Take It With You 06.12.2022

Last week, we learned about the ancient practice of reflecting on scripture called Lectio Divina. That practice had its beginning with the ancient Christian writer Origen. Today, there is another aspect of Origen’s thought that will be especially helpful when treating the word of God as living and active; that is, the four senses of scripture.

The first is the literal sense. This sense is the most obvious, and it’s the one we employ at a first reading of scripture. “Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the LORD brought you out from this place.” The literal sense of this passage is simple enough: Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. But now we can move on to the second sense, the typological. This sense connects the Old Testament with the New, finding the allegorical connections between the history of Israel and the life of Jesus. Let’s take the same passage, and see how the Lord leading the people out of slavery in Egypt corresponds to Christ freeing us from the slavery of sin.

There is then the moral sense, telling us how we should act or how the passage affects our lives. In this passage, we see how we are freed from bondage, becoming a “new creation” to use Paul’s words. Then there is the anagogical sense, which signifies things that are to come in the future. In this passage, as explained by Dante, is signified “the exodus of the holy soul from the slavery of this corruption to the freedom of eternal glory”. That is, just as the freedom from slavery led the Israelites into the promised land, so too will the freedom from sin lead us into the heavenly promised land.

None of these senses should be used to distort or undermine the plain meaning of the text, but instead it should open up a whole new world to the reader of scripture. It is a way of reading the entire Bible as pointing to, explaining, and applying the life of Jesus to us, and makes true St. Jerome’s saying that “Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

And remember that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

~ Matt Miller