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Visio divina for 3/5/12 – “Ten Commandments” – Day 1 (Listening)

Listening

Read the text below, preferably aloud.  As you hear the word, “listen with the ear of your heart” for a word or short phrase that God has for you this day.

Exodus 20:1-17 

Then God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.  For six days you shall labor and do all your work.  But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.  For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

COMMENTS

As I read the scripture passage above, my mind quickly fills with images from the famous 1956 film, The Ten Commandments that I recall watching on Easter mornings as a child.  A terrified Moses clenches the side of Mount Sinai as the swirling Pillar of Fire (God) sends forth fiery rays that carve the Ten Commandments into nearby stone.  Moses then takes and cradles the still smoking stone tablets as he utters in awe “written with the finger of God.”

I wonder if Moses had any idea of the radical effects that this seemingly simple set spiritual imperatives would have on the history of the human family.  The Ten Commandments have served the basis for living an upright spiritual and moral life for the Jewish people ever since.  Christ observed these Commandments and Christians uphold them as part of the Christian ideal.  Portions of the Ten Commandments have even served as a basis of civil law.  Yet, at the same time, one can easily think of all the political controversies that have surrounded the use of the Ten Commandments as well.  Can the Ten Commandments be displayed on courthouse lawns?  Can they be taught in public school?  What is the role of the Ten Commandments in a society that values the separation of church and state?

As controversial as the Ten Commandments seem in today’s political and cultural atmosphere, it’s clear that they were every bit as controversial on the day that Moses presented them to the people at the foot of Mount Sinai.  They were not particularly interested in observing these commands – in fact, they had even managed to construct an idol of a golden calf while they even knew that God was speaking to Moses nearby! 

As human beings, we tend to be rebellious.  We like to follow our own whims and exalt ourselves and our abilities.  The Ten Commandments places a check on our rebelliousness; they allow us to stand back and look at our lives, both in relation to others and to God.  As we find ourselves at the beginning of this Lenten journey, the Ten Commandments can serve as a guide as we look to grow in the love of God and of our neighbor.

-Chase M. Becker

©Ten Commandments, Donald Jackson 2003 The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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Visio Divina for 3/6/12 – “Ten Commandments” – Day 2 (Meditating)

MEDITATING

Ruminate on the Word (Exodus 20:1-17), turning it over in your heart and mind. What does the word or phrase you have chosen mean to you today?

COMMENTS

As I reread this well-known passage from Exodus and reflect more closely on the reading, my attention is drawn to the phrase “I am the Lord your God, who brought you… out of the house of slavery.”

Yesterday, I reflected on the fact that human beings have a tendency to be rebellious.  It can be easy for us to look at the Ten Commandments as being ten difficult burdens imposed on us by God.  How are we supposed to faithfully observe all of these things anyway?

From the very beginning of the passage, God reminds us who God is.  “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”  Not only is God sovereign over all, God was the one who freed the people of Israel from the harsh hands of the Egyptians and gave them true freedom.  As these mighty deeds of liberation are recalled by God, it becomes clear that God intends to do the same by the giving of the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments can serve as a guide for finding true freedom, but that doesn’t mean the process will be easy.  In fact, it wasn’t easy for Israel to accept the freedom God gave them.  Later on in Numbers 14:4, the Israelites become frustrated that their freedom wasn’t what the expected “So they said to one another, ‘Let us choose a captain, and go back to Egypt.’”  Even in their freedom, they wanted to return to Egypt where life was seemingly easier. 

We can go through life ignoring the Ten Commandments, under the impression that life will be easier if we’re able to follow our own whims.  But, this is not true freedom.  In fact, we would be in the same bondage that Israel felt in Egypt.  Perhaps as we continue on the Lenten journey, we can reflect on the Commandments that we struggle with the most.  What appears to bring freedom?  Where am I actually enslaved?  If we seriously come face to face with our struggles, we can begin to give God the permission to set us free.

-Chase M. Becker

©Ten Commandments, Donald Jackson 2003 The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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Visio divina for 3/7/12 – “Ten Commandments” – Day 3 (Seeing)

SEEING

Return to God’s word for the purpose of “hearing and seeing” Christ in the text. Fix your gaze on the illumination. Ask God to open the eyes of your heart and enable you to see what God wants you to see.

COMMENTS

As I look upon the Illumination for this week’s scripture passage of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), I find myself drawn to the beautiful, colored background.  On the top left, I see a figure that appears to be a Menorah.  The center panels remind me of panes of stained glass, bursting with color.  On the far right panel I notice what appears to be a city on the horizon.  It truly is beautiful and a feast for the eyes!

I now notice the background below the top four panels.  The texture and color is still pleasing to the eye, but as I look closer, I realize that this picture isn’t quite as pretty.  Pagan idols, disjointed images, broken borders all make up this scene.  The disunited imagery then gives was to blackness, then nothing at all.

My eye now moves to the text.  At the top of the Illumination, in gold is God’s bold and powerful proclamation of God’s self: “Here I am.  I am the God of your father.  I am the Lord your God.”  The background certainly proclaims the majesty of the text!  Now we get to the actual commandments.  However, we only see the first commandment in its fullness!  By the time we reach the second commandment, the text has so disintegrated that it is impossible to read!

I find myself reflecting on how we human beings are so eager and fervent when we perceive God working in our lives.  It’s bold and exciting, just like the golden text at the top of the Illumination.  However, we quickly forget or meander down our own path – much like the ever-distigrating text at the bottom of the illumination.  It’s a poignant image and one that I will carry with me as I go about my day.

-Chase M. Becker

©Ten Commandments, Donald Jackson 2003 The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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Visio divina for 3/9/12 – “Ten Commandments” – Day 4 (Praying)

PRAYING

Pray to God, allowing for the transformation of your being and feelings. Give to God what you have found in your heart.

COMMENTS

Loving God, you are the Lord our God.  You brought us out of the house of slavery through the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, your son.  We often find ourselves turning away from your great love to follow our own passions and desires.  You know us far better than we know ourselves.  You know that we want to love you with the fullness of our hearts, yet we are weak.  Guide us – form us – help us to cherish your commandments – and give us the discipline to follow them. 

All-knowing God, we recall Moses’ trepidation in leading your people Israel to freedom.  Despite his fear and feelings of inadequacy, he did great things.  He even delivered the commandments, written by your very hand to the people.  Just as Moses presented the commandments to be a guide for all people, may we by our lives, present your love and care for all people.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who live and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit – God forever and ever.  AMEN!

Chase M. Becker

©Ten Commandments, Donald Jackson 2003 The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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Visio divina for 3/10/12 – “Ten Commandments” – Day 5 (Contemplating)

CONTEMPLATING

Notice the transforming presence of God within you. Let go of words and images. Surrender all that is stirring, even if only briefly, and rest for a few minutes in God’s embrace. 

COMMENTS

Contemplation can be a difficult word.  The thought of practicing contemplation seems to conjure up images of the Church’s great mystics and holy people enraptured in some sort of other-worldly experience.  However, the more I practice visio divina, I begin to get a sense of what it’s all about.

Most simply, I believe that contemplation is an awareness and acknowledgement of God’s presence and then simply resting in that presence.  In visio divina, God is revealed to us in the previous four steps.  First, we hear God’s word in scripture.  We then reflect or meditate on a word or phrase where we particularly find God’s voice.  As we then gaze upon an illumination of the scripture passage, the power of the artist’s work may help us to enter more deeply into the scripture or highlight an element we may not have noticed before.  After hearing, meditating, and seeing; we move to prayer. 

In moving through these steps, we can notice the many ways in which God has spoken to us.  In contemplation, we focus less on these things, and more on the fact that God is simply with us.  We can now quiet our mind, bodies, and spirits – simply resting and knowing that God is near.  Contemplation is a secure, confident surrender.  Let us take a few moments today and simply rest in the embrace of a God who loves us and knows us beyond our wildest imagining. 

Chase M. Becker 

©Ten Commandments, Donald Jackson 2003 The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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Visio divina for 3/11/12 – “Ten Commandments” – Day 6 (Becoming Christ-like)

BECOMING CHRIST-LIKE

Return to God’s word. Allow it to transform you. Notice how your faith is being deepened and your way of life motivated. 

COMMENTS

As we return to our scripture text, Exodus 20:1-17 for the final time, I am still drawn to the opening portions of the passage:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery…  …I am the Lord your God… showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

I am struck with the love of God.  God brings us out of slavery and shows us steadfast love.  The Ten Commandments can seem to be a list of prohibitions that inhibit our enjoyment of life.  But after praying through the movements of visio divina, I find that God gives us these commandments out of love.  God knows that these things will lead us to true happiness.

As I continue through the journey of lent, I plan to spend some extra time examining my life in relation to these Ten Commandments.  Where are my strengths?  Where are my weaknesses?  In the end, I know that I need to evaluate my life upon the question of whether my actions enslave or set free. 

Everyone’s gifts and personalities are different, but the Ten Commandments can serve as a sure moral, spiritual, and social compass.  How will seek to become more Christ-like?

Chase M. Becker

©Ten Commandments, Donald Jackson 2003 The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved

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Illuminating the Mission: Day Three • Page Three

Credit:Ten Commandments, Thomas Ingmire, Copyright 2002, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Credit: Ten Commandments, Thomas Ingmire, Copyright 2002, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Reflection on the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-26)
Rev. Michael Patella, OSB

Human society and civilization depend upon right relationships, and those relationships can only succeed when there is proper respect shown to God and neighbor. The Ten Commandments, as a compendium of laws foundational to the well-being of all humankind, connects the homage due to God alone (Ex 20:1-11) with the obligations and deportment shown to neighbor (Ex 20:12-17).

In Laudato Si’ Pope Francis proclaims that when we neglect to identify God as the all-powerful One who alone has created the world, “we end up worshipping earthly powers, or ourselves usurping the place of God” (75). When we place ourselves at the center of the universe, our personal and communal lives will disintegrate and vanish as do the letters at the bottom of the page. Only when we as humans recognize that God is the Lord of the cosmos and we are the fruit of his loving creation do human relationships function in a way that reflects the love and goodness of our Creator.

Exodus 20:1 says, “Then God spoke all these words…” What does God’s voice sound like as you hear the Ten Commandments? In what ways do God’s commands allow you to love more freely?

 


Rev. Michael Patella, OSB, SSD is professor of New Testament at the School of Theology and Seminary at Saint John’s University, Collegeville, MN where he also serves as seminary rector. He served as chair of the Committee on Illumination and Text for The Saint John’s Bible. He is author of Word and Image: The Hermeneutics of The Saint John’s Bible (Liturgical Press, 2013).