Saturday, April 11, 2020

On Pascha

This is the one who comes from heaven onto the earth by means of the suffering one,
and wraps himself in the suffering one by means of a virgin womb,
and comes forth a human being.
He accepted the suffering of the suffering one
through suffering in a body which could suffer, 
and set free the flesh from suffering.
Through the Spirit which cannot die he slew the manslayer death.
This is the Pascha of our salvation: 
this is the one who in many people endured many things. 
This is the one who was murdered in Abel, 
tied up in Isaac, 
exiled in Jacob, 
sold in Joseph, 
exposed in Moses, 
slaughtered in the lamb, 
hunted down in David, 
dishonored in the prophets. 

This is the one made flesh in a virgin, 
who was hanged on a tree, 
who was buried in the earth, 
who was raised from the dead, 
who was exalted to the heights of heaven. 

This is the lamb slain, 
this is the speechless lamb, 
this is the one born of Mary the fair ewe, 
this is the one taken from the flock, 
and led to slaughter. 
Who was sacrificed in the evening, 
and buried at night; 
who was not broken on the tree, 
who was not undone in the earth, 
who rose from the dead and resurrected humankind from the grave below. 

This is the one who has been murdered. 
And where murdered? 
In the middle of Jerusalem.
By whom? By Israel. 
Why? Because he healed their lame, 
and cleansed their lepers, 
and enlightened their blind, 
and raised up their dead; 
and therefore he died. 
Where is it written in the law and the prophets: 
“They repaid me bad things for good and childlessness for my
They planned wickedness for me saying: 
‘Let us tie up the just man because he is a nuisance to us’?” 

What strange injustice have you done, O Israel? 
You have dishonored the one who honored you, 
you have disgraced the one who glorified you, 
you have denied the one who owned you, 
you have ignored the one who made you known, 
you have murdered the one who gave you life. 
And while you were rejoicing he was starving. 
You were drinking wine and eating bread; 
he had vinegar and gall. 
Your face was bright whereas his was cast down. 
You were triumphant while he was afflicted. 
You were making music while he was being judged. 
You were proposing toasts; 
he was being nailed in place. 
You were dancing, he was buried. 
You were reclining on a cushioned couch, 
he in grave and coffin. 
O lawless Israel, what is this new injustice you have done, 
casting strange sufferings on your Lord? 
Your master who formed you, 
who made you, 
who honored you, 
who called you “Israel.” 

You were not Israel. 
You did not see God. 
You did not perceive the Lord, Israel, 
you did not recognize the first-born of God, 
begotten before the morning star, 
who adorned the light, 
who lit up the day, 
who divided the darkness, 
who fixed the first boundary, 
who hung the earth, 
who tamed the abyss, 
who stretched out the firmament, 
who furnished the world, 
who arranged the stars in the heavens, 
who lit up the great lights, 
who made the angels in heaven, 
who there established thrones, 
who formed humanity on the earth. 
Ungrateful Israel, come to trial with me 
concerning your ingratitude. 
How much did you value being formed by him? 
How much did you value the finding of your fathers? 
How much did you value the descent into Egypt, 
and your refreshment there under Joseph the just? 

How much did you value the ten plagues? 
How much did you value the pillar by night, 
and the cloud by day, 
and the crossing of the Red Sea? 
How much did you value the heavenly gift of manna, 
and the water gushing from rock, 
and the giving of the law at Horeb, 
and the allotment of the land, 
and the gifts given there? 

How much did you value the suffering ones, 
healed by his very presence? 
Give me a price on the withered hand 
which he restored to its body. 
Give me a price on those blind from birth 
whom he illumined by a voice. 
Give me a price on those who lay dead 
and who, four days later, were raised from the tomb. 

His gifts to you are beyond price 
yet you held them worthless when you thanked him, 
repaying him with ungrateful acts; 
evil for good, 
affliction for joy, 
and death for life. 
On this account you had to die. 
Therefore, Israel, 
you did not shudder at the presence of the Lord; 
so you have trembled, embattled by foes. 
When the Lord was hung up you did not rend your clothing, 
so you tore them over the fallen. 
You disowned the Lord, 
and so are not owned by him. 
You did not receive the Lord, 
so you were not pitied by him. 
You smashed the Lord to the ground, 
you were razed to the ground. 
And you lie dead 
while he rose from the dead, 
and is raised to the heights of heaven. 
The Lord clothed himself with humanity, 
and with suffering on behalf of the suffering one, 
and bound on behalf of the one constrained, 
and judged on behalf of the one convicted, 
and buried on behalf of the one entombed, 
he rose from the dead and cried out aloud: 

“Who takes issue with me? Let him stand before me. 
I set free the condemned. 
I gave life to the dead. 
I raise up the entombed. 
Who will contradict me?” 
“It is I,” says the Christ, 
“I am he who destroys death, 
and triumphs over the enemy, 
and crushes Hades, 
and binds the strong man, 
and bears humanity off to the heavenly heights.” 
“It is I,” says the Christ. 
“So come all families of people, 
adulterated with sin, 
and receive forgiveness of sins. 
For I am your freedom. 
I am the Passover of salvation, 
I am the lamb slaughtered for you, 
I am your ransom, 
I am your life, 
I am your light, 
I am your salvation, 
I am your resurrection, 
I am your King. 
I shall raise you up by my right hand, 
I will lead you to the heights of heaven, 
there shall I show you the everlasting Father.” 

- Melito of Sardis, A Homily On Pascha1
writing between A.D. 160 and A.D. 170

1. These selections are from Melito of Sardis. (2016). On Pascha: With the Fragments of Melito and Other Material Related to the Quartodecimans: Translation. (J. Behr, Ed., A. C. Stewart, Trans.) (Second edition, Vol. 55, p. 80). Yonkers, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.

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