Scripture brought me
to the gate of Paradise,
and the mind, which is spiritual,
stood in amazement and wonder as it entered,
the intellect grew dizzy and weak
as the senses were no longer able
to contain its treasures —
so magnificent they were —
or to discern its savors
and find any comparison for its colors,
or take in its beauties
so as to describe them in words.
I have been writing stories about the many gates of heaven for my next book. Seeing this quote made me aware I have not written about the many times a word or phrase of scripture has led me into an encounter with the Sacred. I bet there have been hundreds of these meetings. Perhaps we can experience some connection to God so often that we take it for granted.
I know you have experienced this too: a word shimmers and shines and catches your attention, or messes with you and won’t let go until it takes you where it wants you to go, or inspires you for reasons you can’t really understand. Some people focus on the original divine inspiration of scriptures. Some even argue about this.
I like to notice how Spirit is doing the inspiring in the right-now moment. Many experiences have shown me how Spirit delights in breathing into scripture words and using them as a sacrament, or means of grace. In fact, (though this will anger some religious people), God has brought me into a direct encounter through many words or phrases written by authors and poets, and through words spoken by people in conversation. In effect, God has used many other words as scripture – divinely inspired words serving as communicators of divine truth.
I remember that a seminary friend rebuked me in 1992 when he heard I was beginning to attend the Friends Meeting of New Orleans (Quakers). I had read Thomas Kelly, a Quaker author, for the first time during the writing of my dissertation and found I just had to find a local meeting. My friend’s rebuke was, “How can you go there? Don’t you know they believe the canon of the bible isn’t closed?”
Yes, friend, I knew it then, and I still know it now as a Quaker. No, friend, the canon is not closed. God did not stop speaking to us. God still speaks within us, through other’s speaking, and through written words. Sometimes those words of inspiration come through official scriptures, and sometimes God speaks directly through other’s words. And in both ways I agree with St. Ephrem: God brings me to the gate of paradise through scripture. And I bet God does the same in you.