16 February OS 2017: Wednesday of the First Week of Lent; Holy Martyr Pamphylos and Companions
The first reading at Vespers today is Genesis 1:24-2:3.
Since God made the human heart to hold Him, man’s first occupation was to contemplate God. He made Adam and Eve to be His friends. He commanded them to till and to keep Paradise, but this was not work as we understand it. They did the physical work of tending the plants of Paradise and governing the animals, but this gave them pure joy and delight, for it was labor without pain. They also worked at a higher “tilling and keeping,” and this was their primary activity: tilling and keeping the mind, contemplating God in His infinite perfections. God designed this “work” to continue for all eternity, intending for their minds to rise ever higher, never ceasing, to greater and greater understanding, unto greater and greater delight in knowing and loving God.
In today’s reading, the Lord Himself teaches by example what is the end of all our labors: the Seventh Day rest. “And on the sixth day God ended His works which He had made; and He ceased on the seventh day from all His works which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it, because that in it He ceased from all His works which God had begun to make.” Knowing our fallen state, He gives us six days of the week to work for the food that perishes, but on the day sanctified by His own rest, God commands man to cease from labor and spend the day in his original activity, which is spending time with God.
When God became a man to save us, He completed all His labors once again on the Sixth Day and rested once again from all His labors on the Seventh Day, sleeping in the tomb according to the body but going down with His human soul into Hades, to free all those held captive from ages past. Then on the First Day, which is also the Eighth Day, He broke the bonds of death by His Resurrection and sanctified this day as the icon of eternity. Thus Christians now rest on the Lord’s Day to honor the image of that Day that shall know no evening, and not only to honor but actually to partake by anticipation of the endless delight of that Day, even in this life.
How do we keep the Lord’s Day? How do we actually spend the 24 hours from sunset Saturday to sunset Sunday? Let us, this Lent, resolve to be honest about this, make straight that which we have made crooked, and fill up that which we lack.