07 April 2010

That Wondrous Common Heritage

Here’s an excerpt from Sermo XXXIX by Saint Maximus of Turin which he delivered on Easter Sunday.

Most fittingly does the world rejoice with great gladness upon this day; for with Christ returning from the dead the hope of resurrection has everywhere been awakened in the hearts of men. For it is but right that when the Lord of creation triumphs, the creatures He has made should also rejoice. This day the heavens rejoice, for now at length they see this earth, defiled by sin, made clean in the Blood of the Lord. The multitudes of the hosts of heaven rejoice, for their King has overthrown in battle the hosts of the prince of evil. The sun rejoices, and now with unceasing thankfulness holds back by its joyful beams that woeful darkness that overshadowed it as Christ was dying. And together with them we too above all others must rejoice, for whom the Only-Begotten Son of God, Who also is True God, clothed Himself in our flesh, that through that flesh He might come to the Cross, by the Cross suffer death, and through death despoil the kingdom of hell. Should we not rejoice: we whose sins the mystery of this new sacrament has taken away, to whom heaven is given, paradise restored?

And as He drew near His end, the Lord Himself says to the thief then hanging on his cross: he whose faith neither Christ’s torment, nor his own, had weakened: Amen, I say to you, this day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise. For the thief had said to Him: Lord, remember me when Thou shalt come into Thy Kingdom. How admirable this faith, brethren: that a thief who had been judged unworthy of this life, should amid his torments nourish the hope of life eternal, and believe, that this could be given to him by One Who was being crucified. And how justly does the believing thief receive the favour of such a promise: he who, in that hour when the apostles scattered in fear, had confessed the Kingdom of God. And the merit of this one confession wipes away all his past sins; in that brief moment whatever crimes he had committed, throughout all the years of his life, were now forgiven.

We have yet another shining example of the Lord’s most loving kindness, and because of it, let us, putting away all fear, and all deadly despair, place our trust in the unspeakable generosity of our Redeemer. Brethren, let us rejoice in Christ, now risen from the dead. Let us hold firmly, that He has recalled this flesh from the sepulchre that we may merit to have part in that wondrous common heritage: namely, the grace of the apostles, and the Resurrection of the Lord, by the help of this same Lord Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns world without end. Amen.