In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
We are all probably familiar with the story of Noah from the Old Testament. We recall how God spoke to him alone of the coming Flood, because of his righteousness. We recall how Noah built a huge ship, the Ark, how God commanded him to put animals and in living things inside it, so that they would not perish, and how alone among mankind he and his family did not drown, but lived, making him our common forefather. And we recall too how when the waters subsided, the Ark was left high and dry somewhere on Mt Ararat.
There are some people who are much taken with the literal facts of this story. Thus, over the years several expeditions have been sent out to Mt Ararat in order to find the Ark or fragments of it. Others have searched the depths of the Black Sea, hoping to find the remains of some city or civilisation from before the age of Noah. Yet others, archaeologists, have delved into the layers of earth in the Middle East, looking for evidence of the Flood in a great level of silt.
Although these investigations have a certain human interest, as Orthodox Christians, what interests us more than all this is the spiritual meaning of the story of the Flood.
First of all, we note that because Noah was pure in heart God spoke to his heart, he and his family were saved.
Secondly, we see that the Flood is a sign of baptism, our cleansing and salvation from the corruption of the earth.
Thirdly, we understand that the Ark Itself is a symbol of the Church, the Ark of Salvation, in Which we can weather the floods of the passions of this world, riding out the storms of this world.
Today’s Gospel may remind us of many signs and symbols in the story of Noah:
The disciples in a boat are ourselves.
The Sea of Galilee is the sea of life.
The night in which they sail is the darkness of our ignorance.
The ‘boisterous wind’ which causes the storm, is the attacks of the demons.
The storm is the trials and tribulations of this life.
And the fourth watch when Christ comes is just before dawn. For the first watch, in the darkness of the night, is the covenant with Abraham. The second watch is the commandments given to Moses. The third watch is the Prophets who foretold the Coming of Christ. And the fourth watch is Christ Who comes Himself.
Christ can walk on the waters because He made the waters, He is the Creating Hand of God the Father; By Him ‘all things were made’. And as soon as He enters the boat, the wind calms. The flimsy craft of human undertakings, ‘tossed with waves’, becomes with Christ the unsinkable Ark of Salvation, the Church of Which Christ is the Head. And with Christ we all, like Peter, are saved and confess Him: ‘Of a truth Thou art the Son of God’.
Today, Christ speaks to the heart of each one of us: ‘O Thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?’