Theodore of Mopsuestia (ca. 350AD – 428AD), Antiochene Scholar Accepted by both West Syrian and East Syrian Churches
Commentary On The Lord’s Prayer, Baptism And The Eucharistf
1933 Translation by Alphonse Mingan, pp.1-123
With your assistance, O Lord Jesus Christ, I will begin to write the explanation of the Sacraments by the blessed Mar Theodore. Help me, our Lord, and bring my work to completion. Amen.
Because by the grace of God we spoke to you yesterday of the subject of faith, which our blessed Fathers wrote for our instruction according to the words of the Divine Books, in order to initiate us, in accordance with the doctrine of our Lord, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit— it is fitting that we should speak to-day of the necessary things concerning the prayer which was taught by our Lord, and which they made to follow the words of the Creed, so that it should be learnt and kept in memory by those who come near to the faith of baptism. Our Lord also, after having said: “Go you, therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” added: And teach them to observe all things I have commanded you.” He showed in this that, alongside the doctrine of religion and the right knowledge, we should endeavour to harmonise our lives with the Divine commandments. They added to the words of the Creed the prayer which our Lord taught in short terms to His disciples, because it contains the teaching for good works, in a sufficient manner. Every prayer contains teaching of good works to anyone who cares to think attentively of duty, because we wish our works to be that which we ask in our prayer that they should be. He who cares, therefore, for perfection and is anxious to do the things that are pleasing to God, will pay more attention to prayer than any other thing, and he who does not care for any virtue and is not anxious to do the things that are pleasing to God, it is clear that he will show also no interest in prayer.
As we are pleased at all times to meet, and to deal and converse with, a person whom we love most, and as we do not care to meet or to speak to people whom we do not love, so those who possess God in their mind and are very anxious to do the things that please Him are wont to make use of frequent prayers, because they believe that they work and converse with Him when they pray. He, therefore, who despises Divine things and cares for other things is not anxious to pray. This is the reason why the blessed Paul orders us to pray always so that by the frequency of prayer we should implant in us the love of God and the zeal for the things that please Him.
This is the reason why our Lord also, who was man by sight and by nature, and who put in practice this mode of life and good works, showed great zeal for prayer; and because He was busy in day-time with teaching the things that were necessary, He devoted the hours of His night to the work of prayer. He used to go to lonely places in order to teach that it is necessary for the one who prays to be free from every care, so that he might extend the sight of his soul towards God and contemplate Him, and not be drawn to any other thing. He chose His times and places so that He might attract us and save us from all the disquietude by which the soul is disturbed and agitated, and sometimes involuntarily distracted from the subject it has in mind.
Because He used to do these things in this way, as the blessed Luke said, His disciples came and asked Him how it was fitting to pray, since John had also taught his disciples; and He taught perfection conveniently in the short words of prayer, which He uttered, saying: “After this manner, therefore, pray you:
Our Father who is in Heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done as in Heaven so in earth. Give us to-day our necessary bread, and forgive us our debts and our sins as we have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for Yours is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory now, always, and forever and ever. Amen.
He made use of these short words as if to say that prayer does not consist so much in words as in good works, love and zeal for duty. Indeed, anyone who is inclined to good works, all his life must needs be in prayer, which is seen in his choice of these good works. Prayer is by necessity connected with good works, because a thing that is not good to be looked for is not good to be prayed for. More wicked than death by stoning is death, which would come to us if we asked God to grant us things which contradict His commandments. He who offers such prayers incites God to wrath rather than to reconciliation and mercy. A true prayer consists in good works, in love of God, and diligence in the things that please Him. He who is intent on these things and whose mind contemplates them, prays without hindrance always, and at all times, whenever he does the things that please (God). To such a one invocations of prayers are always needful, because it is fitting for him who strives after good things to ask God to help him in these same things after which he is striving, in order that all his life might be in accordance with God’s will. And it is known that such a one will have his prayers answered, because it is impossible that he who is diligent in the Divine commandments and acts according to them and does not break them, should not assuredly receive help from Him who enacted them; it is likewise clear beforehand that he who leads a life that is not in harmony with them, will not receive any help from prayer, since he is caring for things which do not please God and asking for such things as he himself chose to do all his life.
This is the reason why our Lord also taught us, as the blessed Luke said, not to faint in praying, and by means of a parable instructed us about it. He said: “There was in a city a judge which feared not God, neither regarded man. And a widow who was being injured by a man who was stronger than she was, came to him incessantly and asked him for the cessation of the injustice that was done to her. He postponed her (case) for a long time, but at the end he was overcome by the persistence of the woman, who was urging on him to take up her case and deliver her from the tyrant, who was doing injustice to her and who was stronger than she was.” And He added this: “Hear what the unjust judge said: Because this widow troubles me I will avenge her lest by her continual coming she weary me. And shall not God avenge His own elect which cry day and night to Him, though He bear long with them”?
Because those who strive after perfection have unceasing molestation from the urges of nature, from the promptings of the demons, and from daily happenings which often cause many to stumble and deviate from the path of duty, they have a constant struggle in this world; and in order that they might not think that God had forsaken them, from the fact that they have not a moment of rest from their daily struggle, He did well to allude to an unjust judge, so that by a comparison with him, He might confirm the fact that it is not possible that God should forsake those who chose to do good things. Indeed, if that tyrant who had not the smallest care for justice, and did not fear God and regard man, was overcome by the troublesome persistence of the woman and did his duty and avenged her, without hope of reward, against the man who was acting unjustly towards her, now do you think that God, who is so merciful and compassionate, who did everything for our salvation and deliverance, and who does not bear to forsake even those who sin, will forsake those who strive after good things and are diligent in things that please Him? Indeed, it is not because He forsakes them that He permits them to be beset by tribulations and daily temptations, which they are forced to endure against their will, either from the promptings of natural passions or from the weakness which is inherent in them and because of which they are often drawn against their will towards things that are not laudable, and have to endure a great fight against the demons, as they are constantly compelled to struggle against the passions which arise from natural happenings.
The benefits that are promised to them because of these tribulations are no ordinary ones, and He fulfils their desires and makes them worthy of His great Providence. He permits them to endure tribulations and afflictions in this world in order that, because of them, they may receive eternal and ineffable gifts.
This is the reason why here also He uttered the above words to the disciples who had asked Him how to pray, as if He had said to them: If you care for prayer know that it is not performed by words but by the choice of a virtuous life and by the love of God and diligence in one’s duty. If you are zealous in these things you will be praying all your life, and from your good will towards them and your choice of them you will acquire a great desire for prayer, and will undoubtedly also know what to ask (in it). If you chose (the path of) duty, you will not be induced to ask for things that lie outside it, as you will not be willing to ask for things in which you have no interest. Your interest being in virtues after which you are striving, it is evident that you will offer to God prayers that are consonant with them. If you live thus and ask also of Him in this wise with all fervour, you know that you will receive.
Hear now in short words which are the things in which you have to show diligence, the works and the mode of life which are required of you, the things in which you have to persevere, and those for which you have to offer prayers and in which your demands will undoubtedly be answered:
The evangelist said that “as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said to Him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And He said to them, when you pray, say, Our Father which are in Heaven hallowed be Your name.” The sentence “as He was praying in a certain place” is similar to that which the same evangelist uses in another passage: “It came to pass in those days that He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” The sentence “in a certain place” means, therefore, that He was offering prayer in a place which was quiet and free from the noise of men. When the disciples saw Him that He was praying with eagerness, they understood that this was not an ordinary thing but that it was a matter of more importance than any other, and they, therefore, asked Him that they should learn how to pray as John had also taught his disciples. He then pronounced to them the above words of prayer, as if meaning to say: if you are eager to pray, you should clearly know the things which you have to say to God and be careful about the things that are to be asked of Him.
What are you then to say when you pray, and what are the things in which you have to show care?
Our Father who is in Heaven.
Before everything else you should learn what you were and what is the nature and the measure of the gift that you received from God. The things that have happened to you are greater than those that happened to the children of men that were before you. Such a thing will happen through Me to those who believe in Me and choose My discipleship, as they will be much higher than those who were working under the law of Moses, because that first law, which was given from Mount Sinai, gave birth to servitude, and both itself and its children worked in servitude. Indeed, all those who were under the law of the commandments were slaves. They received orders how they were to conduct themselves, and through the punishment of death that none of them could escape they were bound to the transgression of the law. As to you, you have received through Me the grace of the Holy Spirit whereby you have obtained adoption of sons and confidence to call God, Father. You have not received the Spirit in order to be again in servitude and fear but to be worthy of the Spirit of adoption of sons through which you call God, Father, with confidence. From this you have obtained conversation in Jerusalem which is above and have been worthy of that life of freedom which will be the lot of those who, in the resurrection, will become immortal and immutable, and will live in Heaven in such a nature.
If, therefore, there is this difference between you and those who were under the law—in the sense that the “letter, which is the law, kills,” and thus brought punishment of death from which there was no escape on those who transgressed it, and in the sense that it is “the Spirit that gives life” and will make you immortal and immutable through the resurrection—it is fitting that you should know before anything else the nature of the works, worthy of this freedom, which you should possess. Those who live in the Spirit of God are the children of God, while those who are under the law have only received a mere name of children: “I have said, You are gods, and all of you children of the Most High, but you shall die like men.”
Those who have received the Holy Spirit by whom they necessarily expect immortality, while still in this world, it is fitting that they should live in the Spirit, resign themselves to the Spirit and possess a mind worthy of the freedom of men led by the Holy Spirit, and that they should also flee from all the works of sin and acquire a conduct that is in harmony with the citizenship of the Heavenly abode.
This is the reason why I do not teach you to say our Lord and our God, although it is evident that you ought to know that He is God, Lord and Maker of everything and of you also, and that it is He who will transfer you to the delight of these benefits. I order you to call Him our Father, so that when you have been made aware of your freedom and of the honour in which you have participated and the greatness which you have acquired— things by which you are called the sons of the Lord of all and your own Lord—you will act accordingly till the end. I do not wish you to say my Father but our Father, because He is a Father common to all in the same way as His grace, from which we received adoption of sons, is common to all. In this way you should not only offer congruous things to God, but you should also possess and keep fellowship with one another, because you are brothers and under the hand of one Father.
I added who is in Heaven, so that the figure of the life in Heaven, to which it has been granted to you to be transferred, might be drawn before your eyes. When you have received the adoption of sons, you will dwell in Heaven, and this abode is fit for the sons of God.
What ought those who think in this way to do?
Hallowed be Your name.
Before everything else you should do the things that redound to the glory of God your Father. The very one who said in another passage: “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven,” said also here: “Hallowed be Your name,” as if Hewere saying: you should strive to do the things by which the name of God will be glorified by all men, while contemplating in amazement His mercy and His grace which have been poured upon you, and thinking that He did not make you His children to no purpose, but that in His mercy He granted you the Spirit, so that you might increase in virtue and do the work of those who were found worthy to call God their Father. As when we do ungodly works we give rise to blasphemy (by others), because all the outsiders who see us doing these ungodly works will say about us that we are unworthy to be children of God—so also when we do good works we corroborate the fact that we are children of God, worthy of the freedom of our Father, and show that we have been well educated and that we are living a life worthy of our Father. In order to impede such a blasphemy from being uttered, and in order that there might be praise from the mouth of all men to God who brought you up to such a greatness, strive to do the things that effect this:
Your Kingdom come.
He did well to add this (sentence) to the preceding one. It is right for those who have been called to the Kingdom of Heaven in the adoption of sons, and who expect to dwell in Heaven with Christ when, as the blessed Paul said: “we shall be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord”—to think of things which are worthy of that Kingdom, to do the things that are congruous to the Heavenly citizenship, to consider the earthly things small and believe them to be below their dignity to speak and think of them. No one who is so placed as to live in the court of a King, and is considered worthy to see him always and converse with him, will go and wander in the bazaars and inns and such like, but will have intercourse only with those who always frequent the places where he is. In this same way, we who are called to the Kingdom of Heaven, are not allowed to relinquish our fellowship with it or with the things that suit the citizenship therein, and busy ourselves with the commerce of this world in which there is much evil trading and unholy work.
How could this be effected, and how should we do the things that are commensurate with the freedom of our Father, and how should we pursue Heavenly citizenship, and how should we do the things which engender great praise to the name of God?:
Your will be done as in Heaven so in earth.
(This will happen) if in this world we strive as much as possible to imitate the life which we shall live in Heaven, because Heaven contains nothing that is contrary to God, as sin will be abolished and the power of the demons will cease, and, in short, all things that fight against us will be destroyed. When all earthly things have ceased to exist, we shall rise from the dead and dwell in Heaven in an immortal and immutable nature. We will do the will of God better than in anything else by wishing and acting as God wishes, and by thinking of things belonging to Heaven, where there will be no power and no passion which will incite us against the will of God.
In this world we ought to persevere as much as possible in the will of God and not to will or do things that are against Him. As we believe that the will of God reigns in Heaven, so it should also hold sway in earth; and in the same way as it shall be in Heaven, it is right for us not to do now the smallest act which by our will or our thought would contradict that will. This, however, is not possible as long as we are in our mortal and changeable nature, but we must turn our will away from the passions that are contrary (to the will of God) and not listen to them in any way, and do that which the blessed Paul commanded in saying: “Be not conformed to this world, but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” He does not command that passions should not beset us, but that we should not be conformed to things that will surely vanish with this world, and that the will of our soul should not be conformed to the ways of acting of this world.
Let us strive against all happenings whether painful or joyful, sublime or abject, in one word in any capacity high or low, which are capable more than others to lead us astray towards harmful thoughts and to divert our mind from good will, and let us be careful not to let our love fall on them, but let us strengthen our thoughts with daily improvements and cast away from us the injurious insinuations that come to us from the passions of this world, and bend our will day by day towards virtues, in our search for the things which are pleasing to God. We should only consider as unqualified good that which is pleasing to God, and endeavour in everything to spurn the pleasures of this world. We should also bear the tribulations that befall us, place the will of God before everything, and consider ourselves happy when we act thus, even if all the afflictions of this world should surround us. If we do not act in this way we shall be more wretched than all men, even if we are prosperous in all earthly things.
In the above short words, our Lord taught us, therefore, perfection of works, and ordered those who follow Him to strive after good works, think of the Heavenly life, despise all that is found in this world and endeavour to imitate as much as possible the things of the next world; and He wished them to ask these things of God till the end. And because we ought to possess a healthy mind and a true love for all these things, and because we know that we are not able to do anything without the help of God, He rightly ordered us to do these things by way of prayer, so that we might approach them with perfect love and persevere ardently and zealously in asking them of God as good and useful things, which will not come to us even if we chose them and wished to have them myriads of times, if God does not help us in them. They will surely come to us, however, if first we choose them and ask them of God.
The blessed Luke added many things to the prayer said by Christ our Lord, in order to confirm the fact that things asked by those who pray will surely be granted. And because He wished to invite us to imitate the world to come, in which when we dwell, we shall always be high above the earthly things and shall never be in need of anything, and in order that He might not be believed that He was ordering a thing that was impossible for men who are mortal by nature and are in need of many things in this world, in that He was asking them to imitate an immortal life—He added:
Give us to-day our necessary bread.
It is as if He had said: I wish you to look at things belonging to the next world, and while you are in this world to arrange your life as much as possible as if you had been for a long time in the next world, not that you should not eat or drink or make use of the necessities of life, but in the sense that your choice (of the next world) is good, that you love it and constantly think of it. As to the things belonging to this world, I allow you to make use of such of them as are necessary; and you should not ask nor strive to have more than this use. That which the blessed Paul implies: “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content,” our Lord called here “bread,” and by it He alludes to a thing which is indispensable. Indeed, bread is considered to be more necessary for the maintenance and sustenance of this earthly life than anything else. He means by “to-day” now, as we are in “to-day” and not in “to-morrow.” We are in “to-day” as long as we are in it, although we might see to-morrow.
Holy Writ calls to-day a thing that exists now and is near, as the blessed Paul puts it: “To-day if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts as in the provocation, but exhort yourselves daily while you call it to-day.” As if one had said: as long as we are in this world let us always suppose that we hear this word which every day impresses our mind with an identical sound, and let us awaken our soul and raise it for the amelioration of our conduct, the rejection of vices and exhortation to virtues; and let us progress day by day as long as we are in this world in which there is time for amelioration and repentance, because when we have left it the time for repentance and amelioration will have passed away from us, and the time of judgment will have arrived. Our Lord said here: “Give us to-day our necessary bread,” in the sense of the necessary food of which we are in need as long as we are in this world, and He did not prohibit nor did He forbid the food, drink and raiment which are necessary to the sustenance of the body. It is not blameworthy to ask of God that which is necessary to us, and that of which we are allowed to make use when we have it, and that which is not considered blameworthy to receive from others. Indeed, how can one consider blameworthy the use of a thing which we are permitted to ask of God, as necessary for keeping and sustaining (human) nature?
He calls “bread,” therefore, that which is necessary for the sustenance of (human) nature. He used the expression “which is necessary to us in the sense of “according to our nature,” that is to say that which is useful and necessary to nature and its sustenance, and which has been ordained by the Creator as a thing that we must necessarily have for food. It is not advisable for those who wish to strive after perfection to possess and hoard things which are beyond the domain of the necessities of life. He rightly alluded, therefore, in prayer to the necessities of life by the words “which is necessary,” that is to say, a thing that is useful and necessary to our nature. As to “to-day,” it means that since those necessities of life are established by the Creator for the sustenance of (human) nature, it is lawful to ask them and make use of them, but that no one is allowed to ask of God and zealously endeavour to possess more than these necessary things. Indeed, all things that are not necessary for our sustenance and for our food in this world, if amassed by us, will go to others, and will be of no use to the one who had managed them or to the one who had striven to collect and possess them. They even go to others after his death, not by his will. And because our Lord completely disregarded the care for superfluous things, and because He did not forbid the use of the things which are necessary for our sustenance but, on the contrary, ordered us to ask them of God, He added:
And forgive us our debts.
In the first sentences He laid down the principles of perfection and of blameless conduct, and by the addition “give us this day our necessary bread” He limited our cares to that which is necessary; and because however much we strive after perfection it is impossible for us to be always without sins—as we are compelled to fall involuntarily into many, owing to the weakness of our nature —He found a quick remedy for them in the request for forgiveness. It is as if He had said: If you are eager to do good and strive after it, and if you are unwilling to pray for superfluous things but only (wish to possess) those which are necessary for sustenance, you should have confidence that you will receive forgiveness of the sins which you may have involuntarily committed. It is evident that the one who had striven after good things and had been eager to avoid ungodly things has only fallen involuntarily. Indeed, how could a man who hates bad things and desires good things have stumbled voluntarily? It is clear that such a one will undoubtedly receive forgiveness of those sins that were involuntarily committed by him.
And He added:
As we have forgiven our debtors.
He shows that we must have confidence that we shall receive forgiveness of our (sins) if we do the same, according to our power, to those who trespass against us. In case we have chosen good and are pleased with it, but by accident we trespass in many things against God and man, He found a convenient remedy for both sins in the fact that if we forgive those who trespass against us we have confidence that we will undoubtedly receive, in the same way, forgiveness of our trespasses from God. As when we ourselves trespass we rightly prostrate ourselves, beseech God and ask forgiveness of Him, so also we have to forgive those who trespass against us and apologise to us; and we should also receive affectionately those who have sinned against us or injured us in any way. It is evident that if we do not consider that those who have been sinned against or injured have to forgive those who have sinned against them—if they repent and ask forgiveness of them for the wrong they have done —the same thing would happen to them from those who have been sinned against, when they wish to pray to God. Our Lord clearly ordered us to ask forgiveness as we also forgave those who had trespassed against us.
And because we are in this world assailed by many afflictions dealing with sickness of the body, evil deeds of men and many other things which irritate us and annoy us to the extent that sometimes our soul is so perturbed by thoughts that it is tempted to throw away from it the love of virtues, He rightly added:
And lead us not into temptation,
so that we may be saved from temptations in the measure of our power, but if these should assail us let us do our utmost to bear with fortitude the afflictions which we had not expected. Before everything we must pray to God that no temptation should come near us, but if we should be led into it let us bear it with courage and pray that it should come speedily to an end. It is well known that in this world many tribulations disturb our mind in different ways; even a long and severe illness of the body has thrown into great confusion those who were affected by it, and the inordinate impulses of the body have involuntarily made us stumble and stray away from the path of duty, and beautiful faces suddenly seen have kindled the passion found in our nature. There are other things which assail us on unexpected occasions and involuntarily and strongly divert our choice and our mind from good things to ungodly things. This is especially the case with the opinions of unholy and contumelious men who are eager to do evil, because those (opinions) are very apt to divert us in one way or another from a thing with which we were pleased. They can even do that to a person who has a great zeal for perfection. It would be all the more painful if those who acted against us in this way belonged to the household of the faith. Against them our Lord said: “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” He said this about the obstinate people amongst us, and He threatened them with severe punishment if by their contumely and wickedness they endeavour to divert from the path of duty those who are humble and pure. He calls “to offend” the act of injuring by wickedness and obstinacy those who for the sake of perfection strive to lead a humble and pure life. Because of all this, after He had said, “And lead us not into temptation,” He added:
But deliver us from evil.
because the wicked Satan injures us much in all the above things, as he endeavours in different ways to do things through which he thinks that he is able to divert us from our love and choice of duty.
Our Lord embodied perfection of works in the above words of prayer and taught us clearly how we are to be, in what we are to be diligent, from what we have to flee, and what to ask of God. And our blessed Fathers who thought that, together with the right teaching and the true faith, we ought also to strive after a good life and good works, ordered this prayer for those who draw near to the gift of baptism so that side by side with an accurate doctrine concerning the creed of the faith they might through prayer so order our life as to possess that perfection which is required of those who receive the gift of baptism, and through which they are counted in the number of the citizens of the Heavenly life, while still on this earth.
Endeavour now to keep clearly in your mind the things which you have learnt in short words from the Lord’s prayer, and meditate upon them with diligence in order that, while still in this world and far from the next, you may imitate and follow the teaching of our Lord, and thus be worthy of the Heavenly benefits in which we are all enabled to participate by the grace of the Only Begotten Son of God, to whom, in conjunction with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory, now, always, and forever and ever. Amen.
Synopsis of This Chapter
He who is desirous of drawing near to the gift of the Holy baptism comes to the Church of God where he is received by a duly appointed person —as there is a habit to register those who draw near to baptism—who will question him about his mode of life. This rite is performed for those who are baptised by the person called godfather. The duly appointed person writes your name in the Church register together with that of the one who is acting as your sponsor or guide in the town. The services of the persons called exorcists have also been found indispensable, as it is necessary that when a case is being heard in the judgment hall the litigant should remain silent. You stand with outstretched arms in the posture of one who prays, and you look downwards. This is the reason why you take off your outer garment and stand barefooted, and you stand also on sackcloth. You are ordered in those days to meditate on the words of the faith.
I think that in past days I spoke sufficiently to your love about the profession of faith which our blessed Fathers wrote according to the teaching of our Lord, who through it wished us to be taught and baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (I spoke) in those days to you, who draw near to the gift of baptism, in order that you might learn what to believe, and in the name of whom you are baptised so that you might see that you are receiving instruction according to the teaching of our Lord, and that you are being baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. I added to the above a discourse on prayer in order that you might rightly know the teaching of good works consonant with the way in which those who receive this great gift of baptism have to live. As, however, the time of the Sacrament has drawn near, and you are by the grace of God about to participate in the Holy baptism, it is right and necessary that we should explain before you the power of the Sacrament and of the ceremonies which are accomplished in it, and the reason for which each of them is accomplished, in order that when you have learnt what is the reason for all of them you may receive the things that take place with great love.
Every Sacrament consists in the representation of unseen and unspeakable things through signs and emblems. Such things require explanation and interpretation, for the sake of the person who draws near to the Sacrament, so that he might know its power. If it only consisted of the (visible) elements themselves, words would have been useless, as sight itself would have been able to show us one by one all the happenings that take place, but since a Sacrament contains the signs of things that take place or have already taken place, words are needed to explain the power of signs and mysteries. The Jews performed their service for the Heavenly things as in signs and shadows, because the law only contained the shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, as the blessed Paul said. A shadow implies the proximity of a body, as it cannot exist without a body, but it does not represent the body which it reflects in the same way as it happens in an image. When we look at an image we recognise the person who is represented in it—if we knew that person beforehand—on account of the accurately drawn picture, but we are never able to recognise a man represented only by his shadow, as this shadow has no likeness whatever to the real body from which it emanates. All things of the law were similar to this. They were only a shadow of the Heavenly things, as the Apostle said. You must now learn the nature of this shadow:
According to what he had learnt in a Divine vision the blessed Moses made two tabernacles, one of which they named Holy, and the other Holy of Holies. The first was the likeness of the life and sojourn on the earth on which we now dwell, and the second, which they called Holy of Holies, was the likeness of the regions which are above the visible Heaven, to which our Lord Christ, who was assumed for our salvation, ascended, in which He now is, and to which He granted us to go in order to be there and dwell with Him, as the blessed Paul said: “Whither the forerunner is for us entered, Christ, who became a High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedec.” He said of Him that He became after the order of High Priests because He was the first to enter there, and through Him the favour of entering was promised to us. The work of a High Priest is indeed that he should draw near to God first, and then after him and through him the rest should draw near; but because all these things have not yet taken place but will take place at the end, the Priests of the law did not perform a single one of them through their service according to the law, in the place called Holy of Holies, which indeed was never entered by anyone, as the High Priest entered it once a year alone, and offered a sacrifice before entering it, and had no right to enter it at all times. He entered it once a year so that it might be made manifest that all those acts of the law only embraced the mortal life on this earth, and had no relation of any kind with the Heavenly things; in the same way as we ourselves cannot enter Heaven as long as we remain mortal in our nature. Men would only have entered Heavenly places after a man from us had been assumed, and had died according to the natural law of men, and risen in glory from the dead, and become immortal and incorruptible by nature, and had ascended into Heaven, and been constituted a High Priest to the rest of mankind and an earnest of the ascension into Heaven.
Thus the law contained the shadow of the good things to come, as those who lived under it had only a figure of the future things. In this way they only performed their service as a sign and a shadow of the Heavenly things, because that service gave, by means of the tabernacle and the things that took place in it, a kind of revelation, in figure, of the life which is going to be in Heaven, and which our Lord Christ showed to us by His ascension into it, while He granted all of us to participate in an event which was so much hidden from those who lived in that time that the Jews, in their expectation of the resurrection, had only a base conception of it. They did not think, as we do, that we shall be changed into an immortal life, but they thought of it as a place in which we shall continue to eat, drink and marry. This we consider a great shame if we are to believe the words of our Lord to the effect that: “You do err, not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God, for in the resurrection from the dead they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels,” and “they are the children of God because they are the children of the resurrection.” In this He both reprimanded their error concerning the resurrection and taught that we ought to believe that something like a Divine life will come to those who will rise, as He clearly said that they will be like angels.
The things that the ancients held as figures and shadows came now into reality when our Lord Jesus Christ, who was assumed from us and for us died according to the human law, and through His resurrection became immortal, incorruptible and forever immutable, and as such ascended into Heaven, as by His union with our nature He became to us an earnest of our own participation in the event. In saying: “If Christ rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead,” (the Apostle) clearly showed that it was necessary for all to believe that there is a resurrection, and in believing in it we had also to believe that we will equally clearly participate in it. As we have a firm belief that things that have already happened will happen to us, so [the things that happened at the resurrection of our Lord] we believe that they will happen to us. We perform, therefore, this ineffable Sacrament which contains the incomprehensible signs of the Economy of Christ our Lord, as we believe that the things implied in it will happen to us.
It is indeed evident to us, according to the words of the Apostle, that when we perform either baptism or the Eucharist we perform them in remembrance of the death and resurrection of Christ, in order that the hope of the latter may be strengthened in us. So far as the resurrection is concerned he said: “So many of us as were baptised into Christ Jesus, were buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also shall walk in newness of life.” He clearly taught here that we are baptised so that we might imitate in ourselves the death and the resurrection of our Lord, and that we might receive from our remembrance of the happenings that took place the confirmation of our hope in future things. As for the communion of the Holy Sacrament he said: “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till He come.” Our Lord also said: “This is my body which is broken for you, and this is my blood which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” From all this it is clear that both the service and the Communion are in remembrance of the death and the resurrection of Christ, from which arose our hope that we all expect communion with Him. And we Sacramentally perform the events that took place in connection with Christ our Lord, in order that—as we have learnt by experience—our communion with Him may strengthen our hope. It would be useful, therefore, to discuss before you the reason for all the mysteries and signs.
Our Lord God made man from dust in His image and honoured him with many other things. He especially honoured him by calling him His image, from which man alone became worthy to be called God and Son of God; and if he had been wise he would have remained with the One who was to him the source of all good things, which he truly possessed, but he accepted and completed the image of the Devil, who like a rebel had risen against God and wished to usurp for himself the glory that was due to Him, and had striven to detach man from God by all sorts of stratagems and appropriate God’s honour, so that he might insult Him by rivalry. He (the Rebel) assumed, therefore, the attributes and the glory of a helper, and because man yielded to his words and rejected the injunctions which God had imposed upon him and followed the Rebel as his true helper, God inflicted upon him the punishment of reverting to the dust from which he had been taken.
And from the above sin death entered, and this death weakened (human) nature and generated in it a great inclination towards sin. Both of these grew side by side, while the inexorable death strengthened and multiplied sin, as the condition of mortality by weakening (human nature) caused the perpetration of many sins. Even the commandments which God gave in order to check them tended to multiply them, and those who infringed the commandments strengthened the punishment by the frequency of the sins. From these grew the ill will of the Rebel, who jubilated and rejoiced at the great injury that he was inflicting on us, and at the state of our affairs which was becoming daily more corrupt and iniquitous.
When this state of our affairs became desperate, our Lord God willed in His mercy to rectify it. With this end in view He assumed a man from us, who was a faithful keeper of the Divine commandments, and was found to be free from all sin with the exception of the punishment of death. The Tyrant, however, who could do nothing else, brought an unjust death upon Him at the hand of the Jews, his servants, but He willingly accepted it and sat in judgment with him before God, the just judge, who pronounced Him not liable to the punishment of death which had been wickedly and unjustly brought upon Him. And He became forever immune from death, and immortal and incorruptible by nature. And as such He ascended into Heaven and became forever beyond the reach of the harm and injury of Satan, who was thus unable to do any harm to a man who was immortal, incorruptible and immutable, and who dwelt in Heaven and possessed a close union with the Divine nature. From the fact that the man who was assumed from us had such a confidence (with God), He became a messenger on behalf of all the (human) race so that the rest of mankind might participate with Him in His great change, as the blessed Paul said: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is he that condemns? It is Christ who died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” He shows here that the benefits accruing to us are immutable and unchangeable, since Christ who died for us, and who rose from the dead and received close union with Divine nature, draws us, by His intercession for us, to the participation in resurrection and in the good things that emanate from it.
We draw near to the Sacrament because we perform in it the symbols of the freedom from calamities from which we were unexpectedly delivered, and of our participation in these new and great benefits which had their beginning in Christ our Lord. Indeed we expect to be partakers of these benefits which are higher than our nature, while even the possibility of their coming to us we had never expected.
We have spoken in this way so that our words might be better understood; and it is time now to show you the reason for every act (performed in the Sacrament).
He who wishes to draw near to the gift of the Holy baptism comes to the Church of God, which Christ our Lord showed to be a symbol of the Heavenly things to the faithful in this world, when He said: “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, and I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.” He showed in this that He granted to the Church the power that anyone who becomes related to it should also be related to the Heavenly things, and anyone who becomes a stranger to it should also be clearly a stranger to the Heavenly things.
Owing to the fact that to those who are at the head of the Church is allotted the task of governing it, it is to them that He referred in His saying to the blessed Peter that they have the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and things that are bound by them on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and things that are loosed by them on earth shall be loosed in Heaven; not in the sense that they are masters of men in it, but in the sense that the Church received power from God that those who are related to it and under the care of those who are at its head, acquire by necessity a relationship with Heaven, inasmuch as those who are outside this have no association of any kind with Heavenly things.
Christ our Lord established a Kingdom in Heaven, and established it there as a city in which He has His Kingdom, which the blessed Paul calls “Jerusalem which is above, free, and mother of us all,” since it is in it that we are expecting to dwell and abide. That city is full of innumerable companies of angels and men who are all immortal and immutable. Indeed the blessed Paul said: “You are come to Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, and to the Church of the firstborn, which are written in Heaven.” He calls the firstborn those who are immortal and immutable, like those who are worthy of the adoption of sons of whom our Lord said that “they are the children of God because they are the children of the resurrection”; and they are enrolled in Heaven as its inhabitants.
These things will be seen so in reality in the world to come, when, according to the words of the Apostle, “we are caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, so that we may be ever with Him.” He will take us up and ascend into Heaven where His Kingdom is seen and where all of us shall be with Him, free and exempt from all troubles, in happiness and pleasure, and enjoying to the full the benefits of that Kingdom. Those who draw near to Him in this world He wished them to be, through religion and faith, as in the symbol of the Heavenly things, and He so constituted the Church as to be a symbol of the Heavenly things; and He wished that those who believe in Him should live in it. This is the reason why the blessed Paul also said: “that you may know how you ought to behave yourself in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” Church “of the living God” means that His name is forever and ever, and this demonstrates that the believers will enjoy life eternally, while the expression “pillar and ground of the truth” denotes that life firm, solid, unshakeable and unchangeable in which (the believer) will be seen and from which he will also receive his power.
He, therefore, who is desirous of drawing near to baptism comes to the Church of God through which he expects to reach that life of the Heavenly abode. He ought to think that he is coming to be the citizen of a new and great city, and he should, therefore, show great care in everything that is required of him before his enrolment in it. He comes to the Church of God where he is received by a duly appointed person —as there is a habit to register those who draw near to baptism—who will question him about his mode of life in order to find out whether it possesses all the requisites of the citizenship of that great city. After he has abjured all the evil found in this world and cast it completely out of his mind, he has to show that he is worthy of the citizenship of the city and of his enrolment in it. This is the reason why, as if he were a stranger to the city and to its citizenship, a specially appointed person, who is from the city in which he is going to be enrolled and who is well versed in its mode of life, conducts him to the registrar and testifies for him to the effect that he is worthy of the city and of its citizenship and that, as he is not versed in the life of the city or in the knowledge of how to behave in it, he himself would be willing to act as a guide to his inexperience.
This rite is performed for those who are baptised by the person called godfather, who, however, does not make himself responsible for them in connection with future sins, as each one of us answers for his own sins before God. He only bears witness to what the catechumen has done and to the fact that he has prepared himself in the past to be worthy of the city and of its citizenship. He is justly called a sponsor because by his words (the catechumen) is deemed worthy to receive baptism. When in this world there is an order of the Government for a census of countries and of people who are in them, it is right for those who are registered in particular countries to obtain a title which would assure for them the cultivation of the fields which are registered in their name, and to pay readily the land taxes to the King. The same thing is required of the one who is enrolled in the Heavenly city and in its citizenship, as “our conversation is in Heaven.” Indeed he ought to reject all earthly things, as is suitable to the one who is inscribed in Heaven, and to do only the things that fit the life and conversation in Heaven. He will also, if he is wise, pay perpetual taxes to the King and live a life which is consonant with baptism.
As the Romans—when they held Judea under their domination—ordered that everyone should be enrolled in his own city, and as Joseph with the blessed Mary went to Bethlehem to be enrolled in it, because he was from the house and the tribe of David, so also we, who believe in Christ, have to do. Indeed He conquered, by right of war, all the enemies, delivered the human race from the power of the demons, freed us from the servitude of the captivity, and brought us under His Dominion, as it is said: “He has ascended on high and has led captivity captive.” He showed the new world to come and the wonderful dispensation of that which is called the Heavenly Jerusalem,in which Christ established His imperishable Kingdom. It is, therefore, incumbent on us all, who are under the power of His Kingdom, to pray and desire that through faith we might draw near to baptism and be worthy of being enrolled in Heaven.
It is for this reason that as regards you also who draw near to the gift of baptism, a duly appointed person inscribes your name in the Church book, together with that of your godfather, who answers for you and becomes your guide in the city and the leader of your citizenship therein. This is done in order that you may know that you are, long before the time and while still on the earth, enrolled in Heaven, and that your godfather who is in it is possessed of great diligence to teach you, who are a stranger and a newcomer to that great city, all the things that pertain to it and to its citizenship, so that you should be conversant with its life without any trouble and anxiety.
You should learn now the reason for the remaining events, as your enrolment is not effected to no purpose and accidentally only, but after a great judgment had taken place on your behalf. It was necessary for you, who have drawn near to Divine Providence, to have been first delivered from the Tyrant who had attacked you so that, after having been enabled to flee from all the harm of the enemies and avoid another servitude, you might be in a position to enjoy to the full the happiness of this enrolment. When by order of the Government a census is taken in this world, and one comes to establish his legal title to a land fertile in corn and rich in good things, in which there is much happiness to those who are registered for it—if a person who was previously his enemy learns this, and envying him for this happiness which he was himself previously enjoying, because (the land) for a long time belonged to him, goes and tells the one who is about to be registered that the land belonged to him by right of succession and that he ought not to be dispossessed of his right of ownership and be given the ownership of another land—it is right for the one who is about to be registered, if he is endowed with great zeal, to go to a magistrate and make use of the title which he possesses, and show the supposed owner of the land, for which he wishes to be registered, that he is desirous of bringing the matter before a judge.
In this same way God placed the Kingdom of Heaven before men, and willed that all of them should be in it in an immortal and immutable state, as is suitable to the dwellers in Heaven, and granted to the Church to be the symbol of Heavenly things in this world, and we pray and implore Him to draw us near through baptism to that Heavenly city, and to make us participate in its life; but it is necessary that a judgment should be given for us against the Tyrant, who is fighting the case against us, that is to say Satan, who is always envious of our deliverance and salvation. He shows here also the same ill will towards us, and tries and endeavours to bring us to the judgment hall as if we had no right to be outside his ownership. He pleads that from ancient times and from the creation of the head of our race we belong to him by right; he narrates the story of Adam, of how he listened to his words and by his will rejected his Maker and preferred to serve him; of how this kindled the wrath of God, who drove him out of Paradise, pronounced the death sentence upon him and bound him to this world in saying: “In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread,” and: “Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you, for dust you are and to dust shall you return.” From these words which condemned him to the servitude of this world, and from the fact that by his will he chose my Lordship he clearly appears to belong to me, as I am “the prince of the power of the air, and work in the children of disobedience.” How, then, is it possible that this man, who from the beginning and from the time of his forefathers belongs to me—as a just judgment was pronounced against him in this mortal world, in which as long as he is I hold sway over him—should be taken away from this world and from its life, and consequently from my Lordship also, which he himself chose willingly, and should become immortal, a thing which is higher than his nature, and be seen in the life and citizenship of the abode of Heaven, a thing which does not pertain to men or to beings who have this (human) nature, from which those who are endowed with a higher nature are different?
As, in our supposition, such things are now pleaded and said by Satan, who was seen from the very beginning to fight inimically against us, and at present envies us all the more because we expect to receive this ineffable enrolment, which is high above all words and all human mind, as: “eye has not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered the heart of man the things which God has prepared for them that love him” —we must run with all diligence to the judge and show and establish the title which we possess: that we did not belong to Satan from the beginning and from the time of our forefathers, but to God who created us while we were not and made us in His own image, and that it was through the iniquity and wickedness of the Tyrant and through our own negligence that we were driven towards evil, from which we lost also the honour and greatness of our image, and because of our sinfulness we further received the punishment of death. And the long time that intervened strengthened the hold of Satan on us, and we on our part, owing to the fact that we lived for a great length of time in this cruel and dire servitude, the wrong and fearful acts of sin became sweet and pleasing to us, and with them we strengthened the power of Satan over us.
While things were proceeding in this way, He who is truly our Creator and our Lord, He who created us while we were not, and formed our body of dust with His hands and breathed into it a soul which did not previously exist, was pleased to make manifest a providence consonant with the works which He himself had made and which were now perishing through the wickedness of the Tyrant, in order that He might not permit him to harm us till the end. He also abolished our sins and our transgression against Him, and wished by His grace to straighten our affairs. For this He took one of us, and in Him made the beginning of all our good things, and permitted Him to receive the impact of all the trials of the wickedness of Satan, but showed Him also to be high above his wickedness and his harm, and although He had allowed Him to be even in His Death the victim of his stratagems, through which He had been drawn to combat, He now receives, on our behalf and against Satan, the intercession of the One who was assumed.
He (Satan) brought forward all his subtle arguments (against Him) and did not cease from inflicting injuries, from beginning to end, and finally, in spite of the fact that he found not a single just cause against Him, brought an unjust death upon Him. He further added (in his brief) how he had cruelly harmed all our race from the beginning. God, however, who was listening to all the story, after having heard the things that were said by both sides, condemned the Tyrant for the ill will of which he had made use against Christ and against all our race, and pronounced judgment against him, while He raised Christ our Lord from the dead, and made Him immortal and immutable, and took Him up to Heaven. And He promised to all the (human) race, while still on the earth, the joy of (His) gifts so that no room might be left to Satan from which to inflict injuries on us. We are thus in a virtuous nature and in a high dwelling, which is higher than all the trials arising out of the wickedness of Satan, and absent and remote from all sin. Have we not learnt also all this from the words of our Lord who said: “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out, and I when I am lifted up from the earth will draw all men to Me?”
We must believe now that all these things have happened and taken place, and that in nothing shall we appear henceforth to belong to the Devil. We have rightly reverted to our Lord to whom we belonged before the wickedness of Satan, and we are, as we were at the beginning, in the image of God. We had lost the honour of this image through our carelessness, but by the grace of God we have retaken this honour, and because of this we have become immortal and we will dwell in Heaven. Indeed it is in this way that the image of God ought to rejoice and acquire the honour that is due to the One who by promise was to be called, and was to be, in His image. By His grace we rightly left forever the mortal world, moved to the Heavenly abode and citizenship, recognised our Lord, and are now hastening to go to our first-fruits (i.e. Christ) which were picked on our behalf and through which the Maker and the Lord of all gave us immortal life and a Heavenly abode and conversation. We rightly draw near now to the Church of God because of our deliverance from tribulations and our delight in good things, and because we expect to be enrolled in Heaven through the gift of the Holy baptism.
It is you who furnish the reason for this question and for this examination as you clearly show that through the gift of the Holy baptism you are separating yourselves from the servitude of the Tyrant, which all our fathers from the time of Adam downwards received, and in which they lived. This, however, goads Satan to fight fiercely against us, so much so that he did not even desist from fighting against our Lord because he believed Him to be a mere man on account of His resemblance (to men), and thought that by his stratagems and temptations he might detach Him from the love of God.
Because you are unable by yourselves to plead against Satan and to fight against him, the services of the persons called exorcists have been found indispensable, as they act as your surety for Divine help. They ask in a loud and prolonged voice that our enemy should be punished and by a verdict from the judge be ordered to retire and stand far, so that no room and no entry of any kind might be left to him from which to inflict harm on us, and so that we might be delivered forever from his servitude, and allowed to live in perfect freedom, and enjoy the happiness of our present enrolment. You are doubtless aware of the fact that when a case is being judged before a judge and when a litigant shouts that he is innocent, and complains of a dire and cruel servitude in which he had lived, and contends that a powerful man had forcibly and unjustly brought him under his rule, it is necessary that when the case is being judged this same litigant should remain silent, so that he might by his demeanour and behaviour induce the judge to have mercy upon him. Another man, in the person of the advocate, will demonstrate to the judge the truth of the complaint of those who contend that they are ill-treated, and will invoke also the laws of the Kingdom in order that through them he may redress the wrong that was done.
In this same way when the words called the words of exorcism are pronounced you stand perfectly quiet, as if you had no voice and as if you were still in fear and dread of the Tyrant, not being in a position even to look at him on account of the great injustice which he did to you and to your fathers, in the fact that he led you into captivity, brought you into a dire and cruel servitude, and inflicted upon you wounds that leave indelible scars, through the punishment of death which he placed in your midst; and in the fact that he has been for a long time the master of the servitude which you, with your own hands, brought upon yourselves. You stand, therefore, with outstretched arms in the posture of one who prays, and look downwards and remain in that state in order to move the judge to mercy. And you take off your outer garment and stand barefooted in order to show in yourself the state of the cruel servitude in which you served the Devil for a long time, according to the rules of captivity, and in which you did all his work for him according to his requirements. Your aim in this posture is also to move the judge to mercy, and it is this picture of captivity that is implied in the words of God who spoke thus through the Prophet Isaiah: “Like as my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot three years in order that he might become a sign for the Egyptians and Ethiopians, so shall the King of Assyria lead away the Egyptians and Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot.”
You stand also on garments of sackcloth so that from the fact that your feet are pricked and stung by the roughness of the cloth you may remember your old sins and show penitence and repentance of the sins of your fathers, because of which we have been driven to all this wretchedness of iniquities, and so that you may call for mercy on the part of the judge and rightly say: “You has put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness.”
As to the words of exorcism they have the power to induce you, after having made up your mind to acquire such a great gain, not to remain idle and without work. You are, therefore, ordered in those intermediary days to meditate on the words of the profession of faith in order that you may learn it, and they are put in your mouth in order that through a continuous meditation you may strive to be in a position to recite them by heart. It would indeed be strange that the Jews should have the law written in a book hanging from their hands so that they might always remember the commandments, and we did not impress indelibly in our memory the words of a faith which is so much higher. Owing to the fact that immediately after having received the Divine order Adam met the Demon and was easily overcome by him because of his lack of meditation and contemplation of that order, it is imperative that in all this time you should continually meditate on the words of the Creed so that it may be strengthened in you and deeply fixed in your mind, and so that you may love your religion without which you cannot receive the Divine gift, or if you receive it, you cannot keep it and hold fast to it.
When the time for (the reception of) the Sacrament draws near and the judgment and fight with the Demon—for the sake of which the words of exorcism have been used—are at an end; and when by God’s decision the Tyrant has submitted and yielded to the shouts of the exorcist and been condemned, so that he is in nothing near to you and you are completely free from any disturbance from him; and when you have possessed the happiness of this enrolment without any hindrance —you are brought by duly appointed persons to the Priest, as it is before him that you have to make your engagements and promises to God. These deal with the faith and the Creed, which by a solemn asseveration you declare that you will keep steadfastly, and that you will not, like Adam, the father of our race, reject the cause of all good things, but that you will remain till the end in the doctrine of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, while thinking of the same Father, Son and Holy Spirit as one Divine nature which is eternal and cause of everything, and to the discipleship of which you have been admitted by faith. It is in their names that you receive the happiness of this enrolment which consists in the participation in Heavenly benefits.
When a person wishes to enter the house of a man of power in this world, with the intention of doing some work in it, he does not go direct to the master of the house and make his engagement and his contract with him—as it is unbecoming to the master of the house to condescend to such a conversation —but goes to the majordomo and agrees with him about his work, and through him agrees with the master of the house, to whom the house and all its contents belong. In this same way you act, you who draw near to the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, as the blessed Paul says, because God is as much greater than we are as He is higher in His nature than we are, and is forever invisible, and dwells in a light which is ineffable, according to the words of the blessed Paul. We approach, therefore, the majordomo of this house, that is to say, of the Church, and this majordomo is the Priest, who has been found worthy to preside over the Church; and after we have recited our profession of faith before him, we make with God, through him, our contract and our engagements concerning the faith, and we solemnly declare that we will be His servants, that we will work for Him and remain with Him till the end, and that we will keep His love always and without a change. After we have, by our profession of faith, made our contracts and engagements with God our Lord, through the intermediary of the Priest, we become worthy to enter His house and enjoy its sight, its knowledge and its habitation, and to be also enrolled in the city and its citizenship. We then become the owners of a great confidence.
As all this happens to us through the Sacrament, to which we draw near after our profession of faith, it is necessary to say what it is and how it is performed. It would indeed be strange to explain the reasons for the ceremonies that precede the Sacrament and neglect the teaching of the Sacrament itself. As, however, we have exceeded our usual time limits, and as the things that have been, said are difficult to remember, we shall postpone what we have to say to another day, and we shall put here an end to our speech while glorifying God the Father, and His Only Begotten Son, and His Holy Spirit, now, always and forever and ever. Amen.
Here ends the second chapter.
Synopsis of the Third Chapter
You stand barefooted on sackcloth while your outer garment is taken off from you and your hands are stretched towards God in the posture of one who prays. First you genuflect while the rest of your body is erect, and then you say: “I abjure Satan and all his angels, and all his works, and all his service, and all his deception, and all his worldly glamour; and I engage myself and believe, and am baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” While you are genuflecting, and the rest of your body is erect, and your look is directed towards Heaven, and your hands are outstretched in the posture of one who prays, the Priest, clad in linen robes that are clean and shining, signs you on your forehead with the Holy Chrism and says: “So-and-so is signed in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And your godfather who is standing behind you spreads an orarium of linen on the crown of your head, raises you and makes you stand up erect.
From what we have previously said, you have sufficiently understood the ceremonies which are duly performed, prior to the Sacrament, and according to an early tradition, upon those who are baptised. When you go to be enrolled in the hope of acquiring the abode and citizenship of Heaven, you have, in the ceremony of exorcism, a kind of law-suit with the Demon, and by a Divine verdict you receive your freedom from his servitude. And thus you recite the words of the profession of faith and of prayer, and through them you make an engagement and a promise to God, before the Priests, that you will remain in the love of the Divine nature—concerning which, if you think the right things, it will be to you the source of great benefits; and it consists of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit—and that you will live in this world to the best of your ability in a way that is consonant with the life and citizenship of Heaven. It is right now that you should receive the teaching of the ceremonies that take place in the Sacrament itself, because if you learn the reason for each one of them, you will acquire a knowledge that is by no means small. After you have been taken away from the servitude of the Tyrant by means of the words of exorcism, and have made solemn engagements to God along with the recitation of the Creed, you draw near to the Sacrament itself; you must learn how this is done.
You stand barefooted on sackcloth while your outer garment is taken off from you, and your hands are stretched towards God in the posture of one who prays. In all this you are in the likeness of the posture that fits the words of exorcism, as in it you have shown your old captivity and the servitude which through a dire punishment you have rendered to the Tyrant; but it is right that after you have cast away that posture and those memories you should draw near to the Sacrament which implies participation in the future benefits. You recall in your memory your old tribulations in order that you may all the better know the nature of the things which you cast away and that of the things to which you will be transferred.
First you genuflect while the rest of your body is erect, and in the posture of one who prays you stretch your arms towards God. As we have all of us fallen into sin and been driven to the dust by the sentence of death, it is right for us to “bow our knees in the name of Jesus Christ,” as the blessed Paul said, and to “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God His Father.” In this confession we show the things that accrued to us from the Divine nature through the Economy of Christ our Lord, whom (God) raised up to Heaven and showed as Lord of all and head of our salvation. Because all these things have to be performed by us all, who “are fallen to the earth” according to the words of the blessed Paul, it is with justice that you, who through the Sacrament become partakers of the ineffable benefits,to which you have been called by your faith in Christ, bow your knees, and make manifest your ancient fall, and worship God, the cause of those benefits.
The rest of all your body is erect and looks towards Heaven. In this posture you offer prayer to God, and implore Him to grant you deliverance from the ancient fall and participation in the Heavenly benefits. While you are in this posture, the persons who are appointed for the service draw near to you and say to you something more than that which the angel who appeared to the blessed Cornelius said to him: your prayers have been heard and your supplications answered. God has looked upon your tribulations which you were previously undergoing, and had mercy upon you because you were for a long time captives of the Tyrant, and served a cruel servitude to him. He saw the number and the nature of the calamities which you have endured, and this moved Him to deliver you from that servitude and from the great number of your ancient tribulations, and to bring you to freedom and grant you to participate in the ineffable Heavenly benefits, which immediately after you have received, you become undoubtedly free from all calamities. It is now time for you to learn the things through which you will surely receive deliverance from your ancient tribulations, and enjoy the good things that have been shown to you.
What are then the engagements and promises which you make at that time, and through which you receive deliverance from the ancient tribulations, and participation in the future benefits?
I abjure Satan and all his angels, and all his service, and all his deception, and all his worldly glamour; and I engage myself, and believe, and am baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
The Deacons who at that time draw near to you prepare you to recite these words. It is in place here to explain to you the power of these words, in order that you may know the force of the engagements, promises and words of asseveration through which you receive the happiness of this great gift. Because the Devil, to whom you had listened, was for you the cause of numerous and great calamities—as he has begun (his work) from the time of the fathers of your race—you promise to abjure him, since facts themselves and your own experience had made you feel his injuries. This is the reason why you say “I abjure Satan.” Formerly, even if you wished it, you did not dare to make use of these words, because you were afraid of his servitude, but as you have, by a Divine decree, received deliverance from him, you proclaim and abjure him with confidence and by your own words, and this is the reason why you say “I abjure Satan.” In this you imply both your present separation from him and the former association that you had with him. Indeed, no one says that he abjures a thing with which he had formerly no association. The use of this expression is especially incumbent upon you as you had relation with him from the time of your forefathers, together with that cruel and ancient pact, which resulted in the calamitous servitude to him, under which you lived.
You rightly say “I abjure Satan,” but you can hardly realise that after having formerly felt the injury which he inflicted upon you in his relation with you, you could be in a position to be delivered from him. In uttering these words you really imply that you have no association of any kind left with him anymore. It is indeed difficult for you to realise the extent of the calamities into which he was daily planning to cast us. Did you realise the extent to which Adam, our common father, who had listened to him, has been injured, and into how many calamities he has fallen? or the extent to which his descendants have given themselves up to Satan? or the gravity of the calamities which were borne by men, who later chose to become his servants? Now, however, that the great and wonderful grace, which was manifest through Christ, freed us from the yoke of the Tyrant and delivered us from his servitude, and granted us this wonderful participation in benefits, I have recognised my benefactor. I know now my Lord, and He is truly my Lord, who created me while I was not, who does not relent in His daily beneficence to me, who did not forsake me even when I sinned against Him but bestowed favour on me, who revealed to us an awe-inspiring gift, who did not only vouchsafe to us deliverance from tribulations, but placed also before us the hope of ineffable benefits. I abjure, therefore, Satan, I flee from communion with him, and engage myself that henceforth I shall not run towards him nor shall I have any intercourse with him, but I shall flee completely from him as from an enemy and an evildoer, who became to us the cause of innumerable calamities, who does not know how to do good, and who strives with all his power to fight us and overcome us. The expression “I abjure” means that I will no more choose and accept any communion with him.
If Satan was striving alone and single-handed to fight against us and injure us, the above expression, which contains the profession of abjuring him and completely renouncing communion with him, would have been sufficient; as, however, although invisible, he knows how to fight against us by means of visible beings, the men whom he once subjected and made tools of his iniquity, and whom he employs to cause others to stumble—you add:
“and his angels.”
The expression “his angels” refers to all men who received evil of some kind from him, which they practise to harm other people. At the beginning, when he had no one to cause to fall into sin and consequently to suit him in the service of injuring others, the serpent became a tool in his hands, of which he made use to deceive man and cause him to fall. Since, however, he caught in his net the children of men and brought them under subjection a long time ago, he employs those among them who are suitable to the task of injuring others. This is the reason why the blessed Paul said: “I fear lest as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtility, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” He shows here that men of this world are anxious to divert them from duty, and play the same role to the Devil in the deception of mankind as that played by the serpent. This is the reason why, after saying: “I abjure Satan” you add:
“and his angels.”
You call angels of Satan all those who serve his will for the purpose of deceiving people and causing them to fall. We must believe to be servants of Satan all those who occupy themselves with the outside wisdom and bring the error of paganism into the world. Clearly are angels of Satan all the poets who maintained idolatry by their vain stories, and strengthened the error of heathenism by their wisdom. Angels of Satan are those men who under the name of philosophy established devastating doctrines among pagans, and corrupted them to such an extent that they do not acquiesce in the words of the true religion. Angels of Satan are also the heads of heresies, those who after the coming of Christ our Lord devised in an ungodly way, and introduced into the world, things contrary to the true faith. Angels of Satan are Mani, Marcion, and Valentinus, who detached the visible things from the creative act of God, and pretended that these visible things were created by another cause outside God. An angel of Satan is Paul of Samosata, who asserted that Christ our Lord was a simple man and denied (the existence) before the worlds of the person of the Divinity of the Only Begotten. Angels of Satan are Arius and Eunomius, who dared to affirm that the nature of the Divinity of the Only Begotten was created and not existing from the beginning, but that it came into existence from nothing according to the law of created beings. In this they imitate the pagans, as they assert that although the nature of the Son is created, they nevertheless believe Him to be God by nature. They also imitate the ignorance of the Jews who deny that He is a Son from the Father and that He is eternally from His Divinity, as He is truly a true Son, and pretend that He is a son in a way similar to those who among the Jews are called sons of God, who have acquired this sonship by grace and not by virtue of their Divinity.
An angel of Satan is also Apollinarius, who falsified the doctrine of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and who, under the pretence of an orthodoxy which would leave our salvation incomplete, categorically asserted that our mind was not assumed and did not participate like the body in the assumption of grace. Angels of Satan are those who in all heresies are the heads and the teachers of error, whether they be honoured with the name of episcopacy or of Priesthood, because they are upholders and protectors of the words of error, and as such all of them serve the will of Satan, and clad in the robe of ecclesiastical service, strive to lean towards error. Angels of Satan are also those who, after the abolition of the law, think of drawing those who believed in Christ to the observances of the Jews. Angels of Satan are also those who give to mankind admonitions which are iniquitous, mischievous and contrary to the Divine commandments, and who endeavour to lead it to the service of evil.
You abjure all the above (men) in a way that leaves you no association of any kind with them, because you have drawn near to Christ and have been enrolled in the Church of God, and expect to be the body and the members of Christ through the birth of the Holy baptism. Your association should be with Christ our Lord, as a member united to His head and far from those who endeavour to detach you from the faith and the creed of the Church.
After having said: “I abjure Satan and all his angels” you add:
“and all his service.”
This means that you should strive to turn away from and reject both the men who serve the will of the Evil One and the things done by them in the name of teaching, as they are palpable iniquity. Service of Satan is everything dealing with paganism, not only the sacrifices and the worship of idols and all the ceremonies involved in their service, according to the ancient custom, but also the things that have their beginning in it. Service of Satan is clearly that a person should follow astrology and watch the positions and motions of the sun, the moon and the stars for the purpose of travelling, going forth, or undertaking a given work, while believing that he is benefited or harmed by their motion and their course; and that one should believe the men who, after watching the motions of the stars, prognosticate by them. This is clearly service of Satan, and the one who puts his confidence in God alone and trusts His Providence, strives to turn away from this and similar things, and expects everything from Him: the bestowal of good things and the abolition of bad things; and does not think that anything like these can happen from another quarter, but knows that anything that is outside the love of God and confidence in Him is under the influence of the tyranny and power of the Evil One.
[These] are service of Satan: the purifications, the washings, the knots, the hanging of yeast, the observances of the body, the fluttering or the voice of birds and any similar thing.it is service of Satan that one should indulge in the observances of Judaism. Service of Satan is also that service which is found among the heretics under the name of religion, because although it has some resemblance to an ecclesiastical service, yet it is devoid of the gift of the grace of the Holy Spirit, and is performed in impiety. It is clearly service of Satan if true are the words of our Lord who said: “Not everyone that says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he that does the will of my Father which is in Heaven.” It is evident that you will have no utility in calling upon the name of our Lord while in your mind you are with the ungodly, outside the fear of God. None of those things that are done by them in imitation of the ecclesiastical teaching brings any utility to those who perform them, because the things done (by them) are forbidden by God, and all of them are thus devoid of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
As when in a theatrical performance and in a play you see Kings and you do not consider them Kings because of the imitation of their dresses, but all of them as a ludicrous representation and a burlesque worthy to be laughed at—they only show before the eyes things taken from the ordinary life of the world—so also the things performed by the heretics under the name of doctrine, whether it be their baptism or their Eucharist, deserve laughter; and we ought to turn away from them as from the service of Satan, because all of them tend to strengthen impiety.
You also say:
“and all his deception.”
They named in clear words as deception of Satan all the things that were done by pagans under the name of doctrine, because they displayed all of them ostentatiously and performed them with the intention of fascinating the spectators and deceiving the others. All these things have by the grace of God disappeared to-day; but we must not think any the less of the service performed by heretics, because having noticed that the error of paganism had disappeared in the name of Christ, Satan strove to deceive the children of men by other means, and discovered the heresies, and found out that those who presided over them were, by their imitation of ecclesiastical ceremonies both in the invocation of the (Divine) names and in their fanciful communion service, in a position to deceive simple people and so lead them to the perdition of impiety. After this you say:
“And all his worldly glamour.”
They called his glamour, the theatre, the circus, the racecourse, the contests of the athletes, the profane songs, the water-organs and the dances, which the Devil introduced into this world under the pretext of amusement, and through which he leads the souls of men to perdition. It is not difficult to know the great injury caused by these things to the souls of men, and we ought to remove from all of them the son of the Sacrament of the New Testament, who is being enrolled in the citizenship of Heaven, who is the heir of the future benefits, and who is expecting to become henceforth, through the regeneration of baptism, a member of Christ our Lord, the head of us all who is in Heaven. We who are playing the part of members to Himought to lead a life that is congruous to Him.
It is for this reason that at the time (preceding your baptism) you make these promises and engagements in the posture which we have described above:
I abjure Satan, and all his angels, and all his service, and all his deception, and all his worldly glamour; and I engage myself before the Divine, the blessed and the eternal nature of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
After having said: “I abjure Satan, and his angels, and his service, and his deception, and all his worldly glamour” you add:
“And I engage myself, and believe and am baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
As when you say “I abjure (Satan)” you mean to reject him for always, and not to revert to him nor be pleased to associate yourself with him any more, so also when you say “I engage myself before God” you show that you will remain steadfastly with Him, that you will henceforth be unshakeably with Him, that you will never separate yourself from Him, and that you will think it higher than anything else to be and to live with Him and to conduct yourself in a way that is in harmony with His commandments.
The addition “And I believe” is necessary because the person who draws near to God ought to believe that He is, as the blessed Paul said. As Divine nature is invisible, faith is called to the help of the person who draws near to it, and who promises to be constantly in its household. The good things that (God) prepared for us, through the Economy of Christ our Lord, are likewise invisible and unspeakable, and since it is in their hope that we draw near to Him and receive the Sacrament of baptism, faith is required so that we may possess a strong belief without doubt concerning these good things which are prepared for us and which are now invisible.
You add also the sentence “and I am baptised” to that of “and I believe” so that you may draw near to the gift of the Holy baptism, in the hope of future benefits, and be thus enabled to be reborn and to die with Christ and rise with Him from there, and so that after having received another birth, instead of your first one, you may be able to participate in Heaven. As long as you are mortal by nature you are not able to enter the abode of Heaven, but after you have cast away such a nature in baptism and have risen also with Christ through baptism, and received the symbol of the new birth which we are expecting, you will be seen as a citizen of Heaven and an heir of the Kingdom of Heaven.
To all the above (sentences) you add:
“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
This is the Divine nature, this is the eternal Godhead, this is the cause of everything, and this is that which first created us and now is renewing us. This is, indeed, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is to it that we are drawing near now, and it is to it that we are rightly making our promises, because it has been to us the cause of numerous and great benefits, as at the beginning even so now. It is to it that we make these ineffable promises, and it is in it that we engage ourselves to believe henceforth. It is in its names that we are baptised, and through it that we expect to receive the future good things which are now promised to us as in a symbol, and it is to it that we look for the happiness which is to come, when we shall rise in reality from the dead, and become immortal and immutable in our nature, and heirs and partakers of the abode and citizenship of Heaven.
These engagements and promises you make in the posture which we have described above, while your knee is bowed to the ground both as a sign of adoration which is due from you to God, and as a manifestation of your ancient fall to the ground; the rest of your body is erect and looks upwards towards Heaven, and your hands are outstretched in the guise of one who prays so that you may be seen to worship the God who is in Heaven, from whom you expect to rise from your ancient fall. This is the reason why you have, through the promises and engagements which we have already described, directed your course towards Him and have promised to Him that you will make yourself worthy of the expected gift. After you have looked towards Him with outstretched hands, asked grace from Him, risen from your fall and rejoiced in (future) benefits, you will necessarily receive the firstfruits of the Sacrament which we believe to be the earnest of the good and ineffable things found in Heaven. When you have, therefore, made your promises and engagements, the Priest draws near to you, wearing, not his ordinary garments or the covering with which he was covered before, but clad in a robe of clean and radiant linen, the joyful appearance of which denotes the joy of the world to which you will move in the future, and the shining colour of which designates your own radiance in the life to come, while its cleanness indicates the ease and happiness of the next world.
He depicts these things to you by means of the garments in which he is clad, and by the hidden symbol of the same garments he inspires you with fear, and with fear he infuses love into you, so that you may through the newness of his garments look into the power which it represents. And he signs you on your forehead with the Holy Chrism and says:
So-and-so is signed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
He offers you these firstfruits of the Sacrament, and he does it in no other way than in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Where you expect to find the cause of all the benefits, there the Priest also begins the Sacrament. In fact, it is from there that the Priest draws you near to the calling towards which you must look, and in consequence of which you ought to live above all things according to the will (of God). The sign with which you are signed means that you have been stamped as a lamb of Christ and as a soldier of the Heavenly King. Indeed, immediately we possess a lamb we stamp it with a stamp which shows to which master it belongs, so that it may graze the same grass as that which the rest of the lambs of the owner graze, and be in the same fold as that in which they are. A soldier who has enlisted for military service, and been found worthy of this service of the State because of his stature and the structure of his body, is first stamped on his hand with a stamp which shows to which King he will henceforth offer his service; in this same way you also, who have been chosen for the Kingdom of Heaven, and after examination been appointed a soldier to the Heavenly King, are first stamped on your forehead, that part of your head which is higher than the rest of your body, which is placed above all your body and above your face, and with which we usually draw near to one another and look at one another when we speak. You are stamped at that place so that you may be seen to possess great confidence.
“Because now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face, and with an open face we shall behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord, and shall be changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord,” as the blessed Paul said, we are rightly stamped in a place that is higher than our face, so that from far we may frighten the demons, who will not then be able to come near us and injure us, and so that we may be known to possess so much confidence with God that we look at Him with an open face, and display before Him the stamp by which we are seen to be members of the household and soldiers of Christ our Lord.
When the Priest performs these things for you and signs you with a sign on your forehead, he separates you from the rest as a consequence of the aforesaid words, and decides that you are the soldier of the true King and a citizen of Heaven. The sign (with which you have been signed) demonstrates that you have communion with, and participation in, all these things.
Immediately after your godfather, who is standing behind you, spreads an orarium of linen on the crown of your head, raises you and makes you stand erect. By your rising from your genuflexion you show that you have cast away your ancient fall, that you have no more communion with earth and earthly things, that your adoration and prayer to God have been accepted, that you have received the stamp which is the sign of your election to the ineffable military service, that you have been called to Heaven, and that you ought henceforth to direct your course to its life and citizenship while spurning all earthly things.
The linen which he spreads on the crown of your head denotes the freedom to which you have been called. You were before standing bareheaded, as this is the habit of the exiles and the slaves, but after you have been signed he throws on your head linen, which is the emblem of the freedom to which you have been called. Men such as these (=freemen) are in the habit of spreading linen on their heads, and it serves them as an adornment both in the house and in the market-place.
After you have been singled out and stamped as a soldier of Christ our Lord you receive the remaining part of the Sacrament and are invested with the complete armour of the Spirit, and with the Sacrament you receive participation in the Heavenly benefits.
We ought to explain little by little how these things are effected, but let what has been said suffice for to-day, and let us end our discourse as usual by offering praise to God the Father, and to His Only Begotten Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now, always, and forever and ever. Amen.
Here ends the third Chapter.
Synopsis of this Chapter
You draw near to the Holy baptism, and first take off all your garments, after which you are duly and thoroughly anointed with Holy Chrism. The Priest begins and says: “So-and-so is anointed in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Then you descend into the water that has been consecrated by the benediction of the Priest, who, clad in the aforesaid apparel, stands up and approaches his hand, which he places on your head and says: “So-and-so is baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” He places his hand on your head and says, “in the name of the Father,” and with these words he causes you to immerse yourself in the water. If you were allowed to speak there you would have said “”Amen!”, but you simply plunge into the water and incline your head downwards; and the Priest says “and of the Son” and causes you with his hand to immerse yourself again while inclining also your head downwards; and the Priest says “and of the Holy Spirit” and presses you down and causes you again to immerse in a similar way. After you have left that place, you put on a very radiant garment, and the Priest draws near and signs you on your forehead and says: “So-and-so is signed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
We left off yesterday our catechetical discourse with the words which deal with the fact that you have been signed with the oil of baptism, enlisted in the service of Heaven, and counted among the chosen and the elect. The Kingdom of Heaven has been made manifest through the Economy of Christ our Lord, who after His Passion and resurrection ascended into Heaven where He established His Kingdom. Now it is right for us—all of us who have been called to that service of Heaven—to have communion with Heaven, where all of us will move and where our King is, as He Himself said: “I will that they be with Me where I am.” We expect to reign with Him if, as the blessed Paul said, through suffering we show our love to Him; and we shall be with Him in Heaven and partakers of that great glory. It is for this task that you have been signed, and it is through this signing that you are known to have been chosen for the service of Heaven. This is the reason why immediately you rise up you spread on your head linen, which is a mark of freedom, and this signifies that you have been chosen for the Heavenly service and been freed from communion with earthly things, while obtaining the freedom which is in Heaven. If a slave is not allowed in this world to do military service to a King, how much more ought the person who has been detailed for the service of Heaven to be remote from servitude? AH of us, therefore, who have received communion with Heavenly things are freemen of that “free Jerusalem which is above and which is the mother of us all,” as the blessed Paul said.
Yesterday we spoke sufficiently of the signing and of the meaning of the ceremonies that take place in it, and it is right for us to speak to-day of the things that follow it.
You should now proceed towards baptism in which the symbols of this second birth are performed, because you will in reality receive the true second birth only after you have risen from the dead and obtained the favour to be in the state of which you were deprived by death. It is indeed plain that he who is born afresh returns to the state in which he was before, while it is equally clear that the one who dies relinquishes his present state. You will, therefore, have the second birth, at the resurrection, when you will be given to be in the state in which you were after you were born of a woman, and of which you were deprived by death. All these things will happen to you in reality at the time appointed for your birth at the resurrection; as to now you have for them the word of Christ our Lord, and in the expectation of them taking place you rightly receive their symbols and their signs through this awe-inspiring Sacrament, so that you may not question your participation in future things.
You draw, therefore, near to the Holy baptism which contains the symbol of the birth which we expect. This is the reason why our Lord called it second birth when He said to Nicodemus: “Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” In this He showed that those who will enter the Kingdom of God must have a second birth. Nicodemus, however, thought that they will be born according to a carnal birth from a woman, and said: “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? ” He said this because he believed that we shall be born in a way similar to our first birth. As to our Lord He did not disclose to him then that there are two ways in which we shall in reality receive this, one of which is at the resurrection, because He knew that the subject was too much for his hearing. He, therefore, only disclosed to him then the symbolical birth which is accomplished through baptism, to which all those who believe must draw near so that by means of its symbols they may move to the happiness of the reality itself, and answered: “Unless a man is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” He mentioned the method by saying “of water,” and He revealed the cause by the mention of “the Spirit.” This is the reason why He added: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” He did not make mention here of the water, because it plays the part of the symbol of Sacrament, while He did mention the Spirit, because this birth is accomplished by His action. Illuminatingly he implied by these words that he who is born of the flesh is flesh by nature, and is mortal, passible, corruptible, and changeable in everything.
When Nicodemus asked: “How can these things be?”, He answered Him: “The Spirit blows where He wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell from where He comes, and to where He goes; so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.” He did not mention the water at all, but He lifted the veil of doubt from the point and showed it to be credible from the truth of the Spirit. The sentence “He blows where He wishes” demonstrates His power through which He does everything He wishes, which implies that He can do everything. Indeed, anyone who has it in his power to do everything He wishes, has also by necessity the power to accomplish anything He wishes with ease. He used, therefore, the sentence “so is everyone that is born of the Spirit” with a purpose. He implied by it that we ought to think that the Spirit possesses such a great power and such a great might that we are not to doubt and question anything that comes from Him although it be above, and higher than, our intelligence.
He called baptism a second birth because it contains the symbol of the second birth, and because through baptism we participate as in symbol in this second birth. Indeed, we receive from baptism participation in this second birth without any question and doubt. This is the reason why the blessed Paul said: “As many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptised into His death, and were buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of His Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Formerly, and before the coming of Christ, death held sway over us by a Divine decree which was all-binding, and possessed great sovereignty over us; but because Christ our Lord died and rose again, He changed that decree and abolished the sovereignty of death, which to those who believe in Christ resembles a long sleep, as the blessed Paul said: “But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that sleep.” He calls “them that sleep” those who die after the resurrection of Christ, because they will rise and divest themselves of death through the resurrection. Because Christ our Lord abolished the power of death by His own resurrection (the Apostle) said: “As many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptised into His death.” As if one were saying: We know that death has been abolished a long time ago by Christ our Lord, and we draw near to Him and are baptised with such a faith because we desire to participate in His death, in the hope of participating also in the resurrection from the dead, in the way in which He himself rose. This is the reason why, when at my baptism I plunge my head I receive the death of Christ our Lord, and desire to have His burial, and because of this I firmly believe in the resurrection of our Lord; and when I rise from the water I think that I have symbolically risen a long time ago.
Since, however, all this is done in symbols and in signs, in order to show that we do not make use of vain signs only, but of realities in which we believe and which we ardently desire, he said: “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death we shall be also (in the likeness) of His resurrection.” In using the future tense he confirms the present event by the future reality, and from the greatness of the coming reality he demonstrates the credibility of the greatness of its symbols, and the symbol of the coming realities is baptism. The working of the Holy Spirit is that it is in the hope of the future things that you receive the grace of baptism, and that you draw near to the gift of baptism in order to die and to rise with Christ so that you may be born again to the new life, and thus, after having been led by these symbols to the participation in the realities, you will perform the symbol of that true second birth.
If you say that the greatness of the symbols and of the signs is in the visible water, it would be an unimportant affair, as this has already happened before, but because this second birth, which you receive now Sacramentally as the symbol of an earnest, is accomplished by the action of the Holy Spirit, great is the Sacrament which is performed and awe-inspiring and worthy of credence is the virtue of the symbols, which will also without doubt grant us to participate in the future benefits. We expect to delight in these benefits because as an earnest of them we have received the grace of the Holy Spirit, from which we have now obtained also the gift of performing this Sacrament. This is the reason why the blessed Paul said: “In whom we believed and were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise which is the earnest of our inheritance to the praise of His glory.” He calls here the Spirit of promise the grace which is promised to us by the Holy Spirit, as we receive it in the promise of the future benefits, and he calls it the earnest of our inheritance because it is from it that we become partakers of those future benefits.
He said, therefore, in another passage: “God has established us with you in Christ and anointed us and sealed us and given the earnest of His Spirit in our hearts.” And again he said in another passage: “And not only they but ourselves also which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves waiting for the adoption of children to the redemption of our bodies.” He uses the words “firstfruits of the Spirit which we have here” to imply that, when we shall dwell in the joy of the realities, we shall receive all the grace, and by the words “we wait for the adoption of children, to the redemption of our bodies” he shows that here we only receive the symbol of the adoption of children but that thereafter, having been born afresh, risen from the dead, become also immortal and incorruptible, and received complete abolition of pains from our bodies, we shall receive the real adoption. He clearly calls “redemption of our bodies” the assumption of incorruptibility and immortality, because it is through these things that a complete abolition of calamities from our bodies is affected. The power of the Holy baptism consists in this: it implants in you the hope of the future benefits, enables you to participate in the things which we expect, and by means of the symbols and signs of the future good things, it informs you with the gift of the Holy Spirit the firstfruits of whom you receive when you are baptised.
You draw, therefore, near to the Holy baptism, and before everything you take off your garments. As when Adam was formerly naked and was in nothing ashamed of himself, but after having broken the commandment and become mortal, he found himself in need of an outer covering, so also you, who are ready to draw near to the gift of the Holy baptism so that through it you may be born afresh and become symbolically immortal, rightly remove your covering, which is a sign of mortality and a reproving mark of that (Divine) decree by which you were brought low to the necessity of a covering.
After you have taken off your garments, you are rightly anointed all over your body with the Holy Chrism: a mark and a sign that you will be receiving the covering of immortality, which through baptism you are about to put on. After you have taken off the covering which involves the sign of mortality, you receive through your anointing the sign of the covering of immortality, which you expect to receive through baptism. And you are anointed all over your body as a sign that unlike the covering used as a garment, which does not always cover all the parts of the body, because although it may cover all the external limbs, it by no means covers the internal ones—all our nature will put on immortality at the time of the resurrection, and all that is seen in us, whether internal or external, will undoubtedly be changed into incorruptibility according to the working of the Holy Spirit which shall then be with us.
While you are receiving this anointing, the one who has been found worthy of the honour of Priesthood begins and says: “So-and-so is anointed in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And then the persons appointed for this service anoint all your body. After these things have happened to you, at the time which we have indicated, you descend into the water, which has been consecrated by the benediction of the Priest, as you are not baptised only with ordinary water, but with the water of the second birth, which cannot become so except through the coming of the Holy Spirit (on it). For this it is necessary that the Priest should have beforehand made use of clear words, according to the rite of the Priestly service, and asked God that the grace of the Holy Spirit might come on the water and impart to it the power both of conceiving that awe-inspiring child and becoming a womb to the Sacramental birth.
Our Lord also, when Nicodemus asked Him whether a man “can enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born,” answered: “Unless a man is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” He shows in this that as in a carnal birth the womb of the mother receives the human seed, and the Divine hand fashions it according to an ancient decree, so also in baptism, the water of which becomes a womb to the one who is being born, and the grace of the Spirit fashions in it, into the second birth, the one who is being baptised, and changes him completely into a new man. And inasmuch as the seed that falls into the womb of the mother has neither life, nor soul nor feeling, but after it has been fashioned by the Divine hand, it results in a living man, endowed with soul and feeling, and in a human nature capable of all human acts, so also here the one who is baptised falls into the water as into a womb, like a seed which bears no resemblance of any kind to the mark of an immortal nature, but after he has been baptised and has received the Divine and spiritual grace, he will undoubtedly undergo a complete change: he will be fashioned from a mortal into an immortal, from a corruptible into an incorruptible, and from a mutable into an immutable, nature; and he will be changed completely into a new man according to the power of the One who fashions him.
And inasmuch as the one who is born of a woman has potentially in him the faculty of speaking, hearing, walking and working with his hands, but is very weak to perform all these acts in reality till the time in which God has decreed for him to perform them, so also is the case here in connection with the one who is born of baptism. This one has indeed in him and possesses potentially all the faculties of an immortal and incorruptible nature, but is not now in a position to make use of them and put them into a complete and perfect act of incorruptibility, immortality, impassibility and immutability. He who receives through baptism the potential faculty of performing all these acts, will receive the power of performing them in reality at the time when he is no more a natural but a spiritual man, and when the working of the (Holy) Spirit renders the body incorruptible and the soul immutable, while sustaining and keeping both of them by His power, as the blessed Paul said: “It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” He shows here that incorruption, glory and power will come then to man through the working of the Holy Spirit, which affects both his soul and body, the former with immortality and the latter with immutability; and that the body which will rise from the dead and which (man) will put on will be a spiritual and not a natural body.
It is owing to the fact that the nature of the water does not possess all these attributes, which are implanted in it at our immersion by the working of the Holy Spirit, that the Priest makes use beforehand of his Priestly service and of clear words and benedictions, written for the purpose, and prays that the grace of the Holy Spirit come upon the water and prepare it with His Holy and awe-inspiring presence for the task of performing all these things, so that it may become a reverential womb for the second birth, and so that those who descend into it may be fashioned afresh by the grace of the Holy Spirit and born again into a new and virtuous human nature.
When the water has been prepared for this and has received such a power by the coming of the Holy Spirit, you plunge into it hoping to receive from it benefits such as those (described above), and an awe-inspiring salvation. It is right for you, therefore, to think that you are going into the water as into a furnace, where you will be renewed and refashioned in order that you may move to a higher nature, after having cast away your old mortality and fully assumed an immortal and incorruptible nature. These things dealing with birth happen to you in the water because you were fashioned at the beginning from earth and water, and having fallen later into sin you assumed a thorough corruption through the sentence of death.
The potters are also in the habit, when the vessels which they fashion are damaged, to refashion them again with water so that they may be remade and reconstructed and given the wanted form. This is the reason why God ordered also the Prophet Jeremiah to repair to a potter; and he went and saw him working on a vessel, which, because it was marred, he cast in water, remade, and brought to its former state; and then God said to him: “O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? says the Lord.” Because we also were made of earth and clay—as it is said: “For you are also made of clay like me,” and “forgive them that dwell in a house of clay because we also are made of the same clay”—when we fell and sin corrupted us, we received a complete dissolution from the (Divine) sentence of death, but afterwards our Maker and our Lord refashioned us and remade us by His ineffable power, because He abolished death by resurrection and granted to all of us the hope of resurrection from the dead, and a world higher than the present, where we shall not only dwell but also become immortal and incorruptible.
Of these things which are believed to take place in such a wonderful way that no one is able to describe, we perform the symbols and the signs in baptism and in water. We were rightly taught to perform the symbol of the resurrection so that we might think that we were by nature made of clay, that we fell and sin corrupted us, that because of this we received the sentence of death, but that we were renewed and remodelled by Divine grace, which brought us to an immortal nature; a thing that no man had believed or imagined. We perform the symbols and signs (of these things) in water, and are renewed and reconstructed according to the working of the Spirit on it. We who draw near to baptism receive, therefore, these benefits from the Sacrament in symbol, while in the next world we shall all of us receive renewal of our nature in reality. As an earthen vessel, which is being remade and refashioned in water, will remain in its soft nature and be clay as long as it has not come in contact with fire, but when it has been thrown on fire and baked on it, it will undoubtedly be remade and refashioned—so also we, who are in a mortal nature, rightly receive our renewal through baptism and are refashioned through this same baptism and receive the grace of the Holy Spirit, which hardens us more than any fire can do.
As we do not expect a second renewal, so we do not expect a second baptism. Because we expect but one resurrection, from which we shall become immortal and shall never be liable to death, we shall not be in need of a second renewal. This is the case also with Christ our Lord, as the blessed Paul said: “Christ rose from the dead and dies no more, and death has no more Dominion over Him.” The things that happen to you through the gift of the Holy baptism are after this pattern.
It is now time to know who is the one who is the cause of all benefits to you, who casts you into the fire and renews you, who transfers you to a higher nature, who from being mortal makes you immortal, and from corruption brings you to incorruption.
The Priest stands up and approaches his hand, which he places on your head, and says: “So-and-so is baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” while wearing the aforesaid apparel which he wore when you were on your knees and he signed you on your forehead, and when he consecrated the water. It is in this apparel that he performs the gift of baptism, because it is right for him to perform all the Sacrament while wearing it, as it denotes the renovation found in the next world, to which you will be transferred through this same Sacrament. He says: “So-and-so is baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” in order to show by these words who is the cause of this grace. As he says: “So-and-so is signed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” so he says: “So-and-so is baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” All this is in harmony with the teaching of our Lord who said: “Go you and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” He shows by these words that all the cause of the good things is in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, an eternal nature and cause of everything, by which we were created at the beginning, and expect now to be renewed. It is not possible that one should be the cause of our first creation and another the cause of this second, which is higher than the first.
It is indeed known that the One who at the beginning willed and made us mortal, is the One who is now pleased to make us immortal, and the One who at the beginning made us corruptible is the One who now makes us incorruptible. He willed at the beginning and made us passible and changeable, and at the end He will make us impassible and unchangeable. He is the Lord, and has power to accomplish both. He rightly and justly leads us from low to high things, so that by this transference from small to great things we may perceptibly feel that our Maker and the cause of all our good things, who at the beginning made us as He wished and willed, and who at the end brought us to perfection, did do so in order to teach us to consider Him as the cause also of our first state, and thus to think that since we were in need to be transferred to perfection, we could not have existed at the beginning if He had not brought us into existence.
The Priest places his hand on your head and says: “So-and-so is baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” and does not say “I baptise (So-and-so),” but “So-and-so is baptised”—in the same way as he had previously said “So-and-so is signed” and not “I sign So-and-so”—in order to show that as a man like the rest of men he is not able to bestow such benefits, which only Divine grace can bestow. This is the reason why he rightly does not say “I baptise” and “I sign” but “So-and-so is signed and baptised.” In this he immediately refers to the One by whom a person is signed and baptised, namely “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” and shows that these are the cause of the things that happen to him, and demonstrates that he himself is a subordinate and a servant of the things that take place, and a revealer of the cause which gives effect to them.
When, therefore, (the Priest) utters the words: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” he reveals to you the cause of the things that take place. Inasmuch as the one who said: “In the name of Jesus of Nazareth rise up and walk,” alluded to Christ as the cause of what would take place, and to the fact that it would be He who would give (to the lame man) the power of rising up and walking, so also the (Priest) who says: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” refers to them as the cause of the benefits conferred upon us in baptism, and implies that it is by them that our renewal is accomplished, by them the second birth is granted to us, by them we are fashioned into immortal, incorruptible, impassible and immutable men, and by them we cast away the old servitude and receive the freedom which involves complete abolition of tribulations, and delight in the eternal and ineffable benefits.
He says “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” as if he were saying “in the call upon the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” The Prophet Isaiah said thus: “Beside You we know no other Lord. We are called by Your name.” It is as if he were saying: He said, Beside You we know no other Lord, O cause of everything, because it is by You that all evil is abolished, it is from You that we expect to receive the delight in all good things, and it is upon You that we were ordered to call for all our necessities. You are the cause of everything, and You alone are able to grant everything and do everything as You wish. Here also (the Priest) says: “in the name” of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit as if he were saying: we are baptised by the call upon the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is upon this nature that we call for the gifts of the benefits which we are expecting, as it is the cause of everything, and it alone is able to do everything as it wishes.
The Priest does not say “in the name of the Father, and in the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Spirit,” because everyone of them has a separate name that does not fit that of the other. Indeed, the name of the Father is one thing, if I may so express myself, and the name of the Son is another thing, and the name of the Holy Spirit is another thing still, but because (the Priest) does not pronounce the name by which each one of them is called, that is to say, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but refers by the word “name” to the invocation which is the cause of our benefits, namely the eternal nature of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and because this invocation of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is one, he says, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
We do not name Father as one cause, and the Son as another cause, and the Holy Spirit as another cause still, but because these three form the one cause from which we expect the delight in the benefits which are looked for in baptism, we rightly make use of one invocation only with which we name the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Think of these names as if you were performing a prayer with them, and when the Priest says “in the name of the Father” suppose that he is saying “Grant, O Father, these eternal and ineffable benefits for which this person is now being baptised”; and likewise when he says “of the Son” suppose that he is saying “Grant, O Son, the gift of the benefits of baptism”; and similarly when he says “of the Holy Spirit,” suppose that he is saying “Grant in baptism, O Holy Spirit, the benefits for which this person has come to be baptised.” In the same way as one who says: “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” means this: O Lord Jesus Christ, grant this person to rise up and to walk, so also when (the Priest) says “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” he does not imply anything else but: O Father, Son and Holy Spirit, grant this person who is being baptised the grace of the second birth. The sentence “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk ‘is similar to that: “Aeneas, Jesus Christ makes you whole.” As he revealed here to Aeneas, who was healed, and to those who were present, the One who was the cause of healing, so also in the sentence “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” he revealed the cause of healing.
In this same way the sentence: “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” reveals the giver of the benefits of baptism, which are: second birth, renewal, immortality, incorruptibility, impassibility, immutability, deliverance from death and servitude and all evils, happiness of freedom, and participation in the ineffable good things which we are expecting. The person who is baptised is baptised for these things. The call upon the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is, therefore, used for the purpose of knowing from whom the benefits of baptism are expected.
The Priest places his hand on your head and says “of the Father,” and with these words he causes you to immerse yourself in water, while you obediently follow the sign of the hand of the Priest and immediately, at his words and at the sign of his hand, immerse yourself in water. By the downward inclination of your head you show as by a hint your agreement and your belief that it is from the Father that you will receive the benefits of baptism, according to the words of the Priest. If you were allowed to speak at that time, you would have said: “Amen,” a word which we believe to mean that we subscribe to the things said by the Priest, as the blessed Paul said: “He that occupies the room of the unlearned says ‘Amen’ at your giving of thanks.” He shows here that this word is said by the congregation at the giving of thanks by the Priests to signify by it that they subscribe to the things that are said. You are, however, not allowed to speak at the time of baptism, as it is right for you to receive the renewal through the Sacrament, when you are baptised, in silence and fear, while by inclining your head downwards you signify that you subscribe to the things said by the Priest. You, therefore, immerse and bow your head while the Priest says “and of the Son,” and causes you with his hand to immerse again in the same way. And you show that you subscribe to the words of the Priest, and as a sign also that you are expecting to receive the benefits of baptism from the Son, you bow your head. Then the Priest says “and of the Holy Spirit” and likewise presses you down into the water, while you immerse yourself and look downwards as a sign that here also you make the same confession to the effect that you are expecting the benefits of baptism from the Holy Spirit. After this you go out of the water.
When the Priest says “of the Father” you immerse, bow your head, but do not go out of the water; and when he says “and of the Son,” you immerse and bow your head likewise, but do not go out of the water; and after he has said “and of the Holy Spirit,” he has finished the complete call upon the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and so after immersing again and bowing your head, you go out of the water of baptism, which, so far as you are concerned, comes to an end, because, as you remember, there is no name left for you on which to call, as the cause of the expected benefits.
You perform three identical immersions, one in the name of the Father, another in the name of the Son, and another in the name of the Holy Spirit; your immersions are done in an identical way in order that you may know that each one of those names is equally perfect and able to confer the benefits of baptism. You immerse yourself in water three times, according to the words of the Priests, but you go out of the water once in order that you may know that baptism is one, and one also the grace which is accomplished in it by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit who are never separated from one another as they are one nature. This is the reason why, although each one of them is able to confer the gift—as the baptism by which you are baptised in the name of each one of them shows—yet we believe that we only receive a complete baptism when the call upon the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is finished. Because the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have one essence and one Godhead, it is necessary to assume that they have also one will and one action whereby everything is usually done by them to the creatures. It follows that we also expect the second birth, the second creation, and, in short, all the benefits of baptism, in no other way than by calling upon the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; and this call we consider to be the cause of all good things to us.
This is the reason why the blessed Paul said: “One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one body and one Spirit, one God and Father of all, and through all, and in you all.” He does not mean to say that one is Lord but not God and Spirit, and that another is God but not Lord and Spirit, and that the third is Spirit but not Lord and God, because it is necessary for anyone who is Lord to be also both God and Spirit, and for anyone who is God to be both Lord and Spirit, and for anyone who is truly Spirit—I mean the Holy Spirit—to be both God and Lord, but he teaches us that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one incorporeal and uncircumscribed Lordship, one Godhead and one essence, which grants us through baptism the adoption of children. In it we believe and are baptised and through it we become one body, according to the working on us of the Holy Spirit, in baptism, which makes us children of God and one body of Christ our Lord, whom we consider our head, as He is from our nature, and was the first to rise from the dead, and as it is through Him that we received participation in benefits. By naming the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit we name the cause of all benefits. He would not have said that the faith in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit was one had He known that they had a different nature, nor would He have said that the baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit was one had He known that they had a different will, power and action. It is indeed evident that faith is one because the Godhead in which we believe is one, and that baptism is one because the persons who are named in it have one will, one power and one action, by which we receive the second birth. And we become one body of Christ, because we consider Christ our Lord in the flesh as our head, since He was assumed from us and was the first to rise from the dead, and thus He confirmed for us our participation in the resurrection from which we expect our body to be similar to His body. Indeed “our conversation is in Heaven from where also we look for our Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like to His glorious body.”
This will take place in reality in Heaven, but we perform its symbols and its signs in baptism. We are also called the body of Christ our Lord, Christ our Lord being our head, as the blessed Paul said: “Christ is the head from which all the body is joined and knit together and increases with the increase of God.” The same Christ our Lord was seen before His resurrection from the dead to receive baptism in the Jordan from John the Baptist, so that He might draw in it beforehand the figure of this baptism which we were to receive by His grace. He was “the firstborn from the dead,” as the blessed Paul said, “so that in all things He might have the pre-eminence.” Not only in the reality of the resurrection, therefore, did He wish to have the pre-eminence over you but also in its symbol, and this is the reason why He condescended to be baptised by John. He thus drew beforehand in Himself the figure of the grace of this baptism which you are about to receive, in order that He might have the pre-eminence over you in it also. The blessed John the Baptist said to Him: “I have need to be baptised by You, and You come to me?” so that he might show that there was a great difference between himself and Him; but He replied: “Allow it to be so now, for thus it appears right for us to fulfil all righteousness.” He meant by this that righteousness is fulfilled by grace in baptism, and that it is through you that it has to find an entry into those who are under the law, so that this same law might be considered praiseworthy from the fact that it was through it that righteousness found an entry.
Our Lord was, therefore, baptised by John, but not in the baptism of John, which was that of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Our Lord, who was completely free from sin, was in no need of it, but He was baptised in our own baptism the symbol of which He depicted in this way. This is the reason why He received also the Holy Spirit who, as the evangelist said, “descended like a dove and lighted on Him.” Indeed, John had no power to confer the Spirit: “It is He that will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” In this he clearly revealed that it did not belong to him to confer the Spirit. His task was only to baptise with water in a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, while it only belonged to our Lord to confer the Spirit, whom He conferred now upon us in baptism as the firstfruits of the future benefits, which He will confer upon us in their entirety at the time of the resurrection, when our nature will receive a complete transformation into virtue. It is right for you, therefore, to know that you are baptised in the same baptism as that in which Christ our Lord in the flesh was baptised, and this is the reason why you are baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
(The baptism of our Lord) was in fact symbolically drawn to the pattern of ours. In it the Father cried and said: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” In this He showed the grace of the adoption of children for which baptism takes place, and the sentence “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” is as if one were saying: this is truly adoption of children; this is the beloved who pleased me; this is the Son who received such an adoption of children as this, which is much higher than that ruling among the Jews, as the latter underwent change: “I have said, You are gods, and all of you children of the Most High, but you shall die like men,” while the former will remain unchangeable. Indeed anyone who receives this adoption of children will remain immortal, because he moves, through the symbols (of baptism), to that adoption of children which will take place at the resurrection, from which he will be transformed into an immortal and incorruptible nature. There was also the Son in the One who was baptised, and by His proximity to Him and by His union with the one who was assumed, He was confirming the adoption of children. And there was also the Holy Spirit who descended like a dove and lighted on Him. In this He was also baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
When, therefore, the Priest says “in the name of the Father remember the sentence “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” and think of the adoption of children which is conferred upon you by the Father; and when he says “and of the Son” think of the One who was near to the One who was baptised, and understand that He became to you the cause of the adoption of children; and when he says “and of the Holy Spirit” think of the One who descended like a dove and lighted upon Him, and expect from Him the confirmation of the adoption of children. The blessed Paul said: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the children of God.” The true adoption of children is, therefore, that which is conferred by the Holy Spirit; and that to which the Spirit is not near, and that in which He does not work and lead (men) to the gift of the things that are believed, is not the true one.
You receive, therefore, the grace of the adoption of children in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and you go out of the water. You have now received baptism which is the second birth; you have fulfilled by your baptism in water the rite of the burial, and you have received the sign of the resurrection by your rising out of the water; you have been born and have become a new man; you are no more part of Adam who was mutable and burdened and made wretched by sin, but of Christ who was completely freed from sin through resurrection, while even before it He never drew near to it. It was congruous that (this sinless state) should have had its beginning in Him before (His resurrection), and that at His resurrection He should fully receive an immutable nature. In this way He confirmed to us the resurrection from the dead and our participation in incorruptibility.
When you go out (of the water) you wear a garment that is wholly radiant. This denotes the next world which is shining and radiant, and the life into which you had a long time beforehand moved through symbols. When you have received the resurrection in reality and put on immortality and incorruptibility, such a garment will be wholly unnecessary, but since now you do not possess these things in reality and have only received them Sacramentally and symbolically, you are in need of garments. Of these you wear those which denote the happiness, which you have now received symbolically but which you will one day possess in reality.
After you have received the grace of baptism and worn a white garment that shines, the Priest draws near to you and signs you on your forehead and says: “So-and-so is signed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” When Jesus came out of the water He received the grace of the Holy Spirit who descended like a dove and lighted on Him, and this is the reason why He is said to have been anointed: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because of which the Lord has anointed me,” and: “Jesus of Nazareth whom God has anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power”: texts which show that the Holy Spirit is never separated from Him, like the anointment with oil which has a durable effect on the men who are anointed, and is not separated from them. It is right, therefore, that you also should receive the signing on your forehead.
When (the Priest) signs you he says: “So-and-so is signed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” so that it may be an indication and a sign to you that it is in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that the Holy Spirit descended on you also, and you were anointed and received grace; and He will be and remain with you, as it is through Him that you possess now the firstfruits. Indeed, at present you only receive symbolically the happiness of the future benefits, but at the time of the resurrection you will receive all the grace, from which you will become immortal, incorruptible, impassible and immutable; even your body will then remain forever and will not perish, while your soul will be exempt from all inclination, however slight, towards evil.
As such is the second birth that comes to us through baptism, to which you are about to draw near, and from which we expect to move into that real and awe-inspiring second birth of the resurrection. It confirms in us that which comes to us in symbols and signs through faith, and strengthens us in relation to it. It is not to be wondered at that we receive two births, and that we shall move from the present birth to the future one, as even in our carnal birth we receive a two-fold birth, one of which from the male and the other, which comes later, from the female. We are first born of the male in the form of human semen, which has not a single vestige of human form. It is indeed clear to everyone that the semen has no human form of any kind, and that it receives the form of the human nature according to the laws formulated by God for our nature after it has been conceived, fashioned, formed and born of a woman. It is in this same way that we are also born, first in the form of semen through baptism, before we are born of the resurrection, and have taken shape in the immortal nature into which we expect to be changed, but when by faith and hope in the future things we have been formed and fashioned into the life of Christ and remained till the time of the resurrection, then we shall receive according to the decree of God, a second birth from dust, and assume an immortal and incorruptible nature, and “our vile body will be changed by Christ our Lord that it may be fashioned into His glorious body,” as the blessed Paul said.
After you have received in this way a Sacramental birth through baptism, you draw near to an immortal food, consonant with your birth, with which you will be nourished. You will have now to learn, at an opportune time, the nature of this food and the way in which it is presented to you. For the present, however, because you have received through (our) teaching the birth of baptism, and have drawn near, through this second birth, to communion with that ineffable light, and because we have, by what we have said, wrapped you tightly in swaddling clothes, so that you may grasp and remember firmly and unshakeably the birth that takes place, we shall soothe you by silence, and by the permission of God we shall bring you at an opportune time near to the Divine food and our discourse thereon. And now let us put the usual end to our speech by glorifying God the Father, and His Only Begotten Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, always, and forever and ever. Amen.
Here ends the fourth chapter.
Synopsis of this Chapter
We must first of all realise that we perform a sacrifice of which we eat, and that it is the office of the Priest of the New Testament to offer this sacrifice, as it is through it that the New Covenant appears to be maintained. We must think that the Priest who now draws near to the altar performs the image of the (Heavenly)sacrifice, and we must also think that the Deacons represent the image of the service of the invisible hosts. They have an apparel which is consonant with their office, since their outer garment is taller than they are. They place a stole on their left shoulders, and it floats on either side equally.
We must think of Christ being at one time led and brought to His Passion, and at another time being stretched on the altar to be sacrificed for us. This is the reason why those Deacons who spread linens on the altar represent the figure of the linen clothes of the burial (of our Lord), while those who stand on both sides (of the altar) agitate all the air found upon the Holy body with fans. These things take place while everybody is silent, then comes prayer —not a silent prayer—announced beforehand in the loud voice of the Deacon. When everyone is silent the Priest begins with the appointed service.
And the Priest finishes his prayer, after which he offers thanksgivings for himself; and all the congregation says: “Amen.” And the Priest prays: “Peace he to you” and for this the congregation answers: “And to your spirit” And the Priest begins to give peace, and the Church crier shouts and orders all to give peace one to another. While this is taking place the Priest washes his hands first, and then all those who, whatever their number, are counted in the assembly of Priesthood. Then the names of the living and the dead are read from Church books. After this the Priest draws near to the service while the Church crier shouts: “Look at the oblation.”
It is the habit of men to wrap the newborn babes in swaddling clothes so that a freshly constituted and still soft body may not receive any injury, but that it should remain firm in its composition. They first stretch and place them restfully in swaddling clothes, and then bring to them a natural food that is fitting and suitable to them. In this same way we have also tightly wrapped in our teaching, as in swaddling clothes, those who were newly born of baptism so that the memory of the grace promised to them might be firmly established in them; and we soothed them by the cessation of our speech, because the measure of things that were said was adequate. To-day, however, I am contemplating to draw you, by the grace of God, to the nourishment of a bread, the nature of which you must know and the greatness of which you must learn with accuracy.
When we shall have received the true birth through the resurrection, you will receive another food that cannot be described with words, and you will then be clearly fed by the grace of the Spirit whereby you will remain immortal in your bodies and immutable in your souls. It is a food such as this that is suitable to that birth; and the grace of the Spirit will grant those who shall be born of the resurrection to remain firm, so that their bodies shall not suffer dissolution and their souls shall not be affected by any change that may incline them to evil. And because we are born now symbolically through baptism, in the hope of that other birth which we are expecting, we receive at present, in form of an earnest, the firstfruits of the grace of the Holy Spirit, which will then be given to us, as we expect to receive it fully in the next world through the resurrection. It is only after its reception that we hope to become immortal and immutable, and it is right for us now to eat symbolically, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, a food suitable to the present life.
For this reason the blessed Paul said: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you do remember the Lords death till He come.” He shows that when our Lord shall come from Heaven, and make manifest the future life, and effect the resurrection of all of us—from which we shall become immortal in our bodies and immutable in our souls—the use of Sacraments and symbols shall by necessity cease. Since we shall be in the reality itself, we shall be in no need of visible signs to remind us of the things that shall take place. Inasmuch as in this world we exist by two acts: birth and food—in birth we receive our existence and in feeding ourselves we are enabled to maintain our existence, as those who are born will surely die if they are short of food—so also is the case with the next world, in which having been born of resurrection we shall receive our existence, and having become immortal, we shall continue to remain in that state.
The blessed Paul therefore said: “For we know that if this our earthly house were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens.”In this world we contrive to feed ourselves by the labour of our hands, and so we maintain our existence; but when, at the resurrection, we have become immortal and received the Heavenly abode, we shall have no more need of this food of the labour of our hands, because immortality, which we shall then assume, will maintain us in our existence by the power of grace, as with food. This is the reason why the blessed Paul calls our abode of that time “an house not made with hands, and a building of God in Heaven.”
These things will, as I have said, happen to us in the future, at the resurrection; and because we are now born in baptism through symbols and signs, it is right for us also to take our food according to the same symbols, so that we may be enabled to maintain the existence which we receive from baptism. Indeed, every animal is born of another animal and feeds on the body of the animal that brings it forth, and God has so arranged it at the beginning, with the creatures, that every animal that brings forth possesses food suitable to those that are born of it. In this same way it is necessary for us, who have symbolically received the grace of God, to receive our food from where we had our birth, and the death of Christ our Lord, when abolished by His resurrection, showed to us the birth that will come to us in the next world through the resurrection.
This is the reason why the blessed Paul said also: “As many of us as were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death, because we were buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of His Father, even so we also should walk in the newness of life. For if we have been planted with Him in the likeness of His death, we shall also live in His life.” He shows here that resurrection was made manifest in the death of Christ our Lord, and that we are buried with Him in baptism, and after we have been here partakers of His death in faith, we shall also participate in the resurrection. As we receive birth of baptism in the death of Christ our Lord, so also we receive food symbolically in death. The blessed Paul bears witness to this when he says: “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you do remember the Lord’s death till He come.”He shows that in our communion and participation in the Sacrament we remember our Lord from whom we receive resurrection and happiness of immortality. Indeed, it is right for us who have received a Sacramental birth in the death of Christ our Lord, to receive the Sacramental food of immortality in this same death, and to feed ourselves in the future from where we had also received our birth, as it is the habit of all the animals which are brought forth to be in a position to feed themselves from those which bring them forth.
Our Lord also testifies to this, because in the institution of the Sacrament He said: Take, eat, this is my body which is broken for you for the remission of sins,” and: “Take, drink, this is my blood which is shed for you for the remission of sins.”He said this because in His death He gave us the next world in which there will be abolition of all sins. As to us it is right for us to perform symbolically the remembrance of His death by our participation in the Sacrament, from which we derive the possession of the future benefits and the abolition of sins. The food of the Holy Sacrament possesses such a power, and fits the birth of those who eat it. Indeed, as in this world we take the spiritual food in signs and symbols, it is necessary that the nature of these signs and symbols should fit our present condition in which we take the symbolical food.
As we received the second birth in water, which is useful and necessary to life in this world—so much so that we are not even able to make bread without water—so also we take our food in bread and in wine mixed with water, as they eminently fit this life and sustain us to live in it. As we are sufficiently enabled to maintain ourselves in this life, and to remain in it by necessity through the suitable symbols of that spiritual food which shall be ours, let us think in our mind that it is from this food that we are expecting to become immortal and remain forever. These are the things in the hope of which we partake of this Holy food of the Sacrament.
Indeed, He (our Lord) gave us the bread and the cup because it is with food and drink that we maintain ourselves in this world, and He called the bread “body” and the cup “blood,” because, as it was His Passion that affected His body which it tormented and from which it caused blood to flow, He wished to reveal, by means of these two objects through which His Passion was accomplished, and also in the symbol of food and drink, the immortal life, in which we expect to participate when we perform this Sacrament from which we believe to derive a strong hope for the future benefits. It is with justice, therefore, that when He gave the bread He did not say: “This is the symbol of my body,” but: “This is my body”; likewise when He gave the cup He did not say: “This is the symbol of my blood” but: “This is my blood,” because He wished us to look upon these (elements) after their reception of grace and the coming of the Spirit, not according to their nature, but to receive them as if they were the body and the blood of our Lord. Indeed, even the body of our Lord does not possess immortality and the power of bestowing immortality in its own nature, as this was given to it by the Holy Spirit; and at its resurrection from the dead it received close union with Divine nature and became immortal and instrumental for conferring immortality on others.
This is the reason why, when our Lord said: “He that eats my body and drinks my blood has eternal life,”and saw that the Jews were murmuring and doubting the things that were said, and thinking that it was impossible to receive immortality from mortal flesh, He added immediately for the purpose of removing this doubt: “If you see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before.” It is as if He were saying: the thing that is being said about my body does not appear now true to you, but when you see Me rising up from the dead and ascending into Heaven, it will be made manifest (to you) that you were not to think that what had been said was harsh and unseemly, as the facts themselves will convince you that I have moved to an immortal nature, because if I were not in such a nature I would not have ascended into Heaven. And in order to show from where these things came to Him He added quickly: “It is the Spirit that lives, the flesh profites nothing,” as if He were saying: these things will come to it from the nature of the vivifying Spirit, and it is through Him that it will be given to it to become immortal and to confer also immortality on others. These things it did not possess, and was not, therefore, in a position to confer upon others as coming from its nature, because the nature of the flesh is not able by itself to grant a gift and a help of this kind. If, therefore, the nature of the vivifying Spirit made the body of our Lord into what its nature did not possess before, we ought, we also, who have received the grace of the Holy spirit through the symbols of the Sacrament, not to regard the elements merely as bread and cup, but as the body and the blood of Christ, into which they were so transformed by the descent of the Holy Spirit, by whom they become to the partakers of them that which we believe to happen to the faithful through the body and blood of our Lord. This is the reason why He said: “I am the bread which came down from Heaven,” and “I am the bread of life”; and to show them what was that which He called bread, He said: “And the bread that I will give is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world.”
Because we sustain ourselves in this life with bread and food, He called Himself the bread of life that came down from Heaven, as if He were saying: I am truly the bread of life and give immortality to those who believe in Me through this visible (body) for the sake of which I came down and to which I granted immortality, which through it will extend to those who believe in Me. While He might have said: “It is I who give life,” He did not say it, but said “I am the bread of life,” because as we would be receiving the promise given us here of the immortality, which we expect in Sacramental symbols, through bread and cup, we had to honour also the symbol which became worthy of this appellation. He called Himself bread as an allusion to the things that were to be given, as He wished to convince us, from things belonging to this world, that we shall receive also without doubt the benefits that are high above words. The fact that in order to sustain ourselves in this life we eat bread, and the fact that bread cannot fulfil this function by its nature, but has been enabled to do so by order of God who imparted this power to it, should by necessity convince us not to doubt that we shall receive immortality by eating the Sacramental bread. Indeed, although bread does not possess such a nature, yet when it receives the Holy Spirit and His grace it is enabled to impart to those who eat it the happiness of immortality. If it is capable of sustaining us in this life by a decree of God, although not possessing this power by nature, how much more will it not be capable, after it has received the descent of the Holy Spirit, of helping us to assume immortality. It does not do this by its own nature but by the Spirit who is dwelling in it, as the body of our Lord, of which this one is the symbol, received immortality by the power of the Spirit, and imparted this immortality to others, while in no way possessing it by nature.
(Our Lord) chose, therefore, very fittingly bread as food, and the cup—which consists of wine mixed with water—as drink. The Old Testament had already taken blood to mean wine: “He gave him to drink the blood of the grapes,”while in another passage it says: “He shall wash his garments in wine and his clothes in the blood of grapes.” That what He gave was wine He made perfectly clear by saying: I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.” He alludes by the Kingdom of God to the resurrection, because it is for those who shall rise from the dead in the next world that He has established the Kingdom of God. And since He was about to commune with them in food and drink after His resurrection, and before His ascension into Heaven, as the blessed Luke said,He meant by the above words that His Passion was near and that He would not be taking any food with them before this Passion, but that after His resurrection from the dead He would be eating and drinking with them in order to confirm this resurrection.
This is the reason why He said: “I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until I drink it new with you in the Kingdom of God.” As if He were saying: I shall not take food or drink with you before my Passion, because it is very near, but when I have risen from the dead I shall both eat and drink, and in this I shall do a novel thing. It is indeed a novel thing for one who rose from the dead and became immortal in his nature to eat and drink, but I shall do violence to the natural laws so that you may possess a strong faith about Me that I rose from the dead. It is I—whom you previously knew to have eaten and drunk with you—who rose. Because you will have much doubt about my resurrection, it is necessary that I should do violence to the natural laws in order to confirm it to you, and that I should perform a novel thing that has never happened before, namely to eat and drink after having assumed immortal nature. A firm knowledge of my resurrection is all the more required of you because you will be the teachers of this resurrection to others.
That what is given to you in the cup by Christ our Lord as a symbol of His blood is wine, one is able also to see from the fact that it is mixed with water. This is either due to the fact that it is generally drunk in this way, or to the fact that having already taken bread it was fitting as a counterpart of it to take a cup of water—as bread cannot be made without a mixture of water—or also to the fact that having made use of this symbol in the birth of baptism we do likewise make use of it for the delight of the Sacrament of our nourishment. As it was necessary to remember the death of our Lord in our participation in the Holy Sacrament, as the blessed Paul said, in the same way as we remember it in the things that take place in baptism, what was necessary for us to find in the elements of the gift of the Holy baptism, from which we believe that we symbolically receive the second birth, had also to be found in the elements of the symbols of the Sacrament.
This is the power of the Sacrament, and these are the symbols and the signs of the Sacrament in its twofold side of eating and drinking. It is useful now to speak to you, for the sake of your sound teaching, of the way in which they are effected.
We must first of all realise that we perform a sacrifice of which we eat. Although we remember the death of our Lord in food and drink, and although we believe these to be the remembrance of His Passion—because He said: “This is my body which is broken for you, and this is my blood which is shed for you”—we nevertheless perform, in their service, a sacrifice; and it is the office of the Priest of the New Testament to offer this sacrifice, as it is through it that the New Covenant appears to be maintained. It is indeed evident that it is a sacrifice, but not a new one and one that (the Priest) performs as his, but it is a remembrance of that other real sacrifice (of Christ). Because the Priest performs things found in Heaven through symbols and signs, it is necessary that his sacrifice also should be as their image, and that he should represent a likeness of the service of Heaven. It would be impossible for us to be Priests and do Priestly service outside the ancient law if we did not possess the likeness of Heavenly things.
The blessed Paul said about Christ our Lord that “if He were on the earth He should not be a High Priest, seeing that there were Priests of the law who offer gifts according to the law and who serve to the example and shadow of Heavenly things.” He means by this that all the Priests according to the law performed their Priestly service on earth, where all the law was made to suit mortal men, and the sacrifices consisted of irrational beasts led to be slaughtered to death, which meant that they were fit for this mortal sojourn on earth. It is indeed clear that all the injunctions and ritual of the law were only partially suitable. Circumcision, Sabbath, Holy days, observances of days, and distinctions in food: all these suited a mortal nature, and none of them has any place in an immortal nature, and to people who performed such things even sacrifices of irrational beasts are not suitable, as these are slaughtered and die in the act of sacrifice. As to Christ our Lord, if He were about to perform His Priestly service on earth, it was necessary that He also should perform this service according to the Divine law, which was something that harmonised with the (Mosaic) law; and if He did not perform a Priestly service according to the law, He would not have been a High Priest, as He would then be performing a Priestly service not according to the law of God. Now, however, He performs the Priestly service in Heaven and not on earth, because He died, rose, ascended into Heaven in order to raise us all up and cause us to ascend into Heaven, and made a covenant with those who believe in Him that He will grant them participation in the resurrection from the dead and ascension into Heaven.
He performs a real High Priesthood and offers to God no other sacrifice than Himself, as He had delivered also Himself to death for all. He was the first to rise from the dead, and He ascended into Heaven and sat at the right hand of God in order to destroy all our adversaries, as the blessed Paul said: “He offered one sacrifice for our sins forever, sat on the right hand of God, from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever them that are sanctified.” He calls His enemies those who fight against us, and their destruction is clearly seen in our perfection, as the work of a High Priest consists in his drawing near to God first and then in drawing also the others to Him through himself. The blessed Paul rightly calls Him High Priest because He was so in reality, as through His resurrection He was the first to ascend into Heaven; and He sat on the right hand of God, and granted us through Himself to be near to God and partakers of good things. “The High Priest of all of us is,” as the blessed Paul said, “Christ our Lord, who did not, like the High Priests of the law, serve to the example and shadow of Heavenly things, but He is the minister of the Sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which God pitched and not man,” so that through them He might make manifest the Heavenly things. He refers by the word “Sanctuary” to Heavenly things which do not contain anything that is contrary or reprehensible, and by the sentence “the true tabernacle which God pitched and not man” to the Heavenly abode, because the tabernacle of the law was pitched by man, but Heaven is made not by men but by God, and it is of it that the Apostle said that Christ is the minister, as He ascended into Heaven and there performs service for all of us, so that He might draw us to Him by all means, according to His promise. It is for this reason that he said in another passage that “He is at the right hand of God and making intercession for us.” He calls “intercession” not a supplication made for us in words, as this intercession is made in deeds, because through His ascension into Heaven He makes intercession for us to God and is anxious that all of us should ascend into Heaven to Him.
If, as the blessed Paul said, Christ our Lord should not be a Priest if He performed His Priestly service on earth, it follows that He does not perform His service according to the ritual of the law, but since Priesthood and the service of the law were made manifest by God on earth, it was not necessary that it should be rejected by God and another one be substituted on the same earth. He is then rightly a Priest because He performs Priestly service in Heaven, where there is not a single association with earthly things, and in this way no blame attaches to the Priests of the law. Since these are said in another place to do their work among mortal and earthly men, while He performs His Priestly service in immortal and Heavenly things, which are much higher and loftier, is it not clear that neither can we be Priests appointed to do Priestly service for earthly things? It is indeed well known that the Priesthood of the law suited earthly and mortal men, while Christ is the High Priest of Heavenly things, and will cause all of us to ascend into Heaven at the right time.
As to us who are called to a new covenant, as the blessed Paul said, we received salvation and deliverance in hope, and although we have not seen them we expect “by our patience to be absent from the body and be with our Lord.” We walk by faith and not by sight because we are not yet in the reality, as we are not yet in the Heavenly benefits. We wait here in faith until we ascend into Heaven and set out on our journey to our Lord, where we shall not see through a glass and in a riddle but shall look face to face. These things, however, we expect to receive in reality through the resurrection at the time decreed by God, and now it is only by faith that we draw near to the firstfruits of these good things: to Christ our Lord and the High Priest of things that belong to us. We are ordered to perform in this world the symbols and signs of the future things so that, through the service of the Sacrament, we may be like men who enjoy symbolically the happiness of the Heavenly benefits, and thus acquire a sense of possession and a strong hope of the things for which we look.
As the real new birth is the one which we expect through the resurrection, and we nevertheless perform this new birth symbolically and Sacramentally through baptism, so also the real food of immortality is that which we hope to receive truly in Heaven by the grace of the Holy Spirit, but now we symbolically eat the immortal food which is given to us by the grace of the Holy Spirit, whether in symbols or through symbols. It follows that a role of a High Priest must needs be filled,and it is found in those who are appointed for the service of these symbols. Those who have been chosen as the Priests of the New Testament are believed to perform Sacramentally, by the descent of the Holy Spirit, and for the confirmation and admonition of the children of the Sacrament, these things which we believe that Christ our Lord performed and will perform in reality.
This is the reason why they do not immolate at all times new sacrifices like the Priests of the law. These were ordered to offer to God numerous and different sacrifices of oxen, goats and sheep, and offered new sacrifices at all times. When first sacrificial beasts had been slaughtered, had died and suffered complete dissolution, others were always immolated in the place of those which had been slaughtered a long time previously. As to the Priests of the New Testament they immolate the same sacrifice always and everywhere, because one is the sacrifice which has been immolated for us, that of Christ our Lord who suffered death for us and who, by His offering this sacrifice, obtained perfection for us, as the blessed Paul said: “By one offering He perfected forever them that are sanctified.” All of us, everywhere, at all times, and always, observe the commemoration of that sacrifice, “for as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup we do show the Lord’s death till He come.” As often, therefore, as the service of this awe-inspiring sacrifice is performed, which is clearly the likeness of Heavenly things and of which, after it has been perfected, we become worthy to partake through food and drink, as a true participation in our future benefits—we must picture in our mind that we are dimly in Heaven, and, through faith, draw in our imagination the image of Heavenly things, while thinking that Christ who is in Heaven and who died for us, rose and ascended into Heaven and is now being immolated. In contemplating with our eyes, through faith, the facts that are now being re-enacted: that He is again dying, rising and ascending into Heaven, we shall be led to the vision of the things that had taken place beforehand on our behalf.
Because Christ our Lord offered Himself in sacrifice for us and thus became our High Priest in reality, we must think that the Priest who draws near to the altar is representing His image, not that he offers himself in sacrifice, any more than he is truly a High Priest, but because he performs the figure of the service of the ineffable sacrifice (of Christ), and through this figure he dimly represents the image of the unspeakable Heavenly things and of the supernatural and incorporeal hosts. Indeed, all the invisible hosts did service to that Economy which transcends our words and which Christ our Lord accomplished for us. “They are all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” as the blessed Paul said. Matthew, the evangelist, showed also this when he said: “and the angels came, and ministered to Him.” This is also attested by our Lord who said: “Hereafter you shall see Heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending to the Son of Man.” Incidents in the Gospel show also events that happened through them, whether it be through those who at the birth of our Lord sang: “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth and good hope to men,” or through those who at His resurrection revealed to women what had occurred, or through those who at His ascension explained to the Apostles that which they did not know. It is necessary, therefore, that here also, when this awe-inspiring service is performed, we should think that the Deacons represent an image of the service of these invisible spirits, and that they have been appointed to minister to this awe-inspiring service by the grace of the Holy Spirit which they received.
This is the reason why all of us are called the ministers of Christ, as the blessed Paul said: “Inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles I magnify my ministry.” This name, however, is especially applied to those who perform this ministry, and are called by all “Deacons,” as they are alone appointed to perform this ministry, and represent a likeness of the service of the spiritual messengers and ministers. They have also an apparel which is consonant with their office, since their outer garment is taller than they are, as wearing such an apparel in such a way is suitable to those who serve. They place on their left shoulders a stole, which floats equally on either side, forwards and backwards. This is a sign that they are not performing a ministry of servitude but of freedom, as they are ministering to things that lead to freedom all those who are worthy of the great house of God, that is to say the Church. They do not place the stole on their neck in a way that it floats on either side but not in front, because there is no one serving in a house who wears such an apparel; it is only those who are masters of themselves and remote from servitude of any kind who wear it in this way, but the Deacons place it on their shoulders because they are appointed for service. The stole is their only sign of that freedom to which all of us, who believed in Christ, have been called; and we hasten to go to, and be in, “the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth,” as the blessed Paul says; and they are clearly appointed for the service of all things performed in it.
Because the things performed for us by Christ our Lord are awe-inspiring, and because we expect their complete fulfilment in the next world, we receive them now only by faith, and we proceed gradually in this world in a way that we are in nothing absent from our faith in them. This being the case, we are necessarily confirmed in the faith of the things revealed to us through this ministry of the Sacrament, as we are led through it to the future reality,because it contains an image of the ineffable Economy of Christ our Lord, in which we receive the vision and the shadow of the happenings that took place. This is the reason why through the Priest we picture Christ our Lord in our mind, as through him we see the One who saved us and delivered us by the sacrifice of Himself; and through the Deacons who serve the things that take place, we picture in our mind the invisible hosts who served with that ineffable service. It is the Deacons who bring out this oblation—or the symbols of this oblation—which they arrange and place on the awe-inspiring altar, (an oblation) which in its vision, as represented in the imagination, is an awe-inspiring event to the onlookers.
We must also think of Christ being at one time led and brought to His Passion, and at another time stretched on the altar to be sacrificed for us. And when the offering which is about to be placed (on the altar) is brought out in the sacred vessels of the paten and the chalice, we must think that Christ our Lord is being led and brought to His Passion, not, however, by the Jews—as it is incongruous and impermissible that an iniquitous image be found in the symbols of our deliverance and our salvation—but by the invisible hosts of ministry, who are sent to us and who were also present when the Passion of our Salvation was being accomplished, and were doing their service. Indeed, they performed their service to all the Economy of Christ our Lord without any exception, and were present with their service at the time of the Passion, endeavouring to perform it according to the will of God. When our Lord was in deep thought and fear at the approach of His Passion, the blessed Luke said that “an angel appeared to Him strengthening and encouraging Him,” and like those persons who are wont to stir up the courage of the athletes with their voices, he anointed Him to bear tribulations, and by encouraging words persuaded Him to endure pains with patience, and showed Him that His Passion was small in comparison with the benefit that will accrue from it, as He would be invested with great glory after His Passion and His death, from which He would be the cause of numerous benefits not only to men but to all the creation.
We must think, therefore, that the Deacons who now carry the Eucharistic bread and bring it out for the sacrifice represent the image of the invisible hosts of ministry, with this difference, that, through their ministry and in these remembrances, they do not send Christ our Lord to His salvation-giving Passion. When they bring out (the Eucharistic bread) they place it on the Holy altar, for the complete representation of the Passion, so that we may think of Him on the altar, as if He were placed in the sepulchre, after having received His Passion. This is the reason why those Deacons who spread linens on the altar represent the figure of the linen clothes of the burial (of our Lord). Sometime after these have been spread, they stand up on both sides, and agitate all the air above the Holy body with fans, thus keeping it from any defiling object. They make manifest by this ritual the greatness of the body which is lying there, as it is the habit, when the dead body of the high personages of this world is carried on a bier, that some men should fan the air above it. It is, therefore, with justice that the same thing is done here with the body which lies on the altar, and which is Holy, awe-inspiring and remote from all corruption; a body which will very shortly rise to an immortal nature.
It is on all sides of this body that persons, who are especially appointed to serve, stand up and fan. They offer to it an honour that is suitable, and by this ritual they make manifest to those present the greatness of the sacred body that is lying there. It is indeed clear to us from the Divine Book that angels sat upon the stone near the sepulchre and announced His resurrection to the women, and remained there all the time of His death, in honour of the One who was laid there, till they witnessed the resurrection, which was proclaimed by them to be good to all mankind, and to imply a renewal of all the creation, as the blessed Paul said: “Any man who is in Christ is a new creature. Old things are passed away and all things are become new.
Was it not right, therefore, that here also (the Deacons) should represent as in an image the ministry of the angels? It is in remembrance of those who constantly came to the Passion and death of our Lord, that they also stand in a circle and agitate the air with fans, and offer honour and adoration to the sacred and awe-inspiring body which is lying there. In this they make manifest to all those present the greatness of the object that is lying there, and induce all the onlookers to think of it as awe-inspiring and truly sacred, and to realise that it is for this reason that they keep it from all defiling things, and do not even allow the dirty tricklings of birds to fall upon it and come near it. This they do now according to their habit in order to show that because the body which is lying there is high, awe-inspiring, Holy, and truly Lord through its union with the Divine nature, it is with great fear that it must be handled, seen and kept.
These things take place while everyone is silent, because when the service has not yet begun, everyone must look at the bringing out and spreading of such a great and wonderful object with a quiet and reverential fear and a silent and noiseless prayer. When our Lord also had died the Apostles moved away and were in the house in great silence and immense fear; so great indeed was the silence that overtook everyone that even the invisible hosts kept quiet while looking for the expected resurrection, until time came and Christ our Lord rose, and a great joy and an ineffable happiness spread over those invisible hosts. And the women who came to honour the body received from the angels the new message of the resurrection that had taken place, and when the disciples also learnt through them what had occurred they run together with great zeal to the sepulchre. We are drawn now by similar happenings to the remembrance of the Passion of our Lord, and when we see the oblation on the communion-table—something which denotes that it is being placed in a kind of a sepulchre after its death— great silence falls on those present. Because that which takes place is awe-inspiring, they must look at it with a quiet and reverential fear, since it is necessary that Christ our Lord should rise in the awe-inspiring service which is performed with the sacerdotal ceremonies, and announce our participation in ineffable benefits to everyone. We remember, therefore, the death of our Lord in the oblation because it makes manifest the resurrection and the ineffable benefits.
Then comes prayer—not a silent prayer—announced beforehand in the loud voice of the Deacon, who, as we ought to know, explains the sign and the aim of all the things that take place. The ceremonies that are to be performed by all those present are made known by the proclamation of the Deacon, who orders and reminds everyone of the statutory acts that are to be performed and accomplished by those who are assembled in the Church of God.
After he has finished his congruous service and admonished all with his voice and exhorted them to recite the prayers that are suitable to ecclesiastical gatherings, and while all are silent, the Priest begins with the appointed service, and before everything else he offers prayer to God, because before all other things that are indispensable to religion he has necessarily to begin with prayer. This is especially the case with this awe-inspiring service in which we are in need of God’s help, as He alone is able to perform things such as those (implied in it). And the Priest brings his prayer to a close after having offered thanksgivings to our Lord for the great things which He has provided for the salvation and the deliverance of men, and for His having given us the knowledge of these wonderful mysteries which are a remembrance of that ineffable gift which He bestowed upon us through His Passion, in that He promised to raise us all from the dead and take us up to Heaven. After this he offers also thanksgivings for himself for having been appointed servant of such an awe-inspiring Sacrament. With this he prays also for the grace of the Holy Spirit, so that he may be now made by Him worthy of the greatness of this service, as he had been rendered by Him worthy of Priesthood; and so that he may perform this service free, by the grace of God, from all evil conscience, and not fearing any punishment, as he, being infinitely below the dignity of such a service, is drawing near to things that are much higher than himself.
After the Priest has finished his prayer with this and similar things, all the congregation says: “Amen,” a word that signifies agreement with, and confirmation of, the prayer of the Priest, as it is said: “He that occupies the room of the unlearned says Amen at your giving of thanks, while he does not understand what you say.” The congregation must make use of this word to signify their agreement with the prayers and thanksgivings of the Priest.
After the congregation has said this word the Priest prays: “Peace be to you.” It is appropriate to begin with this phrase every service that takes place in a Church gathering, and especially this awe-inspiring service which is about to be performed. The blessed Paul also placed at the beginning of all his Epistles: “Grace and peace be to you.” (The Priest) prays for us concerning the benefits granted for the happiness of all of us through the Economy of Christ our Lord, who by His coming abolished all wars, and completely destroyed all hatred and all fight against us, and by His resurrection delivered us from death, corruption, sin, passion, vexations of the demons and all harassing things, and made us completely immortal and immutable, and will take us up to Heaven where He will give us His full confidence and prepare for us great friendship and fellowship with the invisible hosts, the trusted messengers of God. The reason why the blessed Paul writes at the beginning of all his Epistles the word “grace” before the word “peace” is found in the fact that it was not we who began or did anything by ourselves to merit the reception of such a gift, but it was God Himself who bestowed it on us by His grace.
There is an ordinance, found (in the Church) from the beginning, to the effect that all those who have been deemed worthy to do the work of Priesthood, should begin all the functions performed in a Church assembly with the above phrase, which is more than anything else suitable to this awe-inspiring service. The Priest prays for peace to all because it is he who makes manifest these great benefits, of which this Divine service, which is the remembrance of the death of our Lord, is a figure and a symbol, and because it is through him that the greatness of these and similar benefits has been promised to us.
And those present answer him: “And to your spirit.” They requite him with an identical prayer so that it may be made manifest to the Priest and also to all of them that it is not only they that are in need of the benediction and the prayer of the Priest, but that he also is in need of the prayer of all of them. This is the reason why, by an ordinance found in the Church from the beginning, the Priests are also mentioned in all the ecclesiastical prayers side by side with the rest of the congregation. Indeed all of us are one body of Christ our Lord and all of us are members one of another, and the Priest only fills the role of a member that is higher than the other members of the body, such as the eye or the tongue. Lo, like the eye he sees the works of everyone, and with the diligence pertaining to a Priest he also leads and directs everyone according to the rule of Priesthood, to that which is necessary; and like the tongue he offers the prayers of everyone; and as everyone requires that the members that are attached to his body should perform their particular function, and as for this it is necessary that they should be healthy and sound in their structure so that they may be in a position to perform this function when asked to do so, in this same way the Priest, who is also attached to the body of the Church, is required to be healthy in his office, so that after making manifest the health of good works and Priesthood, which are required of him, he may be seen to be worthy of the honour that he possesses, and capable of filling helpfully and suitably the needs of every member of the community.
This is the reason why he blesses those present with the voice of greeting, and for this receives also blessing from them, when they answer him: “And to your spirit.” In saying and to your spirit” they do not refer to his soul, but to the grace of the Holy Spirit by which those who are under him believe that he drew near to Priesthood, as the blessed Paul said: “I serve Him with the Spirit in the Gospel of His Son.” It is as if he were saying: so that, through the gift of the grace of the Holy Spirit which is promised to me, I may fulfil the service of the Gospel, and all of you may join with my spirit; meaning by this that “I received from God to be in a position to perform these and similar things and did not find peace for my spirit”; meaning also that “I was not able to do the thing that anyone who serves with the Holy Spirit has to do for the utility of others, because the one who had to be my fellow-worker was absent.”
It is in this sense that the phrase: “And to your spirit” is addressed to the Priest by the congregation, according to the regulations found in the Church from the beginning, the reason for it being that when the conduct of the Priest is good, it is a gain to the body of the Church, and when the conduct of the Priest is unholy, it is a loss to all. All of them pray that through peace the grace of the Holy Spirit may be promised to him, so that he may strive to perform his service to the public suitably and rightly. In this way the Priest obtains more abundant peace from the overflow of the grace of the Holy Spirit, and from it he receives help for the works required of him, because, as in other affairs so in service, the Priest will appear to be doing the right thing when the blessing goes from him to the congregation and from it to him.
The Priest, then, begins by giving peace, and the Church crier, who is the Deacon, cries and orders all to give peace one to another so that they may do that which the Priest is doing, and so that in giving peace one to another and in embracing one another they may make a profession of their mutual concord and of their love to one another. Every one of us gives peace as far as possible to the one next to him, but by implication all of us give peace one to another, because that which is taking place implies that all of us ought to be one body of Christ our Lord, to possess towards one another the harmony which is found between the members of one body, mutually to love one another, to help and assist one another, to count our private affairs as affairs of us all, and to suffer with the sufferings of one another and rejoice with the joys of one another.
Owing to the fact that we received one new birth of baptism, through which we are joined as if into one natural close union, and owing to the fact that all of us partake of one food in which we receive the same flesh and blood and become more strongly united in the single body of baptism, as the blessed Paul said: “For we are all partakers of one bread, because the bread is one and we also being many bodies are one bread”—it is right that the rite of giving peace should be performed before we draw near to the Sacrament and to the service, as it is in it that we make our profession of mutual concord and love to one another. It is indeed unsuitable to those who fill the role of members of one ecclesiastical body to consider as an enemy a child of the faith, who through the same birth drew near to the same body, whom we believe to be like us a member of Christ our Lord, and who partakes of the same food from the Holy communion-table. This is the reason why our Lord said: “Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be liable to judgment.”
That which takes place is not only a profession of love but a reminder that we must remove and cast away from us every enmity, if it appears to us that we have aught against a child of our faith. Our Lord, who decreed that under no circumstances an undue anger should occur, gave also a remedy to those who sin in any way: “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift before the altar and go and first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” He orders the one who has sinned to make haste and be reconciled to the one who has been sinned against, and not to offer the gift before he has placated the one who has been angered, and be reconciled to him with all his might. Indeed, all of us offer the gift with the Priest, and although the latter stands up alone to offer it he nevertheless offers it, like the tongue, for all the body. Thus the gift that is being offered belongs to all of us in the same way as the grace which it contains belongs to all, and is placed before all of us so that we may partake of it equally. In this sense the blessed Paul said about a High Priest that “he ought, as for himself so also for the people, to offer for sins” in order, to show that the Priest offers the gift for all, and is ordered to offer both for himself and for the rest of the people.
It is incumbent, therefore, on the one who has sinned to placate with all his might the one against whom he has sinned, and to be reconciled to him. If the one who has been sinned against be near, he should put in practice the order of Christ literally, and if he be not near let him decide in his mind to do this to him at the right time, and then draw near to the communion of the offering. On the other hand, the one who has been sinned against must accept the reconciliation of the one who had sinned against him, because the one who has been sinned against must show the same promptness as the one who has sinned. Indeed, he must remove from his mind all the things in which he has been sinned against, while remembering the sentence: “If you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father who is in Heaven forgive your trespasses. We must think of this greeting as an acceptance and a remembrance of all this, if we are, like the blessed Paul, to salute one another with a Holy kiss, and not, like Judas, to kiss with our mouth while striving to show hatred and evil things against the children of our faith.
While this thing is taking place the Priest washes (his hands) first, and then all those, whatever their number, who are counted in the assembly of Priesthood. This is not done for the cleanliness of hands—if it were so all would be bound to do it, some on account of their service and some others because of the Sacrament which they are about to receive—but because the officiating Priests offer the sacrifice for all, and in this they remind all of us to draw near to the Sacrament which is offered, with clean consciences. Having thus, after the giving of the peace, proclaimed that we have removed and cast away from us all hatred and enmity against the children of our faith, and having washed away the remembrance of trespasses, we may believe that we have freed ourselves, to the best of our ability, from all uncleanness. Then all rise, according to the sign given to them by the Deacon, and look at what is taking place. The names of the living and the dead who have passed away in the faith of Christ are then read from Church booksand it is clear that in the few of them who are mentioned, all the living and the departed are implicitly mentioned. This is done for the teaching of what took place in the Economy of Christ our Lord, of which the present service, which is (Divine) help for all, living and dead alike, is the commemoration. Indeed the living look to the future hope, while the dead are not really dead but cast in a sleep in which they remain in the hope, for which our Lord received His death, which we are commemorating in this Sacrament.
When the above reading is brought to an end, the Priest draws near to the service, while the Church crier, that is to say the Deacon, whose voice is a clear indication of what the congregation has to do while following the Priestly signs which are given to them—first shouts: “Look at the oblation.” In this he exhorts everyone to look at the sacrifice, as if a public service was about to be performed, and a public sacrifice was about to be immolated, and a public sacrifice was about to be offered for all, not only for those who are present but also for those who are absent, as long as they were in communion with us in faith and were counted in the Church of God and had finished their life in it. It is clear that we call also this service “offering the sacrifice” and “immolating the sacrifice,” because an awe-inspiring sacrifice is being immolated, and if He is offered to God, “He did this once, when He offered up Himself” as the blessed Paul says, and another time now when (the Priest) must needs have something to sacrifice. This is the reason why we call “sacrifice” or “immolating the sacrifice the likeness of the sacrifice (of Christ), and this is the reason why the Deacon also rightly says before the offering of the sacrifice: “Look at the sacrifice.”
When everyone has been prepared to look at the object that is being placed (on the altar), and when all those things of which we have spoken are accomplished—things which had necessarily to be performed before the service, and which were indispensable to your instruction and your remembrance— the Priest begins with the sacrifice itself. You must now learn the way in which this is done; but since a measure had to be fixed for the things already said, I will keep what I have to say on this subject and say it on another day, if God permit; and for all of them let us glorify God the Father, and His Only Begotten Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, always, and forever and ever. Amen.
Here ends the fifth Chapter.
Synopsis of this Chapter
The Priest begins the Anaphora, and before anything else he blesses the people with these words: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” For this the people answer him: “And with your spirit.” And the Priest says to the congregation: “Lift up your minds “: and the congregation answers: “To You, O Lord.” And the Priest says: “Let us thank the Lord.” And the people answer: “It is fit and right.” The Priest begins the Anaphora, and offers a public sacrifice and says: “In singing loudly and glorifying, Holy, Holy, Holy, the mighty Lord. Heaven and earth are full of His praises.” While all have resorted to silence, and while we look downwards, the Church crier shouts: “Let us all stand up in great fear and tremor.” Indeed, by the power of the things that are taking place it is necessary that Christ our Lord should rise from the dead and spread His grace over all of us. And the Priest prays that the grace of the Holy Spirit may descend also on those present. And the Priest offers a supplication for all those of whom, by regulation, mention is made in the Church, and then begins to mention the departed.
The Priest recites quietly these prayers, and immediately after takes the Holy bread and looks towards Heaven. He breaks the bread while praying over the congregation: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” And the congregation replies with the usual words, and he with the bread makes the sign of the Cross over the blood and with the blood over the bread. For this reason it is customary to throw the vivifying bread little by little into the chalice. Before any other thing we must pray our Lord for those who presented this Holy offering. And the Priest blesses the people with “peace be to you” and the latter answer with the usual words, which are recited while their heads are duly bowed. And the Church crier shouts: “Let us be attentive.” And the Priest cries: “The Holy thing to the holies.” And all answer and say: “One Holy Father, one Holy Son, one Holy Spirit,” and add: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.”
And he receives the communion, and all of us hasten to do the same. The Priest who offers the sacrifice draws near and partakes of it first, and then everyone of us draws near, while looking downwards and stretching out both hands to receive the Sacrament which is given. A person stretches out his right hand, and under it he places the left hand. When the Priest gives it he says: “the body of Christ.” The same thing is done with the reception of the cup. This is the reason why you say after him: “Amen.” You receive communion and you send the participation of the Sacrament inside. After you have received the communion, you offer thanksgiving and praise to God, and you remain (in the Church) so that you may also offer this thanksgiving and praise to God with all others, according to the regulations of the Church.
It is time now to give you, if God permit, what was left off.We began to speak to you of the spiritual food of which you partake when you receive the Holy communion, and we discoursed also to your love on some other indispensable things dealing with this subject. We further taught you the service which is performed in it, and reached the sentence: “Look at the sacrifice” which the Deacon utters loudly according to the Church ritual, and after which the Priest must begin the Anaphora. Since, however, the things that had to be said were many, we rightly put an end to our speech and kept the service of the Priest concerning them for another discourse, and I hope, by the grace of God, to bring them also to an end to-day.
After the Deacon has said: “Look at the sacrifice,” and while, according to his announcement, all look at what is taking place, the Priest begins the Anaphora, and before anything else he blesses the people with these words: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all,” because he thinks that before anything else the people ought to be blessed, prior to this service, with these words of the Apostle, on account of their great usefulness; and because of the honour due to them, he uttered them first and confided them to writing, since, according to the words of the Gospel, “God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son for it, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
He showed all this love to men, not because He received from us anything worthy of this good will, as it is by His grace and mercy that He made manifest to us a love for the sake of which the Only Begotten Son of God, God the Word, was pleased to assume a man for us, whom He raised from the dead, took up to Heaven, united to Himself, and placed at the right hand of God. And He promised to us participation in all these, and gave us also the Holy Spirit, whose firstfruits we are receiving now as an earnest. We shall receive all (the fruits) when we shall have communion with Him in reality and when our vile body shall be fashioned like to His glorious body.This is the reason why the blessed Paul prayed in his Epistles for the faithful so that they may be seen worthy of the love of God, which He by His grace made manifest to all our race, and made us all worthy of the grace of the Holy Spirit by whose gift He promised to us communion with Him.
It is with justice, therefore, that the Priest who is about to perform such a great service, from which we are led to the hope of these (benefits), should first bless the people with the above words. Some Priests only say: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,” and include in, and restrict with these, words all the sentence of the Apostle. For these words the people answer: “And with your spirit,” according to an ordinance which states that whenever the Priest blesses the people with “grace” or with “peace” all those present should, for the reasons which I have already explained, answer him with these words.
After this benediction the Priest prepares the people by saying: “Lift up your minds,” in order to show that although we are supposed to perform this awe-inspiring and ineffable service on earth, we, nevertheless, ought to look upwards towards Heaven and to extend the sight of our soul to God, as we are performing the remembrance of the sacrifice and death of Christ our Lord, who for us suffered and rose, is united to Divine nature, is sitting at the right hand of God, and is in Heaven, to which we must extend the sight of our soul and transfer our thoughts by means of the present remembrances. And the people answer: “To You, O Lord,” and in this they confess with their voices that they are anxious to do so
After the Priest has prepared and set in the right direction the souls and the minds of the congregation, he says: “Let us thank the Lord.” This means that for all these things which were accomplished for us, and which we are about to perform in this service, we owe, before anything else, gratitude to God, who is the cause of all these benefits. To the above words the people answer: “It is fit and right.” In this they confess that we certainly ought to do it for two reasons: because of the greatness of God, who granted us things such as these, and in order to show that it is right on the part of those who were granted such benefits not to be ungrateful to the One by whom they were promised to them.
After we have all of us performed this, and while we are silent, in a great reverential fear, the Priest begins the Anaphora. He offers a sacrifice for the community, and a reverential fear, which embraces both himself and us all, is cast upon him on account of what has happened, namely that our Lord suffered for us all a death, the remembrance of which is about to be performed in the present sacrifice. Let the Priest be at that time the tongue of the ecclesiastical community, and let him make use of the right words in this great service. The right praises of God consist in professing that all praises and all glorifications are due to Him, inasmuch as adoration and service are due to Him from all of us; and of all other services the present one, which consists in the commemoration of the grace which came to us and which cannot be described by the creatures, takes precedence. And because we have been initiated and baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and because we ought to expect therefrom the full accomplishment of the things that are performed, he says: “the greatness of the Father.” He adds also “and of the Son,” because the same thing that is due to the Father is also due to the Son, who is really and truly a Son with an identical substance with His Father, and in nothing lower than He. He adds necessarily in the same sentence: “and of the Holy Spirit,” and confesses that the Spirit is also of Divine substance. He asserts that praises and glorifications are offered at all times, and before all other (beings), to this eternal and Divine nature, by all the visible creatures and by the invisible hosts.
He makes then mention, before other (creatures), of the Seraphim, who offer that praise which the blessed Isaiah learned in a Divine vision and committed to writing, and which all of us in the congregation sing in a loud voice, as if we were also singing that which the invisible natures sing: “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Sabaoth, the whole Heaven and earth are full of His praises.” Indeed, while the blessed Isaiah foresaw, by the working of the Spirit, the benefits that were to be granted to the human race, he heard in vision the Seraphim uttering these words. The Prophet saw through revelation that a great service was being performed, which was high above human nature. The Prophet noticed that the spiritual hosts appeared to look with great awe and reverence, since they were looking downwards and covering their faces completely with their wings. The doctrine of the Trinity was also revealed at that time when one Godhead was proclaimed in three persons. This was revealed by their saying “holy” three times, and once only “Lord.” In saying “holy” three times, they showed three persons: the person of the Father, the person of the Son, and the person of the Holy Spirit. We must believe that each one of them is eternal and truly Holy, because the Godhead is really Holy and immutable, while a creature may be said to be or to become Holy by an act of grace from it. The words said at the end, “the Lord of Sabaoth” mean Lord and God of hosts, and omnipotent God. The expression “Lord of Sabaoth” shows all these, and is congruous to the nature of the Trinity, which is alone eternal and God.
It is necessary, therefore, that the Priest also should, after having mentioned in this service the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, say: “Praise and adoration are offered by all the creatures to Divine nature.” He makes also mention of the Seraphim, as they are found in the Divine Book singing the praise which all of us who are present sing loudly in the Divine song which we recite, along with the invisible hosts, in order to serve God. We ought to think of them and to offer a thanksgiving that is equal to theirs. Indeed, the Economy of our Lord granted us to become immortal and incorruptible, and to serve God with the invisible hosts “when we are caught up in the clouds to meet our Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord,” according to the saying of the Apostle. Nor are the words of our Lord false, who says that the children of God “are like the angels of God, because they are the children of the resurrection.”
When Isaiah heard the above words in a spiritual vision, he fell upon his face and said: “Woe is me. I am wretched, and sorrowful, and a man, and have unclean lips and dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, and mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Sabaoth,” as if he were sorrowing in his heart for all human nature, for what we are and what we receive. He said “I am a man,” so that by the mention of human nature he might show that it is an attribute of this same human nature to lean towards evil, as God said: “for the desire of a man’s heart is set on evil from his youth.” This is the reason why, while Isaiah was sorrowing for all the human race, he was astonished at the boundless mercy of God, who granted such a grace to a race full of sins such as these.
As to us, because we are ordered to perform the greatness of the gift that was shown a long time previously to the Prophet, and was afterwards seen and realised some time ago as a sacrifice on our behalf, we all stand in reverential fear while we bow our heads, as if unable even to look at the greatness of this service. And we make use of the words of the invisible hosts, in order to make manifest the greatness of the grace which has been so unexpectedly outpoured upon us. We do not cast away the awe from our mind, but on account of the greatness of the things that are taking place, we keep it throughout the service equally, and we bow our heads both before and after we recite loudly the Sanctus, and make manifest this fear in a congruous way. In all this the Priest also associates himself loudly with the invisible hosts, and prays and glorifies the Godhead, and is like the others in fear of the things that are taking place, as it is right that in connection with them he should not be less than the rest; on the contrary, he is to be in awe and fear more than all, as he is performing for all this service which is so awe-inspiring.
After all those present have recited loudly: “Holy, Holy, Holy, the Lord of Sabaoth,” and have reverted little by little to silence, the Priest proceeds with the Holy service and says before anything else: “Holy is the Father, Holy also is the Son, and Holy also the Holy Spirit,” in order to proclaim that they are the eternal and Holy nature, and in order that he may be seen that he understands clearly the meaning of the praise of the Seraphim which the Prophet heard and confided to writing. He afterwards makes mention also of the ineffable grace of (God) for which He made manifest the Economy which took place in Christ, and by which the One who was in the form of God was pleased to take upon Him the form of a servant, so that He might assume a perfect and complete man for the salvation of all the human race; and He abolished the old and harsh observances which were formerly enjoined upon us through the deadweight of the law, and also the Dominion of death which was dating from ancient times; and He granted us ineffable benefits which are higher than all human intelligence and for which He agreed to suffer, so that through His resurrection He might effect a complete abolition of death; and He promised us communion with Him in the happiness of the future benefits.
It is with great justice, therefore, that He gave us this Sacrament which is capable of leading us efficiently to those benefits, as through it we are born again in the symbol of baptism, and we commemorate the death of our Lord through this awe-inspiring service, and receive the immortal and spiritual food of the body and blood of our Lord, for the sake of which, when our Lord was about to draw near to His Passion, He instructed His disciples that all of us who believe in Christ had to receive them and perform them through these (elements), and in this way to commemorate by stages the death of Christ our Lord, and obtain therefrom an ineffable nourishment. From these things we derive a hope that is strong enough to lead us to the participation in the future benefits.
The Priest says these and similar things in this Holy service, and in his remembrance of the things that had taken place previously, and prepares us all to see through the oblations the gift of Christ our Lord. It is necessary, therefore, that our Lord should now rise from the dead by the power of the things which are taking place and that He should spread His grace over us. This cannot happen otherwise than by the coming of the grace of the Holy Spirit, through which the latter had also raised Him previously, as the blessed Paul showed when he said in one passage: “He was declared to be the Son of God, by power and by the Spirit of holiness, from the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ our Lord,” and in another passage:
“But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your dead bodies, because of His Spirit that dwelleth in you.” Our Lord also said: It is the Spirit that lives; the flesh profits nothing.”
It is with great justice, therefore, that the Priest offers, according to the rules of Priesthood, prayer and supplication to God that the Holy Spirit may descend, and that grace may come therefrom upon the bread and the wine that are laid (on the altar) so that they may be seen to be truly the body and the blood of our Lord, which are the remembrance of immortality. Indeed, the body of our Lord, which is from our own nature, was previously mortal by nature, but through the resurrection it moved to an immortal and immutable nature. When the Priest, therefore, declares them to be the body and the blood of Christ, he clearly reveals that they have so become by the descent of the Holy Spirit, through whom they have also become immortal, inasmuch as the body of our Lord, after it was anointed and had received the Spirit, was clearly seen so to become. In this same way, after the Holy Spirit has come here also, we believe that the elements of bread and wine have received a kind of an anointing from the grace that comes upon them, and we hold them to be henceforth immortal, incorruptible, impassible, and immutable by nature, as the body of our Lord was after the resurrection.
And the Priest prays that the grace of the Holy Spirit may come also on all those present, in order that as they have been perfected into one body in the likeness of the second birth, so also they may be knit here as if into one body by the communion of the flesh of our Lord, and in order also that they may embrace and follow one purpose with concord, peace, and diligence in good works. In this way, all of us pray God with a pure mind not to receive the communion of the Holy Spirit for punishment, as if we were divided in our thoughts and bent on disunions, bickerings, jealousy and envy, and despising good works, but to be considered worthy to receive (that communion) because the eye of our soul looks towards God with concord, peace, diligence in good works, and purity of mind. We must draw near in this way to the communion of the Holy Sacrament, and through it we will be united to our head, Christ our Lord, whose body we believe ourselves to be, and from whom we have communion with Divine nature.
The Priest performs Divine service in this way, and offers supplication on behalf of all those of whom by regulation mention is to be made always in the Church; and later he begins to make mention of those who have departed, as if to show that this sacrifice keeps us in this world, and grants also after death, to those who have died in the faith, that ineffable hope which all the children of the Sacrament of Christ earnestly desire and expect.
The Priest recites quietly these prayers, and immediately after, takes the Holy bread with his hands and looks towards Heaven, and directs his eyes upwards. He offers a prayer of thanksgivings for these great gifts, and breaks the bread. While breaking it he prays for the people, that the grace of God may be upon them, and says thus: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you.” The people accept this and answer with the usual words. And with the bread he makes the sign of the Cross over the blood, and with the blood over the bread, and he unites and joins them together, in order to reveal to all that although these elements are two, they are nevertheless one in power, and are the remembrance of the death and the Passion that affected the body of our Lord, when His blood was shed on the Cross for us all. When the Priest makes the sign of the Cross over them he unites them and joins them together, because the human body is one with its blood, and where the body is there also is the blood; and from whatever slit or cut, whether large or small, that is made in it, blood will necessarily flow according to the size of the cut. The body of our Lord was so constituted before His Passion, and much blood must necessarily have been shed from it by the wounds of the crucifixion. When our Lord gave both of them, He said: “This is my body which is broken for you for the remission of sins, and this is my blood which is shed for you for the remission of sins.” In the first sentence He referred to His Passion, and in the second to the severity and length of His Passion, in which much blood was shed.
It is with justice, therefore, that according to this teaching, we place both of them on the altar, in order to refer to happenings that took place afore, and to show that both of them are one in power, as they belong to the one person who received the Passion, that is to say to the flesh of our Lord, from which blood was also shed. This is the reason why the Priest, at the end of the Anaphora, rightly breaks the bread and joins it with the blood while making the sign of the Cross, and then likewise brings the blood near the bread in order to show that both of them, which the Passion affected, are one, and that we also are ordered to perform the remembrance of this Passion in this way.
It is customary to throw the vivifying bread into the chalice in order to show that they are not separable, that they are one in power, and that they vouchsafe the same grace to those who receive them. The Priest does not break the bread to no purpose, but in remembrance of Christ our Lord, who after His resurrection from the dead appeared to all His followers: He first appeared to the women, then to the eleven Apostles, and later, little by little, to individuals and to the rest of the believers while they were gathered together, as when He appeared to Cleophas and his companion, who were two in number. His aim in this was to show Himself to them that He had risen, and by His resurrection He revealed and announced to them that they also will participate with Him in those great benefits with which He greeted them, and He thus prepared them to rejoice in the expectation of the future good things. This is the reason why even to the women, to whom He immediately appeared after His resurrection, He said: “Peace be with you.” For these reasons it is with justice that now also the Priest does the same thing after the service has come to a complete end, according to the teaching of our Lord, and the remembrance of the death and the resurrection has been accomplished.
He breaks the bread according to the first method (used by our Lord), who varied His apparitions, once appearing to this and once to that, and another time showing Himself to many, so that He might draw all to Him; and (in the present case) so that they may embrace the good thing that was made manifest to them, and worship Him while acknowledging the greatness of the honour that came to Him. They think in their minds, while eating the Holy bread, that they also are receiving an ineffable communion with Him. By this we are steadfastly led with much happiness, a great joy and a strong hope to the greatness which, through the resurrection, we expect to have with Him in the next world.
At the end all the bread is broken, so that all of us who are present may be able to receive (communion). Each one of us takes a small portion, but we believe that we receive all of Him in that small portion. It would, indeed, be very strange if the woman, who had an issue of blood, received Divine gift by touching the border of His garment, which was not even part of His body but only of His garment, and we did not believe that we receive all of Him in a part of His body. This is also illustrated by the fact that when we kiss we are in the habit of kissing only with the mouth, which is but a small part of the body, but we believe that we embrace all the body. Furthermore, how many times do we not hold one another by the arms in walking together, and show our whole fellowship with one another through parts only?
For the sake of the things that will take place at the end, it is necessary that the Priest, who offers this Holy and ineffable sacrifice, should begin also with this (act). When, therefore, the Priest has finished all the service of the Anaphora, he rightly begins to break the bread, from which we must picture in our mind that Christ our Lord, through each portion of the bread, draws near to the person who receives Him, while greeting him and speaking to him of his resurrection, and while becoming surety for us concerning the future benefits for the sake of which we draw near to the Holy Sacrament, and obtain the gift of immortality through an immortal nourishment.
When everything comes to an end, the Church crier shouts and mentions in short words those for whom everyone ought to pray, and before any other thing he says: “We ought to pray for those who presented this Holy offering,” as if one were saying: for those who (gave us the occasion) of becoming worthy of this offering; and for this let us also pray that we may be found worthy of looking at it, standing by its side, and partaking of it. The Priest finishes the prayer by imploring that this sacrifice may be acceptable to God, and that the grace of the Holy Spirit may come upon all, so that we may be able to be worthy of its communion, and not to receive it to punishment, as it is much and immeasurably higher and loftier than we are. After he has finished the prayer with words such as these and has blessed the people with “peace be to you,” they answer him with the usual words which are recited by all those present, while duly bowing their heads.
Sometime after the Priest has finished this prayer, and after all the above services have been brought to an end, and while every one of those who is about to receive the communion is looking, the Church crier shouts: “Let us be attentive.” He prepares loudly everyone to pay attention to the thing which is about to be said. And the Priest says loudly: “The Holy thing to the holies,” because this food is Holy and immortal, as it is the body and the blood of our Lord, and is replete of holiness on account of the Holy Spirit who dwells in it. Not everybody partakes of this food, but only those who have been sanctified for some time. This is the reason why only the baptised ones partake of it, those who have received the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit in the second birth of baptism, and have been found worthy to receive holiness therefrom. It is for this reason that the Priest says: “The Holy thing to the holies” and directs the mind of all to look at the greatness of the oblation. He says in this way that you ought to observe the greatness of the offering which is laid (on the altar). You should know that you partake of a food of which, by your nature, you are not worthy, as it is immortal and immutable in everything; and it is not right for everyone to partake of it, as it belongs to those who have been sanctified. This is the reason why when you alone partake of this food, as men who have received holiness through baptism, you ought to know the greatness of the gift, and what you had to make you worthy of this Holy food. You must, therefore, strengthen in you the gift, which has been bestowed upon you, with good works, so that in doing, in the measure of your power, the works that are worthy of the thing given to you, you may partake of this food, which would then be fit for you.
God has provided in every animal, which is born of another animal, the food that is suitable to the one which is born. Indeed, every animal is born of another of its species and feeds itself from it. A sheep is born of a sheep, and feeds itself from the nature of a sheep; and so a horse in a like manner; and so also all other animals of one species are born of others of the same species, and have their food in the nature of the one which brought it forth. In this way it is right and fit also for you, who were born in baptism of the grace and the coming of the Holy Spirit, and who have received holiness therefrom, to partake of a food similar to it, from the grace and the coming of the Holy Spirit, in order to confirm and increase the holiness which has been promised to you, and perfect the expected benefits which will come to us in the next world and through which all of us will be wholly Holy. It is in this meaning that we must understand the (sentence) “The Holy thing to the holies”; and it is with these things that we draw near to the greatness of this communion; and it is with this mind, with this faith, with this diligence, with this reverential fear, and with this love that we must partake of the Holy and immortal food.
In this sense, after the Priest has said, “The Holy thing to the holies,” all answer and say: “One Holy Father, one Holy Son, one Holy Spirit.” They profess that one is the nature that is truly Holy, and this is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, a nature that is alone eternal, alone immutable, and alone capable of bestowing holiness upon whomsoever it wishes. And they add: “Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen,” as it is fit that those who make a profession of faith in the Holy nature should glorify it with their duty of glorifying.
After all these things have taken place, and all the service has come to an end, all of us hasten to receive the communion, and from a communion-table which is awe-inspiring and higher than words, we partake of the immortal and Holy food. Although those who wait at the altar and are appointed for Divine service draw near to the altar and partake of the Divine food, while the rest partake of it from a distance, there is nevertheless no distinction in the food itself, because one is the bread and one is the body of Christ our Lord, into which the element of bread is changed; and it receives this great change from one descent of the Holy Spirit, and all of us partake of it equally, as all of us are one body of Christ our Lord, and all of us partake of the same body and blood. As through the second birth and through the Holy Spirit all of us become one body of Christ, so also by the one nourishment of the Holy Sacrament, through which the grace of the Holy Spirit feeds us, all of us are in one fellowship with Christ our Lord. In one passage it is said: “For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free,” and in another passage: “For we are all partakers of one bread, because the bread is one, and we are many but one bread.”
When all of us partake, therefore, of the one body of Christ, and receive communion with Him through this nourishment, we become one body of Christ, and from this we receive communion and close union with Him as (the members) with the head, because: “the bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ, and the cup which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?” (The Apostle) shows here that by our partaking of these we are united to the body and the blood of our Lord, and so when we partake of them we remain in communion with Him, while we are the body of Christ; and through this communion we strengthen that which we had received from the second birth of baptism, by becoming His body, according to the words of the Apostle who said: “You are the body of Christ,” and in another passage: “The Christ is the head from which all the body is joined and knit together, and increases with the increase of God.”
The gift of the communion of the Sacrament is thus granted in a general way to all of us, because all of us are equally in need of it, as we believe that in it is found the happiness of the eternal life. The Priest who is offering the sacrifice draws near first and partakes of (it), so that it may be made clear that he is offering the sacrifice for all according to the order written in the rules for Priesthood, but that he is in equal need with the others of partaking of it, and asserts that there is utility in this food and drink. In saying: “He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood, shall live forever,” He (our Lord) refers not to the one who offers the sacrifice but to the one who eats (of it), and this, like the sacrifice, belongs equally to all of us. It is indeed offered so that by the coming of the Holy Spirit it should become that which it is said to be: the body and the blood of Christ. All of us partake of them, when they become like this, because all of us believe that in this food and in this drink of which we are ordered to partake, there is life, according to the words of our Lord.
To partake of them is common to all, but the one who, through love, faith and good works, shows himself, in the measure of human capability, to be worthy of them, obtains something more from them. It is, however, clear that not a single man is worthy of partaking of them, because how can a man who is mortal, corruptible and burdened with sin, be deemed worthy to take and to receive that body which became immortal and incorruptible, which is in Heaven, and at the right-hand of God, and which receives honour from all as Lord and King? We have confidence, however, because of the grace of our Lord who granted these things, and we draw near to them with the best zeal and diligence which we can possess and produce by ourselves. We draw near to them in the measure of the power of the human nature.
It is with these expectations that all of us draw near to Christ our Lord, who promised to us the second birth in baptism, in which He made us His flesh and His body—as it is written “Behold I, and the children which God has given me”—and who, firstly in the likeness of the love of a carnal mother, strove to feed us from His body, and secondly placed before us the elements of bread and cup which are His body and His blood through which we eat the food of immortality, and through which the grace of the Holy Spirit flows to us and feeds us into an immortal and incorruptible existence, by hope; and through these leads us steadfastly and, in a way that no one can describe, to the participation in the future benefits, when we shall really feed ourselves from the grace of the Holy Spirit, without signs and symbols, and shall become completely immortal, incorruptible, and unchangeable by nature.
It is in this way and through these remembrances and these signs and symbols which have been performed that all of us draw near to Christ our Lord risen from the dead, with a great joy and happiness. And we joyfully embrace Him with all our power as we see Him risen from the tomb, and we hope also to participate (with Him) in the resurrection, because He also rose from the tomb of the Holy communion-table as from the dead, according to the symbol that has been performed; and He draws near to us by His apparition, and announces resurrection to us through our communion with Him. Although He comes to us after having divided Himself, all of Him is nevertheless in every portion (of the bread), and is near to all of us, and gives Himself to each one of us, in order that we may hold Him and embrace Him with all our might, and make manifest our love to Him, according to the pleasure of each one of us. It is in this way that we partake of the body and the blood of our Lord, and expect to be changed into an immortal and incorruptible nature. It is with these (expectations) that each one of us draws near while looking downwards and stretching out both hands. By his looking downwards he signifies that he is offering a congruous thing (to God) through adoration, and giving thanks for his receiving the body of the King, who became the Lord of all through His union with the Divine nature, and who is worshipped as a Lord by the whole creation; and in the fact that both his hands are stretched out, he confesses the greatness of the gift which he is about to receive.
To receive the Sacrament which is given, a person stretches out his right hand, and under it he places the left hand. In this he shows a great fear, and since the hand that is stretched out holds a higher rank, it is the one that is extended for receiving the body of the King, and the other hand bears and brings its sister hand, while not thinking that it is playing the role of a servant, as it is equal with it in honour, on account of the bread of the King, which is also borne by it.
When the Priest gives it he says: “The body of Christ.” He teaches you by this word not to look at that which is visible, but to picture in your mind the nature of this oblation, which, by the coming of the Holy Spirit, is the body of Christ. You should thus draw near with great awe and love, according to the greatness of that which is given: with awe, because of the greatness of (its) honour; and with love, because of (its) grace. This is the reason why you say after him: “Amen.” With your answer to the words of the Priest, you confirm and subscribe to the words of the one who gives. The same thing happens in the communion of the chalice.
As to you, after you have received the body,you offer adoration as a confession of the power placed in your hands, while remembering the words uttered by our Lord to His disciples after He rose from the dead: “All power is given to me in Heaven and in earth.” You press it with great and true love to your eyes and kiss it, and you offer (to it) your prayers as if to Christ our Lord, who is at present so near to you, and in whom you believed before that you had confidence, which you will receive now that you have drawn near to Him and held Him. You pray, while confessing your weakness, the great number of your sins, and your great unworthiness for such a gift. You glorify also in a fitting manner the One who granted these things to a person such as you, and rendered you worthy to receive help from Him to the extent that you became worthy to receive the communion, free from all evil things and doing all the things that please Him.
You receive the communion with these and similar (devotional acts), and you send the participation of the Sacrament inside,as not only the body but also—and even before the body —the soul does the grace of the Holy Spirit nourish through this awe-inspiring communion, when in the next world it will render the body immortal and the soul immutable, and not subject to any sin whatever. After you have received the communion you rightly and spontaneously offer thanksgiving and praise to God, so that you may not be ungrateful with regard to this Divine gift. And you remain (in the Church), so that you may also offer thanksgiving and praise with everyone, according to the regulations of the Church, because it is right for all those who received this spiritual food to offer thanksgiving to God publicly for this great gift.
We have, as you know, spoken in many past days of things pertaining to such a Sacrament the greatness of which far exceeds what the words are able to express. Indeed, what can mortal words say that is worthy of immortal, Heavenly and unspeakable things? It was necessary, however, to speak of them to your hearing, so that you might not remain completely ignorant of the greatness of the gift. It is right for you now to make use of an intelligence consonant with these sublime things of which you have been rendered worthy, and to think well, according to the measure of the greatness of a gift such as this, what we were and into what we have been transformed: that we were mortal by nature and we expect to receive immortality, that from being corruptible we shall become incorruptible, from passible impassible, from mutable, forever immutable; and that we shall be transferred from the evils of the earth to Heaven; and that we shall enjoy all the good and delightful things found in Heaven. We have acquired this hope from the Economy of Christ our Lord, who was assumed from us. He was the first to receive this change, from Divine nature, and in this way He became to us the usherer of our participation in these great things. We strive, therefore, to partake of the Sacrament because we believe that through symbols, as through unspeakable signs, we possess, sometime beforehand, the realities themselves, and also because after having received the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit in our participation in the Sacrament—firstfruits which we obtain when we are baptised into the second birth—we believe that, when we receive the communion, we do receive it for the nourishment and the sustenance of our (spiritual) life.
We ought to think of these and similar things every day and in all our life, and to endeavour to make ourselves worthy, as much as possible, of the Sacrament; and we shall be worthy of it if we obey the commandments of Christ our Lord, who promised afore these and similar benefits to us, if we strive to turn away from evil things and cleave to good things, and to reject cruelty and adopt mercy, which brought us benefits such as these. Indeed if our Lord, who ordered those who pray to say: “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors,” added: “For if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father who is in Heaven forgive your trespasses” —we will all the more not receive the grace and the benefits prepared for us by God, while still in this world, if we do not strive with all our power to have mercy upon our neighbours. We become, therefore, worthy of this awe-inspiring Sacrament if we think of things of which we spoke above; and if we acquire in the measure of our power, a mind higher than earthly things; and if we contemplate Heavenly things, and think continually that it is in their hope that we have received this Sacrament.
It is fitting for those who always lead an unmarried life to spurn earthly things and constantly look towards Heavenly things, and remember the words of the blessed Paul: “He that is unmarried thinks about the things that belong to His Lord, how he may please Him; and he that is married thinks about the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.” He shows here that it is suitable to the one who is unmarried to be free from all worldly care, and to have his entire regard for the things that please God, to whom he also joined himself by promise. It fits such a one, who has drawn near to this Sacrament and has been called to Heaven where there is neither marriage, nor food nor drink,to live, in the measure of his power, beforehand, while still in this world, according to that which is congruous to a world in imitation of which he chose to be unmarried. It is also fitting for the married persons not to be tied to the cares of this world, as through the Sacrament they have received the hope of the happiness of the world to come in which we shall cast away marriage, and—to express myself succinctly—all the affairs of this world. It is creditable for those who lead a married life to strive, with all their power, to imitate the world to come, as the blessed Paul said: “It remains for those that have wives to be as though they had none, and they that weep to be as though they wept not, and they that buy to be as though they possessed not, and they that rejoice in possessions to be as though they rejoiced not, and they that use this world to be as not abusing it, for the fashion of this world passes away.”
Because all this world stands in a worldly fashion which will pass away, according to the words of the Apostle, and will undoubtedly suffer dissolution, and because we are expecting the world to come which will remain eternally, it is right for us all to order our life according to the things of the next world. This is especially good and suitable to us, who partake of the food of the Sacrament and look for the things in the hope of which we participate in the Holy Communion. The sins which come to us from human weakness are not capable of deterring us from the communion of the Holy Sacrament. As those who live in sins are not to draw near to this communion without fear, so also those who care for their salvation ought to draw near and receive the Holy communion, while thinking that as for the sustenance of our present existence we are by necessity obliged to take food, so also for our future existence we partake of spiritual food from Divine grace, through the Economy of Christ.
It is right for us, therefore, neither wholly to abstain from communion nor to go to it unworthily, but we must strive with all our power after the things that are right, and after having thus striven we must hasten to receive communion, well aware that if we devote our life to unworthiness, and sin fearlessly, and do anything we take fancy to, and are careless of our duty, we shall eat and drink this food and this beverage which words cannot describe, to our damnation; but if we are careful of our salvation, and hasten towards good works and meditate upon them continually in our mind, the sins that come to us involuntarily from (human) weakness will not injure us; on the contrary, we will acquire great help from our communion. Indeed, the body and the blood of our Lord, and the grace of the Holy Spirit that is promised to us therefrom, will strengthen us in doing good works, and invigorate our minds, while driving away from us all ungodly thoughts and surely quenching (the fire) of sins, as long as we have committed them involuntarily, and they have come to us against our will, from the weakness of our nature, and we have fallen into them against our desire, and because of them we have sorrowed intensely and prayed God in great repentance for our trespasses. The communion of the Holy Sacrament will, without doubt, grant us the remission of trespasses of this kind, since our Lord plainly said: “This is my body which is broken for you for the remission of sins, and this is my blood which is shed for you for the remission of sins,” and: “I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.
If, therefore, we sin carelessly, it is hard for us to draw near to the Holy Sacrament, but if we do good works with diligence and turn away from evil works and truly repent of the sins that come to us, we will undoubtedly obtain the gift of the remission of sins in our reception of the Holy Sacrament, according to the words of Christ our Lord, because while we were sinners we have been chosen to a penitence, a deliverance and a salvation that embrace all, solely by the grace of the One who has called us. This may also be learnt from the words of the blessed Isaiah, because the awe-inspiring vision which he saw was a sign of the Economy of Christ our Lord, from which all the earth was about to be filled with Divine glory, was to learn also the mystery of the Trinity, and receive evangelisation, faith and baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. To make this manifest, the Seraphim shouted in a loud voice the canticle: “Holy, Holy, Holy the Lord of Sabaoth, the Heaven and the earth are full of His praises.”
When the Prophet saw these things in a spiritual vision, he fell upon his face, because he remembered human weakness, which is full of sin and iniquity; and one of the Seraphim was sent to him, and took with tongs a live coal from the altar, and brought it to his lips and said: “This has touched your lips, and your iniquity is taken away, and your sins are forgiven.” There were, therefore, live coals on the altar: a figure of the Sacrament that was to be given to us. A piece of coal is at first dark and cold, but when it is brought to the fire it becomes luminous and hot. The food of the Holy Sacrament was going to be similar to this: at first it is laid upon the altar as a mere bread and wine mixed with water, but by the coming of the Holy Spirit it is transformed into body and blood, and thus it is changed into the power of a spiritual and immortal nourishment.This is the reason why he (the Prophet) saw the sign and the figure of what was to take place in the form of live coals. The Holy Spirit also came down from Heaven in the form of fire upon the blessed Apostles, through whom the grace of the Holy Spirit was united to all the human race. As the instead of wine to give life. His power strengthens the hand of the Priest midst of a people of unclean lips, and I have seen with mine eyes the King, the Lord of Sabaoth.” Because these are words of a repentant man, smitten by his conscience for his sins, while he was in this state it was given to him to hear the above words when a live coal was brought to him by the Seraph. And if we also strive to act similarly, it is clear and evident that the grace of the Holy Spirit will promise us help to do good things, and like fire which consumes thorns, will completely obliterate our sins.
And the Seraph did not hold the live coal with his hand but with tongs. This vision demonstrates that the (faithful) should be afraid to draw near to the Sacrament without an intermediary, and this is the Priest, who, with his hand, gives you the Sacrament and says: “The body of Christ,” while he himself does not believe that he is worthy to hold and give such things; but in the place of tongs he possesses the spiritual grace, which he received in his Priesthood, and from which he acquired the confidence for giving such things. He holds (the elements) with his hand, so that he may himself receive confidence with his own hands; and he not only is not in fear because of (their) greatness, but has much confidence because of (their) grace.
If the live coal that was carried with tongs by the Seraph took away sins when brought into contact with the lips, and did not scorch or wholly consume according to the nature of the object that was seen, how much more will it not be right for you, when you see the Priest bestowing upon you this gift with his hands, and with great confidence, because of the grace of the Spirit conferred upon him for this service—to have also confidence and to receive it with great hope? You have fear because of the greatness of the gift, but when you have received it, you will put your trust on Him who granted such things to mankind, and who bestowed also such a confidence upon the Priest; not only upon himself alone, but upon those who are in need of the grace of God, if according to the words of the blessed Paul, he stands “to offer sacrifice for his own sins and for the people’s.”
It is such a thought and such a love that we ought to possess concerning the Holy Sacrament. If a great sin, contrary to the commandments, is committed by us, and if we do not induce ourselves to turn away from sins of this kind, it is right for us to refrain always and without reservation from receiving the communion, because what utility can come to us from this act if we are seen to persist in these sins? We must first induce our conscience with all our power to make haste and fittingly repent of our sins, and not permit any other medicine to ourselves. Let us know that as God gave to our body, which He made passible, medicinal herbs of which the experts make use for our healing, so also He gave penitence, as a medicine for sins, to our soul, which is changeable. Regulations for this (penitence) were laid down from the beginning, and the Priests and the experts, who heal and care for the sinners, bring medicine to the mind of the penitents who are in need, according to the ecclesiastical ordinance and wisdom, which is regulated in accordance with the measure of the sins. This is the reason why our Lord said: “If your brother shall sin against you, tell him his fault between you and him alone: if he shall hear you, you have gained your brother, but if he will not, then take with you one or two, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established; and if he will not hear them also, tell (it) to the Church, and if he will not hear even the Church, let him be to you as a publican and an heathen man.”
This is the medicine for the sins, which was established by God and delivered to the Priests of the Church, who in making use of it with diligence, will heal the afflictions of men. The blessed Paul also said thus: “Teach in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, and comfort.” He ordered that the sinners should be reproved “with all long-suffering and doctrine,” so that they should reveal their sins to (the Priests); and the “rebuke” is administered so that they may receive correction by some ordinances, and obtain help therefrom for themselves. He ordered also to “comfort them,” in the sense that after they have been seen, through reproofs and rebukes, to be eagerly willing to amend themselves, turn away from evil and be desirous of drawing near to good, he necessarily added “doctrine and long-suffering” to all of them. He singled out “long-suffering” because it is highly necessary, as it soothes the one who is gained; and also “doctrine” because in everything that takes place, whether he (the sinner) be reproved or rebuked or comforted, it is by words that he learns what is necessary and draws near to what is fit.
This the blessed Paul seems to have done when he learned that among the Corinthians an insolent man had taken his father’s wife. He ordered him to be delivered to Satan, who had caused him to be driven out of the Church, and he showed the purpose of this by saying: “for the destruction of his flesh, that he may live in spirit in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. As if he were saying: I order this so that he may suffer and be conscious of his sins, and receive reproof; and that through rebuke he may be reprimanded, learn wisdom and turn away from sin and draw near to duty; and after he has thus moved away from sin, he will receive full salvation in the next world, because, at his baptism, he had received the grace of the Spirit, which left him when he sinned and persisted in his sin. He undoubtedly calls the salvation of the spirit the turning away from sins and the full reception of the Holy Spirit, who will cause him to revert to his previous state.
When (that man) had repented in this way he (the Apostle) ordered in the second Epistle that he should be received, and said: “Sufficient to such a man is his reproof, and you ought contrariwise to love him and to comfort him more, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that you would confirm your love toward him. To whom you forgive, I forgive also.” With these words he ordered that he should be reinstated in the same confidence as that he had before, because he had been rebuked and had amended his ways, and, through true repentance, had received forgiveness of his sins. Afterwards he laid down rules concerning these things and said: “If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a drunkard, or a railer, or an extortioner; with such a one do not eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are outsiders? do not you judge them that are insiders?”
He shows here that this correction is not to be given by us to those who are outsiders but to those who are insiders: those who obey the things that are said and rightfully accept a correction that comes from us. He shows also the nature of the gain that accrues to those who are insiders, by saying: “But those who are outsiders, God judges.” He demonstrates here that if those who are outsiders remain without correction, they will undoubtedly receive punishment, as being strangers also to religion; as to the children of the faith, if they are willing to receive that correction, they will obtain the forgiveness of their sins, and will be delivered from the threat of the punishment of the world to come. Owing to the fact, therefore, that it may happen that some people do not accept the correction that is offered to them, he said: “Put away from amongst yourselves that wicked person,” as if one were saying: let him be completely outside you. This is similar to the sentence which our Lord uttered: “And if he will not hear the Church, let him be to you as an heathen man and a publican.”
Since you are aware of these things, and also of the fact that because God greatly cares for us gave us penitence and showed us the medicine of repentance, and established some men, who are the Priests, as physicians of sins, so that if we receive in this world through them, healing and forgiveness of sins, we shall be delivered from the judgment to come—it is right for us to draw near to the Priests with great confidence and to reveal our sins to them, and they, with all diligence, pain and love, and according to the rules laid down above, will give healing to sinners. And they will not disclose the things that are not to be disclosed, but they will keep to themselves the things that have happened, as fits true and loving fathers, bound to safeguard the shame of their children while striving to heal their bodies.
After we have thus regulated our life, and known the greatness of the Sacrament, and of the boundless grace to which we have been called; and been solicitous for our salvation, and endeavoured to rectify our trespasses in the right way—we shall be deemed as deserving the future hope for the sake of which we have been rendered worthy, by Divine grace, to perform this Sacrament. And we shall delight in the Kingdom of Heaven and in all those ineffable and eternal benefits, which all of us will be enabled to receive by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory, now, always, and forever and ever. Amen.
Here end the six discourses on the interpretation of the Sacraments of the Holy Church, composed by Mar Theodore, Bishop and commentator of the Divine Books. Glory be to Christ our Lord.