« ZurückWeiter »
encumber ourselves with ponderous volumes, we must provide ourselves with abridgments, that the precious pearl of wisdom may be lightened, and the weary traveller possess something wherewith he may refresh himself without fatiguing his hand with too heavy a burden. There are, however, in this book, many difficult questions which at present I am neither willing nor able to solve, and concerning which thou hast not desired information. Those which are here treated of are chiefly historical, and for which a simple answer will suffice; the others, on the contrary, require more profound investigation, and a more copious explanation." The author concludes this preface by hoping that he will amend that which is defective, and for that which is good thank not him, but God, the giver of all good.
S. CHRYSOSTOM'S SECOND PANEGYRICAL
DISCOURSE ON HOLY EASTER. Ir is seasonable that you should all exclaim this day what was spoken by blessed David, “Who shall speak the mighty acts of the LORD, and show forth all His praise ?” * for behold, to us has arrived that festival of desire and salvation, the resurrection day of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, the foundation of peace, the beginning of reconciliation, the removal of wars, the dissolution of death, the defeat of the devil. This day have men mingled with angels, and embodied beings lift up their carols henceforth with the incorporeal powers; this day the tyranny of the devil is dissolved, this day the bonds of death were broken, the victory of hell has been annulled; this day it is seasonable again to utter that prophetic exclamation, “Ó Death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"+ This day Christ our LORD crushed the brazen gates of hell, and annihilated the person of Death. But why speak I of the person? He changed its very appellation; for death is no more called death, but rest and sleep. For before the coming of CHRIST, and the dispensation of the Cross, even the very name of death was terrible ; for indeed the first man was condemned as by a severe retribution, being told, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die;" I and the blessed Job addressed death by this name, saying, “Death is a rest to man." And the prophet David said, “The death of sinners is evil.” And the separation of soul and body was not only called death, but even hell. For hear the patriarch Jacob saying, “Ye shall bring down mine old age with sorrow to hell," * and the prophet again, “Hell hath opened her mouth ;" + and again another prophet says,
* Ps. lxxxv. 2. t Gen. ii. 17.
+ Hos. xiii. 14; 1 Cor. xv. 15.
Job iii. 23.
“He shall deliver me from the lowest hell." I And frequently wilt thou find in the Old Testament the departure hence called death and hell. But since CHRIST our God was offered a Sacrifice, and the dispensation of the resurrection advanced, our affectionate Lord took away the very appellations themselves, and introduced into our life a new and unwonted dispensation. For henceforth our departure hence, instead of death, is called rest and sleep. And whence is this evident? Hear Christ Himself saying, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth ; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep.” For as it is easy to us to awaken and arouse the sleeper, so is it to the common LORD of us all to raise the dead: and since His expression was new and strange, not even the disciples understood the speech, until He condescended to their infirmity, and expressed Himself more plainly. And the teacher of the world, the blessed Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, says, “I would not have you ignorant concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” || And again, elsewhere, “ Then they which have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” And again, “ We which are alive and remain shall not prevent them which are asleep." And again, elsewhere, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also them which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him."** Seest thou everywhere henceforth death called rest and sleep, and him who before this had so terrible an aspect, now since the resurrection easily to be despised? Beholdest thou the splendid trophy of the resurrection? By that act innumerable benefits have been introduced among us; by that the deceit of the evil spirits is dissolved ; by that we deride death; by that we overlook the present life; by that we are excited to the desire of future objects; by that, though encompassed by the body, we possess, if we will, no less than the incorporeal powers. This day the splendid prize of victory is ours; this day our Lord erected His trophy against death, and having destroyed the tyranny of the devil, graciously opened to us, through His resurrection, the way of salvation. Let us all then rejoice, delight, exult. For although our LORD conquered, and erected the trophy, yet the pleasure and the joy are common to us also. For He wrought
* Gen. xlii. 48.
Ps. lxxx. 12.
+ Isa. v. 14.
all these for our salvation : and by those means whereby the devil overthrew us in the lists, by the same did CHRIST overcome him. He seized the weapons themselves, and with these overthrew him. And how, hear thou. A virgin, and a tree, and death, were the cause of our defeat.* For Eve was a virgin (for she knew not man when she experienced the fraud) the tree was that of knowledge :f death was the penalty against Adam. Seest thou how a virgin, and a tree, and death became the cause of our defeat? See now how the same things became also the cause of the victory. For instead of Eve, Mary; instead of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the tree of the Cross; instead of the death of Adam, was the death of the LORD. Seest thou the devil defeated by the very means whereby he conquered? The devil overthrew Adam in the matter of the tree; in the matter of the Cross, CHRIST overthrew the devil. And that tree indeed sent souls to hell; but this tree of the Cross again recalled from hell even those wbo had descended thither. That tree concealed the vanquished as a captive and naked; this exhibited to all the Conqueror naked, nailed to it on high. That death condemned those to come after ; but this death raised to life those who had gone before. Verily, shall speak the mighty acts of the LORD, and show forth all His praises ?” I From death we are become immortals, from the fall we have arisen, from defeat we have been rendered conquerors.
Such are the achievements of the Cross, such the most mighty display of the resurrection. This day the angels rejoice, and all the heavenly powers exult, joying together in the salvation of the common race of mankind. For if there be “joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth,” $ how much more over the salvation of the world! This day did Christ deliver human nature from the tyranny of the devil, and bring it back to its original nobility. For when I behold my First-fruit thus victorious over death, I no longer fear, I no longer tremble at the war ; nor do I look to my own infirmity, but I reflect on the inexpressible might of Him who will do battle on my side. For He who overcame the tyranny of death, and took from him all his strength, what shall He not henceforth do for the kindred nature, whose form, through the abundance of His loving-kindness, He vouchsafed to take, and through this to achieve His conflict with the devil? This day are joy and spiritual mirth throughout the world ; this day the host of angels, and the choir of all the powers on high exult
* Σύμβολα. . But some copies have aitla, which is followed in the + Ξύλον ήν το δένδρον.
§ S. Luke xv. 7.
I Ps. lxxxiii. 2.
for the salvation of mankind. Contemplate then, beloved one, the vastness of the joy, when even the powers on high keep festival with us. For they rejoice in our blessings. For indeed if the grace from the LORD be ours, yet is the pleasure also theirs. Therefore they are not ashamed to keep festival with us; yea, their LORD and ours is not ashamed to keep festival
What said I ? not ashamed? He even desires to keep festival with us. Whence is this apparent? Hear Him speaking: “ With desire have I desired to eat this passover with
If He desired to eat the passover, He desires to keep this festival. When, therefore, thou beholdest not only angels, and the host of all the heavenly powers, but the LORD Himself of the angels, keeping festival with us, what more is wanting to animate us to joy?
Let, then, no poor man be downcast this day on account of his poverty, for the feast is spiritual. Let no rich man be elated on account of his wealth ; for he can bring nothing from his treasures to the enjoyment of this festival. For at the feasts of this world there is abundant caprice of external decoration and magnificence of table; there, the poor is naturally despondent and downcast, the rich revelling and exulting. Wherefore ? because the rich is apparelled in magnificent array, and sets out a sumptuous table, but the poor by his poverty is forbidden to exhibit the same ambition. Here, however, there is nothing of this kind, but all inequality is removed. Here is one table both for rich and poor, for bond and free. And if thou be rich, thou hast nothing above the poor; and if thou be poor, thou wilt have nothing less than the rich; nor are the blessings of the spiritual festival lessened by thy poverty. For the grace is divine, and knows not distinction of persons. But why say I for rich and poor? The same table is spread for the King Himself, crowned with the diadem, invested with the purple, to whose hands the empire of the earth is committed, and for the beggar who sits for alms. Such are the gifts of the SPIRIT; He distributes not His Communion to dignities, but to the will and the intent. With the same confidence and acceptance, both the King and the poor man advance to the enjoyment and communion of these divine mysteries. And why say I with the same acceptance? With the same honour; ofttimes, the poor with greater confidence. Wherefore ? because the King, encompassed with the cares of politics, and entangled with a multitude of engagements, is like a vessel at sea, drenched from all quarters by overtowering waves, and is exposed to the collision of many sins;
poor man, at freedom from all these, careful only for his necessary food, and leading a life free from
* S. Luke xxi. 15.
occupation and disquietude, floating, as it were, in the haven and on calm water, approaches the table with great piety; and not only so, but also from many other sources eminent discouragements arise to those who are occupied with the feasts of the world.
Again, in these the poor man is downcast, the rich exulting, not only on account of the table, and the magnificence, but also on account of the splendid habits, and the gaiety of the apparel. For the same feelings which they experience in regard to the table, they entertain in respect of their apparel. For when the poor man beholds the wealthy attired in a far more sumptuous array, he is struck with anguish, deems himself most miserable of all, and imprecates innumerable curses on his fate. But here this discouragement is removed; for there is one raiment for all, the garment of salvation.
· For as many of you,” says the Apostle aloud, “as were baptized unto CHRIST have put on Christ.”* Let us not, then, disgrace such a festival, I exhort you ; but assume a spirit worthy of the blessings bestowed on us by the grace of CHRIST. Let us not devote ourselves to drunkenness and gluttony; but, contem, plating the liberality of our LORD, and how He has honoured alike both rich and poor, both bond and free, and has poured out His gift in common upon all, let us requite our Benefactor for His kindness to us; and the sufficient requital is a conversation agreeable to Him, and a sober and vigilant spirit. This festival and assemblage needs not wealth nor expenditure, but only a pure intent and disposition. Nothing corporeal is sold here; but all is spiritual : the hearing of divine oracles, the prayers of fathers, the benedictions of priests, the communion of the divine and unutterable mysteries, peace, and concord, and spiritual gifts worthy the bounty of the giver. Let us then keep this feast, in which the LORD arose. For He arose, and raised the world together with Himself; Himself arose, having burst the bonds of death; and He raised us all, having loosed the coils of our sins. Adam sinned, and died; but CHRIST sinned not, and yet died. O new and unexpected events ! one died and sinned; the other sinned not, yet died. Wherefore
, and on what account? That he who sinned and died might be able, through Him Who sinned not, yet died, to be liberated from the bonds of death. So often it happens also in regard to debtors. A man owes another money, and cannot pay; and on that account is in confinement; then one who is no debtor and is able to pay, lays down the sum, and releases the amenable person. So it happened with Adam and with CHRIST; Adam owed the debt of death; and was kept in prison by the devil;
* Gal. iii. 27.