One of the familiar but obscure stories in the Book of Genesis is the one about the Tower of Bable. (Genesis 11:1-9) I consider all these stories as archetypal ones, setting forth the deepest and most fundamental truths about what it means to be human and what we could become if we use God’s mercy and love. When I was thinking about how we humans don’t communicate with each other, I naturally thought about the language God would use to communicate with humans, becoming one of us. Philippians 2:5-12 speaks to this issue. In John 3:16, we learn that God so loved the world that he sent his only son to bring us the news that we were adopted sons and daughters of the Father. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God communicates using language, but many people don’t and some won’t translate this language into what is meaningful. Let’s look at the different languages we use and how any of this can make sense about moving from self to God.
Most of my life, I have searched for one theory of reality that takes into account science, philosophy, and religion. One of the reasons this is so difficult to grasp is we use different languages. Physics is a language. Chemistry is a language. Computer programming has a language, depending on what program you use. It gets more complicated. Each nationality has a language. Christ spoke Aramaic, but his world used Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Most of us only know one or two of these social languages, if we are lucky. Each religion has its own language, or the assumptions underlying the words they use. Here are some languages that people use.
Of course, there are many more languages, but you get the point. Babel happens because people don’t know the language being spoken and make a judgment about what the words mean.
Here is something interesting to think about. Jesus never wrote a book. Those disciples around him took down stories and wrote about behaviors that others exhibited when they followed the teachings of the Master (e.g. St. Peter, St. Paul, the early martyrs). The purpose of the Scriptures (those ideas and behaviors for us to practice) were made “…so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing this you may have life through his name. “(John 20:30-31)
As one who can only aspire to be a Lay Cistercian, I try to do Lectio Divina daily, attend the Eucharist, recite Morning and Evening Prayer in the choir at my church of Good Shepherd. Tallahassee, Florida, and read Chapter 4 of the Rule of Benedict, the Tools of Good Works. Essentially, I am learning the language of God, one spoken with Faith, Hope, and Love, one so simple, we can overlook it, one so profound that we fail to probe its depths, a language of love within a School of Love, Ultimately, we have what time remains on earth to learn the language of God, that of pure love, pure knowledge, and pure service. Learning the language of God is done by doing what Christ taught us. Love one another as I have loved you. That is so simple but barely anyone can do it perfectly, yet that is what we are called to be.
So, do you still Babel? As long as there is original sin, which means as long as we live on the earth, there will be Babel. No getting around it. Ultimately, you must choose a reality in which to live. Either you place God as your center or something else (hopefully not you). If you place God as your center, there are many ways to believe but only one that is true. You must choose what you think is the correct approach, guided by reason. One thing I try to practice myself but find extremely difficult is realizing that, with the coming of Christ, there is a new language, one which the world does not either recognize nor accept. If Christ has accepted you as adopted son or daughter, you must struggle to find meaning using this language. The reason we have Scriptures, the early Creeds, martyrs, writings of the early Fathers and Mothers in the first five centuries, is to clarify the language of Christ and have in us that very mind. It is not an easy task to do with so much Babel going on around us, but it is our challenge and we do have the Way, the Truth, and the Life to help us if we know the language of love, hope, and service.
As a Lay Cistercian, with all that I know, believe, and practice, I have made my choice. I must try to love God with all my mind, all my strength, all my soul, and my neighbor as myself,(Matthew 22:37) I try not to play judgment games, such as “my God can beat your god.” As Martin Luther said, “here I stand, I can do no other.”
Praise be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the Ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian Doxology