Your words’ opening brings light: Monster-psalm Meditation #17

Your words’ opening brings light; making the simple understand. Psalm 119:130

God’s word is a word that opens, and in that opening, light comes forth. Think about what that means. A word that closes is a word whose purpose is to preemptively stifle a response. “Because I said so!” is a good example of a word that closes. There is no light brought forth with a phrase like that. When a child hears that kind of phrase from a parent, its purpose is not to bring about deeper insight into the parent’s reasoning but to end the conversation. Thankfully God does not say this to us. His word opens and brings light; it invites us to explore more deeply. His purpose is not to stifle questions but to create a multiplicity of questions and a perpetual state of awe and wonder.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible uses darkness and light to describe how we receive God’s truth. It’s John 1:5– “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not seized it.” God’s truth shines in our darkness but we cannot seize it. A very important distinction is being captured metaphorically here. We are exposed to the truth in God’s light, but we can never master the truth for it is infinite and necessarily transcendent of our understanding. When we attempt to “seize” God’s truth and make it our possession, what we end up doing is creating an idol of our own understanding of God rather than accepting the beyondness of a God whom we can worship but never understand completely. We can point to God’s light, but if we try to grab it, all that we will have is a fistful of darkness. As we are deepened in our knowledge of His word, our anxious fists are pried open so that we can receive God’s truth without attempting to organize it and systematize it into a finite, coherent ideology that loses its divinity the more tightly it is squeezed.

The reason that the simple can understand the opening of God’s word is because it’s not about how many books you’ve read or how many languages you know or how intricate your use of vocabulary is. God’s word has to do with the encounter of worship. One of the things I stumbled across recently is the double-meaning of the word doxa, which combines with the Greek word ortho (right) to produce the compound word orthodoxy, an important word for many Christians who want their beliefs to be within the bounds of what’s acceptable. In Greek, doxa originally meant “opinion” or “belief” in a propositional sense, e.g. I believe that the Earth is round. In this understanding of the word doxa, orthodoxy means “right opinion.” But when the Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek in the Septuagint, the Hebrew word kabod for “glory” was translated as doxa. Indeed when God’s glory is discussed in the New Testament, the word doxa is used. The word doxology is derived from this interpretation of doxa; every week we sing the “words” (logoi) of God’s “glory” (doxa). In this understanding of the word doxa, orthodoxy means “right glory” or perhaps one could say “right worship.” Doxa is not reduced to a cognitive conception of “belief” but describes the state of a soul that is in a worshipful relationship to God.

Our understanding of God has less to do with the technical correctness of our theological propositions and more to do with how we worship Him. When we worship God rightly, His word opens us and brings light into our lives so that we see His hand in everything we encounter. As Eastern Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann puts it, we come to learn that “the world is… an epiphany of God” (For the Life of the World, 120). Worship is the process by which God’s word opens us. Understand that I’m not just talking about singing and clapping in church here but something much more fundamental to our daily experience of living. Praising God with music is certainly an important part of the process by which we become worshipful creatures, but worship is a perpetual state of being. Schmemann says that humanity is essentially “a worshiping being… homo adorans: the one for whom worship is the essential act which both ‘posits’ his humanity and fulfills it” (118).

Worship is the posture of an open heart that is willing to interpret every moment of life as a gift. Those who are simple have the advantage of not having to dig through layers and layers of cynicism to find a worshipful heart underneath. Those of us who are complicated must be patient as the opening of God’s word brings us light and draws us gently into communion with Him.

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