What fair thing did you not possess? What did you not share?

What were you ever refused?

With the things below you possessed those on high, and do you now sell your God?29

The choral refrain of Romanos' kontakion in turn bespeaks the collective disposition of repentance warranted by the story of betrayal: Be merciful, merciful, merciful to us, you who are patient with all, and wait for all.

Neither allegory nor typology accurately describes Romanos' interpretive model, which enhances the dramatic effect of the scriptural narratives in the form of amplified paraphrase. He upholds the 'literal' sense provided we understand it as something more than transparent history. Rowan Williams, identifying the literal sense with the church's ongoing interaction with scripture, urges that 'Christian interpretation is unavoidably engaged in "dramatic" modes of reading: we are invited to identify ourselves in the story being contemplated, to reappropriate who we are now, and who we shall or can be, in terms of the story. Its movements, transactions, transformations, become ours; we take responsibility for this or that position within the narrative.'30 Such ably describes Romanos' approach. For him, the story of Judas leaped from the pages of scripture to implicate the church in the betrayal of Jesus. Penitence -as an enduring ecclesial practice, not just a momentary liturgical response -would constitute the church's interpretive 'performance' of the story's anticipated effect, roused and shaped by the utter tragedy of the betrayal of the Son of God and by a healthy fear of complicity in Judas' sin.

In the monastic context, where the monks' sense of living in the last days in advance of divine judgment was profound, 'performative' interpretation thrived. The Apophthegmata patrum (Sayings of the desert fathers), recording the conferences of ascetic sages with their disciples, reflect an oral culture where scripture was primarily spoken and heard, not read, and where a strict economy of words was, like silence itself, highly valued.31 The Bible was seen as a vast collection of hard sayings having the power to bring all of life into redemptive focus. Often its commandments, especially those of compunction and charity, were straightforward, as in the many cases where monks, likened to the rich young man querying Jesus (Matthew 19.16), asked elders to give them a 'word' of salvation. A brother questioned Abba Poemen saying, "What ought I to

29 Romanos, Kontakion 17 ('On Judas') 2, 14-15 (eds. Maas and Tyrpanis, 123, 127-8); trans.

30 R. Williams, 'The literal sense of scripture', 125.

31 See Douglas Burton-Christie, The word in the desert.

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