Posted by: Fr Chris | March 7, 2018

Finding Our Way Back to God

Today the Byzantine Rite presents Genesis 9: 18-29 as the first of the two readings for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts which is offered tonight.

Image result for noah after flood

In Genesis, the story of the flood differs from the pagan stories. In the Bible, God is angered by the moral failings of the people made “in our image” – they are not reflecting His image at all. God creates with wisdom and justice both – in the stories of the pagan gods of Mesopotamia, the gods create by trial and error. God makes concessions to the survivors after the flood – for the first time, He allows the killing of animals for food, but even so puts on restrictions that the Jews follow to this day. In last week and the readings from Genesis this week, God establishes a covenant of peace with the survivors and their descendants. Unfortunately in chapter 9 there is already a violation, showing just how much sin remains in fallen humanity as a result of the curse of original sin.

Noah is presented as the first person to make wine, and so he accidentally gets drunk and falls asleep. His son Ham finds him naked, and instead of covering him up, brings in his brothers to see the sight. In the Semitic world, and in all human cultures, nakedness was something to avoid – God provided Adam and Eve with coverings of animal skins, and people have dressed ever since in some clothing.

Image result for adam eve in animal skins

Expulsion of Adam and Eve 

Not covering up his father’s accidental nakedness is serious disrespect for his father, a complete failure of piety and of the family structure, within weeks of their escape of disaster! Ham is presented as the father of the future residents of Canaan, and the Canaanite religion in the time of Moses, the Judges and Kings was filled with sexual liberties that violated God’s law. This offense by Ham is presented to us as the source of the Canaanites’ many sins against purity, family, and protection of human life that the Israelites would be confronted with and be tempted by. Indeed, even the wise Solomon fell into the sins of his pagan wives. Since Shem is presented as the ancestor of Israel, it is hinting to the later reader that this predicts Israel taking over the cursed descendants of Ham.

Image result for canaanite religious practices

Canaanite priest offers child sacrifice to the baal Molech 

The spiritual point of this passage is a profound one – the readings are structured so that particular passages fall on Wednesday and Friday evenings, the nights when the most people would attend Presanctified Liturgies in the Byzantine Empire. Wednesday is the day when Judas arranged his betrayal with the priests, Friday of course is the Crucifixion of Christ. So here is a strong reminder to everyone attending, down to our own time: nakedness is not something to be indulged, to be sought for. Nakedness is restricted to marriage – in the book of Leviticus, nudity is connected with marital relations between a husband and wife. Our culture today is simply SOAKED in the abuse of the gift of sexuality – little girls are beauty queens, men are shown on billboards wearing the briefest of underwear, young people are encouraged to have sexual hook ups as casual enjoyment, taking what is meant to unite a husband and wife and bring about children as something to have over and over with people that hardly even know each other.

Related image

Giving of each other in Holy Matrimony 

Our culture in North America and Western Europe has lost its way so much. We are just a mess spiritually and psychologically, as everything from schools to media to internet gives the wrong messages to people. Let us pray tonight that we turn our backs on our own sins, like Shem and Japheth do with the blanket, that we pray for those who have lost their way – or worse, have never had moral and spiritual guidance, that all of us will turn our hearts to God in Whose image we have been made.

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