One of the fun parts of research is that you happen upon really good stuff. I am digging through the Church Fathers (at least in English) looking in particular at how they handled Scripture and the whole economy of following Jesus. Today I came across this passage from a sermon by Maximus of Turin onthe Marriage Feast at Cana story recorded in John 2:1-11.
“Addressing the expectant servants, he said, “Fill the jars with water.” The servants promptly obeyed, and suddenly in a marvelous way the water began to acquire potency, take on color, emit fragrance and gain flavor – all at once it changed its nature completely! Now this transformation of the water from its own substance into another testified to the powerful presence of the Creator.
Icon of the Marriage Feast at Cana – John 2:1-3
Only he who had made it out of nothing could change water into something whose use was quite different. Dearly beloved, have no doubt that he who changed water into wine is the same as he was from the beginning has thickened it into snow and hardened it into ice. It is he who changed it into blood for the Egyptians and bade it flow from the dry rock for the thirsty Hebrews – the rock that, newly transformed into a spring was like a mother’s breast refreshing with its gentle flow a countless multitude of people.”
Forty-five years ago I dissected a frog. I say that not by way of confession but to examine a paradox. As is common in secondary science curriculum, during the unit on anatomy one dissects something. At Lexington High School, Lexington, Alabama, we were not so exalted as to warrant fetal pigs so we tackled the more prosaic amphibian.
The lab reeked of thermaldohyde as we took up scalpels and performed exploratory surgery on the supine corpse. The exercise was informative as to vascular systems and the ordering of bodily functions. At the end of the smelly process by my station there was a small pile of frog parts. I had learned a lot but the frog wouldn’t hop.
If you want to really know a frog you need to see it hop.
European Tree Frog
Dissecting a frog is analogous to studying scripture. I have spent my adult life studying scripture: parsing, comparing, and dissecting Holy Writ in service of sermons, lectures and articles. As illuminating as that has been there is a danger that what is gained in insight is at the expense of the living experience. Experience is as we say, “hands-on” while reflection and theories of meaning are abstract. When we begin to explain we are no longer experiencing, having moved from “hand to head.”
This brings me again to the knot I am worrying these days. What is needed must move us beyond mere “frog data” to “frog hopping.” How do we hop? We take up those ancient practices that formed the first Christians in faith that the Holy Spirit that led them into truth will do the same for us. JWS