Medieval Monastic Scribe.

WE now turn to models of spiritual guidance that emphasize Sacred Scripture as a principal spiritual guide.  The work of exegesis, of interpreting the biblical text, becomes a practice that may be applied not only to the Bible, but also to the human heart and to the whole of human history, including especially that journey of faith which is each person's own “salvation history”.

FIRST, Philo of Alexandria, a Jewish contemporary of Jesus living in Egypt, interweaves classical  philosophical models of spiritual guidance with traditional Jewish reverence for the Torah. He describes different lifestyles devoted to discovering the hidden truths within sacred scripture, truths that transform moral life and afford a contemplative vision of God. 


THEN, Cyprian of Carthage describes and enthusiastically recommends what will eventually be called lectio divina. We will look briefly at the encouragement of this practice offered at the Second Vatican Council, and consider means by which this practice can become a way of viewing the whole of creation.


FOR Origen, study of the multiple levels of meaning in the scriptures is preparation for an eternal journey where we will discover in “the world to come” ever deeper and more wonderful purposes (logoi) of God.  The threefold levels of biblical meaning are also a key to understanding spiritual progress and the phases or stages of spiritual growth.


IN his Fourteenth Conference John Cassian synthesizes approaches drawn from Philo, Origen, and Evagrius (whom we shall study later in this course), to create a four-fold method of biblical interpretation that has also been viewed as a model of the whole of spiritual life.


FINALLY, the Ladder of Monks by Guigo II is the classical medieval description of lectio divina leading into allegorical exegesis.  We will note that Guigo's praise of contemplatio is also an emphasis on the discovery of meaning, purpose and coherence within the “spousal embrace” of contemplation.  This “highest rung” and most eagerly-sought experience is depicted as: (1) the Transfiguration where the real significance of Jesus is beheld; and (2) Jacob wrestling with the Angel, where the new name (purpose/meaning) is bestowed.


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