We listen to the hymns and readings in Church, and two
series of events are revealed before us: the Old Testament — and the New, as
the type and the fulfillment, as the shadow and the truth, as the fall and the
rising, as the loss and the gain. In the patristic writings and the hymns in
the church services the Old and New Testaments are constantly being contrasted:
Adam and Christ, Eve and the Mother of God. There, the earthly paradise; here,
the Heavenly paradise. Through the woman came sin; through the Virgin,
salvation. The eating of the fruit unto death; the partaking of the Holy Gifts
unto life. There, the forbidden tree; here, the saving Cross. There it is said,
Ye shall die the death; here, today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.
There, the serpent, the deceiver; here, Gabriel, the preacher of good tidings.
There, the woman is told, In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children;
here, the women at the tomb are told, Rejoice. The parallel is made
throughout the entirety of the two Testaments. Salvation from the flood in the
ark; salvation in the Church. The three strangers with Abraham; the Gospel
truth of the Holy Trinity. The offering of Isaac as sacrifice; the Saviour's
death on the Cross. The ladder which Jacob saw as in a dream; the Mother of
God, the ladder of the Son of God's descent to earth. The sale of Joseph by his
brothers; the betrayal of Christ by Judas. Slavery in Egypt; the spiritual slavery of mankind to the devil. The
departure from Egypt; salvation in Christ. Crossing the Red Sea; Holy
Baptism. The unconsumed bush; the perpetual virginity of the Mother of God. The
Sabbath; the day of Resurrection. The ritual of circumcision; the Mystery of
Baptism. Manna; the Lord's Supper of the New Testament. The Law of Moses; the
Law of the Gospel. Sinai; the Sermon on the Mount. The tabernacle; the New Testament
Church. The Ark of the Covenant; the Mother of God. The serpent on the staff;
the nailing of Christ to the Cross. Aaron's rod which blossomed; the rebirth in
Christ. We could continue with such comparisons even further.
The New Testament understanding, which is
expressed in our hymns, makes the meaning of the Old Testament events even more
profound. With what power did Moses divide the sea? — with the sign of the
Cross. "Inscribing the invincible weapon of the Cross upon the waters,
Moses marked a straight line before him with his staff and divided the Red Sea."
Who led the Jews through the Red
Sea? — Christ. Christ "hath
thrown the horse and rider into the Red
Sea,... and He hath saved Israel." The return of the sea to its former state after the
Israelites had crossed was a prototype of the incorrupt purity of the Mother of
God. "In the Red Sea there was once depicted an image of the Unwedded Bride...
" (Dogmatic Theotokion, 5th Tone).
During the first and fifth weeks of Great Lent, we
gather in church for the compunctionate and penitential canon of Saint Andrew
of Crete. From the beginning of the Old Testament to the end,
examples of righteousness and examples of transgressions pass before us in a
long sequence, and then give place to New Testament ones; but only if we know
the sacred history of the Old are we able to profit fully from the contents of
This is why a knowledge of Biblical history is
necessary not only for adults; by giving our children lessons from the Old
Testament we also prepare them to take part intelligently in the services, and
understand them. But there are other, still more important reasons.
In the Saviour's preaching, and in the Apostles'
writings, there are many references to people, events and texts from the Old Testament:
to Moses, Elias, Jonah, to the testimony of the Prophet Isaiah, and so on.
In the Old Testament the reasons are given
why salvation through the coming of the Son of God was essential for humanity.
Nor must we lose sight of the purely moral
edification which the Old Testament contains. The time would fail
me, writes the Apostle Paul, to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of
Sampson, and of Jephthae, of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: who
through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises,
stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of
the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to
flight the armies of the aliens ... of whom the world was not worthy: they
wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth ...
(Heb. 11:32-34, 38). We too can profit from this edification. The Church
constantly places before our mind's eye the image of the Three Children in the
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