Genesis vi. 8-9.

July 5, 2010

But Noe found grace before the Lord.  These are the generations of Noe: Noe was a just and perfect man in his generations, he walked with God.

8-9. “Noe found grace before the Lord.”

St. Ambrose: “Now to condemn the others and to express the divine goodness it is said that Noe found grace before the Lord.  At the same time it is shown that the offense of others does not cast its shadow on a just man, when he is reserved to be a seminary for his whole race, and is praised, not for the nobility of his generation, but for the merit of his justice and perfection” (De Noe et Arca iv. 10.).

St. Bede: “Noe is commended with the same praise as Enoch, namely that he followed the footsteps of the divine command by the firm steps of honorable works.  And so with the world about to perish, the one is carried across into paradise; the other is saved in the ark.  Now Noe was just and perfect, not as the saints will be made perfect in that immortality in which they will be equal to the angels of God, but as men are able to be perfect in this earthly pilgrimage; and accordingly it is added in his generations, to signify that he was just, not according to perfect justice, but according to the justice of his generations, namely those in which Seth, Enos, Enoch and other men of that time were holy and perfect.  A later passage of holy Scripture suggests that his sons Sem and Japheth also belonged to these generations” (In Principium Genesis II. col. 85).

St. Chrysostomus: “‘Even though this whole multitude,’ He says, ‘has fallen into such wickedness, this just man has preserved the spark of virtue, while he speaks to them all at all times and exhorts them to desist from their wickedness, and at the same time has preserved himself free from their plague.’  Moreover, just as they by their evil deeds had provoked the merciful God to wrath, so he, strong in virtue, found grace before the Lord God.  For God is not a respecter of persons.[1] Truly if in such a multitude He finds one man who does what is pleasing to Him, He does not disdain him, but deems him worthy of His care, and has all the more reason to do so, in so far as with so many dragging him towards evil, he has constantly followed the path of virtue” (xxii. 5.).

“See the diligence of Scripture, how it does not contain a single useless syllable.  For after it teaches us the graveness of the wickedness of men, and to bring in the greatnessof the punishment of the wicked, it points out to us him who in such a multitude was able to preserve his virtue pure.  For virtue is admirable even in itself.  But if someone practices it in the midst of those who hinder it, he shows it to be much more admirable.  Therefore holy Scripture speaks of the just man as though marveling at him, living in the midst of men who were to experience the wrath of God, saying: But Noe found grace before the Lord: not simply, found grace, but, before the Lord: to teach us that he had but one aim, to be praised by that eye that knows no sleep; and that he cared nothing for human glory, or shame, or mockery.  For it is very likely that, since he cultivated virtue against the morals of everyone else, he was mocked and derided by all those following wicked ways, who had become accustomed to deride those who shun wickedness and embrace virtue – for this still happens frequently now.  We see many slothful men who do not cannot bear laughter and mockery, but prefer human glory to the glory that is true and immortal, dragged off and allured by the wickedness of other men.  For it is the nature of a strong and constant soul to be able to resist those who struggle to tear him away, and to do nothing to please men, but to fix his eye on that unsleeping eye, and hope for glory from it alone, and to despise the glory of men, and to make human praise or abuse of no account, but to cast them aside as shadows and dreams … It is not a small thing to disdain the mockers and reproachers and the attacks of wits: but this just man did more.  For he disdained, not just ten, or twenty, or one hundred men, but all of human nature, and such myriads.  For it is very likely that they all laughed at him, betrayed, mocked, raged, and perhaps even, if it were possible, wished to tear him to pieces.  For evil always rages against virtue in a wild frenzy: but it not only does not harm it, but by attacking it makes it stronger.  For such is the strength of virtue that it through trial it conquers those who cause it trouble, and when it is attacked, it becomes stronger than its enemies …

“Because Noe constantly gazed with his mind at the eye that cannot sleep or be deceived, he afterwards cared for all these things as if they did not exist.  And certainly it is true that if one is wounded with this love, and stretches to God with his desire, he sees nothing visible, but always thinks of Him whom he desires: night and day, going to sleep and waking up.  So let it not be a wonder to you, if this just man looked at God just once and cared nothing for them who tried to trip him up.  For by showing his eagerness and obtaining divine grace, he was superior to all of them.  For Noe, it says, found grace before the Lord.  Even if he was not pleasing or lovable to the whole race of men that existed then, because he did not wish to step along the same path as them, he nevertheless found favor and grace before Him who searches hearts, and who approved his mind.  And tell me, what harm arose because he was mocked and derided by his fellow men, since He who shaped our hearts, and understands all our works, praised him and crowned him?  And what use would it be for a man, if the whole world admired and praised him, but the Creator of all, and the Judge who cannot be deceived, were to condemn him on that terrible day?  And so, beloved, since we have discovered these things, let us have no thought for the praise of men, nor let us seek to be celebrated by them in any way: but for the sake of Him alone who probes the heart within, let us do the works of virtue, and flee sin” (xxiii. 2, 3.).

“Let us see what God thinks of him [Noe].  This is a rare and new type of genealogy.  Holy Scripture said, These are the generations of Noe, and we pricked up our ears, as though we were about to be told his genealogy, and who his father was, and where his race led, and how he came into this life, and all the other things that it is the custom for those giving genealogies to deal with: but it leaves all these aside, and, higher than the custom of others, says: Noe was a just and perfect man in his generations, and he walked with God.  Did you see the wondrous genealogy?  Noe, it says, was a man.  See how even the common name for human nature is seized for the praise of this just man.  For the others, on account of the carnal pleasures in which they were sunk, had ceased to be men: but Noe, it says, alone among such people preserved the image of man.  A man is such when he practices virtue.  For to have the appearance of a man – eyes, nose, mouth, knees, the other members – is not enough to show that one is a man: for these are only members of the body.  We call him a man, who keeps safe the image of man.  And what is the image of man?  To be rational.  What, then?  Were the others rational?  Truly, what they were was not to be a man; but to give oneself to virtue, to flee vice, to temper unlawful feelings, to obey the Lord’s commands: this is to be a man” (ibid., 3.).

“To show this just man more illustrious to us in his time and in comparison with others, Scripture says: perfect in his generation: in his time, in that perverse generation, which had fallen so far into evil, which did not wish to exhibit the least trace of virtue.  So in that generation, in those days, this just man not only carried virtue before him, but reached the very peak of virtue, perfect and complete in all ways” (ibid., 5.).

“Did you see how greatly useful a proof the description just was for us, and what a treasure of thoughts this wonderful man’s genealogy bore for us?  Let us also, therefore, follow the rule of holy Scripture, and if we wish to give someone’s genealogy, let us not bring in his father, or grandfather, or great-grandfather; let us only uncover the virtue of him whose genealogy it is.  This is the best sort of genealogy.  For what use is it to take your origin from famous and noble parents, if you do not lead a good life?  Or what crime is it, if your parents and ancestors were ignoble and obscure, but you yourself flourish with virtue?” (ibid.).

[1] Acts x. 34.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: