Lectio Divina on (Sirach 2 : 1 – 6)   Leave a comment

Introduction

This series is my Lectio Divina, or Divine Reading series, in this series I am going to present to you the reader my experiences with applying Lectio Divina to certain scripture excerpts. Lectio Divina is called Divine Reading for a reason; for it is more contemplative then the typical and casual reading that most people do in a busy day. Divine Reading is meant to speak to your whole being rather than solely the intellectual part of your being. Certain excerpts are large, so they were broken up into smaller pieces to respect the key contemplative aspect of this ancient practice; these are the notes which I made in light of each Lectio Divina reading. I used the Orthodox Study Bible for Reading and for its commentary on scriptural entries in order to begin the first and move into the second part of the process.

Sirach 2:1-6

“Son, when you come to the service of God, stand in justice and in fear, and prepare your soul for temptation. Humble your heart, and endure: incline your ear, and receive the words of understanding: and make not haste in the time of clouds. Wait on God with patience: join yourself to God, and endure, that your life may be increased in the latter end. Take all that shall be brought upon you: and in your sorrow endure, and in your humiliation keep patience. For gold and silver are tried in the fire, but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation. Believe God, and he will recover you: and direct your way, and trust in him. Keep his fear, and grow old therein.”

According to The Orthodox Study Bible the Commentary reads for this section, “If we are determined to serve the Lord we will be faced with Temptation either by the Adversary or by others, knowing this we prepare ourselves for this challenge to our desire to cultivate a relationship with God.”

When I had read and heard the words of Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach in this particular reading I was given a strong sense that the statements written were more like Step by Step Instructions rather than just separate insights. These words of Wisdom told me thus:

Before Committing To, While Acting On, and After the Completion of any activity you must know what God asks of you, this is how one “Prepares.” I want to give 2 perspectives, an Objective one and an Experiential Perspective as well. First the Objective one, God is Love and we called to put God on, therefore, we are called to Love others and give Glory To God in all that we do. However, this discussion goes back into what type of Love we are discussing, God is Agapic, or Selfless and Self-Giving Love, needing nothing from us He is able to help us most thoroughly, however He is also a self-sufficient being, needing nothing from anything else.

We being creatures need things from other things, we are dependent first on God and then on created things (e.g. animals for food, trees for shelter, and plants or animals for clothing, etc…) therefore, our Love is more of a Caritas understanding of Love, it is a Love that thinks of others in what you are doing or pursuing. It’s amazing what resources, talents, and hidden strength is unlocked for us when we move outside of ourselves in the activities we do when we do something not just for ourselves but others.

Now, the second perspective is an experiential perspective that I wish to share. Back when I was still much enmeshed in the Ignorance – V – Knowledge Conflict in my Teenage Years, I was interested in gaining knowledge for myself, so that I might sinfully feel superior over others who do not have the knowledge I had learned. But somewhere along the line, as I looked at the community around me I began to have compassion for those around me, eventually I would reach the insight that Knowledge truly is not everything, we can know a lot of things but at the end of the day we act on what we are most in Love with, Love truly is everything. Since God is a Spirit, and God is Love, any act of Love is God breaking into and in a limited way manifesting in this world. Truly as time went on and I progressively adopted and applied this insight, one can truly begin to Speak the Truth in Love and people’s lives around me as well as my own life did begin to change.

Through said Preparation, one in a certain sense “Pre-Determines” how they will act when certain temptations arise Before, During, and After any given Activity. This is in large part a statement of Self-Knowledge, for it is in the pain of failure that God is presently working with you to show you your weak spots when considering an undertaking. I will give an example of my own life in order to paint a picture. Currently I am looking to overcome a particular manifestation of anxiety in my life: Just Before Working to Attack the anxiety I know that time after time I am filled with a sense of Apprehension, rationalizing thoughts of Sloth attack me. However I can usually deal pretty well with Sloth in this situation, however let’s say I am in the environment now what happens? During the work of overcoming the anxiety, I am filled with a sense of Pride, rationalizing on ways of how I am above this and do not need to do this. This Pride makes me fail at overcoming the anxiety because I buy into these thoughts, but deep down I feel pretty inadequate and once I do that what happens? After it’s all said and done, I fall into Agitation and Anger at myself and others, which leads me to despair and isolation.

So what is my point? You need to take notes (preferably on paper, but mental note is fine) on the process of doing something as it unfolds, and you need to pray and work at sublimating or doing the opposite of what you always find yourself doing, and in time it will be the case that you will stop doing what you are doing and overcome the problem. So let us see how the above situation that I try to deal with could be dealt with. First, restate the problem into a solution, “overcoming a particular manifestation of anxiety” turns into “Working toward effortlessly adapting to what I get anxious over.” Now the next part is addressing the flaws in the process, before I would have rationalizing thoughts of Sloth, but I was able to overcome the apprehension. However, now during the work I would buy into Pride which I knew made me feel different and an alien in the environment, but now I want to Pray for Humility and to find ways in which I am very much similar and familiar with the environment. Finally, after the work has ended I Pray for Forgiveness and Inner Calm toward myself and letting go of the faults found in the environment, so that I may come back next time with a sense of Hope and Joyful Inclusivity.

Through said “Pre-Determined” responses, one prevents oneself from truly being spiritually distressed and thus feeling pulled between the Fallen World and the Kingdom of God which would only get one to makevery little progress, if any can be said at all. Personally, in dealing with my own situation of the particular manifestation of anxiety in my life, every time I failed I fell into despair and loneliness and from this I “craved after cheating” in overcoming the anxiety, and sometimes I did fall but God’s Grace and His Love is stronger than this craving of mine and I would eventually turn around again and work toward overcoming my problems in a Godly way. For example, in the Month of July it was harder on me than usual, I typically like to go to Confession every other week, however in that month during that confession I had to state that it was a month since my last confession, and during that time of waiting to make it; it was exceptionally hard on me and although I was alive in body, I felt so dead and empty inside, with little progress made in anything in my life.

However, even in that time of Spiritual Desolation, it has been turned from meaningless suffering into a useful tool to work even harder in following after the Kingdom of Heaven with a Stronger Resolve than beforehand. In that time of Despair and Loneliness, an intuitive sense of Consolation did overcome me briefly making me feel very sure that if I pursued the Kingdom of God with more resolve I would receive a significant blessing in this life and in due time. After that particular confession, I worked to resolve conflicts that surrounded me as well. From time to time, when I am out and about, I sometimes am swept up by this pure and gentle love and all I want to do is share that with everyone I look at. Surely I have been consoled, that Loneliness and Despair finds itself on the defensive rather than on the Offensive.

Through the Prevention of being deeply distressed by way of the Pre-determined Responses to certain Temptations, one is able then to choose with greater ease the Kingdom of Heaven in all that you do and thus greater progress is made. It has been a recurring theme lately in my own Lectio readings, namely that distress, agitation, and loneliness should be considered as things that only serve to be disempowering to you and your relationship with God. Be calm, and do not allow the world to take that Peace which Christ has given you. In order to defend this Peace that I speak of, you need to know yourself, and the only way to know yourself is truly in Light of God’s Law and His Word, Who Is Christ, all other avenues of self-knowledge are truly solipsistic and subjective, and being that they are Subjective they build on sand rather than the Eternal Rock who is God.

Jesus ben Sirach then makes it clear that one way to fight Spiritual Distress is to Accept whatever is thrown at you and to endure it Patiently, for in “Fight-Or-Flight” one becomes Agitated and thus falls into Distress and thus out of Alignment with the Spirit of God which is the only thing that could otherwise propel you forward. When I fight, I become an impassioned beast, by way of rage or Wrath, the best image I can convey is like that of “Taz” the Tasmanian Devil in the Looney Toons Series, spinning in an uncontrolled mini-tornado dumbly destroying everything in sight, whether or not that “thing” could have been good for you or not. However, when I Flight, I sheepishly affirm that I am owned by what I want to overcome, this is Fear, even Cowardice and nothing changes under these circumstances. However, this “Accepting” that ben Sirach speaks of is like Accepting the fact you are addicted to something, rather than affirming being owned by something and doing nothing about it, Acceptance is the first step in overcoming a problem, and then from their wrestling with it by way of patiently enduring it while Praying and Working your way out it incrementally.

The key here is to be in Alignment with God by Trusting In and Surrendering To His Law and His Love, for in doing that one will see that The Will of God is Followed and one remains unscathed by the activities they are in, which brings Joy to their Heart. The Peace that Christ gives ought to be safeguarded at all times, like the Sun in center of the Solar System, that is Stationary, but there are other factors orbiting around it. Protect that Peace, do that which you believe will safeguard it, and in doing that you will see that you will overcome, that Peace is known for its Love, Wisdom is found and followed when one does that which safeguards it. But you must work and pray diligently that you may be shown it. As an example, going back to overcoming my particular manifestation of anxiety, I decided that I would not go to certain environments or participate with people in certain ways so as to prevent myself from falling into Despair and Loneliness and hence becoming agitated that I would lose this Peace of Christ that I speak of, so that I might be able to fully pursue The Kingdom of Heaven.

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