a deeper level of communication developing between the two women here. Naomi may have been teaching her new spiritual modes of communication.
Jesus “…troubled himself. And he said, ‘Where have you put him?’”   (11:33-34) Boaz “trembled…. And he said, ‘Who are you?’” (3:8-9)
Lazarus is raised from the tomb in one of the most shocking and open miracles of the New Testament. Jesus has explicitly prayed to God before the miracle, asking God to do this. God stays entirely silent during the Book of Ruth, except for the slightest spiritual hints. And God blesses everyone. Everyone in this story becomes happy. Later, the New Testament is a handbook for learning the new, quiet, very powerful communication of the Holy Spirit.
Lazarus emerges, “his feet and hands having been bound with sheets, his face being bound with a cloth.” (11:44)

Jesus then orders him to be untied, freed.

Ruth uncovers Boaz’ feet.   (3:7)
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, who had died, whom he had raised from the dead. (12:1)

 

As Bruno Barnhart shows in The Good Wine, Jesus is recreating the Creation in six new days. Parallel to Genesis 1, woman and man are being recreated on the Sixth Day of the New Creation. Specifically, Jesus’ four encounters with women in John 2, 4, 12, and 20 together comprise the Sixth Day.

Boaz pours six measures of barley seed into her garment. (3:15, 17)

 

When Boaz awakes from his sleep (like Adam), it is as if a new Creation is happening, and he asks the woman the beautiful and mysterious question, “Who are you?” The Book of Ruth may have been written much later than the books that surround it in the Hebrew Scriptures. It points forward to the radical surges of compassion that Jesus and the New Testament will bring to humanity.

Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with oil Ruth uncovers Boaz’ feet.   (3:7)
Mary pours the oil Boaz pours the seed into Ruth’s garment
Lazarus has new life Ruth has a new husband, resulting in new life, the birth of Obed, who leads to David and Solomon
God gives new life to Lazarus God kills Onan for spilling his seed (or for treating Tamar badly).   (Genesis 38)

 

God rewards Boaz for his kindness to Ruth and Naomi. Boaz marries Ruth, and becomes an important part of the lineage of Judah, leading to Jesus. Boaz has an important place in Salvation History because of his kindness.

Sweet odor in the house (12:3) Blessing of house of Boaz (and Naomi, and Ruth)

Near the end of the Book of Ruth, when the elders and people gathered at the gate witness Boaz when he says that he will redeem Naomi and marry Ruth, they say, “May YHWH grant the woman who is coming into your house (be) as Rachel and Leah, of whom both built the house of Israel.” These sisters, Rachel and Leah, are like Martha and Mary, friends of Jesus who help build the early Church. A bit later the people say, “And let your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.” We see here a moving, a progression, a focusing, from the entire people of Israel to the tribe of Judah. This will lead to the Christ Event, to Jesus. We also see the author of the Book of Ruth make a knowing nod to the Red Line of Hope, and the growing development of the Feminine in humanity and in society that will also lead to the Christ Event.

 

Mary Magdalene, John 20                                                Tamar, Genesis 38

Mary Magdalene goes to tomb, later searches for Jesus’ body (20:1; 11-18) Tamar goes to see age of Judah’s son Shelah (Genesis 38:14)
Mary Magdalene is like a widow searching for her lost husband. Tamar is a widow, searching for her promised husband, Shelah.
Later, Judah will send someone to search for his signet ring, bracelet, and staff.
Mary did not recognize Jesus (20:14) Judah did not recognize Tamar (38:15)
Mary mistakenly, though innocently, thinks that Jesus is the gardener of the garden. Judah mistakenly thinks that Tamar is a whore (zonah), and is later wrongly told that Tamar has played the whore.
2 angels are seated, wearing white garments Tamar had been wearing mourning clothes for a long time (black clothes) and puts on other clothing to view Shelah.
There are two angels in the tomb.

 

Tamar’s first two husbands, Er and Onan, had died.
Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? “Let her be burned.” Judah’s response upon hearing of Tamar’s pregnancy.
From whom he cast out 7 demons

(Luke 8:2)

 

Jesus tells Mary not to hold him physically yet.

Jesus mentions a time very soon when he will ascend to his Father in heaven.

 

Jesus tells Mary not to hold him yet.

Demon Asmodeus killed 1st 7 husbands of Sarah.

Then Archangel Michael and Tobias cast Asmodeus out, and the marriage is consummated.

Archangel Michael returns to heaven.

 

 

Judah is not intimate again with Tamar, upon realizing that she has borne him sons through which his lineage shall grow, all the way to Jesus.

Jesus gives Mary a message for his brothers (20:17) Er, Onan, and Shelah were brothers, all sons of Judah
6 days of Creation; 6th day Creation, fall, recreation

 

How John’s Gospel Incorporates and Saves the David Story

How John’s Gospel Incorporates and Saves the David Story;

Appendix [….] of The Red Line of Hope

 

The authors of John’s Gospel and Luke’s Gospel have woven the David Story very deeply into their own Gospels. In John’s Gospel, this is most readily apparent in the Farewell Discourse, Passion, and Resurrection events. These connections are strongly present also in Luke’s Gospel, particularly in Chapters 7 & 8.

Above we discussed how the enthronement scene of Solomon, and the consolidation of his kingdom, and the appearance of a momentarily integrated humanity in the dual throne of Solomon and the Feminine, is a high-point of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). And we considered how the dialogue of Jesus on the Cross in John 19 is an empowered refashioning of that scene, a realization, an event that promises and delivers both human development and great spiritual gifts to all of humanity.

The Hebrew term remez means a ‘hint’, particularly, a literary hint. These deft allusions happen throughout the Scriptures, and, by their very nature, they have a lot to do with intertextuality, that is, with different parts and different books of the Scriptures speaking with each other. Such hidden dialogues happen on every page of the New Testament, in its conversation with the Old Testament. Some of these are obvious and easy to identify, as when the Evangelists call Jesus “the son of David.” There are many ways in which we can and should interpret such New Testament allusions to earlier Scriptures.

Other instances of remezim are harder to identify. These operate by creating a mood or a situation, or sometimes a physical motion, that reminds us of something from an earlier Scripture. Often, there may be a repetition of just one or two words to cue us to make the connection. The slightness of some of these connections make them harder to identify.

Many of these remezim in the New Testament remain undiscovered, by and large.

Jesus, in Luke’s Gospel, chooses his 12 Disciples and delivers the Sermon on the Plain. After this, his ministry expands greatly into new territory.

Some very subtle allusions to both the David Story and the early chapters of Solomon’s reign appear at the end of the Sermon on the Plain and throughout Chapters 7 & 8 of Luke. These serve to connect Jesus to Solomon’s accomplishments, and to also highlight how much greater are Jesus’ gifts to humanity and the cosmos than are Solomon’s.

John knows well what Luke has done in his Gospel. It is after Jesus’ very challenging Bread of Life Discourse in Chapter 6 that John begins to deftly place more allusions to the David Story in his Gospel. The intensity of the Davidic allusions increases in Chapters 11 and 12, at the home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. Then, adding to the drama of the Paschal Events, there are powerful culminations of the Johannine reenactment of the David Story in the Farewell Discourse (John 13-17), the Passion, and the Resurrection events.

This chart shows connections between the Gospel of John and the David Story, specifically with 2 Samuel and early 1 Kings, although episodes from early 1 Samuel are here too:

 

John’s Gospel                                                            David Story

1:12 Tabernacled among us.

(The Logos (Word) became flesh.)

Solomon built the temple, beit, house
1:14 born of God -the births of David and Solomon are accomplishments of the Red Line of Hope.

(Luke 7, born of women, Kingdom of Heaven; also, Luke 7:35, where Lady Wisdom is a mother to Jesus and John the Baptist)

1:14 we beheld his glory, only-begotten of Father Solomon, son of David, is for a quick moment one of the more glorious people of the Hebrew Scriptures.
1:29 Lamb of God Absalom had his hair sheared annually, like a lamb. (See 2 Sam 14:26)
1:48 I saw you under (hupo) the fig tree Absalom suspended in the tree. (See 2 Sam 18:9-15)
1:49 you are the King of Israel Echoes of the recognition of Solomon as king.
2:1 The marriage at Cana, and the mother of Jesus there with his disciples.

 

Master of the Feast

Solomon’s coronation; Feminine integration; the arrival of Lady Wisdom/Bathsheba to Solomon’s Court.

The Master of the Feast is a male reflection of Lady Wisdom, who, in Proverbs, prepares her feast. So too do the wise women of the Red Line of Hope prepare Solomon to be a wise leader.

2:4 what to you and to me, Woman? This echoes David’s three statements to Joab and his brothers, “What do you sons of Zeruiah (David’s sister) have to do with me?” (Or variations on that statement)
2:10 “kept good wine until now.” History, positive, good developments, evolution. Good Feast of Human Growth. Lady Wisdom’s Feast.

And the joys of life in society.

Absalom’s servants kill his brother Amnon at the feast when his “heart is good with wine.”
2:12 mother and brothers and disciples

 

Jesus’ family and friends get along much better with each other than did David’s family, and Solomon’s.

Solomon’s brothers mentioned much in early 1 Kings action that’s required to solidify the kingdom
2:15 Jesus threw the money-changers out of the temple. Priests had to leave temple, when the Glory of God (Shekinah) entered the temple at its dedication (hanukkat). 1 Kings 8:10-11

-temple Solomon built now corrupt

2:21 temple of his (Jesus’) body With Pentecost, the human person and human community become the temple of the Holy Spirit. (See Appendix [….])
2:24 knew all Solomon’s wisdom
2:25 knew what was in humanity Solomon knew how the two women would react in the situation he planned. He also knew what the rebels were thinking and planning.
3:3 Unless one is born from above, one cannot see the Kingdom of God.

 

(There are early hints here of the languages of the Holy Spirit. This teaching will be greatly expanded later in the Fourth Gospel.)

-themes of blindness in early Red Line of Hope.

-Solomon establishes a strong kingdom. He becomes one of the early children of Lady Wisdom, as well. (See Luke 7:35, where Jesus and John the Baptist are, shockingly, said to be children of Lady Wisdom.)

3:4 Can one enter a 2nd time into the mother’s womb and be born? Zerah’s birth, where he’s born about 1½ times.

-More importantly, there are multiple kinds of birth and development a person must traverse to mature and to arrive at the Kingdom of God.

-Childish thinking of Nicodemus, who will grow greatly as an individual over the course of John’s Gospel.

3:5 Unless one is born of water and Spirit, one cannot enter the kingdom of God. Beyond the integration of the anima, of the Feminine, in the individual and in society, there is also a new birth in the Spirit. The New Testament is largely about this.
3:8 Spirit blows/breathes where it wills….

You hear the voice of it….

This teaching of Jesus becomes more available to humanity after the Pentecost. Pope Saint John XXIII says that the time of Vatican II, which is today, is a New Pentecost, a new immediacy of the Holy Spirit to us. That is a shocking thing for a Pope to say.
3:14 serpent in wilderness lifted up

 

(This is an allusion to Moses placing the bronze serpent on the pole during the Exodus. If the rebellious Israelites looked upon it, then they would be healed of the poisonous bites of the snakes that God sent among them.)

-Humanity looks up to the truths of the elevation-stories of Solomon and of Absalom to grasp the story of human growth.

-Humanity looks to Jesus on the Cross, and to Jesus’ Resurrection, to enter more deeply into belief and into the possibility of a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit.

3:17 not to judge the world Solomon is a wise judge and a king who uses violence to consolidate his kingdom.

Jesus does not use violence. This too shows human evolution.

3:29 friend of bridegroom Friend of David; friend of Solomon; see below
3:34 He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; he gives the Spirit without measure 1 Kings 3:28 They perceived God’s wisdom was in him [Solomon], to render Justice
3:35 the Father loves (agapai) the Son 2 Sam 12:24-25 God loved Solomon, Jedidiah
3:36 disobeying the Son, wrath of God on him See Psalm 2.
4   Women, water, and wells Jacob and Joseph are mentioned, and both patriarchs had encounters at wells.
4:9 “how do you talk with a . . . woman?”

Then, the talk goes internal! More so than ever before in the Scriptures, or in human history.

Early improvements in relations between women and men, as per RLH. E.g., David comforts Bathsheba 2 Sam 12:24
4:11 the well is deep, bathu

-the woman is a well, a spring

-the women is water, in a sense

-monastic psychology and much later Jungian psychology will associate the Feminine with water, psyche

The Greek word bathu reminds one of Bathsheba. John did this intentionally.

 

The woman mentions the vessel, and implicitly, the rope, that are needed to draw water from the well. The Red Line of Hope is imaged here.

4:16 go, call your husband David to Uriah, go to your house (& wife)
4:18     Five husbands, one now not husband

 

I perceive you are a prophet.

David stunned by nabi Nathan; 2 Sam 12

(At slightly greater remove, more postmodern and fractured; reassembling and realigning her troubled past and turning it into an instrument of Evangelization. This happens to David’s family’s life all through John’s Gospel.)

4:27 marveled he was speaking with a woman David’s comforting Bathsheba, anachronistic
4:28 left waterpot (and its rope) w men,

Goes to city and talks to people;

Man who told me all I did….

A fruit of the RLH is that women become Evangelizers too. End of Gospel, Mary Magdalene becomes Apostle to the Apostles.
4:36 sower and reaper rejoice together Name repetitions at beginning and end of the RLH story! And this whole chapter, John 4, is about RLH themes.
4:38 you’ve entered into their labor What Solomon, and later people, inherited from RLH, from earlier humanity, from our ancestors; more recently, from David
4:39-42 he stayed there two days;

They said to the woman, “No longer because of your words that we believe….

After two days he left….

Fruit of the RLH
   
4:46   Child of royal person (basilikos) healed

 

WHOLE (Greek: hole) house believed

First infant of Solomon and Bathsheba reunited with them, actually, in heaven.
-This is an early moment of Jesus’ healing of David’s whole family, his whole house, with startling intimacy, care, and precision
4:52   7th hour, son began to heal Allusion to Psalm 147, and the Mystical Psalm Structures, to be addressed in a future essay.
   
5:4 angel descending to the pool

 

 

(38 years immobile, top of Ladder/pool steps, Psalm 138)

2 Sam 2 and the knife fight at Pool of Gibeon, which is a negative parody of the Mystical Psalms Ladder; Yet John 5 is another positive Johannine image of the Ladder, and more specifically, a rehabilitation of the Pool of Gibeon parody image.
5:7 Jesus speaks to him about becoming ‘sound’ (similar to ‘whole’) six times. Process of healing humanity. This healing will be superseded by that of the blind man in Chapter 9.
5:47 Moses wrote concerning me Also, the whole David Story is retold and healed in John’s Gospel.
6:15 knowing they were to make him king Absalom and Adonijah made themselves king
6:60 hard is the word David to sons of Zeruiah, three times:

“You are too hard for me,” or variations of that.

Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel: Jesus performs a miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. In the latter part of the chapter, he gives the challenging bread of life discourse, and says that we must eat his body and drink his blood. This is very Eucharistic, of course.  

At Absalom’s banquet for the king’s sons, Absalom has his servants slay his older brother, Amnon, “when his heart is good with wine.”         (2 Sam 13:28)

At this point in John’s Gospel, the most exciting parts and the tragic parts of the David Story come into much closer harmony with each other and with John’s Gospel, with echoes from David’s adventures and tragedies appearing far more frequently throughout the Johannine text. Most of these Davidic parallels have to do with his battle with Absalom, his son.

Additionally, there are numerous resonances to the early years of Solomon’s reign, especially to the actions he took to solidify his kingdom, and the threat of his brother Adonijah usurping the throne.

7:24 Do not judge by sight, but by righteous judgment judge.

 

 

 

7:25 Is not this the man whom they seek to kill?

 

7:26 Christos (anointed one)

1 Sam 16:7 God says to Samuel, the Judge, when Samuel guesses wrongly about David’s brother, before David’s anointing as king:

“Do not look on his appearance….”

 

Between David’s first anointing and his becoming king, Saul tries to kill him often.

 

David becomes king, eventually

7:38 rivers of living water will flow from him Proverbs 21:1, king’s heart, now available to all people; again, Jesus taking Solomon event, makes it better, transforming it into something for all people who assent and desire it.
7:42 “Has not he Scripture said that the Christ is descended from David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?”

7:43 “So there was a schism….”

7:44 “They desired to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him”

 

The David Story

 

 

(David’s flights from Saul; later, his flight from Absalom’s rebellion)

7:46 never did a person speak like this person speaks (soldiers won’t arrest Jesus) God’s response to Solomon’s prayer, no one before or after you….

-Saul’s soldiers refuse to kill priests of Nob

7:53 and each went to his own house. -a refrain in the David and Solomon stories

This alternation between community/ communal events, and the fairly frequent return to their own homes for their own reflection, is a part of the process of evolution, during which we develop both more as individuals and more as members of the community. The growth of our own souls and self-understanding, and the growth of our skills as members of our communities, complement each other.

8:1 Mount of Olives

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus about to die, but will return.

 

(Judas is a conspirator, a traitor.)

 

 

Judas hangs himself (Mt 27:1-10)

 

Field of blood

“But David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, with his head covered and walking barefoot; and all the people who were with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went….”

 

David fleeing, but will return.

 

“Ahithophel was among the conspirators….”

(2 Sam 15:30; 31b)

 

Ahithophel hangs himself (2 Sam 17:23)

 

Joab tricks and murders Amasa, who is wallowing in his own blood, and gets moved to a field to die (2 Sam 20:12)

8:3 woman in adultery, standing her in middle Tamar almost burned; Bathsheba alone on roof
8:9 “by their conscience being convicted”

 

-these fellows quit their violent plans of false justice, begin earnest repentance.

-David completely convicted by Nathan. David’s anger towards false justice converted into repentance.

(Also, Daniel soundly convicts the wicked elders (judges) in Book of Daniel.)

8:15 you judge according to the flesh Again, God’s words to Samuel about judging
8:21-22 I go, and you will seek me David’s flights; several times echoed in John
8:23 I am not of this world Solomon’s wisdom given by God
8:31 If you continue in my Word Solomon’s warnings to Adonijah and Shimei
8:40 what I heard beside God Lady Wisdom, beside God   (Proverbs 8:30)
8:42 if God were your father, you would love me.

God wants to share the status, which Solomon alone had, with all people, except that the status is now so much more real and divine. Jesus makes us all children of God.

Psalm 2

 

The battles for kingship in the Hebrew Scripture stories are to determine the one-and-only king and heir to the throne.

8:56 Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad. Midrash [….] states that Solomon’s ancestor Ruth saw him enthroned as king. John the Evangelist knew this midrash.
8:59 In the previous verse Jesus says “I AM.” “Then Jesus was hidden, going through the midst of them, and passed by thus.” Jesus leaves the temple building.

We find here multiple echoes of Paul’s “You are the temple of God.”

The Shekinah, God’s presence, leaves the house Solomon built.
   
John 9 is about the healing of the man born blind.

The parents of the blind man are in the story too.

9:34 “You were born wholly in sins, and you are trying to teach us?”

Of course, at the beginning of the chapter, Jesus says that neither this man nor his parents sinned.

In the Book of Tobit, the Archangel Raphael instructs Tobias how to heal his blind father Tobit. This is largely about healing marital relations, including Tobit’s own.

After David, in lust, destroyed Uriah and his marriage: Psalm 51:5 “Indeed, in guilt was I born, a sinner was I conceived.”

Psalm 51 has an explosion of language about the human interior. Jesus is about the healing and expansion of the human person.

   
10:9 will go in and go out, find pasture David as military leader under Saul, lead the people in and out; and he was also a shepherd
10:22 Feast of Dedication Hanukkat allusion; Dedication of Human Person as new temple
10:23 Porch of Solomon 1 direct mention of Solomon in John’s Gospel
   
John 11 is about the raising of Lazarus, and the ensuing plot to kill Jesus.

 

11:3 Lord, the one who you love (phileis) is ill.

The word/names ‘Yonatan’ and ‘Lazarus’ are similar poetically. Each have 3 syllables, with the accent on 1st syllable, making a pair of dactyls.

 

See multiple rows below, where we discuss Martha and Mary, and Merab and Michal.

 

In both situations, Jesus and David learn…….

There are several levels of comparison going on here.

 

Jonathan and David were great friends. David laments Jonathan’s death at the beginning of 2 Samuel.

 

But it’s also about David and Saul, and David bringing a deeper love, agape, to the human community, or at least opening that possibility, which Jesus will then make available to all humanity.

from the Feminine. Crossing to new things.

11:2 Mary, sister of Lazarus, rubbing the Lord with myrrh, wiping his feet with her hair, or, the early prediction of this event that will occur in the next chapter, Chapter 12;

And Jesus will imitate this in Chapter 13, washing disciples’ feet

 

 

 

 

 

 

11:8 seeking to stone you

 

 

 

 

11:10 “walks in the night”….this is David’s nighttime mission of mercy alluded to here!!!!

Abigail’s mission of mercy in 1 Sam 25, imitated by David in next chapter, when David visits Saul’s camp by night not for violence, but for forgiveness and peace.

 

John’s bodily anointings and cleansings of Chapters 12 and 13, being foreshadowed in Chapter 11, is more echoing of the connection between the Abigail-David missions of mercy with the Mary-Jesus actions of mercy.

 

Saul had been seeking to kill David through several chapters, which reached a finale and a reversal in David’s mission of mercy. Recall also in 1 Sam 14 that Saul wanted to kill his own son, Jonathan. The people stopped him.

Back to David and Saul; Saul trying to kill David too, not only Jonathan

11:3 phileis, the one that Jesus loved.

11:11 “Our friend (philos) Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m going to awaken him.”

 

Reviving someone from the dead is a large event, and a cause of Jesus’ death.

-Luke, little girl is asleep….Jesus is mocked

-her spirit on-turns; Luke 8:55

-Literally, David woke Saul up in the middle of the night, to show mercy and forgiveness.

-the camp-visit night of great human evolution, woke to agape, and ennobled philia

      11:5 “Jesus loved (agapa) Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”

 

Martha and Mary also remind us of Saul’s 2 daughters, both of whom David marries or was engaged to, and both of whom are stolen from him by Saul:

Michal and Merab.

And their brothers, Lazarus and Jonathan, are both dactyls, poetically. The word/names ‘Yonatan’ and ‘Lazarus’ are similar poetically. Each have 3 syllables, with the accent on 1st syllable, making a pair of dactyls.

The inspired Evangelist John is setting the scene very intentionally.

   The sisters scold Jesus about Lazarus’ death. Palm Sunday follows soon after.

 

Michal scolds David for dancing naked before the Ark of the Covenant as it is brought into Jerusalem. David’s dancing is a forerunner of the Incarnation. (And of John the Baptist leaping in the womb, before the Ark of Mary, Mother of God.)
     11:6 remained in place he was

 

 

Heard he was sick

David and Jonathan’s archery communication, David hiding; strange ploy at first reading….

 

David’s sick-ploy to escape Saul’s troops, his wife helping him to escape.

     11:15   let us go to him (Lazarus) David and Abishai night mission to Saul’s camp,

to perform an early healing of Humanity.

11:16 Thomas the Twin says, “let us go die with him!” Echoes of Perez and Zerah

-1 Sam 18, Jonathan’s commitment to David, and they shared a soul….

(This will be developed more in a future essay.)

11:27 Martha says: “I have believed that you are the Christ coming into the world.”

-again, ‘anointed’, with kingly implications

Feminine version of Peter’s great confession of faith in the Synoptics: also, Peter at end of Ch 6.
11:31 consoling Mary David comforts Bathsheba, when infant dies
11:32 if you were here, my brother would not have died; some guilt implied The guilt of David’s sins against Bathsheba and Uriah; as if Bathsheba had said: “If you had not seduced/raped me and ordered my husband’s death, Uriah would still be alive.”
11:33 groaned in spirit, troubled himself…. Mourning of David, prematurely, for baby….

Time is warped throughout both stories! There is a strange play of cause-and-effect in the David story at the death of the infant of Bathsheba.

And there is temporal foreshadowing of several kinds in the 2 chapters about Lazarus and Martha and Mary….

 

-2 Sam 18:33 “The king was deeply moved” (at Absalom’s death). David’s authentic mourning. The new heart that David requested in Psalm 51 has been delivered to him, and it works—he weeps uncontrollably.

11:35 Jesus wept. David wept deeply for Absalom

-David eulogizing Jonathan, 2 Sam 1….

11:39 he already stinks….

 

He’s in the tomb/cave

David at his worst in the early stages of the Bathsheba episode.

The low points of humanity.

-also, 1 Sam 24, cave mercy scene

11:41 lifted stone; nuptial scenes, well scenes 1 Sam 14:33 Saul, “roll a large stone before me”
11:41 lifted eyes upward

-Lazarus, come out; “one having died”

 

-David follows Saul out of cave

 

-David wakes Saul’s camp in middle of night

11:46 some went to Pharisees, and told them what Jesus had done.

 

11:50 one man to die for nation, prophetic;

-discussed more below

Saul consults Urim and Thummim; Saul condemns Jonathan to death

 

-the plan of Ahithophel to kill only David, and return the people to Absalom; see below

11:52 scattered children of God he might gather into one 1 Sam 14 the people of God unify and rise up to prevent Saul from killing Jonathan
11:57 inform, so they might seize him (Jesus) David on the run from Saul
   
12:3 house filled w odor of myrrh

 

The outrages and sins of human history are redeemed by the story of Evolution, and by mature, evolved love, Philia and Agape

Forgiveness and healing of everything in David’s family and from his life.

(also, temple, beit, filling with Shekinah; temple becomes Humanity)

(That Mary’s hair now had myrrh is a sign that Absalom, like the infant, would meet the family again in Paradise….)

12:13 branches of palm trees The posterity of the Tamars (palm trees),

[The Forest of Ephraim, of Absalom’s death]

The rewards of the martyrs in Revelation.

12:13 King of Israel David & Solomon’s battles for kingship
12:19 Behold, the world has gone after him! Absalom’s rebellion, when many flock to him;

Forces David out of Jerusalem. 2 Sam 15:13, “The hearts of the Israelites have gone after Absalom!”

-Also, Saul’s jealousy of David, whom all loved

12:27 soul agitated

 

2 Sam 18:33 “The king was deeply moved” (at Absalom’s death); David’s mourning has levels
12:31 ruler of this world thrown out Eventually, Absalom defeated
12:32 When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people (and all things) to myself. Absalom’s does draw many Israelites to himself when he falsely elevates himself to the throne. He is lifted again in the oak tree, suspended “between heaven and earth,” in a powerful image of the Crucifixion of Jesus.
12:35 one walking in darkness Again, night mercy raid on Saul’s camp….
12:36 become sons of light Become people of mercy, as David strove for
12:40 blinded their eyes Lack of integration at Sodom and Gomorrah etc
12:42 many of the leaders believed in him Solomon still had many strong supporters.

As did David when he fled.

12:47 again, I came not to judge the world…. A maturing effect on the interpretation of the Torah. Much of the writing of Don Benedetto Calati was about this: a more mature interpretation of the Torah.
12:47 but that I might save the world A quiet Joseph/Genesis allusion
13:1 knowing that hour had come to move from this world….

Loving his own (idious) in the world, loved them to the end (telos)

1 Kings 1, David on death bed, ensures transition of kingdom to Solomon, and teaches Solomon more things.
13:2 devil put it into heart of Judas….

 

“You know in your own heart all the evil that you did to my father David.” (1 Kings 2:44) Shimei cursed David badly when David was fleeing from Jerusalem.

 

-Rebellions of Absalom and Adonijah

13:4 lays aside his garments

 

This is also preparing for the robe of light, Resurrection. Intertestamental literature speaks of this too.

Near the end of his life, David loaded with garments to keep warm.

1 Kings 1:1

13:5 water in the basin Solomon’s temple, bronze ocean.

temple transferred to the human person.

13:5 washes feet Nathan and Bathsheba bow to ground before David in 1 Kings 1

-also, David bows to new king, Solomon

It has been said that the Johannine footwashing scene is about the forgiveness of sins. When David is trying to cover his sin by calling Uriah back from the battlefront and getting him to go to his own house, his words to Uriah are, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” (2 Sam 11:8a) This is a low point of David’s treachery and abuse of power. (Yet even this can be forgiven by Jesus.) This is one example of how the mystical chords of Real connections are felt and maneuvered in the Body of Christ. The exquisite care and sensitivity that Jesus shows to David’s family will be shown to all of us.

13:10 he having bathed…. David’s sin against Bathsheba, whom David spotted while she was bathing. Peter, in the NT, is often cast in a similar light to David, although his sins are lighter than David’s, and his Spiritual gifts are far greater than David’s (thanks to Jesus).
13:12 reclining again -The second night that Uriah spends camped out in from of David’s palace, instead of his own house, shortly before his death.

-David on death bed, before the transference of the Kingdom to Solomon.

13:21 agitated in spirit 2 Sam 18:33 “The king was deeply moved” (at Absalom’s death); mourning multiple losses
13:23 one Jesus loved, reclining on breast 1 Sam 12, Nathan’s story about the ewe lamb reclining on man’s chest, stolen by David.
13:34 new commandment, Love one another Joab’s anger about David’s love of enemies, after Absalom killed. David is surprisingly Christlike in attitude here.

-David’s parting commands to Solomon, however, are not too Christlike. Counsels him to arrange the murder of Joab and of Shimei.

General discussion of God the “Father” and love Solomon’s many spoken references to his father, David, are mirrored and advanced by Jesus’ discourse about God, his Father.
14:1 Don’t let heart be agitated 2 Sam 18:33 “The king was deeply moved.” All the mourning in the Hebrew Scriptures.
14:3 Father’s house, many dwellings

-I go to prepare a place for you

-Solomon building house for God

-Before arranging Shimei’s death, Solomon commands Shimei to build himself a house in Jerusalem, and never to cross the Wadi Kidron.

14:5 we know not where you go

 

 

David’s hidden flight from Jerusalem; his pursuers trying to track him and his messengers.

When younger, David’s long flights from murderous Saul in the wilderness.

14:16 I will petition the Father, and another Paraclete he’ll send you Solomon’s prayer to God, and the gift of Lady Wisdom to Solomon. Jesus does not keep his Holy Spirit to himself, but liberally shares the Spirit with all of us who desire the Spirit.
14:26 Holy Spirit will teach you everything.

 

 

16:30 now we know you know all things

Lady Wisdom; and Solomon, great wisdom, knows very much, according to Queen of Sheba

 

The Wise Woman of Tekoa says to David:

“But my lord has wisdom like the wisdom of the angel of God to know all things that are on the earth.” (1 Sam 14:20b)

14:27 not as the world gives peace do I give peace 2 Sam 8:15 and 1 Kings 4:20,25 are the heights of the Davidic and Solomonic reigns. The peace of Christ is different even than the peace established by the blessed reigns of David and Solomon
14:30-31 ruler of this world is coming….

 

Rise, let us be on our way. [Very Peaceful]

 

 

crossing Kidron Valley (18:1)

(see 18:1 again below)

 

David’s flight from Absalom. Psalm 3.

 

“Rise up! Let us flee, or there will be no escape from Absalom!” 2 Sam 15:14

 

David crossed the Kidron Valley on his flight from Jerusalem. 2 Sam 15:23

15:2 the good branches he prunes…. David’s flight for his life! Spiritual humor.
15:3 you are now clean because of the word I have spoken to you David’s merciful treatment of Shimei during David’s flight, when Abishai wanted to lop his head off, pleased God, and furthered human evolution yet more.

-David’s moments of evolutionary mercy are what pleases God more than anything else in David’s life, even his conversions back to God after his sins, or his singing and celebration with God.

15:13 greater love than this no one has, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends Oh Absalom, that I had died instead of you!2 Sam 18:33     Except Jesus does actually die for us. David expressed a wish to do so after-the-fact, because he has learned more about love and reality.
15:15 I no longer call you servants but friends -Absalom mocks “friend” of David, Hushai. 2 Sam 15:37; 16:17.

 

-friend of Solomon: “Zabud son of Nathan was priest and king’s friend.” 1 Kings 4:5b

15:27 And you also witness, because from the beginning you are with me.

 

The previous verse speaks of the arrival of the Holy Spirit to humanity, in a far more complex way than the Ark approached Jerusalem:

“And when the Paraclete comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, who will witness concerning me.

“And you also witness, because from the beginning you are with me.”

Solomon’s words to Abiathar as he pronounces his expulsion to him, and why he let him live:

“The king said to the priest Abiathar, ‘Go to Anathoth, to your estate; for you deserve death. But I will not at this time put you to death, because you carried the ark of YHWH God before my father David, and because you shared in all the hardships my father endured.’ So Solomon banished Abiathar from being priest to the Lord, thus fulfilling the word of the Lord that he had spoken concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh’.”

                                               (1 Kings 2:26-27)

Jesus is very subtle in his words. He seemingly tells his disciples that they have been with him from the beginning, although in regular terms of human relationship, the disciples have only been following Jesus for two or three years. Jesus’ words about primordial connections to a shared beginning speak volumes about the overcoming of deep troubles between people, both individuals and far larger communities. The ancient possible sin of David in visiting slaughter upon Ahimelech and the priests of Nob, and his son Abiathar’s eventual treachery against David’s son Solomon, are caringly picked up, massaged, and healed here. Where Abiathar served God, but eventually betrayed David’s posterity, Jesus takes broken humanity and connects our mission of mercy and healing to the deepest service of God. Jesus is the healer of the deepest wounds. The comments below this chart speak more of this. (See also Appendix [….], “The Abimelech Errors.”)

16:1 These things have I spoken so that you may not be scandalized. St. John of the Cross: “Let nothing scandalize you.” See commentary below the chart, on how messy things happen in life, because of our evolution, and how Everything gets redeemed and ennobled and incorporated into the tapestry of life divine.
16:4 These things I have spoken to you so that when the hour comes, you may recall that I told you these things. Solomon’s entrapment and eventual execution of Shimei, with a discussion of words. (1 Kings 2:36-46)
16:21 The woman has grief when she bears, for her hour has come; but when she brings forth the child (paidion) she no longer remembers the distress, because of the joy that a [adult] human being (anthropos) was born into the world.* The victorious births of Tamar’s twins and Ruth’s child. And Hannah’s son Samuel. And Solomon, after their first baby died.

 

The emergence of Solomon, first integrated person…. This is a great work of the women of the Red Line of Hope. Humanity shown, in one verse, moving from childhood to maturity, integration. Jesus alludes here to the women of the Red Line of Hope.
Particularly, this has to do with the specific details of the emergence of Solomon, and his dazzling appearance at his enthronement. See immediately below:

16:23 Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. Adonijah assumes that Solomon will do whatever his mother Bathsheba requests. So Adonijah asks Bathsheba to ask Solomon is he can take David’s last mistress, Abishag.
Solomon executes Adonijah.

 

(This also shows Solomon’s own progression from child to man, and also shows Solomon’s mature detachment from his mother, with whom he still works closely.)

*This birth scene also goes much farther back, to 1 Sam 4:19-22. After Eli’s wicked son Phineas is killed in battle, his wife gives birth, and there are many allusions to this birth scene in the brief Johannine commentary by Jesus. See the comments below the chart. Even after Israel has lost its glory and the Ark of the Covenant, and when its leaders are corrupt, and the birth of a child seems pointless and insulting, even this low point is converted into a victory in Christ, as described by John’s Gospel. The child’s name, Ichabod, means “the glory has departed [from Israel],” but this is only short term.

The Ark of the Covenant was lost in the battle that killed Eli’s sons, Phineas and Hophni, when Ichabod was born. However, the Ark found its way back to Israel a short time later. So too, Jesus, who was born in the New Ark, Mary, will be killed in mere hours, but will return in glory a few days later.

16:25 I will plainly reveal…. Solomon’s wisdom, see 1 Kings 4:29-34
   
17:1 he looked up to heaven

 

The Priestly Prayer of Jesus, John 17

-Solomon’s dedication of the temple: “Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly is Israel, and spread out his hands to heaven.” (1 Kings 8:22)

 

-Solomon’s prayer to God, and before that, for wisdom to lead the people

17:11 that they may be one, as we are one Solomon loved the Lord (1 Kings 3:3);

Solomon’s organized kingdom….

   
18:1 Jesus went forth with his disciples across the Wadi Kidron, towards Jesus death…. David flees and crosses Wadi Kidron

-Solomon forbids Shimei, who cursed David on his flight, from ever crossing the Wadi Kidron

18:2 Judas knew the place Hushei actually tricks Absalom, while Absalom thinks that Hushei is a traitor to David (2 Sam 5-14)
18:3 So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers Absalom’s armed invasion of Jerusalem.
-also, Adonijah’s posturing.
18:10 Simon Peter draws sword, cuts off ear of the servant of the high priest

 

 

-Judas betrays Jesus, leads priests’ soldiers to Jesus.

 

-Jesus tells Peter to put sword in sheath.*

 

 

-Jesus has just crossed the Wadi/Valley Kidron.

 

-Jesus tells Peter that he must “drink the cup.” This is very Eucharistic. And while John’s is the only Gospel without an official “Institution of the Eucharist,” John 6, and John 13-17, and many other parts of the Gospel are Eucharistic.

 

(John 7:32; 45-49) The temple police of the chief priests and the Pharisees refuse to arrest Jesus, because never has anyone spoken like him.

David, fleeing Saul, visits Nob and chief priest Ahimelech. Saul then executes these priests. (1 Sam 21-22)

 

-Doeg the Edomite betrays David and actually kills the priests at Saul’s command.

 

-David takes the sword of Goliath from Ahimelech, which is in a cloth behind the ephod.

-Ahimelech reminds David that he slew Goliath in the Valley of Elah.

 

-David and his men eat the holy showbread.

(See also Matthew 12:1-8, where Matthew makes a fascinating interpretation of this scene at Nob. John was familiar with Matthew’s discussion of Nob.)

 

 

1 Sam 22:17 Saul’s soldiers refuse to kill Ahimelech and the priests of Nob. So Saul has Doeg the Edomite kill them.

 

*A more powerful resonance to Jesus’ command to sheath the sword is when David unsheaths Goliath’s sword to cut his head off. At 1 Sam 17:51, David “took his [Goliath’s] sword and drew it out of its sheath,” and dispatched Goliath. In this scene in John 18, Jesus is signaling a major paradigm shift in humanity, and pointing forward to a time of non-violence, and is already moving in that direction. He is here actively reversing the human instinctual response of violence, and replacing it with love, forgiveness, and awareness of God’s plan for us.

(See also 2 Sam 20:8, for Joab’s sword-out-of-sheath treachery.)

(Finally, in the Johannine scene, a person’s ear is cut off. Perhaps this shows that violence hurts our capacity to listen, which is a most important skill for us to have if we are to become closer friends and co-operators with the Holy Spirit. So violence is anti-Spiritual and anti-evolutionary. Violence is most often a regression for people working with the Holy Spirit.)

18:13 the high priest high priest Abiathar supporting the rebellion of Adonijah (1 Kings 1)
18:14 And Caiaphas was the one who advised the Jews that it was advantageous for one person to perish for the people. “’I will strike down only the king, and I will bring all the people back to you as a bride comes home to her husband. You seek the life of only one man, and all the people will be at peace.’ The advice pleased Absalom and all the elders of Israel.” (Ahithophel’s counsel at 2 Sam 17:2b-4)
18:15 courtyard of high priest; Woman who guarded the gate

 

 

You are not one of this man’s disciples, are you? Peter protests, and says he doesn’t know Jesus.

2 Sam 17:17 servant girl brought news to David’s messengers; another woman hid David’s messengers, saving them and David.

 

-David’s friend Hushai outwits Absalom, and says that he has left David, and serves Absalom now. Hushai helps save David.

18:33 Are you the King of the Jews? The contests and battles about who is king
18:36 If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting…. This is a big difference from earthly kingdoms
   
19:2 crown of thorns and purple robe Absalom, his head and hair, in tree
19:3 Hail the King of the Jews! Absalom and Adonijah hailed as king, falsely. David and Solomon were rightly hailed.
19:5 Behold the man!

                     (Jesus is innocent)

You are the man!           (2 Sam 12:7)

(David is guilty, utters Psalm 51)

19:6 chief priests and officers cried, “Crucify him!” David urges restraint for Absalom, that his life might be spared. (2 Sam 18:5)
19:11 You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above.

 

Another lesson from this: Jesus’ actions mirror actions by almost everyone in the David Story. Jesus identifies with EVERYONE. Even Adonijah, Absalom, and others. Such is the depth of Jesus’ understanding, redemption, and forgiving sacrifice. Again, this is a Johannine teaching of Paul’s image of the Body of Christ.

Adonijah says to Bathsheba, “You know that the kingdom was mine, and all Israel had set their faces toward me to reign; yet the kingdom has been turned around, and is my brother’s, for it was his from Yahweh.” (1 Kings 2 :15)
19:13 sat on the judge’s bench Absalom, before rebellion, sitting by the road into the gate, making judgments and wanting to administer justice, according to himself (2 Sam 15:1-6); insults the reign of the king, his father David.
19:15 we have no king but Caesar Antagonists of Psalm 2
19:16 handed him over

19:17 place of the skull (Golgotha)

After Absalom’s rebellion, head of rebellious Sheba tossed over wall by wise woman (of Abel of Beth-maacah) to Joab and army.

-Also, the Hebrew of 2 Sam 18:9 says that Absalom is caught in the tree by his head.

19:18 this side and that More echoes of David between the two gates, awaiting word of his son
19:25 his mother; 3 or 4 women total, the Greek supports either reading The four women of the Red Line of Hope, right before the most important verses of all:
19:26-7 when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother.’ And from that hour, the disciple took her into himself….* This is the central Scriptural moment for the topics of the Red Line of Hope. Its parallel is Solomon’s enthronement scene, and the adjacent throne being set up for Bathsheba, on Solomon’s right.

Soon after this, Solomon reunites the male child with his mother.

19:28-30 Knew all was finished, delivers up Spirit to his disciples. David knew his death was imminent, crowns Solomon as King. (1 Kings 1-2)

Also in 19:25, there are three or four women in the scene, and at least three of them have the name “Mary.” This is, among other things, a chiastic connection to the three Tamars of the Red Line of Hope.

*The Beloved Disciple took the “mother of Jesus” (Mary, the Feminine, Wisdom, anima-integration) into himself, as discussed above. Lady Wisdom is a ‘type’ of the Holy Spirit. This movement of the Holy Spirit into the heart of humanity is a great development at the end of a long process. Recall that the Ark of the Covenant traveled with Israel for 40 years in the desert. It traveled with them in Canaan, as they settled and integrated there. Later, David gloriously led the Ark to Jerusalem. Then Solomon led the Ark to the newly built temple, and housed it (semi-permanently) in the Holy of Holies. Then, a long time later, a new Ark, Humanity, is built up and is prepared to receive the Holy Spirit. In the light of John 19:26-7, let us review again the moment of the housing of the Ark in the new temple’s heart, the Holy of Holies: “Then the priests brought the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the Holy of Holies, underneath the wings of the Cherubim. For the cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the Ark, so that the Cherubim made a covering above the Ark and its poles.” (1 Kings 8:6-7) There are powerful parallels between the housing of Jesus’ mother in the heart of the Beloved Disciple, the Pauline teaching of the new temple of the Holy Spirit as being Humanity, and the earlier housing of the wooden ark of the covenant in the stone temple.

19:29 branch, with sponge, raised to Jesus’ head for him to drink on the Cross Absalom’s head in “thick branches of a great oak” (2 Sam 18:9)
19:30 bowed his head David bowed his head to King Solomon
19:34 pierced his side with spear. Joab killing Absalom in tree with javelins in heart.
Gave up the Spirit

 

Here, and in John 20, Jesus breathes and gives the Holy Spirit to the Church, the Body of Christ

Shekinah leaving Solomon’s temple….
19:39 Nicodemus, 100 pounds, linen cloths 2 givers of gifts to David and army in retreat
19:41 burial of Jesus Burial of Absalom
   
20:1 stone removed from tomb Saul, before preparing to kill his son Jonathan, orders a stone to be rolled for an altar

-also, various nuptial encounters at wells with cover stones needing to be moved away, in the Hebrew Scriptures.

20:4 the two disciples were running together;

One outran the other

This is very important about human evolution!

The two messengers running to David, with news of victory/ Absalom’s death.

The messenger to Adonijah, of Solomon’s enthronement. Also, where Adonijah thinks messenger has good news, but it’s bad news for him. This parallels David’s expectations of Ahimaaz (2 Sam 18:27-30).

Messengers, and angels, all through John and the David Story.

(Also, the two messengers running at night to bring spy information to David, during Absalom’s rebellion.)

 

20:6 Simon Peter goes in, sees sudarion separated from the other linens.

 

20:12 Two angels sitting in perhaps adjacent places to the two groups of cloths, at the head and feet of where the body of Jesus had been.

Both of these separations, of various burial cloths and of the parallel angels, are reminiscent of David being between the two gates, as he waited for the (two) messengers, one of whom explicitly carried word of the death of Absalom. (2 Sam 18)

Absalom himself was caught in a very “in-between” situation, for when he was in the heart of the oak tree, he was “between heaven and earth,” just as the crucified Jesus was.

While rules are important in many ways, there are times in life when rules are not at the forefront of our thought. Good conversation, making art, thinking, etc., are times for freedom from some of the constraints of rules. However, rules enabled us to get to the place where those higher developments of life could happen. There is a creative tension between Peter and the Beloved Disciple (whom many consider to be John, Apostle and Evangelist). The younger and more spiritually-connected John arrives at the tomb first. But then he waits, to allow the leading, authoritative Apostle, Peter, to enter the tomb first. Peter also represents the Institution of the Church and its rules and hierarchies. John represents individual fruition and the freedom of life in the Spirit that Paul speaks of so much. John also represents Spiritual intuition, and the direct following of the guiding suggestions of the Holy Spirit (rather than legislated laws). Something about this scene points to a time, especially in the future, when rules can lessen, because humanity will know discipline (as the highly-disciplined Jesus did) and we will know, all of us, a far-more-full relationship with the Holy Spirit. Of course, Peter and John are two great friends on the same mission for the Church—there are two angels in the place where the Resurrection happened. Pope Francis’ beautiful Amoris Laetitia is an example of the mature Church, in the light of Vatican II’s New Pentecost, beginning to bring into the decision-making processes of the Church a more acknowledged presence of the Holy Spirit, and a more immediately translatable input of the quiet suggestions of the Holy Spirit.

This very positive development is foreshadowed by another development in the David Story. After the battle against Absalom, Ahimaaz son of Zadok has an interesting conversation with Joab about being the messenger to David the King, regarding the victory in the battle, and the death of Absalom. Then, Ahimaaz takes off after the first messenger, already sent by Joab, and overtakes him, arriving to David first. David, informed of his imminent arrival while he is yet running, says, “He is a good man, and comes with good tidings.” (2 Sam 18:27) (In 1 Kings 1:42, during Adonijah’s insurrection, Abiathar’s son Jonathan brings him bad news, while Adonijah expects him to bear good news; rather, Adonijah’s ruse to take the crown has failed.) The two messengers, in these two rebellions, Ahimaaz and Jonathan, are sons of the two priests Zadok and Abiathar, respectively. Earlier, both Ahimaaz and Jonathan were the most effective spies for David during Absalom’s rebellion. However, during their jobs not as spies but as messengers, they both carry seemingly bad news for David or Adonijah. Ahimaaz, however, does not deliver the full report, regarding Absalom’s death, to David. He allows the following messenger, whom he has overtaken on the way, to do that. Rather, his secret news is actually good, but in a different way than David might expect; It has to do with the ongoing purification of humanity, as we are being prepared to receive the Holy Spirit.

Not long after Absalom’s death, something understated but positively miraculous happens in the preparations for the minor rebellion of the Israelite named Sheba, a Benjaminite and a “scoundrel.” Prior to this, at the battle against Absalom’s forces, Abishai rises almost to a position of equality with Joab, the leader of the army (see 2 Sam 18:2). Abishai leads 1/3 of the army, as does Joab. Later, during the rebellion of Sheba, is when the new development occurs: It is Abishai, who for one brief shining moment, is actually leading David’s army! At 2 Sam 20:6-7, Abishai is actually the one who leads out “Joab’s men” to the battle. However, in the action to surround the city with Sheba, Joab falls back into command, and receives the head of Sheba from the wise woman of that city, and the rebellion is over.

Recall that Abishai is the one of the three brothers, the three “sons of Zeruiah,” who is the most pliable to the intelligent and often spiritual leadership of David. Asahel, the animal-like “gazelle,” was killed by Abner with the backwards end of a spear. Joab was treacherous. But Abishai on several occasions actually learns from David, and becomes a better human being. Abishai represents the growing portion of the human will that can be brought into harmony with the Will of God, as expressed to us today by the Holy Spirit.

This event of Abishai momentarily taking control could be seen as merely David being angry with Joab for killing his son Absalom, and therefore demoting Joab for a short time. However, it represents enormous advance, and potential future advance, for our relationship with God, in the growth of our soul and our moral intelligence. Abishai did lead, if only briefly. It may be one of the most important culminations of the Old Testament, and it’s hardly noticeable at first reading. All of this is also in the background as the Beloved Disciple and the Saint Peter are sent by the message of Saint Mary Magdalene in a race to the tomb of Jesus at her word of the Resurrection.

20:11 Mary stood at the tomb weeping outside David weeping
20:12 Mary and 2 angels David & 2 ‘messengers’ (word also for ‘angels’)
20:13 Woman, why are you weeping? 2nd Tamar weeping, Absalom’s dumb question

-Eli’s question to Hannah, mother of Samuel

-Joab to David, about David’s mourning

20:14 Sees “disguised” Jesus standing there Dissembling, lying messenger to David “stood there” after told to do so by David….
20:19 doors locked Tamar, Amnon;

Also, faint regression to man-pack of Sodom and Gomorrah, but in a much more innocent way, obviously….

20:19 Peace to you David’s blessing to Absalom before his trip, on which the war of rebellion began;

-words between Bathsheba and Adonijah

20:22 receive the Holy Spirit Shekinah going into Solomon’s temple. In this Johannine scene, of course, the human person has already replaced the temple as the locus of God’s dwelling.
20:24 Thomas….called the Twin Perez and Zerah (not Rebecca’s twins)
20:26 again, passes through locked doors

-peace be with you (3rd time)

-2nd time, a week apart, that Jesus appears in this way

Healing of the locked doors of Amnon’s inner chamber, and of harm done by Sodom and Gomorrah and the harm done by the Benjaminites of Gibeah to humanity.
20:27 Thomas the twin puts his “hand” through the wound of the risen Christ (into the Spirit womb of Christ). Zerah puts his “hand” through the birth canal, and then is pulled back into the womb.

This is a very powerful chiastic closure with the entire story of the Red Line of Hope.

-Thomas, whose Hebrew name Ta’am means “Twin,” and who is given the Greek nickname of Didymus, also meaning “Twin,” here balances and reciprocates the action of Zerah, who has on his “hand” the original Red Line of Hope, placed there by the midwife to Tamar.
-Note also how there are allusions, within verses of each other, to the two Tamars, at the beginning and end of OT’s discussion of the Red Line of Hope story.

20:28 My Lord and my God, said by Thomas

 

 

 

21:2 Thomas, called the Twin, and Nathanael mentioned, right next to each other.

Chiastic closure with beginning of Gospel, Nathanael’s proclamation “you are the son of God, you are the King of Israel” (John 1:49).

[Also, Psalms 5 & 145, “my King and my God”

-more chiastic symmetry]

More resolution and chiastic closure.

   
Distance between Peter and Christ; they’re close, despite Peter’s minor betrayal Distance between David and Saul, 1 Sam 26; very great distance, as David evolves and grows far beyond Saul’s major betrayals.
   
Breakfast—unlike anything in earlier Scripture  
Peter’s final complaint—like siblings arguing; also a mature discussion on the faith.  

 

What does all this mean? What is this about? Why does John limn so many connections to the David Story, the Red Line of Hope, and the early “Solomon story” into his own Gospel?

Certainly, the religious and literary meanings of the Johannine echoes of these Old Testament accounts are supremely important in themselves.

But could there be another set of things occurring here?

Recall that throughout the Farewell Discourse (chapters 13-17), Jesus spoke about how the Paraclete, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, would come to us, and would teach us “all things.” (John 14:26)

And when he was dying on the Cross, he “delivered up the Spirit,” giving us the Holy Spirit in his final breath. (19:30)

And when he visited the Apostles after his Resurrection, he breathed upon them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (20:22)

So while John never explicitly writes of the Pentecost, it appears at junctures in his Gospel. Jesus gives us the new relationship with Holy Spirit, as John depicts in many ways.

Pursuant to this, now we all have to skillfully shift gears: The Holy Spirit communicates directly with us. We can learn how to read the Spirit’s signs and languages. We can become better interlocutors with Divine inspiration, better conversationalists with, and far more effective agents of the Holy Spirit as we learn how to read these signs. Synchronicity, for example, is a language of the Holy Spirit. Psalm-based arithmetic is another. There are many languages of the Holy Spirit.

And these languages of the Holy Spirit are a new world that John’s Gospel wants to teach us. This is especially the case in the light of Vatican II’s New Pentecost, today, in this moment.

 

Image Recognition

              All of these sets of allusions to earlier Scriptural accounts, especially to the David Story and the Red Line of Hope, serve as practice for us in learning how to read the signs of the Holy Spirit.

All of these allusions are stocked with meaning, imbued with deep lessons that the Scriptures want to impart to us. Many of these lessons have to do with our living lives today.

Plato speaks of image recognition. (And Mark’s Gospel specifically speaks of one of Plato’s dialogues.) We, in the school of the Holy Spirit, become better at recognizing. When comparing two different Bible passages, or when comparing a Bible passage to one of our lived experiences, we recognize repetitive situations, word echoes, parallel actions, similar emotions, and much more. We enter into deeper, and more constant, communication with the Holy Spirit.

In our own lives, when there are coincidences, or when things remind us of something else, or déjà vu, or Synchronicity, it may be that the Holy Spirit is inviting us to consider these things, and so to discern a lesson that we can learn therein. Such lessons are brimming over with human and Spiritual content.

All of these duplications, echoes, resonances, repetitive patterns, and situational rhymes that we discover in the Bible are training us to recognize the communication of the Holy Spirit in our lives today. While becoming more skilled in these recognitions, we’ll be better agents for the Holy Spirit in the world.

Much of our life’s work has to do with healing the violent tendencies within us, such as the tendency to separate ourselves from others. And many of the connections between the David Story and the Gospel of John are arcs, beautiful grand arches, that show us ways of transformation, growth, maturity, healing, and empowerment, as we transform these deep energies within us away from violence, and towards love, mutual care, and concern for our neighbor, our community, and our world.

Jesus Christ is the perfect human being who is also God. Matthew’s Gospel and the New Testament begin by saying that Jesus is also a new and vastly better take on the person of David, who was king, priest, and prophet.

David is a very alive human being, who clearly pursued God in his life and often strove after virtue. He tried to be the best person he could be, even if there were troubles both in the world and in David’s childhood and memory. David was punished for his sins and also received many gifts from God, and rewards for the great things he did.

In a sense, David was a model for humanity, especially an earlier humanity, closer to his time. He grew closer to God in his life. There were many good events in his life, and his son Solomon was another amazing fruition of his development. Solomon became the great wise king, even if this did not last for long and the kingdom began to disintegrate. He was an integrated human being, and this allowed for his wisdom to reach profound new levels.

So the trajectory of David’s life, including the positive developments in his son Solomon’s life, show a sort of merger, a slow and gradual coming together of the divine and the human.

Jesus, of course, takes this reality to a totally new level. He is God and he is human.

All human lives are invited to grow in holiness. All humans are invited to welcome the Holy Spirit’s direct communication and presence into their own lives, in the light of the Pentecost. Athanasius said that God became human so that humans might become divine. Iranaeus said that the glory of God is a human being fully alive. And the 2nd Letter of Peter says that we are invited to be partakers in God’s own nature! A major part of Eastern Christian theology (and to a somewhat lesser extent, Western Christianity too) are the many teachings of deosis, in which a main purpose of humanity is to grow closer to the Divine and to join the Divine.

Great. So we are invited to grow in perfection, and to scale the heights of the Divine.

But then a reality hits us, sometimes hard. Our lives are messy, often, and the world has gross unfairness and difficulties. So is it even possible to aim for perfection and constant growth in virtue, in the fallen world and situations in which we find ourselves?

John’s Gospel gives us hope.

The Fourth Gospel reaches, with profound depth and precision and care and respect, into the troubled lives of David, Bathsheba, Solomon, Joab, Absalom, Tamar (all of the Tamars), and the people of Israel, and shows the way forward to integration and wholeness. By taking the brutal violence and treachery of the characters in Israel at the time of the David Story and the Hebrew Scripture portions of the Red Line of Hope, John’s Gospel is doing multiple things.

First, it’s showcasing our human evolution, and the beauty of our progress. We owe our ancestors a great deal of respect and gratitude, especially the ones who persevered through ice ages by being better at extracting bone marrow from animal carcasses than other early folks were. They had so many difficult times. So too we see amazing and beautiful throes of life’s growth in the life of David. His bad times are gathered and exemplified by Absalom, who is stuck between heaven and earth, as he’s hanging pitifully in the oak tree—the agonized icon of evolution. David’s accomplishments and good times are exemplified by, and brought to a fruition by, the elevation of Solomon at his coronation.

All of this is brought to a greater development and fruition by Jesus’ Crucifixion and the events at the Cross in John 19. A major purpose of this present book has been to show this.

These developments shows both evolution and Spiritual progress in the guidance of the Divine.

Directly related to this is another development that speaks to all of us: The redemption of the characters of the David Story, much later, in John’s Gospel, are speaking to us today! These healings of David and his family, friends, and peers are about the redemption of our own lives, here and now.

John’s Gospel has taken the mucky parts of the David Story and the Hebrew Bible and transformed them into parts of the most beautiful and intimate 11 chapters that humanity has known (Chapters 11-21 of John’s Gospel).

David’s treacheries and Joab’s bloodlust and the Tamars’ hurts and Absalom’s misplaced sense of justice and Phineas’ wife’s birthing Ichabod in misery, all of which are painful and horrible, all get transformed into intimate scenes and parts of the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection. In the light of the Resurrection and of the glory of our evolution in the light of Christ and the arrival of the Paraclete to us, even the Crucifixion, in John’s Gospel, becomes a place of glory, a dynamic center of reconciliation and joyful human development.[1]

God remembers the least and most forgotten and the most backwards, lost, and misdirected of people. Again, even the wicked lout Phineas, the son of Eli, whose wife gave a difficult delivery to his son after his death in battle, gets somewhat redeemed. The passage about the difficult birth of Phineas’ son Ichabod (1 Sam 4:19-22) is rehearsed and transformed into joy in John 16:21, as the above chart discusses. The sheer panic of David’s flight from Jerusalem, when his son Absalom was trying to murder him, when David screams to all in the palace, “Let’s get the heck out of Jerusalem!” is converted into Jesus’ gentle and firm, “Rise, let us go hence….”

One thousand years after Solomon, Paul writes, twice, that “We are all parts of each other.” (See Ephesians 4:25 and Romans 12:5)

John’s Gospel, by converting and transforming the most troubling episodes of the Old Testament into joyful and intimate new reality, shows us meaning and shows us the way forward as humanity, as a human family.

And the Holy Spirit gives us new languages to help us, which we can learn starting now.

The lives of each one of us are to be found in the Gospel. Not only is the David Story found in the Gospel, but so is Your Story and My Story.

God loves us and wants us to grow into the glories that God is planning and preparing for us.

Isaiah talks about the scarlet quality of some of the sins of people. These can be forgiven and transformed.

Our lives, no matter how fallen and bad they were in the past, can be rescued and our actions can become loving and meaningful. Before “the silver cord is snapped, and the golden bowl is broken,” the thread of our life is right now being sought after by God to be woven into our meaningful evolution (Ecclesiastes 12:6). God rescues the storyline of our life. God the divine weaver is desiring the strand of your life and mine. Each one of our lives can become a thread, a red and multi-colored line of hope in the tapestry of creation and salvation.

[1] Metropolitan Bishop Kallistos Ware’s brilliant The Power of the Name concludes by calling on us to be “dynamic centre[s] of reconciliation.”

How John’s Gospel Incorporates and Redeems the David Story

How John’s Gospel Incorporates and Redeems the David Story;

An Appendix of The Red Line of Hope

              The authors of John’s Gospel and Luke’s Gospel have woven the David Story very deeply into their own Gospels. In John’s Gospel, this is most readily apparent in the Farewell Discourse, Passion, and Resurrection events. These connections are strongly present also in Luke’s Gospel, particularly in Chapters 7 & 8.

Above we discussed how the enthronement scene of Solomon, and the consolidation of his kingdom, and the appearance of a momentarily integrated humanity in the dual throne of Solomon and the Feminine, is a high-point of the Old Testament. And we considered how the dialogue of Jesus on the Cross in John 19 is an empowered refashioning of that scene, a realization of a promise, an event that promises both human development and great spiritual gifts to all of humanity.

The Hebrew term remez means a ‘hint’, particularly, a literary hint. These deft allusions happen throughout the Scriptures, and, by their very nature, they have a lot to do with intertextuality, that is, with different parts and different books of the Scriptures speaking with each other. Such hidden dialogues happen on every page of the New Testament, in its conversation with the Old Testament. Some of these are obvious and easy to identify, as when the Evangelists call Jesus “the son of David.” There are many ways in which we can and should interpret such New Testament allusions to earlier Scriptures.

Other instances of remezim are harder to identify. These operate by creating a mood or a situation, or sometimes a physical motion, that reminds us of something from an earlier Scripture. Often, there may be a repetition of just one or two words to help us to make the connection. The slightness of some of these connections make them harder to identify.

Many of these remezim in the New Testament remain undiscovered, by and large.

Jesus, in Luke’s Gospel, chooses his 12 Disciples and delivers the Sermon on the Plain. After this, his ministry expands greatly into new territory.

Some very subtle allusions to both the David Story and the early chapters of Solomon’s reign appear at the end of the Sermon on the Plain and throughout Chapters 7 & 8 of Luke. These serve to connect Jesus to Solomon’s accomplishments, and to also highlight how much greater are Jesus’ gifts to humanity and the cosmos than are Solomon’s.

John knows well what Luke has done in his Gospel. It is after Jesus’ very challenging Bread of Life Discourse in Chapter 6 that John begins to deftly place more allusions to the David Story in his Gospel. The intensity of the Davidic allusions increases in Chapters 11 and 12, at the home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. Then, adding to the drama of the Paschal Events, there are powerful culminations of the Johannine reenactment of the David Story in the Farewell Discourse (John 13-17), the Passion, and the Resurrection events.

This chart shows connections between the Gospel of John and the David Story, specifically with 2 Samuel and early 1 Kings, although episodes from early 1 Samuel are here too:

 

 

John’s Gospel                                                            David Story

1:12 Tabernacled among us.

(The Logos (Word) became flesh.)

Solomon built the temple, beit, house
1:14 we beheld his glory, only-begotten of Father Solomon, son of David, is for a time one of the more glorious people of the Hebrew Scriptures.
1:29 Lamb of God Absalom had his hair sheared annually, like a lamb. (See 2 Sam 14:26)
1:49 you are the King of Israel Echoes of the recognition of Solomon as king.
2:24 (Jesus) knew all Solomon’s wisdom
3:8 Spirit blows/breathes where it wills….

You hear the voice of it….

This teaching of Jesus becomes more available to humanity after the Pentecost.

Pope Saint John XXIII says that the time of Vatican II, which is today, is a New Pentecost. That is a shocking thing for a Pope to say.

3:34 He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; he gives the Spirit without measure 1 Kings 3:28 They perceived God’s wisdom was in him [Solomon], to render Justice
3:35 the Father loves (agapai) the Son 2 Sam 12:24-25 God loved Solomon, Jedidiah
4   Women, water, and a well Jacob and Joseph are mentioned, and both patriarchs had encounters at wells.
4:9 “how do you talk with a . . . woman?”

Then, the talk goes internal! More so than ever before in the Scriptures, or in human history.

Early improvements in relations between women and men, as per RLH. E.g., David comforts Bathsheba 2 Sam 12:24
4:11 the well is deep, bathu

-the woman is a well, a spring

-the women is water, in a sense

-monastic psychology and much later Jungian psychology will associate the Feminine with water, psyche

The Greek word bathu reminds one of Bathsheba. John did this intentionally.

 

The woman mentions the vessel, and implicitly, the rope, that are needed to draw water from the well. The Red Line of Hope is imaged here.

4:16 go, call your husband David to Uriah, go to your house (& wife)
4:18     Five husbands, one now not husband

 

I perceive you are a prophet.

David stunned by nabi Nathan; 2 Sam 12

(At slightly greater remove, more postmodern and fractured; reassembling and realigning her troubled past and turning it into an instrument of Evangelization. This happens to David’s family’s life all through John’s Gospel.)

4:27 marveled he was speaking with a woman David’s comforts Bathsheba, anachronistic
4:28 left waterpot (and its rope) w men,

Goes to city and talks to people;

Man who told me all I did….

A fruit of the RLH is that women become Evangelizers too. End of Gospel, Mary Magdalene becomes Apostle to the Apostles.
4:46 Child of royal person (basilikos) healed

 

WHOLE (Greek, hole) house believed

(The time of the healing, the 7th hour, could refer to Psalm 147, in which God heals the broken-hearted.)

First infant of Solomon and Bathsheba reunited with them, actually, in heaven.
-This is an early moment of Jesus’ healing of David’s whole family, his whole house, with startling intimacy, care, and precision
5:47 Moses wrote concerning me Also, the whole David Story is retold, and healed, in John’s Gospel.
6:15 knowing they were to make him king Absalom and Adonijah made themselves king
6:60 hard is the word David to sons of Zeruiah, three times:

“You are too hard for me,” or variations of that.

Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel: Jesus performs a miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. In the latter part of the chapter, he gives the challenging bread of life discourse, and says that we must eat his body and drink his blood. This is very Eucharistic, of course.  

At Absalom’s banquet for the king’s sons, Absalom has his servants slay his older brother, Amnon, “when his heart is good with wine.”         (2 Sam 13:28)

At this point in John’s Gospel, the most exciting parts and the tragic parts of the David Story come into much closer harmony with each other and with John’s Gospel, with echoes from David’s adventures and tragedies appearing far more frequently throughout the Johannine text. Most of these Davidic parallels have to do with his battle with Absalom, his son.

Additionally, there are numerous resonances to the early years of Solomon’s reign, especially to the actions he took to solidify his kingdom, and the threat of his brother Adonijah usurping the throne.

7:42 “Has not he Scripture said that the Christ is descended from David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” The David Story of the Hebrew Scriptures

 

8:1 Mount of Olives

 

 

Jesus about to die, but will return.

(Judas is a conspirator, a traitor.)

 

Judas hangs himself (Mt 27:1-10)

 

Field of blood

“But David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, with his head covered and walking barefoot; and all the people who were with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went….”

David fleeing, but will return.

“Ahithophel was among the conspirators….”          (2 Sam 15:30; 31b)

 

Ahithophel hangs himself (2 Sam 17:23)

 

Joab tricks and murders Amasa, who is wallowing in his own blood, and gets moved to a field to die (2 Sam 20:12)

8:3 woman in adultery, standing her in middle Tamar almost burned; Bathsheba alone on roof
8:9 “by their conscience being convicted”

 

-these fellows quit their violent plans of false justice, begin earnest repentance.

-David completely convicted by Nathan. David’s anger towards false justice converted into repentance.

(Also, Daniel soundly convicts the wicked elders (judges) in Book of Daniel.)

8:40 what I heard beside God Lady Wisdom, beside God   (Proverbs 8:30)
8:56 Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad. Midrash [….] states that Solomon’s ancestor Ruth saw him enthroned as king. John the Evangelist knew this midrash.
10:23 Porch of Solomon one direct mention of Solomon in John’s Gospel
John 11 is about the raising of Lazarus, and the ensuing plot to kill Jesus.

 

11:3 Lord, the one who you love (phileis) is ill.

The word/names ‘Yonatan’ and ‘Lazarus’ are similar poetically. Each have 3 syllables, with the accent on 1st syllable, making a pair of dactyls.

 

See multiple rows below, where we discuss Martha and Mary, and Merab and Michal.

 

 

There are several levels of comparison going on here.

 

Jonathan and David were great friends. David laments Jonathan’s death at the beginning of 2 Samuel.

 

But it’s also about David and Saul, and David bringing a deeper love, agape, to the human community, or at least opening that possibility, which Jesus will then make available to all humanity.

11:2 Mary, sister of Lazarus, rubbing the Lord with myrrh, wiping his feet with her hair, or, the prediction of this event that will occur in the next chapter;

And Jesus will imitate this in John 13, washing disciples’ feet

 

 

 

 

 

 

11:8 seeking to stone you

 

 

 

 

11:10 “walks in the night”….this is David’s nighttime mission of mercy alluded to here!!!!

Abigail’s mission of mercy in 1 Sam 25, imitated by David in next chapter, when David visits Saul’s camp by night not for violence, but for forgiveness and peace.

 

John’s bodily anointings and cleansings of Chapters 12 and 13, being foreshadowed in Chapter 11, is more echoing of the connection between the Abigail-David missions of mercy with the Mary-Jesus missions of mercy.

 

Saul had been seeking to kill David through several chapters, which reached a finale and a reversal in David’s mission of mercy. Recall also in 1 Sam 14 that Saul wanted to kill his own son, Jonathan.

 

Back to David and Saul; Saul trying to kill David too, not only Jonathan

11:3 phileis, the one that Jesus loved.

11:11 “Our friend (philos) Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m going to awaken him.”

 

Reviving someone from the dead is a large event, and a cause of Jesus’ death.

-Luke, little girl is asleep….Jesus is mocked

-her spirit on-turns; Luke 8:55

-Literally, David woke Saul up in the middle of the night, to show mercy and forgiveness.

-the camp-visit night of great human evolution, woke to agape, and ennobled philia

      11:5 “Jesus loved (agapa) Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”

 

Martha and Mary also remind us of Saul’s 2 daughters, both of whom David marries or was engaged to, and both of whom are stolen from him by Saul:

Michal and Merab.

And their brothers, Lazarus and Jonathan, are both dactyls, poetically. The word/names ‘Yonatan’ and ‘Lazarus’ are similar poetically. Each have 3 syllables, with the accent on 1st syllable, making a pair of dactyls.

The inspired Evangelist John is setting the scene very intentionally.

11:31 consoling Mary David comforts Bathsheba, when infant dies
11:32 if you were here, my brother would not have died; some guilt implied The guilt of David’s sins against Bathsheba and Uriah; as if Bathsheba had said: “If you had not seduced me and ordered my husband’s death, Uriah would still be alive.”
11:35 Jesus wept. David wept deeply for Absalom, and his own sins; David eulogizing Jonathan, 2 Sam 1….
11:39 he [Lazarus] already stinks….

 

He’s in the tomb/cave

David at his worst in the early stages of the Bathsheba episode.

The low points of humanity.

12:3 house filled w odor of myrrh

 

The outrages and sins of human history are redeemed by the story of Evolution, and by mature, evolved love, Philia and Agape

Forgiveness and healing of everything in David’s family and from his life.

 

(That Mary’s hair now had myrrh is a sign that Absalom, like the infant, would meet the family again in Paradise….)

12:13 King of Israel David & Solomon’s battles for kingship
12:19 Behold, the world has gone after him! Absalom’s rebellion, when many flock to him.

Forces David out of Jerusalem. 2 Sam 15:13, “The hearts of the Israelites have gone after Absalom!”

-Also, Saul’s jealousy of David, whom all loved

12:27 soul agitated

 

2 Sam 18:33 “The king was deeply moved” (at Absalom’s death); many meanings
12:31 ruler of this world thrown out Eventually, Absalom defeated
12:32 When I am lifted up from the earth, draw all people (and all things) to myself. Absalom does draw many Israelites to himself when he falsely elevates himself to the throne. He is lifted again in the oak tree, suspended “between heaven and earth,” in a powerful image of the Crucifixion of Jesus.
13:1 knowing the hour had come to move from this world….

Loving his own (idious) in the world, loved them to the end (telos)

1 Kings 1, David on death bed, ensures transition of kingdom to Solomon, and teaches Solomon more things.
13:2 devil put it into heart of Judas….

 

“You know in your own heart all the evil that you did to my father David.” (1 Kings 2:44) Shimei cursed David badly when David was fleeing from Jerusalem.

 

-Rebellions of Absalom and Adonijah

13:5 washes feet Nathan and Bathsheba bow to ground before David in 1 Kings 1

-also, David bows to new king, Solomon

It has been said that the Johannine footwashing scene is about the forgiveness of sins. When David is trying to cover his sin by calling Uriah back from the battlefront and getting him to go to his own house, his words to Uriah are, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” (2 Sam 11:8a) This is a low point of David’s treachery and abuse of power. (Yet even this can be forgiven by Jesus.) This is one example of how the mystical chords of Real connections are felt and maneuvered in the Body of Christ. The exquisite care and sensitivity that Jesus shows to David’s family will be shown to all of us.

13:10 he having bathed…. David’s sin against Bathsheba, whom David spotted while she was bathing. Peter, in the NT, is often cast in a similar light to David, although his sins are lighter than David’s, and his Spiritual gifts are far greater than David’s (thanks to Jesus).
13:12 reclining again -The second night that Uriah spends camped out in from of David’s palace, instead of his own house, shortly before his death.

-David on death bed, before the transference of the Kingdom to Solomon.

13:21 agitated in spirit 2 Sam 18:33 “The king was deeply moved” (at Absalom’s death); mourning multiple losses
13:23 one Jesus loved, reclining on breast 1 Sam 12, Nathan’s story about the ewe lamb reclining on man’s chest, stolen by David.
13:34 new commandment, Love one another Joab’s anger about David’s love of enemies, after Absalom killed. David is surprisingly Christlike in attitude here.

-David’s parting commands to Solomon, however, are not too Christlike. Counsels him to arrange the murder of Joab and of Shimei.

General discussion of God the “Father” and love Solomon’s many spoken references to his father, David, are mirrored and advanced by Jesus’ discourse about God, his Father.
14:3 Father’s house, many dwellings

-I go to prepare a place for you

-Solomon building house for God

-Before arranging Shimei’s death, Solomon commands Shimei to build himself a house in Jerusalem, and never to cross the Wadi Kidron.

14:16   I will petition the Father, and another Paraclete he’ll send you Solomon’s prayer to God, and the gift of Lady Wisdom to Solomon. Jesus does not keep his Holy Spirit to himself, but liberally shares the Spirit with all of us who desire the Spirit.
14:26 Holy Spirit will teach you everything.

 

 

16:30 now we know you know all things

Lady Wisdom teaches Solomon, whose wisdom is great, according to Queen of Sheba

 

The Wise Woman of Tekoa says to David:

“But my lord has wisdom like the wisdom of the angel of God to know all things that are on the earth.” (1 Sam 14:20b)

14:27 not as the world gives peace do I give peace 2 Sam 8:15 and 1 Kings 4:20,25 are the heights of the Davidic and Solomonic reigns. The peace of Christ is different even than the peace established by the blessed reigns of David and Solomon
14:30-31 ruler of this world is coming….

 

Rise, let us be on our way.     [Very Peaceful]

 

 

crossing Kidron Valley (18:1)

(see 18:1 again below)

 

David’s flight from Absalom. Psalm 3.

 

“Rise up! Let us flee, or there will be no escape from Absalom!” 2 Sam 15:14

 

David crossed the Kidron Valley on his flight from Jerusalem. 2 Sam 15:23

15:2 the good branches he prunes…. David’s flight for his life!  Spiritual humor.
15:13 greater love than this no one has, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends Oh Absalom, that I had died instead of you!” 2 Sam 18:33     -Except Jesus does actually die for us. David expressed a wish to do so after-the-fact, because he has learned more about love and reality.
15:15 I no longer call you servants but friends -Absalom mocks “friend” of David, Hushai. 2 Sam 15:37; 16:17.

 

-friend of Solomon: “Zabud son of Nathan was priest and king’s friend.” 1 Kings 4:5b

15:27 And you also witness, because from the beginning you are with me.

 

The previous verse speaks of the arrival of the Holy Spirit to humanity, in a far more complex way than the Ark approached Jerusalem:

“And when the Paraclete comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, who will witness concerning me.

“And you also witness, because from the beginning you are with me.”

Solomon’s words to Abiathar as he pronounces his expulsion to him, and why he let him live:

“The king said to the priest Abiathar, ‘Go to Anathoth, to your estate; for you deserve death. But I will not at this time put you to death, because you carried the ark of YHWH God before my father David, and because you shared in all the hardships my father endured.’ So Solomon banished Abiathar from being priest to the Lord, thus fulfilling the word of the Lord that he had spoken concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh’.”

                                            (1 Kings 2:26-27)

Jesus is very subtle in his words. He seemingly tells his disciples that they have been with him from the beginning, although in regular terms of human relationship, the disciples have only been following Jesus for two or three years. Jesus’ words about primordial connections to a shared beginning speak volumes about the overcoming of deep troubles between people, both individuals and far larger communities. The ancient possible sin of David in visiting slaughter upon Ahimelech and the priests of Nob, and his son Abiathar’s eventual treachery against David’s son Solomon, are caringly picked up, massaged, and healed here. Where Abiathar served God, but eventually betrayed David’s posterity, Jesus takes broken humanity and connects our mission of mercy and healing to the deepest service of God. Jesus is the healer of the deepest wounds. The comments below this chart speak more of this. (See also Appendix [….], “The Abimelech Errors.”)

16:21 The woman has grief when she bears, for her hour has come; but when she brings forth the child (paidion) she no longer remembers the distress, because of the joy that a [adult] human being (anthropos) was born into the world.* The victorious births of Tamar’s twins and Ruth’s child. And Hannah’s son Samuel. And Solomon, after their first baby died.

 

The emergence of Solomon, first integrated person…. This is a great work of the women of the Red Line of Hope. Humanity shown, in one verse, moving from childhood to maturity, integration. Jesus alludes to the women of the Red Line of Hope.
Particularly, this has to do with the specific details of the emergence of Solomon, and his dazzling appearance at his enthronement. See immediately below:

16:23 Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. Adonijah assumes that Solomon will do whatever his mother Bathsheba requests. So Adonijah asks Bathsheba to ask Solomon is he can take David’s last mistress, Abishag.
Solomon executes Adonijah.
 

(This also shows Solomon’s own progression from child to man, and also shows Solomon’s mature detachment from his mother, with whom he still works closely.)

*This birth scene also goes much farther back, to 1 Sam 4:19-22. After Eli’s wicked son Phineas is killed in battle, his wife gives birth, and there are many allusions to this birth scene in the brief Johannine commentary by Jesus. See the comments below the chart. Even after Israel has lost its glory and the Ark of the Covenant, and when its leaders are corrupt, and the birth of a child seems pointless and insulting, even this low point is converted into a victory in Christ, as described by John’s Gospel. The child’s name, Ichabod, means “the glory has departed [from Israel],” but this is only short term.

The Ark of the Covenant was lost in the battle that killed Eli’s sons, Phineas and Hophni, when Ichabod was born. However, the Ark found its way back to Israel a short time later. So too, Jesus, who was born in the New Ark, Mary, will be killed in mere hours, but will return in glory a few days later.

18:1 Jesus went forth with his disciples across the Wadi Kidron, towards Jesus death…. David flees and crosses Wadi Kidron

-Solomon forbids Shimei, who cursed David on his flight, from ever crossing the Wadi Kidron

18:3 So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers Absalom’s armed invasion of Jerusalem.
-also, Adonijah’s posturing.
18:10 Simon Peter draws sword, cuts off ear of the servant of the high priest

 

 

-Judas betrays Jesus, leads priests’ soldiers to Jesus.

 

-Jesus tells Peter to put sword in sheath.*

 

 

-Jesus has just crossed the Wadi/Valley Kidron.

 

-Jesus tells Peter that he must “drink the cup.” This is very Eucharistic. And while John’s is the only Gospel without an official “Institution of the Eucharist,” John 6, and John 13-17, and many other parts of the Gospel are Eucharistic.

 

(John 7:32; 45-49) The temple police of the chief priests and the Pharisees refuse to arrest Jesus, because never has anyone spoken like him.

David, fleeing Saul, visits Nob and chief priest Ahimelech. Saul then executes these priests. (1 Sam 21-22)

 

-Doeg the Edomite betrays David and actually kills the priests at Saul’s command.

 

-David takes the sword of Goliath from Ahimelech, which is in a cloth behind the ephod.

-Ahimelech reminds David that he slew Goliath in the Valley of Elah.

 

-David and his men eat the holy showbread.

(See also Matthew 12:1-8, where Matthew makes a fascinating interpretation of this scene at Nob. John was familiar with Matthew’s discussion of Nob.)

 

 

1 Sam 22:17 Saul’s soldiers refuse to kill Ahimelech and the priests of Nob. So Saul has Doeg the Edomite kill them.

 

*A more powerful resonance to Jesus’ command to sheath the sword is when David unsheaths Goliath’s sword to cut his head off. At 1 Sam 17:51, David “took his [Goliath’s] sword and drew it out of its sheath,” and dispatched Goliath. In this scene in John 18, Jesus is signaling a major paradigm shift in humanity, and pointing forward to a time of non-violence, and is already moving in that direction. He is here actively reversing the human instinctual response of violence, and replacing it with love, forgiveness, and awareness of God’s plan for us.

(See also 2 Sam 20:8, for Joab’s sword-out-of-sheath treachery.)

18:33 Are you the king of the Jews? The contests and battles about who is king
18:36 If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting…. This is a big difference from earthly kingdoms
19:2 crown of thorns and purple robe Absalom, his head and hair, in tree
19:3 Hail the king of the Jews! Absalom and Adonijah hailed as king, falsely. David and Solomon were rightly hailed.
19:5 Behold the man!

                     (Jesus is innocent)

You are the man!           (2 Sam 12:7)

(David is guilty, utters Psalm 51)

19:6 chief priests and officers cried, “Crucify him!” David urges restraint for Absalom, that his life might be spared. (2 Sam 18:5)
19:11 You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above.

 

Another lesson from this: Jesus’ actions mirror actions by almost everyone in the David Story. Jesus identifies with EVERYONE. Even Adonijah, Absalom, and others. Such is the depth of Jesus’ understanding, redemption, and forgiving sacrifice. Again, this is a Johannine teaching of Paul’s image of the Body of Christ.

Adonijah says to Bathsheba, “You know that the kingdom was mine, and all Israel had set their faces toward me to reign; yet the kingdom has been turned around, and is my brother’s, for it was his from Yahweh.” (1 Kings 2 :15)
19:15 we have no king but Caesar Antagonists of Psalm 2
19:16 handed him over

19:17 place of the skull (Golgotha)

After Absalom’s rebellion, head of rebellious Sheba tossed over wall by wise woman (of Abel of Beth-maacah) to Joab and army.

-Also, the Hebrew of 2 Sam 18:9 says that Absalom is caught in the tree by his head.

19:25 his mother; 3 or 4 women total, the Greek supports either reading The four women of the Red Line of Hope, right before the most important verses of all:
19:26-7 when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother.’ And from that hour, the disciple took her into himself….* This is the central Scriptural moment for the topics of the Red Line of Hope. Its parallel is Solomon’s enthronement scene, and the adjacent throne being set up for Bathsheba, on Solomon’s right.

Soon after this, Solomon reunites the male child with his mother.

19:28-30 Knew all was finished, delivers up Spirit to his disciples. David knew his death was imminent, crowns Solomon as King. (1 Kings 1-2)

Also in 19:25, there are three or four women in the scene, and at least three of them have the name “Mary.” This is, among other things, a chiastic connection to the three Tamars of the Red Line of Hope.

*The Beloved Disciple took the “mother of Jesus” (Mary, the Feminine, Wisdom, anima-integration) into himself, as discussed above. Lady Wisdom is a ‘type’ of the Holy Spirit. This movement of the Holy Spirit into the heart of humanity is a great development at the end of a long process. Recall that the Ark of the Covenant traveled with Israel for 40 years in the desert. It traveled with them in Canaan, as they settled and integrated there. Later, David gloriously led the Ark to Jerusalem. Then Solomon led the Ark to the newly built temple, and housed it (semi-permanently) in the Holy of Holies. Then, a long time later, a new Ark, Humanity, is built up and is prepared to receive the Holy Spirit. In the light of John 19:26-7, let us review again the moment of the housing of the Ark in the new temple’s heart, the Holy of Holies: “Then the priests brought the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the Holy of Holies, underneath the wings of the Cherubim. For the cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the Ark, so that the Cherubim made a covering above the Ark and its poles.” (1 Kings 8:6-7) There are powerful parallels between the housing of Jesus’ mother in the heart of the Beloved Disciple, the Pauline teaching of the new temple of the Holy Spirit as being Humanity, and the earlier housing of the wooden Ark of the Covenant in the stone temple.

19:30 bowed his head David bowed his head to King Solomon
19:34 pierced his side with spear. Joab killing Absalom in tree with javelins in heart.
Gave up the Spirit

Here, and in John 20, Jesus breathes and gives the Holy Spirit to the Church, the Body of Christ

Shekinah leaving Solomon’s temple….
20:4 the two disciples were running together;

One outran the other

This is very important about human evolution!

The two messengers running to David, with news of victory/ Absalom’s death.

The messenger to Adonijah, of Solomon’s enthronement. Also, where Adonijah thinks messenger has good news, but it’s bad news for him. This parallels David’s expectations of Ahimaaz (2 Sam 18:27-30).

Messengers, and angels, all through John and the David Story.

(Also, the two messengers running at night to bring spy information to David, during Absalom’s rebellion.)

20:6 Simon Peter goes in, sees sudarion separated from the other linens.

 

20:12 Two angels sitting in perhaps adjacent places to the two groups of cloths, at the head and feet of where the body of Jesus had been.

Both of these separations, of various burial cloths and of the parallel angels, are reminiscent of David being between the two gates, as he waited for the (two) messengers, one of whom explicitly carried word of the death of Absalom. (2 Sam 18)

Absalom himself was caught in a very “in-between” situation, for when he was in the heart of the oak tree, he was “between heaven and earth,” just as the crucified Jesus was.

While rules are important in many ways, there are times in life when rules are not at the forefront of our thought. Good conversation, making art, thinking, etc., are times for freedom from some of the constraints of rules. However, rules enabled us to get to the place where those higher developments of life could happen. There is a creative tension between Peter and the Beloved Disciple (whom many consider to be John, Apostle and Evangelist). The younger and more spiritually-connected John arrives at the tomb first. But then he waits, to allow the leading, authoritative Apostle, Peter, to enter the tomb first. Peter also represents the Institution of the Church and its rules and hierarchies. John represents individual fruition and the freedom of life in the Spirit that Paul speaks of so much. John also represents Spiritual intuition, and the direct following of the guiding suggestions of the Holy Spirit (rather than legislated laws). Something about this scene points to a time, especially in the future, when rules can lessen, because humanity will know discipline (as the highly-disciplined Jesus did) and we will know, all of us, a far-more-full relationship with the Holy Spirit. Of course, Peter and John are two great friends on the same mission for the Church—there are two angels in the place where the Resurrection happened. Pope Francis’ beautiful Amoris Laetitia is an example of the mature Church, in the light of Vatican II’s New Pentecost, beginning to bring into the decision-making processes of the Church a more acknowledged presence of the Holy Spirit, and a more immediately translatable input of the quiet suggestions of the Holy Spirit.

This very positive development is foreshadowed by another development in the David Story. After the battle against Absalom, Ahimaaz son of Zadok has an interesting conversation with Joab about being the messenger to David the King, regarding the victory in the battle, and the death of Absalom. Then, Ahimaaz takes off after the first messenger, already sent by Joab, and overtakes him, arriving to David first. David, informed of his imminent arrival while he is yet running, says, “He is a good man, and comes with good tidings.” (2 Sam 18:27) (In 1 Kings 1:42, during Adonijah’s insurrection, Abiathar’s son Jonathan brings him bad news, while Adonijah expects him to bear good news. Adonijah’s ruse to take the crown has failed.) The two messengers, in these two rebellions, Ahimaaz and Jonathan, are sons of the two priests Zadok and Abiathar, respectively. Both Ahimaaz and Jonathan were the most effective spies for David during Absalom’s rebellion. However, during their jobs not as spies but as messengers, they both carry seemingly bad news for David or Adonijah. Ahimaaz, however, does not deliver the full report, regarding Absalom’s death, to David. He allows the following messenger, whom he has overtaken on the way, to do that. Rather, his news is actually good for David, but in a different way than David might expect; It has to do with the ongoing purification of humanity, as we are being prepared to receive the Holy Spirit.

Not long after Absalom’s death, something understated but positively miraculous happens in the preparations for the minor rebellion of the Israelite named Sheba, a Benjaminite and a “scoundrel.” Prior to this, at the battle against Absalom’s forces, Abishai rises almost to a position of equality with Joab, the leader of the army (see 2 Sam 18:2). Abishai leads 1/3 of the army, as does Joab. Later, during the rebellion of Sheba, is when the new development occurs: It is Abishai, who for one brief shining moment, is actually leading David’s army! At 2 Sam 20:6-7, Abishai is actually the one who leads out “Joab’s men” to the battle. However, in the action to surround the city with Sheba, Joab falls back into command, and receives the head of Sheba from the wise woman of that city, and the rebellion is over.

Recall that Abishai is the one of the three brothers, the three “sons of Zeruiah,” who is the most pliable to the intelligent and often spiritual leadership of David. Asahel, the animal-like “gazelle,” was killed by Abner with the backwards end of a spear. Joab was treacherous. But Abishai on several occasions actually learns from David, and becomes a better human being. Abishai represents the growing portion of the human will that can be brought into harmony with the Will of God, as expressed to us today by the Holy Spirit.

This event of Abishai momentarily taking control could be seen as merely David being angry with Joab for killing his son Absalom, and therefore demoting Joab for a short time. However, it represents enormous advance, and potential future advance, for our human relationship with God, in the growth of our soul and our moral intelligence. Abishai did lead, if only briefly. It may be one of the most important culminations of the Old Testament, and it’s hardly noticeable at first reading. All of this is also in the background as the Beloved Disciple and the Saint Peter are sent by the message of Saint Mary Magdalene in a race to the tomb of Jesus at her word of the Resurrection.

20:11 Mary stood at the tomb weeping outside David weeping
20:22 receive the Holy Spirit Shekinah going into Solomon’s temple. In this Johannine scene, of course, the human person has already replaced the temple as the locus of God’s dwelling.
20:24 Thomas….called the Twin twins Perez and Zerah (not Rebecca’s twins)
20:27 Thomas the twin puts his “hand” through the wound of the risen Christ (into the Spirit womb of Christ). Zerah puts his “hand” through the birth canal, and then is pulled back into the womb by his twin brother.

This is a very powerful chiastic closure with the entire story of the Red Line of Hope.

-Thomas, whose Hebrew name Ta’am means “Twin,” and who is given the Greek nickname of Didymus, also meaning “Twin,” here balances and reciprocates the action of Zerah, who has on his “hand” the original Red Line of Hope, placed there by the midwife to Tamar.
-Note also how there are allusions, within verses of each other, to the two Tamars, at the beginning and end of OT’s discussion of the Red Line of Hope story.

20:28 My Lord and my God, said by Thomas

 

 

 

21:2 Thomas, called the Twin, and Nathanael mentioned, right next to each other.

Chiastic closure with beginning of Gospel, Nathanael’s proclamation “you are the son of God, you are the king of Israel” (John 1:49).

[Also, Psalms 5 & 145, “my King and my God”]

 

More resolution and chiastic closure.

Breakfast—unlike anything in earlier Scripture
Peter’s final complaint—like siblings arguing; also about mature discussion on the faith.

 

What does all this mean? What is this about? Why does John limn so many connections to the David Story, the Red Line of Hope, and the early “Solomon story” into his own Gospel?

Certainly, the literary and religious meanings of the Johannine echoes of these Old Testament accounts are supremely important in themselves.

But could there be another set of things occurring here?

Recall that throughout the Farewell Discourse (chapters 13-17), Jesus spoke about how the Paraclete, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, would come to us, and would teach us “all things.” (John 14:26)

And when he was dying on the Cross, he “delivered up the Spirit,” giving us the Holy Spirit in his final breath upon the Cross. (19:30)

And when he visited the Apostles after his Resurrection, he breathed upon them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (20:22)

So while John never explicitly writes of the Pentecost, it appears at junctions in his Gospel. Jesus gives us the new relationship with Holy Spirit, as John depicts in many ways.

 

Now we all have to skillfully shift gears: The Holy Spirit communicates directly with us. We can learn how to read the Spirit’s signs and languages. We can become better interlocutors with Divine inspiration, better conversationalists with, and far more effective agents of the Holy Spirit as we learn how to read these signs. Synchronicity, for example, is a language of the Holy Spirit. Psalm-based arithmetic is another. There are many languages of the Holy Spirit.

And these languages of the Holy Spirit are a new world that John’s Gospel wants to teach us.

Image Recognition

              All of these sets of allusions to earlier Scriptural accounts, especially to the David Story and the Red Line of Hope, also serve as practice for us in learning how to read the signs of the Holy Spirit.

Additionally, all of these allusions are stocked with meaning, imbued with deep lessons that the Scriptures want to impart to us. These lessons have to do with our living lives today.

Plato speaks of image recognition. (And Mark’s Gospel specifically speaks of one of Plato’s dialogues.) We, in the school of the Holy Spirit, become better at recognizing. When comparing two different Bible passages, or when comparing a Bible passage to one of our lived experiences, we recognize repetitive situations, word echoes, parallel actions, similar emotions, and much more. We enter into deeper, and more constant, communication with the Holy Spirit.

In our own lives, when there are coincidences, or when things remind us of something else, it may be that the Holy Spirit is inviting us to consider these things, and so to discern a lesson that we can learn therein. Such lessons are brimming over with human and Spiritual content.

All of these duplications, echoes, resonances, repetitive patterns, and situational rhymes that we discover in the Bible are training us to recognize the communication of the Holy Spirit in our lives today. When becoming more skilled in these recognitions, we’ll be better agents for the Holy Spirit in the world.

 

Much of our life’s work has to do with healing the violent tendencies within us, such as the tendency to separate ourselves from others. And many of the connections between the David Story and the Gospel of John are arcs, and beautiful arches, that show us ways of transformation, growth, maturity, healing, and empowerment of these deep energies within us.

Jesus Christ is the perfect human being who is also God. Matthew’s Gospel and the New Testament begin by saying that Jesus is also a new and vastly better take on the person of David, who was king, priest, and prophet.

David is a very alive human being, who clearly pursued God in his life and often strove after virtue. He tried to be the best person he could be, even if there were troubles both in the world and in David’s childhood and memory. David was punished for his sins and also received many gifts from God, and rewards for the great things he did.

In a sense, David was a model for humanity, especially an earlier humanity, closer to his time. He grew closer to God in his life. There were many good events in his life, and his son Solomon was another amazing fruition of his development. Solomon became the great wise king, even if this did not last for long and the kingdom began to disintegrate. The extra-Biblical literature says that Solomon had powerful spiritual gifts, although there was never a danger of saying that Solomon was divine or achieved anything like the status of a divine human being or a deity. He was an integrated human being, and this allowed for his wisdom to reach profound new levels.

So the trajectory of David’s life, including the positive developments in his son Solomon’s life, show a sort of merger, a slow and gradual coming together of the divine and the human.

Jesus, of course, takes this reality to a totally new level. He is God and he is human.

All human lives are invited to grow in holiness. All humans are invited to welcome the Holy Spirit’s direct communication and presence into their own lives, in the light of the Pentecost. Athanasius said that God became human so that humans might become divine. Iranaeus said that the glory of God is a human being fully alive. And the 2nd Letter of Peter says that we are invited to be partakers in God’s own nature! A major part of Eastern Christian theology (and to a somewhat lesser extent, Western Christianity too) are the many teachings of deosis, in which a main purpose of humanity is to grow closer to the Divine and to join the Divine.

Great. So we are invited to grow in perfection, and to scale the heights of the Divine. And the Holy Spirit gives us new languages to help us.

But then a reality hits us, sometimes hard. Our lives are messy, often, and the world has gross unfairness and difficulties. So is it even possible to aim for perfection and constant growth in virtue, in the fallen world and situations in which we find ourselves?

John’s Gospel gives us hope.

The Fourth Gospel reaches, with profound depth and precision and care and respect, into the troubled lives of David, Bathsheba, Solomon, Joab, Absalom, Tamar (all of the Tamars), and the people of Israel, and shows the way forward to integration and wholeness. By taking the brutal violence and treachery of the characters in Israel at the time of the David Story and the Hebrew Scriptures portions of the Red Line of Hope, John’s Gospel is doing multiple things.

First, it’s showcasing our human evolution, and the beauty of our progress. We owe our ancestors a great deal of respect and gratitude, especially the ones who persevered through ice ages by being better at extracting bone marrow from animal carcasses than other early folks were. They had so many difficult times. So too we see amazing and beautiful throes of life’s growth in the life of David. His bad times are exemplified by Absalom, who is stuck between heaven and earth, as he’s hanging pitifully by his hair in the oak tree—the agonized icon of evolution. His good times are exemplified by, and brought to a fruition by, the elevation of Solomon at his coronation.

All of this is brought to a greater fruition by Jesus’ Crucifixion and the events at the Cross in John 19. A major purpose of this present book has been to show this.

These developments shows both evolution and Spiritual progress in the guidance of the Divine.

 

There is another development that speaks to all of us: The redemption of the characters of the David Story, much later, in John’s Gospel, are speaking to us today! These healings of David and his family, friends, and peers are about the redemption of our own lives, here and now.

John’s Gospel has taken the mucky parts of the David Story and the Hebrew Bible and transformed them into parts of the most beautiful and intimate 11 chapters that humanity has known (Chapters 11-21 of John’s Gospel).

David’s treacheries and Joab’s bloodlust and the Tamars’ hurts and Absalom’s misplaced sense of justice and Phineas’ wife’s birthing Ichabod in misery, all of which are painful and horrible, all get transformed into intimate scenes and parts of the Last Supper and the Resurrection. In the light of the Resurrection and of the glory of our evolution in the light of Christ and the arrival of the Paraclete to us, even the Crucifixion, in John’s Gospel, becomes a place of glory, a dynamic center of reconciliation and joyful human development.[1]

God remembers the least and most forgotten and the most backwards, lost, and misdirected of people. Again, even the wicked lout Phineas, the son of Eli, whose wife gave a difficult delivery to his son after his death in battle, gets somewhat redeemed. The passage about the difficult birth of Phineas’ son Ichabod (1 Sam 4:19-22) is rehearsed and transformed into joy in John 16:21, as the above chart discusses. The sheer panic of David’s flight from Jerusalem, when his son Absalom was trying to murder him, when David screams to all in the palace, “Everyone up, let’s get the heck out of Jerusalem!” is converted into Jesus’ gentle and firm, “Rise, let us go hence….”

One thousand years after Solomon, Paul writes, twice, that “We are all parts of each other.” (See Ephesians 4:25 and Romans 12:5)

John’s Gospel, by converting and transforming the most troubling episodes of the Hebrew Scriptures into joyful and intimate new reality, shows us meaning and shows us the way forward as humanity, as a human family.

The lives of each one of us are to be found in the Gospel. Not only is the David Story found in the Gospel, but so is Your Story and My Story.

God loves us and wants us to grow into the glories that God is planning and preparing for us.

Isaiah talks about the scarlet quality of some of the sins of people. These can be forgiven and transformed.

Our lives, no matter how fallen and bad they were in the past, can be rescued and our actions can become loving and meaningful. Before “the silver cord is snapped, and the golden bowl is broken,” the thread of our life is right now being sought by God to be woven into our meaningful evolution (Ecclesiastes 12:6). God rescues the storyline of our life. God the divine weaver is desiring the thread of your life and mine. Each one of our lives can become a thread, a red and multi-colored line of hope in the tapestry of creation and salvation.

[1] Metropolitan Bishop Kallistos Ware’s brilliant The Power of the Name concludes by calling on us to be “dynamic centre[s] of reconciliation.”

The Spirit of God, Who Is Love: How the Holy Spirit Is Guiding Us Today, in the Time of Vatican II

The Theological Virtues are the topics of the reflections today. This talk is on Love.

And because the New Testament says twice that “God is Love,” this talk could dive into a discussion of God, who is Love.

There have been books written trying to figure out the inner life of God.

However, since this topic is in the context of the Theological virtues, let’s consider Love from the point of our human growth in Love.

But then, beginning to do this, I realized that this is not an easy task! Precisely when we try to look at Love in either its Divine or its Human context, it starts moving towards the Other, and in the other direction! Both the Human to Divine, and Divine to Human moments are caught up with each other.

 

The Divine-to-Human Direction:

The God who is Love creates Creation, and had us in mind long ago. Then, when Humanity fell from the Garden, God sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world as Love Incarnate to help us back into relationship with God.

Jesus is taken away at the Crucifixion, and given back to us at the Resurrection.

Then in the Ascension, Jesus left us, but 10 days later, at the Pentecost, sent his Holy Spirit to help us, and the Holy Spirit has been in our Church, guiding us for the last 2000 years. God’s love is always moving towards us in the Holy Spirit. God’s love moves towards us in many ways.

 

The Human-to-Divine Direction:

And we, for our part, as we Christians grow in Love, we are indeed emulating and pursuing God. And we praise and bless God.

One of the culminations of Matthew’s Gospel is when Jesus tells us to integrate love through the entirety of our being, to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind (Mt 22:37).

But even here, the growth of love does not finish. Asked only for one commandment, love proves uncontainable, and suddenly Jesus gives a second commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself.

The New Testament is full of teachings on love and is ever urging us to love our neighbor. The great Evangelist St. John, who wrote a Gospel, and 3 letters, and the Book of Revelation, when he was an ancient old man, used to be carried to Church gatherings because he could no longer walk. Being carried into the gathering place, he would say, “Little children, love one another.” That’s the whole Gospel in brief. If we grow in Love, we are proceeding in the Way, in the Way of the Church, and the graceful flowing dance of the Holy Spirit.

Now, the Church has always been about love. For example, this is in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, from the Prologue:

“The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love.”                                                                  (Catechism, Prologue, 25)

And the Church has always had Wisdom and Tradition and the Holy Spirit and the Saints guiding us into greater expressions of what it means to be Church. Of course love has grown tremendously in the two millennia leading up to Vatican II.

The Catholic Church began the now-global practice of building hospitals. Who would have thought? Make a place to treat sick people and heal them? Today, of course, hospitals are an expected part of all societies. And it’s the Catholic Church who started this Godly practice.

More examples: Orphanages and schools for poor children. In the ancient world, there were no such things. Why would anyone waste time or money on helping children, let alone educating them? This too is something that the Catholic Church began, and now it seems like it’s always been part of the DNA of our humanity.

In a way, this talk could be finished here. Eastern Bishop Kallistos Ware humorously refers to the preacher who consistently preached this one succinct sermon: “Alright good people, you know what to do, now let’s all go do it,” and thereby concluded his homily, quicker than a quarterback’s “Ready, break” sends those in the huddle to the line of scrimmage.

However, there is something happening today, something special, that I would like to reflect upon.

Let’s go back to the Pentecost, which we celebrated two weeks ago. Jesus, God Incarnate, Love Incarnate, had in the last 50 days died, Resurrected, and then just 10 days ago had left earth and gone to heaven at the Ascension. The poor disciples!—they had a lot to process! They had quite a bit of new information to integrate into their understanding of Reality! They knew that Jesus was alive, but what to do about that!? What should they do? They didn’t know. So they hid out in the upper room, behind locked doors. Jesus had told them to wait for something, and so they weren’t feeling completely abandoned.

Pentecost came. The Fire from Heaven came. Tongues of fire are over each of them. The Holy Spirit started a new relationship with each of them. The scared fellows in the Upper Room suddenly were transformed, and became a group of supercharged atomic pinballs, bouncing all over the Eastern Mediterranean, founding Churches, healing people, teaching souls, and spreading the Faith. They now knew what to do.

The event of the Pentecost is the birth of our Church. In those early days of the Church, the presence of the Holy Spirit was so palpable that one could almost feel it in the air.

Let’s fast forward through the centuries of growth of our Church. Let’s leap over the almost 20 centuries of Church development, to 1959. In 1959, there was a press conference called.

The event was called by Pope Saint John XXIII, on the outskirts of a city.

As is often the case with these sorts of official gatherings, there was a group of bishops and cardinals in attendance, probably having taken a bus together from the Vatican. The meeting started, and there, at the Basilica di San Paolo Fuori le Mura, at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Pope John, the Good Pope, called for a major Church Council, which became Vatican II.

The assembled bishops and cardinals, as a collective body, were stunned. A Church Council? Why?

Now, Pope John XXIII had been elected to be a caretaker Pope. There were no young candidates for the Papacy on the horizon who were deemed ready yet, so he was chosen to keep the Church on a safe and steady course for, presumably, a short time, until he was polite enough to move on up to heaven. A Church Council was definitely not on the mind of the Conclave Fathers who elected him as Pope.

Later, when asked about why he had convened a Church Council, Pope John said that this time, the time of Vatican II, would be a New Pentecost, a Second Pentecost. This is an even more shocking thing for a Pope to say. A New Pentecost means: 1) A new immediacy of relationship with the Holy Spirit, and 2) A new birth of the Church.

50 years ago, in the grand sweep of time, is like yesterday, or, 2 seconds ago. It just happened. The time of Vatican II, the time of the New Pentecost, is now.

Let’s also, in the light of this, today’s amazing moment of Vatican II, consider the Holy Spirit, whom Pope Saint John XXIII says is closer to us than ever before. Who is the Holy Spirit?

The first Two Persons of the Trinity, we think of as God the Father and God the Son: The love between them is so strong and real that it becomes a Third Person of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the love between the first and second persons of the Trinity. This is standard Catholic theology.

God is Love, God the Father.
The Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, is Love Incarnate.

The Holy Spirit is also Love, the living Love of the relationship between the 1st and 2nd Persons of the Trinity.

Different modes of God, of Love.

We arrive at a deeper understanding of that verse, “God is Love.” We get a sense of the levels of meaning in the verses of our precious New Testament. God is Love, and the Holy Spirit is a special moment, and special Being, of that love. The Holy Spirit is one way in which God Is.

Let’s return to the theme of Vatican II, our new Pentecost, which is happening today.

Pope John XXIII implied a new immediacy of relationship with the Holy Spirit.

What does this mean????

The Holy Spirit wants a relationship with each one of us.

Some of you may know what this means.

If this is true, then there are many questions for us. What will this relationship be like? How do we directly communicate with the Holy Spirit?

I believe that our recent Popes can help us to understand what this might mean.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his superb Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love), says,

“….to want the same thing, and to reject the same thing—was regarded by antiquity as the authentic content of love: the one becomes similar to the other, and this leads to a community of will and thought. The love-story between God and man consists in the very fact that this communion of will increases in a communion of thought and sentiment, and thus our will and God’s will increasingly coincide: God’s will is no longer for me an alien will, something imposed on me from without by the commandments, but it is now my own will, based on the realization that God is in fact more deeply present to me than I am to myself. Then self-abandonment to God increases and God becomes our joy.” (Para 17)

One of our RCIA teachers is always saying to our Catechumens, “Love is not a feeling, love is an act of the will.” And that’s standard Catholic theology too. Love, and our will, are very deeply connected.

This is also in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10) This is what Pope Benedict is speaking of, when our will and God’s “increasingly coincide.”

Jesus says, “Whoever does the Will of my Father in Heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:50) This is also pointing to our Church family.

In our life, we try to synchronize, to bring together, our will with God’s Will. Generally, we know God’s will: Love one another, try to be good people, obey the Commandments, etc. But can we know God’s will more specifically? Here’s the Vatican II surprise: The Holy Spirit is here today to teach us how to better use our will. The Holy Spirit wants to coach and guide us. A religious nun said, The Holy Spirit wants to become part of our DNA.

An example of how our direct relationship with the Holy Spirit can work: Let’s say after work we plan to go home and make some coffee and read the Bible for 30 minutes in prayer. Awesome! You and the entire Body of Christ are growing because of your virtuous action and virtuous use of intelligence.

But if the Holy Spirit told you on the way home, Hey! turn right here, smoothly and gracefully. Now turn left. Now park and go to the alleyway over there. You follow the quiet suggestions of the Holy Spirit, which the Holy Spirit has delivered personally to you, directly to you.

You park, you walk to the alley. There is a fellow who was just mugged there. You help him, and call 911, and later meet him at the hospital. It turns out that he had been emotionally down for some weeks before this, and the mugging is the coup de grace. You bring him to Church. He joins the Parish and becomes a joyful dynamo of the Church.

Now, your own personal after-work plans would have been superb. But by following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the direct guidance that is the fruit of a direct relationship with the Holy Spirit, you have just been a 10,000 x more effective apostle.

This little story is made up, but anyone who has been to a parish retreat has seen things like this, and far more amazing things, happen so many times. And these miracle stories happen every day in our Church. It’s not exactly the kind of stuff that the media is reporting on. However, we know that it’s happening.

A fruit of Vatican II, our New Pentecost, is this immediate connection with the Holy Spirit.

This development of our capacity to love is hiddenly outlined in Matthew’s Gospel. Throughout the Gospel, Jesus’ teaching grows, as we and the disciples grow and are able to perceive and receive more of the Divine Will. That’s why it’s in the last part of Jesus’ ministry that he presents his teaching on the Great Command: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” which was briefly discussed above. See the human development here, and the strength and integration? This happens at the end of Chapter 22. This full spectrum of human development could not have happened earlier in Matthew’s story, or in our life—the loving will of the human person has grown and expanded through every part of the human person; this is shown in the words Jesus chooses: heart, soul, and mind. These multiple parts of our person represent the entirety of the human person. The integrated person has arrived at the point where their entire being is focused on love. Jesus’ teaching continues, “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’.” Notice that love is always developing, and cannot be contained in 1 statement: A growing mature love of God is also reaching out to the love of each and every neighbor.

 

We come to a great Pastor, who knows a lot about love and about God, Pope Francis.

Pope Francis’ Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad: On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World) is an amazing document!

When it was published, some critics thought that it was simple. No, this small book is highly mature and deep.

For the next part of this reflection, let’s consider some gems from this work, in the light of our new deeper working relationship with the Holy Spirit.

 

-Why bother developing the ability to discern God’s will, i.e., the subtle directives of the Holy Spirit? And will doing God’s will take me away from my own plans and projects?

In Paragraph 19, Pope Francis mentions our “path of holiness,” and quotes 1 Thess 4:3; “this is the will of God, your sanctification.”

Pope Francis is here telling us that doing God’s will is the best plan also for our own individual life. Doing God’s will is the best route for our own beatitude and sanctification. We couldn’t possibly have any plans or projects that are better for us than God’s will.

-Pope Francis says, “This should excite and encourage us to give our all and to embrace that unique plan that God willed for each of us from eternity (Para 13).”

To paraphrase Pope Benedict’s statement above, we embrace God’s will to enter our truest calling. And throughout Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis is telling us that doing the will of God, far from denying our own individuality, actually brings us into the fullest possible realization of our own self.

-When we begin the more mature phase of our Spiritual life, when we can begin to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit directly, the Holy Spirit (not us) may give special rules, individually, for us: “Indeed, when the great mystic, St. John of the Cross, wrote his Spiritual Canticle, he preferred to avoid hard and fast rules for all. He explained that his verses were composed so that everyone could benefit from them ‘in his or her own way’. For God’s life is communicated ‘to some in one way and to others in another’ (Para 11).”

The Holy Spirit operates in different ways with different people. Nor are we identical puppets under the command of the Holy Spirit. The Good Spirit uses different approaches and methods with each of us, and different humor and music and art. (In his Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis is beginning to teach us this Truth.)

-Then Pope Francis dives into deeper description of our personal relationship with the Holy Spirit: “Allow the Spirit to forge in you the personal mystery that can reflect Jesus Christ in today’s world (Para 23).”

This language is strong. ‘To forge’ is to use great heat, and to strongly refashion our habits and outlooks under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

-This transformation will lead to our renewal: “Let yourself be transformed. Let yourself be renewed by the Spirit…. (Para 24)”

-Building upon Paragraph 23, quoted above, he mentions how the Holy Spirit’s leadership in our life is for both our own deeper participation in Jesus Christ, and also for the betterment of the world/cosmos: “Your identification with Christ and his will involves a commitment to build with him that kingdom of love, justice, and universal peace (Para 25).”

-Pope Francis, speaking of the Spirit’s subtle-yet-concrete signs that guide us in our life, writes clearly to us: “Do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit (Para 34).”

-However, we do not determine when the more mature phase of our relationship with the Holy Spirit begins. For those who want to enter this state, and for those who teach and help others, Pope Francis reminds, “God infinitely transcends us; he is full of surprises. We are not the ones to determine when and how we will encounter him; the exact times and places of that encounter are not up to us (Para 41).”

The time of the beginning of the deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit is not determined by us. We can ask. By living a life of faith and hope and love, we certainly dispose ourselves to be invited by the Spirit to a deeper relationship.

-More powerful than any therapy or guided retreats, the Spirit shows us the clearest path and heals us of our own layers of prejudice and blindness: “If we let ourselves be guided by the Spirit rather than our own preconceptions…. (Para 42)”

Paragraph 51 is so wonderful that I want to quote it in full:

“When God speaks to Abraham, he tells him, ‘I am God almighty, walk before me, and be blameless’ (Gen 17:1). In order to be blameless, as he would have us, we need to live humbly in his presence, cloaked in his glory; we need to walk in union with him, recognizing his constant love in our lives. We need to lose our fear before that presence which can only be for our good. God is the Father who gave us life and loves us greatly. Once we accept him, and stop trying to live our lives without him, the anguish of loneliness will disappear (cf. Ps 139:23-24). In this way we will know the pleasing and perfect will of the Lord (cf. Rom 12:1-2) and allow him to mold us like a potter (cf. Is 29:16). So often we say that God dwells in us, but it is better to say that we dwell in him, that he enables us to dwell in his light and love. He is our temple; we ask to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our life (cf. Ps 27:4). ‘For one day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere’ (Ps 84:10). In him is our holiness.”   -Para 51, emphases added

-Our working relationship with the Holy Spirit deepens. We can “cooperate by our own efforts in our progressive transformation (Para 56).”

-Our speed may quicken and our gifts may grow, as we are “led by the Spirit in the way of love…. (Para 57)” The Holy Spirit teaches us how to love more precisely and perfectly.

-Our communication with the Holy Spirit sometimes completely disappears from the visible plane, and becomes more quiet and more internal, as we become more skillful and adroit at discerning the “promptings of the Spirit (Para 58).” We are more capable of seeing the Spirit’s signs, hints, and suggestions in our external environment, or within us.

-Of course, we should never be prideful as we learn to fly with the Holy Spirit. He notes that the Second Synod of Orange taught with “firm authority” that all is a “gift of divine grace, and . . . all cooperation with it is a prior gift of that same grace: ‘Even the desire to be cleansed comes about in us through the outpouring and working of the Holy Spirit’ (Para 53).” Pope Francis continues, “Subsequently, the Council of Trent, while emphasizing the importance of our cooperation for spiritual growth, reaffirmed that dogmatic teaching: ‘We are said to be justified gratuitously because nothing that precedes justification, neither faith nor works, merits the grace of justification; for “if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise, grace would no longer be grace” (Rom 11:6)’.” (Para 53)

-Pope Francis reminds us that our own personal journey is never just about us as individuals: “. . . it is true that the word ‘justice’ can be a synonym for faithfulness to God’s will in every aspect of our life. . . (Para 79)” Later in this paragraph, he urges us to remember the most vulnerable, as the Old Testament prophets insist.

-In a magnificent move, after a detailed discussion of the Beatitudes, Pope Francis calls Matthew 25:31-46 an expansion “on the Beatitude that calls blessed the merciful.” Here is Paragraph 95 in its entirety:

“In the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel (vv. 31-46), Jesus expands on the Beatitude that calls blessed the merciful. If we seek the holiness pleasing to God’s eyes, this text offers us one clear criterion on which we will be judged. ‘I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me’ (vv. 35-36).”

Following God’s will, we connect more profoundly with the most vulnerable. This is one of the New Testament’s great pinnacles of synthesis and summation.

-While “Holiness, then, is not about swooning in mystic rapture (Para 96),” he goes on to discuss our “personal relationship with the Lord,” and, “the luminous mysticism so evident in the lives of Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Vincent de Paul, Saint Teresa of Calcutta, and many others. For these great saints, mental prayer, the love of God, and the reading of the Gospel in no way detracted from their passionate and effective commitment to their neighbors; quite the opposite (Para 100).”

-Pope Francis insists that “We need the Spirit’s prompting” to be able to overcome fear and to perform God’s will as we are called to do. This overcomes our tendency to keep within “safe bounds.” He recalls the Pentecost, “when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness’ (Acts 4:31).” (Para 133)

-In Paragraph 134 he mentions “the God of tenderness, who invites us to set out ever anew on our journey.” The sentence “God is eternal newness” begins Paragraph 135. Later in this paragraph, Pope Francis writes of God, “He is always greater than our plans and schemes.” This too is a good reason to follow God’s will, rather than only our own projects.

-Pope Francis wants the Church to be able to better receive the surprises of God. “In every situation, may the Holy Spirit cause us to contemplate history in the light of the risen Jesus. In this way, the Church will not stand still, but constantly welcome the Lord’s surprises (Para 139).”

-Celebrating the development of the Church, he writes, “Each community is called to create a ‘God-enlightened space in which to experience the hidden presence of the risen Lord’ [St. John Paul II, Vita Consecrata]. Sharing the word and celebrating the Eucharist together fosters fraternity and makes us a holy and missionary community. It also gives rise to authentic and shared mystical experiences (Para 142).”

-This growth in our life and lives should result “in a habitual openness to the transcendent (Para 147).” He discusses how the saints long for God. He then quotes Saint John of the Cross: “’Endeavor to remain always in the presence of God…. Always go to God and attach your heart to him’ (Para 148).” Then he quotes Saint John’s dear friend Saint Teresa, who notes that prayer is “friendly. . . and frequent solitary converse, with him who we know loves us’ (Para 149).”

-Nearing the end of the document, the word “discernment” appears frequently. Many saints have told us of the necessity to find reliable guides with whom we can discuss our ongoing Spiritual discernment; the Saints know that left to ourselves, we can go astray. Paragraphs 166-175 have the word “discernment” 15 times. This is a significant emphasis on discernment. My thought is that Pope Francis does this to encourage us not to become lost in our own self-referential systems that favor only our own interpretations of what might be the Spirit’s suggestions to us, but to get us in the habit of sharing our ideas with others who have experience in journeying in the Way of the Holy Spirit.

-Paragraph 167 discusses the powerful need for discernment in today’s technological world. Indeed, I think that the Holy Spirit could help us especially in this arena, to help us choose what paths on the internet and in our communication will have fruitful outcomes, and what choices would lead us astray. When Pope Francis mentions how people today often navigate on multiple screens at once, I interpret this also to mean that the Holy Spirit may lead us to a participation in greater complexity. We will be prepared and instructed for this, before it happens to individuals.

Additionally, in the future, for scientists who are also Spiritual and holy, their choices may be made more efficient when they are guided by the Holy Spirit, as, in the future, the open spectrum of possibilities for scientific exploration may be dizzyingly vast.

-Paragraphs 169 and 174 both mention God’s “timetable.” Indeed, the Holy Spirit, when we have been under the Spirit’s tutelage for a time, is a teacher of the art of the best timing. Note that timing is a part of music, poetry, dramatic scenes, all things artistic—and the Holy Spirit is often a great lover of artistic style in our actions.

Pope Francis also recommends that all Christians do a daily “examination of conscience.” This venerable practice goes back in Christian Spiritual practice at least 1700 years, to the first Christian monks, who began Christian monasticism in the desert of Egypt.

A very effective Examen of Conscience can be done in about 2 minutes at the end of the day, once we have learned how to do it. And if we do this practice for just a week or two, we will see our understanding of the internal geography of our soul vastly improve.

Here is an essay that can help one begin a practice of the Examen of Conscience:

https://scripturefinds.wordpress.com/2018/05/19/the-examen-of-conscience/

 

-Paragraph 171 is another wonderful reflection, discussing how the silence of prolonged prayer helps us better “perceive God’s language.” Indeed, is it possible that the Holy Spirit can teach us new languages by which the Spirit may better and more efficiently communicate with us, and issue to us the Spirit’s subtle directives?

Now, this discussion of a new relationship with the Holy Spirit may be surprising, or disconcerting, to some. However, it’s happening today. Really.

Recall the great discourse on love, given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. That beautiful reflection on Charity is lovingly surrounded by two parallel statements on our desire, or on our will. Paul is encouraging us to desire, to will, to want the Spiritual gifts. This is a good desire, a healthy desire. He says at 12:31, immediately before the discourse, “Zealously strive after the higher gifts. And I’ll show you a better way.”

Then, immediately after the discourse, he repeats the verb for “zealously strive,” and places a bookend on the other side of the great speech on love: “Pursue love, and zealously strive after the Spiritual things….” (1 Cor 14:1)

Our Church today, in this time of Vatican II, is being given precisely this opportunity.

 

 

Note:

For further reflection on Pope Francis’ remarkable Gaudete et Exsultate, please see:

https://scripturefinds.wordpress.com/2018/05/25/part-ii-what-if-pope-francis-knows-something/

 

Part 3: What if Pope Francis Knows Something?

 

What if Pope Francis Knows Something?

Essay III

How Gaudete et Exsultate Utilizes Mystical Biblical Structures

 

Quietly stationed below the surface layers of the Exhortation, there is another immense realm waiting to be discovered and understood in Gaudete et Exsultate.

This new terrain, this uncharted continent that we have just begun discovering, concerns mystical realities in the Bible. These mystical realities are largely connected with our human evolution. And among these mysteries, a large set of these realities are actual, discernable mystical structures hidden in the Book of Psalms. These Mystical Psalm Structures have been secretly discussed by at least 20 or 30 saints of Christianity, and possibly many more have known of them. Additionally, almost every page of the New Testament is brimming over with their authors’ conscious, though hidden, references to these mystical structures. This essay linked here gives a brief overview of the forthcoming book on the Mystical Psalm Structures:

https://www.academia.edu/16106922/The_Mystical_Psalm_Structures

It is clear that Pope Francis knows the Mystical Psalm Structures and has woven allusions to them throughout his writings. His references to the Mystical Psalm Structures will be a major part of this third essay.

[A double caveat regarding this third essay: This reflection will be more dense than the previous two essays on Gaudete et Exsultate. If you have not read those two essays, it would make sense to read them before proceeding here.]

Besides referencing the Mystical Psalm Structures, there are other ways in which superlative Christian writers have systematically alluded to the Psalms:

A technique of the great ancient authors of the Church is to write treatises in short numbered paragraphs. The individual paragraphs of their works will correspond with the Biblical Psalm of the same number. (These collections are sometimes called “Centuries,” because they were frequently composed of 100 short nugget paragraphs/sentences. Authors such as St. Maximus Confessor would occasionally string several Centuries together.) The works of (St.) Evagrius Ponticus, the Apophthegmata of the ancient Egyptian desert monks, St. Benedict, St. Maximus Confessor, the Philokalia, (St.) Gregory Palamas, and the newly discovered Gospel of Thomas all have this ordering feature of their works: the numbers of their paragraphs correspond to the Psalm of the same number. (The Gospel of Philip, discovered at Egypt’s Nag Hammadi with the Gospel of Thomas, may also have this feature.) Although the Gospel of Thomas is not part of the Bible, it is a beautiful work. While he was the Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI mentioned the Gospel of Thomas, and encourages us Bible-lovers to read this treasure from the desert.

So, there are two qualities of the Book of Psalms that we are considering here:

1) First, there are Mystical Structures hidden in the Psalms.

Regarding these Mystical Structures, most New Testament authors are consciously aware of them, as are at least 20 or 30 Christians of the last 2000 years.

In their writings, they often give subtle hints about the Mystical Psalm Structures, but never speak of them openly.

2) Second, there is the fact that later writers who write theological treatises or groups of poems in numbered sequences often are in a direct 1-to-1 relationship with the Psalms of the Bible. Their own numbered paragraphs or poems will be in parallel dialogue with the Psalm of the same number.

 

Pope Francis is aware of both sets of these literary-mystical Christian writing methods, both of which are connected to the Psalms.

Pope Francis constructs his Exhortation with plentiful allusions to both of these ancient patterns of Christian literary architecture. Some of his paragraphs have very strong resonances with the Psalms of the same number. We shall consider this in Part I of the essay. In Part II, we shall consider how Pope Francis makes many allusions to the Mystical Psalm Structures themselves. Part III of the essay discusses how Pope Francis is speaking of our growth in the Holy Spirit, in stunning new ways among humanity today. This has a beginning in Paul’s discussion of our earlier evolution in Romans 7 & 8.

 

Part I

Simple Parallel Connections between Paragraphs of Gaudete et Exsultate

And the Psalms of the Same Number

 

This part of the essay will show simple parallel connections between the numbered paragraphs of the Exhortation and the Psalms of the same number.

 

Paragraph 1 and Psalm 1

Paragraph 1 of the Exhortation mentions “happiness,” as do the Beatitudes; and the Beatitudes are the overt Scriptural architectural backbone of the Exhortation. The Beatitudes, which are the first words of the Sermon on the Mount, are also the very first “quoted” words of Jesus’ public preaching in the Bible. And the very first word that Jesus speaks to all of us is “Happy.” It is the first word of the Sermon on the Mount, and the first word of all 8 (9) Beatitudes that begin that great communication.

By beginning in this way, the Beatitudes amplify the Psalms—Psalm 1 also begins with the word “happy.” Thus, like the entirety of Jesus’ public teaching, the entire Book of Psalms begins with the word “happy.” This deep initial connection between the Psalms and the Beatitudes is known to Pope Francis, who puts the word “happiness” into his Paragraph #1. He underscores the “firstness” of things in Biblical orders later in the same paragraph: “The call to holiness is present in various ways from the very first pages of the Bible. (Emphasis added, as in all quotations below.)”

 

Paragraph 8 and Psalm 8

In Paragraph 8 Pope Francis presents a quotation from Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). Here is Paragraph 8 in its entirety; Additionally, the highlighted sections of this paragraph carry strong resonances with Psalm 8:

“Let us be spurred on by the signs of holiness that the Lord shows us through the humblest members of that people which ‘shares also in Christ’s prophetic office, speaking abroad a living witness to him, especially by means of a life of faith and charity’. We should consider the fact that, as Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross suggests, real history is made by so many of them. As she writes:

‘The greatest figures of prophecy and sanctity step forth out of the darkest night. But for the most part, the formative stream of the mystical life remains invisible. Certainly the most decisive turning points in world history are substantially co-determined by souls whom no history book ever mentions. And we will only find out about those souls to whom we owe the decisive turning points in our personal lives on the day when all that is hidden is revealed’.”

And here is Psalm 8, which features a young father (or mother) of a new family in ancient Palestine venturing outside in the middle of the night to look up at the wonders of the nighttime sky. Some of the verses that echo with Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross’s statement are similarly highlighted:

 

“O Lord our God, how great is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouths of babes and nursing infants, you have founded a bulwark against your foes, to silence the foe and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established (this is the young parent going outside and gazing at the night sky);

What are human beings that you are mindful of them?

Or, mortals that you care for them?

Yet you have made them a little lower than angels (such is the power of the hidden saints’ intercession that Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross speaks of),

And crowned them with glory and honor.

You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;

You have put all things under their feet,

All sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air,

And the fish of the sea,

Whatever passes along the (hidden) pathways of the seas.

O Lord our God, how great is your name in all the earth!”

 

Notice how between both Paragraphs/Psalms 1 and 8, the connections that they share are not overpowering or burdensome. Rather, they are deft and subtle—just like our communication with the Holy Spirit, when we have entered into that more mature phase of our life. The Spirit much prefers understatement, lightness of touch, art, good taste, and exquisite simplicity—not blunt stuff. Additionally, by training us in artistry of communication, it is easier for the Holy Spirit to remain completely hidden while giving us messages in the middle of the busy world.

 

Paragraphs 120-134 and the Psalms of Ascents (Psalms 120-134)

Whereas ancient and medieval authors such as Evagrius, the Gospel of Thomas, and Gregory Palamas often make many textual connections between all of their individual paragraphs and the Psalm of the same number, Pope Francis does not activate this style of writing quite so much as these earlier writers. When he does use this style of parallel commentary on the Psalms, perhaps it is because he is communicating a truth to us, and emphasizing something of greater importance.

For the sake of brevity, let’s jump to the second half of the Apostolic Exhortation, so that we can see a remarkable maneuver by Pope Francis.

The Psalms of Ascents, Psalms 120-134, a group of 15 Psalms, celebrate pilgrimage, as attested to by many Psalm scholars. What kind of pilgrimage? For the ancient Hebrews, it was the pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem. For Christians, they can represent the many kinds of pilgrimages that Christians engage in; additionally, it may also speak of the Spiritual growth, the ongoing journey in the Holy Spirit, that Christians engage in, and which Vatican II and Pope Francis exhort us to take up.

As Gaudete et Exsultate has shown us, the way to climb the Spiritual Ladder, the way to become closer co-operators with the Holy Spirit, the way to grow, is to practice holiness. I believe that the reason why Pope Francis places special emphasis upon the paragraphs of the Exhortation that align with the Psalms of Ascents (Psalms 120-134) is this: Pope Francis is showing us how the pursuit of holiness will take us into deeper relationship with God, and reveal new things to us:

 

Paragraphs 120-121 and Psalms 120-121

Psalm 120 is a fiery, angry Psalm; all people encounter these emotions. At such times, perhaps we resolve to undertake a pilgrimage, realizing that we need fresh air, renewal, and further development, spiritually. At the beginning of this Psalm, the Psalmist asks God for deliverance. This deliverance is “from lying lips,/ from a deceitful tongue.” (120:2) The next two verses speak of the revenge and retribution that the Psalmist would like to see visited upon his/her antagonists. There is some rather vicious war technology added at the end of the second verse:

What shall be given to you?

And what more shall be done to you,

You deceitful tongue?

A warrior’s sharp arrows,

With glowing coals of the broom tree!

 

The Psalmist is imagining arrows being shot into his/her enemies. Some of these arrows are quite hot, inflicting extra pain. To call these wishes of the Psalmist “cruel” might be accurate; it is certainly going in that direction, but perhaps the envisioned action does not actually arrive at that violent end: Many of the angry Psalms (or their technical name: “cursing Psalms”) are intended to transform our hot anger into prayer. By doing this, they take our difficult emotions and transform them into greater Spiritual capacity, and holiness, for us. By speaking our anger into prayer, we also avoid physical violence by the metamorphosis of our anger into prayer, aided by the Psalms.

Pope Francis’ use of Psalm 120 is a stroke of Christian genius. In this part of the Exhortation, Pope Francis has been speaking of humility, and how humility is important for the growth that we need to register on the Spiritual journey. To grow in humility requires humiliations, and, as we know, there are many humiliations provided to us in the course of life. Additionally, the Psalmist of Psalm 120 undergoes humiliations. Speaking to this, here is Paragraph 120:

“I am not saying that such humiliation is pleasant, for that would be masochism, but that it is a way of imitating Jesus and growing in union with him. This is incomprehensible on a purely natural level, and the world mocks any such notion. Instead, it is a grace to be sought in prayer: ‘Lord, when humiliations come, help me to know that I am following in your footsteps’.”

Pope Francis is showing us how we grow in the way of humility. On “a purely natural level,” humility does not make much sense. It actually might go against our natural drives and inclinations. However, it is both highly human and Spiritual, as everyone with experience of the Spiritual walk will attest. The Pope is showing how, in the light of Jesus and the New Testament, we rise above earlier, aggressive attitudes of more primitive humanity, such as the hopes for violent revenge demonstrated by the ferociously angry Israelite. No, we humans are meant to become creatures of love. God will take care of any corrective actions that need to be made in the offenders’ souls, so we don’t have to worry about retribution. God is also about Justice, and God will see Justice done. Our job is to grow in humility; with this growth comes the ability to handle more Spiritual energy, more of the Spirit’s gift to us, which requires patience, observation, and lots of learning. Humility helps us to bear more of the Spirit’s power.

Psalm 120 ends with the Psalmist realizing he/she must move their physical location to a place that is more conducive to their truer potential being; hence, the theme of pilgrimage/migration is struck:

…Woe is me, that I am an alien in Meshech,

That I must live among the tents of Kedar.

Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace.

I am (for) peace;

But when I speak, they are for war.

 

Perhaps it is this implicit desire for a change of scenery, and a chance to grow, that impels the Psalmist on the pilgrimage that the next 14 shir hammalot (Songs of Ascents) will celebrate as the voyaging pilgrims sing them on their way.

Paragraph 120 of the Exhortation ends with a similar call to pilgrimage, albeit a more Spiritual journey: “Lord, when humiliations come, help me to know that I am following in your footsteps.” We all walk along and follow the Psalmist’s path.

So important is this lesson that Pope Francis continues speaking of our growth beyond the violent attitudes of Psalm 120 well into the next paragraph, 121:

“To act in this way presumes a heart set at peace by Christ, freed from the aggressiveness born of overweening egotism. That same peacefulness, the fruit of grace, makes it possible to preserve our inner trust and persevere in goodness . . .”

Pope Francis continues this Paragraph with three quotations from the Psalms!:

“ . . . ‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death’ (Ps 23:4) or ‘a host encamp against me’ (Ps 27:3). Standing firm in the Lord, the Rock, we can sing: ‘In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety’(Ps 4:8).”

All three of these Psalm quotations chime nicely with Psalm 120.

Pope Francis then shifts gears to the more developed humanity of the New Testament, with three quotations reflecting humanity’s advances in Christ:

“Christ, in a word, ‘is our peace’ (Eph 2:14); he came ‘to guide our feet into the way of peace ’ (Lk 1:79) [note the subtle theme of pilgrimage here, in the stunning turning from the Old Testament to the New Testament motif at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel]. As he told Saint Faustina Kowalska, ‘[Humanity] will not have peace until it turns with trust to my mercy.’ So let us not fall into the temptation of looking for security in success, vain pleasures, possessions, power over others or social status. Jesus says, ‘My peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world gives peace’ (Jn 14:27).”

In addition to continuing the discussion of the development of humanity beyond primitive attitudes shown in Psalm 120, Paragraph 121 also has literary connections to its numerical parallel, Psalm 121, which the reader can easily find. At this time, let us move to the next pair.

 

Paragraph 122 and Psalm 122

Psalm 122 celebrates the physical setting forth on pilgrimage, and even has an earlier memory of the joy of physically arriving at the end of a pilgrimage.

Then, in present time, the middle of the Psalm looks forward to arriving at Jerusalem in this current pilgrimage.

The end of Psalm 122 begins to have notions of love shared with others—that is, it has hints of going beyond mere ‘physical’ pilgrimage—however, this love is very much limited to the physically local tribe:

 

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

‘May they prosper who love you.

Peace be within your walls,

And security within your towers.’

For the sake of my relatives and friends

I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’

For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,

I will seek your good.”

 

There is gladness at the beginning of the Psalm, and at the end of the Psalm there is an awareness of other people (still within the tribe) and hopes for their happiness. This is an early, positive step in our human evolution. It shows slight expansions in human care for other people.

Of course, with Christianity, we progress much further.

In Paragraph 122, Pope Francis begins by reminding us that Saints have evolved well beyond mere primitive attitudes: “Far from being timid, morose, acerbic, or melancholy, or putting on a dreary face, the saints are joyful and full of good humor. Though completely realistic, they radiate a positive and hopeful spirit.”

Pope Francis then cites three verses from the New Testament again; additionally, he has a quotation from Saint Thomas Aquinas that completely reconfigures the goal of ‘pilgrimage’, according to our human evolution: we do not merely arrive at a destination, a physical place, or even at a “beloved” person; rather, we arrive at a truly developmental destination, that is, we arrive at greater human and spiritual evolution, by becoming human beings of love, and as such, we simply cannot refrain from exuding joy:

“This Christian life is ‘joy in the Holy Spirit’ (Rom 14:17), for ‘the necessary result of the love of charity is joy; since every lover rejoices at being united to the beloved…the effect of charity is joy’.” Aquinas is saying that our true pilgrimage—our growth in love—results in irrepressible joy.

The ancient Psalmist of Psalm 122 rejoiced to physically arrive in Jerusalem annually.

By way of contrast, the Christian described in Paragraph 122 rejoices to evolve in love and in relationship with God. We see how meaningful is the dialogue between Pope Francis and the Psalms.

Indeed, the Christian, despite the challenges the Word calls us to engage, finds more meaning and purpose in the Word than in the armed walls of Jerusalem: “Having received the beautiful gift of God’s word, we embrace it ‘in much affliction, with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit’ (1 Thess 1:6). If we allow the Lord to draw us out of our shell and change our lives, then we can do as Saint Paul tells us: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always; I say again, rejoice!’ (Phil 4:4).”

Indeed, Paragraph 122 is the first paragraph of the section of Chapter Four entitled ‘Joy and a Sense of Humor’.

What Pope Francis is about to do with Psalm 123 is indeed joyful and humorous:

 

Paragraph 123 and Psalm 123

Psalm 123 begs the Lord for mercy.

Perhaps one of the reasons for the urgency of this ancient plea is that the Psalmist finds oneself beset by haughty and scornful people; an occasional motif of the Psalms is that decent people are often targeted by the scorn of the proud.

Pope Francis, however, implies that none of that is to be worried about any longer, because of an event of far greater consequence: For the arrival of Jesus Christ is itself the culmination of all of these Songs of Ascents, the shir hammalot, Psalms 120-134! Indeed, this paragraph has a dense collection of poetic images that echo the physical landscapes of the Psalms of Ascents; however, the images in this paragraph are taken from other books of the Old Testament. The themes of ‘song’, ‘mountain’, ‘Zion’, ‘Jerusalem’, and more, are present both in Paragraph 123 and the Psalms of Ascents; so why does Pope Francis take this paragraph’s images from other parts of the Old Testament? Because the entire Old Testament points to the joyful Advent of Jesus Christ! [This tiny new essay shows how the Psalms of Ascents also show Jesus in the womb of Mary: https://scripturefinds.wordpress.com/2018/11/15/a-new-biblical-discovery-the-moment-of-conception-hidden-in-the-book-of-psalms/ ] To show this, Pope Francis rallies the support of the Prophets Zechariah, multiple authors in the Book of Isaiah, and Nehemiah to show how the entire Old Testament is focused on the arrival of Jesus Christ. The very notion of the Ascent to Jerusalem, the very idea of human evolution and pilgrimage, is shown to culminate in Jesus Christ.

In fact, Pope Francis chooses a text from Zechariah to celebrate the ancient Israelites waiting for Christ, who is “your king!” Here is Paragraph 123:

“The prophets proclaimed the times of Jesus, in which we now live, as a revelation of joy. ‘Shout and sing for joy!’ (Is 12:6). ‘Get you up to a high mountain, O herald of good tidings to Zion; lift up your voice with strength, O herald of good tidings to Jerusalem!’ (Is 40:9). ‘Break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people, and he will have compassion on his afflicted’ (Is 49:13). ‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he’ (Zech 9:9). Nor should we forget Nehemiah’s exhortation: ‘Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!’ (8:10).”

Again, this powerfully shows how the paragraphs of the Exhortation are alluding to the Psalms of the same numbers, while, at the same time, showing how all things are recapitulated in Jesus Christ.

 

Paragraph 124 and Psalm 124

Psalm 124 rehearses the deliverance of the ancient Israelites from many perilous situations. Near the end of this short Psalm is a memorable stanza:

“Blessed be the Lord, who has not given us

as prey to their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird

from the snare of the fowlers;

The snare is broken,

And we have escaped.”

 

The people are rejoicing in the light of their escape, their journey out of the trap. Additionally, this may remind us of the escape from the dragon by the woman clothed with the sun, from the Book of Revelation, as the woman gives birth.

In fact, Pope Francis begins Paragraph 124 by speaking of Mary; and he quotes from the brilliant infancy narrative of St. Luke’s Gospel.

The Holy Spirit is the seal of our life of Resurrection in Christ. It is the seal of the Church. Pope Francis notes, “and Jesus himself ‘rejoiced in the Holy Spirit’ (Lk 10:21). As he passed by, ‘all the people rejoiced’ (Lk 13:17).”

 

Paragraph 125 and Psalm 125

Psalm 125 begins with a stolid image of physical security, representing a deeper security that comes from abiding in the Lord:

“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,

which cannot be moved, but abides for ever.

As the mountains surround Jerusalem,

so the Lord surrounds his people,

from this time on and for evermore…”

 

Pope Francis speaks of this security in Paragraph 125, yet tailors it to a more profound security, that of the Spirit, not mere physical security:

“Hard times may come, when the cross casts its shadow, yet nothing can destroy the supernatural joy that ‘adapts and changes, but always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved.’ That joy brings deep security, serene hope and a spiritual fulfillment that the world cannot understand or appreciate.”

The end of Psalm 125 speaks of the Psalmist’s hope that God will do good things to good people, and severely punish the wicked. But the Christian attitude has evolved far beyond such earlier, undeveloped wishes. Pope Francis, fittingly, speaks of “ . . . spiritual fulfillment that the world cannot understand or appreciate.”

In the mystical architecture of the Book of Psalms, which is a marvelous system that is far beyond the capacities of the human redactors/editors to have woven into the Book of Psalms, the phrase from Psalm 125 describing the “mountains surrounding Jerusalem” has deep importance. Right after Psalm 125 we come to the truest heart of the Psalter: Psalms 126, 127, and 128.

These three Psalms are the deepest heart of the Psalter for several reasons. There are dense networks of key terms in these three Psalms, and developments and themes that make these poem-prayer-songs the theological nexus of the Book of Psalms.

Additionally, when we shall (later) bring in the Mystical Psalm Structures, we see that these three Psalms are central to those structures. Psalm 126 is a Pillar Psalm and a Ladder Psalm. Psalm 128 is the most important Psalm of the Interwoven Menorahs. As such, Psalm 128 pulls Psalm 127 into its gravitational density, and shares much meaning with its neighbor, Psalm 127, within the powerful setting of the Interwoven Menorahs.

Let us now reflect upon how Pope Francis discusses these three Psalms in his Paragraphs 126, 127, and 128:

 

126, 127, and 128

Psalm 126 is a celebratory Psalm that recalls the return of the Hebrews from the Babylonian Captivity. The Psalm has dreaming, laughter, and shouts of joy:

“When YHWH restored the captivity of Zion,

we were like those who dream.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter

And our tongue with shouts of joy.”

Full stop. This is almost incredible. Here in this ancient writing, we actually find a lighthearted use of the word “dream,” along with actual “laughter”?!?! But this is almost preposterous! Ancient writing never talks like this! Modern pop songs do, but ancient writing simply does not! Yet here it is in the center of the Hebrew Scriptures. It is as if this is making a brief, yet prophetic, prelude to something great that our developing history is unfurling at this very moment . . .

Pope Francis catches this in the first sentence of Paragraph 126:

“Christian joy is usually accompanied by a sense of humor.” Of course, this reflects well the “laughter” of Psalm 126, one of very few times that genuine laughter appears in the entire Old Testament.

Turning to Paragraphs 127 and 128, we see that both contain the word ‘happy’ or ‘happiness’. This is perfectly in parallel with Psalms 127 and 128, both of which contain the immensely important word for ‘happy’ or ‘blessed’, ashre. In the 18 Psalms that make up the Interwoven Menorahs, the word ashre occurs with a 300% greater frequency than in the other 132 Psalms of the Psalter. (Psalm 128 is also the most important of the Menorah Psalms, and has this word twice.)

Additionally, at the center of the Menorahs, and surrounded by the metaphorical mountains of security, there is the beautiful human family. Pope Francis makes hints of this in his Paragraphs 127 and 128. Let us consider both groups:

 

Paragraph 127 and Psalm 127

Like Psalm 125, Psalm 127 also speaks of security. Yet here in Psalm 127, there is a deeper sense of the dependency of humanity upon God:

“Unless the Lord builds the house,

those who build it labor in vain.

Unless the Lord guards the city,

The guard keeps watch in vain.”

The Psalm then proceeds to realize that all is a gift from God. A rather free translation/interpretation of the final strophe of verse 2 says “God blesses God’s beloved children while they sleep,” which is something good for children and adults to think about. Here is a more literal translation of verse 2 in its entirety:

“It is in vain that you rise up early

and go late to rest,

eating the bread of anxious toil;

for he gives sleep to his beloved.”

Setting a model for all Christians, Saint Francis of Assisi learned and lived this divine simplicity of direct relationship with God. Gracefully transforming the impoverished appearance of ‘bread’ from the Psalm, Pope Francis writes:

“With the love of a father, God tells us: ‘My son, treat yourself well…. Do not deprive yourself of a happy day’ (Sir 14:11, 14). He wants us to be positive, grateful and uncomplicated: ‘In the day of prosperity, be joyful … God created human beings straightforward, but they have devised many schemes’ (Eccl 7:14.29). Whatever the case, we should remain resilient and imitate Saint Paul: ‘I have learned to be content with what I have’ (Phil 4:11). Saint Francis of Assisi lived by this; he could be overwhelmed with gratitude before a piece of hard bread or joyfully praise God simply for the breeze that caressed his face.”

Similarly, the Exhortation’s language of ‘father’ and ‘son’ forms echoes with the images at the end of the Psalm:

Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord,

the fruit of the womb a reward.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior

Are the sons of one’s youth.

Happy is the man who has

His quiver full of them.

He shall not be put to shame

When he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”

 

Paragraph 128 and Psalm 128

We arrive at the humble, majestic, and glorious Psalm 128.

As mentioned above, Psalm 128 is the central Psalm of the Interwoven Menorahs of the Mystical Psalm Structures. Indeed, Psalm 128 is the central Psalm of the entire Psalter.

Pope Francis has referred previously to this amazing Psalm:

In his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, or, The Joy of Love, Pope Francis begins the Exhortation with a full discussion of Psalm 128. He quotes the Psalm in its entirety at the beginning of Amoris Laetitia. Let’s do the same:

 

Happy is everyone who fears the Lord,

who walks in his ways.

You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;

You shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.

 

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine

Within the chambers of your house,

Your children will be like olive shoots

around your table.

Thus shall the man be blessed

Who fears the Lord.

 

The Lord bless you from Zion.

May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem

All the days of your life.

May you see your children’s children.

Peace upon Israel!”

 

Reminding us that neither money nor consumerism is the key to life, Pope Francis writes in Paragraph 128:

“This is not the joy held out by today individualistic and consumerist culture. Consumerism only bloats the heart. It can offer occasional and passing pleasures, but not joy. Here I am speaking of a joy lived in communion which shares and is shared, since ‘there is more happiness in giving than in receiving’ (Acts 20:35) and ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Cor 9:7).”

Then, like Psalm 128, he underscores family:

Fraternal love increases our capacity for joy, since it makes us capable of rejoicing in the good of others . . .”

Here is the blessed table of Psalm 128. Another wonder of Psalm 128 is that it overturns the curse from the Garden of Eden, when humanity was cursed to draw its bread by hard and long work (see again Psalm 127) from the unyielding earth.

Christianity teaches that we really undo the primordial curse when we learn to live in love, when we realize that all people are our sisters and brothers. This is the great pivot, this is the fulcrum over which humanity converts from defensive fearful animals into beings of love who treasure all people in the local and global community.

Here, in the second half of Paragraph 128, observe with what skill Pope Francis has woven in how the full fruition of our human joy is directly related to our capacity to love our neighbor:

“Fraternal love increases our capacity for joy, since it makes us capable of rejoicing in the good of others: ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice’ (Rom 12:15). ‘We rejoice when we are weak and you are strong’ (2 Cor 13:9). On the other hand, when we ‘focus primarily on our own needs, we condemn ourselves to a joyless existence’.”

Rejoicing for others, we realize unity with them.

This is amazing. This is loving our neighbor as ourself, because our neighbor is ourself. Rejoicing for others teaches and incarnates this unity!

Pope Francis brilliantly transforms the center of the Interwoven Menorahs into the evolutionary development of “fraternal love,” a love that is shared not only between members of the same family, no, not even among mere members of the same tribe or larger ethnic group, or nation—no, Pope Francis is describing the development of love, fraternal love, among all of humanity, wherein we realize that everyone is our sister, our brother.

At this point, although there are Paragraphs 129-134 and Psalms 129-134 to consider as the remaining “Psalms of Ascents” pairs, let us finish this section here. We have arrived at the center of this group of Psalms, and seen how, with the lens of Christ, these Psalms speak of human global unity.

 

Part II

The Interwoven Menorahs, the Beatitudes, and the Exhortation

 

The first part of this essay has considered the one-to-one correspondence between the paragraphs of Gaudete et Exsultate, and the Psalms of the same number.

We shall now consider how Gaudete et Exsultate is also in conversation with the Mystical Psalm Structures.

The Beatitudes are the centerpiece of Gaudete et Exsultate. The Beatitudes are the subject of the central chapter of the treatise, and Beatific themes run throughout the entire document. The title of the Exhortation is “Rejoice and Be Glad,” which is from Matthew 5:12, from the “9th Beatitude” that turns from the 3rd person address of first 8 Beatitudes to the direct 2nd person address of the 9th Beatitude: “Blessed are YOU, when . . . rejoice and be glad (gaudete et exsultate) . . .”

Of the 5 chapters of the Exhortation, the central 3rd chapter is a brilliant exegesis of the Beatitudes, in which Pope Francis reveals his vast pastoral skill and experience. And abundant references to the Beatitudes echo throughout the Exhortation.

Let’s reflect for a moment upon the placement of the Beatitudes in the Bible.

The New Testament begins with Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus’ first real public words are the Sermon on the Mount, the great discourse on the mild mountain, the conferring of the New Torah, the Torah of Love and Human Evolution, upon Humanity.

The Sermon on the Mount takes up three chapters of Matthew’s Gospel, Chapters 5-7.

Although Jesus’ first Biblical spoken words occur in Chapter 3 of Matthew, the Beatitudes are his first truly public, projected speech, meant for multiple immediate hearers, and us, to reflect upon. The Sermon on the Mount begins with the Beatitudes. So the first truly public words of Jesus in the Bible are the Beatitudes. The importance of this cannot be emphasized enough.

To prove that this is the case, let’s review his words prior to the Beatitudes:

-As mentioned above, Jesus’ first spoken words in the Bible are a brief exchange with John the Baptist at Matthew 3:15. One of the things going on here is a transition from the Law of the Old Testament to the Love that is taught in the New Testament. (Zechariah fulfills a similar role of transition in Luke’s Gospel, as do Anna and Simeon—all three people are in the old temple.)

-In Chapter 4 of Matthew, Jesus argues with, and refutes, the devil (see Mt 4:1-11).

-When John the Baptist was arrested, Jesus went to Capernaum. “From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near’.” (Mt 4:17) This shows that Jesus continues the work of John the Baptist, who had the same spoken words attributed to him (Mt 3:2). However, it is difficult to imagine that this is a transcript of Jesus’ actual words. He certainly did not go about repeating this phrase to everyone he saw at Capernaum.

So what are we to make of these words? Perhaps Jesus is working out his call, his vocation, and the way in which he is being guided to speak in public. Perhaps Jesus, like many holy people, has to work out the way in which he is being called to speak the Word. His words may have been wonderful at first, as we might expect, but perhaps he was working out the more full messages that God was leading him to speak. By the time he speaks the Sermon on the Mount, the message is far more powerful and integrated than it could have been at earlier stages. (Also, the repetition of the words spoken by his older cousin John may reflect teaching that both of them learned at Qumran or at another community.)

-Next, Jesus calls the first disciples (see Mt 4:18-22).

-Then, Matthew tells us that, “He (Jesus) went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all of Syria…” (Mt 4:23-24a). We are not told precisely what he said.

Then we arrive at the Sermon on the Mount. These are the first literal words that Matthew tells to us that are spoken by Jesus and intended to be heard by many people. So they are the truly first publicly-intended words of Jesus Christ in the Bible.

The Beatitudes all begin with the Greek word ‘makarioi’, which means ‘blessed’ or ‘happy’. So, the first word Jesus speaks in public is ‘blessed’ or ‘happy’. This reminds us directly of Psalm 1, the first word of which is ‘blessed’ or ‘happy’, translating the Hebrew word ‘ashre’. The Book of Psalms begins, “Ashre ha-ish asher . . .” or, “Blessed the person who . . .” (Psalm 1:1)

The fact that this first word, makarioi, ‘happy’, is constantly repeated for a total of 9 (nine) appearances in the first 9 (nine) verses of the Sermon on the Mount is stunning. It speaks of the importance of beginnings, and of the caring return to our beginnings, and to the power of beginnings to steer future development.

The connections between the Psalms and the Beatitudes are beginning to sound and echo, as a new music begins to weave and reverberate through and between the centuries. The great religious feat of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, his transformation of the entire Torah from Mount Sinai into the Christian Gospel of Love, begins with the transformation of a great hidden mystical treasure of the Book of Psalms.

First, some comparisons between the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai and Jesus’ teaching of deep fraternal love in the Sermon on the Mount:

-Only Moses can go up the mountain. If anyone touches the mountain, even an animal, they will be struck dead. On the other hand, Jesus sits with all the people, and teaches them. As the dignity of the human person begins rising far beyond animals (the Gospel is largely about the liberation and growth of the Human Person), Jesus is teaching all of us the evolutionary path of love, which, of course, includes deep concern for the animals.

-There is lightning, thunder, and storm clouds on the mountain as Moses is in conversation with God. On the other hand, Jesus speaks calmly with the people, caringly teaching them. People are calmly gathered, and listen calmly.

-The torah that was handed down at Mount Sinai taught hatred of enemies, as well as the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” teaching, which, of course, the torah is borrowing from the ancient Code of Hammurabi. Jesus overturns this violence with the teaching on love.

-God, at the literary level, is the author of the torah, given at Mount Sinai. Moses copied it directly from God. On the contrary, a well-formed human-divine being, named Jesus, is the giver of the Sermon on Mount; he was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and was a co-author of that discourse.

-The torah has lots of punishments. The Sermon on the Mount is about God’s mercy and love becoming human mercy and love.

-The torah is God’s commands being given down, down to Moses, who came down the mountain, and gave them down to the people; they’ve been given down every generation since. The Sermon on the Mount is about humanity being invited to ascend to a more Jesus-like posture through love.

 

A Mystical Structure: The Interwoven Menorahs, in the Psalms and Beatitudes

One of the hidden mystical wonders of the Book of Psalms is a pair of 9-branched menorahs interwoven with each other. Some themes of this series of 18 Psalms, all of which are multiples of 8 (Psalms 8, 16, 24, 32, . . . , 136, 144), are Light, Family-Community, and Blessedness-Happiness. The Interwoven Menorahs are very human, and intentionally celebrate human community, as does the Sermon on the Mount.

Again, here is the draft of the introduction to the forthcoming book about the Mystical Psalm Structures, which discusses the Intertwined Menorahs:

https://www.academia.edu/16106922/The_Mystical_Psalm_Structures

The nine branches of each New Menorah is a positive growth, a development, from the old 7-branch menorah, especially the one that was housed in the temple. The Book of Maccabees discusses the cleansing of the temple after a desecration, and the miracle of the lasting lamp oil for the rededication ceremony—there was only enough sacred oil to last for one day, but it miraculously burned for all 8 days of the festival. This event became celebrated much later as Hanukkah, when the temple was re-dedicated (the word “hanukkat” appears in the superscription of Psalm 30). Much later, this feast was celebrated with the 9-branch menorahs of Hanukkah that we see today. The primary place of celebration of Hanukkah is the human home, the family house. That is why we often see 9-branch menorahs in house windows, gardens, and front lawns at Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.

A new candle is lit for each of the 8 days of Hanukkah; the 9th candle, which is movable, is called the shamash, and it is used to light the other candles, then placed at the center (usually) of the menorah when the other candles have been lit. A new candle is lit each new day, so that on the 8th and final day of Hanukkah, all 9 candles are lit. The incremental growth of the light, and of the menorah, is important.

The growth from 7 to 9 represents human development and growth, either healthy natural growth, or a more artfully crafted human grafting onto the original tree or vine. People around the world have joined Christianity. Every person’s story is a unique victory and a new prism, a new facet, of the Gospel of Jesus. Every person is a unique member of the Body of Christ, a new branch on the growing olive tree of Salvation History.

As mentioned above, Light, Family-Community, and Blessedness-Happiness are themes of the 18 Psalms that make up the pair of 9-branched menorahs hidden in the Psalms.

In these 18 Psalms, the word “light” appears with 350% more frequency than in the other 132 Psalms. Obviously, the theme of light goes well with candles or menorahs.

The Beatitude word ashre, “happy” or “blessed,” appears also with 300% greater frequency than in the other 132 Psalms. There are 9 (nine) appearances of ashre in the 18 Psalms of the menorahs, one for each branch of a 9-branched menorah. These 9 Hebrew ashre match the 9 Greek makarioi of the Beatitudes.

Additionally, discussions of family and community appear much more frequently in the 18 Psalms of the menorahs (while this fact is obvious upon reading the Psalms, it is difficult to put a specific percentage to it).

The Interwoven Menorahs represent how human individuals, human families, human communities, and the entire human race, is evolving to become the city on the hill, the light of the world/cosmos, that Jesus mentions right after the Beatitudes.

The New Testament re-presents the Interwoven Menorahs of the Mystical Psalm Structures in many ways. The most remarkable of these is in the first public words of Jesus in the Bible, the Beatitudes.

There are 9 Beatitudes that begin the Sermon on the Mount. Each Beatitude begins with the word makarioi, which is the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew ashre. So there are 9 ashre in the Menorah Psalms, and 9 makarioi in the Beatitudes.

Beatitudes 1 and 8 have the same promise, “theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. (5:3; 5:10)” This intentionally forms the outermost pair of candles matching each other in the menorah. And this also establishes a pattern for the interior pairs of the menorah, in that they also match and balance each other.

The first 8 Beatitudes are 3rd Person: Blessed are they. The 9th Beatitude turns to us in direct 2nd Person address: Blessed are You. We are meant to be the shamash, the 9th candle that lights all the others. Each of us is meant to bring the Christian message of love to earth, igniting the great and glorious menorah that is the entire human family, present wherever there are people on the earth.

Right after the Beatitudes, Jesus speaks of light, and of human community: “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden (5:14).” Then Jesus actually gets more specific, and mentions the menorah! “No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand (luxnian), and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven (5:15-16).” The Hebrew word menorah means “lampstand”; in the Greek, it is the word luxnian! Jesus says the word “menorah” right after speaking the Beatitudes!

The “bushel basket” is Jesus’ humorous commentary on the old stone temple, with the never-ending flow of blood from the constant sacrifices, and requisite blood sewers.

Jesus would replace that fixation on sacrificed victims and streaming blood with human growth in mercy. This is what humanity looks like when we are evolving: light and love.

A future humanity can only be about love.

When we look again at Pope Francis’ earlier books, we see all these themes therein as well.

For example, in the introductory paragraphs of Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), he says that “. . . the Spirit guides us toward the entire truth (cf. Jn 16:13) . . .” The Spirit guides us as we become to temple of God, and as we become the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit (these are frequent themes of Paul’s Scriptures). This is taken up in the second essay of this current series on the more recent Gaudete et Exsultate.

There is also a lengthy discussion, just below the surface level of the text, in Amoris Laetitia on the material we have just discussed: It is about how the Intertwined Menorahs of the Mystical Psalm Structures take on a stunning new beauty in the Beatitudes, a pinnacle of Scripture, the statements of Beatitude that are Jesus Christ’s first words addressed to the us as a community.

In the Interwoven Menorahs, Psalm 128 is the most important of the 18 Menorah Psalms; and Psalm 128 is the central Psalm of the Bible. Many great spiritual themes come together in a great dense microcosm of Reality in this tiny Psalm. Some of the themes: Happy-Blessed (ashre); woman-and-man; marriage; the home; children; the family table; growth, fruit, garden, life; the operation of true and meaningful poetry; the first Creation and the ongoing New Creation; a happy society; many generations of learning and loving humanity; and Jerusalem as a symbol of a united mutually-loving humanity.

Psalm 128 may be even more important than Psalm 84, which is a centerpiece of both the Ladder and the Pillar of the Mystical Psalm Structures. Additionally, as mentioned above, Psalm 128 forms a densely-woven symphony with Psalms 126 & 127 at the center of the Psalms of Ascents (Psalms 120 – 134). A quick reading of these three Psalms, 126-128, shows how many themes they share; the connections are even thicker and more multi-faceted between Psalms 127 & 128.

The entire Chapter One of Amoris Laetitia is an inspired 12-page (23 paragraphs) exegesis on Psalm 128, crafted beautifully to speak with the good work and discoveries of the Synod. The beginning of Chapter One quotes Psalm 128 in its entirety. Even before we get to Psalm 128, however, Pope Francis presents a verse from the great Argentinean poet, Jorge Luis Borges: “every home is a lampstand” (que toda casa es un candelabro/ donde las vidas de los hombres arden). (from Calle Desconocida, or, The Undiscovered Way)

Borges also knows about the Mystical Psalm Structures, one of several empowered poets whom the Holy Spirit illuminated about these Mystical literary Realities. The “lampstand” of Borges’ poem, obviously, is the lampstand/menorah that Jesus mentions directly after the Beatitudes, powerfully relating the Beatitudes to the Mystical Menorahs of the Psalms.

Here is Psalm 128:

 

Happy everyone who fears the Lord,

Who walks in his ways.

You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;

You shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.

 

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine

Within your house;

Your children will be like olive shoots around your table.

Thus shall the person be blessed

Who fears the Lord.

 

The Lord bless you from Zion.

May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem

All the days of your life.

May you see your children’s children.

Peace upon Israel.

 

Note the organic and communal growth sweetly developing throughout the Psalm. The first strophe speaks of a single (good) person who fears the Lord. (“Fear of the Lord” could be described as “awe and amazement at life’s progressions, and at our ongoing development of our personal relationship with God.”)

The second strophe speaks of a loving marriage that attains great fruitfulness. Children are seated around the table, imaged as a grove of wonderful young olive trees. The Garden of Eden has been recreated in the home, in the family. This is one of the most beautiful images of the Bible.

The third strophe speaks of the extension of the family through time and space, and the merging with larger society, even global society. “Jerusalem” may well represent the major religions of the world, such as Christianity and Islam and Buddhism, getting along in peace with each other. And “Israel” for Christians has long represented the growing Kingdom of God on earth, and human society growing in joy, peace, knowledge, and goodness.

Additionally, later in Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis speaks of how pastors and the faithful must exercise judicious discernment, now more than ever before.

This also goes with the previous essays on Gaudete et Exsultate, which discuss how the discerning development of our conscience is vital to our ability to directly know the Will of God in a personal way. The direct discerning of God’s Will, by some or eventually all of the Faithful, is crucial to our ongoing evolution and existence. It is part of Vatican II’s chief theologian’s, Karl Rahner’s, call for future Christians to be mystics. This is indeed happening in the world today, as the second essay discussed.

 

Final Comments on the Menorahs

In the second essay of this series, we discussed four pairs of couples in 1 & 2 Peter, couples that are on the Ark of Noah. And we discussed how Pope Francis mirrors this in the naming of four couples of saintly people in Gaudete et Exsultate.

Both of these literary maneuvers, by Saint Peter and Pope Francis, are references to the Mystical Psalms Menorahs. And Jesus is the shamash, the central lighting rod, of the menorahs in both cases.

The Book of Revelation opens with the Son of Man standing among 7 menorahs. The text does not state how many branches are on the menorahs. It could be 9 branches per menorah. It could be billions, or more.

(At Revelation 11:4, two more menorahs appear, making the total 9.)

 

 

Part III

How Does the Human Person Acquire Interiority,

And, How Does Our Conscience Develop?

Our Evolution and Our Spirituality

 

2 Samuel 11 is a mesmerizing chapter of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). It presents how David, who had recently consolidated the kingdom, sent his army off to fight the wars of springtime, “when kings go out to fight,” while he stayed back at the palace in Jerusalem and had drinking parties and afternoon naps on the rooftop. (The forthcoming Red Line of Hope will consider David at greater depth.)

One fateful afternoon that spring, David spotted Bathsheba taking a bath. He twice abused his power by first finding out her identity, then, by having her brought to him on his roof. He either seduced or raped her. She became pregnant. He abused his power again, and had her husband, the indigenous and faithful warrior Uriah, killed intentionally on the battlefront. “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” (2 Sam 11:27)

God then sends Nathan to verbally skewer David, who is shocked, and instantly admits his guilt to God and to Nathan. Nathan says that God has already forgiven David; however, he also says that there will be some fallout from David’s sin, including the destruction of the nation of Israel. (Recall that God never liked the idea of a monarchy; see 1 Sam 8:3-22.)

Whatever God’s long-term plans might be, David is stunned by Nathan’s verbal assault, on behalf of God. David then utters the majestic and beautiful Psalm 51, the great penitential Psalm. Psalm 51 is also very evolutionary. It explores how humanity grows and advances, even through our mistakes. For people who pray the Liturgy of the Hours (the Daily Office) of the Catholic Church, we know that this great Psalm 51 is recited every Friday morning during liturgical prayer. The Daily Office of the Anglican and Episcopal Churches pray Psalm 51 many Fridays of the year as well.

Most Biblical Psalms have superscriptions, which are part of the text of Scripture. The superscription to Psalm 51 references David’s sin: “To the leader. A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.”

The basic theme of the Psalm is that of imploring God for mercy and healing. Greater human awareness and strong commitments to engage in more Godly actions are present too.

However, there is a slightly more hidden theme going on here: There is the explosion of interior language that enters into human consciousness as a result of this sin.

Psalm 51 has more language describing the interior of the human person than any other Psalm in the Bible.

 

Psalm 51

We normally think of Psalm 51 as a penitential Psalm (Church Tradition recognizes 7 special “Penitential Psalms” in the Psalter, including Psalm 51), which is a good way of considering this Psalm. However, Psalm 51 is also hugely about human growth; indeed, it is entirely correct to consider Psalm 51 as a Psalm of Evolution.

There is an explosion of language that discusses the interior of the human person. This also reveals a dawning awareness of newfound processes interior to the human person.

Having set the stage for the appearance of Psalm 51, let’s review the David Story with a more comprehensive lens:

Hot air balloons have interiority, because the warm air they hold is needed to give lift to the balloon. The interiority of the balloon is requisite for its functioning.

Imagine this: David is on the roof of his palace, which is a way to say, in Biblicalese, that David was positively bloated with pride. He had enough hot air in him to send a dirigible on a random mission. There is also a great deal of profound psychological insight in what is occurring with David here. David may have suffered many things in his difficult youth. He was the youngest of 7 or 8 brothers, according to either the Samuel or Chronicles account (1 Sam 17:12-14 says that David is the youngest of 8 sons; 1 Chron 2:15 says that David is the youngest of 7 sons). Being the youngest, he would have been the worst treated among them, especially with the spark of bright liveliness and the “beautiful eyes” that David had (1 Sam 16:12). That he was excluded and probably badly mistreated by his older brothers is shown from the fact that when the Prophet Samuel goes to Jesse’s house to anoint the next king, David isn’t even there. He’s far away. Specifically, he’s out tending the flocks. He liked being out in nature, in the wilderness. He didn’t want to be around his older brothers; when he brings supplies from his father to the army, his oldest brother criticizes him (see 1 Sam 17:26-30). These judgmental words from his brother may summarize David’s fraternal/familial relations. In this, he’s a bit like Joseph of the Old Testament (see the last 14 chapters of the Book of Genesis, chapters 37-50).

After these difficult early years, David joined Saul’s army. David quickly distinguished himself in various ways, including the famous battle with Goliath. Upon entering the leadership of the army, and the inner circle of King Saul’s court, David was first loved, then jealously feared, then hated, by crazy old King Saul. Near the end of their keeping company together, Saul twice tried to pin David to the wall with a spear. And at two different times David married two of Saul’s daughters, and Saul stole both of his brides back and gave them to other men. Additionally, there was a very strong bond between David and Saul’s son Jonathan. So David has a lot of conflict in the area of sexuality. David is a conflicted person who, despite his closeness to God, had suffered much and was not perfect.

After finally fleeing from deranged Saul, he was on the run as a guerilla leader, and began wielding greater power, but without being settled. He had women, but was very much unsettled and on the move. Did he know true love?

Skipping over a great deal of the David Story, we arrive to 2 Samuel 11, when David is waking up after an afternoon nap on the palace roof and strolling about as sunset approaches—while the army is fighting and dying for him. We are approaching some of the greatest literature of the Old Testament. But David is in a time of personal turmoil and conflict here. He is sick of fighting. He knows some things about God, and wants to lead humanity into deeper relationship with God. But he is also looking for love. Or contentment. Or something.

He is restless. David is also the golden boy, and he knows it. He is close to God, and he’s consolidated the kingdom for the first and only time in history. For a nanosecond there is peace and prosperity for all, with these little annual springtime skirmishes, which help to keep the borders defined against enemies who constantly probe for weaknesses.

So why not take a vacation from the hard work of being the king in battle? Why not take some time and enjoy the benefits of all his long efforts and toil? Why not have some parties and women on the roof? Why not? David’s life has been hard. He has known suffering, probably a great deal of suffering. God loves him. David also brought the ark to Jerusalem. He can do no wrong.

And after all the hurt David suffered, especially in the area of sexuality, why not have some fun? Or why not search for a more authentic, more satisfying love?

Then he spots her! A gorgeous woman, bathing! After inquiring about who she is, he has her brought to him, and seduces (or rapes) Bathsheba on his palace roof. If it was consensual, perhaps it was the most fulfilling sex of his life. Perhaps he could know a deeper love with Bathsheba than he ever imagined. Eventually, he simply had Uriah, her husband, assassinated during a battle.

During all of this Yahweh has said nothing.

And then we come to the end of Chapter 11:

“But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” (2 Sam 11:27b)

Nathan visits David, and delivers the dagger of a verbal ambush to David’s gut. God has just burst David’s hot air balloon.

Metaphorically, David, on the roof of the palace, collapses and falls through the roof. He plummets down. He passes through the lower floors, and lands hard in the subterranean basements. He looks up, and sees the utter beauty and structure of the human soul. He utters the majestic and glorious Psalm 51.

 

After his sin, David learns a lot more than he previously knew; this is noteworthy, because David already had a great depth and width of experience before his famous springtime. His yet greater understanding of the human soul, and of the human person, is evident in Psalm 51.

Turning to the language of Psalm 51, we see an immense amount of description of human interiority and depth, such as never happens in the first 50 Psalms.

Here are some of the pertinent statements in Psalm 51, verses that especially discuss the developing interior of the human person.

 

Have mercy on me God . . .                           (David knows much about God, including the depths of God’s great mercy)

 

For I know my transgressions . . .                     (he has self-knowledge, a real advance)

 

You desire truth in the inward being;

Therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

Purge me . . .

Wash me . . .

Let me hear joy and gladness;

Let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.

 

Create in me a clean heart, O God,

            And put a new and right spirit within me.

Do not cast me away from your presence,

And do not take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,

And sustain in me a willing spirit.

 

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;

A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

 

The sheer amount of interiority here is stunning and new; at the time that this Psalm arrived to the ancient Hebrews, the people of that part of the world were not yet fully aware of the depth and the interior dimensions that people were capable of. This is a powerful early step forward in learning new dimensions of the inner person. (In the New Testament, amazing new vocabulary words, such as “conscience,” will enter the human conversation, expanding the horizons of our self-understanding in yet more vast ways.)

Has the discussion of the character of David and Psalm 51 revealed surprising depths within humanity? Well, the New Testament’s first writer, Paul, is going to chart far more deeply the ongoing human interior development, especially in Romans 7 & 8. Paul and Romans 7 & 8 could be considered as an icon of human evolution, in a far more mature way than David and Psalm 51. What happens here?

Paul begins Chapter 7 by dealing with the conditions under which it is right for a once-married woman to marry another man. And the condition, stipulated by the Law, is for the first husband to die. David had met this condition, but had done so wrongly, by ordering the murder of Uriah. As Psalm 51 says, in David’s acknowledgment of God’s desires, “You (God) desire truth in the inward self . . .” (51:6) Indeed, God desires consistency, transparency, and unity within the human person. But this long march towards integration, both in an individual life, and in the human race, is not an easy march.

Paul concludes the initial section of Chapter 7 by speaking of “new life in the Spirit.” (Romans 7:6) This is reminiscent of Psalm 51, even as it goes beyond Psalm 51.

[What has not been known before now is that Chapters 7 and 8 of Romans are in deep conversation with David’s big sin, and the fallout of that sin, in 2 Samuel. Especially Chapter 7 is taking this up; Chapter 8 is more about the arrival of the son of David, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and Love. Solomon built the first temple. Through Jesus Christ, who is a far better son of David than Solomon, the human person becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit, of Love.]

For the rest of Chapter 7, Paul, and humanity, are going to be involved in a deep wrestling match within ourself. When Paul speaks for the rest of the chapter in the first-person-singular, when he says “I,” he could be speaking of:

1) himself, or,

2) Adam, or,

3) the struggles of the Hebrews to live according to the 613 laws of the Torah, or,

4) all individual human beings who struggle to live moral lives and make good decisions as they grow into maturity, or,

5) collective humanity evolving.

Most likely he’s alluding to all these situations.

There is a battle. Paul/humanity knows the Law. But he cannot do it. He fails. This battle is generating a lot of interior struggle within Paul/humanity, and so, because of all this internal activity and toil, there is a real increase of internal language that describes the interior life and developments of human persons.

However, all is loss. The human inscape is a battlefield of continual losing. Nothing goes well, at first glance. Paul/humanity cannot do anything right. The slowly emerging “human will” seems initially aligned with sin, not with Godly realities.

Paul/humanity just continues losing miserably (see Romans 7:7-25).

But in the middle of these near-endless defeats and humiliations, something absolutely breathtaking happens . . .

While he’s describing this seemingly endless battle and frustration, Paul slips in the statement, “For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self….” (Romans 7:22)

What!? But this is amazing! This verse announces something entirely new: that human persons had an “inmost self,” or, literally, an “inner person!” This is a revelation! This revelation reveals a development that has hiddenly happened! Paul has slipped this major anthropological revelation into the chaotic constant losing of the earlier human situation. We develop interiority precisely because of this constant losing battle! This is similar to David’s struggles, which achieved an earlier, simpler, culmination in Psalm 51. (Remember, Paul begins Chapter 7 discussing when a woman can take a new husband, reminiscent of David’s sin that led to his uttering of Psalm 51 . . . The deftness, lightness, and sleight of hand that Paul utilizes in referring to David is admirable.)

It almost seems that some failure in the battles of our life are a prerequisite for growth in human development and self-understanding. And Gaudete et Exsultate mentions that humiliations are the way in which we attain humility (see Paragraphs 118-120).

This is true both on a personal level, and on an evolutionary-anthropological level.

God is bold.

Then, in Chapter 8, Paul is going to reveal God’s plan for what will happen after humanity has arrived at the point of developing this “inner person.” When humanity arrives at this point, God will do something good: God will place the Holy Spirit within our developed interior person, or, in the original Greek, within the eso anthropon! (Romans 7:22) God will make the interior of the human person the new, living “temple of the Holy Spirit,” and a being of Love, and an important electrical power plant/ transformer station of the Holy Spirit on earth!

All of our losing battles lead to this development! The losses have been slowly expanding the inner person, until, in the fullness of time, God decides that the moment is right to incarnate and enter humanity and the human person!
And after Jesus’ time on earth, we are sent the Holy Spirit to better develop and guide the inner person.

Chapter 8 is chock full of discussion of the Holy Spirit. It’s some of the best and most descriptive language of the Holy Spirit in the entire New Testament and Bible. At the end of the chapter, another addition arrives: 4 times we hear the word “Love.” As a result of this evolutionary progress that Paul is charting for us, “Love” can actually take up permanent residence in the human person. And in the human community, and in the human family.

There are more astonishing developments: Immediately after this, the first verse of Chapter 9 has the word “conscience.” This is a development far beyond anything in the Old Testament. The human person is becoming more wonderfully complex, and therefore able to attain new Spiritual heights and developments.

The anthropological development that Paul has quickly sketched before us is breathtaking.

Let us summarize what Paul does in Chapters 7 & 8, culminating in 9:1 and the appearance of the human conscience:

 

A Review of Romans 7:1-9:1 and the Development of Human Interiority and Conscience:

7:1-6   Discussion of how new life (in the Spirit) delivers us from literal slavery to the Law. Speaking of deceased husbands and remarriage, Paul quietly alludes to Uriah, Bathsheba, and David, i.e., to David’s big sin.

7:7-21            Paul/Adam/Judaism/Humanity/individuals getting constantly beaten by sin. This chronicles the challenges of ‘earlier’ life, when one is trying to live according to the Law, and constantly failing. One notices a distinction between interior hopes and aspirations, and exterior actions, habits, and strong desires that are not easy for us to overcome.

7:22 & 25       At some point, as an unexpected fruit of this losing struggle, the inner person becomes sighted! When the inner person becomes realized, we also realize that we have a total need for Jesus Christ and for his Spirit.

Paul pleads/gives thanks for Jesus’ saving action in his life/our human evolution.

-Chapter 8 begins taking up this new life in the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit, additionally, is moving within the human person. We might call this “mutual indwelling.”

8:1-11                        The human person who is in Christ is no longer under the Law, but is in the Holy Spirit.

The newly-developed interior life of the person, the inner person (eso anthropon), becomes more vibrant in the Spirit, and not only are we in the Spirit, but the Spirit is now within us. There is mutual indwelling between God and us, between Jesus and us, and between us and the Holy Spirit.

8:12-17          Paul invites us to live according to the Spirit, as children of God.

8:18-25          How God, Creation, we children of God, and the Holy Spirit work together in our Spiritual evolution.

8:26-30          How God’s will, and the Holy Spirit, and we can work together.

8:28    First appearance of ‘Love’ in Romans 7 & 8: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

8:31-33          God’s Love for us, in Jesus Christ, revealed to us.

8:35    Second appearance of ‘Love’ in Romans 7 & 8: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?”

8:37    Third appearance of ‘Love’ in Romans 7 & 8, at which Humanity finally achieves victory: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

8:39    Fourth appearance of ‘Love’ in Romans 7 & 8: “ . . . [Nothing] can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is the final verse of Chapter 8.

9:1      Humanity realizes the development of our conscience. This shows the continuing development of the human soul, mind, and heart.

 

Now, to recall the second essay in this series of three essays: The entire discussion of how our conscience and the will of God/guidance of the Holy Spirit can cooperate and work together could be seamlessly placed into this discussion here. This is, indeed, one of the major evolutionary advances that the New Testament gives to us. Of course, this message is not merely in the Scriptures alone—it’s also the message of the developing 2000 years of our Tradition, which has been guiding us in preparation for the New Pentecost that we are entering now.

The New Testament has other places that discuss the amazing emergence of the new inner person:

2 Corinthians 4:16

“So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer person [exo…anthropos] is wasting away, our inner (person) [esothen (anthropos)] is being renewed day by day.” The next verse continues: “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure.”

This immense “weight of glory” is a nice counterbalance (sic) to the constant losing of Romans 7. However, it not accurate to call it a “counterbalance.” It is a flood of grace that completely overwhelms and overcomes all earlier losses and suffering. Remember, “we are more than conquerors,” because of Jesus’ victory.

 

Ephesians 3:16

Note the themes of love, and glory, echoing Romans 7 & 8, and 2 Cor 4:16:

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner person (eso anthropon) with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.”

The term “inner person” here is spelled precisely as it is in Romans 7:22, eso anthropon.

Additionally, we normally think of space in three dimensions. Paul does not. He gives us four dimensions: “breadth and length and height and depth.” Perhaps Paul is pointing to great dimensions that open within the human person, and the inner person, or that become opened when we live lives of love in the Spirit. It speaks of our greater participation in mystical knowledge, shared with us by God.

The gifted author(s) of Ephesians, who clearly loved Paul and deeply understood his message, have made a beautiful synthesis of his earlier writings here.

 

1 Peter 3:4

Additionally, St. Peter will clearly connect this inner person with the human heart: “the hidden person of the heart . . .”

This chapter of Peter is very dense and mystical. One of the things happening here is that the woman/wife may assist her husband/man in achieving interior depth. There is a dialogue and movement towards integration. When this integration of the human person happens, Spiritual gifts will abound, because the human soul will be capable of receiving them and working with them.

 

Returning to Gaudete et Exsultate:

We shall now see that Pope Francis has fully comprehended, and is deeply commenting upon, the depth and profundity of this powerful anthropological development within humanity.

Let us turn now to Paragraph 51 of Gaudete et Exsultate.

This paragraph, by virtue of being number “51,” has in the background Psalm 51 and the story of David’s big sin/ human evolution/Romans 7, 8, and 9:1.

At the very beginning of the paragraph is a direct reference back to Paragraph 1, and the beginning of the Exhortation. Paragraph 51 begins, “When God speaks to Abraham, he tells him, ‘Walk before me, and be blameless’ (Gen 17:1).”

And at the beginning of the document, in Paragraph 1, we read, “The call to holiness is present in various ways from the very first pages of the Bible. We see it expressed in the Lord’s words to Abraham: ‘Walk before me, and be blameless’ (Gen 17:1).”

Why does Pope Francis make a reference back to the beginning of the document? Perhaps because, as with Psalm 51, there is a radical and glorious new beginning for humanity here. Pope Francis is here celebrating the stunning anthropological and theological leap forward that occurs in the light of the Christ Event.

Additionally, like St. Paul in Romans 7 & 8, Pope Francis is describing what is placed in the human person, once we have become capable of this anthropological depth:

The Holy Spirit now resides in us.

One of the remarkable features of Psalms 60 and 108 is the fact that they are deeply connected to each other: The second halves of each Psalm are practically identical with each other. And in both Psalms, God enters the human situation, quite strongly and rudely. God enters humanity, to make corrections and suggest new things.

Additionally, both Psalms 60 and 108 are stationed precisely 24 units from Psalm 84. (Psalm 24 is an important temple Psalm.) Psalms 60 and 108 are both in equidistant orbit around Psalm 84. Psalm 84 is the most important of the Ladder Psalms, and, except for Psalm 128, could be the most important of all the Psalms.

In Psalm 84, the human person is at home within God. This is the opposite of God rudely moving into the human realm in Psalms 60 & 108. Here, centered perfectly between Psalms 60 and 108, God invites humanity to live within God in Psalm 84. In fact, Psalms 60 & 108 form a nest around this vital center, Psalm 84. The nest and baby birds are meant to be both literal and figurative. In Psalm 84, a mother bird (God) builds a nest inside the temple for baby birds (us).

Actually, like amazing post-modern art, the Mystical Psalm Structures do radical new things. One example: the 25 Psalms that make the Ladder are capable of reconfiguring themselves to form a new Mystical Structure: the Growing Pregnant Womb, according to the 10-month (lunar calendar) period of gestation. And Psalm 84 is at the center of this Mystical Structure, the Growing Womb. Here is a link to an article that discusses this:

https://scripturefinds.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/the-growing-pregnant-womb-hidden-in-the-psalms-and-in-shakespeare/

(By the way, the numbered sonnet collections of Philip Sidney and William Shakespeare recreate this bird nest/temple in stunning ways. God mystically awakened both poets. The living human link that helped lead these two English poets to make this realization probably came from Sidney’s connections to Italy, as he recounts in his Defense of Poetry. Philip Sidney ends his collection with his Sonnet 108, which is paired with Psalm 108. Sidney’s Sonnet 108 has the word “nest,” as does Psalm 84. And his Sonnets 60 and 108 form a nest around Sonnet 84, just as Psalms 60 and 108 form a ring around Psalm 84.

Turning to Shakespeare: the “Rival Poet” of Shakespeare’s Sonnets can be considered to be David/the Psalmist, so incredibly deeply are the Sonnets in dialogue with the Psalms.)

Now, we are clearly dealing with mystical realities at this point.

This is precisely what Pope Francis discusses in Paragraph 51. He quotes Psalm 84! The human failures of David (Psalm 51) and of Paul/the Hebrews/the Human Race (Romans 7) lead to great things, when we have learned from them and worked through them.

Here is Pope Francis’ Paragraph 51 from Gaudete et Exsultate:

When God speaks to Abraham, he tells him, “I am God Almighty, walk before me, and be blameless” (Gen 17:1). In order to be blameless, as he would have us, we need to live humbly in his presence, cloaked in his glory; we need to walk in union with him, recognizing his constant love in our lives. We need to lose our fear before that presence which can only be for our good. God is the Father who gave us life and loves us greatly. Once we accept him, and stop trying to live our lives without him, the anguish of loneliness will disappear (cf. Ps 139:23-24). In this way we will know the pleasing and perfect will of the Lord (cf. Rom 12:1-2) and allow him to mold us like a potter (cf. Is 29:16). So often we say that God dwells in us, but it is better to say that we dwell in him, that he enables us to dwell in his light and love. He is our temple; we ask to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our life (cf. Ps 27:4). “For one day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere” (Ps 84:10). In him is our holiness.

The highlighted areas especially show connections to the preceding discussion. However, one totally unfamiliar with the David story, or with the Mystical Psalm Structures, or with Peter’s discussion of how our conscience can work far more precisely with the Holy Spirit and therefore do God’s will—indeed, one could read this paragraph and simply be unaware of these marvelous mystical connections that Pope Francis has placed here for us.

With the three references to the Psalms, we see David in the background of the paragraph. However, rather than focusing on the sinfulness that is being overcome in Psalm 51, Pope Francis focuses on the Spiritual dynamism and the new interiority of the human person that is discovered in Psalm 51. Indeed, the paragraph looks forward, and has a verse from Psalm 84 at its close.

Now let us turn to Paragraph 84. As we have seen, Pope Francis has already made powerful and subtle references to both Psalms 51 & 84.

In Paragraph 84, he discusses how we must guard the new temple, the human heart!

 

Here is Paragraph 84:

“Guard your heart with all vigilance” (Prov 4:23). Nothing stained by falsehood has any real worth in the Lord’s eyes. He “flees from deceit, and rises and departs from foolish thoughts” (Wis 1:5). The Father, “who sees in secret” (Mt 6:6), recognizes what is impure and insincere, mere display or appearance, as does the Son, who knows “what is in man” (cf. Jn 2:25).

 

As the old stone temple of Psalm 84 was protected by the city walls, so too does God tell us to guard the new temple, the human heart. The human person is now the temple of God and the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16). Paul also calls us the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). Both of these verses are in the form of challenging questions, as if Paul is surprised that we do not know about this development that has already occurred within us. See also 2 Timothy 1:14, Ephesians 2:22, Galatians 4:6, and more.

But the enemies of our new temple are more insidious than previously. They come from within. They are vain thoughts, and pride, for example. They cannot be easily seen, unlike an enemy army that approaches to attack.

To protect our heart, Pope Francis has a great suggestion. Again, as mentioned in the second of these essays, Pope Francis recommends the Examen of Conscience to all people. This is a very powerful way to get to know the terrain of our souls, quickly.

Right now, we humans are still in the early stages of aligning our interior person, of becoming an integrated humanity, and of making our selves the living temple of the Holy Spirit. The last two millennia have shown great progress in these efforts, along with difficult errors and unhelpful developments, which we can correct.

Now, more than ever, in this vast and dizzying array of choices before us, humanity needs the Spiritual gift of discernment. And we stand in total need of the Holy Spirit to guide us, and to help us in our many large and small tasks of discernment. We are utterly dependent upon the Holy Spirit, who wants to teach us to become inter-dependent.

Each of us needs to become a friend and co-worker of the Holy Spirit.

For us to engage God’s plan for us, and to continue the existence of humanity on our beautiful planet Earth, we must cultivate this relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Pope Francis shows us how to grow in relationship with the Holy Spirit, and to enter the true Humanity that we are called to be now.

Data Base: Words and Phrases from Wallace Stevens’ “Transport to Summer” that Show the Pregnant Womb (He Is in Dialogue with the Mystical Psalm Structures)

 

In Wallace Stevens’ Transport to Summer:

Overt References to the Growing Pregnant Womb,

And to the Moment of Conception,

Of the Mystical Psalm Structures

(with references to Shakespeare’s references to these same things in Sonnets)

 

Explanation: It seems likely that before writing Transport to Summer, Stevens discovered two of the ancient Psalm Structures: The Growing Pregnant Womb, and the Moment of Conception. It seems likely because this volume of his poetry is positively burgeoning with references to spheres, growing midriffs, pregnancy, embryos, and the advance of humanity. Biblical themes, especially from Lucan and Johannine writing, abound too.

The purpose of this chart is to give a sample of the more obvious references to these themes in his 1947 volume, Transport to Summer.

Notes: “sun” appears many times in this collection. Whenever it appears, Psalm 84, a central Psalm to the Psalm Structures (especially to the Growing Pregnant Womb) , is the only place in the Bible that compares the sun to God. Various “birds” and “nest” appear in Psalm 84 also, and so when these appear in the collection, another hint of Psalm 84 may be at hand.

The first number of each poem is the order of the poem in the collection. The second number is the total of the verses in that poem.

 

 

1          18vv   God Is Good. It is a Beautiful Night                title: conception

round. (Ladder). Bird (84). Door. Wings. Fiery.

 

2          40       Certain Phenomena of Sound title: about life in womb

  1. window sill. Cat’s milk. Sunday song (Psalms). Wings. Round. Balloon. Bubble, bubble of air. Spider spins. Pillow, see #8 below (Gen 28, Jacob’s Ladder). Home again (84). Naaman. Garden. Finding way from house. Porch. Sister and nun. SUN (Psalm 84 is the only place in the Scriptures that compares God to the sun). interior of parasol. Blank. Gold-shined by sun.

 

3          20       The Motive for Metaphor       bird. (Absalom). Spring. Moon. 3rd poem, ABC of being (Pound), see #7 below. Ruddy. Red. Dominant X (see #14 below).

 

4          21       Gigantomachia                       giant’s heart. Eye. Increased, enlarged, made simple. New moon, 20 feet (10 people, 240 inches, 100)

 

5          84       Dutch Graves in Bucks County           powerful heart. Middle. Angry men, furious machines. Wheels. Sooty residence. Drums. Foot in air. Circles. Forming. Doubly. Cry loudlier (immaturity in evolution). Gaffer-green. Stars. Men, sun, early children. Your children (x2). Mobs of birth. Arches, arches, arcs. Generation’s centre. Subtle temple, too steep to follow down (fertilized egg of Psalms 119-134 moving to womb, to Psalm 84, beginning The Growing Womb).

 

6          24       No Possum, No Sop, No Taters          OLD SUN. single emptiness, savagest hollow (Kubla Khan too). Crow. Eye. Tree.

 

7          27       So-And-So Reclining on Her Couch                 floats in air. Born at 21 (Birth of Venus, Lady Wisdom, more). Crown. Curving hip. Eyes blue. Head suspended in air. Half who made her.

A, B, C; see #3 above.

Desire of artist, concealed creator (this points to God’s hidden Psalm Structures, which are divinely conceived, and which God has decided to keep largely hidden for 2 millennia). Mrs. Pappadopoulos…. (see previous comment about hiddenness of God’s plan for the Psalm Structures).

 

8          130     Chocorua to Its Neighbor

large in space. Form. Forms in number (points to Psalm Structures, and to Shakespeare). Number over number. Body’s form. Shell. Light embodied. Eye. Pole of blue. Brooding mind. Tree, middle. Shapely fire, underworld. Degree. Upon my top. Silver-shaping size. Cry, soldier. Moments of enlargement. Central mind. Motions of the spirit. Coil. Centre. Gigantic bulk. Touched heart, desire. Change the whole. Radiance. In what new spirit had his body birth? Spokesman of night. Form. Starry head. Under roof. Pillow (see #2 above). Great Cardinal, prayers earliest day. Mother. Scholar, green mind bulges. Transfigurers fetched out of human mountain. True genii for the diminished, spheres. GIGANTIC EMBRYOS OF POPULATION. lofty kin. Depth. Constellation, day’s. lived and not conceived. Integration for integration. Make big (table).

 

9          12       Poesie Abrutie             sun. greenhouse, green.

 

10       20       The Lack of Repose                 young man, table. They reveal themselves. 1 of the gang. Andrew Jackson something. Parent, French sense. Grandfather. Is good, is a good.

 

11       18       Somnambulisma        -note: this poem is #11. And “11” is a symbol of the Ladder, and a shape of it too. It also stands for the temple (and the womb).

bird. Ocean rolls. NEST (PSALM 84)(see #48 below. Both numbers, 11 & 48/84, are temple images or related temple Pss.) . Wings spreading, wings. Generations of the bird are all, bird never settles. Separately dwelling.

 

12       20       Crude Foyer                eye. Paradise. Metaphor. Vital.

 

13       102     Repetitions of a Young Captain          tempest. Theatre. Roof, wind. Pair born old, depths of heart. Gigantic life. Roseate parent. Bride, spirit (Revelation). Soldier seeking point between the 2. Organic. Consolation, complete society of spirit. Half-arc mid-air, mid-earth. 1 and many, I am. Moon. Gold, reddened.

 

14       27       The Creations of Sound          “X”. poetry may = music (psalms).

X”. artificial. “X

(There are 10 lunar months of gestation, of pregnancy, according to the ancients.) “The Growing Pregnant Womb” of the Mystical Psalm Structures reflects this with its 10 concentric circles.

 

15       26       Holiday in Reality                   Palabra (Spanish). Woman, touch. Himself, earth. grows from the belly. Breast, green leaf. Umbilical. Branches. Grow out of the Spirit. Fantastic dust. Bud, apple, desire. Catbird’s gobble. Arrows, quiver (Psalm 127), intelligible, stick in the skin (Psalm 120, first of EGG, Conception Psalms, Shir Hammalot, 120-134; Psalm 127 is right at the center, next to 128, w 126 on other side).

 

16       346     Esthétique du Mal                   poem’s architecture: There are 15 sections of the Psalm, labeled from I to XV. These 15 parts echo the 15 Psalms of the Shir Hammalot, the Psalms of Ascents, a.k.a. the Songs of Degrees. These 15 Psalms form the Moment of Conception, that is, the Fertilized Egg.

 

David springtime hints. For a month. Sultriest fulgurations, flickering. Volcano, Vesuvius. Body trembles at the end of life. Moon. In space. Hives. Oldest parent. Populace of the heart. Constant fellow of destiny. Too human god, self-pity’s kin, uncourageous genesis. Health of the world. honey, golden combs. Could be borne. All sorts, only one. eye. a muffing the mistress for her several maids. Barefoot philandering. Falls out on everything. Body, which is our world. false engagements of the mind. Father’s eye. Brother. Mother’s throat. Being’s deepest darling. Central sense. The golden forms. Suns, sun, lunar month, a further consummation, tenderest research, transmutation, bird. Yellow fruit. revolves. Mind is still immense. CONCENTRIC CIRCLES. Ring him round. MYSTICAL CONVULUTIONS. Woman smoothes her forehead. Tenement. Eccentric. Filial. Bar; son. Silver in the sheathing. Yes. Face of the moon. Round effendi. Phosphored fruit. Goodness of his heart. Proverbs. Pure poverty. Paradise. Later genesis. Shapes. Bubbles up.

  1. X. Maman. Anima, animal. Home was a return to birth, a being born. Desiring fiercely, the child of a mother fierce in his body. Fiercer in his mind. Merciless to accomplish the truth in his intelligence. Other mothers. Singular in form, lovers of heaven and earth, she-wolves and forest tigresses and women mixed with the sea. Homes. Softest woman. Center of a diamond. Bell-billows, bell-bellow. Houses. Children of malheur. Gaiety of language is our seigneur. Rolls. Confected ocean. Sun. tongue caresses. Both worlds. 3rd lover, woman. Center of the heart. Son’s life for the father’s. universal whole. Son and father. Happiest. Cloister, man.

Revolution. Logical lunatics. Intellectual structure. Worlds of logic. World, one’s desire. Paradise. Green corn. Conceived of a race completely physical in a physical world. rotund emotions. Paradise unknown.

REVERBERATING PSALM.             Right chorale.

Sensuous worlds. mid-day air. Swarming (Exodus 1). In living a, where we live.

 

17       15       The Bed of Old John Zeller                  This structure of ideas, ghostly sequences. Another structure of ideas. Other ghostly sequences, luminous sequences (sounds also like DNA, which is Psalm 119, the sperm cell, and the title 128 of Psalm 128, which is the egg’s DNA, the mother’s DNA). “The Bed….” is in the title.

Thought of among spheres. Habit of wishing. As if one’s grandfather lay in one’s heart and wished as he had always wished (this too is DNA). Ghostly sequences. Accept the structure of thins as the structure of ideas. Structure of things, thought of in old peak of night.

See below, #35, Old John Zeller.

 

18       18       Less and Less Human, O Savage Spirit          title: hints that we are also becoming closer to the Divine. A nun once, speaking about John’s Gospel, said that God wants to get into our DNA.

A god in the house, on the stair (God was in Mary’s womb, which is also represented by the Psalms Ladder). Stars. Shapes. Human, cousin, moon, beasts, incommunicable mass. Stick of the mass.

(The “god in the house” also refers to the baby born in Sonnets 153 & 154 of Shakespeare; also, Sonnet 110 speaks of “a god in love,” and the following Sonnet, 111, speaks of a “guilty goddess.” This echoes the penultimate pair of poems in this collection of Stevens, entitled A Pastoral Nun and its partner, Pastor Caballero.)

 

19       20       Wild Ducks, People and Distances                 life of the world. he, she. Live in other lives. The wild ducks were enveloped. Migrations to solitude (the Psalms of Ascents are pilgrimages to community). Central, fire.

 

20       84       The Pure Good of Theory                   Preludes to Felicity. Time that beats in the breast. Time is a horse that runs in the heart (Shakespeare’s sonnets here too). “The reader by the window has finished his book/ And tells the hour by the lateness of the sounds.” This is describing the movement of time and development in the Psalm Structures. mid-earth. A large-sculptured, platonic person (Michelangelo’s statue of David. Shakespeare secretly discusses this same statue in his Sonnet 53).

And here is human evolution, which depends also on societal evolution: “A form, then, protected from the battering, may/ Mature: A capable being may replace/ Dark horse and walker walking rapidly./ Felicity, ah! ….”

Nourish the emaciated. Green glade. Serpents like z rivers simmering. Green glade and holiday hotel and world of the future. Flying the flag of the nude above the holiday hotel. This platonic person discovered a soul in the world.

Man, that is not born of woman but of air. Solar chariot. Eye. One parent must have been divine. Adam. A metamorphosis of paradise. The fragrance of the woman not her self.

Flies like a bat expanding as it flies. Wings. Beast of light. Wiggy book. Universal flare. The eloquences of light’s faculties.

 

 

21       24       A Word with José Rodríguez-Feo                   secretaries of the moon. Queen of ignorance. She presides over imbeciles. Night is the nature of man’s interior world. Is lunar Habana the Cuba of the self? We must enter boldly that interior world (Romans 7 & 8). Old man, selling oranges. Basket. Bloated breath bursts back.

What not quite realized transit/ Of ideas moves wrinkled in a motion like/ The cry of an embryo?

Nature, boulevards of the generals. Unconscious shapes of night. Shapes of another consciousness. The sun comes up like news from Africa.

 

22       26       Paisant Chronicle                    major men, great captain. Chronicle. Men, nations, the race. The race is brave. The fictive man created out of men.

“And a pineapple on the table. It must be so.”

 

23       15       Sketch of the Ultimate Politician                   final builder of total building. Building and dream are one. Words. Beat around the shapes. Crying of the wind (Romans 8). Words that have come out of us like words within/ That have rankled for many lives and made no sound.

 

24       6          Flyer’s Fall                  darkness, space, profundum

 

25       15       Jouga               two conjugal beasts. Male beast. Guitar (Psalm 144, The Growing Womb). It is she that responds. Foot-falls are slight (Ladder).

 

26       14       Debris of Life and Mind                      children. Young. Bright red woman. Golds, brush her hair. Speak thoughtfully, line. Things sing themselves.

 

27       152     Description without Place                  sun. sun. sun. moon. Queen. Her green mind made the world around her green. The queen is an example. This green queen. Summer of her sun. golden vacancy. The crown and week-day coronal of her fame.

II: queen. Eye. Major mind. Barricade against the singular man. Incalculably plural.

III: young poet’s page. Dark musician. Chords. Utmost will. In a world that shrinks to an immediate whole. Secret arrangements. Curling-out of spring/ A purple leaping. Froth the whole heaven. The spirit of one dwelling in a seed (Psalm 119),/ Itself that seed’s ripe, unpredictable fruit.

Pablo Neruda in Ceylon.

IV: moving of their forms. Deepness of the pool. Colored forms. Human shapes. Wrapped in their seemings, crowd on curious crowd. Innate grandiose, innate light, sun. gildering the pool.

“Yes: gildering the swarm-like manias/ In perpetual revolution, round and round…”
The swans fled outward to remoter reaches,/ As if they knew of distant beaches.

The distances of space and time/ Were one and swans far off were swans to come.

Eye. Far-off shapes. Mind raised up, down drowned (WSh, down-razed).

V: The spirit’s universe. The column in the desert,/ On which the dove alights.

A palm that rises beyond the sea. Bright particulars. The arc. Wizened starlight growing young. Old stars are planets of morning, fresh/ In the brilliantest descriptions of new day.

VI: Description is revelation. Double. A text we should be born that we might read. Sun. moon. Book of reconciliation. Book of a concept only possible/ In description, canon central in itself,/ The thesis of the plentifullest John.

VII: theory of the word. For whom the word is the making of the world. lisping firmament, buzzing world. mountainous. Hollowed out of hollow-bright.

Like rubies reddened by rubies reddening.

 

28       36       Two Tales of Liadoff              Do you remember how the rocket went on/ And on, at night, exploding finally/ In an ovation of resplendent forms—

Of large blue men. Of woman hatched. The children there like wicks, sparkled their small gold. The town had crowded into the rocket and touched the fuse.

Incredible colors ex, ex and ex = X, X and X and out. Whole return.

 

29       30,32  Analysis of a Theme               how happy. Young Blandina. Conscious world, great clouds. Potter in the summer sky. Subconscious time. Eye. Tree. (eye and tree appear together above too) No subconscious place. Indyterranean resemblances. Birds, plume. Bright-ethered things. Perfective wings.

 

30       18       Late Hymn from the Myrrh-Mountain          the green bird of summer has flown. Night-flies, planets. Shape. Wings spreading out. Early constellations. Take the diamonds from your hair and lay them down. Timothy.

 

31       14       Man Carrying Thing               obvious whole. Particles. Solid.

 

32       18       Pieces                          there are things in a man besides his reason. Come home, wind. In the air, snow.

Come home, wind, he said as he climbed the stairs. Exhaling creations of itself. Breathed on the ground.

The wind is like a dog that runs away./ But it is like a horse. It is like motion/ That lives in space. It is a person at night,/ A member of the family, a tie,/ An ethereal cousin, another milleman.

 

33       14       A Completely New Set of Objects                   mid-earth. emerging flotillas. Bearing in them shadows of friends (WSh 31) figures verdant. Buried verdure. Carrying such shapes. Knew well the shapes were the exactest shaping/ Of a vast people old in meditation. The fathers of the makers.

 

34       4          Adult Epigram            elision. Diva-dame.

 

35       38       Two Versions of the Same Poem                   title: this title hints at Psalms 35 and 70, which share identical verses; also, Psalms 60 and 108 are largely identical, and form the 4th concentric circle around the central TGL Psalm, Psalm 84. Stevens was aware of this.

Body. In wavering water lies, swollen. Puissant heart. Beating in the centre.
Like space dividing its blue and by division (cell division in embryo)/ Being changed from space to the sailor’s métier,/ Or say from that which was conceived to that/ Which was realized, like reason’s constant ruin./ Sleep deep, good eel, in your perverse marine.

II: human ocean. Old John Zeller (see #17 above). If they were creatures of the sea alone. But singular. Borne up. Caverns. Undivided whole. Shapes of fire. Wind that bears them down.

 

36       10       Men Made Out of Words        sexual myth. The whole race is a poet.

 

37       16       Thinking of a Relation between the Images of Metaphors

title: this title points to the accruing of meaning as one rightly travels through the Psalm Structure; and this accruing of meaning is related to interior literary connections within the Psalm Structures.

Wood-doves. Bass lie deep. One ear, single song. One eye. The fisherman might be the single man/ In whose breast, the dove, alighting, would grow still.

 

38       18       Chaos in Motion and Not in Motion               lashing wind, spirit. 10, 11. X, IV, et cetera. The air is full of children. Massive sopranos, singing songs of scales. Everything at once.

 

39       16       The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm                   house, world. conscious being of the book.

 

40       18       Continual Conversation with a Silent Man                 old brown hen, old blue sky. Between the 2. Broken cartwheel on the hill. Storm of will. One will and many wills, wind. Many meanings in the leaves. Tempest. Wheel that broke as the cart went by. Moving round.

 

41       21       A Woman Sings a Song for a Soldier Come Home                nurse, kin, care. Man dies that does not fall. Under. So much a part of the place. At its edge.

 

42       18       The Pediment of Appearance                     title: just the word “pediment,” by itself, is a symbol, a picture, of the Ladder.

Young men. In the woods. Hunting great ornament. They hunt for a form which by its form alone. They go crying/ The world is myself, life is myself,/ breathing as if they breathed themselves,/ Full of. In the woods. Full blown.

See #45 below, RB 7.

 

43       15       Burghers of Petty Death        the grass is green. Total death. Covering all surfaces, filling the mind. A man and a woman. Clinging to a tree. wasted figure. Blank final music. With an instrument.

 

44       16       Human Arrangement place-bound. within, without. The rain is all one thing. The clear-point of an edifice. Forced up from nothing. The centre of transformations. Transform the transformation’s self. In a glitter that is a life, a gold/ That is a being, a will, a fate.

 

45       14       The Good Man Has No Shape             God was his only elegance. Generation by generation. Bright fruit. Lazarus betrayed him to the rest. Empty book. Jagged sign. The Good Man Has No Shape, as if they knew.

See #42 above. Ladder.

 

46       16       The Red Fern               grows rapidly. Opens, familiar spot. Doubles. Paternal flame. Drenched with its identity. Reflections and off-shoots. Dangling seconds. Grown beyond relation. Parent trunk. Brightest core. Father fire. Infant. Eye.

 

47       18       From the Packet of Anacharsis          found the lines. Farm was fat. Land in which it lay. Centre of all circles. Circles nearest. Recede. Separates. Circles quicken. Vast accumulation. Primitive lines.

 

48       16       The Dove in the Belly                      title: Incarnation, pregnancy, Spirit, 84, (temple of the womb).

Builds his nest (see #11 above).

Selah. Bird. Panniers of green. Great esplanade of corn, miles wide. Something wished for made effectual and something more. Deep dove, placate you in your hiddenness.

See # 42, 45 above.

 

49       18       Mountains Covered with Cats            sea full of fishes in shoals. One seed alone grow wild. Ancient tree at the centre of its cones. Flights. Related trees. Houses in villages. The catalogue is too commodious. Will to power. Propagate. Begetting. Eye.

 

50       18       The Prejudice against the Past           children’s friend. Relics of the heart. Relics of the mind. Shapes, images. Part of the heart.

 

51       15       Extraordinary References                 title: literary connections.

Mother. Child. Great-grandfather. Sun. father. Breath.

 

52       21       Attempt to Discover Life                    volcano. Round, spilled roses. Deadliest heat (temple sacrifices). Person. A woman brilliant. Table. Smiling and wetting her lips. Table. Fomentations of effulgence,/ Among fomentations. Table. Two coins.

This is the Presentation. See #55 & 56.

 

53       24       A Lot of People Bathing in a Stream              passing a boundary to dive/ Into the sun-filled water. Limbed. Bank to bank. Bathed. Particular characters. Gulping for shape. The water flowing in the flow of space. In a world of nakedness. In the company of the sun. at home again. Bed. Frame of the house. Move/ Round the rooms. No change.

This is final image of Bible, Rev 22.

 

54       150     Credences of Summer             midsummer. First inhalations. Young broods. Comfort the heart’s core. Father, mothers. Lovers waiting. Anatomy of summer. Physical pine. Gold sun about. Center that I seek. Fill the foliage. Fertile thing. Green. Happiest. Ruddy summer. Land too ripe. Eye. Last choirs. Honey hived in the trees. Festival. Day, year. One woman, the rest. One man becomes a race. Queen humble. Her whole kin. Sunshine is a filial form. Land’s children, easily born, flesh. Contains the year and hymns. Vital son, youth, heroic power. Rises from land. hermit. 12 princes sat before a king. Deep in the woods. Common fields. Concentered, concentered. Share the day. Breast, warmth. Eye. Complex of emotions. Soft, civil bird. Personae of summer. Summer’s whole. Roseate characters. Completed in a completed scene. Youthful happiness.

 

55       15       A Pastoral Nun                       last year of her age (84….). blessedness. She said poetry and apotheosis are one. Illustration. I live in an immense activity. Enraptured woman. Man that suffered, lying there at ease. Favorable transformations of the wind. General being or human universe. Conceives.

This is the Prophetess Anna of the Presentation.

 

56       21       Pastor Caballero                     hat to a form. Brim. Most Merciful Capitan. Observer. Rhapsody. Its line moves quickly with the genius. Vial, linear. It creates an affectionate name. Deepest mine. An inward mate. Figure meant to bear. Helmet. These 2 go well together.

This is Simeon of the Presentation. See #52 above (also, #48)

Also, Sonnets 110 & 111; god in love, and, guilty goddess.

 

 

57       659 (651 + 8)                       Notes toward a Supreme Fiction

do I feel love? Hidden. Central of our being.

I: inconceivable idea of the sun. sun, eye. Expelled us. umber harvest. II: Hermit. Man’s place in music. Beginning of desire. Ancient cycle. Calendar hymn. immaculate beginning. Winged. Unconscious will. Move between these points. Heart. An Arabian in my room. Primitive astronomy. Wood dove. Iridescence. Owl. Adam, father of Descartes, Eve. Sons and daughters. Earth, green. Shape the clouds. Muddy center. Springs. Place. V: lion roars. Breaches the darkness. Glitter, surfaces of tanks. Bear. Center breeds. Lion, elephants, bears. First fruits, birds. House, sun. eye. Giant, man by thought. VII: walk around a lake. Balances. Swiss perfection. As a man and woman meet and love. Structures in a mist. VIII: castle-fortress-home. Major man. Violet space. Pensive giant. Logos and logic. Double, word, form. Wave. Laboriously. IX: intoning, romantic. Clairvoyance. Apotheosis. Nature, the idiom thereof. Enflashings. Foils. Swaddled in revery. Thoughts evaded in the mind. Cock-birds. My dame. Purest in the heart. X: Exponent (Psalm 128). Heroic part. Separate figures.

I: seraph, gilded, among. Chronologies. Mothers. Bees. Doves, girls. Universe. Pigeons. Body. II: heavy wing. Apples on table. Round him. Warmth is for lovers. Booming and booming. III: statue horse. Bathed. Frame. Suspension. General. Place. IV: natures. Man, woman. Embrace, and forth the particulars of rapture come. Morning and afternoon are clasped together. Intrinsic couple. Two lovers. Greenest body. As one. Partaker partakes. Sister, brother. V: wild orange trees. House. Pineapple. Bananas. Borne his labor. Banjo’s twang. Sparrow. Wren, jay, robin. Glade. In rain. The sparrow is a bird. VII: Moon. Paradise. Hymn. Bloom, abundant. Possess in his heart. Lovers sigh. Conceal. Nothing known. Earthy bird. Chants by book. Degrees of perception. VIII: on her trip around the world. necklace. Belt. Spouse. Bright gold. Spirit’s diamond coronal. Woman. Burning body. Clothe me entire. Final filament. I tremble with such love. Spouse, bride. Heart, mind. IX: and back again. To and fro. Peculiar potency. Compound. X: in the park. Upper air. Swans, seraphs, saints. Changing essences. West wind. Will. Transformation. Freshness of world.

I: feel the heart. Borne. Jerome. Fire-wind strings. Golden fingers. Sea clears deeply. Moon. Heaven-haven. II: blue woman. Window. Grape leaves. Chords. IV: mystical marriage in Catawba. Place. mid-day of year. Marriage wine. Love’s characters, face to face. V: sister. House. Pearls. Widow’s gayety. Praise, conjugation, choirs. Children, sister. Man conceived, gold. Mountain. Ascending wings. Orbits’ outer stars. Utmost crown, he flew. The whole, the amassing harmony. VII: imposes orders. Capitols, corridors. Statues, owl. Elephants. Milk, angel. VIII: angel in his cloud. Violet abyss. Plucks on his strings. Spredden wings. Gold center. Warm. Happy. Cinderella beneath the roof. IX: wren. Cock. Robin. Going round. Round and round. Wine, table, wood. Men, table spins. X: fat girl, terrestrial. Tree. Natural figure. mundo, revolving.

Soldier, sun, moon. 6 & 12. Parallel lines. Poet’s lines. Bread of faithful speech.