Poetic Biblical Images *
Lectio Divina, or ‘Holy Reading’, is an ancient monastic practice – a slow, meditative way of prayerfully reading a passage from Holy Scripture.
(1) Lectio: Read the passage slowly and quietly. Give it time to open within you.
(2) Meditatio: Reflect upon what the passage says to you.
(3) Oratio: Respond by writing down whatever has entered your spirit. When you are finished, circle a word or phrase that jumps out from what you have written.
(4) Contemplatio: Rest with your word or phrase, allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to your spirit.
The Spirit dwells in the world like wind, blowing freely and affecting everything. Wherever this divine wind blows – in the natural and the human world – something new is stirred up:
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wine from God swept over the face of the waters.. (Genesis 1:1-2)
• In the Hebrew Scriptures: Genesis 1:1-2; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Isaiah 42:5; Job 37:9; Psalm 104:29-30
• In the Christian Scriptures: John 3:8; Acts 2:2
Flowing water, as metaphor for the presence of God’s own Spirit, often appears in connection with the action of outpouring:
For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring… (Isaiah 44:3)
• In the Hebrew Scriptures: Exodus 17:1-7; Isaiah 41:18; Isaiah 44:3-4; Isaiah 55:1; Isaiah 58:11; Joel 2:28-29; Psalm 36:8-9; Psalm 63:1; Psalm 107:35
• In the Christian Scriptures: Mark 1:9-11; John 3:5; John 4:10; John 7:38;
Acts 2:17-18; 1 Cor. 10:1-4
In Biblical images, the Spirit of God dwells within the world like glowing fire – and wherever this divine fire burns, creation is sparked into luminous being:
Moses led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed… (Exodus 3:1-2)
• In the Hebrew Scriptures: Exodus 3:1-14; Exodus 19:18; Psalm 105:39
• In the Christian Scriptures: Matthew 3:11; Luke 12:49; Luke 24:32; John 8:12;
The Hebrew Scriptures present a variety of images of the bird and her wings. Later streams of Christianity carried forward this interwoven symbol of female bird, powerful divine love, and Holy Spirit:
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me; for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by… (Psalm 57:1)
• In the Hebrew Scriptures: Genesis 1:2; Exodus 19:4; Deuteronomy 32:11-12;
Isaiah 31:5; Psalm 17:8, Psalm 36:7, Psalm 57:1, Psalm 61:4, Psalm 91:1,4
• In the Christian Scriptures: Matthew 23:37; Luke 3:22
Holy Wisdom steps forth as a human and personal image of the Creator who fashions and enlivens the world. Poetic passages of great beauty describe Wisdom’s cosmic reach:
Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? …When God established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race… (Proverbs 8:1f)
• In the Hebrew Scriptures: Proverbs 8:1-31
• In the Apocrypha: Sirach 24:1-6 (Note: in some Bibles Sirach is called Ecclesiasticus); Wisdom of Solomon 1:6; 7:22-26, 7:29-30, 8:1; 9:17
• In the Christian Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 1:20-24; 2:1-13
* Inspired by Elizabeth Johnson’s Ask the Beasts (Bloomsbury, 2014)
and by Christine Paintner’s Water, Wind, Earth and Fire (Sorin Books, 2010)