Saturday, 7 November 2015

Saint Macarius of Egypt, Homily. Ezekiel Sees God's Glory


Monastic Lectionary of the Divine Office
WEEKS 18 to 34 : YEAR 1

Saturday 31
Ez 1:3-14, 22-28
Macarian Homilies, 1.1-3, 12.000000000000

   Ezekiel 1 Bible Pictures: Ezekiel Sees God's Glory


After contemplating the divinely glorious vision he had seen, the Prophet Ezekiel wrote a description of it full of unutterable mysteries. What he saw was the mystery of the soul that was to receive its Lord and become his throne of glory. For the soul that is privileged to share in the light of the Holy Spirit and is irradiated by the beauty of the unspeakable glory of him who has prepared her to be his throne and dwelling is all light, all face, all eye: there is no part of her that is not full of the spiritual eyes of light. In other words, no part of her is darkened, but through and through she has been made light and spirit; she is full of eyes all over, and has no such thing as a back part but is face forward in every direction, because the unutterable beauty of the glory of the light of Christ is mounted and riding upon her. Christ drives, guides, carries and supports the soul, gracing and adorning her with spiritual beauty: the Prophet says, A human hand was under the cherubim because it is Christ who is carried by the soul and is her guide.

The four living creatures that bore the chariot symbolise the governing powers of the soul. For just as the eagle is the king of birds, the lion of wild beasts, the bull of tame ones, and mankind of creatures in general, so the soul also has its governing powers, which are the will, the conscience, the mind, and the ability to love. By these the chariot of the soul is controlled, and God rests on them.
If, then, you have become a throne of God, and the heavenly charioteer has mounted you, and your whole soul is a spiritual eye and has become all light; and if you have been nourished with that food of the Spirit, given living water to drink, and donned the raiment of ineffable light; if your inner self is grounded in the experience and full assurance of all these things, then indeed you already live the eternal life and your soul is henceforth at rest with the Lord.

On the other hand, if you have no awareness of any of these things, then weep, mourn, and lament, because you have not yet obtained the eternal spiritual riches; you have not yet re­ceived true life. Be distressed at your poverty and pray to the Lord night and day because you have come to a halt in the dreadful penury of sin. If only we were troubled by our poverty and did not go on without a care as though we were completely satisfied! For one who is deeply troubled and seeks and prays to the Lord unceasingly will soon be delivered and gain heavenly riches. As the Lord said in his story about the unjust judge and the widow: How much more will God vindicate those who cry to him night and day? To him be glory and power forever. Amen

The Spiritual Homilies of Macarius, 1:1-3, 12 (PG 34:449-452, 461; Word in Season VI. 

Ezekiel 1 Vision of Wheels
1:1 Now it happened in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth of the month, as I was among the captives by the river Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. 2 In the fifth of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity, 3 the word of Yahweh came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of Yahweh was there on him.
4 I looked, and behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, a great cloud, with flashing lightning, and a brightness around it, and out of its midst as it were glowing metal, out of the midst of the fire. 5 Out of its midst came the likeness of four living creatures. This was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. 6 Everyone had four faces, and each one of them had four wings. 7 Their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot; and they sparkled like burnished brass. 8 They had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and the four of them had their faces and their wings thus: 9 their wings were joined one to another; they didn’t turn when they went; each one went straight forward. 10 As for the likeness of their faces, they had the face of a man; and the four of them had the face of a lion on the right side; and the four of them had the face of an ox on the left side; the four of them also had the face of an eagle. 11 Such were their faces. Their wings were spread out above. Two wings of each one touched another, and two covered their bodies. 12 Each one went straight forward: where the spirit was to go, they went; they didn’t turn when they went. 13 As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches: the fire went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. 14 The living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning.
15 Now as I saw the living creatures, behold, one wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, for each of the four faces of it. 16 The appearance of the wheels and their work was like a beryl: and the four of them had one likeness; and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel within a wheel. 17 When they went, they went in their four directions: they didn’t turn when they went. 18 As for their rims, they were high and dreadful; and the four of them had their rims full ofeyes all around. 19 When the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. 20 Wherever the spirit was to go, they went; there was the spirit to go: and the wheels were lifted up beside them; for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. 21 When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up beside them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. 22 Over thehead of the living creature there was the likeness of an expanse, like the awesome crystal to look on, stretched forth over their heads above. 23 Under the expanse were their wings straight, the one toward the other: each one had two which covered on this side, and every one had two which covered on that side, their bodies. 24 When they went, I heard the noise of their wings like the noise of great waters, like the voice of the Almighty, a noise of tumult like the noise of an army: when they stood, they let down their wings. 25 There was a voice above the expanse that was over their heads: when they stood, they let down their wings.
26 Above the expanse that was over their heads was the likeness of athrone, as the appearance of a sapphire stone; and on the likeness of the throne was a likeness as the appearance of a man on it above. 27 I saw as it were glowing metal, as the appearance of fire within it all around, from the appearance of his waist and upward; and from the appearance of his waist and downward I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. 28 As the appearance of the rainbow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of Yahweh. When I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of one that spoke.

Observations: 1:1-28 Ezekiel was in Babylon, among the exiles and out of the darkness comes light. He sees a vision that sounds like something out of one of the OT prophets. Oh, yeah, that's exactly what it is, described in earthly terms as the “appearances” of this and that. The four creatures are cherubim (10:1ff). The vision appears to be that of God's chariot or mobile throne, containing the fire of judgement in the midst, and glory all around. The description of the living creatures precludes this being an alien UFO. Consult any commentary for equally fantastic descriptions of what everything means. We'll focus on the more applicable points. Like Isaiah, Ezekiel gets a vision of God to strengthen him for his upcoming ministry to the Jews already in exile, and the ones that would be arriving after the temple and city would be destroyed. As we'll find out in the next chapter, Ezekiel would get the typical prophet's welcome, and would need a baseline reminder of the God whose word he would deliver.
Application: The God we serve is not an idol made by man, nor man, nor animal, nor geographical phenomena, but the transcendent Creator who is above all, and served by all.
Prayer: Glorious God, You are awesome in Your might and majesty, and worthy of my humble service always. Amen.
Saturday 31
Ez 1:3-14, 22-28
Macarian Homilies, 1.1-3, 12.
Douay-Rheims Bible
v10. And as for the likeness of their faces: there was the face of a man, and the face of a lion on the right side of all the four: and the face of an ox, on the left side of all the four: and the face of an eagle over all the four. 
The patristic interpretation, which finds in the four living creatures the symbols of the four evangelists (an interpretation by no means constant or unvarying - the lion being sometimes identified with St Matthew, and the man with St. Mark, and conversely, while the ox and the eagle are uniformly assigned to St. Luke and St. John respectively), must be considered as the play of a devout imagination, but not as unfolding the meaning of either Ezekiel or St. John. 
  Cross References
Revelation 4:7
The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle.

Pulpit Commentary
Verse 10. - As for the likeness, etc. The Revised Version rightly strikes out the comma after "lion." The human face meets the prophet's gaze. On the right he sees the lion, on the left the ox, while the face of the eagle is behind. What did the symbols mean? 
(1) The human face represents the thought that man, as made "after the image of God" (Genesis 1:27), is the highest symbol of the Eternal. So long as we remember that it is but a symbol, anthropomorphism is legitimate in thought, and appropriate in visions; though, like theriomorphism, it becomes perilous, and is therefore forbidden (Exodus 20:4;Deuteronomy 4:17) when it takes concrete form in metal or in stone. So Daniel (Daniel 7:9, 13) sees the "Ancient of Days" and "one like unto a son of man;" and St. John's vision (Revelation 1:13) represents the same symbolism. 
(2) The lion had been the familiar emblem of sovereignty, both in the temple of Solomon (1 Kings 7:29) and in his palace (1 Kings 10:202 Chronicles 9:18, 19). So, in Genesis 49:9, it is the symbol of the kingly power of Judah, and appears with a yet higher application in Revelation 5:5; while, on the other hand, it represents one of the great monarchies of the world in Daniel 7:4. Its modern heraldic use in the arms of England and elsewhere presents yet another analogue. 
(3) The ox had appeared, as here, so also in 1 Kings 7:25, 44, in company with the lion, notably in the twelve oxen that supported the "sea" or "laver" in the temple. Here also we have a kind of sovereignty - the natural symbol of a strength made subservient to human uses. Both the lion and the ox, as we have seen, may have become familiar to Ezekiel as a priest ministering in the temple or as an exile. 
(4) The eagle was, in like manner, though not taking its place in the symbolism of the temple, the emblem of kingly power, and is so employed by Ezekiel himself in Ezekiel 17:3, 7; while in Daniel 7:4 the lion has eagle's wings (comp. Hosea 8:1Isaiah 46:11;Obadiah 1:4Habakkuk 1:8). In Assyrian sculpture Nisroch (the name is cognate with the Hebrew for "eagle," nesher) appears as an eagle-headed human figure, and is always represented as contending with or conquering the lion and the bull (Layard, 'Nineveh,' 2:458, 459). The facts suggest the inference 
(1) that Ezekiel may have seen this symbol; 
(2) that over and above the general thought that all the powers of nature are subject to the government of God, there was also the more specific thought that the great kingdoms of the earth were but servants of his, to do his pleasure? The reproduction of the fourfold form, with the variation already noticed, inRevelation 4:7, is every way suggestive, and it is, at least, a natural inference that the symbols had acquired a new significance through the new truths that had been revealed to the seer of Patrons; that the human face may have connected itself with the thought of the Son of man who shared in the glory of the Father; the ox with that of his sacrifice; the lion with that of his sovereignty over Israel, as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5); the eagle with that of his bearing his people as on eagles' wings, into the highest heavens (Exodus 19:4Deuteronomy 32:11) The patristic interpretation, which finds in the four living creatures the symbols of the four evangelists (an interpretation by no means constant or unvarying - the lion being sometimes identified with St Matthew, and the man with St. Mark, and conversely, while the ox and the eagle are uniformly assigned to St. Luke and St. John respectively), must be considered as the play of a devout imagination, but not as unfolding the meaning of either Ezekiel or St. John. In the later Jewish tradition the four forms are assigned, taking Ezekiel's order, to the tribes of Reuben, Judah, Ephraim, and Dan, as the "standards" (Numbers 2:2) which they generally bore when encamped in the wilderness; but this is obviously outside the range of the prophet's thoughts.  (Matthew Henry)

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