Meditation is an ideal way to pray. Using God's word (Lectio Divina) allows me to hear, listen and reflect on what the Lord wants to say to me - to one of his disciples - just like He did two thousand years ago.
The best time to reflect is at the beginning of the day and for at least 15 to 30 minutes.
Prior to going to sleep, read the Mass readings for the next day and then, in the morning, reflect on the Meditation offered on this website.
I hope these daily meditations allow you to know, love and imitate the Lord in a more meaningful way.
God bless you!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

DT 4:1, 5-9 Words Better Left Unwritten

Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent


“However, take care and be earnestly on your guard
not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen,
nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live,
but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.”

In Plato's dialogue Phaedrus, Socrates shares some interesting thoughts about written language, an innovation during his time. Despite his love of his wisdom, he does not see too much good to come out of writing. In his view, writing would inevitably lead to the loss of memory and add little to language--except to help old men like himself to remember certain things. Otherwise, people should continue speaking their thoughts and leave writing to record keepers.

The oral tradition of the ancient world, both in Greece and Israel, had such vitality that few people ever thought of writing down important texts except in the form of transcripts. It took centuries for poets and philosophers to use written text as the primary means of communicating their ideas. Even the greatest of them thought like Socrates and wrote things that people already spoke, treating the written word as something ultimately secondary. There were no "writers"; there were only speakers who made use of writing from time to time.

Only in the middle of the first millennium AD, when the Roman persecution of Christians started to die down did Christian scholars make heavy use of reading and writing. For this reason, they finally formalized the biblical canon, created an adequate translation, and composed commentaries on scripture and philosophy. Before these developments, people wrote with urgency and had oration in mind, which came in the form of letters, plays, poems, and sermons.

For this reason, anyone trying to read an ancient work today will find it dense, dry, and highly repetitive. The epics of Homer, especially the Iliad, with its endless litanies and epithets will quickly frustrate a person reading the text silently to himself. Similarly, the Old Testament, with its genealogies and its many commandments--and its many praises of these commandments (see Psalm 119)--will lull a modern reader into indifference and confusionWhat one has to remember, and what God explicitly commands through Moses is that these words must be expressed orally. God wanted a Church through which to proclaim His Word, not a library in which to store it.

Oral tradition created a buffer between the information of a text and the person receiving this information: someone had to interpret and 'perform' the text. As such, ancient literature had a much more musical quality because it followed the same process as music: a composer would write the music; a musician would perform the music; and an audience would hear the music, not read it. In this arrangement, musicians must internalize and interpret the music not only to communicate information, but also render it intelligible to the mind and heart. Similarly, a speaker taking up the transcription of Leviticus would not simply rattle off the commandments he sees on the page, but would comment and elaborate them for the audience. Imperfect and imprecise as this method might seem, it certainly gave life to the words that people saw fit to pass on to younger generations.

In more literate times, many people have always wondered why Jesus never wrote anything, why He never created a definitive text for people to memorize and follow strictly, like the Book of Mormon or the Quran. Jesus, after all, knew how to write, but He chose to use His voice and insists that His disciples do the same. This is because Jesus also knew that communicating something as ineffable and sublime as God in human language is impossible and often detrimental. The Living Word writing dead words would immediately contradict Himself in the very act. Disciples should communicate their Lord with their minds, their hearts, their bodies, not with a book that a person will shelve along with so many others.

Written traditions, ones in which the text supersedes the individual, die or suffer corruption quickly. Oral traditions, ones in which individual supersede the text, have a chance of living and growing. In the former, people become slaves to a book, slaves to a particular time and expression, slaves to a narrow way of thinking, slaves to something ultimately lifeless. Despite having an infinitely greater nature, a human soul will conform to questionable symbols on a page: his mind, heart, and soul will, in a sense, squeeze into this ossified compartment incompatible with humanity--and this is what Paul means when criticizing "slaves to the Law."

In the latter, an oral tradition, people will quickly free themselves from the text and rejuvenate it with their own personality: the mind, heart, and soul are engaged in reviving the text as they revive the soul. In Christ, one finds freedom, because Christ makes the law human; in doing this, the law, now a person, humanizes, and does not de-humanize as a written list to memorize and recite would do. With this understanding, the Catholic Mass does not function--as many Protestant services function--as a mere lecture over pious subjects. Instead, it is a play in which everyone performs their role and performs the words of scripture. After Mass, Catholics do not only study holy scripture, as people of other religions do, but live it out through action and verbal transmission.

Instead of writing, Christ spoke. Instead of reading, His disciples listened.
can help this process for literate communities, but they must not replace the living words that happen between believers. This holy conversation must continue, out loud, until the end of time.

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