This post by Sister Macrina on Andrew Louth’s chapter called The Return to Allegory provides another perspective on Allegory. Most of it is a criticism of historical criticism, but this passage points to how to read the Scriptures,
Christianity is not, properly speaking, a ‘religion of the Book’: it is a religion of the word (Parole) – but not uniquely nor principally of the word in written form. It is a religion of the Word (Verbe) – ‘not of a word, written and mute, but of a Word living and incarnate’ (to quote St. Bernard). The Word of God is here and now, amongst us, ‘which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled’: the Word ‘living and active’, unique and personal, uniting and crystallizing all the words which bear it witness. Christianity is not ‘the biblical religion’: it is the religion of Jesus Christ. [Exégèse Médiévale, II/1 (Paris, 1961), pp. 196-9.]
And in those words de Lubac echoes the cry of St. Ignatius of Antioch: ‘For me the archives are Jesus Christ, and the inviolable archives his cross and death and his resurrection and faith in Him.’ [Ep. Philad. VIII. 2.] The heart of Christianity is the mystery of Christ, and the Scriptures are important as they unfold to us that mystery, and not in and for themselves.
Andrew Louth, Discerning the Mystery. An Essay on the Nature of Theology, (Oxford: Clarendon, 1983). 101-102.
Christ unites the words in us. That is a mystery indeed. Not that our minds are passive, we constantly pray for His will to be done as we attend to the Scriptures and other words and messages, even pictorial. I don’t see this as allegory in that characters in Scripture personify a particular passion or thing, they are more complicated than that. But meaning must be revealed to us as we read. Meaning is subjective in that it is personal and imparted with relationship. Yet it will not contradict what has been revealed to others, namely what the Church says is true. So if the Scriptures teach that “Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” Numbers 12:3, they point to a person who demonstrates meekness. But do we learn meekness by rationally studying Moses in the Bible? Perhaps, in that we believe our rational minds are commonly grace endowed. We can come to a certain understanding, but will this impart to us salvific meekness? No, we have to have a similar relationship with God as Moses had, which lead to his glowing face. So our faces wont glow if we rationally understand meekness, but if we develop the same relationship with God through desire, prayer and obedience. So I don’t see the Scriptures as Allegory in the same way as “My love is like a red, red rose.” Yes meekness is like Moses, and both point to something invisible, but there is more of a literal Incarnation of Presence – the love of God is actually in a rose. It is not just a utilitarian means of speaking about something else where it’s hypostasis of being a rose is irrelevant. The rose is love enough in itself. Light, color, beautiful scents and softness are gifts from God. But I can say, thank you God for roses and Moses (Singing in the Rain, anyone?) and meekness and beauty, please make me meek and beautiful unto your glory. Then there’s the lillies of the field. God gives them their beauty while they remain still – yes that ties in with the above quote. Christ arranges the words that we hear while we look with open faces at Him. So we come into communion with flowers when we acquire similar attributes to them, who are alive and prospering by His grace. Perhaps my distinctions are right and the above mentioned poem should be corrected by saying,
[By not resisting Me (Christ), she] is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
[And] like the melody
That’s sweetly played in tune.
So fair art thou, my bonny [Church],
So deep in love am I;
And I will love thee still my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
And I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only love!
And fare thee weel awhile!
For I [am with thee always even unto the end of the age]
Borrowed from Robert Burns
I do not know how roses that fade and sparrows that fall and seas and sand and rocks will fare in the new world and the final resurrection. I believe somehow they will be made new and that their decomposition does not mean annihilation.