Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Moses: Knowing God, Face to Face

"Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. He was unequalled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel. " - Deuteronomy 34.

I don't have anything too theologically deep to say, I was just pondering what life was for Moses. When I read the Church Fathers I like the fact that they use people like Moses and the Patriarchs, and the stories of the torah to make statements about what the Christian life is about. I'm still reading the Life of Moses by St. Gregory - it takes me forever, but I'm kind of glad I'm not done, I am enjoying it over a long period of time, and everything he writes is so rich in meaning and application that it's hard to read more than a few pages at a time.

As I think about Moses I am amazed at his faith. We have all read the bible and know the stories of friends and family who have trusted God and been blessed. But look at Moses. It's hard to try to put yourself in his mindset. All he knew about God was that the Lord was the God of Abraham and had done great and awestriking things like destroy Sodom & Gomorrah. He knew God had made a promise to Abraham. But maybe he didn't even know all of that, as he was raised in Pharoah's house. Maybe when he was shepherding those sheep and saw the burning bush he didn't know anything about God. Didn't know things like 'God is love', didn't know the fruits of the Spirit - nor probably even about the Holy Spirit. But the conclusion of Deuteronomy is so wonderful, it is easy to understand why the Jews revere Moses as the greatest prophet (other than the fact it says right here). He was a man who KNEW God intensely. He learned about God's character himself. Could you imagine being on Mount Sinai, seeing God in the darkness and hearing him tell you his character and his law. Absolutely brilliant.

I remember reading a book called 'Prayer Works' by Brother Andrew once. The book was poorly written and a bit heretical and not really helpful, to me except for his great stories as a man serving the Lord, and a for one lesson from scripture that I think I'll always remember. It is from a commentary on the Pentateuch and it is the part where God is so angry with the children of Israel that he says to Moses that he could make Moses the father of nations or leader/whatever. The point was that some commentator said when describing the conversation between an angry God, and Moses trying to calm him, the Hebrew could be translated, 'Moses smoothed out the wrinkles (of anger) on Jehovah's face'. It was a beautiful picture of God to me. The Calvinists of course are ripping their hair out in anger because Moses acting as such is clearly opposing God's sovereignty etc. But I think it's beautiful.

I am in love with the idea of synergism (another reason I like Catholicism) because it's the idea that God works with us. That we really are in a covenant with Him. That he created humanity not just for a puppet show of his divine glory, wrath and mercy, to amuse himself. But that he genuinely wants to live in relationship. That he wants to love his children, hear prayers, and even oddly enough be angry at us when we screw up (like the Israelites), out of his desire for our own good. Maybe I'm making an Anthropomorphic God or some kind of other big scary sounding word that some random person believed in the 6th century and was killed for heresy in a horrific way, but I just think the life of Moses is amazing.

As I plan on confirmation I realize that my relationship with God will change significantly in that I will now have a different answer to 'where are you God'. In the Eucharist, in the communion, and in the Church. It is comforting to think as well that because of Christ's death the temple curtain has been ripped, and like Moses we can each know God face to face. If I accomplish nothing else in my life, that is my greatest desire.

St. Gregory describes Moses' life as a journey, and writes that the knowledge of God is a mountain indeed and few ever scarcely reach it's base. He describes Moses journey in a mystic way where in the beginning Moses saw God in a blazing fire (burning bush) , after that he followed him in smoke/cloud (pillar of cloud) , but when he truly knew God and was more perfect he could see God even in the darkness (Mount Sinai).

Imagine what I'd be like to have talked with God face to face so much that you could hear his voice and see him even in utter darkness.

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