Thursday, February 19, 2009

More about Noë

Thinking about the Church's setting before her children Noë, I recalled that in the traditional Easter Vigil the second of the twelve Prophecies read was of Noë, the Ark, and the Deluge (Genesis v, 31; vi; vii, 6. 11-14. 18-22. 23-24; viii, 1-3. 6-12. 14-21), which in my old St Andrew's Missal has this explanatory heading: "Noe, who was at the head of humanity sacred [sic; lege saved] by God, is a figure of Christ, and Noe's ark is a figure of the Church which saves us from the condemnation of the world after sin."

The Collect following this prophecy shews its interpretation, by referring to the Church - it's a marvellous prayer, one well worth praying when in the slough of despond:
Deus, incommutabilis virtus, et lumen æternum: respice propitius ad totius Ecclesiæ tuæ mirabile sacramentum, et opus salutis humanæ, perpetuæ dispositionis effectu tranquillius operare; totusque mundus experiatur et videat, dejecta erigi, inveterata renovari, et per ipsum redire omnia in integrum, a quo sumpsere principium: Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum: Qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum. R/. Amen.

(O God of unchangeable power and eternal light, look favourably on thy whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; and by the tranquil operation of thy perpetual providence carry out the work of man's salvation, and let the whole world feel and see that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and all things are returning to perfection through him from whom they took their origin, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Who with thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. R/. Amen.)
Unfortunately, while this Collect is still included in the Novus Ordo for use at the Paschal Vigil, the reading about Noe and the Flood is not.  (Noë appears in the modern Lectionary for Mass on the first Sunday of Lent in Year B - as this year - and in the 6th week of Ordinary Time in Year I - again, this year: in fact, yesterday, to-day and to-morrow, a coincidence of which I was unaware! - on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday: the relevant references are to Genesis ix, 8-15 and to Genesis vi, 5-8 & vii, 1-5. 10; viii, 6-13. 20-22; ix, 1-13.)  However, in The Book of Divine Worship for the Anglican Use of the Catholic Church (approved for use in the United States under the Pastoral Provision there), the Great Vigil of Easter includes this a version of this lesson (Genesis vii, 1-5. 11-18; viii, 6-18; ix, 8-13), with Psalm 45(46) - Deus noster refugium - suggested to be used after it, and then the following Collect:
Almighty God, you have placed in the skies the sign of your covenant with all living things: Grant that we, who are saved through water and the Spirit, may worthily offer to you our praise and thanksgiving; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
What the praise of Noë in Holy Writ? Let us hear what the Spirit says to the churches (cf. Apoc. ii & iii): "Noe found grace before the Lord... Noe was a just and perfect man in his generations, he walked with God" (Genesis vi, 8. 9); "And Noe did all things which God/the Lord commanded him." (Genesis vi, 22; vii,5) "Noe was found perfect, just, and in the time of wrath he was made a reconciliation. Therefore was there a remnant left to the earth, when the flood came. The covenants of the world were made with him, that all flesh should no more be destroyed with the flood." (Ecclesiasticus xliv, 17-19) "By faith Noe, having received an answer concerning those things which as yet were not seen, moved with fear, framed the ark for the saving of his house, by the which he condemned the world; and was instituted heir of the justice which is by faith." (Hebrews xi, 7) 

Indeed, before the face of hardened, unbelieving sinners, God constituted Noë "the preacher of justice" (II Peter ii, 5), so that, if they had not grieved the Spirit and resisted the call of grace, they would have been saved, had they not "been disobedient when the patience of God waited in the days of Noe while the ark was a-building" (I Peter iii, 20), for all of a hundred and twenty years, that is, for a very long while, according to one interpretation of Genesis vi, 3; alas, thus shall it be at the coming of the Son of Man (cf. St Matthew xxiv, 37f & St Luke xvii, 26f) - when he comes, shall He find faith on the earth, that is, in the hearts of carnal men?  That old revival hymn "Out of the Ark" well sums up what is at stake...

And Noah built an altar unto the Lord: and... offered holocausts... (Genesis viii, 20)

Therefore, seeing as Nöe is accounted an ancestor (cf. St Luke iii, 36) and a type or figure of Christ (as through him alone was mankind saved from the Deluge in the Ark, so through Christ alone is mankind saved in the Church from eternal death) - his name signifying comfort and rest (Genesis v, 29; cf. Hebrews iii, 7 - iv,11), being graced, just and perfect, walking with the Lord, fulfilling all commands, by faith believing in holy fear, rejecting the sinful world going down to its doom, preaching justice in season and out of season, being an heir of justice through faith, acting as a reconciliation, worshipping God by a pleasing sacrifice (Genesis viii, 20ff), receiving a blessing and a covenant (Genesis ix, 1ff) - he is a fine model of all virtue and religion for Christians. "He who has an ear, let him hear"!  (Cf. Apoc. ii & iii.)

Over at Pastor Weedon's blog, I found that the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod observes the commemoration of Noah on the 29th of November (the Orthodox, by the way, commemorate him along with all the ancestors of Christ on one of the Sundays before Christmas; and, in some manner, on the 8th of August); and from Luther's "Flood Prayer" for use at Baptism the Lutheran Treasury of Daily Prayer draws this nice collect for keeping the memory of Noah, succinctly linking up believing Noah, the Ark and the Church believing in the Lord, as against the unbelieving world condemned through the Flood:
"Almighty and eternal God, according to Your strict judgment You condemned the unbelieving world through the flood, yet according to Your great mercy You preserved believing Noah and his family, eight souls in all. Grant that we be kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, so that with all believers in Your promise, we would be declared worthy of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord." (TDP, p. 966)

While I don't have them to hand, I recall from years back that Jean Cardinal Daniélou commented on the figure of Noë in several of his books; these would be well worth consulting...

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