Tag Archives: Gregory the Theologian

A Pairing of Quotes

This is arguably one of the most thoroughly neglected texts on Christian ethics and perhaps my favorite passage from the Pauline epistles:

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

This, on the other hand, is a rightly obscure line from Gregory the Theologian’s Epistle 49 but one which made me think he had perhaps not forgotten the letter to the Thessalonians:

My greatest business always is to keep free from business.

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Gregory the Theologian for Good Friday

O Thou, the Word of truth divine!
All light I have not been,
Nor kept the day as wholly Thine;
For Thou dark spots hast seen.

The day is down: night hath prevailed:
My Lord I have belied;
I vowed, and thought to do, but failed;
My steps did somewhere slide.

There came a darkness from below
Obscuring safety’s way.
Thy light, O Christ, again bestow;
Turn darkness into day.

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On the Feast of the Nativity

Today is the Feast of the Nativity, when every year Christians gather around a cedar of Lebanon to remember that touching tale of joy coming into the world. We recall that there was no room at the inn for Santa and Mrs. Claus, and so they had to give birth to Jesus in a stable, surrounded by cows and donkeys and sheep and flying reindeer. We remember the three wise men who followed the festive lights display to Bethlehem so that they could worship the new king with iPads, fruitcakes, and Tickle-Me-Elmos. We offer hymns about the shepherds in the field who looked up and saw heaven unfurled before them, ten thousands cheery elves singing “Eight maids-a-milking, seven swans-a-swimming, six something something, FIVE GOLDEN RINGS!” We hear about how the Savior was spirited away from his manger as his parents fled to the North Pole to escape secular humanism’s War on Christmas. It is there that he remains, until this day, coming out once a year to distribute blessings in a works-based system of righteousness provided, of course, you have been thoughtful enough to leave him a chocolate chip offering, like meat on a pagan altar.

Just in case, however, that isn’t how you observe the Feast of the Nativity, here is a selection from Gregory the Theologian’s oration for the Feast. Much like his oration for Easter, Gregory’s focus is less on remembering (or misremembering) and more on reexperiencing the Nativity. We are not observers of the worshiping angels or the adoring magi but participants with them. We seize on their joy and make it our own, because the manifestation of God among men is an eternal reality with never ending consequences, a perpetual outpouring of blessing on God’s people. Watch how seamlessly Gregory moves from the birth into the rest of the Gospel narrative, because we know that the Nativity is nothing without the ministry, the ministry nothing without the Passion, the Passion nothing without the resurrection. That is where our joy comes from; the moment’s of Christ’s birth is the moment of our eternal hopes breaking open into the world. The fullness of the great climactic act of our salvation is inaugurated in this moment, relived every year in our observation of it.

Christ is born, glorify ye Him. Christ from heaven, go ye out to meet Him. Christ on earth; be ye exalted. Sing unto the Lord all the whole earth; and that I may join both in one word, Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, for Him Who is of heaven and then of earth. Christ in the flesh, rejoice with trembling and with joy; with trembling because of your sins, with joy because of your hope…Who doth not worship Him That is from the beginning? Who doth not glorify Him That is the Last?

Again the darkness is past; again Light is made; again Egypt is punished with darkness; again Israel is enlightened by a pillar. The people that sat in the darkness of ignorance, let it see the Great Light of full knowledge. Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new…O clap your hands together all ye people, because unto us a Child is born, and a Son given unto us, Whose Government is upon His shoulder (for with the Cross it is raised up), and His Name is called The Angel of the Great Counsel of the Father. Let John cry, Prepare ye the way of the Lord: I too will cry the power of this Day. He Who is not carnal is Incarnate; the Son of God becomes the Son of Man, Jesus Christ the Same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever. Let the Jews be offended, let the Greeks deride; let heretics talk till their tongues ache. Then shall they believe, when they see Him ascending up into heaven; and if not then, yet when they see Him coming out of heaven and sitting as Judge.

Of these on a future occasion…This is our present Festival; it is this which we are celebrating to-day, the Coming of God to Man, that we might go forth, or3rather (for this is the more proper expression) that we might go back to God—that putting off the old man, we might put on the New; and that as we died in Adam, so we might live in Christ, being born with Christ and crucified with Him and buried with Him and rising with Him. For I must undergo the beautiful conversion, and as the painful succeeded the more blissful, so must the more blissful come out of the painful. For where sin abounded Grace did much more abound; and if a taste condemned us, how much more doth the Passion of Christ justify us?

Therefore let us keep the Feast, not after the manner of a heathen festival, but after a godly sort; not after the way of the world, but in a fashion above the world; not as our own but as belonging to Him Who is ours, or rather as our Master’s; not as of weakness, but as of healing; not as of creation, but of re-creation. And how shall this be? Let us not adorn our porches, nor arrange dances, nor decorate the streets; let us not feast the eye, nor enchant the ear with music, nor enervate the nostrils with perfume, nor prostitute the taste, nor indulge the touch, those roads that are so prone to evil and entrances for sin; let us not be effeminate in clothing soft and flowing, whose beauty consists in its uselessness, nor with the glittering of gems or the sheen of gold or the tricks of colour, belying the beauty of nature, and invented to do despite unto the image of God; Not in rioting and drunkenness, with which are mingled, I know well, chambering and wantonness, since the lessons which evil teachers give are evil; or rather the harvests of worthless seeds are worthless. Let us not set up high beds of leaves, making tabernacles for the belly of what belongs to debauchery. Let us not appraise the bouquet of wines, the kickshaws of cooks, the great expense of unguents. Let not sea and land bring us as a gift their precious dung, for it is thus that I have learnt to estimate luxury; and let us not strive to outdo each other in intemperance (for to my mind every superfluity is intemperance, and all which is beyond absolute need),—and this while others are hungry and in want, who are made of the same clay and in the same manner.

Let us leave all these to the Greeks and to the pomps and festivals of the Greeks, who call by the name of gods beings who rejoice in the reek of sacrifices, and who consistently worship with their belly; evil inventors and worshippers of evil demons. But we, the Object of whose adoration is the Word, if we must in some way have luxury, let us seek it in word, and in the Divine Law, and in histories; especially such as are the origin of this Feast; that our luxury may be akin to and not far removed from Him Who hath called us together.

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Feast of Pentecost

There are few moments so critical in Scripture as Pentecost, when the period of waiting following Christ’s ascension was resolved in the glorious outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is, in the hearts of many Christians, a kind of birthday for the church, and that is a fair way to look at it because the promise of renewal which was made possible through the Son saw actualization in the Spirit. In other words, what was conceived in Christ came to life in the Spirit.

Pentecost has also been a time when traditionally the church has emphasized and defended the doctrine of the Trinity and the coequal place of the Spirit in it. The icon of the Holy Trinity comes to the forefront of Orthodox worship and Roman Catholics are encouraged to say the novena to the Holy Spirit. The prayers are quite beautiful and they stress the real place of the Spirit as part of the divine Godhead:

” Come, O blessed Spirit of Holy Fear, penetrate my inmost heart, that I may set Thee, my Lord and God, before my face forever; help me to shun all things that can offend Thee, and make me worthy to appear before the pure eyes of Thy Divine Majesty in heaven, where Thou livest and reignest in the unity of the ever Blessed Trinity, God world without end. Amen

Gregory Naziansus, in the fourth century, articulated and defended the divinity of the Holy Spirit with such acuity and vigor that he earned himself the epithet “the Theologian.” It is unsurprising that his oration on the occasion of Pentecost in 381 is a vehicle for expressing this doctrine. In Constantinople, where the sermon was preached, what would be the second ecumenical council was in session. Gregory and his thought on the Spirit would be instrumental in its final decision which is properly lauded as the definitive victory for the doctrine of the Trinity in Christianity. The following selection from this oration is intended to be more inspirational than doctrinal, but it is important to remember that these truths about the Spirit that are taken for granted or neglected in modern Christianity were under constant assault in Gregory’s day. What he preached was the profound mystery of the Godhead against all foreign and dangerous doctrine which would strip the Christian religion of perhaps its most foundational and normative doctrine.

Gregory the Theologian, “On Pentecost,”

Honour the Day of the Spirit; restrain your tongue if you can a little. It is the time to speak of other tongues—reverence them or fear them, when you see that they are of fire…He wrought first in the heavenly and angelic powers, and such as are first after God and around God. For from no other source flows their perfection and their brightness, and the difficulty or impossibility of moving them to sin, but from the Holy Ghost. And next, in the Patriarchs and Prophets, of whom the former saw Visions of God, or knew Him, and the latter also foreknew the future, having their master part moulded by the Spirit, and being associated with events that were yet future as if present, for such is the power of the Spirit. And next in the Disciples of Christ (for I omit to mention Christ Himself, in Whom He dwelt, not as energizing, but as accompanying His Equal), and that in three ways, as they were able to receive Him, and on three occasions; before Christ was glorified by the Passion, and after He was glorified by the Resurrection; and after His Ascension, or Restoration, or whatever we ought to call it, to Heaven. Now the first of these manifests Him—the healing of the sick and casting out of evil spirits, which could not be apart from the Spirit; and so does that breathing upon them after the Resurrection, which was clearly a divine inspiration; and so too the present distribution of the fiery tongues, which we are now commemorating. But the first manifested Him indistinctly, the second more expressly, this present one more perfectly, since He is no longer present only in energy, but as we may say, substantially, associating with us, and dwelling in us. For it was fitting that as the Son had lived with us in bodily form—so the Spirit too should appear in bodily form; and that after Christ had returned to His own place, He should have come down to us—Coming because He is the Lord; Sent, because He is not a rival God. For such words no less manifest the Unanimity than they mark the separate Individuality…

But as the old Confusion of tongues was laudable, when men who were of one language in wickedness and impiety, even as some now venture to be, were building the Tower; for by the confusion of their language the unity of their intention was broken up, and their undertaking destroyed; so much more worthy of praise is the present miraculous one. For being poured from One Spirit upon many men, it brings them again into harmony.

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Have Prophecies Ceased: The “Eschatological” Answer

The view that the New Testament represents “the perfect” which will come and cause all prophecies to cease has been shown to be inadequate both because of its inconsistency with the argument Paul is making in 1 Corinthians 13 and because of its inconsistency with the nature of Scripture and prophecy. The only option which remains for consideration then, from the list of four major stances on the meaning of “the perfect,” is that the term is a reference to the eschatological future.

It is noteworthy, as a launching point, that the term most often rendered “the perfect” (το τελειον) may be rendered with equal accuracy “the end.” In fact, a simple look at the regular use of the term in 1 Corinthians will recommend this translation. Consider the following passages in which I have put the corresponding word in bold:

1 Cor. 1:4-9

4I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Cor 15:20-25

20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Both are extraordinarily telling for a number of reasons. In chapter one, Paul makes certain to define what he means by “the end” (the same term used in chapter thirteen): “the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” and “the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” There can be no doubt that when Paul talks about the “telos” here he is referencing the eschatological coming of Christ. More interesting still is the connection between this final end and the spiritual gifts which are granted by God for Christians as they wait to that end. The parallel to the teaching in chapter thirteen is perfect (not to mention so glaringly obvious that it ought to put people to shame who believe that the New Testament is being referenced in the latter): spiritual gifts exist to sustain Christians as they wait for the end, the coming of Jesus Christ. Paul even references, in addition to God granting spiritual gifts for this purpose, knowledge which, in chapter thirteen, he adds to prophecies and tongues as realities which will pass away when the end comes.

The second passage is equally strong in its corroboration of an eschatological rendering of the term in chapter 13. Once again word in question is explicitly elaborated on by Paul. “The end” (or “the perfect”) is the time when Christ destroys every temporal authority and power (including death) and beings his eternal reign. What the reader is left with is two partial descriptions of a single event (which Paul uses the same term to describe). On the one hand, when the end comes prophecies will cease. At the same time, when the end comes so too will Christ come to conquer every foe, to resurrect the dead, and to reign eternally. They are parallel events.

With the addition of 13:10, these are the only unqualified uses of the term in 1 Corinthians. (In the rest of Paul’s letters, the only additional use of the term in this unqualified way as merely “the end” is in 2 Corinthians 1:13-14 which once again has an eschatological overtone.) It seems odd, if not willfully ignorant, to translate a term which Paul uses consistently in various ways depending on our polemical needs.

Even without those other references, however, the context of 1 Cor. 13 would still strongly indicate that an eschatological future is in mind with the term “the end”/“the perfect.” In fact, it is difficult to interpret it any other way. Paul, still speaking of the end when prophecies cease, speaks of a time when we will see God “face to face.” Surely no one would suggest that the fulfillment of this promise came to pass in the completion of the New Testament. More telling still is the self-referential comments at the close of verse twelve: “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” Paul is undeniably speaking here of a time in the future that he will experience. To suggest that this is anything other than an eschatological moment is to suggest that Paul’s own knowledge was imperfect but that it was magically perfected in the cessation of prophecy at some point during or after his life. (Even transmillennialists–who aim to collapse all eschatology into the events of AD 70–are still left with the pressing question: was Paul languishing in ignorance in heaven in the years between the time of his death and the destruction of the Jerusalem temple?) The only interpretation consistent with Paul’s personal hope here and his position on final resurrection, which he is about to defend so rigorously in chapter fifteen, is that Paul is imagining the promised eschatological completion of all things in which he, like all Christians, will know God with an intimacy that is impossible in the present. Then will knowledge and tongues and prophecy and hope and faith all become obsolete, not because they have been superseded by a better means of mediating knowledge but because they have completed their purpose, to bring us before the Father with only Christ as our mediator.

This view stands up to exegetical scrutiny in a way that puts the others to shame. Additionally, however, it also coincides with the usage of 1 Cor. 13 in the early church. Consider the small selection of examples which follow in which the earliest church fathers all understand prophecies, tongues, and knowledge not to have ceased but rather look forward to an eschatological future in which they will see God face to face.

Gregory the Theologian, Oration 28.20:

If it had been permitted to Paul to utter what the Third Heaven contained, and his own advance, or ascension, or assumption thither, perhaps we should know something more about God’s Nature, if this was the mystery of the rapture. But since it was ineffable, we too will honour it by silence. Thus much we will hear Paul say about it, that we know in part and we prophesy in part. This and the like to this are the confessions of one who is not rude in knowledge, who threatens to give proof of Christ speaking in him, the great doctor and champion of the truth. Wherefore he estimates all knowledge on earth only as through a glass as taking its stand upon little images of the truth. Now, unless I appear to anyone too careful, and over anxious about the examination of this matter, perhaps it was of this and nothing else that the Word Himself intimated that there were things which could not now be borne, but which should be borne and cleared up hereafter, and which John the Forerunner of the Word and great Voice of the Truth declared even the whole world could not contain.

Basil, Concerning Faith:

Even though more knowledge is always being acquired by everyone, it will ever fall short in all things of its rightful completeness until the time when that which is perfect being comes, that which is in part will be done away.

Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, XVI.12:

Thus also the Holy Ghost, being one, and of one nature, and indivisible, divides to each His grace, according as He will: and as the dry tree, after partaking of water, puts forth shoots, so also the soul in sin, when it has been through repentance made worthy of the Holy Ghost, brings forth clusters of righteousness. And though He is One in nature, yet many are the virtues which by the will of God and in the Name of Christ He works. For He employs the tongue of one man for wisdom; the soul of another He enlightens by Prophecy; to another He gives power to drive away devils; to another He gives to interpret the divine Scriptures. He strengthens one man’s self-command; He teaches another the way to give alms; another He teaches to fast and discipline himself; another He teaches to despise the things of the body; another He trains for martyrdom: diverse in different men, yet not diverse from Himself, as it is written, But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith, in the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healing, in the same Spirit; and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discernings of spirits; and to another divers kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will.

ibid, XVII.37-37:

If thou believe, thou shalt not only receive remission of sins, but also do things which pass man’s power. And mayest thou be worthy of the gift of prophecy also! For thou shalt receive grace according to the measure of thy capacity and not of my words; for I may possibly speak of but small things, yet thou mayest receive greater; since faith is a large affair2238. All thy life long will thy guardian the Comforter abide with thee; He will care for thee, as for his own soldier; for thy goings out, and thy comings in, and thy plotting foes. And He will give thee gifts of grace of every kind, if thou grieve Him not by sin; for it is written, And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye were sealed unto the day of redemption. What then, beloved, is it to preserve grace? Be ye ready to receive grace, and when ye have received it, cast it not away.

And may the very God of All, who spake by the Holy Ghost through the prophets, who sent Him forth upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost in this place, Himself send Him forth at this time also upon you; and by Him keep us also, imparting His benefit in common to us all, that we may ever render up the fruits of the Holy Ghost, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, in Christ Jesus our Lord:—By whom and with whom, together with the Holy Ghost, be glory to the Father, both now, and ever, and for ever and ever. Amen.

Ambrose, On His Brother Satyrus, 2.32:

For now we know in part and understand I part. But then we shall be able to comprehend what is perfect, when not the shadow but the reality of the majesty and eternity of God shall begin to shine and to reveal itself unveiled before our eyes.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies, IV.9 (see also Against Heresies, II. 28 and V.2):

For one and the same Lord, who is greater than the temple, greater than Solomon, and greater than Jonah, confers gifts upon men, that is, His own presence, and the resurrection from the dead…And as their love towards God increases, He bestows more and greater [gifts]; as also the Lord said to His disciples: “Ye shall see greater things than these.” And Paul declares: “Not that I have already attained, or that I am justified, or already have been made perfect. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect has come, the things which are in part shall be done away.” As, therefore, when that which is perfect is come, we shall not see another Father, but Him whom we now desire to see…neither shall we look for another Christ and Son of God, but Him who [was born] of the Virgin Mary, who also suffered, in whom too we trust, and whom we love…neither do we receive another Holy Spirit, besides Him who is with us, and who cries, “Abba, Father;” and we shall make increase in the very same things [as now], and shall make progress, so that no longer through a glass, or by means of enigmas, but face to face, we shall enjoy the gifts of God.

Others could of course be added. Tertullian with his spirited embrace of the Montanus, the “incarnate Holy Spirit,” springs to mind immediately as one champion of the ongoing role of spiritual gifts in the church. The above should suffice, however, to establish the point that early Christians believed strongly in the ongoing role of spiritual gifts in the church. This leaves us with an understanding of 1 Cor. 13 that stands up not only exegetically and logically but historically.

This result opens the door for a number of difficult questions about the nature of spiritual gifts, the basis for Scriptural authority, and the legitimacy of Pentecostal interpretations of the charismatic early church. That these questions might be more easily dismissed with a different interpretation of 1 Cor. 13 is irrelevant. The meaning of the Scripture is readily available to anyone open to see it and it is corroborated by the early church. What questions arise must be answered while admitting this truth not in an attempt to revise it for our own comforts sake.

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Christ the Lord is risen today. Hallelujah!

Gregory the Theologian, Oration 1:

It is the Day of the Resurrection, and my Beginning has good auspices. Let us then keep the Festival with splendor, and let us embrace one another. Let us say Brethren, even to those who hate us; much more to those who have done or suffered aught out of love for us. Let us forgive all offences for the Resurrection’s sake: let us give one another pardon.

Yesterday the Lamb was slain and the door-posts were anointed, and Egypt bewailed her Firstborn, and the Destroyer passed us over, and the Seal was dreadful and reverend, and we were walled in with the Precious Blood. To-day we have escaped from Egypt and from Pharaoh; and there is none to hinder us from keeping a Feast to the Lord our God—the Feast of our Departure; or from celebrating that Feast, not in the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but in the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, carrying with us nothing of ungodly and Egyptian leaven.

Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him; yesterday I died with Him; to-day I am quickened with Him; yesterday I was buried with Him; to-day I rise with Him. But let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us—you will think perhaps that I am going to say gold, or silver, or woven work or transparent and costly stones, the mere passing material of earth, that remains here below, and is for the most part always possessed by bad men, slaves of the world and of the Prince of the world. Let us offer ourselves, the possession most precious to God, and most fitting; let us give back to the Image what is made after the Image. Let us recognize our Dignity; let us honor our Archetype; let us know the power of the Mystery, and for what Christ died.

Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us. Let us become God’s for His sake, since He for ours became Man. He assumed the worse that He might give us the better; He became poor that we through His poverty might be rich;2537 He took upon Him the form of a servant that we might receive back our liberty; He came down that we might be exalted; He was tempted that we might conquer; He was dishonored that He might glorify us; He died that He might save us; He ascended that He might draw to Himself us, who were lying low in the Fall of sin. Let us give all, offer all, to Him Who gave Himself a Ransom and a Reconciliation for us. But one can give nothing like oneself, understanding the Mystery, and becoming for His sake all that He became for ours.

Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures:

Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and keep high festival, all ye that love Jesus; for He is risen. Rejoice, all ye that mourned before, when ye heard of the daring and wicked deeds of the Jews: for He who was spitefully entreated of them in this place is risen again. And as the discourse concerning the Cross was a sorrowful one, so let the good tidings of the Resurrection bring joy to the hearers. Let mourning be turned into gladness, and lamentation to joy: and let our mouth be filled with joy and gladness, because of Him, who after His resurrection, said Rejoice. For I know the sorrow of Christ’s friends in these past days; because, as our discourse stopped short at the Death and the Burial, and did not tell the good tidings of the Resurrection, your mind was in suspense, to hear what you were longing for.

Now, therefore, the Dead is risen, He who was free among the dead, and the deliverer of the dead. He who in dishonor wore patiently the crown of thorns, even He arose, and crowned Himself with the diadem of His victory over death.

Venatius Honorius, On Easter:

O Christ, Thou Saviour of the world, merciful Creator and Redeemer, the only offspring from the Godhead of the Father, flowing in an indescribable manner from the heart of Thy Parent, Thou self-existing Word, and powerful from the mouth of Thy Father, equal to Him, of one mind with Him, His fellow, coeval with the Father, from whom at first the world derived its origin! Thou dost suspend the firmament, Thou heapest together the soil, Thou dost pour forth the seas, by whose government all things which are fixed in their places flourish. Who seeing that the human race was plunged in the depth of misery, that Thou mightest rescue man, didst Thyself also become man: nor wert Thou willing only to be born with a body, but Thou becamest flesh, which endured to be born and to die. Thou dost undergo funeral obsequies, Thyself the author of life and framer of the world, Thou dost enter the path of death, in giving the aid of salvation. The gloomy chains of the infernal law yielded, and chaos feared to be pressed by the presence of the light. Darkness perishes, put to flight by the brightness of Christ; the thick pall of eternal night falls. But restore the promised pledge, I pray Thee, O power benign! The third day has returned; arise, my buried One; it is not becoming that Thy limbs should lie in the lowly sepulchre, nor that worthless stones should press that which is the ransom of the world. It is unworthy that a stone should shut in with a confining rock, and cover Him in whose fist all things are enclosed. Take away the linen clothes, I pray; leave the napkins in the tomb: Thou art sufficient for us, and without Thee there is nothing. Release the chained shades of the infernal prison, and recall to the upper regions whatever sinks to the lowest depths. Give back Thy face, that the world may see the light; give back the day which flees from us at Thy death. But returning, O holy conqueror! Thou didst altogether fill the heaven! Tartarus lies depressed, nor retains its rights. The ruler of the lower regions, insatiably opening his hollow jaws, who has always been a spoiler, becomes a prey to Thee. Thou rescuest an innumerable people from the prison of death, and they follow in freedom to the place whither their leader approaches. The fierce monster in alarm vomits forth the multitude whom he had swallowed up, and the Lamb withdraws the sheep from the jaw of the wolf.

Melito of Sardis, On Pascha:

But he arose from the dead and mounted up to the heights of heaven. When the Lord had clothed himself with humanity, and had suffered for the sake of the sufferer, and had been bound for the sake of the imprisoned, and had been judged for the sake of the condemned, and buried for the sake of the one who was buried, he rose up from the dead, and cried aloud with this voice: Who is he who contends with me? Let him stand in opposition to me. I set the condemned man free; I gave the dead man life; I raised up the one who had been entombed.

“Who is my opponent? I,” he says, “am the Christ.”

“I am the one who destroyed death, and triumphed over the enemy, and trampled Hades under foot, and bound the strong one, and carried off man to the heights of heaven, I,” he says, “am the Christ.”

“Therefore, come, all families of men, you who have been befouled with sins, and receive forgiveness for your sins. I am your forgiveness, I am the Passover of your salvation, I am the lamb which was sacrificed for you, I am your ransom, I am your light, I am your saviour, I am your resurrection, I am your king, I am leading you up to the heights of heaven, I will show you the eternal Father, I will raise you up by my right hand.”

This is the one who made the heavens and the earth, and who in the beginning created man, who was proclaimed through the law and prophets, who became human via the virgin, who was hanged upon a tree, who was buried in the earth, who was resurrected from the dead, and who ascended to the heights of heaven, who sits at the right hand of the Father, who has authority to judge and to save everything, through whom the Father created everything from the beginning of the world to the end of the age. This is the alpha and the omega. This is the beginning and the end–an indescribable beginning and an incomprehensible end. This is the Christ. This is the king. This is Jesus. This is the general. This is the Lord. This is the one who rose up from the dead. This is the one who sits at the right hand of the Father. He bears the Father and is borne by the Father, to whom be the glory and the power forever. Amen.

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