Today we see more evidence of the corruption of humanity, and of how this grieves God. This corruption is expressed in violence, indicating that human life has lost its value as created in the Image of God. God desires to blot out this evil, but He cannot bring Himself to destroy humanity entirely. Instead, He decides to purify the world by means of the flood. Saint John of Damascus comments,
From the beginning, ‘the spirit of God moved over the waters,’ and over and again Scripture testifies to the fact that water is purifying. It was with water that God washed away the sin of the world in the time of Noah.
The Fathers teach us that the ark prefigures the Church. Just was we are purified in the waters of baptism, so the Church is also seen as the ark of salvation, which provides us with safety and support on our journey of salvation. Just as all the different kinds of animals entered the ark with Noah and his family, so too people will come from all the corners of the earth to enter the Church. And just as the ark provided a tranquil oasis in a surrounding sea of violence, so the Church is intended to be a place where all can live together in harmony and peace. Saint Ephrem the Syrian writes,
On that same day elephants came from the east, apes and peacocks approached from the south, other animals gathered from the west, and still others hastened to come from the north. Lions came from the jungles, and wild beasts arrived from their lairs. Deer and wild asses came from their lands and the mountain beasts gathered from their mountains.
When those of that generation gathered to see this novel sight, it was not to repent but rather to amuse themselves. Then in their very presence the lions began to enter the ark, and the bulls, with no fear, hurried in right on their heels to seek shelter with the lions. The wolves and the lambs entered together, and the hawks and the sparrows together with the doves and the eagles.
A Reading from the Book of Genesis 6:9-22:
These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God. And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them; behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and set the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks. For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you, to keep them alive. Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.” Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.