ALIVE: Chapter 20 - Circle Back to Meaning - 40 days


As I circle back to the meaning of the Flood, the fact that God told Noah that it would rain for exactly 40 days, as it did, I notice that this was the very first, and the first of three, phenomenal 40 day periods in history.

It took 40 days of rain to wipe out life in the Flood. Moses visited with God on the mountaintop for 40 days, during which time he transcribed Genesis and received the Ten Commandments. In the third phenomenal 40 day period, Jesus fled to the desert after being baptized by John to prepare for His ministry and kickstart His mission to restore the God:man relationship and consequently immortality to humankind.

It takes 365 days for the earth to completely revolve around the sun, but it took only forty days, five weeks plus five days of time on three separate occasions for God to construct a solid stairway to heaven with three landings of time for humanity to catch up.

Noah. On the first 40-day stairway God gradually and systematically erased that which He created.

Moses. On the second set of risers, God introduced Himself to a man. The meeting was long and specific. He wanted to tell mankind, through this man Moses, what He was like, so mankind could consciously and willingly maintain His image and likeness.

With the first forty days God erased, with the second He drew a clear outline of what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God. God chose Israel's big family to be the Control Group. Having decided not to erase by flood again, evil and wickedness in humankind would be fought with the will of man subjecting itself, one person at a time, to the will of God in a deliberate, conscious, and knowing way.

Jesus. God Himself came to earth, fully God and also fully human, to apply to the whole from the Control Group (the Jews) the principles of combatting evil and wickedness with the individual's own yielded will and desire.

As with Moses, God-Jesus convened for forty days of testing by Satan who repeatedly tempted Jesus to misalign His human will to the divine will of God the Father. The stakes were the highest. Satan failed.

God, as Jesus, was to not just tell humankind what He was like, and thus how to be like Him, but He was to be the model for the perfect man that God intended mankind to be.

For three 40-day periods, God painstakingly helped humankind to be what He intended in the beginning. God wanted sons and daughters, but exactly because mankind is like him, intelligent, creative, and emotional, and willful, it would take a slow gradual, but more thorough, process to receive true children of God. No hurry. He has time.

Lent. To extract the most from the forty day Lenten period, a person should consciously and deliberately climb these stairs.

1. Erase evil from your world by avoiding or ignoring it. See Lent as a fresh start. The Noah steps.
2. Learn. Read whatever you can that teaches you the Will of God. The Moses steps.
3. Practice overcoming the temptation to misalign your will with God's Will. The Jesus Christ steps.

What doesn't matter: The color of our skin, our earthly achievements, our wealth or poverty, or our health, our education or our talents, our social network, none of these worldly aspects of a person matter one whit to God.

What matters. Our willingness to obey God's commands, and to conform to the image of Christ, our Model.

Forty days is only a brief period of time, five weeks and five days, but as history has shown, it can be a most unique and meaningful period.

ALIVE Chapter 16 - Stopped

The ark wandered aimlessly for 150 days.

The tenth month of being in the ark was not much different than the second month or the seventh. The 40th-day celebration not only marked the end of the rains, a very joyous event, but the beginning of a protracted time at sea. With neither a date of arrival, nor an end in sight Noah and his family had to adjust their minds and hearts to accept a monotonous present. For all they knew, they would be hostage in the ark for years. God had told Noah about the 40 days, but said nothing about how much longer they would have to live in the smelly congested houseboat. It seemed impossible that the earth could ever absorb the bottomless ocean they were floating on. What they needed was steady, unswerving faith. The kind of blind but hearty faith that comes without any encouragement at all, for no one knew what to expect except more drifting around the oceanic earth. In these days God never spoke, not even to Noah.

Nevertheless every morning at sunrise the family gathered to talk and chant to God, hoping that their melodious voices would draw His attention and He would tell them what to expect. After prayer and worship-time, they did their chores, cooked and cleaned, and tended the animals. The routine was vital to their mental health and to the stability of their community.

Every night the skies were illuminated by millions of stars and one bright moon that changed its shape from round to crescent to help them mark time. The beautiful skies that replaced the 40 days of thick clouds was a gift that helped the family endure the long months after the rains ended. Japheth was the time keeper; every morning he placed his hash mark on the wall and every evening he drew the shape of the moon.

Following the party of the fortieth day, the food rations were cut so that they only ate a little once a day, just enough to keep them alive. After the party, they stopped the fourth and sixth day fasts because there was so little eating that to skip a day seemed suicidal, and the last thing any of them wanted was to court death. Even the animals grew bony and lethargic. Besides, the fast had accomplished its purpose of helping to transform each of them into children of God. Contrary to normal human relations, these eight persons never fought or bickered with each other. Was it because they were too weak to argue, or that it seemed too futile? Or was it because God has gifted them with the spirit of peace, to compensate them for all the physical and emotional suffering He knew they would have to endure. The phrase, 'they were in this boat together' probably started on the ark. I imagine Noah being the first to say that to his family to remind them that the miserable conditions, the growing poverty as they used up their resources, and everything each of them felt and thought, the fright, the loneliness, the despair and boredom was shared alike by all.

All of the animals and all of the people were somber with an emptiness that all the water in the world could not fill. The boredom was so heavy that even the blazing sunshine could only lift their spirits a meter high and only for a few moments every now and then.

During those hollow weeks God drifted away from the ark. We know this because in Genesis 8 we read that He came back from wherever He went. It says, “God ‘remembered’ Noah and all the wild animals and all the domestic animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided; the fountains of the deep and the windows of heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained and the waters gradually receded from the earth. At the end of one hundred fifty days the waters had abated; and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.”

The ark rested on Ararat in the seventh month.

Without warning there was a thunderous sound of the wood of the ark clashing with rock. Man and beast alike fell to the ground and sat there in fear, waiting for the imagined break into the floor to open the way for the entire ocean to enter their home, their world, and swallow it up. In reality the landing was fairly smooth and without trauma, as if the entire ark found its docking station and clipped itself in.

“We stopped!” exclaimed Japheth to make sure that everyone knew the obvious, as if they couldn’t know unless Japheth told them.

“I know,” replied Coochie who had fallen by his side. She stood up and dusted herself off and then gave Japheth a big hug saying, “Isn’t this terrific!”

Soon everyone, from wherever they were and from whatever they had been doing to pass the dull time, scurried up to the deck to see what happened, and saw nothing. The ark was perched on something, but they could not see what. All they saw for miles and miles around was ocean, but something was different. They were not moving.

“It’s windy up here; I’m cold.” said Aurelia shivering with teeth clicking rapidly “Can we go inside now? We have seen enough.”

“Of course my dear,” replied Noah. “Come family.”

Everyone descended to the dark gathering room. The window hadn't been opened for a very long time as the blowing cold winds were not at all welcome. Nevertheless, without the ability to see that they were still, and even though waves were incessantly hitting the sides and jarring the ark, they could sense that they were no longer traveling.

The new sensation of stillness was odd. Despite the slamming waves that shook the ark, it continued to remain firmly in place.

“Let’s sit in a circle.” suggested Lazaria who took Shem’s hand and sat on the floor cross-legged. Sha-me walked over to Noah and took his hand and together they sat down next to Lazaria. Soon the circle was complete.

Hand in hand, feeling the subtle vibrations of one another the family sat quietly with each pair of eyes sometimes open, sometimes closed, rhythmically alternating sips of light and darkness, and of visual and inner contemplation making a moving picture of humanity absorbing the new sensation of being in a fixed location. This sense of location, so new and fresh was appreciated as man had never before and never since appreciated being fixed in place. No one even wanted to get up and walk, or yet cared to know where (s)he was. An hour, maybe two hours passed in pure inactivity and quiet contemplation.

Ham was the first to pull himself up to his feet. “I hear the cows calling to be milked. Aurelia, come gather the eggs.”

“Alright, Ham.” She replied softly, hating to break the silence. 'How Ham loved his eggs' she thought to herself.

In ones and twos the family soon resumed their normal activities, and within a week they were all accustomed to the stationary ark, however, the wind that was causing the waters to subside continued to blow hard. The still ark enveloped by winds and choppy seas presented the family with yet another weird and threatening environment. Going on deck to survey the scene was not for the especially slight, lest the wind scoop him or her up and throw him or her into the sea. The women learned fast to stay below. The men were forced out of necessity to bring down fresh water from the rapidly diminishing cisterns.

The three brothers started to enjoy being together away from the others to talk about their plans for the future. They would certainly go their separate ways hoping to find enough land to divide for each family. They wondered when the land would be arable enough to farm. They wondered about the condition of the seeds they had brought on board.They also had to divide the animals. After being in such close quarters for so long, the whole concept of dividing was equally frightening and welcome. With the same enthusiasm that they had to build the ark, each brother wanted to plan what needed to be done to begin life anew on the earth. Homes needed to be built, or carved out of caves, gardens planted. But first they needed to find food for the animals that they needed to help them. Horses for traveling, the cows and chickens needed to be strengthened as their production had fallen way off. There was so much to be done once they landed, whenever that would be. Yet, there were so many unknowns about what they would find, it was difficult to make plans. How would they all get down from this mountain, and how far would they have to travel to find flatlands? The brothers were brimming questions, but also with hope and anticipation.

In the tenth month mountaintops appear.

After three long monotonous months, the stability eventually grew old too. The waters were being absorbed so slowly, and the winds so fierce that rarely did anyone venture on deck, and the window was never opened in a futile attempt to retain whatever heat they could muster inside the ark. Change was so gradual that no one was immediately aware of the growing appearance of land beneath them, or the appearance of other mountaintops.

When the first mountaintop was spotted in the distance (by Shem) everyone else became self-appointed watchmen stealing away to the deck for a quick look around. As it turned out the ark had landed on a wide and flat area, obviously designed by God for this purpose. It wasn’t long before they noticed that there was a growing ring of earth beneath them. But more exciting was the evolving skyline. More and more mountaintops soon popped up here and there. Every morning presented the family with a brand new view and a spectacular sunrise. The brothers worried that land suitable for farming or ranching could be a long journey away.

For the following five months, morning, noon and night the chatter was only about the future. The women who surprisingly did not conceive during the entire ordeal on the ark were ready to bear children, many many children would be needed to begin the world again.

40 days after spotting other mountains Noah sent out a raven.

“What are you doing here father?” asked Lazaria who was visiting the birds when Noah came in.

“I am looking for a raven. Do you know where they are?”

“Yes, of course father.” she replied and led him there. A raven flew over and perched on her shoulder. Lazaria looked at Noah and smiled proudly with her sparkling green eyes.

“Excellent,” said Noah. You two come with me.” He led them out of the bird room and into the gathering room, the raven glued to Lazaria's shoulder. When they arrived, they were greeted by Sha-me and Shem. With Shem's help Noah opened the window. Lazaria and the raven watched quietly. As the window slowly opened, because of the force of the wind and Noah's diminished strength, a fresh and fragrant breeze rushed in to envelope the humans. Faces looked away in protection, but the fresh air smelled divine.

Noah reached over to Lazaria’s shoulder and held out his arm. The raven instinctively fluttered over. Then Noah extended his raven-laden arm out the window and said, “Mr. Raven go and find us some land. The raven flew away. Noah and Lazaria watched until the bird was only a speck of black in the distance.

“I wonder what he will find.” said Lazaria wistfully while Noah and Shem closed the window.

At that moment Ham and Japheth walked in. “There you are father, we have been looking for you. Do you suppose there is a way we can pull some water from the sea into the cisterns? We are getting mighty low.” Listening to themselves ask for water sounded absurd, but the truth was that they found themselves surrounded by ocean in the distance with very little in their reach as the waters were rapidly subsiding. The menfolk had a real puzzle on their hands. The narrow strip of land surrounding the ark created a barrier between them and the water they needed.

After the men went off to solve their new engineering challenge, Sha-me went to see if the cows or goats had any more milk to give her family. Lazaria stayed and tidied up the gathering room. She thought more about the raven and where he had gone. How she longed to follow him. That evening while the family was gathered for their meager supper, they talked about why the raven had not returned.

"It probably froze to death." said Ham.

"Like we may soon." added Coochie.

It was true; the family noticed a rapid decrease in temperature since they landed. The window stay closed all the time. Inside everyone had on nearly every article of clothing they owned to try to stay warm. Even hands were wrapped in cloth. The fingers and toes, especially of the women were excruciatingly painful. Noah and his sons rigged up an indoor fire pit to keep them warm. Fortunately there was plenty of dung they could use for fuel, but controlling the fire and removing the smoke were the biggest challenges. They could no longer empty the latrine into the sea because of the narrow ring of land that surrounded them, so they left it inside.

The anticipation of leaving the ark was mounting to a frenzied level. How they wanted to be out of this prolonged confinement. It had been so much longer than anyone expected. And so much more difficult. Only Sha-me and sometimes Noah felt nostalgic with thoughts of losing the closeness of their family.

Seven nights had gone by and still no sign of the raven's return. Throughout each day someone ventured up on deck to look around for new mountains and the raven, finding one, but not the other.

One afternoon Lazaria approached Noah in his compartment and asked, "Father, why don't you send out this dove?" Lazaria held out a pure white dove that nested in the palm of her hands. "I know he will return if he can." she added with a smile of assurance.

"Alright my dear, let's give him a try." replied Noah and he got up and lead them to the gathering room window. Japheth and Ham were also in the room and watched while Noah opened the window. The dove immediately flew out of Lazaria's hand as if in a desperate escape.

The winds weren't so harsh that day so they left the window open to air out the room.

The family went about their work, some hopeful, some doubtful that the dove would return.

At the end of the day, while gathered at the supper table, the dove surprised them all when it flew in through the window with a fresh olive leaf in his beak.

"I knew he would come back to me!" exclaimed Lazaria gleefully.

"Hallelujah!" shouted everyone else in unison.

"Look, it has something something in his beak! What is it?" asked Aurelia.

The dove landed on Lazaria's shoulder as if to present her with his gift. She reached up and took the dove in her hands and then pulled out the gift.

"It looks like a leaf from an olive tree!" announced Lazaria.

"I wonder where on earth an olive tree could have grown?" said Aurelia.

"Or survived the flood," added Shem.

"The Lord is merciful." stated Noah. "He has heard our cries, and is showing us that the end is near."

"It has been so long since we had any olive oil for light." said Sha-me.

"Or for food," added Ham.

Sha-me echoed Noah when she said, "Kyrie *Eleison, the Lord's mercy is great and He is greatly to be praised. [*elei is the Greek word for olive. Eleison meaning mercy, also means olive. Mercy and olive leaf are interchangeable because of this moment in history when the dove showed them God's mercy with an olive leaf.] Forevermore the olive oil will be a symbol of God's light arising out of deep darkness to be merciful to us who sit in desperation and want. This dove has given us hope. This dove was sent back to us from our God with the message that life will return to our land. One little olive leaf, just one little olive leaf has shown us that our relief is nigh. God, who sees our suffering is giving us mercy and hope."

The family rejoiced again that evening, perhaps not to the degree of the 40th day celebration because of their severe weakness. After all, they had been in the ark seven times forty days. The ark had taken them from the depths of evil and wickedness to the heights of spiritual unity with their God and maker back down to the very brink of physical life. Each man and his wife were holding on to breath and heartbeat by a thin red thread.

"Please, may we get out now father and see if we can find that olive tree?" begged Shem.

"No!" replied Noah surprised to hear himself say that so forcefully.

"Why not?!" cried Coochie sobbing.

"Patience family. If the dove could have found a place to nest he would have not come back."

"But the raven didn't return father!" begged Coochie.

"Besides," responded Noah, "the Lord has not given me the sign yet. We must trust Him. Let us wait for the waters to subside even more. Please keep in mind my children, that when we leave, it will be forever and perhaps harsher conditions than we are experiencing in here will confront us. Let us spend one more week, one holy week, seven days, in prayer and preparation for our departure from this ark of our salvation. Sha-me, My dear, let us take inventory of all the food we have left. We will need some when we get out."

Ham said, "I can tell you now that it isn't very much father. I will help you mother."

ALIVE: Chapter 15 - The Second Sabbath

Everyone including the recently resurrected Lazaria rushed to the rooftop of the ark to look around at the crystal clear air that surrounded them. One after the other lifted the palms of his and her hands above their heads and waited for raindrops to fall on them, but not a droplet was to be felt. It was hard to grasp that they could stand outside and not be pelted with rain. Coochie thought that she was dreaming. Lazaria was speechless. Sha-me was thrilled. It stopped raining. It actually stopped raining. Surely, thought Ham, it will start again soon. Aurelia, read his mind and said, "No Ham, father told us that it would only rain for forty days. Look around, there is nothing but ocean as far as our eyes can see." Japheth added, "What else is there for the rain to do? It has already swallowed everything and everyone we knew."

Any of you readers who has been at sea in an ocean liner can recall the scene of an oceanic earth. Only this boat had no destination. It wandered aimlessly pushed by the wind and pulled by the moon's waves. There was no land on the entire planet where a two or four legged mammal or reptile, or even an insect could go to run or smell the roses, or eat the roses. There were no roses. Just ocean, ark, animals, and nine Persons, including God, in the whole universe.

"Let's celebrate!" exclaimed Sha-me.

"Time to get my bucket of wine! Now where did I hide that thing?" said Noah with a mischievous grin.

"I know!" said Ham.

"How do you know?" replied Noah bruskly. "There had better be some left."

"There is plenty left father. I'll get it." Ham scurried away to avoid any further interrogation with Noah at his heels.

Lazaria chimed in,"Shem, can we make music? I mean with instruments?"

"Sure darling, I started to make a drum a while back. I don't think it would take much to finish it. Japheth, come and help me. I think we could even knock out a flute. Let's try. How about if we plan for the party time to begin at sunset?"

Shem and Japheth went off to make musical instruments.

The ladies went to clean up the great room and decide what foods to prepare. There was still some dried fruit and nuts, but they had to be careful thought Sha-me because they didn't have any idea of how long the food had to last. Aurelia went to the hen room to check for fresh eggs.

Noah followed Ham to the stash of wine and was relieved to see that Ham had not found his hiding place. Ham must have discovered someone else's hiding place. Perhaps Japheth's. Noah sipped the wine and told Ham to take it to the gathering room, then went to fetch his own better vintage.

Ham chuckled when he saw his father come into the room with another bucket. After setting down their spirits the men remembered to go tend the animals stalls and feed them. Noah told Ham to select a few of the cutest ones to come and celebrate with them. The little newborn lamb was sure to be one, and there were several friendly small dogs and cats.

"Ham, wash up our party-animals, while I go to the gathering room and repair the window to stay open." ordered Noah.

"Okay father." replied Ham while playing tug-a-rope with a spaniel.

Miraculously, by sunset everyone was ready. The table was strewn with delicacies. Lazaria, Shem and Japheth entered the gathering room ceremoniously with Lazaria chanting in the lead and her musical accompaniments following in lock step.

Behind the band and singer marched in Ham with his sparkling clean and sweet-smelling menagerie. The little animals were obviously joyous too, prancing and pawing at each other. If an animal could ever smile, these surely did that day. The family all felt a New Year's Eve type thrill of blissful wonderment.

With repetitive strokes of cheer the family was erasing from their minds the days of fasting, the horror of the dead and dying, the grief of abandoning their friends and family. All hearts faced forward wrapped in hope and optimism. Solidarity with each other made each man and woman feel as if he or she too experienced Lazaria's resurrection.

God looked upon His joyful family and saw a thin motley crew, but He knew that they were stronger within than ever before. Stronger than any human had ever been. He was proud of them, each and every one of them made God proud to be called his and her Father. God too wanted to forget the early scenes of the dead and dying. God witnessed the carnage much more than anyone else and it troubled Him, but now was the time to put all that aside. He even wanted to forget the death of Lazaria which troubled Him more than any other death; it was a reminder to Him that no matter how much He loved the human, the curse of death would not could not, at least not yet, be undone.

God wanted to contribute to the festivities, so He gave the family a spectacularly stunning and luminous sunset, with a full moon on the other side of the sky. He blew away all the clouds, opening the heavens to a million stars that filled the evening sky with light for their party. Then God tapped Noah to be the first to notice. Noah casually caste his eyes over his shoulder through the window and stopped in utter amazement at the beauty of the evening sky. When at last he calmed down enough to speak, he pointed up and said, "Look!"

Eight faces looked up at the blazing sunset and gasped in unison. Their faces blossomed into big smiles knowing Who painted the sky for them. No one had experienced such sheer joy before.

After admiring the sunset, everyone at the party resumed their chatter; they had fun playing with the little animals and danced as they never danced before to rhythms pounded out by Ham on the drums, with Japheth on the flute. Shem's accentuated the rhythm with his new high-pitched hollow sticks. Playing the sticks did not prevent Shem from wondering about the coincidence of Lazaria's resurrection with the end of the 40 days of rain. He knew that everything God does is meaningful and purposeful. It was a puzzle that he wanted to solve.

God knew that Shem would not be able to solve this riddle because he could not see the day millennia in the future when Christ would ride into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, as His mother thus rode into Bethlehem the day before He was born into this world. A secret, quiet procession followed by a loud public one, yet both on the back of a lowly donkey. Shem could not know about the foreshadowing of victory, the small entrance, that this 40th day, this minor resurrection represented for humankind. He could not know that the darkest days of humanity, even the darkest days for God Himself lay ahead.

Shem continued to wonder and marvel. He wondered that, if God was one of them, one of the nine of them, as his father said He was, then Shem wondered if God felt the pain of separation, of the death of Lazaria. Did God weep for her too? Shem believed that he felt dead without Lazaria, and he wondered if God felt dead too when Lazaria stopped chanting her alleluias forever? Shem pondered these things without conclusion while hammering out his rhythm on the sticks.

How tragic is the death of even one beloved person? Shem knew that someday each person had to die. After all, that was the curse on Adam and Eve that could not be undone, until someone, perhaps it would have to be God himself, opened the path to the Tree of Life.

He sensed that the lesson of the ark was not that they would never die, but unity with God, the creator and with each other, loving God as they loved each other, with patience and care, forgiveness when needed, gave the humans a power to come back from death, to overcome death, just as Lazaria demonstrated to them. It was a lesson he hoped never to forget no matter how long he lived after the ark experience. 'How God must have suffered when Lazaria left us,' thought Shem.

Shem's thoughts of Lazaria's death turned to death itself. What really died, once and for all time thought Shem was the world with all of those angry people doing whatever they could to prevail and exploit each other. That is what died, thought Shem, because it never really lived. Those people didn't understand life because they didn't understand God. They were so much like the animals that had to die. The purification period that they went through during the past forty days was not an end in itself but contributed to their ability to see clearly, to comprehend the mystery of resurrection of life in God. Every evil person died, but because Lazaria was full of love and self sacrifice, she could be resurrected, even from the death of her body.

Shem was sure that had they eaten and caroused as they did in the days before entering the ark, they would not have been capable of uniting with God as they did. He remembered when he, like Ham, was focused on physical pleasure. How could an animal experience the ecstasy of the realization of the power of God within it? How could an animal, so different from a human comprehend the possibility of immortality?

ALIVE - Chapter Eleven, Week 3, The Midway

"How long have we been in here Coochie?" asked Aurelia in a slow lethargic manner.

"Truly, I don't know Aurelia. It seems that the rain has washed away time along with everything we ever knew. Come, we will be late for the prayer. I don't want Father Noah to scold us again."

The young ladies hurried to the prayer room. They arrived to find everyone else there. Sha-me, Ham, and Japheth were huddled around the window gazing at the scene outside through sheets of rain. The window was not on the same side as the door so they could not see the small crowd trying to break in, nor did they hear their desperate shouts over the sounds of animals and of rainfall. What brought gasps of shock and sorrow were dead babies and small animals floating on what appeared to be one meter of water and getting deeper by the minute.

"Come," shouted Noah. "The ladies are here now. Get away from the window. Let us not allow our eyes to deceive our hearts."

One by one Sha-me and her sons turned away from the window to face Noah. Noah wondered if he should move their gatherings to another room to avoid the scenes of horror that were going to get worse. He could see the distress on their faces and a few tears. He would have to remember to ask God what he should do or say to protect his family from overwhelming grief.

"Children, Sha-me." began Noah, "Let us be reminded that the Lord God is delivering us from death to love and serve Him." Then, realizing that he had to address their grief head on, he added, "The sins of the fathers were visited on their children. Had the children lived in that wretched world they too would become evil and wicked, for they would have been trained in the ways of their world. God is without time. He sees the future as clearly as we see the present. These infants floating by our window are being spared from that evil world as much as we are. This is not a problem for us to solve. Trust Him. Let us begin with praise. Lazaria, lead us in your Alleluia."

Tears streamed down lady-eyes as the family chanted. Over the course of the last few days their harmony had gotten better and better. The men and ladies composed an Alleluia chant with base, tenor, alto and soprano pitches that seemed to resonate throughout the room somehow masking the loud sounds of animals and the incessant drone of beating rainfall so that all they heard was the worshipful chant of their lonely family.

When the Alleluias died down, Noah asked his small congregation to share moments of thanksgiving that they experienced since the day before.

Ham was the first to speak up, "Father, yesterday on the strict fast day, I didn't become as ravenously hungry as I had last week, and I am grateful for that."

Lazaria reported, "Early this morning a red bird managed to find its way in here through the rooftop stairwell. I led it into the bird room and was filled with joy that it could be saved. What a mighty bird it must be to survive the torrential rains! I hope you are not displeased Father."

"That's fine Lazaria, but no more. I'm sure we cannot host one more being."

Lazaria nodded her head in acceptance. Noah looked around the room for more expressions of gratitude.

Shem raised his hand and said, "I am grateful that my wife and I are in here, but I don't know why I am being saved. I feel so unworthy." Then Shem hung his head low. Noah looked over at Japheth to see if he had anything to add.

Japheth seemed overwhelmed with emotion and speechless. He simply nodded his head to confirm Shem's feeling of unworthiness. Noah did not force him to speak. He simply moved on to the next part. "Who would like to make a confession this morning?" Noah looked around the room and honed in on Japheth who was trying to pull himself together, as closed-mouth as ever. Japheth was not yet ready to confess his crime, but thought that perhaps he should think of something to say as practice.

Noah continued to scan his clan and stopped at Sha-me. Perhaps, he thought, if the matriarch confessed something the youngsters would open up. "Sha-me, do I sense that you have something say?" he asked to elicit a response. Sha-me thought hard and finally said, "Noah, I have questioned God, why He would kill everyone. I confess that even as we prepared for this great and awful day, I never believed it would happen as you said."

Coochie and Aurelia nodded in agreement, the others who felt that way, didn't dare admit it.

Noah accepted the confession without comment for he thought that it wasn't his place to speak for God. He scanned the small room some more and when he had given everyone a chance to bravely step forward, he moved on. "Now that we have come to the Lord with thankfulness and contrition, we are prepared to ask for His favor."

Lazaria was the first to speak again as she blurted out, "Lord, let them know in their hearts why this destruction is happening to them. Let them see how much their actions have offended You, and let them die with sorrow and not with anger. Please Lord, hear my prayer."

Coochie added thinking still about a dead child she saw floating by, "Lord, I pray for my nephew, that he may die in peace, and for my brother. Let him know that I forgive him for his criticism of us."

That supplication was accentuated by more nodding heads.

Ham was quick to add, "Lord, please make sure we have enough to eat, and enough food for the animals too."

Japheth looked over at Ham and snapped, "Ham, you asked that yesterday, and the day before. Do you think God forgot?"

""Shut-up Japheth, I don't remember Father telling us what we could not ask. You think of something else."

Taking the challenge Japheth said, "Lord, help me to become a better man, to be able to hear you speak to me as Father does, and not to be like Ham who only thinks about his stomach!"

Noah stepped in. "Japheth! May I remind you that you are both in this ark together! You will rise and sink as one. Become a better man by realizing that you and your brother must face each other. You must turn your heart for that to happen." Japheth heard his father's words and decided to think about their meaning later.

At that Sha-me beseeched the almighty God to give them peace. "Lord, we are full to the brim with conflicts, with bickering and anger. Please Lord, if you can, instill in our hearts patience and calm. Let us do whatever each, with his own will can to avoid offending the other. Lord, I don't know what makes us want to show ourselves better than our brother or sister, but whatever that is, can You please make it go away so we eight can create a peaceful new world?"

Noah smiled proudly to his wife and added, "Can any of us ask for more?"

It wasn't that they had no supplications that Shem and Aurelia didn't speak up; it was because they wanted to get on with their day. There were animals to feed and washing to be done.

Noah ended the service exalting God as Lord over them and over all of nature, letting Him know that they were grateful to be in the ark, and that indeed they all wanted to evolve into true children of His. They glorified God together saying every nice thing they could think of to say to Him.

Shem was the first to leave the prayer room. On his way out he glanced over at the window and saw a stream of small dead bodies of babies and little furry animals floating by. He averted his eyes away quickly, but the tragic sight had already burrowed itself deep in his soul. Shem headed straight for the farm animal room to feed the lambs, cows, and goats and to clean out their stalls. When he entered the room, the animals were all glad to see him. They walked up close to greet Shem, each voicing their greeting in their own way according to their kind. Shem patted on its head as many as he could reach. He had grown very fond of these animals with a particular fondness for a few of the happier and funnier characters. While the animals were busy feasting on the food Shem brought them, he went about with his cleaning chores.

Shem liked the mindless cleaning work for the opportunity it afforded him to contemplate without interruption. On this morning he reflected on how suddenly the waters ended the lives of so many, how abruptly it ceased their joys and sorrows, their love for each other, especially the babies with their mothers and fathers. To be spared that sudden end of all that he knew and loved was a gift from God. To be alive in the midst of pervasive death united Shem with the source and essence of life as nothing else could. It seemed to him that the deadly rain removed Shem's own alienation from God. This salvation from the waters of death that everyone else on earth suffered somehow purged within Shem his own selfishness, his own hubris. It was as if the waters of death remitted his sin once and for all. He mysteriously felt that God pardoned him from all that he had done to displease Him before this awesome day.

Shem could feel himself changing; he sensed the process by which God was making him into a different person with a new perspective, a gentler person, a more patient person than he had ever been before. He thought about his mother's prayer. 'What was it that made one person want to outshine the other?' He no longer wanted to outshine anyone, he wanted to merge in love with everyone, to be distinct but similar and complementary. Had God answered his mother's prayer? Was he actually losing whatever it was that created in him conflict with others? No longer did Shem care only about himself, but he was beginning to sense a closeness with God and with his family, a unity with them, that he had never experienced before and didn't know was possible. Shem's eyes filled with tears as he wished that those dead infants he saw could have been transformed as he was, instead of being killed. He wished that he had been thus transformed as an infant, instead of after so many years of flailing around as part of such a broken world.

Shem looked forward to sharing what he felt to be his revelations with Lazaria that evening before they fell asleep.

Meanwhile, Lazaria had gone directly to her favorite bird room to check in on the new guest, to make sure the little red bird had been well received by all the others. Coochie entered surprising Lazaria who was accustomed to being alone.

"Is it okay if I come in?" asked Coochie.

"Of course it is." replied Lazaria unconvincingly. "I was just about to sweep, do you want to help?"

"Okay, but can we talk?"

"Sure. What about?"

"I have been thinking about those babies we saw this morning, and about all the others who will soon die. I wonder how they grew so horrid, and how Noah came to be so different from them. Why didn't Noah argue with them as they did with each other, surely he was provoked to fight more than anyone else. What do you think Lazaria? Let me ask, does God talk to you when you are alone?"

Lazaria was surprised by Coochie's visit and her questions. She had to stop to think about how to reply. Fortunately Coochie was silent and patient. "Coochie, take this broom and sweep starting over there in that corner. We will talk later; okay?"

"Sure, Lazaria."

As the young ladies swept the birds flew all around them making it difficult to follow a train of thought without being bombarded by a bluejay or a chickadee. Lazaria knew that she didn't have to think, but only pray to the Lord and He would tell her what to say.

When the ladies finished their sweeping, and fresh worms were strewn around Lazaria and Coochie meandered through the makeshift forest the menfolk had constructed with tree limbs until they reached the door. Lazaria said, "Come, I know a perfect place to talk."

Lazaria led Coochie to the landing beneath the rooftop level where they could breath in the fresh wet air. The rain slapped their faces gently after ricocheting off the partial ceiling that covered the stairwell.

When they settled into their niche Coochie gave Lazaria a look of great anticipation for what she could learn from this quiet solitary sister. Lazaria asked God again what to say.

Finally some words came to her mouth. "Coochie, do you remember Father Noah telling us about the two first people God created?"

"Yes, Lazaria, Adam and Eve."

"They were made to be like God in their intelligence and creativity, in their emotions and in their faces. Humans unlike any animal reflect the face of God, His image. By face I mean they reflect the sight of God Who sees His whole creation from a long wide faraway vantage point as well as from up close to see all the details. With His ears God is able to hear our prayers, and hear how we relate to each other. The face of God and man also houses the tongue of God that discerns bitter and sweet, tough and tender. The face of God and man smells fragrant flowers as well as noxious fumes that harm and kill. With our godly faces we discern tangible good and evil. Our faces link us to the powers of God. But there is another aspect of being human, of our grandparents Adam and Eve that is much less objective and straightforward, less innocent than the senses of our faces. There is an enemy of God and man. This enemy seeks the destruction of God, and consequently the enemy of everyone made in His image, that is all of humanity. This enemy created a barrier that damaged the link between human and God with distrust.

God warned them not to taste of the enemy's fruit. But they disobeyed because they believed the lie that it would make them as wise as God.

"I'm confused." Said Coochie. "Did you not say that they were already like God, couldn't they tell?"

Lazaria replied, "They were poisoned by the enemy in a way that separated them from God. That separation was the death that God warned them would occur. He didn't kill them; they killed themselves by alienating themselves with distrust from Him who is the fountain of life. For these last ten generations God waited for mankind to see for themselves if knowing good and evil would really make them wiser. The problem is that being alienated from God, they stopped caring."

Coochie said, "Oh Lazaria, it really was horrible. Man just became more and more corrupt, more evil."

Lazaria replied, "The image of God in man, the face of God, became disfigured so they could no longer taste or see, or hear without the echoes of self centered distrust obscuring everything."

"What can be done?"

"See the rain fall and the animals and even babies dying all around us."

With tears welling up in her eyes Coochie nodded.

"My dear, God is annihilating the death of separation from Him, with death. By this watery death, God hopes to close the breach, He hopes to reunite us eight people to Himself, to restore our faces to look like His again. We have only to unite ourselves with His life giving power and we will be born anew. Our faces can become purely like His again. Every generation after us will also be able to enter into our baptism to reverse the effects of the enemy's lie."

Hearing herself speak thus Lazaria knew that God was speaking through her, for she had never thought those thoughts before. In fact she thought that once she could be alone again she too could contemplate their meaning.

"Lazaria! Can we un-know good and evil?"

"No, Coochie," Lazaria replied authoritatively, "I am afraid we cannot ignore the knowledge of good and evil, but as God wanted, we should be aware and alert enough to not to eat of its fruit. I mean, we should take our focus off ourselves, and choose to be as trusting of God as possible. That way you and I can let Him take care of good and evil, we aren't letting all those matters into our hearts to disfigure us from His image and likeness."

Coochie thought for a moment and replied, "You mean I don't have to fret about these people drowning all around us, even my little nephew?" Lazaria shot Coochie a peaceful and loving smile, and replied, "Above all things, what is happening to our world is all of God's concern. It is only for us to trust Him and worship Him."

"You should tell the family this tomorrow morning at our prayer time. Do you suppose that father Noah understands this too? "

Lazaria smiled wistfully and replied, "I am certain that father Noah knows this. He has maintained the face of God. That is why he among all of mankind was selected for this grand mission. It is we, Noah's family who are beneficiaries of his faithfulness. Don't you see how lucky we are?!"

"But why us, Lazaria? Do you think God selected each of us?"

"I don't know Coochie and it doesn't matter. Come, let's get out of the rain and help mother Sha-me prepare the evening meal."

The ladies descended the stairs drenched and dripping. As they went to change their clothes, both ladies were mulling over new thoughts as if each young lady in her own way fundamentally changed inwardly and with that scene a stronger bond developed joining them to each other.

Outside the ark pandemonium was taking over. The rains pelted the earth day and night, relentlessly battering everything on it. Never had anyone known such constancy, such fortitude. Neither anger nor hatred nor quest for power could have matched this barrage of water for its ability to destroy unceasingly day after day, week after week. Only Noah and his family knew that the waters would cease falling after forty days. The besieged and beleaguered slowly came to believe that the rains would never end. Gone was their hope that on the next day the sun would shine bright through clear dry skies again. They had nothing to cling to. Hope was washing away with everything they owned and every aspect of their beings. The quest for power was turned inside out. Nothing was left inside, neither thoughts nor dreams nor aspirations. Everyone who could, fled to the mountaintops for whatever days or hours more of air they could steal. Everyone else drowned.

Inside, Noah quietly marked the midway of the days of rain. He too felt weakened physically by the fast days, but mysteriously spiritually-stronger by them too. He allowed the youngsters to tend to the feeding and cleaning while he spent most of his days seeking the Lord's guidance, and planning for the new world. Noah could have never imagined the emptiness he would feel at this time. Whether it was fatigue from the lack of nourishment or a reaction to the stark contrast between the death that surrounded them and the ark teaming with life, Noah felt completely subdued. He wondered how God felt watching the destruction of His creation from above the watery firmament. He knew not what to expect when the rains ceased, but he knew enough not to question that now. In each of his 600 years on earth Noah came to trust God more and more, not depending on earthly sights and sounds, but rather interpreting everything through a different lens that God had gradually given him over the years. In the midst of his contemplating Noah felt a sudden jarring of the boat.

He heard Aurelia scream, "Father Noah come quick, we are moving! Help!!! Are we too going to drown? Help; help!! Everyone rushed to the prayer room. Creaking sounds resounded throughout the ark. The brothers who were working together looked at each other and their father as if to say, "What did we do wrong? Will this building of ours hold up?" Everyone, even Noah, had panic smeared all over their faces. The women sobbed begging God for forgiveness and mercy.

Each of the eight hearts and minds screamed silently, but in unison something to the effect of, 'We aren't spared after-all. Now we will know how all the doomed people were feeling these weeks. Lord, I don't want to die, please save me! I promise to be better!'

The truth is that the ark was simply lifting off the ground to begin its floating journey. Everything was just as God had planned it. The ark was well built and there was no danger to the inhabitants. The buoyancy of the heavy boat along with the undertow of the deepening waters loosed and then freed the boat from its wooden crutches. Their fear was infectious though, even affecting Noah, but it was foundless. Within an hour the ark was well on its way around the world being tugged to and fro by the magnetism of the moon and its own rotation around the stable sun leaving behind the place of Noah's birth, the land of his fathers and forefathers back to Adam and Eve. Gone were the sights of people desperately climbing mountains, of dead babies and small children floating face down. Gone was everything Noah and his family ever knew of life, save for their relationship with each other and their faith in the invisible God.

The loosened ark started moving more and more quickly in search of the ocean for which it was built. The rains were still pouring down heavily causing it to rise higher and higher, especially when the ark reached the deep turbulent ocean.

Japheth, Coochie, Sha-me, and Ham vomited all over the prayer room. Aurelia and Lazeria started to clean it up, but the stench was overwhelming and they fled to the rooftop for fresh air. Noah and Shem had gone to check on the animals who were howling as never before.

"Lazeria" shouted Noah from the bottom deck. "Lazeria where are you, come down here!"

It was strange because Lazeria knew it would have been impossible to hear Noah call her with the sounds of animals as loud as they were, but she did hear Noah call and told Aurelia to come with her and see what he wanted.

When the ladies arrived at the bottom deck they found most of the wildest animals howling and growling. Noah shouted to Lazaria and Aurelia to start chanting as loud as they could.

The melody and particularly the harmony of sound from the two ladies with Noah and Shem chanting an octave lower gradually soothed the frightened beasts. It didn't slow down the rocking back and forth of the ship, but suddenly deep in their souls man and beast were transported far back to their mother's wombs where in the beginning they were formed amidst similar rocking motions to and from with the steps of their busy mothers. From the very first moments of consciousness until the day of birth when suddenly the stationary earth replaced the rocking womb and with it their sense of balance man and beast existed in a moving environment similar to the rocking ark when it lifted off solid ground and floated on the oceanic earth.

Thus Noah, Shem, Lazaria and Aurelia spent the first long dark night at sea with the large beasts on the floor of their house turned boat. At sunrise the quartet ventured upstairs to find out how the rest of the troupe had faired. They went to the prayer room and thanked God that the room had a window to diffuse the stench of vomit that lingered there.

There they found Sha-me, Coochie, Ham and Japheth awake and cleaning the room to prepare it for the prayer service.

Sha-me rushed up to Noah weeping, "Where have you been?! We were so worried about you, but we just couldn't walk around this awful ark to look for you. Oh, Noah, this is horrible! How can we survive! I am so afraid."

Noah hugged his wife tightly in silence, soothing her with the beat of his heart and the stability of his muscular arms. When he felt her racing heart slow down, Noah said, "My dear, the large animals were as fearful as you and needed our help. Lazaria and Aurelia, Shem and I were down there soothing them all night. We will be fine. If this boat did not break apart last night, it never will. Be at peace. We have left the horrors of the dead and dying behind us. Let us praise the Lord with full and grateful hearts lest our fear offend Him who is delivering us from evil."
Sha-me reduced her fear to tears and simply wept in Noah's comforting embrace. When finally she calmed down Noah released himself and gathered his small clan.

"Come children, thank you for cleaning. Let us pour out our full and heavy hearts to our Lord."

Everyone came together each couple holding hands to stabilize themselves. Without asking permission they sat in a large circle on the floor on pelts they had laid in piles. There was no chattering this morning as was usually the case. A rare quiet surrounded Noah as he listened deep within his heart for the message that he was to relay from the Lord God to the survivors of last night's launching.

He began, "My children, this is the midway point of the forty days of rain that the Lord is sending to wash this earth of the filth of evil and wickedness, to return to the beginning of creation when there was only water. Know that through our fasting and prayer we have been preparing for this time. Let the weakness and fatigue of your bodies yield spiritual alertness. With the same determination with which you controlled your appetite, God asks you to control your emotions. Fear and doubt will weaken you. These unique days require strength. Strength and faith.

Let us refrain from looking back, neither for those we left behind, nor at our struggles to master ourselves. Now is the time to begin to look forward to the second half of our forty days for the culmination of the rain that will herald a new life for us. I remind you that we are the remnants of humankind. Our faith and fortitude will form the foundation for generations that come after us."

Noah paused to allow God's message to penetrate their minds and hearts.

"In these days we are being asked to sacrifice our old selves. What appears so devastating to our psyches now will grow into new and beautiful lives of gratitude and wonder. As a seed planted deep within the cold dark soil must die before it can sprout and blossom into a flower or even a mighty tree, so must these deadly days become days of sprouting of new life in us who are the seeds of a purified world.

I ask you to accept your suffering, even your natural fears, as the condition through which you will grow into a resurrected world. Follow God who leads us there. He sees us, keeps us safe, and knows where we are going. Allow Him to comfort you in your heart, open a path through the fear and discomfort of these days, through the hunger and the stench, open a path to your golden hearts where the Lord will rest in you. Realize that He too suffers the destruction of His creation. Let's be sad for our God whose will was for the life and happiness of humanity to companion Him.

Refreshed and reassured let us proceed to the second half of our journey with vigor and enthusiasm for what lies ahead. "

With that message as his homily Noah proceeded to ask for expressions of contrition, thanksgiving and supplication. This morning's doxology was clearly the most heartfelt this gradually unifying troupe had ever expressed.