|MYSTICAL ADVENTURE. PASSING OVER INTO INNER EXODUS OF GOSPEL. October 2022|
[Updated Oct 22 2022, 2 pm]
Our overall objective in this segment of our catechism is to bring into view the invisible journey of the soul that is hidden even as it is revealed in the historical journey of Israel. The journey of Israel – and of the nations or of all mankind – to the LORD’s Holy Mountain in the Promised Land, the Land of Inheritance, is what the story of Holy Scripture is all about.
In our last class, we traced the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden (Gen 3.25) to the far ends of the earth at the Tower of ‘Confusion’ (Gen 11.8-9), and we located where the historical journey of Israel to Canaan begins: it begins in Haran where the LORD calls Abraham to go to the Land He would show him (Gen 12.1).
THE LAND GOD SHOWED ABRAHAM
At this point, we noted how the biblical story-line that unfolds from Adam to Abraham connects 1) Eden, and 2) the Land God would show Abraham, with 3) Canaan, the land Abraham and his family migrate to. That is, we wondered about what seems to be a distinction between Canaan and the Land God would show Abraham that comes into view from a close reading of Gen 12 itself.
For it says in Gen 11.31: ‘Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan; but when they came to Haran, they settled there.’ When the LORD comes to Abraham in Haran, He does not say, ‘Go on to Canaan, your father’s original destination.’ (cf. Gen 11.31) He says: ‘Go to the land that I will show you,’ as though it is a different land from Canaan.
But, does the LORD not say to Abraham when he arrives in Canaan: ‘To your descendants I will give this land [of Canaan]’? (Gen 12.7) He does, but this is not the same as saying, ‘This is the Land that I wanted to show you.’ We still do not have definitive reason, therefore, to believe that Canaan is the land God would show Abraham.
That we have reason to believe that the Land God would show Abraham is not Canaan but some other Land, a mystical Land of which Canaan is but the ‘copy,’ is given to us in a word of the LORD Himself: ‘Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad.’ (Jn 8.56) Is the LORD saying that He Himself is the Land God showed Abraham? We can assert that He is saying that, based on St Macarius the Egyptian’s (fourth cent.) reading of the Psalm 16.5. St Macarius says:
‘The LORD is their home, their tabernacle, their city….For the inheritance and portion of Christians is God Himself. The LORD Himself, it says, is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup [Ps 16.5].’ (St Macarius, Homily 34, pp. 244&245)
And, there is this in St Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews:
‘By faith, Abraham sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
The epistle to the Hebrews would have us understand that Canaan is not the Promised Land, for, as St Paul says: ‘they did not receive what was promised’ (Heb 11.39). From this NT doctrine, we believe that the Land God showed Abraham was not Canaan, the originally intended destination of his father. What might it have been? We believe it was the City Ezekiel saw on the Mountain beyond Jerusalem (Eze 40.2), the Heavenly City St Paul refers to (Heb 11.16 & 12.22), the City seen by St John (Rev 21). It was the Kingdom of Heaven that is within you (Lk 17.21), i.e., it was the Church on High that is in the invisible Church of the heart (Liber Graduum XII). Canaan, or the geographical Promised Land, is the ‘copy’ (Ex 25.9&40, Heb 8.5) of the Church on High; it is an image, an icon of the ‘visible Church’ of the body (1 Cor 6.19) and of history.
Finally, we traced Israel’s historical journey to Canaan to its end at the LORD’s Tomb. There, the geographical, historical journey of Israel to Canaan, which began with Abraham in Haran, disappears from sight when Joseph of Arimathea ‘places’ Jesus’ corpse in the Tomb that had been newly hewn from the rock in the garden near the place where the LORD was crucified, and the Roman soldiers sealed the entrance to the Tomb with a ‘very large’ stone.
THE META-HISTORICAL JOURNEY
We closed by referring, mysteriously, to a meta-historical journey from which the historical journey of Israel to the Promised Land proceeded. By ‘meta-historical’ I don’t mean beyond space and time because this meta-historical journey also moves within space and time. But it moves in space and time on a different plane, and so we can’t call it a pre-historical journey. The latter would indicate a journey that began and ended in the long-gone pre-historic past. This ‘meta’ historical journey is, in fact, the invisible journey, the inner exodus of the soul that is concealed even as it is revealed in the visible journey of Israel to the Promised Land. As the inner exodus of the soul, it transcends the space-time of history even as it embraces, and is present in, every moment of history, past, present, and future. It is in this sense that I call it a ‘meta’ historical journey.
To find this inner exodus of the soul, our task now is to trace the beginning of Israel’s historical journey to Canaan, in the call of the LORD to Abraham in Haran, back to its beginning in what I have called the ‘meta-historical’ journey – again, this is the inner exodus of the soul – that it proceeds from.
But, let’s describe our task more poetically. Let’s use the poetic imagery of St Ephrem of Syria, in his Hymns on Paradise (4th cent.). The ‘meta-historical journey’ from which the journey of Israel to Canaan proceeds is the journey to the summit of the Edenic mountain. Israel’s journey to Canaan begins far away from the Mountain of Eden. It is a journey back to that Mountain through the foothills at the foot of that Mountain.
Therefore, once we have traced the journey of Israel back to its beginning on that Mountain, we’ll trace Israel’s historical journeys through the foothills back to the foot of that Mountain; that is, we’ll trace Israel’s journeys – for the sake of convenience, let’s call all of these journeys together, the Exodus of Israel – to their geographical end in the space-time of Israel’s history. We shall discover that the end of Israel’s Exodus in space and time is at a historical, geographical place where the inner exodus of the soul begins.
Tracing the Beginning of Israel’s Exodus Back to its Beginning
THE EXPULSION FROM EDEN
The LORD’s call to Abraham in Haran, is the beginning of Israel’s Exodus to the Promised Land. That call rises from out of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden. For the expulsion from Eden does not end with Adam and Eve. Even several generations after Adam was expelled from Paradise, ‘the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually’ (Gen 6.5), and after the flood, following St Ephrem of Syria, the expulsion from Eden continued when those of Noah’s descendants, who were found ‘unworthy even to be neighbors of Paradise, were cast out even farther away into lower valleys throughout the world’ [Hymn on Paradise I.10-11, p. 81]
Taking our cue from St Ephrem, we now can see on our own that the expulsion from Paradise doesn’t end even yet. It continues as far as the Tower of ‘Confusion’ (Gen 11.1-9, which looks a lot like Eve reaching out her hand to take the forbidden fruit), when the LORD scattered men who wanted to make a name for themselves ‘over the face of all the earth’ (Gn 11.8-9; cf. with Gen 3.23, when God expels Adam and Eve from the Garden because they had become ‘as though’ they were ‘one of us’).
THE FAILED EXODUS
How did the expulsion from Eden come about? It is the result of the ‘failed Exodus’ in Eden. There is an Exodus in Eden. It is the original, primordial, ‘meta-historical’ Exodus of the Mountain that I’m referring to. Can you find it?
We read in Gen 2.7-8 that ‘the LORD God formed man as a mound of dirt from the earth, and breathed into his face the breath of life; and man became a living soul [psyche in Greek; nephesh in Hebrew, a living ‘throat’]. And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, it says, in the east; and there He placed the man whom he had formed.’ Let’s point out now, and save it for future reference, that the verb, He placed the man, is the same verb for Joseph of Arimathea placing the corpse of the crucified LORD in the New Tomb (Mt 27.60, Mk 15.46, Lk 23.53, Jn 19.42). I read that as a clue to the theological meaning of the LORD’s Tomb: it is the entrance through which the Exodus of Israel returns to the Mountain of Eden.
Returning to Gen 2.7-8: man is created by God in His own image and likeness (Gn 1.27), and is immediately led on an Exodus from the earth out of which he was formed outside the Garden, and into the Garden to the East. The East is the sign of the Resurrection. But the sun rises from the East, having set in the west. Where is the ‘west’ in our story? Broaden the image Moses draws here in Gen 2.1-8, and read the passage theologically, according to the ‘key’ of the ‘mystery of the Incarnation.’ We see God fashioning man from the earth from within the mystery of His Sabbath Rest (Gen 2.1-7) and then, from the earth, and from within His Sabbath Rest as from the sun setting in the west, God leads man on an Exodus into the Garden to the East, into the ‘land’ of the Resurrection.
It says in the Greek that man was formed a choun – a mound, a berm – from the earth. The earth is ‘good,’ it is ‘blessed.’ We see the earth abundantly fruitful, bringing forth verdant and vigorous life, full of health and vigor (cf. Wisd 1.14), and Man is created last of all, as the final ‘flower of the field.’
Well, that needs to be qualified: Woman is created last of all; She is the final crown of creation, the most beautiful flower of the field! For, she, the ‘Mother of Life’ as the Man will call Her, is the prototype of the Blessed Virgin through whom God will become flesh as the New Adam, and from His side (cf. Jn 19.34 & Gn 2.21-22) will come forth His Bride, the Church, bone of His bones, flesh of His flesh, the New Eve, the ‘Mother of the Children of God’ (Jn 1.12).
The creation is good, blessed, living, verdant, vigorous, filled with the Glory of God. Might the Glory of God be manifested in the LORD’s faithfulness and mercy? For His steadfast love extends to the heavens, it says; it endures forever, and His mercy fills the whole earth, it says. Might this be the ‘breath of life’? The creation is the glorious temple of God. Man’s body is the summation and the crown of God’s creation. He is made, it says in the Greek, a berm, a mound (choun). A mound is a sacred topographical feature in the mind of antiquity. And, choun also refers to material used in the building of the temple. Is there a hidden theology here? If so, I would aver that it is saying that man is made as a living temple of God. His body, in which the whole of creation is comprehended, is the visible Church of the Liber Graduum. His soul would be the ‘nave’ that holds the sanctuary, the invisible Church of the heart. Keeping to the scheme of the Liber Graduum, the invisible Church of man’s heart would open onto the invisible Church on High, the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Garden of Eden comes into view as the image – the ‘icon’ or ‘mirror’ – of the invisible Church of man’s heart. God leading Adam on an Exodus into the Garden to the East is therefore an icon of the LORD leading man on an Exodus into the ‘inner man’ of the heart. It is a biblical image of prayer: descending with the mind into the heart. But where is this inner Exodus meant to go?
THE DESTINATION OF THE ORIGINAL EXODUS
Again, it is to the early Syriac Christian tradition that we turn for help to solve the riddle, to St Ephrem of Syria’s First and Third Hymns on Paradise, to learn the topography of Eden.
Eden is a mountain ‘in the deep beyond all things’ (Jer 17.9). We say that Eden is in the deep, beyond all things from the fact that the Mountain of Eden encircles the whole earth (Hymn on Paradise III). It rises above the whole earth. The earth’s highest summit barely comes up to the foothills of Eden. But we say that Eden is a mountain in the deep, beyond all things because we also mean to say that it is an image of the heart of the inner man, according to the teaching of the Church fathers, and of the heart, the prophet Jeremiah says, in the Greek LXX, ‘The heart of man is deep, beyond all things, and it is the man.’ (Jer 17.9 LXX)
Life in Eden does move in space and time, but in space and time on a higher plane, with an altogether different character (cf. Hymns X&XI). In a word, what I see in my own contemplation, influenced by soaking in the prayers of the Church for many years, space and time in Eden are measured by the ‘concrete’ movements of the love of God for man, His ‘Bride’ centered, obviously, on the ‘woman’ (for it is the Virgin Mary, the ‘woman,’ the ‘Mother of us all’ who will become the ‘immaculate Bride of the King, the unoriginate Father and give birth to the Son of God as the Son of Man), and of the love of man for God, the Heavenly Bridegroom, ‘He Who Is’ the Son of God, Jesus Christ. In contrast, space and time here in the hill country and valleys outside of Eden have lost their connection to the descending and ascending movement of divine-human love and have become the impersonal, cold, lifeless movement of sun, moon and stars.
It says in Genesis that God planted in the middle of the Garden the Tree of Life and the tree of learning good and evil. A very fine reading of the text, with the help of St Ephrem, shows that Eden is a mountain. At the top of the Edenic mountain was the Tree of Life (Hymn III). The tree of learning good and evil, according to the tradition followed by St Ephrem, was halfway up the mountain. Its boughs stretched all the way across, like the heavens stretched out like a curtain – for the tree of learning good and evil represents creation, it is an image of heaven and earth. The tree of learning good and evil therefore hid the Tree of Life from view. To get to the Tree of Life at the summit of the mountain, Adam and Eve had to get past the tree of learning good and evil, the tree of ‘testing.’
As I indicated, the tree of learning good and evil is identified by a number of holy fathers as the creation, and as our own human nature. Its beauty, then, would be the beauty of our own nature, made in the image and likeness of God. Its ‘fruit,’ it is clear to me, is that which is born from human sexuality. As a creation of God, the tree of learning good and evil is good, not evil. Our sexuality is good, not evil. But by itself, that is, divorced from God, following St Maximos the Confessor, the tree of learning good and evil is the tree of life and death, pleasure and pain. By itself, divorced from God, sexuality is good and evil, pleasurable and painful. The ‘life’ of sexuality in and of itself, divorced from the Life, the Spirit of God, is a life of death; for, the sexual life of man moves on a never-ending trajectory of dying and death; it is the Great Round, the uroboros (the serpent swallowing its tail) of the cults of the ancient ‘Great Mother Goddess.’
From the topography of Eden drawn by St Ephrem, we can see that the Exodus on which God was leading Adam was to the Tree of Life at the top of the Mountain. The Tree of Life is the mystery of Christ and His Holy Mother, as we learn from many, many liturgical hymns of the Church; for example: ‘O Virgin, truly wast Thou shown to be the Tree of Life, which has slain the deceiving serpent with its Fruit, having given birth to Christ God, our Life.’ [Ode VI, Tone I, Tues Compline]. And this: ‘The ancestors of our race rejoice in Thee, O pure Virgin, for through Thee have they gained the Eden they lost through transgression.’ (Sunday Matins, Tone 1)
Along the way to the solution of our riddle I have laid down a number of threads. We may have a chance to pick those threads up later. For now, we want simply to introduce the solution to the riddle: the primordial Exodus of man from the earth outside the Garden into the Garden was meant to go to the Tree of Life at the summit of the Edenic mountain, the LORD’s ‘Holy Mountain.’ The primordial Exodus of the Bible is from the earth ‘below,’ or the ‘visible Church’ of the body to the Church on High above, beyond the summit of Eden, ‘in the deep, beyond all things’ (Jer 17.9), or, the Kingdom of Heaven that is within you (Lk 17.21).
Adam and Eve failed the test at the tree of learning good and evil. As I indicated, I have become convinced that the beauty of the fruit of the tree of learning good and evil that so enticed Eve is the beauty of our own sexuality. For here, in our sexuality, is where our capacity for creating life in the image and likeness of God is manifested physically. It is, as it were, the divine ‘law’ embedded in our nature. Through sexuality, man, as male and female, has fulfilled the first commandment of God to multiply and fill the earth and subdue it; but, because we have fallen away from God through transgressions, our sexuality has been infected with lust and greed. It has become defiled with lust for power. In the Fall, human sexuality was perverted away from life in God to life in the ‘dust of death.’ In a mindless drive to save his life from death, man, as male and female, has used human sexuality as a weapon of self-serving power to subdue the earth, to control others, to gain mastery over them and to bend them to his own will, driven by lust and greed, and not by godlike humility driven by godlike compassion and love.
The fall of Adam and Eve was the choice freely and willfully made to give our erotic desire to greed (St Ephrem), to lust, which is idolatry (St Paul), to self-love (St Maximos). That is to say, Adam and Eve chose not to lose their life for the sake of Christ, the Heavenly Bridegroom, but to ‘save’ their life by indulging in the pleasure of their sexuality ‘before the time’ (outside of marriage) – or, let’s say, they chose to lose their life for the sake of sexual pleasure, with no regard to the consequences on the fruit, the children, they would create thereby. They would be bringing forth children in a life that is not the life of God, but in the life of the serpent, the life of the ‘Great Round,’ a life that begins to die the instant it is conceived in the womb.
Therefore, Adam and Eve never made it past the tree of testing. They never made it past the lust of their carnal desire. They never partook of the Fruit of the Tree of Life, the Holy Spirit of the Heavenly Bridegroom. They never saw the Tree of Life and its stunning Beauty. Their eyes were opened to see the ‘beauty’ of their own nakedness, not the glorious beauty that clothed the Tree of Life, and would have clothed them had they chosen its garments and not their own. (As it was, let’s say that they were clothed only in the beautiful underwear of God’s Glory. They were not yet fully dressed. God intended to dress them in the divine Robes of His own Glory, had they proved worthy, had they proved that their love was for the beauty of God and not for their own sexual beauty.)
This is the failed Exodus. The failure was completed when Adam and Eve refused to repent. Instead of ascending the mountain of Eden to the Tree of Life at its summit, they descended back down the mountain. They fell down into the roots of the tree of learning good and evil, a chaotic mass of gnarled roots beneath the earth. As God said, the earth from which they were taken was now cursed because of them. To that earth, He said, they would return (Gen 3.19). The earth that was the womb from which Man was fashioned by God becomes his tomb: ‘My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; thou dost lay me in the dust of death.’ (Ps 22.15)
But, might this curse be a clue to the theological meaning of the expulsion of man from the Garden to the far ends of the earth? Might we see the expulsion to the far ends of the earth as the historical unfolding of man returning to the earth, the ‘dust of death?’ The unrepentant spiritual arrogance of the ‘ancestors of our race’ is the invisible ‘energy’ of the prince of the power of the air, the spirit now at work, driving history in the sons of disobedience (Eph 2.2-3). Here, I submit, is the biblical ‘philosophy’ of history.
THE EXPULSION FROM EDEN AN IMAGE OF DEATH
Is the expulsion from Eden to the far ends of the earth (Gen 3-11) just a biblical fable? Do we not even now experience the reality of the expulsion from Eden and the dispersal of all mankind to the far ends of the earth in a movement within ourselves, in which we are always going farther away from the Gates of Eden? Do we not experience the death that is at the root of our life even now when we are ‘alive,’ vigorous and healthy?
‘The real death is within, in the heart, and is concealed, and it is the inner man that perishes.’ (St Macarius, Hom 15.39, p. 125)
If the expulsion from Eden is an image of death, if Eden is an image of our inner man, then the expulsion from Eden is an image of our own soul being ‘scattered’ to the far ends of the earth – or, disintegrating back into the ‘dust of death’ (Ps 22.15). For, are we not scattered in our inner man? Are we not fragmented, crippled, broken, shattered like shards of glass in a profound spiritual schizophrenia? So many hymns of the Church give voice to the soul’s inmost anguish. By way of example, I have drawn from the hymns from Compline for Tues night (Tone 8):
Assaults of the passions fill my soul with great despondency, O most immaculate Maiden!
I am enslaved by grievous and cruel circumstances (you may fill in the blank).
I am sick in body and soul.
My soul is in tumult because of my passions, I am in turmoil and grief from the tempest of my transgressions
I am wracked by cruel afflictions and painful sufferings, O Virgin.
I lie on my bed of sickness and infirmity
I am enslaved by misfortunes.
My soul is darkened with the gloom of my transgressions. My soul is sick, my soul is full of evil, my life has drawn nigh to hell, my nature is held by corruption, I am assailed constantly by demons.
I lie sick on my bed. There is no healing for my flesh. My soul is defiled. My body is weak, my soul is infirm.
One also sees in the expulsion of mankind from Eden to the far ends of the earth the spiritual template of the expulsion of Israel from Canaan: first the Northern Kingdom that was scattered among the nations under the Assyrians (8th cent. BC), then the Southern Kingdom that was sent in exile under the Babylonians (6th cent BC), reminiscent of Israel in bondage under the Pharaoh in Egypt. Why was Israel as a nation expelled from Canaan, the Land of her Inheritance through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? For the same reason Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden: idolatry and the refusal of an idolatrous, spiritual arrogance to repent. Is this not the same reason we have been expelled away from the ‘inner man’ of our own heart, away from our true self made in the image and likeness of God so that we have come to be in the image and likeness of Lucifer?
Indeed, seeing the scattering of man to the far ends of the earth in the expulsion from Eden as an image of death makes me wonder if there is something deeper in the disciples of the LORD fleeing from Him and scattering at His crucifixion. Might this be an image of death? His disciples having forsaken Him, the LORD now stands alone; and then His Father forsakes Him. Absolute aloneness, forsakenness: is this not the essence of death? It makes all the more poignant the beauty of the Virgin Mother standing with the LORD at the foot of His Cross. She and John, the ‘beloved disciple,’ alone do not forsake Him. But the Holy Virgin is a ‘man,’ She is not God, she is not a Goddess. There is nothing She can do for Him except to weep in a maternal grief that surely is far beyond what any of us can imagine.
With the Theotokos, we cannot comprehend the mystery of Christ’s death on the Cross – the mystery of God’s death on the Cross in the flesh! We can only look with fear and trembling on the inexpressible majesty of the LORD Jesus lifted high on the Cross – for He is lifted up on the Cross precisely to heal the expulsion of Adam to the far ends of the earth, to heal the profound spiritual schizophrenia that has shattered the human soul into a thousand pieces like countless shards of broken glass. He is lifted up on the Cross to draw all men to Himself, to gather the dispersed, to raise the dead – and this is precisely what we see Him doing when He gathers His holy disciples to Himself once again in His Resurrection. The next time they are ‘scattered’ will be following Pentecost, when they follow the Holy Spirit to the far ends of the earth to baptize the nations in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; that is, they go out in the Spirit of Christ’s Holy Resurrection to the far ends of the earth to raise the dead to life and to ‘subdue the earth’ not with the tyrannical power of lust and greed but with the death-destroying and life-giving joy and love and humility of the Savior and His Holy Mother. Is this not the ‘business’ of the Church?
Why are we expelled from the tranquility and joy of a pure heart? Partly because we have inherited the expulsion; that is, we have been born and raised outside of Eden, in the far ends of the earth. That has become our ‘theological’ home. As a result, we are born crippled in soul if not in body. Our soul is infected by the corruption of death. To be conceived in the womb is to be placed on the trajectory of the grave, the trajectory of expulsion from Eden. We are in this regard ‘victims’ of the expulsion, victims of the fear of death that rises from the ‘law of sin’ embodied in us – the ‘law of sin.’ This law of sin found in our earthly members, I am more and more convinced, is our own fallen sexuality, in which we seek to exalt ourselves ‘as though’ we were gods (and goddesses). Our erotic desire is an essential element in our being created in the image and likeness of God. And precisely here, at the heart of the image and likeness of God that we are, in our erotic desire, the serpent aimed his arrow to pervert us at our root. And, through a perverted eros, to turn us away from God to false lovers, to idols, to turn us away from the Heavenly Bridegroom to the dark LORD of death, the prince, the spirit of the power of the air working in the sons of disobedience.
‘The world is subject to the lust of evil,’ says St Macarius, ‘and knows it not, and there is an unclean fire which kindles the heart, and so spreads into all the members, and disposes men to lasciviousness and a thousand wrong things.’ (Hom 15.50, p. 131)
In this broken, crippled existence, we are fragmented, shattered into a thousand shards of broken glass from the transgressions against us by others, both voluntary and involuntary, but also from our own transgressions that we do against others, either voluntarily or involuntarily, whether known or unknown. Following a hymn from the Elevation of the Cross, the venom of the serpent has spread through our nature like a toxin. We are soaked through and through with death and all its miseries. It is not true that we do not experience death until we ‘die’. We are experiencing death here and now in our daily existence, in all the hurt and fear of loneliness that follows from the enmity of broken relationships caused by sin and transgression.
‘From the time that Adam transgressed the commandment, the serpent entered in and made himself master of the house, and became like a second soul beside the soul. Sin entering into the soul has become like a member of it, and is united with the bodily man, and therefore many unclean thoughts spring up in the heart. He who does the wishes of his soul does the wishes of evil, because it is entwined and mingled with the soul.’ (St Macarius, Homily 15.35, p. 123)
In this life, we either are living in the Light that shines in the darkness, but which the darkness cannot extinguish (that is, we are living in the darkness of death, but we are living in this death in the Light of the Life of Christ God incarnate that has destroyed death by His death), or we are living in the darkness that hates the light, and flees from it, because our deeds are evil – and we, in our self-justification and self-righteousness, as though we were gods, refuse to acknowledge our sins and to repent.
The prayers of Compline that I set before you earlier give expression to the inner condition of our soul: we are broken, afflicted, defiled, etc. Curiously, however, we may not begin to see how broken we are until we begin to repent and are illumined by the Holy Spirit. Prayers of the Church like these from Tuesday Compline, then, serve also to illumine us and help us to see the real state of our soul that we otherwise might not see, or be able to acknowledge, and so they show us the way to repentance.
RESURRECTION THE BEGINNING OF ISRAEL’S JOURNEY TO CANAAN
Seeing the expulsion of man from Eden to the far ends of the earth as the historical unfolding of man returning to the ‘dust of death’ reveals the full significance of finding the beginning of Israel’s historical journey to Canaan in the call of God to Abraham in Haran. At the heart of that call to Abraham to go to the Land God would show him is the birth of Isaac. Abram and Sarai were past the age of child-bearing. They were as good as dead, St Paul says (Rm 4.19, Heb 11.12). Isaac’s birth in the Spring, after God had visited Sarai, is therefore a resurrection, the raising of life from death. It means that the root of Israel’s existence as a nation is a resurrection accomplished by God. God calling Abraham out of the expulsion to go the Land He would show him, then, is the image of God raising Israel from the dead. The vision of Ezekiel, then, that is read in the Church at the Matins for Great and Holy Saturday (Eze 37.1-12) is the same vision of Isaiah:
‘For as rain shall come down, or snow, from heaven, and shall not return until it have saturated the earth, and it bring forth and bud and give seed to the sower, and bread for food, so shall my WORD be, whatever shall proceed out of my mouth, it shall by no means turn back until all the things which I willed shall have been accomplished.’
Dear ones, have we stumbled through a back door into what St John saw in the empty tomb: that, as it was written, it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead (Jn 20.9)? That is, God created the world for life, not death; He made man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of His own eternity (Wisd 1.13-14, 2.23). The covenant God made with Abraham, together with all the covenants He made with Israel, were for this purpose: to lead the nations back through Abraham’s Seed, Jesus Christ, to His Holy Mountain, not the geographical Mt Zion in Canaan, but the Edenic Mountain in the Land of Christ’s Resurrection, and into the Kingdom of Heaven in the deep, beyond all things, the Kingdom of Heaven that is within you (Lk 17.21).
What now begins to come into view in the LORD’s call to Abraham in Haran to go to the Land He would show him? Here at the beginning of Israel’s journey to Canaan, we see the Gospel already being conceived in the womb of Sarai, and becoming flesh, as it were, in Isaac, and in Israel, born from Isaac and Rebekah.
So, having traced the beginning of Israel’s historical journey to Canaan back into the expulsion of Eden, and from there, back to its theological beginning in the failed Exodus of Eden let’s find the Gospel – i.e., the Good News that proclaims victory over death and hell, and healing for our souls, the opening of our heart onto Eden and the Kingdom of Heaven at the summit of the Edenic mountain—by tracing the historical journey of Israel to its historical and theological end.
Tracing Israel’s Exodus to its End
AT THE TOMB
Jesus is born of the Virgin by the Holy Spirit who overshadows Her (Lk 1.35). She is shown in this to be the OT Temple that the tabernacle of Moses, the Temple of Solomon, were the copies of (Ex 40.34-35 & 2 Chorn 7.1-2). And Her Son who fills the tabernacle of Her womb is shown to be the Glory of God that filled the tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon. He is the Christ – i.e., the Son of God, the King of Israel – because He bears naturally within Himself the Holy Spirit, the Glory of God. He is given the Name, Jesus – the LORD saves – because He will save His people from their sins; that is, following the story-line of the Bible, He will lead them back to the Land God showed Abraham (Mt 1.21). His Name is Joshua in Hebrew. That means He is the prophet like Moses, whom Moses said the LORD would send to Israel (Dt 18.15). But even after Joshua, Israel continued to look for this prophet like Moses (Jn 6.14 & 7.40). That means that this prophet like Moses whom the LORD would send to Israel was not Joshua, but Jesus. As the ‘Second Joshua,’ this Jesus (this Joshua) will do everything the First Joshua did, but on a cosmic scale, for He is the LORD God. He will lead Israel across the mystical Jordan and into the mystical Land God showed Abraham, the Land of Inheritance, the Land that is the Garden of Eden to the East, the Land of Resurrection.
As the King of Israel, Jesus embodies Israel. His journeys to Egypt and back, and throughout Galilee (the land of the Northern Kingdom) healing by His teaching, and teaching by His healing, all the sins of Israel’s idolatry – blindness, deafness, crippled, withered hands, dumbness, etc. – and finally, His journey to Jerusalem and into the Temple embodies all the historical journeys of Israel to Canaan. But the LORD’s journey doesn’t end there. From there, He leaves the Temple, recalling the Glory of the LORD leaving the temple in Ezekiel’s vision (Eze 11.23). And like the Glory of the LORD that settled on the mountain opposite Jerusalem, so the LORD settles, He ‘comes to rest’ on the mountain of Golgotha ‘opposite’ the Temple on Mt Zion. Having ascended the Cross to draw ‘all men’ to Himself, having ‘sent forth His Spirit’ into all the earth, He fills the New Temple on Golgotha with the Glory of the LORD, Himself. The New Temple is the Tomb, the mystery of His Sabbath Rest. In the Tomb of His Sabbath Rest, the historical, geographical Exodus of Israel disappears from sight – but it does not end!
THE HISTORICAL EXODUS BECOMES MYSTICAL
Here is the mystery of God hidden from the ages – hidden in the historical journey of Israel, now revealed to His saints (and to angels) in the Tomb of His Sabbath Rest; it is the mystery of ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory,’ the hope of returning to the Garden by way of the ‘dust of death.’ St Peter says of this mystery of God, hidden from the ages: ‘the Angels longed to ‘stoop down and peer into it’ [parakuyai]. It is the same verb for John ‘stooping down to peer into’ the empty Tomb of the LORD’s Resurrection (Jn 20.5). The verb tells us that the Tomb of the LORD’s Sabbath Rest is where we find the mystery of God hidden from the ages, the mystery of ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ (Col 1.27).
In His death on the Cross, the incarnate God took upon Himself the curse of hanging from a tree (Dt 21.23). And so He became one with us in our curse. ‘My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me!’ He cried from the accursed Tree (Mt 27.46). And so, He became one with us who are cursed in our forsakenness by God.
But the LORD suffered crucifixion on an accursed tree and became one with us not because He was disobedient as are we, but because He was obedient to the Father even unto death. The fruit of obedience is life, not death! He joined our disobedience to His obedience; and so He destroyed the death caused by our disobedience. He annulled the curse of death and made the return to the earth, the Tomb, the dust of death, to be the Gate of Paradise. Jesus, our Joshua, He Who Is the only-begotten God in the bosom of the Father (Jn 1.18, Ex 3.14) ‘made even the evil to be good by His goodness’ (Anaphora of St Basil’s Divine Liturgy). He opened the path through the sea, not the Red Sea but the Sea of death, and led us on an Exodus, on a return to the dust of death, and from the ‘dust of death,’ from the Tomb of His Sabbath Rest in the west, He led us back into the Garden to the ‘east,’ back to the original Exodus, the ‘meta-historical’ journey of Eden: ‘Thy way was through the sea [of death], thy path through the great waters; yet thy footprints were unseen.’ (Ps 77.19)
‘In the tomb with the Body, in hell with the soul, in Paradise with the thief, wast Thou O boundless Christ, filling all things.’ [The priest’s prayer after the Great Entrance.] It is revealed in the Church that the historical Exodus of Israel continues into hell. That is, it ‘passes over’ into the inner man. The historical, geographical Exodus of Israel has now ‘passed over’ into the Tomb of the LORD’s Sabbath Rest, and it has become mystical, spiritual, invisible. It has become the ‘inner Exodus’ of the Gospel, the journey of the soul to the summit of the Edenic mountain and into the Kingdom of Heaven that is within you.
INTO THE PAST. BACK TO THE FUTURE.
Remember that we saw the expulsion to the far ends of the earth as the historical unfolding of the spiritual death that now holds man captive. We saw hell as the place where the past goes, where history goes, because history is dead. History is the hemorrhaging woman because, like her, the life of the present moment is forever hemorrhaging. History is but the blood of the present forever flowing into the past – it is the corollary of the body disintegrating into the ‘dust of death’ – where it ‘is’ no more. [Even the mystery cults of the Goddess show this, though they do not couch it in these terms. The Goddess is both the Womb and the Tomb of all life: she both gives birth and devours all her children in the ‘uroboros,’ the Great Round, the so-called Circle of Life which is, in fact, the Circle of death. The White Goddess who gives birth, and the Black Goddess who devours her children are one and the same terrible ‘Great Mother.’ This is what the fallen Eve has become. In the Holy Virgin, the woman becomes what she was created to be: ‘the Mother of Life,’ the Mother of the Resurrection and the Life who devours, not her children, but the serpent of death.]
Can you see that when God the Son descends into hell, He is descending into the past – the place where both present and future are doomed to go? [If we want to address the ‘mono-myth’ of the Goddess, He descends into the womb of the Goddess and staunches her hemorrhaging. Instead of bringing forth children doomed to die, she now brings forth ‘children of God’. Christ is the LORDLY serpent, imaged in Moses’ staff and in the serpent Moses raised up in the wilderness. He swallows the serpents of the Egyptian magicians, the ‘uroboros,’ He heals those who were bitten by the serpents in the wilderness.] There, in hell, the incarnate God gathers every moment of history scattered to the far ends of time – past, present, future. He gathers all the souls scattered to the far ends of the earth, and of hell, and He unites them to Himself in the ‘historical mystery’ of the ever-present Today of His Holy Pascha.
The Church is the Body of Christ, the Fullness of Him who is all in all (Eph 1`.23). And in His Body, the Church, Christ has scattered Himself to the far ends of the earth where man is scattered. He is the Seed, He is the Sower. He does not sow seeds (the Seed the Sower sows in the parable is singular, not plural!), He sows the Seed, the Seed of Abraham, the Seed that is Himself, in all the earth. ‘Divided, yet not disunited,’ the priest prays at the fracturing of the host. We could say, ‘Scattered but not scattered.’ In His Church, His Body, the Spirit of the LORD goes to the far ends of the universe, He goes to the far ends of hell, He goes to the far ends of the past, all the way back to ‘the beginning.’ He fills the world with Himself, He fills hell with Himself, and He subdues the world, He subdues hell with His ineffable compassion – this is the ‘darkness’ that darkened the sun from the sixth hour on Great and Holy Friday, the darkness that covered, not just Palestine, but the whole earth. And liturgical texts give us to understand that the covering of the whole earth extends to all the souls in hell!
Is it not clear that the Psalmist, even though he was composing his hymn centuries before, was singing his Psalm on the mountain of the mystical Today of the LORD’s Mighty Act of raising all the dead?
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words in whom their sound is not heard;
yet their ‘melody’ [phthongos] goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. He has placed His tent (the tabernacle of His body, cf. Jn 1.14) in the sun. And He comes forth like a bridegroom from His Bridal Chamber. Like an exulting Giant, He runs His course (His path).
His rising is from the end of the heavens, and His circuit to the end of them; and there is nothing hid from the warmth of His heat.
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover by them is thy servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
But who can discern his errors? Clear thou me from hidden faults.
Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. [Psalm 19]
THE MYSTICAL SABBATH
Christ is the end of the Law, sings St Paul (Rm 10.4) The word for end means completion and perfection. Dear ones, do you see how the LORD’s Tomb completes the geographical, historical exodus of Israel and reveals what before was hidden in that historical Exodus – the LORD leading mankind back to Eden? Canaan is not the Land God showed Abraham. Canaan was but the visible, historical image of Eden, the ‘visible Church’ of the Liber Graduum that before was barren (following liturgical hymns of the Church). That is, before the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, ‘woman’ could not give birth to ‘life.’ She brought forth only children of death. But now, in the Church, in the Virgin ‘mother of us all’ (Gal 4.26), it says of ‘woman’:
"Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in travail! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her that is married, says the LORD. [Isa 54:1]
In the Tomb of Christ, the visible image of Eden, Canaan, was opened mystically, invisibly onto the invisible Eden. The historical journey of Israel ends historically in the Tomb – but it does not end. The Tomb, so the Church reveals to us on Great and Holy Saturday, is the ‘blessed Sabbath’ that Moses mystically prefigured [Lenten Triodion, p. 656]. In the ‘first Sabbath,’ the LORD fashioned Adam from the earth (Gn 2.1-7). On this, the Second Sabbath, the mystical Sabbath, He fashions Adam anew from His own crucified and risen Body. In the Tomb of the LORD’s Sabbath Rest, the Exodus of Israel passes over into Eden, the ‘copy’ merges into the ‘heavenly pattern’ (Ex 25.9&40), the shadow becomes all Light (Heb 8.5&10.1) and the historical Exodus becomes ‘mystical,’ hidden, invisible. In the Tomb of the LORD, the outer Exodus of Israel passes over to the ‘other side’ to become the inner Exodus of Eden, the first Exodus, the original Exodus up the Edenic mountain and into the Kingdom of Heaven, the Heavenly City, the invisible Church on High.
At the Resurrection of Our LORD, Moses entered Canaan (that he had not entered), Adam entered into Paradise (from which he had been expelled).
St Ephrem, Hymn on Paradise IV.6
St Ephrem means that the Resurrection reveals Eden to be the real Canaan, and Canaan is the ‘copy,’ the ‘icon’ or mirror of Eden. In the LORD’s Resurrection, Moses entered the real Canaan, Eden, with Adam, and Adam entered Eden with Moses.
NOT A FABLE
How do we read this story of the bible? As an entertaining but antiquated fable? The Church knows it to be real, the really real, for all these biblical images are icons, mirrors, that reflect back at us the mystery of our own inner man. St Macarius says:
‘When you hear of sepulchers, do not think only of physical ones. Your own heart is a sepulcher and a tomb. When the prince of wickedness and his angels burrow there, and make paths and thoroughfares there, on which the powers of Satan walk into your mind and thoughts, are you not a hell, a tomb, a sepulcher, a dead man to God? (Hom 11.11)
The human heart, that is, is the ‘mystery’ reflected in the image, the mirror, of the LORD’s Tomb. The human heart, then, is the invisible tomb one sees reflected in the mirror of the LORD’s Tomb. The ‘mirror’ of the LORD being placed in His Tomb reflects back into your own heart, the ‘Mystery of God hidden from the ages.’ That mystery is ‘Christ in you,’ the Tree of Life who descended from the summit of Eden to look for you until He found you wherever you were scattered over the face of the earth. The LORD’s empty Tomb reflects back at you the ‘new’ mystery of your heart. Our heart is no more a ‘tomb.’ It was emptied of death when the Tree of Life rose from the dead on the third day. The human heart, when her erotic desires are given to the LORD of Glory, is transfigured into the Bridal Chamber from which the LORD goes before us into Galilee – as a Bridegroom in procession – to lead us on the path of our daily life, transfigured into an ascent, to the summit of His Holy Mountain and into the Kingdom of His Heavenly Father in the deep, beyond all things, into the Kingdom of Heaven that is within you. This is now our ‘hope or glory’!
I would have us to understand that St Macarius did not pull his image of the heart as a tomb from thin air. He did not make it up. The image of the heart as a tomb is given in sayings of the LORD:
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. [Mat 15:18-19]
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.” [Mat 23:27]
The Hebrew text of Jeremiah 17.9 says: ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?’
St Paul writes in Ephesians: ‘You were dead in your sins and trespasses.’ [2.1-3]
St Maximos (7th Cent.) ‘The LORD’s Tomb stands equally either for this world or for the heart of each faithful Christian.’
In the Body of Christ, in the Church, Eden has been opened again. The stone to the tomb of our heart has been rolled away. The path of the original Exodus to the top of the Edenic mountain, to the Kingdom of Heaven that is within us, to the Christ who is in you, is now opened to us:
The middle wall of partition of the ancient enmity is now laid low and destroyed by Thy coming in the flesh, O Christ, and the flaming sword now gives way before all who approach. And I partake in faith of the life-giving tree in Eden, becoming once again a husbandman of immortal plants. [Festal Menaion. Compline for Forefeast of Christmas. Canticle 6, 207]
THE PATH OF THE FIRST EXODUS IS THE WAY OF PRAYER
The Path of the inner exodus is the path of prayer in the way of the Church. For, descending with our mind into our heart in prayer, we descend into the tomb of our heart. There, we come upon the mystery of the LORD’s Tomb and to the entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven, for the Kingdom of Heaven is within you (Lk 17.21).
‘Be diligent to enter into the chamber (see Mt 6.6) that is within you,’ says St Isaac of Nineveh (7th cent.), and you will see the chamber of Heaven [he is talking about the prayer of the heart]. For these are one and the same, and with one entry you will behold them both. The ladder of the Kingdom is within you, hidden in your soul [the Ladder is, on the one hand, the Virgin Theotokos by whom the LORD ‘climbs’ down to us in His Incarnation; and, on the other hand, it is the Cross, on which He carries us back up to Heaven.] Plunge deeply within yourself, away from sin, and there you find steps by which you will be able to ascend.
A text from Theophany says, ‘By descending we ascend.’ By descending into the ‘tomb’ of our heart in prayer, and offering in the tears of contrition our brokenness as our sacrifice to the LORD, dear ones, it is our brokenness that is slain by God; it is our death that is put to death. Our heart becomes a bridal chamber – which is not the end but the beginning of the mystical journey to heaven. For the Bridegroom comes forth from His Bridal Chamber, He does not remain there. He comes forth in the life-giving warmth of His uncreated Fire that touches every soul from one end of the heavens to the other. And we, in the warmth of that Fire, become a bush burning with God, and we discover that we are not consumed. Quite the contrary, we begin truly to live. Suffused with the Living Waters of the Holy Spirit, we discover ourselves becoming truly human. We begin to become truly who we are, men and women created in the image and likeness of God; men and women created for immortality, made to images of God’s own eternity.
THE END IS THE BEGINNING
The burden of this survey of the biblical story is to show that ‘salvation’ is the Land of Promise God showed Abraham; it is the destination of the ‘inner Exodus’ of the Gospel. Salvation, then, is not accomplished when we come into the Church. It is begun. Coming into the sacramental mysteries of the Church, we have entered upon the Path of salvation, the Path being Christ Himself.
In the Church, we stand mystically in Eden; in the visible rites of the Church we engage the invisible mystery of our heart, where the primordial Exodus begins. We stand with the Holy Myrrhbearers, with St John and St Peter, in the LORD’s Tomb, in the mystery of His Sabbath Rest. And we hear the angel proclaiming to us that the LORD is risen, and that He goes before us into Galilee. He goes before us back into our daily life. If our life is now centered inside the LORD’s Tomb and no more in the world outside the LORD’s Tomb, then our inner man is now ‘nailed’ to the Tree of Life who came down from the summit of Eden in His Incarnation to the far ends of the earth, looking for us, to gather us up into Himself. And now, if in our inner man we cleave to Christ, our daily life becomes the terrain the primordial Exodus of Eden runs through. It becomes the way by which we ascend up the Edenic mountain with the Tree of Life – the LORD and His Holy Mother – leading us to the summit of Eden and out into the Kingdom of Heaven in the deep, beyond all things – out into the Kingdom of Heaven that is within you.
A NEW WAY TO READ THE BIBLE
Coming onto the ‘inner Exodus’ of the Gospel, the primordial Exodus of Eden, in the ‘tomb’ of our heart, now transfigured into a bridal chamber, our reading of the bible is now transfigured. ‘Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ,’ we now go back ‘into Galilee’ and read the whole history of Israel from within the Tomb of the LORD’s Resurrection. We see the history of Israel completed and perfected in the mystery of the Incarnation, the Death and Resurrection, of the Seed of Abraham. The history of Israel, indeed, the whole Bible for us is now transfigured into an icon that mirrors the spiritual dynamics moving in our own soul. That is, we now read the Bible as we would look into a mirror; for the Bible is the icon that reveals the inner Exodus of the Gospel within you.
The ‘key’ of our biblical interpretation, therefore, is not the various ‘literary’ criticisms invented by academic theologians in the last two hundred years or so in the halls of academia. These are helpful, but only to a degree because they do not depend on faith. They rely on the wisdom of human opinion as it sifts through the data of its many scientific investigations. These ‘criticisms’ (as they are called) may be helpful for understanding what’s outside the Tomb, but not for ‘seeing’ with Sts John and Peter, and the Holy Myrrhbearers the mystery that’s inside the Tomb, because, with all their conferences and seminars and publications, they are forever running around in circles outside the LORD’s Tomb. They never enter with the Holy Myrrhbearers, with John and Peter, to see the linen cloths folded neatly and lying to the side, and the turban nearby, and to hear the angel’s proclamation: ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen!’
Our key of biblical interpretation, again, is therefore the Incarnation, given to us on the altar of the Church’s worship:
The mystery of the Incarnation of the Logos is the key to all the arcane symbolism and typology in the Scriptures, and, in addition, gives us knowledge of created things, both visible and intelligible. He who apprehends the mystery of the cross and the burial [the ‘mystical Sabbath,’ Lenten Triodion, p. 656] apprehends the inner essences of created things; while he who is initiated into the inexpressible power of the resurrection apprehends the purpose for which God first established everything.’ [St Maximos the Confessor, d. 662 AD. First Cent on Theo, §66, Philo I, 127]
 Consider your enrollment in the Catechumenate in this context. When the priest laid his hand on your head in the Name of the LORD, your being ‘scattered to the ends of the earth’ was, in effect, stopped. Instead, you began to be ‘gathered’ together with Abraham, with Israel, in the ‘flight,’ the ‘exodus’ to the Shelter of the LORD’s Wings.
 St Maximos the Confessor, First Cent on Theo, §66, Philo I, 127: ‘The mystery of the Incarnation of the Logos is the key to all the arcane symbolism and typology in the Scriptures, and, in addition, gives us knowledge of created things, both visible and intelligible. He who apprehends the mystery of the cross and the burial [the ‘mystical Sabbath,’ Lenten Triodion, ] apprehends the inner essences of created things; while he who is initiated into the inexpressible power of the resurrection apprehends the purpose for which God first established everything.’
 I have written my thoughts on this subject in a presentation I gave to some Lutheran group years ago. That presentation is uploaded to our St Herman’s website. On the home page, go to Resources, click on ‘Written texts …’ and then open, ‘The Time of Prayer.’
 I have written more on this topic of the ancient cults of the Goddess. This, too, can be found by going to the ‘Written texts …’ tab under Resources on our St Herman’s website, and opening the four articles on ‘The Sacred Marriage.’
 It fascinates me to observe that in mythology and philosophy, ‘Chaos was first of all,’ as it says in the opening line of Hesiod’s Theogony. That is, since the fall, human knowledge is able to see only as far as the chaos of the roots of the tree of learning good and evil, and in its delusion, identifies that as the ‘beginning’ of all things. Like fallen Adam, it does not see beyond the chaos of the tree of learning good and evil to the Tree of Life at the top of the Edenic mountain.
 Death is separation from God. This is the biblical and patristic definition of death. On this basis, I am of the mind that the moment of Christ’s death on the Cross was when He was forsaken by His Father. The time from that moment to His ‘physical’ death was but the playing out of His death to the end. So also with Adam and Eve. Their death began when they turned away from God. The years of their life that followed until their physical death were but their spiritual death playing itself out in the denouement of their soul and body, now divorced from God. So also, the years of our life on earth are but the playing out of our spiritual death in the flowering and fading of our bodies and souls till we return to the earth that we are.
 The verb in Lk 1.35, overshadowed the Virgin, is the same verb in Ex 40.35. Moses could not enter the tabernacle because the Glory of the LORD overshadowed it.
 Let’s go back to Ex 40. It says in v 36, ‘When the Cloud went up from the Tabernacle, the children of Israel prepared to depart, till the Day when the Cloud went up.’ Jesus is Himself the ‘Glory of God’ that fills the Temple. When He enters the Temple, and leaves it again on Palm Sunday – as He did repeatedly on Israel’s Exodus, and as He did again on that day of Ezekiel’s vision (Eze 11.23), is He not saying that this is the Day the faithful Israelite, the ‘true Jew,’ should prepare to depart to continue the Exodus to the ‘Promised Land of the Resurrection’ by following this Joshua to Golgotha, to the Cross, and into the Tomb as into the mystical Jordan, the mystical Entrance to the Land God showed Abraham?
 This is the verb translated in the English as, He ‘gave up’ or ‘yielded up’ His Spirit. No, the verb means He sent out His Spirit. He ejected it out into the world. It is the same verb for ‘to forgive.’ Mt 27.50. He literally ejaculated His Spirit out into all the world and immediately, the earth shakes, the rocks are split open, the tombs open, the Curtain of the Temple is torn in two from top to bottom!
 This understanding of hell as the place of the past and of death, the place of ‘history,’ is confirmed in the Akathist to the Departed, Ikos 11: ‘Rise out (O souls) from the ancient past in the Blood of God.’
 Cf. Rev 13.8, The Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world.
Are we not scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, when we cannot see or acknowledge the uncleanness that is beneath the façade of our civilized manners, our outward shows of ‘nice’?
Catechetical Class 5: Review of Catechetical presentation for classes 3-4