Holy Moses: prophet of the Old Testament

Today is the feast of St. Moses, of the Old Testament.   The Roman Martyrology has an entry for him, which I am reproducing here with a translation:

1. Commemoratio sancti Moysis, prophetae, quem Deus elegit, ut populum in AEgypto oppressum liberaret et in terram promissionis adduceret; cui etiam in monte Sina sese revelavit dicens: "Ego sum qui sum", atque legem proposuit, quae vitam populi electi regeret.  Ille servus Dei in monte Nebo terra Moab coram terra promissionis plenus dierum obiit.

The commemoration of Holy Moses, the prophet, who God chose in order that he would liberate the people oppressed in Egypt and lead them into the promised land; the one to whom [God] revealed Himself on Mount Sinai, saying: "I AM WHO AM" and laid down the law, which would govern the life of the chosen people.  Full of days, this servant of God died on Mount Nebo in the land of Moab in sight of the land of promise.

The Father’s of the Church devoted great reflection on the figure of Moses, one of the very few whom Augustine points to with the super rare word "theologus".  He was central to their understanding of the OT in relation to the NT and how the Law functioned in the economy of salvation.  Moses was a "type" or foreshadowing of Christ.  As a result they sought a positive interpretation of this titanic figure, as well as the Law connected to him, in their polemics with Gnostics, Marcionites and Manichaeans.   They were careful not to let him overshadow Christ, however.  Thus, they focused on him as a prefiguring of Christ and the Law as being intended for all peoples (in some way) and not just for the Jews.  

As well as being a "type" of Christ, Moses was also, for the Fathers, a type of every believer.  This is a theme of Gregory of Nyssa’s Life of Moses.  

Examples from the Fathers about Moses are too numerous for me to be comprehensive, but we can maybe see a few bits during the course of the day.  Here is a bit from Basil of Caesarea, "the Great" (Exegetic Homilies 1.1):

He who hated the pomp of royalty returned to the lowly state of his own race.  He preferred to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than to have the fleeting enjoyment of sin.  He who, possessing naturally a love of justice, on one occasion even before the government of the people was entrusted to him was seen inflicting on the wicked punishment to the extent of death because of his natural hatred of villainy.  He was banished by those to whom he had been a benefactor.  He gladly left the uproar of the Egyptians and went to Ethiopia and, spending there all his time apart from others, devoted himself for forty years to the contemplation of creation.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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