Lectio Divina on (Acts 17 : 24 – 31)   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.

According to The Orthodox Study Bible the Commentary reads for this section, “The Apostle Paul meets people where they are, using the familiar, when evangelizing for the Good News. In the case of the Gentiles, he makes clear that God is Creator, Sustainer, and Judge of All Life; God desires all to seek after Him, however in order to seek after Him one must [repent]. Paul also speaks of the Resurrection of Jesus from the Dead, because majority of the Jews rejected the claim.”

Acts 17:24

“God, who made the world and all things therein, he being Lord of heaven and earth, dwells not in temples made with hands.”

First it is apparent here that what Paul talks about is not something subjective, or in a word that I made it or created it. God is something that is very much Other and outside of myself, God transcends my subjective states of mind and my particular worldview, yet He is still present in these things. The warning here is against Idolatry for sure, however there needs to be something more to this statement since it has be re-affirmed in the Old Testament and now in the New Testament. To a certain extent, if this scripture statement could speak of anything I would like to think that there is a Realism involved here, rather than Idealism that is involved here, why do I say this? I say this largely because Idealism involves concepts and images (such is what would necessarily need to be involved in building a temple that will be built by hands).

Most people would see God as the Ideal, but I would say that we need to see Him more so as Real, in fact to a certain extent for Catholics we are called to have a Sacramental Outlook on the world, being it is the Right Way of Perceiving the World Around us. Now does this mean we can’t or should try to put concepts to God? No, we being what we are crave to have some understanding to what we put our trust in however we also need to be willing to surrender an not get so caught up in concepts and images for The God that we worship is a Living God, He is not just a mere impersonal formula that you plug in and get whatever you want.

Another insight that came to mind while reading this section was that of a Rejection of Modernism overall is found here. God being something not created by human concepts, this God being something completely Other to us, would necessarily need to reveal things about Himself to us. However, in contemporary consumerist modernist society that we live in one can impatiently create their own subjective conception of God and submit to that subjective conception and essentially worship an idea, a created thing. Modernism is a philosophy that can easily make one an idolater against the One True Living God. The best part to this, is that most people never really create a personal Godhead, by default they seem to create a god into some impersonal force: Only Catholic Christianity really speaks of Intimately Personal Godhead both as it relates to itself via The Holy Trinity and to creatures, this same Godhead is Totally Other as well since He does not “make us comfortable” which is something that I know many moderns strive for in their Spiritual Life, a safe, domesticated, non-threatening God.

Acts 17:25

“Neither is he served with men’s hands, as though he needed anything: seeing it is he who gives to all life and breath and all things:”

The only insight to be derived from this reading is that since God Needs Nothing The Only Thing We Can Give Him That Is Most acceptable is what He gives us first. God gave us Life, We Give Our Life To Him; God gave us Breath, We Use It In Giving Prayer and Work; God gave us all things; We use all things for Thanksgiving, Praise, and God’s Glory and aiding in the Salvation of Souls. Why though, after all God needs nothing, why do we need to give it back to Him? Not because God is an “Indian Giver” as the slang means but because, its for the Good of Our Nature to do so. There is supposed to be a Mystical Participation with God by way of Sacrifice: He Gives, We Give Back, He Gives Back, We Give Back, etc… This Process was supposed intensify our Love for Him and allow us to see an Abundance in life.

Behind this scriptural verse, lies the ultimate secret that all things (regardless of whether its good or bad) ought to be received as a Gift. How much would our lives change, if we truly trusted in this statement? If a person who poor, saw that their poverty was a Gift instead of a Curse, they would not be so anxious but would be able to focus on God to help them overcome their difficulties. For example, what if a man who suffers from an addiction would see that the context of their addiction as Gift? How, you might ask can an addiction and the circumstances surrounding it, be seen as a Gift? Its a Gift by way of an Opportunity to Repent and perhaps to make them realize a few things about who they are or to experience the lowest point in their life, and in going through it they can move on with the rest of their life with the Virtue of Courage/Fortitude.

Acts 17:26-28

“And has made of one, all mankind, to dwell upon the whole face of the earth, determining appointed times and the limits of their habitation. That they should seek God, if haply they may feel after him or find him, although he be not far from every one of us. For in him we live and move and are: as some also of your own poets said: For we are also his offspring.”

When I read the first sentence, “dwell upon the face of the earth… times and limits of their habitation.” I tend to intuit something more about Nations then I do about individuals. Because of this intuition, I was lead on to another intuition warning against being agitated when the social, political, and economic order is in trouble, threatened, or pessimistic. Why? Because God sets times and limits of their habitation. Even the most strongest nation, withers and dies, something new will take its place. I will say it again, Agitation and Distress disrupts the Spiritual Life between God and Creature. Therefore, do not be troubled in your Heart when collapses, uprisings, and transitions are underway. To be sure this piece of wisdom can probably be distilled in the Macro-realm of Society but also in the Micro-realm of ones individual unfolding life.

Upon reading the second sentence, “they should seek God … although he be not far from every one of us.” I felt that here we do see that True Christianity, is not necessarily exclusive in its relation to other religions around it, now Salvation does belong to Christ and His Church however, all roads can lead back to Rome. The warning for us here is clear, we should not be Totally Rejecting The Philosophical and Spiritual Insights of All Cultures, again we defend the Doctrines of Our Faith without a shadow of doubt however, we use the wisdom and insights of the cultures own particular traditions in order to communicate the Fullness of Christ. For one need only look to the works of Justin Martyr in order to understand the position I am speaking from.

Finally I would like to give a testimony of Living, Moving, and Being and A Warning Against Forgetfulness. When we live our lives, we live our lives taking much for granted. In our contemporary society we are over-stimulated, we do too many actions associated with a utilitarian purpose, and its no secret we are the most stressed out society in the world today. Understandably, one can see why there is such a strong counter-culture toward something of a more “spiritual nature” and a social philosophy that wants something that moves beyond the merely utilitarian approach to life, their are some of us with more sensitivity for the Timeless, now whether people are going to this out of mere escapism – and there are those who are or because they find themselves drawn to something more out of life I do not know. However, what I do know is that by the mere presence of being drawn to something more should be enough to testify that we must not forget that we are Human Beings not Human Doings! We must not forget our Timeless Nature, for the world, especially contemporary society is at war with the timeless right now.

Acts 17:29-31

“Being therefore the offspring of God, we must not suppose the divinity to be like unto gold or silver or stone, the graving of art and device of man. And God indeed having winked at the times of this ignorance, now declares unto men that all should every where do penance. Because he has appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in equity, by the man whom he has appointed: giving faith to all, by raising him up from the dead.”

Once again, in the first sentence, we see a warning against our Modern tendency (which is an old Pagan tendency) to build God’s of our own ideation’s and worship or make them the center of our lives. The God who made us would necessarily need to be completely different from us and more than we could ever think, our concepts are there but they serve the purpose of pointing to what it is we call God. Again to reiterate people love making a God who is impersonal like some force that is dumbly there, but how can something that is dumbly there make such an intricate and diverse cosmos like ours? People also make a God that is more so sentimental and comfortable, rather than challenging and willing to say things and lead you into things that may hurt, personally all I see is an Egoic Projection of Self-Preservation being considered Divine. People who do this are surely spiritually dead, for Life will always involve change and growth and these things will always include Sacrifice, Pain and Struggle.

As an example, of another form of Modernist Idolatry, today in our society we do not have a Temple dedicated to the Greek God Ploutos, who was the God of Wealth, Ploutos is not the center of our life, or is he? Today we have buildings dedicated to Wealth, one could say that we have Wall Street dedicated to Ploutos, for Wall Street is where money is made and where Machiavellian opportunists do whatever it takes to make wealth for themselves, because Wealth is made the center of their lives and Ploutos is subtly worshiped. Our Modern society is just as bad as the Pagan society for our society, like the Pagans, worship all of multiplicity rather then choosing the unity of one thing who made all of multiplicity, the form of worship has changed, but the substance has remained very much the same.

This leads me to the other insight, namely that our lives are a Testimony to the way in which we worshiped and refused to worship. By worship, I mean what you put as the center of your life, and what you put as the center of your life is what you put the most time and energy concerning yourself over:

If I worship at the altars of multiplicity found in creation, then my life will certainly testify to the evil, distress, confusion and vice that is in my life. I am one person who tries to hold on to multiplicity, but I cannot hold on to it because I myself can only do so much, I will need to make a choice, what do I choose? My Money, My Family, My Reputation, My Pleasures, My Passions, My. . . etc . . .? In trying to save one thing, other things will be lost and I will become distressed and agitated, I may try to adapt by consuming my sorrows and confusion in some vice (i.e. drinking). To worship at the Altars of Multiplicity may seem like freedom but it is truly slavery masquerading, thus making Goethe’s words most true in this case. It should be of no surprise that those who predominantly preferential are those who worship at the altars of multiplicity.

If I worship at The Altar of Unity however, then everything I do will be for that One Unified Thing, the writer St. Paul makes it clear that this Unity is the Triune God and in particular The Son who is our Mediator with Him. No longer then will I need to make many choices over many things, rather all choices spring from following God and all things that befall upon me are a Gift, even those that allow me to suffer for these are Teaching and Transforming Graces. This is why the Saints are able to talk about and endure loss in such a way that is both seemingly calm yet seemly so repulsive to people still so enmeshed in the subtle slavery of the world and its passions. Here then it should be of no surprise that those who are Predominantly Principled are those who worship at The Altar of Unity, for they seek to Find, Know, Worship and Love The One True Living God.

It only makes sense then, that The One who has shown us Right-Worship and Who Is Innocent Will Be The Judge of us. It makes sense then that all we can do is Trust in His Mercy and His Love, while accepting His Judgments for He alone who Lived for God was so identified with Unity that any of His Pronouncements would need to be rooted in God’s Truth, the God who Made Us and all of Multiplicity. In Christ there is no Heart of Multiplicity to be Found in Him, even on the Night of His Passion he made that clear. We are called to Worship at The Altar of Unity, in our falleness we are liable to be tempted whether directly or indirectly; subtly or actively to worship at the altars of multiplicity, only Grace and a will that is willing to be vigilant can actually stop this from happening.

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