“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
- Luke 10.41, 42
But John runs ahead and arrives before Peter – for contemplation, being deeply purified, penetrates more sharply and speedily into the secret power of the divine intent than does action, which still needs purification.
- Eriugena, Homily on John 1.1-14, Irish, 9th century
Eriugena loved the Apostle John and saw him as the eagle of divine revelation, soaring high above earth into heights of heaven that only so noble a creature could penetrate. John embodied for him the life of contemplation, which he preferred to Peter’s impulsive, always-ready-to-act approach to discipleship.
Eriugena represents the high-water mark of Celtic Christian scholarship, even though he is at times too arcane and at other times slightly adrift from orthodox tradition. But he knew the value of contemplation, of spending time seeking the Lord in Scripture and creation, and waiting on Him to make His glory known in sudden and profound ways.
John and Peter raced to verify the report of Jesus’ resurrection, John arriving first. Eriugena saw in this a parable of contemplation’s power to get at the divine meaning of things more quickly than mere action. Our lives are filled with things to do; the pace of modern life would have left our Celtic forebears exasperated and uneasy. Our culture trains us to keep busy, get things done, even to do good works to meet the needs of others. We wonder, like Martha, why the Lord never seems to give us all the resources we need, and we have little time for sitting at the Lord’s feet, gazing up at the glory to be discovered in His face (2 Cor. 4.6).
But this is the needed thing. This quiet gazing, longing, waiting, listening for the voice of the Lord that comes to us from the books of Scripture and creation – this life of contemplation: this is the good portion, the necessary thing, the way of the eagle.
We should make more for this way in our own walk with the Lord.
Psalm 8.3, 4 (Aurelia: “The Church’s One Foundation”)
When I regard Your heavens, Your handiwork above,
Ordained by Your good pleasure, according to Your love,
Then what am I, O Savior, that You take thought of me?
Or I should know Your favor and thus delivered be?
Lord, teach me to delight in meditating on You and Your Kingdom, through the glory revealed in Your Word and works. Adapted from Anonymous, “St. Columba’s Island Heritage”
T. M. Moore, Principal
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