Monday, December 30, 2013

Daily Old Testament: Isaiah 42 and My Own Book "Leadings: A Catholic's Journey Through Quakerism" (Part 36)

Isaiah 42 – This is the first of four “Songs” of Yahweh’s “servant” – the servant is in part the chosen people of Israel, but there is some mystery about the one referred to.

                  I have endowed him with my spirit
                  that he may bring true justice to the nations. . .
                  He will neither waver, nor be crushed
                  until true justice is established on earth,
                  for the islands are awaiting his law (42:1-4).

It may also be that the servant is one of the prophets, but Christians have seen in these words a reference to Christ.

                  I, Yahweh, have called you to serve the cause of
                  I have taken you by the hand and formed you.
                  I have appointed you as covenant of the people and
                            light of the nations,
                  to open the eyes of the blind,
                  to free captives from prison,
                  and those who live in darkness. . . (42:6-7).

From Leadings: A Catholic’s Journey Through Quakerism
Part 36
Quaker spirituality also offers us a way to bring lay voices into our worship. The combining of Mass and Quaker-style worship that I experienced at the retreat center might offer a model of how such an opportunity might be opened to people; or perhaps Quaker-style meetings could take place in connection with reading Scripture apart from Mass, such as midweek meetings where people could reflect in silence on the ongoing presence of Christ’s spirit and grace in their lives.

Quakerism (at lease in its more traditional form) also offers believers a way of putting the Scripture in a more central place. The catechism of the Catholic Church says that “ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of Christ”, but this has not quite filtered down as it needs to. Many Catholic homilists get bogged down in approaching the Scriptures in too scholarly or critical a way—almost as if they are worried that people will take them too literally or uncritically. But early Friends show us a way of using Scripture that does not require us to take them as literally true in every detail, but as writings that give us insight into spiritual truth. They see the Scriptures as the words God’s Spirit brought forth through men to tell us what we need to know about God’s existence and nature, God’s intentions with respect to humanity’s place in the creation, our relationship to him and to our fellow men, our spiritual condition, and the redemption God has worked to effect in history, including the extension of that redemption to all people in and through Christ. What difference does it make that some of these words of Scripture are literature, some history, some hymns of praise, and others letters or accounts putting the story of Christ in the context of the larger redemption narrative? The important thing for believers is that the Spirit of God gave these writing forth, gave them a unity and a power to reveal things about God and our spiritual condition that we could never know as reliably or as well without them. It seems to me also that a deep regard for the Scriptures is ultimately an implied acknowledgment that what the Church teaches about its own authority is true—that Christ’s Spirit abides in it to guide it into all truth and make judgments about what is and is not part of his Truth, for the Scriptures rest on the legitimacy of the Church and its discerning judgment.

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