[no_toc]CHRIST IS RISEN! Most of us are familiar with the Catechetical Homily of St. John Chrysostom which is appointed to be read during the celebration of Pascha. Other patristic texts on the resurrection are less well known but make for timely reading during Bright Week. Indeed He is risen!
“We should understand, beloved, that the paschal mystery is at once old and new, transitory and eternal, corruptible and incorruptible, mortal and immortal.
“In terms of the Law it is old, in terms of the Word it is new. In its figure it is passing, in its grace it is eternal. It is corruptible in the sacrifice of the lamb, incorruptible in the eternal life of the Lord. It is mortal in His burial in the earth, immortal in His resurrection from the dead.
“The Law indeed is old, but the Word is new. The type is transitory, but grace is eternal. The lamb was corruptible, but the Lord is incorruptible. He was slain as a lamb; He rose again as God. He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, yet He was not a sheep. He was silent as a lamb, yet He was not a lamb. The type has passed away; the reality has come.
“The lamb gives place to God, the sheep gives place to a man, and the man is Christ, who fills the whole of creation. The sacrifice of the lamb, the celebration of the Passover, and the prescriptions of the Law have all been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Under the old Law, and still more under the new dispensation, everything pointed toward Him.
“Both the Law and the Word came forth from Zion and Jerusalem, but now the Law has given place to the Word, the old to the new. The commandment has become grace, the type a reality. The lamb has become a Son, the sheep a man, and man, God.
“The Lord, though He was God, became man. He suffered for the sake of those who suffer, He was bound for those in bonds, condemned for the guilty, buried for those who lie in the grave; but He rose from the dead, and cried aloud: ‘Who will contend with me? Let him confront me. I have freed the condemned, brought the dead back to life, raised men from their graves. Who has anything to say against me? I, he said, am the Christ; I have destroyed death, triumphed over the enemy, trampled hell underfoot, bound the strong one, and taken men up to the heights of heaven: I am the Christ.’
“Come, then, all you nations of men, receive forgiveness for the sins that defile you. I am your forgiveness. I am the Passover that brings salvation. I am the lamb who was immolated for you. I am your ransom, your life, your resurrection, your light; I am your salvation and your king. I will bring you to the heights of heaven. With my own right hand I will raise you up, and I will show you the eternal Father.” (Paschal Homily of Meliton of Sardis, + c.180)
Pierced by God’s Hook
“As the ruler of darkness could not approach the presence of the Light unimpeded, had he not seen in Him something of flesh, then, as soon as he saw the God-bearing flesh and saw the miracle performed through it by the Deity, he hoped that… if he came to take hold of the flesh through death, then he would take hold of all the power contained in it. Therefore, having swallowed the bait of the flesh, he was pierced by the hook of the Deity and thus the dragon was transfixed by the hook.” (St. Gregory of Nyssa, c. 335-394, The Great Catechetical Oration 22-24)
A Mousetrap for the Devil
“The devil was conquered by his own trophy of victory. The devil jumped for joy, when he seduced the first man and cast him down to death. By seducing the first man, he slew him; by slaying the last man, he lost the first from his snare. The victory of our Lord Jesus Christ came when He rose, and ascended into heaven; then was fulfilled what you have heard when the Apocalypse was being read, ‘The Lion of the tribe of Judah has won the day’ (Revelation 5:5). . . . The devil jumped for joy when Christ died; and by the very death of Christ the devil was overcome: he took, as it were, the bait in the mousetrap. He rejoiced at the death, thinking himself death’s commander. But that which caused his joy dangled the bait before him. The Lord’s cross was the devil’s mousetrap: the bait which caught him was the death of the Lord.” (St. Augustine of Hippo, c. 354-430, Sermon 261)
Foiled by His Own Malice
“And in order that He might set the human race free from the bonds of deadly transgression, He hid the power of His majesty from the raging devil, and opposed him with our frail and humble nature. For if the cruel and proud foe could have known the counsel of God’s mercy, he would have aimed at soothing the Jews’ minds into gentleness rather than at firing them with unrighteous hatred, lest he should lose the thraldom of all his captives in assailing the liberty of One who owed him nothing. Thus he was foiled by his own malice: he inflicted a punishment on the Son of God, which was turned to the healing of all the sons of men. He shed righteous Blood, which became the ransom and the drink for the world’s atonement.
“The Lord undertook that which He chose according to the purpose of His own will. He permitted madmen to lay their wicked hands upon Him: hands which, in ministering to their own doom, were of service to the Redeemer’s work. And yet, so great was His loving compassion for even His murderers, that He prayed to the Father on the cross, and begged not for His own vengeance but for their forgiveness, saying, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34). And such was the power of that prayer, that the hearts of many of those who had said, His blood be on us and on our sons (Matthew 27:25), were turned to penitence by the Apostle Peter’s preaching, and on one day there were baptized about 3,000 Jews: and they all were of one heart and of one soul (Acts 4:32), being ready now to die for Him, whose crucifixion they had demanded.” (Pope St. Leo the Great, c. 400-461, Sermon 62)
Redeeming His Own
“A certain person has interpreted this passage ([reference-pericope]1 Peter 3:18-20[/reference-pericope]) as follows, that the saints resting in the lower world longed for that consolation about which the Lord say to His Apostles, Many prophets and righteous persons have longed to see what you see and did not see it and to hear what you hear and did not hear it (Matthew 13:17), about which the psalmist also says, My eyes have failed at your message, saying, ‘When will you comfort me,’ (Psalms 119 :82) and that this consolation and encouragement was preached by the Lord when He went down into the lower world even to those who were in prison and were once in the days of Noah unbelievers and lived carnally. He may have said this. But the Catholic faith holds that when the Lord went down into the lower world and brought His own from there, it was the faithful alone and not unbelievers whom He took with Him to the heavenly kingdom… (The Venerable Bede, c. 673-735, Commentary on 1 Peter)