Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Out of Joy

Later on, all the children of Israel came up to him, and he enjoined on them all that the LORD had told him on Mount Sinai. When he finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. Whenever Moses entered the presence of the LORD to converse with him, he removed the veil until he came out again.  Exodus 34:32-34

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going…I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so…But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.  And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire…And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it…Therefore, will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”  (Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude)

How does Study change you?  To some degree, study is a type of prayer in which we enter into a conversation with a friend.  Just so happens that that friend is Jesus.  Every time we encounter a friend, either Jesus or our next-door neighbor, we are changed.  We know more about the friend or others. Or maybe we have a fresh, new experience that we share. Camping.  Hiking.  Sharing a meal or a drink out.  No matter what, we are changed at the end of every encounter.

Study is another way to get to know our friend Jesus on a deeper level.  One of the best wellsprings of source material about our friends is what that friend has says or does with us. When it comes to God and Jesus, that gets revealed to us through the Bible. As we get to know them, we are changed.

There is, admittedly, a lot to digest with seventy-three books in the Catholic Bible. Our study allows us to take it in one bit at a time like we do when we have one conversation at a time with a friend.  We do not always pull all-nighters and long road trips. Our encounters happen little-by-little.

Today’s bite for me is in how Moses became radiant after his conversations with the Lord.  The Hebrew word translated “radiant” is spelled like the term for “horns.” Thus, the classical artistic tradition portrays Moses with horns. Moses was described as having “rays on the skin of his face.” St. Jerome translated it to horns from the Hebrew word “keren,” which means either radiated or grew horns.

Now, when you shine a flashlight in a dark room, it makes the ever-expanding shape of a horn. We could be talking about rays or “horns” of light.” Moses experienced this transformation (or glow) when he was in conversation (“conversatio” or “oratio”) with God – one of the four stages of contemplative prayer. We can, too.

Next Sunday, we will once again witness Moses in conversation with the Lord on Mount Tabor.  During the Transfiguration, it is Jesus who becomes radiant. Some of that light rubs off on those around him.

Another way to interpret “horn” is trumpet.  Trumpets are used to announce the entrance of someone important.  They also are synonymous with angels we have heard on high.

Before we can play our evangelical trumpet solo, in an ensemble or with a full orchestra, it takes a lot of practice.  Notes. Scales. Reading music. Keys.  Chords. Rehearsal. Before we can enjoy the full sound of a song, we have to take it one step at a time – like Fraulein Maria teaching the Von Trapp children to sing with “Do-Re-Mi.”

Those conversations with the Lord take many shapes.  Initially it might be prayer by memory.  One step at a time.  “Our Father.”  “Hail Mary.”  “Glory Be.”  Then we might get more conversational and meditative.  Once we get to that stage, a natural outgrowth is to take that conversation and share it with others around us (think Cursillo talk or witness). Moses did just that when he trumpets his conversations with those around him.   

Maybe at some point, our conversations with God become so intimate that, like Moses, we emerge from them with a glow to share with others. Until then, we should rest easy knowing, like Thomas Merton, our friend will never leave us to face the darkness and our perils alone. He is with us always. *

*M135 Team:  See how I save the pearl for the end?  

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