Friday, April 5, 2013

‘Concealed mysteries’ in the Bible. Yes, even in Deuteronomy

By Jennifer Rey

Have you ever tried invoking the Holy Spirit to guide your Scripture reading and then let the pages fall, only to land on Deuteronomy? I've done it countless times, typically wincing and quickly trying again.

But according to St. Jerome, even "plain" and "self-evident" books full of regulations and laws are worth perusing. I came across a passage by him in our newest Bible at Our Sunday Visitor, which has inserts throughout containing insights from early Church fathers. The passage was titled "Concealed Mysteries," and since I'm fascinated by symbolism, gems lost in translation and connections between the Old and New Testaments, I eagerly started reading.

The intro to the passage stated that "[e]ven in the most straightforward Bible stories, the Fathers often saw deep mysteries — rich symbolism and foreshadowing of events to come" (A-23). St. Jerome started with Genesis, a great allegorical book that I have found rich with meaning, but he soon moved on to Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Way to call me out, St. Jerome.

From St. Jerome in the Fathers of the Church Bible:
The meaning of Leviticus is of course self-evident, although every sacrifice that it describes, in fact every word that it contains, the description of Aaron's vestments, and all the regulations connected with the Levites are symbols of things heavenly! The book of Numbers too — are not its very statistics, and Balaam's prophecy, and the forty-two camping places in the wilderness so many mysteries? Deuteronomy also — that is, the second law, or the foreshadowing of the law of the Gospel — does it not, while exhibiting things known before, put old truths in a new light?
The passion and love that St. Jerome displayed in this passage is contagious. He's right — God is just as present in those "plain" books as he is in the Psalms and the Gospels. While I may not find all the "concealed mysteries," I know that the knowledge and understanding of salvation history within those passages are probably pretty valuable.

I'm going to read Deuteronomy. So wish me luck.

For more insights from the early Church fathers, explore the Fathers of the Church Bible, which features St. Augustine, St. Jerome and many other Church fathers covering a wide range of topics.

Jennifer Rey is the web editor of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing.

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