Having established that Psalm 130(131) is about humility, St. Hilary analyzes the second half of the first verse:
‘Neither have Mine eyes been lifted up.’ The strict sense of the Greek here conveys a different meaning; οὐδὲ ἐμετεωρίσθησαν οἱ ὀφθαλμοί μου, that is, have not been lifted up from one object to look on another. Yet the eyes must be lifted up in obedience to the Prophet’s words: ‘Lift up your eyes and see who hath displayed all these things (Isaiah 40:26).’ And the Lord says in the gospel: ‘Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white unto harvest (John 4:35).’ The eyes, then, are to be lifted up: not, however, to transfer their gaze elsewhere, but to remain fixed once for all upon that to which they have been raised.
For me, it is gratifying to see St. Hilary doing something that I love to do — go to the Greek to get a nuance that isn’t there in the translation I am working with. Whereas I work with English, St. Hilary is operating with Latin. It not only goes to show that the Septuagint translation of the OT was the “go to” version of the OT that the ancient church used, but that the Holy Spirit has and does work with and through translations.
This latter statement, however, does come with caveat. When reading a translation (especially with our favorite version), it is quite possible to fall into the trap of eisegesis — reading into a text, or allowing our own preconceptions and prejudices to cloud our understanding of the text. Such a path is antithetical to what St. Hilary is speaking to with the first verse of Psalm 130(131).
Our eyes always need to be lifted up to God, thus we need to see what the text has to say about God, not what we want it to say about Him. From an Orthodox perspective, the safest path to determining whether or not we are understanding a text from Scripture in a proper way is to go to the Orthodox Church and see what she says about the text in question. This is because we believe that the Holy Spirit leads the Orthodox Church where she needs to go. As St. James declares after the Council of Jerusalem in the book of Acts (15:28), “It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us…”
There are several ways for us to see how the Orthodox Church understands Scripture:
- The context in which the Orthodox Church reads a particular text. This could be in light of a saint’s life, or a feast of the Theotokos or a feast of the Lord. The Orthodox Church also juxtaposes an Epistle reading, a Gospel reading and (usually) Psalm verses on these feasts. All of these factors speak to each other about what a particular text means.
- The hymnody of the Orthodox Church is replete with Scriptural quotations and references. The hymns are a poetic interpretation of these Scriptural passages.
- The New Testament itself interprets the OT all the time. On the Sunday after Theophany, for example, we will read Matthew 4:12-17 where the Evangelist tells us that Christ dwelling in Capernaum fulfills Isaiah 9:1, 2.
- The Fathers of the Church recognized as saints. They, of course, wrestle with Scripture all the time (as is evidenced by this series of blog posts). This, however, also must come with a caveat. The Fathers are human, and so have their own prejudices and weaknesses. Therefore, no Father can be read in isolation of other Fathers nor should we elevate one Father above all others. In this way, we can balance out their weaknesses with the strengths of others.
Armed with these tools, it is much easier to keep our eyes lifted to God when we read Scripture.