The earth is a stepmother


The earth is a stepmother, O Heavenly Mother, and behaves toward us as a stepmother. She looks upon us as step­children, as strangers from afar, as adopted children - until she makes us her slaves.

We labor for her day and night, and for this she pays us wages with her miserable possessions: sin, sickness, and death.

Whoever only lives by her bread, will never know satiety.1 Rather, the more he eats, the hungrier he feels. And the more he dances to her tune, the more he will be overcome by grief.2

He is like a beast that falls into a deep pit and then digs ever lower and deeper in the earth in order to save himself. And even as he moves further away from salvation, he thinks that salvation is near. Truly, such are the sons of men, who toil hard over the earth, and assess the nearness of salvation on the basis of their toiling.

To what avail is your swimming in ashes, ever deeper and deeper? O sons of men, your salvation has been left behind you.

You say: "We need dig just a little bit deeper, and we shall come out into the light." But I say: "Just a little deeper into the earth, and you will be further from the light."

You say: "We need only complete certain tasks tomorrow and the day after, and the kingdom of goods will be con­structed." But I tell you: "All that you have constructed of earth, will crash down upon your head, and your tomorrow and day-after-tomorrow will again be only a painful lifting of your head beneath the ruins."3

Your fathers used to mutter the same words of consolation to themselves, and they died off amid the ruins and amid the unfinished repairs.

You need ladders, and nothing other than ladders; so that you can climb out of the hole into which you have fallen, so that you can flee from the cold embrace of your stepmother.

A virgin is that ladder.4 She lights a heavenly candle in the midst of your darkness and shows the way. She is clairvoyant, and she knows that which you have forgotten. Alienated from earth, she has been befriended by heaven. Disrobed of dark­ness, she is clothed in light. Through her Heaven peers into us. Through her we can see heaven.

She is cautious with regard to your counsels; rectitude is in her mouth; heavenly wisdom is in her womb; a reverend flame is in her heart.

Out of her come the healer and the cure. From her thighs come the guide and the way.

She is not a stepmother but a mother, and does not promise her son more than she can give. Her giving is her promise, while the giving of the stepmother consists of promises.

The stepmother is earth, O Heavenly Mother, and she behaves toward us as a stepmother. With a black veil she conceals You from our eyes, so that we may not see You and think that You are dead. Therefore generation after generation snuggles up to the stepmother, and kisses her harsh hand.

Flash Your face, O Mother, and the stepmother will flee, and the slaves will become sons.5

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1. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4).
2. Luke 7:32.
3. Luke 20:17-18.
4. Gen. 28:12.
5. Gal. 3:26-29 and 4:21-31.

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"As the Prophets saw, as the Apostles taught, as the Church has received, as the Teachers express in dogma, as the inhabited world understands together with them, as grace illumines, as the truth makes clear, as error has been banished, as wisdom makes bold to declare, as Christ has assured, so we think, so we speak, so we preach, honoring Christ our true God, and his Saints, in words, in writings, in thoughts, in sacrifices, in churches, in icons, worshiping and revering the One as God and Lord, and honoring them because of their common Lord as those who are close to him and serve him, and making to them relative veneration. This is the faith of the Apostles; this is the faith of the Fathers; this is the faith of the Orthodox; this faith makes fast the inhabited world."
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