God Questions His Creation: Genesis 4:25-26 (c)

See:  God Questions His Creation: Genesis 4:25-26 (b)

4:25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another child instead of Abel, for Cain slew him.” 26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time men began to call upon the name of the LORD.

The Name of the Lord.    God’s Name is sacred, yet we know what it is –  YHWH.  The Name is sometimes written as Yahweh in English Bibles, but in Judaism no vowels are listed in the Name and it is a name even too sacred to pronounce.  Some English Bibles preserve this ancient Jewish sense that one never uses the Name of God and will substitute in the bible “the LORD” in place of YHWH, God’s Name.  Some Jewish texts will not even use the generic word God for the Creator Lord and following the Jewish practice of leaving out vowels will write only “G-d”.   In Christian theology, Jesus is the Word of God incarnate – Jesus is God revealed to us.   Jesus’ own name contains the Name of God for Jesus means “YHWH saves.”  Christianity believes God’s Name is a significant part of God’s revelation which is recorded in the Scriptures.   Moses at the burning bush specifically asks God for His Name.  There he learns that God’s Name is YHWH, or in the Greek, “ego eimi o On” – “I am who I am” or “I am the One Who Is.”  In almost every Orthodox icon of Jesus Christ in the halo around his head, there is the image of the cross in the halo, and within this image of the cross are the Greek letters for God’s Name, “o On.”     Christianity affirms the revelation in Christ that Jesus is fully God and fully human.   Jesus is “The One Who Is” for He is of the same essence as God the Father.  So in every icon of Christ we encounter the Name of God.  In the Church we bless with and are blessed by the Name of the Lord.   God’s sacred and holy and powerful Name is an integral and essential part of our Orthodox Faith.

Why is God’s Name so important?  It has to do with Judaism’s absolute monotheism. Because Judaism abhors idolatry, there is an absolute prohibition against thinking that God has any form whatsoever.   “Therefore take good heed to yourselves. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a graven image for yourselves, … And beware lest you lift up your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and worship them and serve them” (Deuteronomy 4:15. 19).  The Genesis stories which describe God in anthropomorphic terms (J-Source stories, see Source Theory)  represent an alternative tradition to the absolute monotheistic prohibition on idolatry of the transcendent God found in the P-Source stories.  The texts describing God in graphic anthropomorphic terms remain as authoritative Scripture.   They will be however ultimately filtered through the lens of the tradition which says God has no form and are interpreted in a non-literal fashion.  It is another example of more than one tradition being fully accepted in the scriptures especially when it comes to describing God, who cannot be completely understood by humans.   But the God who has no form, is incorporeal and non-anthropomorphic, because He cannot be seen in any way and is “invisible” to humans, thus to some extent non-existent.  For such an invisible God there would be no sign of His existence, though there might be signs of His activity in the world.  The invisible God does take on a real existence in His Name.  His Name makes Him real and present.  The Genesis witness is we are not worshipping an invisible God with no name.   To know His Name in this world is to experience His presence.  His Name is in some ways an incarnation of the invisible God.  His Name makes Him real to people who can talk but who are forbidden to make any image of Him.  A totally transcendent and formless God would be totally unknown to us.  But knowing His Name virtually brings Him into our experience – causes Him to have as “tangible” an existence as an incorporeal being can have.  His Name makes Him personal and real – not an impersonal force or natural power – but a personal being.  When we pray “in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, we are invoking the presence and power of that particular divine being who has a Name and who wants us to be aware of His presence and wants us to worship Him.

 Next:  God Questions His Creation: Genesis 5:-2 (a)

The complete reflections on the entirety of Genesis 4 is available at https://frted.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/gqhc_gen4.pdf

Matins Texts of The Expulsion of Adam & Eve (4)

In this series of blogs I will be quoting and commenting on hymns from the Sunday before Great Lent begins which commemorates the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise.   The first blog in the series was entitled The Expulsion of Adam & Eve from Paradise (Hymns).  The blog immediately preceding this one is Matins Texts of The Expulsion of Adam & Eve (3).

The Matins Canon for the Sunday commemorating the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise contains many usual devices which Orthodox poets and hymnographers use to convey the sacramental nature of creation.  In Canticle Four, the texts have the beauty and glory of the Paradisiacal Garden weeping for the fallen Adam and for all of humanity.   This is not purely anthropomorphic imagery.  Rather there is a very strong theological sense that humanity is not separated from the rest of creation which did not rebel against God.  Humans are forever connected to the rest of created order, even though humans sin.   Humans were to be the mediators between God and the created cosmos, and thus the rest of creation was reliant on humanity for its own union with the Creator.   However, fallen creation is still sacramental in nature – it potentially still can bear divinity and be united to it.  This is the truth at the heart of the theology of the incarnation, of salvation as theosis, and of the holy icons.  Salvation consists not in escaping our bodies and physical nature but in redeeming the empirical world, transfiguring and transforming it in Christ and through the Holy Spirit.

Ranks of angels,

beauty of Paradise and all the glory of the garden:

weep for me, for I was led astray in my misery

and rebelled against God.

Blessed meadow, trees and flowers planted by God,

O sweetness of Paradise:

let your leaves, like eyes, shed tears on my behalf,

for I am naked and a stranger to God’s glory.

To understand this poetic imagery, one need only call to mind Romans 8:19-23 :

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

Human sin, no matter how much each individual wants to insist that it is, is not just between the sinner and God.  For all humans share the same nature, and the sin of any one individual touches all of humanity.   Humanity in turn shares the same created nature with the rest of the cosmos and thus what humans do affects all of the created order.  This is the basic Christian theology concerning sin and salvation as expressed in Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:22-50.

Precious Paradise,

I no longer see you, nor delight in your joy and splendor,

for I have angered my Creator,

and have been driven out naked into the world.

Again, we encounter in the above text both the themes of exile and nakedness.  We realize that though we live in God’s creation on earth, we still are in exile in this world because we lack the total union with God for which God created us.  Human nudity in this thinking is not equated with some natural, innocent state, but rather with being exposed as false gods.  We are not in control of the universe but rather are subjected to the forces of nature, of hostile elementary spirits, and even of our own passions and desires.  See 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 where it is completely clear that salvation does not lead to our becoming naked, but rather to our being further clothed – as the Patristic writers often saw it as our being given back the glorious garments with which God clothed us in Paradise.  In baptism, the sinner goes naked into the water and is buried with Christ, but he/she is then raised with Christ and puts on Christ who is our robe of light.  It is the Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary who gives Christ His body which becomes for us our salvation.

Holy Lady,

you opened to all the faithful the gates of paradise

which Adam closed of old through his transgression:

Open to me the gates of mercy!

Next:   Matins Texts of the Expulsion of Adam & Eve (5)