April 21, 2021

True Orthodox Diocese of Western Europe

Russian True Orthodox Church (RTOC)

Third Homily On Genesis (and on God Creating from Nothing) by St. John Chrysostom

17 min read

THIRD HOMILY. After these words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” up to these: “And in the evening and in the morning was the first day, (Gen 1, 1 … 5.)

1. The Scripture resembles a fountain that spreads its waters without ever being exhausted, so the preceding instruction was not enough to explain the first verse of Genesis. 2. The speaker then continues this explanation, and then says, speaking of the Spirit of God which was carried on the waters, that these words designate the motion and activity of the moist element. -3. He then makes us admire the divine power in the creation and the various phenomena of light, and observes that the Lord, declaring that the light was good, has accommodated himself to the common use of men who rent a work done with care. -4. The separation of night and day is, from God, a blessing sufficient alone to compel unbelievers to submit to the authority of Scripture. The speaker then rises against those who claim that all has been done by chance and that Providence does not appear in creation. 6. He fights them by various reasonings from this very creation and ends with a strong exhortation to resist the devil, and to practice all the virtues, and especially charity towards the poor.




1. The reading of the divine scriptures is like a rich treasure. And indeed, whoever has a treasure at his disposal, can easily get rich. And in the same way, a single line of the holy Scriptures offers us a rare fertility of thoughts and immense riches. But the word of the Lord is not only like a treasure; it is still a fountain which is always abundant and inexhaustible. Yesterday, we were able to convince ourselves, since the explanation of these first words of Genesis: In the beginning, God created the sky and the earth, took all the time of the instruction, without us having finished it. It is that this treasure is rich, and this fountain inexhaustible. For the rest, do not be astonished, my brethren, of our helplessness, for those who have gone before us have come, too, to drink from this spring, and have not exhausted it; those who follow us will come there also, and will not dry it up. On the contrary, it grows and grows as it is drawn. Such is, in fact, the nature of the spiritual waters of grace, which they flow all the more abundantly as they draw more frequently. So the Savior said, If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and drink. Whoever believes in me, according to what the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his bosom. (John, VII, 37, 38.) These words show us the abundance of the waters of grace, and since these waters are not less salutary than inexhaustible, let us prepare the vessel of our soul to collect them, and the full reporter at home. But as the Holy Spirit expands more liberally the riches of his graces, when he finds a fervent heart and an attentive mind, deliver us from the anxieties of the present life, and tear off the thorns that would stifle in us the germs of the good ones. thoughts. Our soul will then be able to devote itself entirely to the holy affections of piety, so that we will not leave this temple without having collected useful lessons and salutary instructions.


For the rest, to make myself better understood, I need, my dear brothers, to return a little on the subject which I treated yesterday, it will be like a hyphen between these two speeches. I told you then, if you remember, that Moses, in telling us the work of creation, spoke thus: In the beginning, God created heaven and earth; but the earth was invisible and unformed. I then explained to you why God had thus created the shapeless earth and deprived of all finery. (13) You have not, I think, forgotten this explanation; so may I today follow the story of Moses. After saying that the earth was invisible and unformed, he gives us the reason, adding that the darkness covered the face of the abyss and that the Spirit of God was carried on the waters. But observe with what care the holy Prophet deducts here all useless detail. He does not tell us all the different peculiarities of creation; but because the sky and the earth contain all the elements, he is content to mention them, and passes the others in silence. Thus, without describing the formation of the waters, he simply says that darkness covered the face of the abyss and that the Spirit of God was carried on the waters. Thus darkness and the abyss covered the earth; and it was necessary that a working-class sage, correcting all this deformity, might give her some beauty. Now the darkness, says Moses, covered the face of the abyss, and the Spirit of God was carried on the waters; but what does this word mean, the Spirit of God was carried on the waters? It seems to me that it reveals to us that the waters possessed an effective and vital virtue. They were therefore not stagnant and motionless, but they moved with a certain activity. For every body that rests in total immobility is completely useless, while the movement makes it fit for a thousand uses.

2. Therefore the Holy Prophet said that the Spirit of God was carried on the waters, to show us that they possessed an energetic and secret force, and it is not for no reason that Scripture expresses thus; for it wants to dispose us to believe what it will tell us later that animals were produced from these waters by the command of God, creator of the universe. So Moses did not content himself with saying that God created the waters, but he adds that they moved, spread, and covered the space. So when the earth was still shapeless and submerged under the abyss, the divine Worker corrected this deformity with one word. He produced the light, whose brilliant beauty suddenly dissipated the outer darkness and illuminated the universe. For God says that the light is, and the light was. He said, and the light appeared; he commanded, and the darkness fled to the presence of light. What is not the power of the Lord?


But some, seduced by error and heresy, pay no attention to this context of Moses: In the beginning, God created heaven and earth, and the earth was invisible and unformed because it was covered by darkness and water. For it is in this state that God wanted to create it. So they say that matter and darkness pre-existed before creation. But is this madness forgivable? You are told that in the beginning God created heaven and earth, and drew all things from nothing, and you support due pre-existing matter! Common sense does justice to this extravagance. For is the Creator God a man who needed material to exercise his art? he is the God to whom everything obeys and who created everything by his word and his command. See, rather, he said one word, and the light was made, and the darkness departed.

And God divided the light from the darkness, that is to say, he designated them a separate dwelling, and fixed a special and determined time for them. He then gave them a special name, for God, says Moses, called the light, day, and darkness, night. Observe as one word and a single commandment realize this happy separation, and do this admirable work that our reason can not understand! See how the Holy Prophet has adapted to the weakness of our intelligence! or rather, it is God himself who has deigned to speak by his mouth, in order to teach men what was the order of creation, who is the author of the universe and how did he produce it? all creatures. Humankind was still too rude to understand higher language. This is why Moses, whose Holy Spirit directed the word, was proportioned to the infirmity of his hearers; He has therefore explained all things to them with method, and it is so true that he only condescendingly uses this temperament of style and thought, that the Evangelist, the son of thunder, follows a very opposite course. He wrote at a time when men were more advanced in understanding the truth; so he raises them suddenly to the most sublime mysteries. For after saying, In the beginning, was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, he adds: He was the true light that enlightens every man coming into the world. (John, I, 1, 9.) And, indeed, as in the creation that sensible light which occurred to the word of the Lord, dissipated material darkness, so spiritual light casts out the darkness of error and bring to the truth those who go astray.


3. Let us, then, receive with gratitude the instructions given to us by Holy Scripture, and do not oppose the truth, lest we remain in darkness. But on the contrary, let us come to the light, and make coverings worthy of day and light. St. Paul exhorts us when he says: Let us walk in decency as in the daytime, and do not act in darkness. (Rom XIII, 13.) And God, said Moses, called the light, day, and darkness, night. But I notice an omission and I repair it. After that God said, “Let there be light, and there was light,” Moses added, and God saw that the light was good. Consider here, my dear brother, with what art the sacred writer tempers his expressions. What! Did God not know that the light was good before He created it; and did not her sight reveal to her the beauty of the moment when he had produced it? But what sensible man would admit such a doubt! for we see that no workman undertakes a work, does not work it, and does not polish it without knowing in advance the price and the usage; and you would want the Supreme Worker who pulled all the creatures out of nothing, did not know before producing it that the light was good! Why does Moses use this way of speaking? it is because this holy prophet humbles himself and adapts himself to the ordinary use of men. When they have worked with great care an important work, and they have happily completed it, they examine it closely and experience it in order to better know everything, merit. And so the Holy Scripture is proportioned to the weakness of our understanding, saying that God saw that the light was good.

And God divided the light from the darkness; and he called the light, day, and darkness, night. He marked them thus a definite time, and from the beginning he fixed in the light, and in the darkness, the limits which they were never to cross. It only takes a little good sense to convince oneself that from that moment until today, the light has not exceeded the limits God has marked for it, and that the darkness has also been contained within their limits. , without bringing any trouble or confusion. But should not this simple observation compel all unbelievers to believe what Scripture tells us, and to practice what it commands us? They would at least imitate those elements which invariably pursue their course, without ever exceeding their limits, nor disregarding the limits of their nature. But after God separated the light from the darkness, and gave it a special name, he wished to unite it under a common denomination. So Moses adds that evening and morning was the first day. Thus the day, comprising the space alternately traversed by darkness and light, maintains order and harmony between them, and prevents confusion.

The Holy Spirit has thus revealed to us, through the intermediary of our illustrious prophet, the work of the first day of creation; and he will also reveal the covers of other days. Now, this successive creation is from God a proof of condescension and goodness; for his hand was strong enough, and his wisdom infinite enough to complete creation in one day. What did I say ? in a day ! a single moment sufficed for him; but since he could not, having need of anything, create the world for his own use, it must be said that he has produced so many creatures only by his extreme kindness. And it is this same goodness which has led him to produce these creations only successively, and to make known to us, by our holy prophet, the order and the continuation of his works. He wanted this knowledge to prevent us from being seduced by the errors of human reason. And, indeed, many still argue, despite such an explicit revelation, that chance has done everything. But if Moses had not taught us with so much condescension and clearness, that would not have dared those who have the boldness to advance such proposals, and to hold a conduct so prejudicial to their salvation!


4. And, indeed, is it not the height of misfortune, as of folly, to affirm that chance has done everything and that divine Providence is foreign to creation? For can it be reasonably admitted, I ask you, that chance has produced this vast universe with its brilliant decoration, and that it preserves it and regulates it? An unmanned ship does not cross the waves, an army does not do anything great and brilliant without a general, a family does not administer without a leader: .and one would like this vast universe, and the all the elements it contains, have happened by chance! But it would be to deny the existence of a superior Being who created everything by his power, just as he maintains and directs everything by his wisdom; moreover, is there any need for new arguments to prove to the blind truths that are obvious? However, I will not neglect to offer them the explanation of our holy books, and I will use all my care, in order to tear them from their errors and bring them back to the truth. For, despite their bewilderment, they are our brothers, and as such they are entitled to all our solicitude. That is why I will apply myself with zeal and according to my strength to offer them salutary remedies: and perhaps one day they will return to sound doctrine. Nothing is more dear to God than the salvation of souls. He wants, as the Apostle assures us, that all men are saved, and that they all come to the knowledge of the truth. (I Tim. II, 4.) And the Lord himself tells us: I do not want the sinner’s death, but to convert and live. (Ezek., XXVIII, 23.) He therefore created the universe only in view of our salvation; and he has given birth to us, not to ruin us and to plunge us into the torments of hell, but to save us, to free us from error, and to make us partakers of his kingdom. It is this kingdom which he has destined for us long before our birth, and even before he had laid the foundations of the world, as Jesus Christ teaches us by these words: Come, the blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom that was prepared for you before the creation of the world. (Matt XXV, 34.) Oh! how great is the goodness of the Lord! he had not yet created the world nor formed the man whom he had already prepared for us the infinite goods of heaven. Could he better show his care for the man, and his desire. of our salvation.

But since we have a Master so full of mercy, kindness and gentleness, let us work to save both our soul and those of our brethren; for an easy and sure way of salvation is not to concentrate all one’s solicitude on oneself, and to extend it to one’s brethren, so that one may be useful to them and bring them back to the paths of the truth. But do you want to know how beneficial it is to save our brothers by saving ourselves? Listen to these words spoken by a prophet in the name of the Lord: If you separate what is precious from what is base, you will be like my mouth (Jer 15, 19); it is as if God said: He who makes the truth known to his neighbor, or brings him back from vice to virtue, imitates me as much as possible to human nature. And indeed, the eternal Word, all God that He is, took our nature and became man to save us; but it is not enough to say that he took our nature and that he submitted to all the infirmities of our condition, since he even suffered the torment of the cross, so that we redeem the curse of sin. Jesus Christ, says the Apostle, redeemed us from the curse of the law, having made himself a curse. (Galatians III, 13.) But if a God, though impassible in his essence, has not disdained, in his ineffable goodness, to suffer so much for our salvation, what should we not do with regard to those who are our brothers and our members, to tear them out of the mouth of the devil and to bring them back into it. way of virtue? For since the soul is far superior to the body, the corporal alms, which distribute our riches to the poor, is less excellent than the spiritual alms which, by salutary advice and continual exhortations, puts souls back on the right path. lukewarm and lazy by making them aware of the deformity of vice and the admirable beauty of virtue.


5. Strongly convinced of these truths, place the salvation of our soul above all the interests of life, and seek to excite in our brothers an equal solicitude. For what can we desire more desirable than to withdraw a soul, by our frequent exhortations, from this abyss of evils into which we are all immersed, and to teach it to repress those tumultuous passions which agitate us incessantly. That is why we need to be always on our guard, because we have to support a war that admits neither truce nor relaxation. So the Apostle wrote to the Ephesians: We have to fight not against the flesh and the blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the princes (16) of this world of darkness, against the spirits of malice. spread in the air. (Eph VI, 12.) It is as if he were telling us: do not persuade yourself that you have to fight only light fights. Our adversaries are not of the same nature as ourselves, and there is no equality between the combatants. We who are heavy with the weight of the body, we must enter the lists and measure against spiritual powers. But do not be afraid, for although the struggle is unequal, our arms are strong and powerful. And now that you know, continues he, the genius and the character of your enemies, do not lose courage, and do not cowardly engage the combat: but put on all the arms of God, to be able to defend the pitfalls of the devil. (Eph VI, 11.)

This implacable enemy multiplies his ruses, that is to say, the means he employs to surprise negligent Christians. It is therefore very important for us to know them in order to escape his blows, and not to give him entrance into our hearts. That is why we must carefully watch over our language, captivate our eyes, purify our souls, and always be ready to fight, as if a fierce beast were attacking us, and seeking to devour us. So Saint Paul, this apostolic man, this doctor of the nations, this oracle of the universe, does nothing to the salvation of his disciples. After saying to them, “Put on all the weapons of God; he goes on to finish making them invincible. Be firm then, let the truth be the girdle of your loins; that justice be your breastplate; and that your feet have a shoe that disposes you to follow the gospel of peace. Use above all the shield of faith, that you may extinguish all the fiery darts of the evil spirit, and still take the helmet of salvation, and the spiritual sword. which is the word of God. (Eph VI, 14, 17.)

You see, then, that the Apostle is putting on complete armor, as well as soldiers advancing in battle. He first wants our loins girded so that we are more willing to run, and then he covers us with a cuirass, to protect us against the features of our enemy. He even provided our feet, and above all he armed us with faith as a shield that could repel and extinguish the fiery darts of our enemy. What are these traits of Satan? These are evil desires, impure thoughts, and maladjusted affections; anger, envy, jealousy, anger, hatred, avarice and all vices. The sword of the spirit, says the Apostle, may extinguish the fires of these different passions, and even cut off the head of our enemy. This is how he strengthens his disciples, and makes them harder than the iron of men who were softer than wax. And because we do not have to fight against the flesh and the blood, but against spiritual powers, it does not put us in material armor, and puts us in the hands of spiritual and flaming weapons, so that the demon can not even bear the shine.


6. Wearing such weapons, we must neither fear his attacks, nor flee his meeting, nor fight him cowardly. Christian vigilance does not allow the evil spirit to resist the force of our arms, and it disconcerts all its ruses. But if we were cowardly and timid, these same weapons would become useless, for the enemy of our salvation never sleeps, and he spares nothing to ruin us. Let us always be under arms, and abstain from words, no less than actions that would hurt our conscience. Let us also adhere to the practice of abstinence the practice of all virtues, and especially of charity towards the poor, not unaware of what great rewards are attached to alms. For he who gives to the poor lends to the Lord. (Prov XIX, 17.) And see how this kind of loan is extraordinary and admirable! One is receiving and another is guarantor and surety. Moreover, and this consideration is important, we have here to fear neither a defect of recognition nor any loss. And indeed, we are not assured only on the earth the hundredth; but a hundredfold, and after death, eternal life. If any one promised us today to give back double our money, we would offer him our entire fortune, although very often only ungrateful people, or bad debtors, are met with. Many who pass for honest and honest people, fail in their engagements or by malice, or by impotence. But with God there is nothing to fear: capital is safe in his hands; and as to interest, he gives us a hundredfold from this life, and reserves for us after death the happiness of heaven. What would be our excuse, if a guilty negligence prevented us from making our money grow a hundredfold, and exchanging some present and perishable goods against the future and immutable riches of eternity! But one quietly keeps one’s gold under a double key; and he is resting uselessly in our safes, while if we share them with the poor, he will help us for the future life. Use, says Jesus Christ, unjust riches to make friends, so that when you come to miss, they receive you in eternal tabernacles. (Luke, XVI, 9.)

However, I know it, many, far from going to my authorities, treat my words with fables and reveries, and they pay no attention to them. This is what grieves and grieves me deeply, for I see that neither the experience of life, nor the solemn promises of God, nor the fear of an unfortunate future, nor my exhortations of every day can shake. And nevertheless, I will not cease to pursue them with my reproaches until finally the importunity of my opinions triumphs over their harshness. Do I, therefore, bring them to the sincere practice of abstinence, and thus dispel the darkness which offends them with the abundance of meat, wine, and greed! I hope so, yes, I hope that my word, enlivened by divine grace and the exercise of fasting, will, at last, cure them of this dangerous disease, and restore them to perfect health. They will therefore no longer have to fear the threats of the eternal fires, and we, freed from all anxiety, will glorify – in their name God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now, always, and in the centuries. centuries. So be it.

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