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Greg's Weekly Word: "behold"

It's not a word we use very often. Just try inserting it in your everyday conversations and see how people react.


And yet it is all over the Bible. The King James Version includes the word 1298 times. And yet it's only found 27 times in the New Revised Standard Version, and not at all in The Message paraphrase version. Maybe because it sounds so hoity-toity and old-fashioned. In fact, in divinity school our Hebrew professor would never let us translate הִנֵּה (hinneh) as "behold." And however we did translate it, we had to use an exclamation point -"Hey!" "Look here!" or "Holy crap!" (all of which were acceptable translations).

But I think we need to reclaim the word (or at least the idea behind) behold. Because no matter how we translate it, it is a call to pay attention.



Many of the divine revelations in the Bible begin with behold - usually as a command, or perhaps an invitation to a different style of attention. Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan contemplative and writer, puts it like this:

In a sense, it is a giveaway that, in fact, we can and need to “switch gears” once in a while to be ready to perceive what is about to come at us.

Do we really know how to behold, though? How to give our full attention to something? And not to place a value judgment upon it, or project our likes or dislikes upon it? How to simply be present and take in that to which we are giving our attention?


Again, from Father Rohr:

Beholding happens when we stop trying to “hold” and allow ourselves to “be held” by the other. We are completely enchanted by something outside and beyond ourselves. Maybe we should speak of “behelding” because, in that moment, we are being held more than really holding, explaining, or understanding anything by ourselves. We feel ourselves being addressed more than addressing something else.

So along with Rohr, I invite you to behold something today. And then tomorrow. And then each day in the coming week...and weeks! Find a bit of beauty in your daily living - a painting or a photograph...a sculpture or another kind of artwork...a stream or a butterfly... Allow yourself to be enchanted by it and absorbed in it. Give it your full attention. Behold it.


You may find that God's eternal creativity is revealed to you. And you might have the feeling that you are being held as well - in the loving embrace of that same God who created you, a thing of beauty, too.



- GJD


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