Lent with the Book of Exodus (Ch 5)
February 18, 2024
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.
Exodus 5 (First Sunday of Lent)

Afterward Moses and Aaron came, and said to Pharaoh, “This is what Yahweh, the God of Israel, says, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.’” Pharaoh said, “Who is Yahweh, that I should listen to his voice to let Israel go? I don’t know Yahweh, and moreover I will not let Israel go.” They said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go three days’ journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to Yahweh, our God, lest he fall on us with pestilence, or with the sword.”

The king of Egypt said to them, “Why do you, Moses and Aaron, take the people from their work? Get back to your burdens!” Pharaoh said, “Behold, the people of the land are now many, and you make them rest from their burdens.” The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their officers, saying, “You shall no longer give the people straw to make brick, as before. Let them go and gather straw for themselves. You shall require from them the number of the bricks which they made before. You shall not diminish anything of it, for they are idle. Therefore they cry, saying, ‘Let’s go and sacrifice to our God.’ Let heavier work be laid on the men, that they may labor in it. Don’t let them pay any attention to lying words.”

The taskmasters of the people went out with their officers, and they spoke to the people, saying, “This is what Pharaoh says: ‘I will not give you straw. Go yourselves, get straw where you can find it, for nothing of your work shall be diminished.’” So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. The taskmasters were urgent saying, “Fulfill your work quota daily, as when there was straw!” The officers of the children of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and were asked, “Why haven’t you fulfilled your quota both yesterday and today, in making brick as before?”

Then the officers of the children of Israel came and cried to Pharaoh, saying, “Why do you deal this way with your servants? No straw is given to your servants, and they tell us, ‘Make brick!’ and behold, your servants are beaten; but the fault is in your own people.” But Pharaoh said, “You are idle! You are idle! Therefore you say, ‘Let’s go and sacrifice to Yahweh.’ Go therefore now, and work; for no straw shall be given to you; yet you shall deliver the same number of bricks!” The officers of the children of Israel saw that they were in trouble when it was said, “You shall not diminish anything from your daily quota of bricks!”

They met Moses and Aaron, who stood along the way, as they came out from Pharaoh. They said to them, “May Yahweh look at you and judge, because you have made us a stench to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us!” Moses returned to Yahweh, and said, “Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Why is it that you have sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people. You have not rescued your people at all!”


When Moses had spoken these excellent words and had offered his hearers freedom and had strengthened their desire for it, the enemy was provoked and increased the suffering of those who hearkened to his speech. This is not unlike what happens now. For many of those who have accepted the word as a liberator from tyranny and have identified themselves with the Gospel are today still threatened by the Adversary with onslaughts of temptations. Many of them do become more firmly established in their faith as they are hardened by these grievous assaults, but some of the weaker ones are beaten to their knees by these misfortunes and say outright that it would have been more useful for them not to have heard the message of freedom than to endure these things for freedom's sake. For this demon who does people harm and corrupts them is intensely concerned that his subjects not look to heaven but that they stoop to earth and make bricks within themselves out of the clay. 
It is clear to everyone that whatever belongs to material pleasure consists assuredly of earth or water, whether one is concerned with the pleasures of the stomach and the table or with the pleasures of wealth. The mixture of these elements becomes clay and is so called. Those who yearn after the pleasures of clay and keep on filling themselves with them never keep the space which receives them full; for although it is always being filled, it becomes empty again before the next pouring. In the same way the brick maker keeps on throwing yet more clay into the mould while it is constantly being emptied. I think that anyone can easily perceive the meaning of this figure by looking at the appetitive part of the soul.  For if he who fills his desire in one of the things which he pursues should then incline his desire to something else, he finds himself empty again in that regard. And if he should fill himself on this, he becomes empty and a vacant container once more for something else. And we never stop doing this until we depart from this material life.  The straw and its chaff which those subject to the tyrant's orders were required to mix in the brick are interpreted by both the divine Gospel and the sublime voice of the Apostle as material for the fire. (Gregory of Nyssa)

Musical Selection



Grant us, almighty God,
that through this yearly observance of Lent
we may enter more deeply into the mystery of Christ
and draw upon its power in the conduct of our lives.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.  Amen.