Saturday, April 21, 2007

O Taste And See

Icon of Origen

Origen is one of the most original thinkers the church has ever produced. The Church at Alexandria approached the study and interpretation of scripture in a sophisticated nuanced way which may be helpful in looking at Jonah. Origen and the Alexandrian School saw the Bible in an metaphorical way. There were layers upon layers to be teased out by careful and close reading. It may have been in Egypt that the whole formal discipline of Biblical interpretation began. The Interfaces volume on Jonah lays out this way of thinking. There are three levels of meaning in scripture. [Jonah's Journeys: Interfaces -- Barbara Green, Editor]
  1. The first level of meaning he (Origen) called the literal or historical, comprising, beside events, data like geography and botany.
  2. Another level was called the moral, and comes closer to what we would likely call psychological or ethical.
  3. A third crucial level was for Origen the allegorical or spiritual. It is from this level, accessed ordinarily via the first two, that the divine mysteries about God and human beings becomes available to those able to attend to them.

As people of faith we do not read scripture just academically. We read it to encounter the risen Christ. "When Scripture is read allegorically, the Scripture reader's soul 'makes room' for the reception of the powerful knowledge of spiritual realities needed for the transformative fashioning of his or her soul. Christian Figural Reading And The Fashioning of Identity -- John David Dawson pg. 61]

Psalm 34 comes to mind particularly the eighth verse, "O taste and see that the Lord is good..." From very early the Church said and sang this verse on the way to communion. To hear the word but also to consume it is to integrate the resurrection perhaps into the very cellular structure of one's body. Conversion is at a very deep level and it requires that we, like Jonah, go (often thrown overboard) into the waters that we may plumb the depths of our souls thereby meeting the Holy One who created us. O taste and see that the Lord is good! JWS

No comments: