Young. Old. Rich. Poor.

The rich man and the poor man meet with one another,
But the Lord made both. (Proverbs 22:2)
 
A true story.
 
When I was a young man in my early twenties, I used to go to one of the larger malls in the city. It had three or four floors, and a long escalator. At a nearby coffee shop—not a Tim Hortons as they were not yet a thing—I would order my coffee hot and with cream and sugar. I’d find a table at the edge of the shop and sat at it in such a way that I could observe all the people going up and down the escalator. It truly was a kaleidoscope of humanity.
 
Different colours of skin, different heights, different body builds, different choices of clothing, shoes, hairstyles (this was the 80s – some were shocking!). Some looked happy, some sad, some angry and disturbed, some seemed in a far-off land. Couples held hands, hugged, even kissed occasionally. Friends playfully went up and down the moving stairs almost like they were dancing. Little tykes apprehensively followed their mothers and fathers onto the escalator clutching their hand so as not to be taken away or eaten by this seemingly monstrous machine.
 
The mall was downtown. It was gathering place for many of the homeless in the city, for the dealers and addicts, for the lost, and for those chasing authority. The clothes tended to be worn and unclean. The energy in their eyes seemed to be a little darker, the way they stood on the moving ladder seemed a little less dignified. When they entered the mover-machine, others tended to take a step up or wait a little more before taking a step in.
 
One day, at the bottom, a scraggly bearded trench-coated elderly little man put his hand out to a trimmed short-haired double-breast-suited forty-something-year-old as he entered the people mover. The younger started to pull something out of his pocket and the elder hopped on the stair behind, smiley and chatty. The younger pulled a bill from the side-tucked wallet and just gave it to the elder. Both were talking it up with the other as the elder received from the younger. By the end of the ride, the younger shook the hand of the elder, placing his other hand on his shoulder, and spoke, I assume, words of encouragement. The elder, placing the bill in his pocket, didn’t stop smiling or remove his eyes from the younger for some time.
 
I had a tear. The kaleidoscope gave a full scope of humanity. Younger. Older. Rich. Poor. The Lord made them both.
 
St. Augustine writes: “The rich and the poor meet together. In what way, except in this present life? The rich and the poor are born alike. You meet one another as you walk along the way together. The poor must not defraud the rich; the rich must not oppress the poor. The one has need, the other has plenty, but “the Lord is the maker of them both.” The Lord helps the one in need by the one who has; by the one who has not the Lord tests the one who has (Sermon, 35).

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Isaiah: The Fifth Gospel

In Winter of 2004, I followed a graduate course on Eastern Christian Hermeneutics and Exegesis in the Prophecy of Isaiah. It was taught by an excellent man and professor, Fr. Andrew Onuferko. At the time he was also the Acting Director of the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at Saint Paul University, Ottawa. One section of the course highlighted the early Church and their use of the only Scriptures they knew of at the time what we Christians now call the Old Testament. The author, John Sawyer in his excellent book, The Fifth Gospel: Isaiah in the History of Christianity, notes that the early Christians used Isaiah extensively in their evangelizing efforts, even informally creating a ‘Gospel narrative’ something very much akin to what we now know as the Four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Sawyer proposes such a Gospel narrative in a collection of verses of Isaiah woven together. I have reproduced it below for your marvelling!

Behold a virgin shall conceive and bring forth a son (7:14 LXX, Vg), a rod out of the stem of Jesse (11:1). His name shall be called ‘Immanuel’ (7:14), ‘Wonderful counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace’ (9:6), Key of David (22:22), the Christ (45:1 LXX, Vg). To us a child is born (9:6). The ox knows its owner and the ass its master’s crib (1:3). The gentiles will come to your light and the kings to your rising … they shall bring gold and incense (60:6). The idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence (19:1). Behold my servant … in whom my soul delights (42:1). The spirit of the Lord will rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding … (11:2). By the way of the sea, beyond Jordan and Galilee of the nations (9:1), the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor… (61:1). Surely he has taken our infirmities and borne our sicknesses (53:4). Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened … then shall the lame man leap like a hart (35:5-6). The glory of the Lord is risen upon you (60:1). He shall be a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation (28:16), but also a stone of offence and a rock of stumbling to both the houses of Israel (8:14). He said, ‘Go and tell this people, Hear indeed, but understand not …’ (6:9).

I will weep bitterly … because of the destruction of the daughter of my people (that is, Jerusalem 22:4). Say to the daughter of Zion, Your saviour comes (62:11 LXX, Vg). My house will be called a house of prayer for all people (56:7). My servants shall eat but you shall be hungry, my servants shall drink but you shall be thirsty … (65:13). Ho everyone that thirsts, come to the waters … (55:1). He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter (53:7). The government (that is, the cross bearing the inscription ‘King of the Jews’ on it) shall be upon his shoulder (9:6), and there shall come up briars and thorns (5:6). I gave my back to the smiters and my cheeks to those that pluck out the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting (50:6). He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities (53:5). From the sole of the foot even to the head there is no soundness, but bruises and sores and bleeding wounds (1:6). He was numbered between the transgressors … and made intercession for the transgressors (53:12). They made his grave … with a rich man (53:9). His tomb will be glorious (11:10 Vg). Now I will arise, says the Lord, now I will lift myself up, now I will be exalted (33:10). Then shall your light break forth like the dawn (58:8). Seek the Lord while he may be found (55:6). Behold my servant shall understand, he shall be exalted and lifted up (52:13 LXX, Vg); he shall be high and lifted up (6:1). I will set a sign among them … I will send survivors to the nations, to the sea, to Africa and Lydia, to Italy and Greece, to islands afar off, to those who have not heard about me and have not seen my glory; and they will proclaim my glory to the nations (66:19).

John F. A. Sawyer. The Fifth Gospel: Isaiah in the History of Christianity. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 49-50.