By Michael L. Monhollon
Divine Invasion tells the gospel tale within the demeanour of a contemporary reasonable novel set amid the clash among the Jewish priesthood and the Roman professionals.
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60 The ladder was an old motif for making progress, already used by Plato in his Symposium,61 and Boethius wrote of a design on the clothes of Philosophy which showed a ladder ascending from one Greek letter, Pi, to another, Theta, presumably standing for practice and theory respectively,62 while the motif of a ladder was also used by a number of eastern Christian authors. The image of a ladder recalls the biblical story of Jacob’s ladder [Gen. 28:12], although Gregory does not seem to use this ladder to represent ascent in virtues.
While Benedict was not yet ‘lost’, the concepts which the thorns and nettles suggested to Gregory were very relevant to the particular temptation which assailed him. The transfer of the image to the monk does not quite work, for in his case the nettles and thorns are not so much the manifestation of the problem of sexual desire as the way in which the problem was overcome, and the slippage in meaning raises questions about Gregory’s use of material we shall have to consider later; his integration of the image into his narrative without proper consideration for the way it functioned raises the possibility that he was inclined to force other people’s ideas into the structures of his own thinking in violent ways.
It stands with you. Have you arrived, through the grace of God, at a life of contemplation? 41 This adaptive power of the Bible meant that it could never be deﬁnitively understood. 42 Central to Gregory’s project was allegory, the notion that behind the surface meaning of a text could lie hidden something more important. He saw it as having the power to lead souls far from God from the unknown to the known; when we receive the outward words we come to inward understanding, so that, for example, the erotic language of the Song of Songs could teach us how passionately we should be fervent for the love of God (In CC 3; so too 5).
Divine Invasion by Michael L. Monhollon