This article was originally published as part of Ad Cenam Agni, a 2023 virtual Lenten Retreat hosted by the Abbot's Circle.
Artwork: The Angel of the Lord Appears to Gideon, Unknown Artist
[Lectio: Judges 6-7]
Our way of life among other people influences how we live when alone. And what we do by ourselves affects our behavior in public. For us Norbertines, our immersion in Sacred Scripture through the common observance within St. Michael’s Abbey continues into the times when each of us is alone in our cell. This is especially apparent in our traditional practice of “Lectio Divina”, or Divine Reading, in which we take time privately to read from the Bible, patiently searching out and savoring the Lord’s holy mysteries. While other writings of the saints certainly have their place in Catholic piety, nothing equals the infinite richness of God’s holy Word.
The second spiritual sense of Holy Scripture is the moral sense, in which we find a Bible passage’s meaning for our own lives. Remember, this is not merely “applying a lesson”; we could do that with any human book. But God, the principal Author of Scripture, knows all times and souls in one eternal moment. The Word of God truly had you in mind when he inspired the ancient prophets to hide his infinite wisdom within human words.
Study the book of Judges. The whole book is an image of the way most of us live the Christian life: Starting with good intentions (the land had rest), then making concessions to worldly ways (they did what was evil), then finding ourselves conquered by sin (the Lord gave them into the hand), then praying God to save us (Israel cried for help), then repenting and making good intentions (the Lord sent a prophet), then being reconciled to God (deliver Israel from the hand), then being good for a while (the land had rest), then weakening and repeating the cycle. But our spiritual life doesn’t have to be stuck in a loop! Gideon started out like everyone else, hiding his wheat from the Midianites (as many Christians hide their faith out of human respect). But then he obeyed the angel (God’s Word) and took the next step (a small sacrifice). Progress in the spiritual life can be scary; it forces us out of our comfortable cycle (Alas… I have seen the angel of the Lord). But do not fear, you shall not die! Take the next step: a small mission to pull down the altar of Baal (throwing away the thing that’s a recurring occasion of sin for you). Gideon was too afraid to do it by day, but at least he did it! And then he discovers he’s not alone; and then he gains confidence to overcome himself, trust in God, and do great things to return his nation to the Lord! Glory to the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father with the Son to enkindle in our hearts the fire of God’s love.