31 March 2018

The Paschal Mystery of Christ

Beloved of the Lord: The Mystery of the Lord’s Passover is both old and new, both transient and eternal, corruptible and incorruptible, mortal and immortal.  It is old according to the Law, but new according to the Word of the Gospel.  It is transient in its ancient type, but eternal in its true grace.  It is corruptible in the sacrifice of the sheep, but incorruptible in the Body and Life of the Lamb. It is mortal with respect to His burial in the earth, but immortal in His Resurrection from the dead.

The Law is old, but the Word of the Gospel is always new and makes all things new.  The type was for a season, but the grace is forever.  The sheep was corruptible, but the Lord is incorruptible, who was sacrificed as a Lamb, but who is risen from the dead and lives forever as God in the Flesh.  He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, but He is not a dumb sheep.  He was put to death as a lamb without a voice, but He is not a lamb.  Now the figure has passed away, and the reality has come.  For God replaced the lamb, and a Man the sheep; and that Man is Christ, who contains all things.

Therefore, the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, and the sending of the sheep to slaughter, and the Word of the Law, have all been accomplished and fulfilled in Christ Jesus.  For everything in the ancient Law — and all the more so, everything in the Gospel — is centered and perfected in Him.

Indeed, His fulfillment of the Law has become the Gospel, the old comprehended and completed in the new.  The commandment has issued forth in grace, and the type has given way to the reality.  The Lamb is now the Firstborn Son, the Sheep is the true Man, and that Man is the incarnate God.

So the One who was born a Son, led to slaughter as a Lamb, sacrificed as a Sheep, and buried as a Man, has risen from the dead and lives forever as God, since He is by nature both God and Man.

When this One came from heaven to earth for the sake of those who suffer the consequences of their sins — when He became flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood in the womb of the Virgin — having come forth as true Man, He humbled Himself, took on the form of a Servant, and bore in His own Body on the Cross the sufferings of those who suffer.  He thus destroyed those human sufferings by the power of His indestructible life.  He put death to death by His death in the flesh.

Though He was led away as a lamb and sacrificed as a sheep, He delivered us from the slavery of the world, as from the land of Egypt; He released us from the bondage of the devil, as from the hand of Pharaoh; He sealed our souls with His own Spirit, and our bodies with His own Blood.

This Lord Jesus Christ is the One who covered death with shame and plunged the devil into mourning, as Moses did to Pharaoh and all his chariots and horsemen.  He is the One who struck down lawlessness and deprived injustice of its children, as Moses did to Egypt.  He is the One who delivered us from slavery into freedom, from darkness into light, from death into life, and from tyranny into God’s own Kingdom.  He has made of us a royal priesthood and God’s own people.

This same Lord Jesus Christ is the Passover Lamb of our salvation.  He is the One who patiently endured many things in many people.  He is the One who was murdered in Abel, who was bound as a sacrifice in Isaac, who was exiled in Jacob, who was sold in Joseph; who was condemned in Moses, slaughtered in the lamb, hunted down in David, and dishonored in the Prophets.

He is the One who was conceived and born of the Virgin, who was hung upon the Tree as a curse, and who was buried in the dust of the earth; who has risen from among the dead and lives forever; who also raises the sons and daughters of man from the grave below to the heights of heaven.

He is the Lamb who was slain.  He is the Lamb who was silent.  He is St. Mary’s little Lamb, who was chosen from the flock, led to slaughter, sacrificed at twilight, and buried at night.  Yet, He was not broken on the Tree, nor did His Body experience corruption in the earth.  For He is risen, He is risen indeed!  And by His rising you also are raised from sin and death to life with God in Him.

He is the One who was murdered, condemned in the very heart of Jerusalem, His Holy City, and put to death outside the walls of that once glorious abode of God.  Why?  Because He had healed the lame, and cleansed the lepers, and opened the eyes of the blind to His light, and even raised the dead.  Sweet injuries, indeed!  “Yet, they at these themselves displease and ‘gainst Him rise.”

He is the One who brought His people out of Egypt by His mighty arm and outstretched hand.  He is the One who divided the Red Sea and led them through the water on dry ground; who drowned hard-hearted Pharaoh and all his host under the waves.  He is the One whose Glory guarded and guided the people through the wilderness as a Pillar of Cloud by day and a Pillar of Fire by night.

He is the One who fed them with Manna from heaven, who gave them water from the Rock, who established His Law and His Covenant at Horeb, and who gave the children of Israel the Land that He had promised.  He sent to them His holy Prophets, and He raised up Kings in His Name.

He is the One who has come to save you, who heals those who suffer and raises the dead to life.

And He is the One you also have sinned against.  He is the One you have wronged in countless ways.  He is the One you have killed by your own sins.  He is the One you have sold out for silver.

For your transgressions He was lifted up in death on the Cross.  The very One who hung the earth in space was hung between the earth and sky.  The One who stretched out the heavens was pierced.  The One by whom all things are made was cursed and nailed to the Tree.  The Lord was insulted, God Himself was put to death, and the true King of Israel was handed over by His people to die.

But this same Lord Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and mounted up to the heights of heaven. When He had clothed himself in humility, and had suffered for the sake of those who suffer, and was bound for the sake of the imprisoned, and judged for the sake of the condemned, and buried for the sake of those who return to the dust — He also rose up from the dead to everlasting life.

He is the One who now cries out: Who will contend with Me?  Let him stand in opposition to Me.  I set the condemned man free.  I give the dead man life.  I raise up those who have been entombed.

Who is my opponent?  I Am the Christ, the Lord’s Anointed, who was dead, and yet, behold, I live. I Am the One who destroyed death, and triumphed over the enemy, and trampled Hades under foot, and bound the strong one, and lifted up man to the heights of heaven.  I Am the Christ, He says.

Come, therefore, all you children of men, all of you defiled by your sins and subject to death; come to Me and receive the forgiveness of all your sins.  For I am your Forgiveness.  I am the Passover of your Salvation.  I am the Lamb who was sacrificed for you.  I am your Ransom and Redeemer.  I am your Light and your Salvation, your Strength, and your Song.  I am your Resurrection and your Life.  I am your true King.  I lead you to Paradise, and I bring you to the everlasting Father.  I raise you up from death to Life by My strong arm and outstretched hand.

Thus says the Lord who made the heavens and the earth, who in the beginning created man, who was proclaimed through the Law and the Prophets, who in these last days, in the fulness of time, became true Man, the Virgin’s Son; who was crucified, died, and was buried; who has risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity; who sits at the right hand of His God and Father; who has all authority in heaven and on earth, by which He forgives sins and saves sinners from death.

He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the One who has no End.  He is the Christ, your King.  He is the Lord Jesus, the Firstborn from the dead and the First Fruits of the New Creation.  He is the Author and Perfecter of faith, who reveals the Father and pours out the Spirit generously upon you.  He is the living One, in whom you also live and shall not die.

For Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

(Excerpted and redacted from the Paschal Homily by St. Melito of Sardis †180)

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