cyril_alexandriaThe glory of Christ filled the true Tabernacle, which is the Church, from the very moment it was set up on earth.

This, surely, is what is signified by the cloud that covered the first Tabernacle.

Christ has filled the Church with his glory, and now like a fire, he shines forth to give light to those who live in the darkness of ignorance and error.

He shades and protects those already enlightened by the dawn of his day in their hearts.

He refreshes them with the heavenly dew of his consolations sent down from above through the Spirit.

This is what we should understand by the saying that by night he appeared in the form of fire, and by day in the form of cloud.

Those who were as yet uninstructed in the teaching of Christ required spiritual enlighten­ment to bring them to a knowledge of God;

but the more advanced, whose minds had been illumined by faith, were in need of protection from the scorching heat of the day, and of courage to bear the burdens of this present life.

[…] Whenever the cloud moved forward, the Tabernacle went with it; when the cloud settled, the Tabernacle came to rest with it and the Israelites broke their journey.

Now the meaning of this for us is that wherever Christ leads, the Church, the holy multi­tude of believers, follows him. The faithful are never separated from the Saviour who calls them to himself.

We may not be able to find any special meaning in the constant halts and new depar­tures throughout our spiritual journey under Christ’s guidance. It is the whole journey, following the cloud whether it moves forward or settles, that symbolizes our desire to be with God.

Nevertheless, if we would have a more subtle interpretation, we could perhaps say that our first departure is from unbelief to faith, from ignorance to knowledge, and from having no percep­tion of the true God to clear recognition of the Creator and Lord of the universe.

The second stage, and an essential one, is conversion from sin and licentiousness to a desire for amend­ment both in thought and deed.

But the best and most glorious is the third part of the journey, because in it we leave behind what is deficient and move onward toward what is perfect both in our actions and in our belief.

So, little by little, we advance toward the ideal we see in Christ, to become the perfect man, sharing in the perfection of Christ himself.

This surely is what Saint Paul means by saying: Forgetting what lies behind me and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the goal, the heavenly reward to which God calls me in Christ Jesus.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): The Adoration and Worship of God in Spirit and in Truth, 5 (PG 68:393-396); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Friday of the Fourth Week in Lent, Year 2.