Origen of Alexandria identified the ultimate goal of human life as “intimate and continual communion with God.” He used an allegorical approach to interpreting Scripture. Using Numbers as a basis, he identified forty-two stages of the Christians ascent to God. (The Israelites had forty-two stages as they progressed through the wilderness to the promised land.)

“As we move from one stage to the next, we gain understanding and cultivate new virtues that strengthen us for the rest of the journey. Each stage also involves certain temptations. Yielding to these temptations disorients us from the path, but conquering them takes us even closer to God.”
Forty-two stages is a lot. I don’t know how I would have kept them all straight. And yet, I think this says something about the life of faith. As Foster and Beebe observe, we’re never finished growing. There’s always another stage. We can always learn more. We can always love more.
They write, “This with-God life takes no time, yet it occupies all our time. When we go to work, we go to work with-God. At work we are learning how to bless those who curse us, how to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice, how our very presence can be a joy to others. . . . The same is true for times at home with family and time with neighbors and friends.”
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