"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Fr. Campbell- “God Himself will come and save you” (Is.33:4b)

Fr. Campbell- “God Himself will come and save you” (Is.33:4b)

In Holy Scripture, the name of Egypt stands, symbolically, for all that is corrupt and against God.  God called the Israelites out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses, where they had lived for four hundred and thirty years.  In Egypt it would have been impossible for them to know the true God because they were surrounded by a pagan culture.  But in the isolation of the desert, and deprived of every comfort but their daily ration of manna, at least a few of them were ready to meet God at Sinai and learn of His Commandments.

St. Matthew tells us that St. Joseph, at the instruction of an angel, took Mary and the Child Jesus into Egypt to escape the monstrous King Herod.  When Joseph was told by the angel that Herod was dead, and it was safe for them to return, they left Egypt and went to Nazareth, fulfilling the prophecy, “Out of Egypt I called my son” (Mt.2:15b).

“For whatever things have been written have been written for our instruction, that through the patience and the consolation afforded by the Scriptures we may have hope,” says St. Paul (Rom.15:4).  We learn from the story of the Exodus that we, too, must leave Egypt and go out into the desert where we may meet God.  Our Egypt (not the country) is the corrupt society that surrounds us.  As long as we remain a part of it we can never know God and learn true obedience.  As long as we allow ourselves to indulge in its sinful pleasures we prepare ourselves for the judgment that looms on the horizon for those who choose the world over God:

“Woe to you, apostate children, saith the Lord, that you would take counsel, and not of me: and would begin a web, and not by my spirit, that you might add sin upon sin.  Who walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth: hoping for help in the strength of Pharaoh and trusting in the shadow of Egypt.  And the strength of Pharaoh shall be to your confusion: and the confidence of the shadow of Egypt to your shame” (Is.30:1-3).

The Sinai desert represents the penitence and purity of the Christian life.  Having given up the rotten food of Egypt – its corrupt entertainment, gluttonous and impure lifestyle, and rampant violence – we are ready for our true nourishment, the heavenly manna provided us by God Himself.  Our minds are purified so as to have true wisdom and understanding.  Our wills and affections are purified so we can love truth and goodness, and the Author of all truth and goodness – God Himself.

But to leave Egypt and set out into unknown and uncharted territory, we need a leader, a Moses, who will mark the way for us and strengthen us for the difficult journey ahead.  We have that leader in Jesus Christ, Who abandoned Egypt before us, for, says God the Father, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.”  He is our very Manna, Bread from Heaven, as He told the Jews:

“Amen, amen, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world…  I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst…  I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the desert, and have died.  This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that if anyone eat of it he will not die.  I am the living bread that has come down from heaven.  If anyone eat of this bread he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn.6:32,33;35;48-52).

In the Sinai desert Moses and the Israelites were guided by a pillar of fire. Jesus Christ is our Pillar of Fire, our Way of Truth.  Jesus Christ is the true Light, Who never leaves those who follow Him.  If we follow Him we will not walk in the darkness of error, nor lose our way along the path that leads to eternal life.

As we leave the year 2015 behind, we are called upon to make a decisive change in our lives – not a few lame New Year’s resolutions, which we will forget about within a few days or weeks – but a complete turnaround, a conversion, in which we leave sin behind and set out in a new direction following our new Moses, Jesus Christ, Who will lead us to the Holy Mountain of Heaven, where we shall lay down our burdens and be happy with God forever and ever.  Think it over, and venture out into the desert following Christ into eternal life.

This wonderful passage from the prophet Isaiah tells of the joy of those who follow Him on their way to the Heavenly Jerusalem:

“The land that was desolate and impassable shall be glad: and the wilderness shall rejoice and shall flourish like the lily… Say to the fainthearted: Take courage, and fear not.  Behold your God will bring the revenge of recompense.  God himself will come and will save you.  Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened: and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.  Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall be free.  For the waters are broken out in the desert, and streams in the wilderness.  And that which was dry land shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water.  In the dens where dragons dwelt before shall rise up the verdure of the reed and the bulrush.  And a path and a way shall be there, and it shall be called the holy way: the unclean shall not pass over it.  And this shall be unto you a straight way, so that fools shall not err therein.  No lion shall be there, nor shall any mischievous beast go up by it, nor be found there: but they shall walk there that shall be delivered.  And the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and shall come into Sion with praise: and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.  They shall obtain joy and gladness: and sorrow and mourning shall flee away” (Is.35:1;4-10).