V Lent Friday – Thy Will Be Done

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And it came to pass after these things that God tempted Abraham, and said to him, Abraham, Abraham; and he said, Lo! I am here. And he said, Take thy son, the beloved one, whom thou hast loved—Isaac, and go into the high land, and offer him there for a whole-burnt-offering on one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up in the morning and saddled his ass, and he took with him two servants, and Isaac his son, and having split wood for a whole-burnt-offering, he arose and departed, and came to the place of which God spoke to him, on the third day; and Abraham having lifted up his eyes, saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his servants, Sit ye here with the ass, and I and the lad will proceed thus far, and having worshipped we will return to you. And Abraham took the wood of the whole-burnt-offering, and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took into his hands both the fire and the knife, and the two went together. And Isaac said to Abraham his father, Father. And he said, What is it, son? And he said, Behold the fire and the wood, where is the sheep for a whole-burnt-offering? And Abraham said, God will provide himself a sheep for a whole-burnt-offering, my son. And both having gone together, they came to the place which God spoke of to him; and there Abraham built the altar, and laid the wood on it, and having bound the feet of Isaac his son together, he laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand to take the knife to slay his son. And an angel of the Lord called him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham. And he said, Behold, I am here. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the child, neither do anything to him, for now I know that thou fearest God, and for my sake thou hast not spared thy beloved son. And Abraham lifted up his eyes and beheld, and lo! a ram caught by his horns in a plant of Sabec; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a whole-burnt-offering in the place of Isaac his son. And Abraham called the name of that place, The Lord hath seen; that they might say to-day, In the mount the Lord hath seen. And an angel of the Lord called Abraham the second time out of heaven, saying, I have sworn by myself, says the Lord, because thou hast done this thing, and on my account hast not spared thy beloved son, surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is by the shore of the sea, and thy seed shall inherit the cities of their enemies. And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast hearkened to my voice. And Abraham returned to his servants, and they arose and went together to the well of the oath; and Abraham dwelt at the well of the oath. – Genesis 22:1-18

God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as the ultimate test of his faith and obedience. Beyond all hope, He had given Abraham a son in his old age, the son who furthermore was the living pledge of God’s promise that Abraham would be the father of nations. Now He says, “Give him back to me, but go on believing that I will do what I promised.”

Abraham does it. Of course, the Angel stays his hand, and he receives his son back beyond all hope, as from the dead. But morally Abraham has sacrificed him. In his will and in his heart he has given him back to God. After he receives him yet a second time from God, as from the dead, neither his relationship with God nor with his son will ever be the same again. Both will be incomparably higher, holier, and more permanent.

Everything Abraham is, everything he hopes for, everything he believes in, is wrapped up with Isaac. To give him up means to give up everything, everything except God. By his obedience, he is saying in action, “You, Lord, are everything, and I am nothing. Do with me as You will.”

Thus one could say that there are three types, three pre-figurations, of Christ in His Passion in this history of Abraham’s sacrifice: Isaac prefigures the Only Son of the Father, carrying the wood of the sacrifice on his back, as Christ carried the Cross. The ram caught in the bush and sacrificed in Isaac’s stead prefigures the Lamb of God, Who suffered in place of guilty man. Usually in the typology Abraham is seen as a type of God the Father, Who offers His Son for our salvation. Yet, if I may be so bold, I shall venture to offer that Abraham in his crushing, utter abasement before God, in his Job-like submission to the will of God, is also a type of the Paschal Christ in His Extreme Humility, His emptying Himself to the uttermost for us.

Each and every saint, each and every Orthodox Christian who goes to Paradise, will have one or perhaps several crises when he has to give up his “Isaac,” i.e., someone or something he thinks he cannot live without. There is no getting around it. The door of Extreme Humility is the door to Paradise.

During these closing days of Great Lent, as we prepare to glorify the Lord in His Passion, let us quietly pray for true humility, to realize very deeply within ourselves that God is God, and that He is holding us in the palm of His hand. Let us pray for the grace of an unchanging firmness to make an act of absolute faith and hope in Him, so that when the crisis comes, and we must sacrifice our particular Isaac, there will be no doubt of the outcome.

O Lord Jesus, Who emptied Thyself for us to the uttermost, glory be to Thee!

This commentary was taken from The Eternal Sacrifice: The Genesis Readings for Great Lent by Fr. Steven Allen. You can order a copy from Lulu at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/FrStevenAllen

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V Lent, Thursday of the Great Canon – The Consuming Fire

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And the Lord said, The cry of Sodom and Gomorrha has been increased towards me, and their sins are very great. I will therefore go down and see, if they completely correspond with the cry which comes to me, and if not, that I may know. And the men having departed thence, came to Sodom; and Abraham was still standing before the Lord. And Abraham drew nigh and said, Wouldest thou destroy the righteous with the wicked, and shall the righteous be as the wicked? Should there be fifty righteous in the city, wilt thou destroy them? Wilt thou not spare the whole place for the sake of the fifty righteous, if they be in it? By no means shalt thou do this so as to destroy the righteous with the wicked, so the righteous shall be as the wicked: by no means. Thou that judgest the whole earth, shalt thou not do right? And the Lord said, If there should be in Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole city, and the whole place for their sakes. And Abraham answered and said, Now I have begun to speak to my Lord, and I am earth and ashes. But if the fifty righteous should be diminished to forty-five, wilt thou destroy the whole city because of the five wanting? And he said, I will not destroy it, if I should find there forty-five. And he continued to speak to him still, and said, But if there should be found there forty? And he said, I will not destroy it for the forty’s sake. And he said, Will there be anything against me, Lord, if I shall speak? but if there be found there thirty? And he said, I will not destroy it for the thirty’s sake. And he said, Since I am able to speak to the Lord, what if there should be found there twenty? And he said, I will not destroy it, if I should find there twenty. And he said, Will there be anything against me, Lord, if I speak yet once? but if there should be found there ten? And he said, I will not destroy it for the ten’s sake. And the Lord departed, when he left off speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place. – Genesis 18: 20-33

Abraham pleads with the Lord not to destroy Sodom if only ten righteous men can be found there. The two angels sent by God will not find ten, but only one, the righteous Lot, and only he and his daughters will survive.

Living, as we are today, in the midst of Sodom, we must be absolutely determined not only to remain moral ourselves, but also to speak and to act against the lies of Sodom with absolute and consistent clarity and intransigence, not giving one inch. The lies of Sodom are that white is black, good is evil, the abnormal is normal, and the perverted is sacred. These thoughts, constantly repeated and shoved down the throats of everyone who will listen, corrode the mind and will, and only a militant state of soul burning with righteous indignation will resist.

The biggest lie is that the Christian virtue of non-condemnation means calling evil good, that “forgiveness” means saying that sin is not a sin. This is absurd, of course: if it is not a sin, then there is nothing to forgive. The reality is that the sins of Sodom are explicitly among those that cry out to God for vengeance, that God will indeed avenge them, and that it will be terrible to behold. Our God is a consuming fire, and nothing impure can stand in His presence.

We need to wake up and beg God to renew in us manly and righteous wrath against the sodomites, both those who practice these abominations and those who sanction them and propagandize them. If we are not indignant against such insults to God’s holiness and honor, if we are not wrathful against the present destruction of innocence and purity on a catastrophic scale, we will have neither hope of turning the tide nor of escaping God’s wrath ourselves, as aiders and abettors of these most satanic sins.

If we are destined to play the part of Lot, and destruction is inevitable, let us stand firm, and the Lord will send His angels to rescue us in time.

This commentary was taken from The Eternal Sacrifice: The Genesis Readings for Great Lent by Fr. Steven Allen. You can order a copy from Lulu at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/FrStevenAllen

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V Lent Wednesday – Father of Nations

You can listen to a podcast of this blog post at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/vlentwed

And Abram was ninety-nine years old, and the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, I am thy God, be well-pleasing before me, and be blameless. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and I will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell upon his face, and God spoke to him, saying, And I, behold! my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of a multitude of nations. And thy name shall no more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham, for I have made thee a father of many nations. And I will increase thee very exceedingly, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between Me and thee, and thy seed after thee, to their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be thy God, and the God of thy seed after thee. And I will give to thee and to thy seed after thee the land wherein thou sojournest, even all the land of Chanaan for an everlasting possession, and I will be to them a God. And God said to Abraham, Thou also shalt fully keep my covenant, thou and thy seed after thee for their generations. – Genesis 17:1-9

Again God repeats His promise and renews His covenant with Abram. The reading begins by stating that Abram was ninety-nine years old at the time. The Lord waits until it is humanly impossible for him and Sarah to have children, in order to make it clear that Isaac’s birth, the fulfillment of the promise, is God’s work and not man’s. He is inaugurating the covenant of faith and of grace. All is from God.

At this particular repetition of the promise and renewal of the covenant, God makes a further revelation. He gives Abram a new name: Abraham, Father of Nations. Note that he is not the father of “the nation” or “a nation” but of “nations.” This title looks forward to the mission of the Holy Apostles, who converted the nations – the Gentiles – to the Faith of Abraham, after Pentecost. Abraham is the father of all the nations who come into the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

God promises Abraham that His covenant will be “everlasting.” One day the same Lord Who makes this promise to Abraham will stand as a man before Pontius Pilate and reveal to him that “My kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).”

Let us trust in God and believe that all comes from Him, abandoning our trust in ourselves. Let us love the Church. And let us look forward to the Kingdom which is to come. Through our confession of the Faith and Holy Baptism, the God of Abraham has made an everlasting covenant with us. We have only to be faithful and to hope in His promise.

This commentary was taken from The Eternal Sacrifice: The Genesis Readings for Great Lent by Fr. Steven Allen. You can order a copy from Lulu at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/FrStevenAllen

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V Lent Tuesday – And It Was Accounted to Him for Righteousness

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And after these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram, I shield thee, thy reward shall be very great. And Abram said, Master and Lord, what wilt thou give me? whereas I am departing without a child, but the son of Masek my home-born female slave, this Eliezer of Damascus is mine heir. And Abram said, I am grieved since thou hast given me no seed, but my home-born servant shall succeed me. And immediately there was a voice of the Lord to him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come out of thee shall be thine heir. And he brought him out and said to him, Look up now to heaven, and count the stars, if thou shalt be able to number them fully, and he said, Thus shall thy seed be. And Abram believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. And he said to him, I am God that brought thee out of the land of the Chaldeans, so as to give thee this land to inherit. And he said, Master and Lord, how shall I know that I shall inherit it? And he said to him, Take for me an heifer in her third year, and a she-goat in her third year, and a ram in his third year, and a dove and a pigeon. So he took to him all these, and divided them in the midst, and set them opposite to each other, but the birds he did not divide. And birds came down upon the bodies, upon the divided parts of them, and Abram sat down by them. And about sunset a trance fell upon Abram, and lo! a great gloomy terror falls upon him. And it was said to Abram, Thou shalt surely know that thy seed shall be a sojourner in a land not their won, and they shall enslave them, and afflict them, and humble them four hundred years. And the nation whomsoever they shall serve I will judge; and after this, they shall come forth hither with much property. But thou shalt depart to thy fathers in peace, nourished in a good old age. – Genesis 15:1-15

This account, of Abram’s worries and insistence that God would confirm His promise, should console us greatly, since it shows that even a very great and holy man, who is in the state of divine vision, can still need to grow in faith and hope in God. This is something that goes on to the end of his life, and to the end of our lives. It shows that God does not chastise us when we question Him with childlike trust, “What wilt Thou give me?” Rather, He reassures us and increases the measure of our faith. Then, if we believe His promise and put our hope in Him, He accounts this to us as righteousness. Not great acts of asceticism or charity, but simply this: an act of faith and hope in Him.

God and Abram do not stop, however, at this noetic and verbal agreement. They make a physical covenant based upon sacrifice. Once again, Abram goes into ecstasy, into the state of divine vision, and he mystically beholds and speaks with God Who comes to make covenant with him upon the blood of sacrificed beasts of his flock. This is serious business: the cutting of the animals in two signifies, “You may do this to me and more if I break faith with you.”

The same Lord God who made this sacrificial covenant in blood with Abram has made an everlasting covenant with us, by the blood of the Lamb of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, whose Precious Blood purchased us for God. All that we are and all that we have come from Him; all that we are and all that we have belong to Him. “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s (I Corinthians 6:20).” The entire Orthodox way of life – the fasting, the Church services, prayer, correction of our outward habits and inner thoughts, and every aspect of active Christian life – is designed to help us glorify God in body and spirit. He has accounted our faith as righteousness; we must show our thanks for His gift by struggling for holiness.

This commentary was taken from The Eternal Sacrifice: The Genesis Readings for Great Lent by Fr. Steven Allen. You can order a copy from Lulu at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/FrStevenAllen

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V Lent Monday – Children of the Promise

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And Lot dwelt in a city of the neighbouring people, and pitched his tent in Sodom. But the men of Sodom were evil, and exceedingly sinful before God. And God said to Abram after Lot was separated from him, Look up with thine eyes, and behold from the place where thou now art northward and southward, and eastward and seaward; for all the land which thou seest, I will give it to thee and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed like the dust of the earth; if any one is able to number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed be numbered. Arise and traverse the land, both in the length of it and in the breadth; for to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And Abram having removed his tent, came and dwelt by the oak of Mambre, which was in Chebrom, and he there built an altar to the Lord. – Genesis 13:12-18

Here God makes Abram a stupendous promise, that his seed would number as the dust of the earth, i.e., that his descendants would be countless, a promise repeated several times in Genesis. Abram’s physical descendants through Isaac and Ishmael have indeed attained large numbers in the course of history, the far greater in number being the sons of Ishmael. God’s covenant with Abraham had nothing to do with Ishmael, however, but only with Isaac, the son of the promise. The point here is not demographic numbers or the spread of a biological group sharing similar DNA. Abraham is father in the Faith to all who believe in the Savior Whom Isaac prefigures. The true children of Abraham are the children of the Church.

During Great Lent, we children of the Church read Genesis to remind us that we are part of one great, single story, the story of all the true believers in the true God from Adam until now. We read how the lonely, righteous patriarchs, each in his turn, made the critical choice to believe God when He promised him invincible help if only he would trust in Him, and this choice, the choice of one lonely man, led to eternal life for countless souls. Now it is our turn: What choice will we make? Our feeling lonely is no excuse to say No to God. We have too much precedent against that. Each of us, in this life, will make the choice. Each of us, in the next life, will stand before God’s Judgment.

Some say that man’s repentance is now impossible and the end is near. Since they go right on enjoying their daily cup of coffee and posting cute videos on Facebook, it is not easy to take them seriously. They forget that, living by Faith, one of them could beget or bear or teach or inspire one child who, like Abraham, could become “the father of many nations,” whose life and labor could bring to repentance many souls and thus stave off the end, possibly unto the salvation of countless souls. They forget the duty of all Orthodox Christians: to implore God with tears to make them into the parents or godparents or priests or elders or teachers…of a saint.

The duty is ours. The consequences are God’s. Let us cast off fear and live this day in Faith.

This commentary was taken from The Eternal Sacrifice: The Genesis Readings for Great Lent by Fr. Steven Allen. You can order a copy from Lulu at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/FrStevenAllen

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IV Lent Friday – The Chosen and the Promise

You can listen to a podcast of this blog post at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/ivlentfri

And the Lord said to Abram, Go forth out of thy land and out of thy kindred, and out of the house of thy father, and come into the land which I will shew thee. And I will make thee a great nation, and I will bless thee and magnify thy name, and thou shalt be blessed. And I will bless those that bless thee, and curse those that curse thee, and in thee shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed. And Abram went as the Lord spoke to him, and Lot departed with him, and Abram was seventy-five years old, when he went out of Charrhan. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot the son of his brother, and all their possessions, as many as they had got, and every soul which they had got in Charrhan, and they went forth to go into the land of Chanaan. And Abram traversed the land lengthwise as far as the place Sychem, to the high oak, and the Chananites then inhabited the land. And the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, I will give this land to thy seed. And Abram built an altar there to the Lord who appeared to him. – Genesis 12:1-7

After the scattering of the peoples from Babel, the true knowledge of God remains intact among one family only, and their lineage produces Abraham, who will become the Father in the Faith for all true worshippers of God until the end of the world.

As with Noah, the Lord chooses a particular person to carry out His plan, and the choice of this one man to have faith and to obey God affects the salvation of uncounted souls. As with Noah, the Lord gives him a difficult task that he cannot fulfill without great faith and obedience. As does Noah, Abram offers sacrifice unto the Lord.

So too our lives, if we are indeed heirs of the Promise, will bear these marks of particularity, faith coupled with obedience, and sacrifice.

Particularity – When we see that few share our convictions, we must not be shaken. There have been many and critical times in history when almost everyone had fallen away, and God called the few – sometimes just one person and his family – to carry on the true knowledge of Him and the true worship of Him. These few were never distinguished by superior wealth or power or cleverness, but only by this sheer fact, that God had called them.

Faith and obedience – Faith is a free gift, a grace from God: He reveals Himself, giving us the true knowledge of Who He is, and He infuses the grace of Faith coupled with this revelation. It is also our assent to this knowledge, but even the ability to assent is God’s gracious gift to us. In return for this gift, God demands obedience: “All right, Noah, I have given you the gift of Faith. Now build the Ark.” “All right, Abram, I have given you the gift of Faith. Now risk everyone and everything dear to you, and go off with them to a place you have never been before and know nothing about, trusting Me to take care of you.” When God gives us our appointed task, it is clear that we have to do it or we will perish, spiritually if not physically. It is also clear that without Him we cannot do it, but with Him success is never in doubt. We must step out in Faith and not look back.

Sacrifice – Abram, upon arriving in the Promised Land, immediately built an altar to the Lord. The true worship of God always accompanies the true faith in God, and true worship, from the beginning of our race, has always centered on sacrifice, culminating in the One True Sacrifice that takes away the sins of the world, that of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross. Therefore, in our particular and humanly impossible adventure of faith and obedience, we struggle in every way possible to ensure that we and ours will have access to the True Sacrifice that takes place only on Orthodox altars at the Divine Liturgy, at which the One Paschal Sacrifice of the Lamb of God is made present again and again until the end of the world, “for the remission of sins and life everlasting.” Even if it turns out that we have to live in a cave somewhere, let us make sure that the cave has a true altar and a true priest. With God helping us, it can be done.

A simple program, really, if you think about it.

This commentary was taken from The Eternal Sacrifice: The Genesis Readings for Great Lent by Fr. Steven Allen. You can order a copy from Lulu at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/FrStevenAllen

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Lent IV Thursday – Small Is Beautiful

You can listen to a podcast of this blog post at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/iv-lent-thurs

These are the tribes of the sons of Noe, according to their generations, according to their nations: of them were the islands of the Gentiles scattered over the earth after the flood. And all the earth was one lip, and there was one language to all. And it came to pass as they moved from the east, they found a plain in the land of Senaar, and they dwelt there. And a man said to his neighbour, Come, let us make bricks and bake them with fire. And the brick was to them for stone, and their mortar was bitumen. And they said, Come, let us build to ourselves a city and tower, whose top shall be to heaven, and let us make to ourselves a name, before we are scattered abroad upon the face of all the earth. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the sons of men built. And the Lord said, Behold, there is one race, and one lip of all, and they have begun to do this, and now nothing shall fail from them of all that they may have undertaken to do. Come, and having gone down let us there confound their tongue, that they may not understand each the voice of his neighbour. And the Lord scattered them thence over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city and the tower. On this account its name was called Confusion, because there the Lord confounded the languages of all the earth, and thence the Lord scattered them upon the face of all the earth. – Genesis 10:32-11:9

Men, delivered from extinction in the Flood by God’s mercy to Noah, did not learn their lesson, and they determined to play God by building a tower to scale the heavens. One would have thought that the not-distant memory of worldwide catastrophe brought on by human pride and corruption would have daunted them, but they demonstrated the endless capacity of men to delude themselves, and they attempted, once again, to make life into a project to thwart God. The surprise was on them: God cannot be thwarted.

God solved the problem by creating many different languages and nations, scattering man across the face of the earth. He knew, in His infinite wisdom, that people do better in small groups, that small is beautiful. Man is by nature social: without family and community, without love, he withers and dies. And precisely because of this, he needs to be in little groups: families, Church parishes, communities. He needs life on a human scale, life with a human face. Being just an atom floating in a vast sea of faceless individuals – which is the plan for humanity of the Babel-Tower-Builders of all ages – has the same effect as having no society at all. It encloses one in his ego, which is hell on earth.

The Church is the ultimate answer to the Tower project. She gathers all the nations under Her care without destroying them. Each nation, and each local community and family, attains its true greatness mothered and instructed by Her. Where the Church is the Mother and Teacher of the nation, family life blossoms, and this becomes the basis of that true national greatness which cannot be measured by GDP or number of dollars spent on social programs or military adventures, but by the piety, learning, and virtue of the nation’s people.

Each of us needs to abjure the mass mentality and mass culture, and rekindle the love of one’s own: One’s own family, ancestry, tongue, culture, and place. Let us make our houses into homes, where family life flourishes in piety, learning, and virtuous labor. Let us love the land beneath our feet and the sky over our heads. It will be a great day when we are more concerned about our children’s Latin lesson or a raccoon getting into the chicken coop than about what some crooks are doing in Washington D.C., New York, or Hollywood.

For this to happen, we have to un-do the illusion that things that happen on video screens are more real and more important than things that happen in front of us in real life. Here is a short list of exercises that may help:

1. Buy stationery and postage stamps, and write someone you know a real letter once a week.

2. Plant a garden and keep after it.

3. Spend at least one evening per week with your family and just talk, or sing, or tell stories, or take a walk. Or simply do nothing – you’ll learn more just looking at each other than at the Internet.

4. Learn the names of the trees and plants where you live, and be able to identify them.

Pick one and try it. You have nothing to lose!

This commentary was taken from The Eternal Sacrifice: The Genesis Readings for Great Lent by Fr. Steven Allen. You can order a copy from Lulu at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/FrStevenAllen

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IV Lent Wednesday – Recovering Piety

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Now the sons of Noe which came out of the ark, were Sem, Cham, Japheth. And Cham was father of Chanaan. These three are the sons of Noe, of these were men scattered over all the earth. And Noe began to be a husbandman, and he planted a vineyard. And he drank of the wine, and was drunk, and was naked in his house. And Cham the father of Chanaan saw the nakedness of his father, and he went out and told his two brothers without. And Sem and Japheth having taken a garment, put it on both their backs and went backwards, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their face wasbackward, and they saw not the nakedness of their father. And Noe recovered from the wine, and knew all that his younger son had done to him. And he said, Cursed be the servant Chanaan, a slave shall he be to his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Sem, and Chanaan shall be his bond-servant. May God make room for Japheth, and let him dwell in the habitations of Sem, and let Chanaan be his servant. And Noe lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. And all the days of Noe were nine hundred and fifty years, and he died. Now these are the generations of the sons of Noe, Sem, Cham, Japheth; and sons were born to them after the flood. – Genesis 9:18-10:1

Noah curses Ham for insulting his father, and all of Ham’s posterity are cursed as well. There are three realities here that today many wish to deny:

Divinely-established hierarchy: God places some men over others, the most primordial example being that of placing the father over his family. The deluded slogan of the French Revolution, the catastrophe that inaugurated the current reign of demonic insanity, combines “equality” with “fraternity,” but this is self-contradictory, because without hierarchy there is no love, only the competition of “equals.” No one is responsible for anyone else, and no one has to obey anyone else. In practice of course, this results in the evil anti-hierarchy of “might makes right, the “law of the jungle,” and “survival of the fittest.” Another word for such a condition is “hell.”

The duty of filial piety: This comprises not only the affection but also the reverence of children toward parents, a reverence the children owe even to bad parents. The commandment God will later give to Moses does not create a new obligation but rather enshrines what was known from the beginning: “Honour thy father and thy mother, that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest live long on the good land, which the Lord thy God gives to thee. (Exodus 20:12).” Filial piety brings a blessing upon one’s life; filial impiety brings a curse. In his last and greatest novel, Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky uses the image of a parricide, one who murders his father, to illustrate the essence of nihilism, which is the worship of self-will that leads to eternal death.

The duty to shield one’s eyes from evil: Ham’s duty was not only to cover his father’s nakedness out of filial piety but also to cover his own eyes and to be silent regarding what he had inadvertently witnessed. There are times when our duty requires the accusation of evil and to be silent is a sin. A great deal of the time, however, we indulge in looking upon and speaking about evil that is none of our business and about which we can do nothing, the result being that we both coarsen ourselves and spread the effect of the evil we profess to abhor. Contemporary man has completely lost the very concept of the obscene – that there are some things that should not be seen or heard by others. The word obscene comes from the Latin o-, ob-, which means, in this context, “away from,” and scena, “stage,” i.e., the stage in a theater. There are many things, due either to their especial sacredness or especial evil, that should not – must not – be heard, seen, portrayed, or spoken of in public. They must remain “offstage.” A society that forgets this is doomed to degradation and dissolution.

How do we recover the pietas of our fathers in the Faith? As a first step, we must turn off the input of filth from the world around us and immerse ourselves in that which is good: good reading, good art, and good music. We find this first of all in the Church and Her sacred writings, art, and chant. We find it secondly in the healthiest and best non-liturgical writing, art, and music of Christian civilization. It is all there for us to partake of it. We simply have to make the choice.

As a second step, let us refuse to speak of evil things except when called upon to do so by our station in life and our duties, and even then only to say what is truly required to those who truly need to know.

As a third step, let us pray with tears for the Lord to show us the way out of the sacrilegious burlesque that constitutes postmodern life, and for the wisdom and strength to build an ark in which we can ride the waves unsullied over the sea of sewage which passes for contemporary culture.

Holy Patriarch Noah, pray to God for us.

This commentary was taken from The Eternal Sacrifice: The Genesis Readings for Great Lent by Fr. Steven Allen. You can order a copy from Lulu at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/FrStevenAllen

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IV Lent Tuesday – Real Life

You can listen to a podcast of this blog post at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/ivlenttues

And God spoke to Noe, and to his sons with him, saying, And behold I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you, and with every living creature with you, of birds and of beasts, and with all the wild beasts of the earth, as many as are with you, of all that come out of the ark. And I will establish my covenant with you and all flesh shall not any more die by the water of the flood, and there shall no more be a flood of water to destroy all the earth. And the Lord God said to Noe, This is the sign of the covenant which I set between me and you, and between every living creature which is with you for perpetual generations. I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of covenant between me and the earth. And it shall be when I gather clouds upon the earth, that my bow shall be seen in the cloud. And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you, and between every living soul in all flesh, and there shall no longer be water for a deluge, so as to blot out all flesh. And my bow shall be in the cloud, and I will look to remember the everlasting covenant between me and the earth, and between every living soul in all flesh, which is upon the earth. And God said to Noe, This is the sign of the covenant, which I have made between me and all flesh, which is upon the earth. – Genesis 9:8-17

God makes His after-Flood covenant with a single household: “…behold I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you, and with every living creature with you, of birds and of beasts, and with all the wild beasts of the earth, as many as are with you, of all that come out of the ark.”

Noah is the paterfamilias, the patriarch, of a farming family, of wife and sons and sons’ wives, of the domestic and wild beasts in their care and under their authority. God chose a family of animal husbandmen, along with their “critters” – not a government or an army or a political party or a business corporation or a city – to be the foundation of all the future of the earth. Governments, cities, and all the rest are part of God’s plan for society, too, but they are not the foundation. The foundation is the family, and, to be more precise, husband and wife and their posterity, caring for animals and tending the soil.

All the Scriptures, all the Fathers, and all the best philosophers of all history testify that the natural family – man and wife with their offspring, living on their own land and caring for their own needs – is the setting most conducive to a moral and pious life. Life in the city, detached from nature, inevitably tied to commerce, and, worse, to moneylending, naturally tends to the breakup of the family and to every vice, which must be fought at every step, as any bishop of any great metropolis in Christian history can testify.

“Economics” in today’s parlance means some kind of abstract system or mathematical game pretending to explain the best way of dealing with the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The Greek original of “economy,” oikonomia, however, does not mean something so removed from reality. It means, literally, the “law of the household,” the understanding of how families govern themselves and their material substance. All true understanding of economics for larger groups – communities, nations, mankind – must be built on this. Edmund Burke said that the true purpose of politics is that a man be happy at home. The same is true of economics.

Great Lent is a great time to get back to basics. How does our family life conform to the law given by Scripture, to the example of our pious ancestors, to the God-given, natural reality of what a family is? Given our circumstances, what can we do to recover the law of the household, the life of the family? Most of us cannot “go back to the land”; we have inherited the highly artificial system of things that dominates us, and only a mighty revolution in the current life of man will change that. But we can resolve to do a few things:

1. Always say family prayers, every day.

2. Always have a family meal, every day.

3. Grow some of our own food and care for some dumb creatures, together.

4. Curb our appetites, pay our own way, and avoid debt.

Let’s start there. If we manage this short list, it will make for a very profitable Lent!

This commentary was taken from The Eternal Sacrifice: The Genesis Readings for Great Lent by Fr. Steven Allen. You can order a copy from Lulu at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/FrStevenAllen

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IV Lent Monday – Ora et Labora

You can listen to a podcast of this blog post at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/ivlentmon

And the Lord God smelled a savour of sweetness, and the Lord God having considered, said, I will not any more curse the earth, because of the works of men, because the imagination of man is intently bent upon evil things from his youth, I will not therefore any more smite all living flesh as I have done. All the days of the earth, seed and harvest, cold and heat, summer and spring, shall not cease by day or night. And God blessed Noe and his sons, and said to them, Increase and multiply, and fill the earth and have dominion over it. And the dread and the fear of you shall be upon all the wild beasts of the earth, on all the birds of the sky, and on all things moving upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea, I have placed them under your power. And every reptile which is living shall be to you for meat, I have given all things to you as the green herbs. But flesh with blood of life ye shall not eat. For your blood of your lives will I require at the hand of all wild beasts, and I will require the life of man at the hand of his brother man. He that sheds man’s blood, instead of that blood shall his own be shed, for in the image of God I made man. But do ye increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and have dominion over it. – Genesis 8:21-9:7

The Lord God commands Noah and his sons, as He had commanded Adam and Eve, to “…increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and have dominion over it.” We do not get back to Paradise by sitting around and dreaming about it. We have to work.

Two opposite extremes distort the meaning of our work on earth. Utopians say that this life is all there is, and our duty is to make heaven on earth. Their scheme distorts the meaning of work by exalting it too greatly, casting it as a pseudo-salvation. Quietists says that what we do on earth does not matter, that we need simply to crawl into a hole, pray, and be “holy,” by which, I suppose, they mean sitting in that hole and certainly not practicing active love like the saints. Their scheme distorts the meaning of work by detaching it from our eternal destiny. They could very well summarize their philosophy in the words of Peter Pan – “Think happy thoughts” – and their “heaven” bears close resemblance to Never-Never Land. They lose Paradise through avoiding life in this world, as do the Utopians by worshipping it.

This world is temporary, not eternal as the materialists teach. God expects us to love it without being attached to it, for we look forward to a New Heaven and a New Earth, in which all the labors of man shall cease, and where we hope to spend eternity in contemplation of the beloved God. But this world is also quite real, not an illusion as the Hindus and Buddhists teach. God made it, and He pronounced it good. He loves His creation, and He expects man, His steward, to love it too.

We practice this love by marrying and giving life to children with the courage born of faith and other-centeredness, eschewing the cowardice born of faithlessness and self-centeredness.

We practice this love through honest labor that supports our families and responsible stewardship over the good things God has given us.

We practice this love by laboring for souls, for God’s Church.

In all this, however, we do not aim to create heaven on earth, but rather to acquire heaven by making good use of our time on earth. Contrary to what the Utopians think, life on earth is not all there is – it is the arena in which we work out our eternal destiny. Contrary to what the Quietists think, life on earth requires effort – it is the arena in which we work out our eternal destiny.

Let us resolve to spend the second half of Great Lent in active labor, sacrifice, and deeds of love. At the end of this Lent, and at the end of our lives, may we hear the desired Voice:

“Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord (Matthew 25: 23).”

This commentary was taken from The Eternal Sacrifice: The Genesis Readings for Great Lent by Fr. Steven Allen. You can order a copy from Lulu at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/FrStevenAllen

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