Todays reading at the sixth hour from the 13th chapter of the Book of Isaiah starting with the second verse reads like this:
2 Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them, shake the hand, that they may go into the gates of the nobles.
3 I have commanded my sanctified ones, I have also called my mighty ones for mine anger, even them that rejoice in my highness.
4 The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a great people; a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together: the Lord of hosts mustereth the host of the battle.
5 They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, even the Lord, and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land.
6 Howl ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.
7 Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man’s heart shall melt:
8 And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames.
9 Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.
10 For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.
11 And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.
12 I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.
13 Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place,
We can gather from this reading that
- This high mountain doesn’t mean it is an area of virtue as we often think of mountains as being beautiful. St. Jerome tells us that, “But Babylon and the entire region of the Chaldeans are called dark or gloomy mountains, as in the beginning of Isaiah, where we find written against Babylon: “Raise the signal on a dark mountain,” which in Hebrew is called nishpeh. – “Six Books on Jeremiah 3.17.2–3“
- There are those who rejoice in the “highness” of the Lord but who will be accountable for much.
- The banner that needs to be lifted is the Holy Cross which purifies the whole world. St. Gregory the Dialogist tells us, “Again, by a mountain is designated the apostate angel, as is said to preachers concerning the ancient enemy under the character of the king of Babylon, “Lift you up a banner upon the gloomy mountain.” Holy preachers lift up a banner above the gloomy mountain when they exalt the virtue of the Cross. – “Morals on the Book of Job 6.33.2” So therefore we must while living in a “gloomy mountain” proclaim that the Holy Cross is the only source of our salvation.
- As Isaiah 13:8 of today tells us we are experiencing pangs and sorrows. Even if we want to hide it, it is suddenly clear to us that we have gone far from the message of the Holy Cross as St. Ambrose of Milan says to us, “The day of the Lord comes suddenly, it says, and in an unexpected way like the pains of childbirth, which forestall all one’s efforts to hide them. – “Letter 32 (8.56.12)”
- When verse nine of Isaiah 13 says “Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.” The day of the Lord will be cruel because we will have no longer stood by our brethren in Christ. We won’t see the face of Christ but rather we will see those who rule over us. St. John Chrysostom speaks about this when he says, “For there will be none to stand by, none to rescue, nowhere the face of Christ, so mild and calm. But as those who work in the mines are delivered over to certain cruel people and see none of their friends but those only that are set over them, so will it be then also: or rather not so, but even far more grievous. – “Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew 43.5“
- And with all these difficulties we can hear the words of St. Clement of Rome, “You have opened “the eyes of our hearts” so that we realize you alone are “highest among the highest, and ever remain holy among the holy.” “You humble the pride of the arrogant, overrule the plans of the nations, raise up the humble and humble the haughty. You make rich and make poor; you slay and bring to life; you alone are the guardian of spirits and the God of all flesh.” You see into the depths: you look upon humankind’s deeds; you aid those in danger and “save those in despair.” You are the Creator of every spirit and watch over them. You multiply the nations on the earth, and from out of them all you have chosen those who love you through Jesus Christ, your beloved Son. Through Him, you have trained us, made us saints and honored us”. – “1 Clement 59.3“
May God humble us and let us be those chosen from the nations. Amen!