graciously leads the way forward, upward, and thereby shows the desiring soul his 'back side' but never his 'face', his essence.39

While Gregory dwelt upon provocative individual words and images in the sacred text, his larger purpose was to identify and follow out the higher 'sequence' (akolouthia) of spiritual instruction and elevation that bridged history and eternity. As with the Song ofSongs, assiduous interpreters were to be rapt, as it were, into that sublime sequence such that the scriptural narrative and its language became, sacramentally and vicariously, their own narrative and language of devotion.

A comparable pattern emerged in spiritual engagement with the Psalms, each of which could be a potent narrative sequence, a 'history of the soul'.40 Athanasius extolled the rich language of the psalter as capable of virtually incarnating itself in the soul so as to illuminate or transform it in its varied conditions and passions.41 John Cassian similarly advised monks to weave the Psalms so intimately with their own experience that they would become their virtual authors.42 The unrivalled classic, however, is the Confessions, where from the very outset the psalmist's language articulates Augustine's experience of the dramatic re-making of his self through the amor Dei. 'Even at this very moment,' Augustine writes in a typical appropriation, 'you are delivering from this terrifying abyss the soul who seeks for you and thirsts for your delights [Psalm 41.3], whose heart tells you I have sought your face; your face, Lord, I will seek [Psalm 26.8].'43

In his De doctrina christiana, Augustine forced the issue by outlining in theory how all of scriptural language ultimately functions as the church's love language. Scripture is an infrastructure comprising res ('things'), its divinely intended substance, and the broad array of signa - both lucid and ambiguous 'signs' - that point to those 'things' being taught. Astute exegesis, observing Augustine's meticulous rules, can see even the most ambiguous or opaque signs as tributary to the res, the worthy objects of creaturely 'enjoyment' (delectatio) at the core of biblical revelation: the mystery of the Trinity and the subsidiary truths of the church's rule of faith. But pursuing that enjoyment through scripture, a process that Augustine compared to a journey homeward to the bosom of God's wisdom, is impossible save for those who, along the

39 Gregory of Nyssa, De vitaMoysis ii (GNO 7.1: 117-21).

40 See Rowan Williams, 'Augustine and the Psalms', 17.

41 See Athanasius, Epistola adMarcellinum in interpretationem psalmorum (PG 27:11-46).

42 Cassian, Collatio 10.11 (CSEL 13: 305).

43 Augustine, Confessiones 1.18.28; trans. Chadwick, 20.

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