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Reforming OBSTACLES TO PRESENCE (Part Three)

February 6, 2012

In The Bible As It Was, scripture scholar James L. Kugel points out that the Sages have long wrestled with a problem arising from the very first verse of the Book of Genesis.  “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  Elsewhere in the scriptures, however, we have learned of something that preceded God’s creation of the world, and so occurred before what Genesis says is the beginning.  In Proverbs 8:22 we read:  “The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago.  Ages ago I was set up, at first, before the beginning of the earth.”  And we hear in Wisdom 9:9:  “With you is wisdom, she who knows your works and was present when you made the world.”  Before the beginning of the heavens and the the earth God created wisdom, a wisdom that is present as God creates the universe, so that all of creation is an expression of Divine wisdom.  In our preceding reflections we noted that presence to God is awareness of being loved and cared for; that self presence is presence to all other dimensions of reality; and that our presence can reflect to others the Mystery of the Presence to us.  To be fully present to Reality, then, is to be present to the Divine Wisdom that is its source.  Our presence to this Divine Wisdom changes our way of being, our most basic dispositions.

     In Proverbs 8:22-6, we read:

The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works,

   before his deeds of old;

I was formed long ages ago,

   at the very beginning, when the world came to be.

When there were no watery depths, I was given birth,

   when there were no springs overflowing with water;

before the mountains were settled in place,

   before the hills, I was given birth,

before he made the world or its fields

   or any of the dust of the earth.

I was there when he set the heavens in place,

   when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,

when he established the clouds above

   and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,

when he gave the sea its boundary

   so the waters would not overstep his command,

and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.

 Then I was constantly at his side.

I was filled with delight day after day,

   rejoicing always in his presence,

rejoicing in his whole world

   and delighting in mankind.

 “Now then, my children, listen to me;

   blessed are those who keep my ways.

Listen to my instruction and be wise;

   do not disregard it.

Blessed are those who listen to me,

   watching daily at my doors,

   waiting at my doorway.

For those who find me find life

   and receive favor from the LORD.

But those who fail to find me harm themselves;

    all who hate me love death.

This passage from Proverbs teaches that everything that is created is created “in Wisdom.”  The dispositions of this wisdom are the “delight and rejoicing” that come from being constantly at God’s side.  Wisdom “delights in humankind.”  The nature of wisdom is appreciative, not depreciative.  Finally, those who find wisdom and nurture her (by watching daily at her doors), find life while those who fail to find her “harm themselves and all who hate [her] love death.”  Our fear and avoidance of the pain in death and loss leads us to shrink from life and creation, from full presence.  But Proverbs tells us that when we fail to find wisdom in the only way we can, by presence to and hospitality toward reality and creation in its fullness, we are actually choosing death.  In our attempts to avoid death, we come to love it.  In our willingness to grow in trust of creation and its wisdom, even though we feel it has harmed us, we find life.  Thus, the way of fostering deeper presence in our lives is a letting go of the hurts and fears that have left us at a distance from our hearts, which carry our capacity for a simple, receptive presence: to self, to others, to the world, and to God.

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Last updated: 11/25/10.