Moses the God-Seer

Beloved in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

The Holy Feast-Day on September 4th

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Prophets. Second Tone

As we celebrate the memory of Thy Prophets Moses and Aaron, O Lord, through them we beseech Thee to save our souls.

Kontakion of the Prophets. Fourth Tone

With the divine and righteous Moses and Aaron, the Prophets' choir today rejoiceth with gladness, seeing their prophecy fulfilled now in our midst; for Thy Cross, O Christ our God, whereby Thou hast redeemed us, shineth in the sight of all as the end and fulfillment of that which they foretold in ancient times. By their entreaties, have mercy upon us all.


THE PROPHET MOSES-whose name means "one who draws forth," or "is drawn from," that is, from the water--was the pinnacle of the lovers of wisdom, the supremely wise lawgiver, the most ancient historian of all. He was of the tribe of Levi, the son of Amram and Jochabed (Num. 26:59). He was born in Egypt in the 7th century before Christ. While yet a babe of three months, he was placed in a basket made of papyrus and covered with pitch, and cast into the streams of the Nile for fear of Pharaoh's decree to the mid-wives of the Hebrews, that all the male children of the Hebrews be put to death. He was taken up from the river by Pharaoh's daughter, became her adopted son, and was reared and dwelt in the king's palace for 40 years. Afterward, when he was some 60 years old, he fled to Madian, where, on Mount Horeb, he saw the vision of the burning bush. Thus he was ordained by God to lead Israel and bring it out of the land of Egypt. He led Israel through the Red Sea as it were dry land and governed his people for 40 years. He wrought many signs and wonders, and wrote the first five books of the Old Testament, which are called the Pentateuch. When he reached the land of Moab, he ascended Mount Nabau, on the peak called Phasga, and there, by divine command, he reposed in the 16th century before Christ, having lived for some 120 years. The first two Odes of the Old Testament, "Let us sing to the Lord" and "Attend, O heaven, and I will speak," were written by him. Of these hymns, the first was chanted by the shore of the Red Sea as soon as the Israelites had crossed it; the second, in the land of Moab, a few days before his repose. The Holy High Priest Aaron was the elder brother of the Holy Prophet Moses. He was appointed by God to serve as the spokesman of Moses before the people, and also before Pharaoh, in Egypt. Afterwards, in the wilderness, he was called to the ministry of the High Priesthood, as narrated in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers in the Old Testament. The name Aaron means "enlightened."

by His Eminence, Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Hierotheos (Source: Hesychia and Theology: The Context for Man's Healing in the Orthodox Church)

Moses was a great prophetic figure of the Old Testament, who was extolled by the Church and the holy Fathers. In the Church's hymns for his feast-day Moses is repeatedly referred to as a man who had seen God and been filled "completely with unutterable knowledge." He subjugated his desire for earthly things to "intense longing for God"; he was "a lover of the sublime Trinity"; he was, and is, the first "of all the Prophets"; "the lawgiver of marvelous teachings of God hard to comprehend"; he was "a sacred writer of ineffable things in divine visions" and he was "a minister of God initiated into His mysteries, and a king of Israel".


The major even in the life of the Prophet Moses was God's call to him to ascend Mount Sinai and receive the Law, by which he would lead the Israelite people on their way to the Promised Land. This was the Old Covenant, which became "our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ" (Galatians 3:24).

Anyone reading the book of Exodus can clearly see that the Prophet Moses was continuously in a state of theoria (vision). He did not ascend Mount Sinai just once to receive the Law, but repeatedly climbed up to different heights of the mountain, and was constantly beholding God's Glory. God would call him and he would respond to God's call, hear God's word, and speak with God. Moreover, if we consider that, according to the teaching of the Holy Fathers of the Church, to hear God is to see Him, and to see Him is to hear Him, and to experience both together (to see and to hear) amounts to a 'taste' of God and participation in Him, then we realize that Moses continued in the theoria (vision) of God and deification (theosis) over a long period, and acquired a true knowledge of God.

When the Israelites reached Mount Sinai "Moses went up into the Mount of God". Before he reached the mountaintop "The Lord called unto him out of the mountain" (Exodus 19:3) and commanded him to remind the people of the kindness He had shown them and of His assurance that, if they obeyed His Commandments, they would be a chosen nation and "a kingdom of priests, a holy nation." Moses came down from the mountain and passed on God's Commandment to the elders of the people, and all the people promised that they would obey God's will and put it into practice. When Moses conveyed the people's promise to God, God said to him, "Lo, I come unto thee in a pillar of cloud", so that the people would hear and acquire unshakable trust in Moses (Exodus 19:3-9).

This was the first time Moses went up Mount Sinai, though not actually to the summit, and the first time he communed with God. It was also his first descent to the people. In effect this was the prelude to everything that was to follow later.

Afterwards Moses again ascended Mount Sinai, and while he was there God said to him, "Go down and entreat the people, and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes". He actually gave Moses clear orders about how the people should remain around the mountain when He (God) came down upon Mount Sinai.

Here we have a description of Moses' second ascent of Mount Sinai and his descent from it. He evidently did not go up to the top of the mountain or descend from there, because that was to come later, but he climbed a little higher than the place where the Israelites were encamped. With this new command from God "Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified them; and they washed their clothes" (Exodus 19:10-15).

On the third day, when the people had done everything Moses had passed on to them, peals of thunder and flashes of lightning were heard on Mount Sinai, a "thick cloud" appeared, a loud trumpet-call sounded and the mountain was wrapped in smoke "because the Lord descended upon it in fire." At that crucial moment, while the people "were greatly amazed," "Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice." Then God came down upon the summit of the mountain "and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up" (Exodus 19:16-20). Now Moses goes up to the peak of Mount Sinai. This means that he ascended gradually to the theoria (vision of God), following a path from glory to glory.

Then God ordered Moses to descend from the mountaintop in order to command the people not to approach the mountain, as they would be killed. As for the priests who were to draw near and serve the Lord, they should cleanse themselves first, because otherwise they too would be punished. God also commanded him to come up the mountain again with Aaron. "And the Lord said unto him, Away, get thee down, and thou shalt come up, thou and Aaron with Moses went down unto the people, and spake unto them" (Exodus 19:21-25).

Subsequently God gave His Law, the Ten Commandments with which we are familiar, His Covenant to the people (Exodus 20:1-17). Everyone heard God's voice as he gave His Commandments: "and all the people saw the voice, and the lightning, and the noise of the trumpet and mountain smoking" (Exodus 20:18). It is especially remarkable that hearing God's voice is expressed here by the word "saw": this is a case of spiritual theoria (spiritual vision), since God's voice is also a vision of God.

However, although the people saw and heard the voice of God, they felt afraid. So the Israelites asked Moses to speak to them himself, and not to let God do so, because they could not endure to hear His voice and would die (Exodus 20:19). This indicates that, at the moment when God was giving His Law and His Covenant, Moses was somewhere close to the people. Because immediately afterwards, once Moses had reassured the people, the book of Exodus tells us: "The people stood afar off, and Moses entered into the thick darkness where God was" (Exodus 20:20-21).

With this latest ascent of Moses up the mountain, and particularly through his entry into the darkness, God gives him "the books of the covenant" (Exodus 24:47), which is the second stage of God's revelation to him. The first revelation was the Ten Commandments; the second revelation consisted of laws concerning worship, rules for individuals and statutes about property, as well as some miscellaneous laws and certain promises of God to the people of Israel (Exodus 20:22-26) and ch. 21-23).

Subsequently Moses was commanded by God to ascend to the highest part of the mountain to receive the stone tablets on which God Himself had written His Law. The Elders of the people were asked to stay where they were, while Moses and Joshua son of Nun went up the mountain, "and a cloud covered the mount." The glory of God descended upon Mount Sinai and the cloud covered the mountain for six days. On the seventh day God called from within the cloud to Moses alone, and asked him to enter the cloud. This cloud was a burning fire coming from the top of the mountain, and all the people saw it. Then Moses went into the midst of the cloud "and went up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights" (Exodus 24:12-18).


The Greek Orthodox Monastery of the God-trodden Mount Sinai is located at the very place where God appeared to Moses in the Burning Bush, beneath the Mount of the Decalogue. In the Providence of God, it is at this site also that the holy relics of Saint Catherine are enshrined. This is the oldest continuously inhabited Christian Monastery, with a history that can be traced back over 17 centuries. The Monastery predates the divisions of the Christian world, its origins extending to late antiquity.

The Monastery has never been destroyed in all its history, and thus it can be said to have preserved intact the distinctive qualities of its Greek heritage. The earliest description refers to the Monastery of the Holy Virgin, for the revelation of God at the Burning Bush was seen as a type of the Virgin Mary (a new holy icon added in our church of St. Andrew by the cry room) and the Incarnation. The Monastery is also especially dedicated to the Holy Prophets Moses and Elias, who both came to this mountain, and who both spoke with Christ at the Transfiguration. More, recently, it has been known as Saint Catherine's Monastery.

The Monastery was built by order of Emperor Justinian I (reigned 527-565 AD), enclosing the Chapel of the Burning Bush (also known as "Saint Helen's Chapel) ordered to be built by Saint Eleni (Helen), the mother of Saint Constantine the Great.

The Monastery library preserves the second largest collection of early codices and manuscripts in the world, outnumbered only by the Vatican Library. It contains Greek, Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, Hebrew, Georgian, and Aramaic texts.

The complex houses irreplaceable works of art mosaics, the best collection of early icons in the world, many in encaustic, as well as liturgical objects, chalices, and reliquaries, and church buildings. The larger icon collection begins with a few dating to the 5th (possibly) and 6th centuries, which are unique survivals, the monastery having been untouched by Byzantine iconoclasm, and never sacked.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George