20110 Easter-day xi Phartmuthi; viii Id. April; Aer. Dioclet. 45; Coss. Constantinus Aug. VIII. Constantinus Coes. IV; Proefect. Septimius Zenius; Indict. II.
OF Fasting, And Trumpets, And Feasts.
Come, my beloved, the season calls us to keep the feast. Again, ’the Sun of Righteousness1 , causing His divine beams to rise upon us, proclaims beforehand the time of the feast, in which, obeying Him, we ought to celebrate it, lest when the time has passed by, gladness likewise may pass us by. For discerning the time is one of the duties most urgent on us, for the practice of virtue; so that the blessed Paul, when instructing his disciple, teaches him to observe the time, saying, ‘Stand (ready) in season, and out of season2 ’—that knowing both the one and the other, be might do things befitting the season, and avoid the blame of unseasonableness. For thus the God of all, after the manner of wise Solomon3 , distributes everything in time and season, to the end that, in due time, the salvation of men should be everywhere spread abroad. Thus the ‘Wisdom of God4 ,’ our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, not out of season, but in season, ‘passed upon holy souls, fashioning the friends of God and the prophets5 ;’ so that although very many were praying for Him, and saying, ‘O that the salvation of God were come out of Sion6 !’—the Spouse also, as it is written in the Song of Songs, was praying and saying, ‘O that Thou wert my sister’s son, that sucked the breasts of my mother7 !’ that Thou wert like the children of men, and wouldest take upon Thee human passions for our sake!—nevertheless, the God of all, the Maker of times and seasons, Who knows our affairs better than we do, while, as a good physician, He exhorts to obedience in season—the only one in which we may be healed—so also does He send Him not unseasonably, but seasonably, saying, ‘In an acceptable time have I heard Thee, and in the day of salvation I have helped Thee8 .’
2. And, on this account, the blessed Paul, urging us to note this season, wrote, saying, ‘Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation9 .’ At set seasons also He called the children of Israel to the Levitical feasts by Moses, saying, ‘Three times in a year ye shall keep a feast to Me10 ’ (one of which, my beloved, is that now at hand), the trumpets of the priests sounding and urging its observance; as the holy Psalmist commanded, saying, ‘Blow with the trumpet in the new moon, on the [solemn] day of your feast11 .’ Since this sentence enjoins upon us to blow both on the new moons, and on the solemn12 days, He hath made a solemn day of that in which the light of the moon is perfected in the full; which was then a type, as is this of the trumpets. At one time, as has been said, they called to the feasts; at another time to fasting and to war. And this was not done without solemnity, nor by chance, but this sound of the trumpets was appointed, so that every man should come to that which was proclaimed. And this ought to be learned not merely from me, but from the divine Scriptures, when God was revealed to Moses, and said, as it is written in the book of Numbers; ‘And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Make to thee two trumpets; of silver shalt thou make them, and they shall be for thee to call the congregation13 ;’—very properly for those who here love Him. So that we may know that these things had reference to the time of Moses—yea, were to be observed so long as the shadow lasted, the whole being appointed for use, ‘till the time of reformation14 .’ ‘For’ (said He) ‘if ye shall go out to battle in your land against your enemies that rise up against you15 ’ (for such things as these refer to the land, and no further), ‘then ye shall proclaim with the trumpets, and shall be remembered before the Lord, and be delivered from your enemies.’ Not only in wars did they blow the trumpet, but under the law, there was a festal trumpet also. Hear him again, going on to say, ‘And in the day of your gladness, and in your feasts, and your new moons, ye shall blow with the trumpets16 .’ And let no man think it a light and contemptible matter, if he hear the law command respecting trumpets; it is a wonderful and fearful thing. For beyond any other voice or instrument, the trumpet is awakening and terrible; so Israel received instruction by these means, because he was then but a child. But in order that the proclamation should not be thought merely human, being superhuman, its sounds resembled those which were uttered when they trembled before the mount17 ; and they were reminded of the law that was then given them, and kept it.
3. For the law was admirable, and the shadow was excellent, otherwise, it would not have wrought fear, and induced reverence in those who heard; especially in those who at that time not only heard but saw these things. Now these things were typical, and done as in a shadow. But let us pass on to the meaning, and henceforth leaving the figure at a distance, come to the truth, and look upon the priestly trumpets of our Saviour, which cry out, and call us, at one time to war, as the blessed Paul saith; ‘We wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with principalities, with powers, with the rulers of this dark world with wicked spirits in heaven18 .’ At another time the call is made to virginity, and self-denial, and conjugal harmony, saying, To virgins, the things of virgins; and to those who love the way of abstinence, the things of abstinence; and to those who are married19 , the things of an honourable marriage; thus assigning to each its own virtues and an honourable recompense. Sometimes the call is made to fasting, and sometimes to a feast. Hear again the same [Apostle] blowing the trumpet, and proclaiming, ‘Christ our Passover is sacrificed; therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness20 .’ If thou wouldest listen to a trumpet much greater than all these, hear our Saviour saying; ‘In that last and great clay of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink21 .’ For it became the Saviour not simply to call us to a feast, but to ‘the great feast;’ if only we will be prepared to hear, and to conform to the proclamation of every trumpet.
4. For since, as I before said, there are divers proclamations, listen, as in a figure, to the prophet blowing the trumpet; and further, having turned to the truth, be ready for the announcement of the trumpet, for he saith, ‘Blow ye the trumpet in Sion: sanctify a fast22 .’ This is a warning trumpet, and commands with great earnestness, that when we fast, we should hallow the fast. For not all those who call upon God, hallow God, since there are some who defile Him; yet not Him—that is impossible—but their own mind concerning Him; for He is holy, and has pleasure in the saints23 . And therefore the blessed Paul accuses those who dishonour God; ‘Transgressors of the law dishonour God24 .’ So then, to make a separation from those who pollute the fast, he saith here, ‘sanctify a fast.’ For many, crowding to the fast, pollute themselves in the thoughts of their hearts, sometimes by doing evil against their brethren, sometimes by daring to defraud. And, to mention nothing else, there are many who exalt themselves above their neighbours, thereby causing great mischief. For the boast of fasting did no good to the Pharisee, although he fasted twice in the week25 , only because he exalted himself against the publican. In the same manner the Word blamed the children of Israel on account of such a fast as this, exhorting them by Isaiah the Prophet, and saying, ‘This is not the fast and the day that I have chosen, that a man should humble his soul; not even if thou shouldest bow down thy neck like a hook, and shouldest strew sackcloth and ashes under thee; neither thus shall ye call the fast acceptable26 .’ That we may be able to shew what kind of persons we should be when we fast, and of what character the fast should be, listen again to God commanding Moses, and saying, as it is written in Leviticus27 , ‘And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, In the tenth day of this seventh month, there shall be a day of atonement; a convocation, and a holy day shall it be to you; and ye shall humble your souls, and offer whole burnt-offerings unto the Lord.’ And afterwards, that the law might be defined on this point, He proceeds to say; ‘Every soul that shall not humble itself, shall be cut off from the people28 .’
5. Behold, my brethren, how much a fast can do, and in what manner the law commands us to fast. It is required that not only with the body should we fast, but with the soul. Now the soul is humbled when it does not follow wicked opinions, but feeds on becoming virtues. For virtues and vices are the food of the soul, and it can eat either of these two meats, and incline to either of the two, according to its own will. If it is bent toward virtue, it will be nourished by virtues, by righteousness, by temperance, by meekness, by fortitude, as Paul saith; ‘Being nourished by the word of truth29 .’ Such was the case with our Lord, who said, ‘My meat is to do the will of My Father which is in heaven30 .’ But if it is not thus with the soul, and it inclines downwards, it is then nourished by nothing but sin. For thus the Holy Ghost, describing sinners and their food, referred to the devil when He said, ‘I have given him to be meat to the people of Aethiopia31 .’ For this is the food of sinners. And as our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, being heavenly bread, is the food of the saints, according to this; ‘Except ye eat My flesh, and drink My blood32 ;’ so is the devil the food of the impure, and of those who do nothing which is of the light, but work the deeds of darkness. Therefore, in order to withdraw and turn them from vices, He commands them to be nourished with the food of virtue; namely, humbleness of mind, lowliness to endure humiliations, the acknowledgment of God. For not only does such a fast as this obtain pardon for souls, but being kept holy, it prepares the saints, and raises them above the earth.
6. And indeed that which I am about to say is wonderful, yea it is of those things which are very miraculous; yet not far from the truth, as ye may be able to learn from the sacred33 writings. That great man Moses, when fasting, conversed with God, and received the law. The great and holy Elijah, when fasting, was thought worthy of divine visions, and at last was taken up like Him who ascended into heaven. And Daniel, when fasting, although a very young man, was entrusted with the mystery, and he alone understood the secret things of the king, and was thought worthy of divine visions. But because the length of the fast of these men was wonderful, and the days prolonged, let no man lightly fall into unbelief; but rather let him believe and know, that the contemplation of God, and the word which is from Him, suffice to nourish those who hear, and stand to them in place of all food. For the angels are no otherwise sustained than by beholding at all times the face of the Father, and of the Saviour who is in heaven. And thus Moses, as long as he talked with God, fasted indeed bodily, but was nourished by divine words. When he descended among men, and God was gone up from him, he suffered hunger like other men. For it is not said that he fasted longer than forty days—those in which he was conversing with God. And, generally, each one of the saints has been thought worthy of similar transcendent nourishment.
7. Wherefore, my beloved, having our souls nourished with divine food, with the Word, and according to the will of God, and fasting bodily in things external, let us keep this great and saving feast as becomes us. Even the ignorant Jews received this divine food, through the type, when they ate a lamb in the passover. But not understanding the type, even to this day they eat the lamb, erring in that they are without the city and the truth. As long as Judaea and the city existed, there were a type, and a lamb, and a shadow, since the law thus commanded34 : These things shall not be done in another city; but in the land of Judaea, and in no place without [the land of Judaea]. And besides this, the law commanded them to offer whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices, there being no other altar than that in Jerusalem. For on this account, in that city alone was there an altar and temple built, and in no other city were they permitted to perform these rites, so that when that city should come to an end, then those things that were figurative might also be done away.
8. Now observe; that city, since the coming of our Savior, has had an end, and all the land of the Jews has been laid waste; so that from the testimony of these things (and we need no further proof, being assured by our own eyes of the fact) there must, of necessity, be an end of the shadow. And not from me should these things be learned, but the sacred voice of the prophet foretold, crying; ‘Behold upon the mountains the feet of Him that bringeth good tidings, and publisheth peace35 ;’ and what is the message he published, but that which he goes on to say to them, ‘Keep thy feasts, O Judah; pay to the Lord thy vows. For they shall no more go to that which is old; it is finished; it is taken away: He is gone up who breathed upon the face, and delivered thee from affliction36 .’ Now who is he that went up? a man may say to the Jews, in order that even the boast of the shadow may be done away; neither is it an idle thing to listen to the expression, ‘It is finished; he is gone up who breathed.’ For nothing was finished before he went up who breathed. But as soon as he went up, it was finished. Who was he then, O Jews, as I said before? If Moses, the assertion would be false; for the people were not yet come to the land in which alone they were commanded to perform these rites. But if Samuel, or any other of the prophets, even in that case there would be a perversion of the truth; for hitherto these things were done in Judaea, and the city was standing. For it was necessary that while that stood, these things should be performed. So that it was none of these, my beloved, who went up. But if thou wouldest hear the true matter, and be kept from Jewish fables, behold our Saviour who went up, and ‘breathed upon the face, and said to His disciples, Receive ye the Holy Ghost37 .’ For as soon as these things were done, everything was finished, for the altar was broken, and the veil of the temple was rent; and although the city was not yet laid waste, the abomination was ready to sit in the midst of the temple, and the city and those ancient ordinances to receive their final consummation.
9. Since then we have passed beyond that time of shadows, and no longer perform rites under it, but have turned, as it were, unto the Lord; ‘for the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty38 ;’—as we hear the sacred trumpet, no longer slaying a material lamb, but that true Lamb that was slain, even our Lord Jesus Christ; ‘Who was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and was dumb as a lamb before her shearers39 ;’ being purified by His precious blood, which speaketh better things than that of Abel, having our feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel, holding in our hands the rod and staff of the Lord, by which that saint was comforted, who said40 , ‘Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me;’ and to sum up, being in all respects prepared, and careful for nothing, because, as the blessed Paul saith, ‘The Lord is at hand41 ;’ and as our Saviour saith, ‘In an hour when we think not, the Lord cometh;—Let us keep the Feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Putting off the old man and his deeds, let us put on the new man42 , which is created in God,’ in humbleness of mind, and a pure conscience; in meditation of the law by night and by day. And casting away all hypocrisy and fraud, putting far from us all pride and deceit, let us take upon us love towards God and towards our neighbour, that being new [creatures], and receiving the new wine, even the Holy Spirit, we may properly keep the feast, even the month of these new [fruits]43 .
10. We44 begin the holy fast on the fifth day of Pharmuthi (March 31), and adding to it according to the number of those six holy and great days, which are the symbol of the creation of this world, let us rest and cease (from fasting) on the tenth day of the same Pharmuthi (April 5), on the holy sabbath of the week. And when the first day of the holy week dawns and rises upon us, on the eleventh day of the same month (April 6), from which again we count all the seven weeks one by one, let us keep feast on the holy day of Pentecost—on that which was at one time to the Jews, typically, the feast of weeks, in which they granted forgiveness and settlement of debts; and indeed that day was one of deliverance in every respect. Let us keep the feast on the first day of the great week, as a symbol of the world to come, in which we here receive a pledge that we shall have everlasting life hereafter. Then having passed hence, we shall keep a perfect feast with Christ, while we cry out and say, like the saints, ‘I will pass to the place of the wondrous tabernacle, to the house of God; with the voice of gladness and thanksgiving, the shouting of those who rejoice45 ;’ whence pain and sorrow and sighing have fled, and upon our heads gladness and joy shall have come to us! May we be judged worthy to be partakers in these things.
11. Let us remember the poor, and not forget kindness to strangers; above all, let us love God with all our soul, and might, and strength, and our neighbour as ourselves. So may we receive those things which the eye hath not seen, nor the ear heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man, which, God hath prepared for those that love Him46 , through His only Son, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ; through Whom, to the Father alone, by the Holy Ghost, be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Salute one another with a kiss. All the brethren who are with me salute you.
Here endeth the first Festal Letter of holy Athanasius.
1 (Ml 4,2,
2 2Tm 4,2. The due celebration of the feast is spoken of as producing a permanent beneficial effect on the Christian. Cf). Letter 4.
3 (Qo 3,7, S. Cyril). Homil. Pash. V.
4 (1Co 1,24,
5 Sg 7,27.
6 (Ps 14,7,
7 (Ct 8,1
8 (Is 49,8,
9 (2Co 6,2,
10 (Ex 23,14,
11 (Ps 81,3, cf. Nb 10,8.
12 Or appointed, and so passim.
13 (Nb 10,1-2,
14 (He 9,10,
15 Nb 10,9.
16 Nb 10,10.
17 (Ex 19,16,
18 (Ep 6,12,
19 Cf. 1Co 7,2 1Co 7,5.
20 1Co 5,7-8.
21 (Jn 7,37,
22 (Jl 2,15,
23 (Ps 16,3,
24 (Rm 2,23,
25 (Lc 18,12).
26 (Is 58,5,
27 Lv 23,26, sq.
28 Lv 23,29.
29 (1Tm 4,6,
30 (Jn 4,34,
31 (Ps 74,14, LXX.
32 (Jn 6,53,
33 The word in the Syriac is ‘priestly.’ But in this and in other places, it appears to be for the Greek AEIero". Cf). ta iera grammata. 2Tm 3,15.
34 (Dt 12,11 Dt 12,13-14.
35 Na 1,15.
36 Na 1,15 Na 2,1, LXX.
37 (Jn 20,22,
38 (2Co 3,17,
39 (Is 53,7,
40 (Ps 23,4,
41 (Ph 4,5,
42 (Lc 12,40 1Co 5,8.
43 Alluding to Dt 16,1, LXX.
44 We should not have much difficulty in fixing upon many of the phrases and expressions used by S. Athan. towards the close of his Epistles, by referring to the concluding sentences in the Paschal Letters of S. Cyril, who seems herein to have closely imitated his illustrious predecessor in the Patriarchate. The Syriac translator must frequently have had before him the following expressions: arcomenoi th" agia" tessarakosth"<episunaptonte"<sunaptonte" exh"<periluonte" ta" nhsteia"<katapauonte" ta" nhsteia"<espera baqeia sabbatou<th epifwskoush kuriakh).
45 (Ps 42,4,
46 (1Co 2,9 Is 69,4,
Easter-day xxiv Pharmuthi; xiii Kal. Mai; Aera Dioclet. 46; Coss. Gallicianus, Valerius Symmachus; Proefect, Magninianus; Indict. iii.
Again, my brethren, is Easter come and gladness; again the Lord hath brought us to this season; so that when, according to custom, we have been nourished with His words, we may duly keep the feast. Let us celebrate it then, even heavenly joy, with those saints who formerly proclaimed a like feast, and were ensamples to us of conversation in Christ. For not only were they entrusted with the charge of preaching the Gospel, but, if we enquire, we shall see, as it is written, that its power was displayed in them. ‘Be ye therefore followers of me1 ,’ he wrote to the Corinthians. Now the apostolic precept exhorts us all, for those commands which he sent to individuals, he at the same time enjoined upon every man in every place, for he was ‘a teacher of all nations in faith and truth2 .’ And, generally, the commands of all the saints urge us on similarly, as Solomon makes use of proverbs, saying, ‘Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding; for I give you a good gift, forsake ye not my word: for I was an obedient son to my father, and beloved in the sight of my mother3 .’ For a just father brings up [his children] well, when he is diligent in teaching others in accordance with his own upright conduct, so that when he meets with opposition, he may not be ashamed on hearing it said, ‘Thou therefore that teachest others, teachest thou not thyself4 ?’ but rather, like the good servant, may both save himself and gain others; and thus, when the grace committed to him has been doubled, he may hear, ‘Thou good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful in a little, I will set thee over much: enter into the joy of thy Lord5 .’
2. Let us6 then, as is becoming, as at all times, yet especially in the days of the feast, be not hearers only, but doers of the commandments of our Saviour; that having imitated the behaviour of the saints, we may enter together into the joy of our Lord which is in heaven, which is not transitory, but truly abides; of which evil doers having deprived themselves, there remains to them as the fruit of their ways, sorrow and affliction, and groaning with torments. Let a man see what these become like, that they bear not the likeness7 of the conversation of the saints, nor of that right understanding, by which man at the beginning was rational, and in the image of God. But they are compared to their disgrace to beasts without understanding, and becoming like them in unlawful pleasures, they are spoken of as wanton horses8 ; also, for their craftiness, and errors, and sin laden with death, they are called a ‘generation of vipers,’ as John saith 9 . Now having thus fallen, and grovelling in the dust like the serpent10 , having their minds set on nothing beyond visible things, they esteem these things good, and rejoicing in them, serve their own lusts and not God.
3. Yet even in this state, the man-loving Word, who came for this very reason, that He might seek and find that which was lost, sought to restrain them from such folly, crying and saying, ‘Be ye not as the horse and the mule which have no understanding, whose cheeks ye hold in with bit and bridle11 .’ Because they were careless and imitated the wicked, the prophet prays in spirit and says, ‘Ye are to me like merchant-men of Phoenicia12 .’ And the avenging Spirit protests against them in these words, ‘Lord, in Thy city Thou wilt despise their image13 .’ Thus, being changed into the likeness of fools, they fell so low in their understanding, that by their excessive reasoning, they even likened the Divine Wisdom to themselves, thinking it to be like their own arts. Therefore, ‘professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of the corruptible image of man, and birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient14 .’ For they did not listen to the prophetic voice that reproved them (saying), ‘To what have ye likened the Lord, and with what have ye compared Him15 ?’ neither to David, who prayed concerning such as these, and sang, ‘All those that make them are like unto them, and all those who put their trust in them16 .’ Being blind to the truth, they looked upon a stone as God, and hence, like senseless creatures, they walked in darkness, and, as the prophet cried, ‘They hear indeed, but they do not understand; they see indeed, but they do not perceive; for their heart is waxen fat, and with their ears they hear heavily17 .’
4. Now those who do not observe the feast, continue such as these even to the present day, feigning indeed and devising names of feasts18 , but rather introducing days of mourning than of gladness; ‘For there is no peace to the wicked, saith the Lord19 .’ And as Wisdom saith, ‘Gladness and joy are taken from their mouth20 .’ Such are the feasts of the wicked. But the wise servants of the Lord, who have truly put on the man which is created in God21 , have received gospel words, and reckon as a general commandment that given to Timothy, which saith, ‘Be thou an example to the believers in word, in conversation, in love, in faith, in purity22 .’ So well do they keep the Feast, that even the unbelievers, seeing their order23 , may say, ‘God is with them of a truth24 .’ For as he who receives an apostle receives Him who sent him25 , so he who is a follower of the saints, makes the Lord in every respect his end and aim, even as Paul, being a follower of Him, goes on to say, ‘As I also of Christ26 .’ For there were first our Saviour’s own words, who from the height of His divinity, when conversing with His disciples, said, ‘Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls27 .’ Then too when He poured water into a basin, and girded HimseIf with a towel, and washed His disciples’ feet, He said to them, ‘Know what I have done. Ye call Me Master and Lord, and ye say well, for so I am. If therefore I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet: for I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, ye also should do28 .’
5. Oh! my brethren, how shall we admire the loving-kindness of the Saviour? With what power, and with what a trumpet should a man cry out, exalting these His benefits! That not only should we bear His image, but should receive from Him an example and pattern of heavenly conversation; that as He hath begun, we should go on, that suffering, we should not threaten, being reviled, we should not revile again, but should bless them that curse, and in everything commit ourselves to God who judgeth righteously29 . For those who are thus disposed, and fashion themselves according to the Gospel, will be partakers of Christ, and imitators of apostolic conversation, on account of which they shall be deemed worthy of that praise from him, with which he praised the Corinthians, when he said, ‘I praise you that in everything ye are mindful of me30 .’ Afterwards, because there were men who used his words, but chose to hear them as suited their lusts, and dared to pervert them, as the followers of Hymenaeus and Alexander, and before them the Sadducees, who as he said, ‘having made shipwreck of faith,’ scoffed at the mystery of the resurrection, he immediately proceeded to say, ‘And as I have delivered to you traditions, hold them fast31 .’ That means, indeed, that we should think not otherwise than as the teacher has delivered.
6. For not only in outward form did those wicked men dissemble, putting on as the Lord says sheep’s clothing, and appearing like unto whited sepulchres; but they took those divine words in their mouth, while they inwardly cherished evil intentions. And the first to put on this appearance was the serpent, the inventor of wickedness from the beginning—the devil,—who, in disguise, conversed with Eve, and forthwith deceived her. But after him and with him are all inventors of unlawful heresies, who indeed refer to the Scriptures, but do not hold such opinions as the saints have handed down, and receiving them as the traditions of men, err, because they do not rightly know them nor their32 power. Therefore Paul justly praises the Corinthians33 , because their opinions were in accordance with his traditions. And the Lord most righteously reproved the Jews, saying, ‘Wherefore do ye also transgress the commandments of God on account of your traditions34 .’ For they changed the commandments they received from God after their own understanding, preferring to observe the traditions of men. And about these, a little after, the blessed Paul again gave directions to the Galatians who were in danger thereof, writing to them, ‘If any man preach to you aught else than that ye have received, let him be accursed35 .’
7. For there is no fellowship whatever between the words of the saints and the fancies of human invention; for the saints are the ministers of the truth, preaching the kingdom of heaven, but those who are borne in the opposite direction have nothing better than to eat, and think their end is that they shall cease to be, and they say, ‘Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die36 .’ Therefore blessed Luc reproves the inventions of men, and hands down the narrations of the saints, saying in the beginning of the Gospel, ‘Since many have presumed to write narrations of those events of which we are assured, as those who from the beginning were witnesses and ministers of the Word have delivered to us; it hath seemed good to me also, who have adhered to them all from the first, to write correctly in order to thee, O excellent Theophilus, that thou mayest know the truth concerning the things in which thou hast been instructed37 .’ For as each of the saints has received, that they impart without alteration, for the confirmation of the doctrine of the mysteries. Of these the (divine) word would have us disciples, and these should of right be our teachers, and to them only is it necessary to give heed, for of them only is ‘the word faithful and worthy of all acceptation38 ;’ these not being disciples because they heard from others, but being eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word, that which they had heard from Him have they handed down.
Now some have related the wonderful signs performed by our Saviour, and preached His eternal Godhead. And others have written of His being born in the flesh of the Virgin, and have proclaimed the festival of the holy passover, saying, ‘Christ our Passover is sacrificed39 ;’ so that we, individually and collectively, and all the churches in the world may remember, as it is written, ‘That Christ rose from the dead, of the seed of David, according to the Gospel40 .’ And let us not forget that which Paul delivered, declaring it to the Corinthians; I mean His resurrection, whereby ‘He destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil41 ;’ and raised us up together with Him, having loosed the bands of death, and vouchsafed a blessing instead of a curse, joy instead of grief, a feast instead of mourning, in this holy joy of Easter, which being continually in our hearts, we always rejoice, as Paul commanded; ‘We pray without ceasing; in everything we give thanks42 .’ So we are not remiss in giving notice of its seasons, as we have received from the Fathers. Again we write, again keeping to the apostolic traditions, we remind each other when we come together for prayer; and keeping the feast in common, with one mouth we truly give thanks to the Lord. Thus giving thanks unto Him, and being followers of the saints, ‘we shall make our praise in the Lord all the day43 ,’ as the Psalmist says. So, when we rightly keep the feast, we shall be counted worthy of that joy which is in heaven.
8. We begin the fast of forty days on the 13th of the month Phamenoth (Mar. 9). After we have given ourselves to fasting in continued succession, let us begin the holy Paschal44 week on the 18th of the month Pharmuthi (April 13). Then resting on the 23rd of the same month Pharmuthi (April 18), and keeping the feast afterwards on the first of the week, on the 24th (April 19), let us add to these the seven weeks of the great Pentecost, wholly rejoicing and exulting in Christ Jesus our Lord, through Whom to the Father be glory and dominion in the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever. Amen.
The brethren which are with me salute you. Salute one another with a holy kiss45 .
Here endeth the second Festal Letter of the holy lord Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria.
1 (1Co 4,16,
2 (1Tm 2,7, Letter iii.
3 (Pr 4,1,
4 (Rm 2,21,
5 Mt 25,21.
6 We have here the first fragment extant of the original Greek text. It is to be found in Cosmas Indicopleustes. p. 316.
7 Syr). eikwn.
8 (Jr 5,8,
9 i.e. the Baptist, Mt 3,7 Lc 3,7.
10 Cf). Vit, Anton. supr. p. 202.
11 (Ps 32,9, . Orat. iii. Ps 18
12 (Is 23,2, LXX.
13 (Ps 73,20).
14 (Rm 1,22 Rm 1,28, and cf). c. Gent. 19. 2.
15 (Is 40,18,
16 (Ps 115,8,
17 (Is 6,9,
18 Syr). schmatisameno". The allusion in this sentence is evidently to the conduct of Jeroboam, as recorded 1R 12,32, 1R 12,33. The phraseology of the Syriac resembles that of the Syr. version in 5,33.
19 (Is 48,22,
20 Vid). Letter 3,note.
21 (Ep 4,24,
22 (1Tm 4,12,
23 taxi", Syr. Cf. Col 2,5, blepwn umwn thn taxin.
24 (1Co 14,25,
25 (Mt 10,40,
26 (1Co 11,1,
27 (Mt 11,29,
28 (Jn 13,12,
30 (1Co 11,2
31 (1Tm 1,19 2Tm 2,18 1Co 11,2
32 (Mt 22,29).
33 (1Co 11,2.
34 14 Mt 15,3.
35 (Ga 1,9,
36 (Is 22,13,
37 (Lc 1,1,
38 (1Tm 1,15,
39 (1Co 5,7,
40 (2Tm 2,8,
41 (He 2,14.
42 (1Th 5,17,
43 (Ps 35,28,
44 In Syriac there is but one word ‘pescha’ to express the Passover and Easter feasts, it is therefore sometimes rendered Easter, and sometimes Passover, in the following pages.
45 The twenty-fifth Paschal Letter of S. Cyril ends with the same words. This is the usual form in which our author concludes his Paschal Letters. S. Cyril employs it but once, as above.