14 September 2011

Per Signum Crucis de Inimicis Nostris Libera Nos

Today at Matins for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Carthusians listened to Saint Leo the Great's De Passione Domini and Sulla Pasqua from Saint Melito of Sardis. Beginning with Saint Leo, here are excerpts from both:

Before being betrayed, the Lord had told them, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to Myself” (John 12:32). I assume fully the cause of mankind and nature and I will reinstate perfectly what was lost. Through Me all languor will be destroyed and all wounds will be cured.

When Jesus suffered His terrible Passion in our nature, the upheaval of the universe revealed that the Lord, once lifted up, really draws all things to Himself. While the Creator hung from the gallows, the whole creation groaned, experiencing with Him the piercing of the nails to the Cross. Nothing was estranged from this torture: the heavens and earth were united to the sufferings of the Savior, breaking stones, opening graves, freeing prisoners from the underworld, hiding the sun beneath the horror of darkness. The world had to give this witness to its Creator, as if the death of its Author, would end up being the same fate of the universe.

O wondrous power of the Cross! O ineffable glory of the Passion that embodies the tribunal of the Lord, the judgment of the world and the power of the Crucified. You have indeed drawn everything Yourself, Lord, and while You stretched out Your Hands all day towards the people who did not believe and scoffed at You, You desired the whole world to witness and proclaim Your Majesty.

You attracted everything to Yourself, Lord, when in execration for the crime committed by the Jews, all the elements of creation uttered a single sentence: Darkened, the lights in the sky, the day became night, the earth was shaken by an unusual earthquake.

You attracted everything to Yourself, Lord, because the veil of the temple was torn by removing the Holy of holies from the eyes of the unworthy high priests. Thus the symbol that signified the presence of God was replaced by the Truth of that presence, the prophecy gave way to the real event and the law has found fulfillment in the Gospel.

You have drawn everything to Yourself, Lord. Your Cross is the source of every blessing, the cause of all grace. Through You is given to the faithful strength in suffering, glory in humiliation, life in death. You are the True Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. (cf. John 1:29).

Sulla Pasqua by Saint Melito of Sardis:
The law is old, but new is the Gospel; temporary is the figure, eternal the grace. Corruptible the sheep, incorruptible the Lord, Who was slain as a Lamb, but Who was resurrected as God. For although He was led to Sacrifice as a Sheep, yet He was not a sheep; and although He was as a Lamb without Voice, yet indeed He was not a lamb. The one was the model; the Other was found to be the finished product. For God replaced the lamb, and a Man the sheep; but in the Man was Christ, Who contains all things. And so, the sacrifice of the sheep, and the immolation of the lamb, and the writing of the law -- each led to and issued in Christ, for Whose sake everything happened in the ancient law, and even more so in the new Gospel. For indeed the law issued in the Gospel -- the old in the new, both coming forth together from Zion and Jerusalem; and the commandment issued in grace, and the type in the finished product, and the lamb in the Son, and the sheep in a Man, and the Man in God. For the One Who was born as Son, and led to slaughter as a Lamb, and sacrificed as a Sheep, and buried as a Man, rose up from the dead as God, since He is by nature both God and Man.
He is everything:
when He judges He is law;
when He teaches He is Word;
when He saves He is grace;
as the Giver of life He is Father;
as the begotten He is Son;
when He suffers He is sheep;
when He is buried He is man;
when He rises again He is God.
This is Jesus Christ!

The salvation of the Lord and the truth were prefigured in the people of Israel, and the claims of the Gospel were foretold in the Law of Moses. The people, therefore, became the image of the Church, and the law a symbolic writing. The Gospel became the explanation of the law and its fulfillment, while the Church became the storehouse of truth. Therefore, the figure had value prior to its realization, and the writing was wonderful prior to its interpretation. This is to say that the people had value before the Church came on the scene, and the law was wonderful before the Gospel was brought to light. But when He founded the Church and preached the Gospel, the type lost its value by surrendering its significance to the truth, and the law was fulfilled by surrendering its significance to the Gospel. Just as the figure lost its significance by surrendering its image to that which is true by nature, and as the symbolic writing lost its significance by being illumined through the interpretation, so indeed also the law was fulfilled when the Gospel was brought to light, and the people lost their significance when the Church was founded, and the figure was destroyed when the Lord appeared. For at one time the immolation of the lamb was valuable, but is now without merit because the True Good has appeared in the saving Sacrifice of the Lord.

The Lord, although God, became man and had suffered for the sake of the suffering, was a prisoner for the imprisoned, condemned for the sake of the guilty, and buried for the sake of the buried, rose up from the dead, and cried aloud with this voice: Who is he who contends with Me? Let him stand in opposition to Me. I am the Christ. I am the One Who destroyed death, and triumphed over the enemy, and trampled hell under foot, and bound the strong one, and carried off man to the heights of heaven; I, He says, am the Christ. Come, all families of men, you who have been oppressed by sin, and receive forgiveness. I am your forgiveness, I am the Passover of your salvation, I am the Lamb which was sacrificed for you, I am your ransom, I am your Light, I am your Saviour, I am your resurrection, I am your King, I am leading you up to the heights of heaven, I will show you the eternal Father, I will raise you up by My Right Hand.

The Lord is the One Who made heaven and earth, and Who in the beginning created man in His Image, Who was proclaimed through the law and prophets, Who became Incarnate in the Virgin, Who was hanged upon a tree, Who was buried in the earth, Who was resurrected from the dead, and Who ascended to the heights of heaven, Who sits at the Right Hand of the Father, Who has authority to judge and to save everything, through Whom the Father created everything from the beginning of the world to the end of the age. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the beginning and the end -- an indescribable beginning and an incomprehensible end. He is the Christ. He is the King. He is Jesus. He is the Head. He is the Lord. He is the One Who rose up from the dead. He is the One Who sits at the Right Hand of the Father. He bears the Father and is borne by the Father, to Whom be the glory and the power forever. Amen.