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And Jacob ceased giving charges to his sons; and having lifted up his feet on the bed, he died, and was gathered to his people. And Joseph fell upon his father’s face, and wept on him, and kissed him. And Joseph commanded his servants the embalmers to embalm his father; and the embalmers embalmed Israel. And they fulfilled forty days for him, for so are the days of embalming numbered; and Egypt mourned for him seventy days. And when the days of mourning were past, Joseph spoke to the princes of Pharao, saying, If I have found favour in your sight, speak concerning me in the ears of Pharao, saying, My father adjured me, saying, In the sepulchre which I dug for myself in the land of Chanaan, there thou shalt bury me; now then I will go up and bury my father, and return again. And Pharao said to Joseph, Go up, bury thy father, as he constrained thee to swear. So Joseph went up to bury his father; and all the servants of Pharao went up with him, and the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt. And all the household of Joseph, and his brethren, and all the house of his father, and his kindred; and they left behind the sheep and the oxen in the land of Gesem. And there went up with him also chariots and horsemen; and there was a very great company. And they came to the threshing-floor of Atad, which is beyond Jordan; and they bewailed him with a great and very sore lamentation; and he made a mourning for his father seven days. And the inhabitants of the land of Chanaan saw the mourning at the floor of Atad, and said, This is a great mourning to the Egyptians; therefore he called its name, The mourning of Egypt, which is beyond Jordan. And thus his sons did to him. So his sons carried him up into the land of Chanaan, and buried him in the double cave, which cave Abraam bought for possession of a burying place, of Ephrom the Chettite, before Mambre. And Joseph returned to Egypt, he and his brethren, and those that had gone up with him to bury his father. And when the brethren of Joseph saw that their father was dead, they said, Let us take heed, lest at any time Joseph remember evil against us, and recompense to us all the evils which we have done against him. And they came to Joseph, and said, Thy father adjured us before his death, saying, Thus say ye to Joseph, Forgive them their injustice and their sin, forasmuch as they have done thee evil; and now pardon the injustice of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept while they spoke to him. And they came to him and said, We, these persons, are thy servants. And Joseph said to them, Fear not, for I am God’s. Ye took counsel against me for evil, but God took counsel for me for good, that the matter might be as it is today, and much people might be fed. And he said to them, Fear not, I will maintain you, and your families: and he comforted them, and spoke kindly to them. And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he and his brethren, and all the family of his father; and Joseph lived a hundred and ten years. And Joseph saw the children of Ephraim to the third generation; and the sons of Machir the son of Manasse were borne on the sides of Joseph. And Joseph spoke to his brethren, saying, I die, and God will surely visit you, and will bring you out of this land to the land concerning which God sware to our fathers, Abraam, Isaac, and Jacob. And Joseph adjured the sons of Israel, saying, At the visitation with which God shall visit you, then ye shall carry up my bones hence with you. And Joseph died, aged an hundred and ten years; and they prepared his corpse, and put him in a coffin in Egypt. – Genesis 49:33-50:26
Joseph keeps faith with his father and buries him on his own land, not foreign soil. In his old age, he adjures the sons of Israel to do the same for his bones when at length the Lord, the God of their fathers, delivers them from Egyptian bondage and leads them back home. This return provides an image of man’s return to Paradise, his true home.
Each human heart longs for home. To the extent the heart does not, to that extent it is become inhuman. “Cosmopolitan man” is a contradiction in terms. Say rather “cosmopolitan monster.” To love one’s own – one’s flesh and blood kith and kin, native soil, native language, native culture – is bedrock for psychological health, a pre-condition for the sane life. That our planetary rulers have decreed this love a crime shows plainly that they intend to drive us mad.
Exile, says S. John of the Ladder, is the mother of mourning, and mourning the mother of repentance. God wants us to love home, family, and people intensely, insatiably, to the point at which losing them hurts so much that we feel we will die without them, for only at this point does one realize that one actually needs God and that ultimately God is all one needs. Just as forgiveness does not exist unless sin exists, so exile does not exist unless home exists. Christians are not universalists, not cosmopolitans: when they lose that which is native to them, they mourn and weep. The Apostles were not sent out to baptize the atomistic individuals of a postmodern dystopia. They baptized the nations.
Today we stand on the brink. We are about to lose everything visible that makes life worthwhile. Nation, family, native place, native tongue, native loves – all are being swept away by the demon-chiefs of this age and their lickspittle lackeys, the global elite. Let us rejoice then, and be glad, for exile is thereby abundantly available to us, having become the common setting for human existence. In the divine Providence, as Joseph explains today to his worried brothers, all is arranged perfectly for our salvation. Today only the life of the Church remains, and that most often not in the splendid cathedrals and ancient sees, but in nooks and crannies, in the dens and caves of the earth. But ultimately the Church is all we need, because, ultimately, God is all we need. When a man dies, there is only his soul standing before God, and he realizes, finally, that this was in fact the case all along.
At the end of our Genesis journey through Great Lent, then, we have come back to where we started, back to Paradise, back to our true home, which no one can take away from us. In the next life, this will take place openly; in this life it takes place mystically, every day, in an Orthodox heart prepared by sorrows and pierced by compunction. When we know with all the powers of our soul, with our whole being, without a doubt, that our heart is larger than all this world, because it holds the Holy Trinity, then, at last, we have come home.
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