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"Rugged" AND "Full of Curds"

Homily 2nd Thursday After Pentecost, 2023-Jun 8,

Mtt.8:23-27 (Jesus calms the storm)


I would highly recommend an article written by Brother Ambrose Stewart [O.S.B.], a

Benedictine of Mount Angel Abbey. His article was published in the American Benedictine Review [74:2] of June, this year [2023]. The title is bemusing: “ ‘Christ the Lord is a Mountain Curdled into Cheese’...”. Frankly, that sounds sounds ridiculous! The subtitle, however, is reassuring because it’s more serious and enticing: “...: An Apology for Augstine’s ‘Embarrassing’ Exegesis.” His article gives me hope for a revival of the use of the Septuagint translation, with all its foibles, and for a revival of interest in Early and Eastern Christian interpretations of the Sacred Scripture.

In our time, many translations of the Bible are based on the Hebrew versions, mainly on the

Masoretic text, authoritative in Judaism. It was made to add the diacritical markings that include vowels, and makes plain sense of things. It was also wasn’t made till sometime between the 7th and 10th centuries, long after Judaism and Christianity had gone their separate (though related) ways. They would give us a mountain of “Bashan” that is “rugged.” The Septuagint was also made in Judaism, by Jews making their translation earlier, before Christ, rendering the consonant-only text of their time into the Greek language.They gave us a “rich” mountain that is “full of curds”! Brother Ambrose gives us the early fathers such as Augustine and, before him, Gregory of Nyssa and, before him Origen. He brings in Benedict as well. If you follow along, you too can accept the Septuagint as fully inspired by the Holy Spirit, just as reliable as the other translations directly from the Hebrew. You would also take the peculiar and puzzling passages as goads to get yourself digging for mystical or spiritual meanings – and keep those that prove to be backed by the plainer texts. It’s another case of a “Why not both?” situation so familiar in Byzantine tradition. That’s our tradition, and so I see every reason for us to swim around in the Septuagint and Patristic sources.

And yet, our Gospel reading is (obviously) from the New Testament. That won’t prevent seeking

more spiritual meanings, alongside the plainer meanings. The Holy Spirit can inspire both, and intend and mean for us to find both. When a spiritual meaning is intended, it’s backed by other passages that are plainer ones. Even if it’s not, as long as it’s moving us to hope in God and to love our neighbors, the interpretation would not be a bad mistake: hoping in God and loving our neighbor are just what our Lord the Holy Spirit wants, anyhow!

Meanwhile, back in the boat: so Jesus is in a boat, sleeping, when a storm comes up, which scares

the disciples into waking him up – they probably want him to help them bail out the water! But he

rebukes the wind and waves, which promptly calm down, amazing the disciples. We’re to be amazed, too, and convinced that He’s God as well as a man. Never mind that the area was known for it’s sudden storms that came unexpectedly and, just as suddenly, would stop. On that basis, some say the event is in no way a convincing proof of his divinity; I would point out it would be a hazardous thing for him to have tried to convince people by rebuking wind and waves, hoping they would just happened to stop right then and there by coincidence. I think the skeptic’s argument’s self-defeating.

But I don’t care about all that. I’m taken by a certain icon of Christ preaching from a boat that

captures the feel of a boat gently rocking in water, though it shows only a wee portion of the boat’s

gunwale, or hull’s rim. If only I were a scholar, I’d bring in all the scripture passages that mention boats, ships, storms and seas, and see if we couldn’t find some spiritual and inspiring meaning suggested by this situation. We could bring in the creation, the flood from the time of Noah along with his Ark, then the Ark of the Covenant while we were at it, and other times when Jesus was in a boat, or was teaching or gathering disciples along the sea. I confess I’m not up to it, but can and do sense the suggestion and feel of such things, even from just a brief glance of the mind at the possibilities of finding such texts. The power of the Creator, and of the opposing forces, the supremacy of God and of grace, yet the yielding to our human wills, the amazement of the disciples and their ability to sense something divine going on in their midst: all such things rise up to greet us. There were even a number of small boats that came from Tiberias to where Jesus had given thanks. Which reminds me to stop, so we can receive the Bread of Life, which is the main reason we are gathered here right now.

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