24 March OS 2017: Thursday of the Sixth Week of Lent; Forefeast of the Annunciation; S. Zacharias the Recluse of Egypt, S. Artemon Bishop of Seleucia
The first reading at Vespers today is Genesis 46: 1-7.
In this brief passage, we read how Jacob went down into Egypt with all his family and possessions, in obedience to God’s command.
What guarantee did Jacob have that all would be well? Only God’s promise: “And I will go down with thee into Egypt, and I will bring thee up again at the end, and Joseph shall put his hands upon thine eyes.” As always, God fulfilled His promise, first to Jacob personally, and four hundred years later, when He delivered all of Jacob’s posterity from slavery in Egypt and returned them to the Land of the Promise.
In the typology of the Fathers, Egypt represents the territory of the demons and the flesh, fallen society with all of its temptations. Pharaoh represents Satan, and just as Pharaoh enslaved the Hebrews, so in our lives Satan strives to enslave us to the passions and to sins. The New Moses, our Lord Jesus Christ, leads us out of Egyptian slavery to the Promised Land of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Just as God sent Jacob down into Egypt, knowing that his descendants would undergo so great a trial, so He allows us to confront manifold temptations, both in the sense of physical trials of various kinds and in the sense of the combat with sin, not so that we will be lost, but rather that we will learn to trust in God and to fight sin.
The greatest descent of all is the voluntary descent of the God-Man to the very depths of death and hell, in order to raise up Adam who had fallen. Surely He Who willed to descend to the uttermost abyss for our salvation will raise us up, too, from our trials and our temptations, when we call upon His name.
As we prepare to celebrate the God-Man’s suffering, death, descent into Hades, and glorious Resurrection, let us ask Him for the grace to trust in Him to take us by the hand and lead us on the path of this life, as did the patriarchs of old, the course of whose lives we have pondered this Lent. They put absolute trust in the Lord in the midst of their trials, though they could only look forward to a future deliverance. The Lord in Whom they trusted has now come to us in the flesh and has saved us. We have no excuse not to trust in Him.