We said last time that we really cannot understand Christian worship. We cannot understand worship in spirit and truth, worship in Christ and the Holy Spirit. The Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church, the eucharistic service: we cannot understand this without having a biblical mind, without having an accurate, correct, and deep understanding of the Scriptures, of the Christian Scriptures, the Hebrew Christian Scriptures—the Bible, basically. Because, as we are saying, and saying again and again in all the time and over and again, Christ and the Christian Church is the final fulfillment, the final covenanted community, the final act of God in human history. When Christ is crucified, raised, and glorified, it’s the end of the ages which has come upon us. There’s no new revelation. There’s nothing that surpasses Christ, his teaching, his sacrificial death on the cross, his being exalted, his being enthroned. Nothing is beyond this, and Christians believe that we, ancient Christians at least, believe that there’s nothing new to expect in history.
There’s only to be expected the end of history, the coming of the kingdom of God, which will be total worship of God in spirit and truth forever and ever and ever. But the Christians believe that the Church on earth, until the Lord comes, until he comes in glory, is the worship in spirit and truth that God has wanted from his creatures from the very beginning, and that this is finally available, finally given to us by Jesus Christ, God’s Son and the Messiah, so that through him we can worship the Father in spirit and truth and have the worship that God the Father desires from us, the worship of the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit, and it will be also, therefore, the worship of God the Father and his Son and his Holy Spirit by creatures who become by grace and by faith, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, christs themselves. We become christs, sons of God, and enter into the very inner life of the Trinity itself.
And what we’re going to see is that the celebration of the Divine Liturgy is an entering into the communion of the life of the three divine Persons—the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit—as this trinitarian being and life has existed from before the foundation of the world, has existed from all eternity, and will exist forever and ever, unto ages of ages, with human beings, creatures, entering into it, participating in it through worship in a deeper, fuller, more perfect way that literally is without end.
So we have to contemplate the Bible. As I said last time, I believe it was that Bible study is really the best way of understanding the worship of the Christian Church. To understand the Divine Liturgies of Chrysostom and Basil, which is our specific intention here, we have to understand the holy Scripture. As I said last time, I’m really convinced that if we would understand the holy Scripture, we would not need classes explaining the meaning of the Divine Liturgy. Such classes would be superfluous; they would be meaningless. They would be totally unnecessary. And if we would have classes trying to explain the meaning of the Divine Liturgy to people who do not have a scriptural mind, who are not steeped in the Scripture, who are not formed and fashioned by the two hands of God which are his Word and his Spirit—the Word that is vivified by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit which is always a communication of the Word and a communication with God through the Word: Christ the truth, the Holy Spirit the spirit of truth, God the true God. The God and Father is the living God, Christ is the life, the Holy Spirit is the life-giving spirit.
We are contemplating the Scripture here for our first reflections on, that will lead up to a very detailed commentary of the Divine Liturgies. We said last time that it is our conviction, reading the Scripture and reading the Scripture in the light of Christ, reading the Scripture as Christ and his apostles—John and Paul and all of the apostles did—that when we read the Scriptures—the Law, the Psalms, the Prophets, which the Hebrews, the Jewish people, call the Tanakh, the instructions, the Torah, and then the Prophets, the Nevi’im, and then the writings—when we contemplate all that, then we understand what is going on in Christ. And when we know Christ and believe in the Gospel of Christ and the Gospel about Christ, then these Scriptures are open and our minds are open, and we understand what things are about. So this is the fundamental act that we need to understand the Divine Liturgy and to experience it and to do it properly, accurately, for what it really is supposed to be.
Now we said last time that, in the very beginning of the holy Scripture, the first three chapters of Genesis, we have the story of creation. And we said last time that the creation narratives in the Scripture show us that human beings, together with the whole of creation, were made to worship God, that man is a worshiping being. He is a praying being, a worshiping being. That if we are creatures and God is God, then worship is the very word that defines our relationship with God. If creatures are in relationship with God, the result is worship. So we are created to give God glory and thanksgiving and honor. We are created to sing, “Holy, holy, holy,” as we’ll see later in the prophets. This is what we are created to be and to do.
And we believe that the whole of creation is worshiping God. The sun, the stars, the moon, the trees, the animals, the plants, the fish, the birds are all glorifying God, declaring his glory; and that human beings are created to do this as well, freely, voluntarily, as sons of God, as those who are created to be by God’s will and by God’s grace, by God’s activity, everything that God’s eternal Son is from all eternity in the Holy Spirit. In New Testamental terms, that we are created to have the relationship to the one God that Jesus Christ does, and to do so by the same Holy Spirit that Jesus Christ has, the Spirit that proceeds from the Father and rests in the Son from all eternity.
So this is what it is. This is what we are created to do. And we said last time that the primordial sin of human beings is the rejection of their being as worship. It’s the rejection of the act of worship. It’s no longer human beings offering themselves to God with gratitude and praise and thanksgiving, but, as one of my students once put it, the Genesis stories in the beginning are the stories of humanity trying to be human without God, even against God, even opposed to God, listening not to God’s word but the word of the serpent, being inspired not by the Holy Spirit but by the demons, by the devil, by their own fallen rationality, their own psychic minds and powers. This is the tragedy, and it’s basically all, we say: tragedy of worship.
It’s so very interesting, in our time, that when people say, “I’m spiritual and not religious,” what they often mean is: “I just don’t want to worship God. I don’t want to worship anything. I want to use God for my own purposes. If there is God at all as a cosmic force of good or beauty or whatever it is, I’m going to tap the energies of that God so that I can live the kind of life that I desire and that I choose.” If there’s anything that’s characteristic of modern religion, contemporary religion, certainly in the Western world, certainly in the New Age religions, certainly in many forms of Christianity, it is that worship is no longer the heart of the matter. It’s not about worshiping God. It’s not about saying to God, “To thee are due all glory, honor, and worship, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
It’s not about worship at all. It’s about activities designed for our own well-being, our own satisfaction, our own health and happiness, as we define these things, we try to use the divine powers, God or the gods or the powers or whatever we would call it, for our own sake as we decide. That, in biblical terms, is idolatry. It’s the worship of that which is not God. As many of our holy Fathers, like Macarius of Egypt say, for example, “Everybody worships. We either worship the God who made us or we worship the gods that we have made.”
And every god that we have made, every idol, is a projection of our own mind and our own reason and our own will. We manufacture the gods, whatever those gods might be. They might be very primitive-type gods, like, I don’t know, Nebuchadnezzar built, or the Canaanite Baalim-type of agricultural gods, or the statues that were built, or they could be more subtle gods. In fact, we could create our own god and call it “God.” We can create our own god and call it “the Holy Trinity.” We can create our own god and call it “Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and God the Father.” But the reality is nowhere near what that reality really is.
So real worship, worship in spirit and truth, has to be worship of the true God, of God as God actually is, and therefore it would be the worship of human beings as human beings actually are and are supposed to be as created in the image and according to the likeness of God for divine life, whose very essence is worship. So what we said last time already was—and we referred to St. Paul’s words in Romans 1 how human beings, knowing God, and in fact even being created to see all of the invisible powers and divinities of God’s divine acts in creation, what St. Paul called “ta aorata theou—the invisibles of God,” that we were just supposed to know that, naturally, so to speak, just by creating us.
Paradise, in the biblical terms, the garden, is a place of worship. It was to be a place of worship, a place of communing with the Tree of Life, not a place of communing with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which is also in the middle of the garden for human beings. That’s the possibility of sin. That’s the possibility of apostasy, of refusing to give God glory and gratitude and therefore to have our minds and hearts plunged into darkness and to be turned over to all kinds of lasciviousness, lewdness, madness, insanity, and death itself. Read that first chapter of the letter to the Romans. That’s the Christian interpretation of Genesis right there, of the condition of humanity.
We are created to know God’s dynamis, his power; his theotis, his divinity; by offering him doxa, glory; and efcharistia, eucharist or thanksgiving. That’s what we’re created to be and do. I quoted Fr. Schmemann who said in the Christian vision, the biblical vision, human beings are worshiping beings or doxological, eucharistic beings. Every sin is a refusal of our being doxological and eucharistic, liturgical beings, liturgics meaning doing the work that God asks us to do, the opus Dei which is the work of glorifying God, praising God, and thereby naming properly all things in creation and consecrating them to the service of God, being the high priest over all creation, the prophet, the one who knows the truth, sees things properly, prays to God rightly, and offers himself freely and voluntarily to God, together with all the creatures of God, as their created Master and Lord. That’s the vision.
Now we see that that didn’t happen. Humanity from the beginning refused worship, created idols, became idolaters, lived by their own righteousness, and therefore brought disaster and tragedy to the world.
What we want to see today is: How is worship and sacrifice and sacrificial worship depicted in the pages of Genesis after the apostasy of Adam and Eve? In other words, what is worship like outside Paradise, so to speak? What is worship like in the human beings’ fallen condition? What can we learn about that already in the first pages in the Bible that then will become crystal clear, totally fulfilled, perfectly realized, in the person of Christ and in the worship of the Church of Christ? What do we see?
Well, what we see—and this is what we’re going to reflect on now a bit; we’ll just take the book of Genesis today—[is] we see various stories of sacrificial worship, and we see first of all the story of Cain and Abel, and we see the story of Noah, neither of whom were Jews. Fr. Daniélou, in his book about the holy people in the Bible who were not of the people of Israel—he called them the holy pagans, the holy Gentiles. Well, here Cain and Abel, and Noah, whatever they were, they were not children of Abraham, and they did not belong to the Abrahamic genealogy. Abraham had Isaac, Isaac had Jacob, and so on: Joseph and then the twelve tribes and then Moses and then the prophets and then all we know about Israel. These people are not Israelites; they’re not Hebrews. But what are they? They are images of humanity; you might even say primitive humanity. They are the first pedagogy of Scripture, to show us, to make us to understand what’s going on, what the truth is, what is the reality of things.
Now, what is it that we see? Let’s begin with Cain and Abel. That’s the only place you can begin, because that’s the first act of humanity outside paradise. That’s what you have according to the Scripture. The ancient Christian view would be that Adam and Eve are symbolical figures that speak about the origins of humanity, so in a sense we could even say theologically, whatever happened historically and however that emerged, theologically the dogma—I would call it a dogma, not just a doctrine, but really a Church dogma would be—that wherever on the planet earth you would have humanity, you have sin. You have the refusal of worship. You have a turning back on God, but you also have that reality and that instinct in human beings that cannot be completely and totally crushed and demolished.
Here I think that we would say in that sense, ancient Christianity and Orthodox Christianity would be against any understanding that human beings after the so-called “original sin” of Adam and Eve are totally and completely depraved with nothing of the grace of God in them at all, are nothing but a massa damnata, who just deserve nothing but destruction or torment. That would not be the view. The view would be, yeah, the image is distorted, it’s obscured, it’s perverted, it’s corrupted, but still it cannot be completely and totally erased; that there’s still the remnants, the memories of paradise inside human consciousness, what the poet Milton called the “intimations of immortality” remain in human beings.
And what also remains is the instinct of worship, the instinct that there are the gods, there are the powers, however obscurely and wrongly and inaccurately understood, even if they’re understood as cosmic forces like winds and rain and fire and the physical sun and the elemental powers of the universe, or these gods may be considered to be as kind of demonic forces, daimones, not necessarily evil but just powers that control human destiny and so on. You find this all over the place. You find it all over the map, all over the map of the entire world if you look simply at the origins of humanity as we know them and as we can rediscover them by our study.
So in every place of the world, you have human beings having one or another type of religious activity and one or another type of worship, but it’s not the worship in spirit and truth, and it’s not the worship of the real, one, true God. It’s a kind of a worship of either creatures, like St. Paul says in the Roman letter, replacing the true God with images of creatures, cosmic creatures; or spiritual forces, which are somehow divine. Even the Scripture says there’s many gods and many lords, but there’s only one true one. “Among the gods,” as it says in the psalm and in the vesper prayer of the Orthodox Church, “there is no one like you, O Lord. You are the only true God.” And we’ll see that that’s a clash that exists all through humanity, beginning in the Bible, where it comes to the point where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and the prophets say: There is no other God but Yahweh, who created heaven and earth; and there is no other God but the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ who is himself the Lord, who is himself the one through whom all things were made from all eternity, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So vestiges of this remain. Vestigia, as they’re called in Latin. They remain in humanity, and wherever you study humanity, you find, for example, ritual sacrifices, sacrifices to agricultural powers, sacrifices to cosmic powers, sacrifices to allegedly celestial powers and gods of every kind. This is a universal fact of humanity. Wherever you find human beings, you have some type or other of worship. But the claim would be: Only in Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, the prophets, and Jesus Christ do you have the true worship of the true God. That would be certainly a Mosaic and a Christian claim. There’s just no doubt about it at all. That would be an Abrahamic claim, that there is no other God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses is the God who created the heavens and the earth.
But you have the God Almighty from the Christian point of view, refashioning that consciousness through the activity of Israel that culminates in Jesus Christ. And therefore, there is a kind of continuity of Christianity with all of human experience everywhere, or what we could call for want of a better term, the religious experiences of human beings, the ritualistic ones, and as Mircea Eliade said, the great scholar of religions, he said: God is a latecomer to religion. Religion begins with holy things, sacred powers, blood, water, and all kinds of crazy things, and leads almost everywhere to some type of sacrificial worship, sacrificing animals, sacrificing grains and crops and burning things, and, alas, even sacrificing human beings. They’re scapegoats in the communities that get killed to assuage the gods and to calm the gods and to bring peace to the community.
One of the great scholars on this particular issue is a man named René Girard, G-i-r-a-r-d, René Girard. I would highly recommend, those of you who are interested and capable, because it’s very, very difficult reading… I try to read it; I don’t understand most of it. Of course, I’m not a scholar; I’m just an amateur and a lover of theology and scholarship, but not one. I always think of the saying of the Desert Father, Poemen, who said, “I’m not a monk, but I’ve known a few.” Well, I’m not a scholar or a theologian, but I’ve known a few. And Girard and Mircea Eliade and others, they show and they even study various societies and cultures that had ritualistic rites that we would call religious, and would have sacrificial rites and so on. And there is almost that innate tendency in human beings, perhaps until the modern era, but even in the modern era it exists in different forms after the Enlightenment, you might say, but you find it everywhere before the so-called Enlightenment. And it’s interesting that the Enlightenment was supposed to be a recapturing of Hellenistic and Roman mores and virtues and so on, and the Roman and Hellenistic and Persian and Egyptian and Assyrian societies were filled with sacrificial worship and the worship of the gods. It was only the dilettantes and the philosophers who came to see that there was one, true higher divinity God that was the God of all the other gods.
If you’re interested in this a little more, in my opinion, you could listen to the podcast about bishops in the Christian Church, when what happened in the fourth century, with Constantine, when he tried to bring together the Roman Hellenistic legacies of the cults and even the Mithraic and Isic and these kinds of cults together with Christianity, and how the two interfaced and how the martyrs of Christianity had to stand over against syncretistic and idolatrous and pagan, and I would even call them religious uses of the Christian sacraments and the Christian services and the Christian worship. But that’s another story for another place.
However, in Genesis already we see that the very first narrative after the Adam and Eve story, which gives all of these genealogies about the children of Adam and Eve, about Seth, who’s now made in the image and likeness of Adam and not in the image and likeness of God, bearing all the wounds and apostasies and failures of Adam in his very humanity, but then you have in Genesis 5, just the names of these various generations, and it even speaks about how, when people began to call upon the name of the Lord or the names of God in that thing, in that particular history, but what we want to see is how it gets to Lamech, and then it gets to Noah. It begins with Cain and Abel, and then we get to Noah.
But what do we have in the story of Cain and Abel, before we get to the time of Noah? Well, we find, definitely find, that from Seth to Enosh we get to the time when the human beings began to call upon the name of the Lord. We don’t know who that Lord is, and so on. But before that, we have the Cain and the Abel story. What we’re going to see, all the way through our reflections—and there’s going to be many, many reflections—is how the Christian understanding of things, the biblical understanding of things, is radically different from the understandings of everybody else; how there’s an absolute uniqueness to the understanding of worship and the understanding of sacrifice and the understanding of humans’ relationship to God in the Judeo-Christian tradition, which is radically different from all the other traditions of spirituality, ritualism, religion, and philosophy on the face of the earth.
Now if we begin to take a look at the story of Cain and Abel, Genesis 4 says that Adam knew Eve his wife, she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord,” and again she bore his brother Abel. Then it says that Abel was a keeper of sheep and Cain a tiller of the ground. And I think that all that wants to say is that there were these two types of people which existed just down to the present day: the agricultural people and those who took care of the animal -type people. In my youth you would even have this clash in America in the cowboy movies between the herders who had the cows and the steers and the horses and so on, and then those who tilled the soil and grew the crops. I would say that this just simply wants to say that there are these two types of humanity, and certainly at the time that’s what you had. You had the tillers of the ground, and you had the keepers of the sheep.
Then it says that both of them brought offerings to God. And we don’t know how or where. I think we can just say that was instinctive in them as one of those memories of Paradise, that there were the gods, there were the powers, and that they had to be related to in some way. But what it said is that Cain brought to God an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought the firstlings of his flock and their fat portion. We will see later that in the Mosaic law, the people of God had to offer the firstfruits of the crops and the firstborn of the animals, and then we’re going to see that Christ himself is going to be considered to be the firstfruit of humanity and the firstborn of the dead and the firstborn of all creation. It’s all going to be fulfilled in Christ.
But then it says: The Lord had regard for Abel’s offering, but for Cain and his offering, he had no regard. And it doesn’t really say exactly why not. Some people think that, well, it was the nature of the offering, but I think that’s not acceptable. Like, that God would accept, you know, the offering of the sheep and not the offering of the earth. It doesn’t seem to be that that’s the point at all. And it seems even that the text tells us that that’s not the point, because when Cain realizes that God does not look favorably upon his sacrifice, his offering… And by the way, that word “offering” is important, because the Divine Liturgy will be filled with that expression, “the offering”: Let us stand aright, let us stand with fear, that we may offer the holy sacrifice, the holy oblation in peace. This is all going to continue to be Christian language in regard to Christ and the Gospel of God in Christ.
But anyway, what we see here is that the Lord says to Cain: Why are you angry? Why has your countenance fallen? That’s an expression in the Bible: your countenance, the expression of your face changes. For example, in the story of the three youths in the fiery furnace, when they refuse to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s idol, it will say about Nebuchadnezzar that the countenance of his face changed, that it altered. I always remember that in Slavonic: [ispolnisye iarosti i zraku litsa ego izmdjnisye]. I remember that from my childhood, how his face changed when they refused to worship the idol in Daniel. But we’re still in Genesis here.
So God says: Why are you angry? Why has your countenance changed, fallen? If you do well, will you not also be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must master it. Then Cain says to Abel his brother, “Let’s go to the field,” after that conversation with God. And when they’re in the field, Cain rises up against his brother Abel and he kills him. He kills Abel because Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable, and his was not.
Then the Lord says to Cain: Where is Abel, your brother? He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” Very famous words. And the Lord said: What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground, and now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive, a wanderer on the earth, and so on.
Well, we will not go any further in that story, but what we have to see is that not only is it Abel’s sacrifice that is accepted, but then Abel himself becomes a sacrificial victim to the wrath of his brother, Cain, who kills him. So Abel offers the proper sacrifice, which is regarded by God, and then gets killed by the brother, whose offering the Lord did not look upon, and that the Lord was not pleased with. So we have to ask the question: What’s going on here? It seems, I would offer to you, that the most convincing answer is a simple one, that Abel offered his offering to God as an offering of praise and gratitude and thanksgiving for the righteousness of God in his life, and that he was not trying to con God in any way. He was not simply trying to use God or abuse God, that the offering was a pure offering. It was not an offering, somehow to appease the deity, to win the divine power over to him, and to try to get God to do what he wanted to do. And it seems to be that that’s what was the case with Cain.
It said: “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” So if Cain was doing well, if he was living righteously, if he was following what the holy Fathers in the Bible will call, St. Paul would call, “the law written within his heart,” if he was following the conscience of his own heart in his behavior and was having a right relationship to God, in other words, sacrificing and honoring and worshiping God and offering what he had to God, whether it was the fruit of the earth or the sheep of the fields, but he would offer it in pureness, in purity, in righteousness, in holiness, or desiring those things at least from God, then it would have been acceptable.
So the claim is that what we seem to have here in the Scripture is the whole problematic of sacrifice and worship. Are we worshiping God for God’s own sake? Are we worshiping God for his own goodness? Are we worshiping him for his gifts to us and his grace and his sharing his divine life with us? Are we doing it with gratitude—or are we making offerings and prayers to God just to try to get God on our side and to manipulate God by offering him things so that he would kind of take care of us, protect us, give us health, long life, and so on, on our own terms as we define it? This theme is going to run through the whole Bible, and it seems to be here already in latent form, in seed form, in the very first story in the Scripture of the children of Adam, Cain and Abel.
This is what we seem to have here. And a wonderful book by an Anglican scholar of the 19th century who got into huge debates with his fellow Western Christians in England, both Evangelical and Church of England, Anglican-types, and so on, because this man—his name was Frederick Dennison Maurice—said that Christian worship had just become pagan again, and people were only coming to worship God to get what they wanted, to appease the deity, to win his favor, usually against enemies, according to their own desires, and it really wasn’t the pure and glorious, true, grateful praise of God. Then he even said that the sacrifice of Jesus was accepted in this way by Protestants, that the sacrifice of Christ was to assuage the anger of God and to get God on our side and to make God deal favorably with us and not to hate us any more. F.D. Maurice, Frederick Dennison Maurice, said this is all paganism. This is not the Bible. This is not the Old Testament nor the New Testament, and he got into huge trouble with people who really hated him.
The title of his book, printed in 1879, which I found almost by accident… Let me just tell you how I found it. Someone gave me as a gift a little book of meditations for every day of the year, a very old book made by Protestants in the 19th century, a very nice book of daily meditations. There are some Catholic offerings in there, Fénelon, Gury, and some others, and Quakers and all kinds of people. But as I would read through this meditation book, the name F.D. Maurice was there several times with what he said, and I always liked what he said. What he said always seemed to really resonate with my Orthodox soul, heart, and mind, and body. So once, when I went to St. Vladimir’s seminary—I was already retired, alas; I wish I had this before I retired—I went to the library to see if there were any books by this F.D. Maurice, and I found a book called The Doctrine of Sacrifice: Deduced from the Scriptures. Here let me read to you what F.D. Maurice said about Cain and Abel. He says: The meaning of these two kind of sacrifices go through the entire history. The confession of dependence and trust on a righteous being from whom life came, which is what made Abel’s offering an acceptable one. And then there was the proud feeling of Cain, that he had something to give, that something God would be pleased with and then God would have to do what he told God to do, which led to discontent when he received nothing in return for his gift, and which even led to the murder of his brother. So this F.D. Maurice says this. He said:
Do not let us say, as some have said, that Abel was a religious man and Cain an irreligious man. That is not the Bible language, either concerning them or their successors. The acts of Cain are just as religious as those of his brother; one brought a sacrifice just as well as the other. We have no reason to suppose, that there may not have been an abundance of religion among those upon whom the flood came [even in the time of Noah]. [He said the point is:] Abel was a righteous man; his sacrifice was offered to a righteous Being [whom we would call God]: it expressed faith in such a Being. Cain was an unrighteous [man]; he believed in power, and nothing else [as the murderer of his brother proves]. His sacrifice was presented to a power, and was designed to win the favor [of the power]. It was not presented to God [as God is]; it was no [real] worship of [God]; it therefore could not be acknowledged by [God].
In other words, it was an impure sacrifice, a self-serving, proud sacrifice. It wasn’t really a sacrifice in spirit and truth. And so this is what we see from the beginning, this clash between these two kinds of religion, so to speak. Or I would even prefer to say, personally, between religion as the fallenness of corrupted beings who simply are trying to appease the deity, win favor from the deity, get God on their side, get God to do what they want him to do, offer sacrifices so God would be constrained to make their life healthy and wealthy and long and victorious over their enemies and so on; that’s not the biblical view from the very first pages of Genesis. That is absolutely not it, as we will see as we will go through the Scripture and as we comment the Divine Liturgy.
The problem is that this kind of approach still exists, and it even exists in the Divine Liturgy in the Orthodox Church. In other words, we could have people who come to the Church and offer the Divine Liturgy, participate in the sacrificial rites of the Church—and other kinds of sacrifices: candles, incense, wheat, whatever, holy water, or whatever—doing all these things to get God to sanctify their life the way they want it to be and not as an offering of mercy and peace and thanksgiving and praise to the God who graciously loves them and to the God who alone protects them over all of their enemies as he sees fit to do, and a righteous God who wants to deal with righteous people, not an idol, not a brute force, not a power, but one who is love, one who is truth. This is what seems to be, right from the beginning in the story of Cain and Abel, the issue. And we will continue to reflect on this as we continue to reflect on the sacrifices in the book of Genesis, particularly that of Noah and then Abraham and then Israel.
But for today, this is sufficient. Just to set the stage, to see what it is that we are dealing with. How does sacrificial worship and the worship of the true God exist outside Paradise? And here, you could almost say that you have the same dialectic, the same problematic, as was within Paradise. Do we worship and love God for his own sake? Do we thank him for who he is and what he does for us? Do we accept what he is and what he does for us as righteous in all its ways? Or are we coming to God, as one Christian mystical writer, Eckhart, once said, as to a cow, to milk him for all that he could give to us? And then to believe that if we burn incense or burn candles or offer wheat or offer bread and wine, and even invoke the name of Christ, that that will constrain God to do what we want him to do. That’s not worship. Or you can say, yes, it is—but it’s religious pagan worship, outside Paradise, of the corrupted human being. It is not worship in spirit and in truth. But we will continue with this the next time.