Contemplata aliis Tradere

A meagre contribution to the mission and work of the Order of Preachers: my reflections, thoughts, ideas and the occasional rant on matters mainly theological, philosophical and ecclesiastical, drawn primarily from my reading and experience of life and the world. Striving to be always Catholic, firmly Christian and essentially Dominican, flavoured with dashes of Von Balthasar.

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A son of the English Province of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans); born in Malaysia but have lived in the USA, Singapore, the UK & the Philippines for varying durations. A pilgrim and way-farer, a searcher for Truth on the journey of Life... "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc

Sunday, December 18, 2005

O Adonai

"O Adonai et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sinai legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento."

'O Adonai, leader of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave him the Law on Sinai: come to redeem us with an outstretched arm.'

"Nowadays we sometimes come across the Hebrew proper name for God in our modern translations: Yahweh, as it is often spelt. In fact, we cannot be sure that that was how it was pronounced for it had ceased to be pronounced openly before the time of Jesus, except once a year and that by the High Priest in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. When it was met with in the Hebrew text of Scripture the reader, rather than articulate the awesome name of God, read Adonai, the Lord. Thus when we call upon the Lord as Adonai we are meant to be conscious of the altogether awesome nature of God. We should be aware of God as altogether other, the Mystery that makes men shudder yet fascinates them... There is a fear of the Lord, a respect and sense of otherness which will never become redundant for it is the beginning of wisdom. It is a fearsome thing we do, taking on God, wrestling with the living God, in prayer or in Eucharist. True, he has given us a slight help and handicapped himself in that he has become one of us by the incarnation, when he made himself vulnerable and able to be thrown in the wrestling match. But though he has taken what he did not have, our vulnerability, he has not lost what he always had, his godhead, his awesomeness.

The God whom we can name without fear of polluting our lips in naming him is none other than the God who revealed his inexpressible name to Moses in the burning bush. When he comes, our reaction must be like that of Moses who put off the shoes from his feet and who hid his face in his mantle. He put off his shoes not only as a sign of poverty but also as a sign of being able to come before God only as the man he was. Being barefoot is a sign and part of the necessary avoidance of pretence and pretentiousness. So Moses put off the shoes from his face and hid his face, presumably covering it with his mantle as Elijah did in his cave. He hid his face so that he could hear better and not be distracted by seeing, as the Carthusians do during the Canon of the Mass, pulling their great hoods down over their faces.

God appeared to Moses in the burning bush by speaking to Moses. There is our God: the true God can be heard but not seen, while the gods of the heathen can be seen, but they cannot speak, they are dumb. And in the conversation God tells Moses the way to go. Yet not only that, he leads the way, going before him as a pillar of fire and cloud as dux domus Israel, the leader of the House of Israel. God goes first and the people follow, as in all discipleship. Our God is the God who tells us what we are to do, calling us to follow him and demanding discipleship from us.

The Law is the response of those who have been brought out of slavery into freedom, for those who want to be free that they can will one thing with God himself. Keeping the Law is our way of showing our gratitude to God. The Law in showing us the will of God, so far from being an arbitrary statement, shows us God himself. Such and such is our God. To will one will with God is to love God but 'we love because he has first loved us', not in order to try and force him into loving us. This is true above all in the New Law which is the very grace of the Holy Spirit... For instance those of us who live by monastic Rules should keep them not in order to make us acceptable to God but so as to render love for love, loving because he first loved us. Notice that it is not that we love him because he first loved us (as the text is often mis-translated); it is simply that we love because he first loved us. Our love for one another, expressed in following the common life where we both assist one another and leave one another alone, is a response of gratitude for having first been loved by God who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and who gave him the Law on Sinai. The sheer gratuitousness of the appearence of God to Moses in the bush has its outcome in the sheer gratuitousness of his gift of the Law on Sinai. To Moses, and so to us, on the heights of Sinai as on the heights of the Upper Room of Pentecost, God has graciously granted insight into his very own freedom so that the people could learn to be free with the liberty of God.

To this God, Adonai, we sing, 'Come!' May he come now as he came then as fire and guide along the way. For the Fathers of the Church, God is the God who always appears in the burning bush, in the burning bush which is Israel and the burning bush which is Mary... The Liturgy describes her thus in her Solemnity on 1 January, in keeping with the way the Eastern Church depicts her in its icons. Mary, her virginity burning with the fire of the Holy Spirit, but not consumed. Mary, afire with God but not burned out with his love. Mary, whose significance was and is that the fire should burn in her, leading people to say as Moses said, 'I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not consumed.' This text was anciently sung as an antiphon on the feast of the Expectation of the Virgin, on 18 December, when the Church celebrated Mary as suspensus expectatione, taut with expectation. Mary the mother of Jesus was the woman who more than any other paid attention to one thing alone and found her meaning only in one thing, or rather in one person, Adonai, the Wisdom of God.

And so we can ask the Adonai who showed himself in the burning bush that was Mary to come to us also in a way consistent with that way he once came. We beg him to come and teach us how to be places of his presence, setting us on fire with the Holy Spirit and yet not burning us out. We pray him to come and ransom us with an outstretched arm, as he ransomed Israel out of Egypt's land. And he will do so, for 'he stretched out his arms on the cross; he put an end to death and revealed the resurrection.' "
- Geoffrey Preston, OP, 'Hallowing the Time'


Blogger happyguy7 said...

Very true: that's why Liturgicam Authenticam says that dominus always be rendered in English as the LORD. This also gives us a proper context of understanding the Old Testament without modern distortions. It also maintains a link to the Jewish people, something we know the Holy Father is very keen on.
Keep up the good work,

6:43 am  

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