September 28, 2022

True Orthodox Diocese of Western Europe

Russian True Orthodox Church (RTOC)

SECOND HOMILY. In the beginning, God created heaven and earth. (Gen. I, 1.) and on Fasting – St. John Chrysostom

14 min read

1. Lent with his practices of penance is a very favorable time for preaching. That is why the speaker proposes to use it in the explanation of the book of Genesis. 2. The Lord, who spoke to the patriarchs, wanted to reveal to Moses the creation of the world, and to make it known to him. Let us listen to his words as a divine oracle. 3. Here a reason too curious would become reckless, and it must humbly submit to the word of the Lord. 4. These words: “In the beginning, God created heaven and earth,” refute in advance the errors of Marcion and Valentin; and if they do not wish to rely on scripture, they must be avoided and fleeing. Moses said again that the earth was shapeless and bare, to show us God as the author of the goods that she lavishes on us. 5. The speaker ends with some moral reflections and exhorts his hearers to make his instructions the subject of their conversations

1. The sight of your kind faces fills me with joy today. The tenderest father rejoices less in a large family that surrounds him with glory, homage and celebration, than I do myself when I see this beautiful meeting of Christians so pious and so well disposed. . You burn with such a desire to hear the divine word, that you give up the pleasures of the table to go to this spiritual feast; and this is how you realize this word of the Savior: Man does not live only with bread, but with every word that comes out of the mouth of God. (Matt IV, 4.) Let us then imitate the conduct of the laborers. When they have prepared a field well, and have torn off the weeds, they sow the grain in abundance. But are not your souls a mystical field, and has not the divine grace purged them of all those maladjusted affections which disturbed and disturbed them? today you have stifled all desire for the pleasures of the table, and you have calmed the storms and storms of the heart and of thought, so that serenity and peace reign in your mind. You, therefore, despise sensual pleasures to think only of spiritual goods, and on the wings of penance, you rise to heaven. That is why everything commits us to address you, and to (8) develop you the hidden meaning of some passages of our holy Scriptures. If we did not tackle this subject today, fasting and abstinence keep the soul in the calm of good thoughts, when could we do it? Would it be in the days of pleasures, good food, and nonchalance? But then there would be imprudence on our part; and yourselves would not take away any fruit from our speeches, because your mind would be as submerged under thick darkness.

What, on the contrary, is more favorable to our instructions than those days when the body does not rebel against the soul which is its mistress, and where it easily submits to the yoke! Today he is more docile and more obedient; he moderates the appetites of the senses and confines himself to the legitimate limits of duty. And indeed fasting produces the peace of the soul, honors old age, teaches youth, teaches continence, and counters all ages and all sex as a rich diadem. Today have ceased the tumult and cries, the eagerness of the butchers and the cooks’ races. We are delivered from all these importunities, and the city looks like a virtuous and honest mother. When, therefore, I reflect upon such a sudden change, and when I remember the movement and the trouble that still reigned in the city yesterday, I admire and proclaim the strength and power of fasting. How could he penetrate the consciousness of us all, transform our thoughts and purify our souls? all recognize his laws, the magistrate and the private man, the citizen and the slave, the man and the woman, the rich and the poor, the Greek and the barbarian. But why speak of magistrates and citizens when the emperor himself bows under his power no less than the last of his subjects? Today there is no difference between the table of the rich and the poor; all also practice frugality, and banish the luxury and the device of feasts. Even more, today we take a modest meal with more pleasure than we sat yesterday at a table laden with exquisite delicacies and delicate wines.

2. These happy preludes show you, my dear brethren, what is the power of fasting; and I myself begin today this course of instruction, full of new and greater joy, because I know that I will pour out the good seed in a fertile field and well prepared, so that this seed will produce at hundredfold. Let us examine, then, what is the meaning of the passage of Genesis that has just been read? But lend me, I beseech you, a kindly attention; for it will be neither my thoughts nor my words, but those which the Holy Spirit will inspire me for your utility that you will hear.

In the beginning, says Moses, God created heaven and earth. Here we rightly ask why this holy prophet, who lived only several centuries after the creation of the world, tells us the story. Certainly he does not. it does not happen at random and without serious motives. It is true that in the early days the Lord, who created man, spoke to man himself in the way that he could hear it. Thus he conversed with Adam, that he took again Cain, that he gave his orders to Noah, and that he sat down under the hospitable tent of Abraham. And even when mankind had rushed into the abyss of all vices, God did not break any relationship with him, but he treated men with less familiarity because they had made them unworthy. by their crimes; and when he condescended to renew with them relations of benevolence, and as to make a new covenant, he spoke to them by letters, as we do to an absent friend. Now Moses is the bearer of these letters, and this is the first line. In the beginning, God created heaven and earth.

But consider, my dear brother, how great and admirable this holy prophet is. The other prophets predicted only events which were to be realized in a very distant time, or near enough; this one, on the contrary, who lived only several centuries after the creation of the world, was inspired from above to tell us the work of the Lord. This is why he thus enters into matter: In the beginning God created heaven and earth. Does he not seem to be saying to us loudly and intelligibly: “Have men taught me what I am about to reveal to you? by no means, but He alone who has worked these wonders, leads and directs my tongue to teach them to you: I conjure you therefore to impose silence on all human reasoning, and not to listen to this narrative as if it were not as the word of Moses. For it is God himself who speaks to us, and Moses is only his interpreter. The reasoning of man, says the Scripture, is timid, and his (9) thoughts uncertain. (Sag .ix, 14.) Let us, then, accept the divine word with humble deference, without exceeding the limits of our intelligence, nor curiously seeking what it can not attain. But the enemies of the truth do not know these rules, and they want to appreciate all the works of the Lord according to the only lights of reason. Insane! they forget that the mind of man is too narrow to probe these mysteries. And why speak here about the works of God, when we can not even understand the secrets of nature and the arts? for tell me how alchemy transforms metals into gold, and how sand becomes a shining crystal. You can not answer me; and when you can not explain the wonders that divine goodness allows man to operate under your eyes, you would presume, O man, to curiously scrutinize the works of the Lord!

What would be your defense, and what an excuse to say, if you foolishly flatter yourself to understand things that surpass all human intelligence? for to maintain that matter has given being to all creatures, and to deny that a creator God has drawn them from nothingness would be the height of madness. So the holy prophet, to close the mouth of the foolish, begins his book with these words In the beginning God created heaven and earth. God created: stop therefore any curious search, humble yourself, and add faith to him who speaks to you. But it is God who has done everything, who prepares all things and who disposes them according to his wisdom. And see how the sacred writer proportionates himself to your weakness; he omits the creation of invisible spirits, and he does not say: In the beginning God created angels and archangels. But it does so only for prudence, and to better dispose us to receive its doctrine. And indeed he spoke to the Jewish people, who attached themselves only to present and earthly goods, and who could conceive nothing invisible and spiritual. That is why he leads him by the sight of things sensitive to the knowledge of the Creator, and teaches him to contemplate the Supreme Worker in his coverings, so that he knows how to adore the Creator, and not to fix himself ‘stop at the creature. In spite of this condescension, this same people has not allowed them to make themselves mortal gods, and to render divine honors to the most vile animals. But how far could he have borne his folly if the Lord had not warned him of so much kindness and care?

3. And do not be astonished, my dear brother, if Moses did so from the beginning, and from the first words, since he spoke to coarse and sensual Jews. For we see St. Paul, under the new era of grace, and even as the Gospel had made rapid progress, adopt the same method in his speech to the Athenians, and bring them to the knowledge of the true God through the spectacle of nature. The God, he says, who made the world and all that is in the world, being the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in the temples built by men. (Act XVII, 24.) He followed here this kind of teaching, because he adapted to the character of his listeners; and it was by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that he thus proposed to them the heavenly doctrine. But he also knew how to vary his word according to the diversity of people, and their more or less advanced education. Consider it indeed writing to the Colossians: he no longer observes the same step, and his language is quite different … In the Word, he says, everything was created in heaven and on earth, the visible things and invisible, thrones, dominations, principalities, powers; All was created by him and for him. (Col. I, 16.)

John, the son of thunder, cries out, “All things have been done by the Word, and without him nothing has been done. (John, I, 3.) But Moses begins less solemnly, and he was right to do so. For it was not proper to offer solid meat to those who were yet to be fed with milk. The teachers explain first to the children who are entrusted to them, the first elements of science; and then they gradually lead them to higher knowledge. It is also this method followed by Moses, the Doctor of the nations, and John, son of thunder. Moses, who in the order of time is the first teacher of humanity, has proposed to him only the first elements of the doctrine; John, on the contrary, and Paul, who succeeded him, were able to develop a more perfect teaching for their disciples.

We understand, then, the motives which led Moses to condescend to the weakness of his people. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he spoke to the Jews the language that suited them; but he suffocated with these words: (10) In the beginning, God created heaven and earth, all heresies which, like a bad grain, were to swarm in the Church. Therefore, when a Manichean tells you that the matter pre-existed, and when Marcion, Valentine, or a Gentile support you the same opinion, answer them that in the beginning God created heaven and earth; but if they reject the authority of Scripture, treat them as extravagant and foolish. And, indeed, how can one excuse the one who refuses to believe the Creator of the universe and who taxes the Supreme Truth? He hides under beautiful appearances and pretends the outside of gentleness; but there is nothing less a wolf under a sheep’s skin. Do not be seduced; and you must even hate him more than he does to a man with respectful conduct, and declare war on God, sovereign Master of the universe. Alas! he does not perceive that he exposes the salvation of his soul. For us, let us hold fast to the firm stone, and return to our subject: In the beginning God created heaven and earth. And first, observe how the divine Being is manifested in the very mode of creation; for, contrary to man, he begins with the crowning of the edifice: he first unrolls the heavens, and then places the earth beneath; he raises the top of the temple before having established the foundations. Has he ever seen anything like it? and who has ever heard such a story? But God commands, and everything yields to his orders. That is why, far from subjecting the covers of the Lord to the criticism of our reason, let us lead, by the sight of his works, to the admiration of the workman; for the perfections of God have become visible from the creation of the world by all that has been done. (Rom I, 20.)

4. But if the enemies of the truth persist in maintaining that nothingness can produce nothing, let us ask them: Has the first man been formed of the earth or of any other matter? – Earth, they will answer unanimously. Let them tell us how the flesh of man was formed from the earth! We knead it to shape bricks, tiles and vases; but is this how man was formed? And how, from one and the same matter, can you draw so many different substances: bones, nerves and arteries, flesh, skin, nails and hair? Here they can not give any reasonable answer. And if, from the body, I pass to the food that nourishes it, I will ask them how the bread that we eat every day, and which is a homogeneous substance, is converted into blood and chyle, into bile and various moods; for the bread preserves the whiteness of the flour, and the blood is red or purplish. But if our adversaries can not explain these phenomena which are daily being accomplished before their eyes, how much more difficult would they be to render reason for the other works of the Lord! Therefore, if they continue to reject these many demonstrations and if they persist in their unbelief, we will content ourselves with opposing them the same answer and saying again: In the beginning, God created the sky and the earth. This single word suffices us to overthrow all the entrenchments of our adversaries, and to ruin in their foundation all their vain reasonings. If they at least wanted to finally stop this stubborn resistance, they could return to the path of truth.

Now the earth was invisible and unformed. Why did the Lord, I ask you, create the bright and perfect heaven, and the shapeless earth? Certainly, he did not act without reason, but he wanted to reveal to us, through this masterpiece of creation, that he also produced the other parts, and that it is not impotence on his part if they are less perfect. Another reason for creating the unformed earth is that it is the mother and nurse of the human race: we are born from its bosom and we live from its productions; it is the homeland and burial of all. men, the center that unites us all and the source that enriches us with a thousand goods. But, lest the feeling of need should lead men to worship him idolatrous, Moses shows us shapeless and naked, so that we do not attribute his fruitfulness to him, and that we bring back the glory to Him who from nothingness. This is why Scripture says that the earth was invisible and unformed:

But perhaps I have fatigued you from the beginning by reasoning too subtle; that is why I think it useful to finish this speech here, and yet I conjure your charity to preserve the memory of my words and to meditate often. A frugal meal awaits you at the end of this meeting; well ! (11) associate the spiritual food of the soul with the material food of the body! Let the husband repeat something of our instructions; that the woman listens, that the children learn and that the servants learn. Then every house will be truly the temple from which the devil will go, that evil and enemy spirit of our salvation, and where will rest, on all those who dwell in it, the grace of the Holy Spirit, peace and The union. If I see that you do not forget my first instructions and that you look forward to it next, I. I will be more eager to communicate to you all that the Holy Spirit will inspire me. I will indeed see my word germinate happily in your souls; and it is thus that the plowman, on seeing the seed that he has sown, contemplates his fields with new pleasure and encourages himself to give them new seeds.

5. Do you want to increase in. we are zealous of the holy word, let us know that you keep a faithful memory of it and that you apply yourself to regulate your morals on your belief. May your light, says Jesus Christ, shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew V, 16) Thus, our life must be in accordance with the dogmas of our religion; for faith without works is dead (James II, 26), and works without faith are also dead. And, in fact, a sound doctrine will serve us no good if we do not sanctify our conduct; and, likewise, a regular life with a mistaken belief will not be counted for heaven. It is necessary to add good doctrine to a good life, and the prudent man, says the Savior, is he who listens to my word and puts it into practice. (Matt VII, 24.) You see how he wants and we listen to his word and follow it with submission and fidelity. So, he declares, wise and prudent, who is distinguished by morals conforming to the precepts of the Gospel; he, on the other hand, who is content to hear the divine word and who does not make it the rule of his conduct, is rightly called foolish. And indeed, he built his house on a moving sand; that’s why this house collapses under the impact of the winds. Such are those cowardly souls who do not lean on firm stones. For here there is no question of a house or a material edifice, but of our soul and the temptations which shake it; it is these temptations that the Gospel designates, under the names of rains, winds and floods. The constant, sober, and vigilant man easily overcomes them, and the greater the afflictions, the more his strength and courage increase; but the weak and undecided man bends at the slightest breath of temptation; he wavers, becomes troubled, and succumbs, much less as a result of the violence of the attacks than by the effect of a soft and shaky will.

That is why it is important for us to be sober, vigilant and prepared for everything, modest and restrained in prosperity, and submissive and prudent in adversity; so that in every situation we lovingly kiss the merciful hand of the Lord. These dispositions will attract to us the abundance of divine graces, and these will make us cross fortunately the course of existence and acquire great treasures for eternal life. I wish you, by the grace and mercy of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory, the Kingdom, and the honor, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now, always, and unto the ages of ages. So be it.

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