Gnostic America

Tuesday of Invocavit: Living by Words from the Mouth of God

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“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”

Of all the subtle aspects of Gnosticism that intrigue me and have helped highlight beauties of orthodox faith, the role of the Word in our creation is probably the most intriguing.

What is the Gnostic understanding of the word, or of human language. Remember, the Gnostics despised the creation and all things physical, or with material properties. Physicality and matter cause there to be divvied up “things.” This results in a word of multiple beings all divided one from the other, and this is a “fall” of what should be one and unified, the Pleroma, into multiplicity. This is the basis of wars. This is the basis of “walls.” This is the basis for all the so-called “constructs” of this world: male, female, family, church, state, law, order, etc. Only in a material world do such things matter. True liberation means becoming woke to the arbitrariness and illusiveness of this world order, and ascending up and out, by the spirit, back into the pre-existent oneness.

In such a world with multiple beings you have a world of multiple words. Words arise from beings. You wouldn’t have the word “cat” unless there was a being called a “cat.” And likewise with all the varied species of God’s creation. By contrast, what role would a word have if everything is one and undifferentiated?

In fact, this was what the Romantic poets hoped to attain. The Romantic poets fed off the popular Transcendentalism of the day (i.e. Gnosticism) and believed they had a role in collapsing language in order to yield a wordless flight into the great nothingness beyond.

The Scriptures set up something completely different. On each day of creation, God created something by separating one thing from another (light from darkness, for instance, or land from water), named it, and then declared it good. The naming is hugely important, for it grants man access to it.

For what is human consciousness and human reason, but the ability to communicate, to reflect our divine image and create complex community among our fellow man through the instrumentality of words. As it was for God Himself – who through the Word brought in all creation and established a cosmic community of Himself in fellowship with man – so it is for mankind. By begetting the word from our lips – like the Son begotten of the Father – we foster human life.

A beautiful proverb says, “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life.” Think of that. And think how foundationally this is rooted in the Trinity, the creation, and eventually Christ’s coming. God’s wholesome tongue begot the Word made flesh, the source of eternal life for us, our Tree of Life at the cross.

So also for us, even if our tongue has become a rudder (St. James tells us) that can steer our ship afoul.

But not God. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Every word that proceeds from the mouth of God are the words that built our world. With man’s disruption of that order and its return to chaos, God didn’t give up on His creation, but came to “seek and save” it. Now, the words laid down in the Scriptures are the words of a new creation.

How many words in Leviticus set up the tabernacle in the Old Testament. That tabernacle and the temple which followed were types of the new creation!

And today, Christ is our Leviticus, so to speak, Who Himself is the Word made flesh and “tabernacling among us,” the temple which was destroyed and rebuilt in three days, the New Creation itself. But for us His Word is a Leviticus building us into temples of the Holy Spirit, each word doing its work of creating in us the new creation.

These words are truth and they are life. And those who live by them live by far more than mere bread.

Man lives by every word coming from the mouth of God. Each Word of Christ is just that, a precious jewel and treasure we meditate on, ponder, and claim as our own. By these words we live.  And in the Church, the new cosmic community built from God’s Word, we receive this life.

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