24 February OS 2018: Friday of the Third Week of Lent; The First and Second Findings of the Head of the Forerunner
The first reading at Vespers today is Genesis 8:4-21.
“And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD, and took of all the clean beasts, and of all the clean fowls, and offered them as a whole burnt-offering upon the altar. And the LORD God smelled a savor of sweetness, and the LORD God considered and said, ‘I will not again curse the ground earth any more for the works of men; for the imagination of man is bent intently upon evil things from his youth. I will not therefore smite again all living flesh, as I have done.”
The first thing Noah does after he comes out of the Ark is to build an altar and offer sacrifice to the Lord. We, too, when we emerge from some danger, great or small – the first thing we must do is to offer sacrifice in prayer, worship, fasting, and good deeds. For our little sacrifices to be pleasing to God, however, they must be joined to the only Sacrifice that saves, the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.
Because the Lord is pleased with Noah’s sacrifice, He decides never to destroy man again from the face of the earth as long as the earth shall last. He promises this, while at the same time He states clearly what is man’s condition, that “…the imagination of man is bent intently upon evil things from his youth.” He knows that man’s fallen nature is such that his heart spontaneously gives rise to evil thoughts night and day, endlessly and every minute. Yet because He has “smelled a savor of sweetness,” He decides that He will give man a chance.
Noah’s sacrifice, and indeed all the Old Testament sacrifices, prefigure the one, unique, and only saving Sacrifice – the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. These little sacrifices pleased God because they obtained grace through hope in the great Sacrifice that was to come. Reaching back in time to the beginning of the world and forward in time to the end of the world, the Sacrifice of the Cross alone destroys the power of sin over man. Only by dying and rising with Christ, partaking of His sacrificed Flesh and Blood, and calling upon the name of the Crucified continually, can we change the thoughts of our hearts from evil continually to good continually.
We have drawn near to the middle of Great Lent, and this Sunday we will once again, God willing, be made worthy to venerate the Cross of Christ with fear and love. Let our kissing the Cross be not an empty gesture but rather a vow to follow Him to Golgotha, to call upon His holy name continually, and to make our lives a sacrifice to His glory.