III Lent Friday – A Savor of Sweetness

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And the water continued to decrease until the tenth month. And in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the heads of the mountains were seen. And it came to pass after forty days Noe opened the window of the ark which he had made. And he sent forth a raven; and it went forth and returned not until the water was dried from off the earth. And he sent a dove after it to see if the water had ceased from off the earth. And the dove not having found rest for her feet, returned to him into the ark, because the water was on all the face of the earth, and he stretched out his hand and took her, and brought her to himself into the ark. And having waited yet seven other days, he again sent forth the dove from the ark. And the dove returned to him in the evening, and had a leaf of olive, a sprig in her mouth; and Noe knew that the water had ceased from off the earth. And having waited yet seven other days, he again sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him again any more. And it came to pass in the six hundred and first year of the life of Noe, in the first month, on the first day of the month, the water subsided from off the earth, and Noe opened the covering of the ark which he had made, and he saw that the water had subsided from the face of the earth. And in the second month the earth was dried, on the twenty-seventh day of the month. And the Lord God spoke to Noe, saying, Come out from the ark, thou and thy wife and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives with thee. And all the wild beasts as many as are with thee, and all flesh both of birds and beasts, and every reptile moving upon the earth, bring forth with thee: and increase ye and multiply upon the earth. And Noe came forth, and his wife and his sons, and his sons’ wives with him. And all the wild beasts and all the cattle and every bird, and every reptile creeping upon the earth after their kind, came forth out of the ark. And Noe built an altar to the Lord, and took of all clean beasts, and of all clean birds, and offered a whole burnt-offering upon the altar. 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. – Genesis 8:4-21

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 intently bent 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 He has “smelled a savor of sweetness,” and after some consideration upon the matter, 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. The power of the Cross, reaching back in time to the beginning of the world, and forward in time to the end of the world, 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 now drawn near to the middle of Great Lent, and this Sunday we shall once again, God willing, be made worthy to venerate the Cross of Christ with fear and love. Let our kissing of 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.

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

Noah’s Rainbow
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