Showing posts with label Pascha. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pascha. Show all posts

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.

What Destruction Owes

In those days, the earth will give back what has been entrusted to it, and Sheol will give back what has been entrusted to it, and destruction will restore what it owes.
For in those days, my Chosen One will arise and choose the just and holy from among them, for the day on which they will be saved has drawn near.
And the Chosen One in those days will sit upon my throne…

1 Enoch 51:1-5

Friday, April 10, 2020

And and and and and after his resurrection

This past week I shared the macro and micro literary structures of the final narrative section of Matthew's Gospel (here and here). Today I want to highlight a pericope within one of the micro literary structures of that final narrative section: Matthew 27:51-56. More specifically, I want to pinpoint verses 51 to 53. 

As I noted in a previous post, the micro-structure of that section looks like this:

a)  27:51 —> Behold (i.e. “Look” or “see”): The veil is torn (and) >> the earthquake (and) >> the rocks are split (and)
     b)  27:52 —> the tombs are opened and “many” bodies of the saints are raised

     b’)  27:53 —> those from the tombs appeared to "many" in the Holy City after Jesus’ resurrection

a’)  27:54-56 —> The guards (and) Mary magdalene (and) Mary of James and Joseph (and) the Mother of the sons of Zebedee beheld (i.e. saw) the earthquake and “the things that were done”

An English translation of verses 27:51-53 say this:
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom, and the earth shook, and the rocks were split, and the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

The Greek text underlying this translation is this:
καὶ ἰδοὺ τὸ καταπέτασμα τοῦ ναοῦ ἐσχίσθη ἀπʼ ἄνωθεν ἕως κάτω εἰς δύο, καὶ ἡ γῆ ἐσείσθη, καὶ αἱ πέτραι ἐσχίσθησαν, καὶ τὰ μνημεῖα ἀνεῴχθησαν καὶ πολλὰ σώματα τῶν κεκοιμημένων ἁγίων ἠγέρθησαν, καὶ ἐξελθόντες ἐκ τῶν μνημείων μετὰ τὴν ἔγερσιν αὐτοῦ εἰσῆλθον εἰς τὴν ἁγίαν πόλιν καὶ ἐνεφανίσθησαν πολλοῖς.1 

If we are reading sections b and b' carefully, whether in English or Greek, it becomes apparent that this is one long sentence connected with the word "and" many times. It should also be equally apparent that somewhere within this lengthy sentence there are likely two distinct days of events being described. What is not clear is the event taking place on a different day than the day of crucifixion. All of the listed events are lumped together, giving the impression that all of them occurred either on the day Jesus was crucified, or all of them occurred "after his resurrection."

This is how I imagine these events taking place: The curtain of the temple was torn, the earth quaked, and the rocks were split on the day Jesus gave up his spirit. Then, on the "third day" when Jesus was raised from the dead-ones in Hades, the tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints were raised up to life again, and they came out of the tombs after his resurrection and went into the holy city to appear to many.

These saints may or may not be representatives of the first resurrection (Rev. 20:5) mentioned elsewhere in Holy Scriptures. This resurrection account might not be the historical fulfillment of that "first resurrection" either. It might be. It might not be. I'm largely indifferent; although with a gun to my head and ten seconds to say more, I'd say the "first resurrection" of Revelation is far more likely to be a reference to this first resurrection in Matthew 27:52-53. As to how it all fits together, I don't have a comprehensive set of answers, nor do I care to ever have one. I can, however, confidently assert that this event points out the power of what Christ accomplished through his resurrection from the dead-ones.

After his resurrection (μετὰ τὴν ἔγερσιν αὐτοῦ), many bodies of the saints who had died were raised with Jesus. At that time, they were obviously not yet raised to heaven. For this first event, they were not merely raised spiritually either (also, obviously). They were previously alive in a place known as the unseen realm of Sheol/Hades, but for the first time in human history they were released from bondage. At that punctiliar point in time, many among the dead-ones were raised along with Jesus, and life was given to their mortal bodies again (i.e. their fleshly "bodies" were "raised" to life again). Since we don't know what happened to their fleshly bodies after that time mentioned in Matthew 27:52-53, at least not any more than we know what exactly happened to Jesus' flesh and bodily organs after this time (and yes, I am aware of how much philosophical speculation has occurred throughout Christian traditions in that regard), I am simply not going to speculate further. But it is safe to believe that once they were raised to eternal life with Jesus (whenever that was), they still remain alive today

Did their fleshly bodies ascend to heaven? 

Did their fleshly bodies decay again after age, followed by ascension into heaven as "spiritual bodies," as Saint Paul says (whatever he meant)? 

Who knows? 

Does a precise answer to that even matter?

I believe that Christian traditions are sufficient to guide people along a path of discovering helpful answers to those questions, without everyone ever collectively needing to know absolutely everything for certain.

What matters to us now is that a human being has been raised from the dead-ones of Sheol/Hades! 

And that human being was Jesus of Nazareth! 

And by the power and authority of Jesus, many dead have been raised with him!

And that event initiated a transfiguration of authority over the cosmos! 

It may also be worth pointing out that this brief event mentioned in Matthew 27:52-53 does not define what "resurrection" means. "Resurrection" is a term that could describe a lot of things. But that shouldn't stop us from realizing that its use in this passage means something profound. It means that along with the Second Adam being raised from Hades, the first Adam and many others in Hades who had been captive with the dead up to that time could have been raised with him; and if they could have been raised (as some obviously were, according to Matthew's account), then those were indeed raised at that time, starting the day Jesus was raised. It was the "many" among the tombs of Jerusalem who testified to the fact that the dead are now able to be raised because Israel's promised Christ is risen, and by his death he has trampled upon death. This teaching of eternal life made possible and real in Jesus of Nazareth was no light or insignificant matter; and neither was Jesus' final judgment upon the old creation, when the rest of the dead were raised, and Hades/Sheol became no more. 

1.  Harris, W. H., III. (2010). The Lexham Greek-English Interlinear New Testament: SBL Edition (Mt 27:50–53). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Cultic Union

I thank thee, O Lord, that thou hast redeemed my life from the Pit, and that from Sheol-Abaddon thou hast raised me up to an everlasting height, so that I walk about on a limitless plain. I know that there is hope for one whom thou hast formed from the dust for an everlasting Council. And a perverted spirit thou hast purified from great sin that it might take its place with the host of the Holy Ones and enter into community with the congregation of the Sons of Heaven.

DSS, Thanksgiving Hymn 10