Voices ever ancient, ever new. Lent, Week 2: Thursday

“... and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’” (Luke 16:23-26)

Saint Gregory of Nyssa offers the following insight on these verses from today's Gospel:

“I said, “What are the fire, the gulf, or the other things which are mentioned, if they are not what they are said to be?” “It seems to me,” she [Macrina] said, “that the Gospel wishes, through each of these details, to indicate some opinions concerning what we are seeking in connection with the soul. The patriarch says to the rich man, ‘You had your share of goods during your life in the flesh.’ He also says concerning the beggar, ‘This man fulfilled his duty by his experience of hardship during his life.’ By the gulf separating the one from the other, Scripture seems to me to set forth an important belief…. This, in my opinion, is the gulf, which is not an earthly abyss, that the judgment between the two opposite choices of life creates. Once one has chosen the pleasure of this life and has not remedied this bad choice by a change of heart, he produces for himself a place empty of good hereafter. He digs this unavoidable necessity for himself like some deep and trackless pit.

It seems to me that Scripture uses the ‘bosom of Abraham,’ in which the patient sufferer finds rest, as a symbol of the good state of the soul. This patriarch was the first person recorded to have chosen the hope of things to come in preference to the enjoyment of the moment. Deprived of everything he had in the beginning of his life, living among strangers, he searched for a future prosperity through present affliction. We use the word bosom when referring figuratively to a part of the outline of the sea. It seems to me that Scripture uses the word bosom as a symbol of the immeasurable goals toward which those who sail virtuously through life will come to when having departed from life. They anchor their souls in this good bosom as in a quiet harbor.” (On the Soul and the Resurrection)

O God, who delight in innocence and restore it,
direct the hearts of your servants to yourself,
that, caught up in the fire of your Spirit,
we may be found steadfast in faith
and effective in works.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Glory to You Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning is now
and will be forever. Amen.