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What Have You Made?

The Bible opens with those well-known words, “In the beginning God made….” Five more times in the first 25 verses it repeats “And God made….” until we get to vs 26 and we hear, “Let us make man…. And God made man….” Finally, all of this Divine making comes to a grand conclusion with the end of the sixth day and the Sabbath: “And God saw all the things that he had made, and see, they were exceedingly good…. And the heaven and the earth were finished, and all their arrangement (kosmos).” Then, as if answering back in words the overflowing bounty of God’s work, the verb “made” is summoned three more times in the final two verses to remind us that all that is - heavens and earth and seas and creatures teeming with life in all of them - is made by God.

Less known to us is the fact that what comes next in the story is the account of mankind has made. In chapters 3 and 4, immediately following their sin – Eve through the taking of the forbidden fruit, and Cain through killing his brother Abel – God asks them both a very simple question: “What have you made?” Most English translations state the question as, “What have you done?”, an accurate translation except for the fact that it misses the profound connection with Genesis 1 and its emphasis on what God has made. And it is, in the Septuagint, the same verb: "to make". God made the heavens and the earth and the seas and all that is in them as a cosmos, an ordered beauty, teeming with life. But Eve, by disobedience, and Cain, by murder, what have they made? Death.

The Wisdom of Solomon (ch 1), reflecting on this tragic eruption of death into the world, counsels:

Do not zealously seek death by the error of your life

or bring destruction on yourselves by the deeds of your hands,

because God did not make death nor does he delight in the destruction of the living….

For righteousness is immortal.

But the impious by their deeds and words summoned [death];

considering it to be a friend, they wasted away and made a covenant with it,

because they are worthy to belong to its party….

God created human beings for incorruption and made them the image of his own nature,

but through the envy of the devil death entered the world,

and those who belong to his party experience it.

As we traverse the Great Fast few questions are as pertinent to us as that which God asked Eve and Cain: what have you made? As we come to Holy Week and gaze upon the Cross of our Lord, we hear the same question: What have you made? It is the question of the Last Judgment and, indeed, His Cross is the Judgment (John 12.31-32).

It is not too late for us to return to the way of Him Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And His way is His commandments, through which we are blessed, and through which we come to immortality.

With love in Christ,

Fr John

“Give me a word!”

When the Lord – who made our hearts and knows everything – came down to the flesh on earth by causing us to be reborn and saving us who had fallen, he demanded from us what he had placed in our souls from the beginning, at the moment of creation. Indeed, he created man from the beginning in such a way that we might be adequate to the teaching he would give afterwards on earth; this is why now, when he has come to earth, he has given the sort of commandments that correspond to our nature created by him in the beginning.

-St Gregory Palamas

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