Easter-day, xii Pharmuthi, vii Id. April: xvii Moon; Aera Dioclet. 50; Coss. Optatus Patricius, Anicius Paulinus; Praefect, Philagrius1 , the Cappadocian; vii Indict.
Now again, my beloved, has God brought us to the season of the feast, and through His loving-kindness we have reached the period of assembly for it. For that God who brought Israel out of Egypt, even He at this time calls us to the feast, saying by Moses, ‘Observe the month of new fruits2 , and keep the Passover to the Lord thy God3 :’ and by the prophet, ‘Keep thy feasts, O Judah; ‘pay to the Lord thy vows4 .’ If then God Himself loves the feast, and calls us to it, it is not right, my brethren, that it should be delayed, or observed carelessly; but with alacrity and zeal we should come to it, so that having begun joyfully here, we may also receive an earnest of that heavenly feast. For if we diligently celebrate the feast here, we shall doubtless receive the perfect joy which is in heaven, as the Lord says; ‘With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I say unto you, that I will not eat it, until it is fulfilled with you in the kingdom of God5 .’ Now we eat it if, understanding the reason of the feast, and acknowledging the Deliverer, we conduct ourselves in accordance with His grace, as Paul saith; ‘So that we may keep the Feast, not with old leaven neither with the leaven of wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth6 .’ For the Lord died in those days, that we should no longer do the deeds of death. He gave His life, that we might preserve our own from the snares of the devil. And, what is most wonderful, the Word became flesh, that we should no longer live in the flesh, but in spirit should worship God, who is Spirit. He who is not so disposed, abuses the days, and does not keep the feast, but like an unthankful person finds fault with the grace, and honours the days overmuch, while he does not supplicate the Lord who in those days redeemed him. Let him by all means hear, though fancying that he keeps the feast, the Apostolic voice reproving him; ‘Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years: I fear test I have laboured among you in vain7 .’
2. For the feast is not on account of the days; but for the Lord’s sake, who then suffered for us, we celebrate it, for ‘our Passover Christ, is sacrificed8 .’ Even as Moses, when teaching Israel not to consider the feast as pertaining to the days, but to the Lord, said, ‘It is the Lord’s Passover9 .’ To the Jews, when they thought they were keeping the Passover, because they persecuted the Lord, the feast was useless; since it no longer bore the name of the Lord, even according to their own testimony. It was not the Passover of the Lord, but that of the Jews10 . The Passover was named after the Jews, my brethren, because they denied the Lord of the Passover. On this account, the Lord, turning away His face from such a doctrine of theirs, saith, ‘Your new moons and your sabbaths My soul hateth11 .’
3. So now, those who keep the Passover in like manner, the Lord again reproves, as He did those lepers who were cleansed, when He loved the one as thankful, but was angry with the others as ungrateful, because they did not acknowledge their Deliverer, but thought more of the cure of the leprosy than of Him who healed them. ‘But one of them when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell on his If ace at the feet of Jesus giving Him thanks; and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but those nine—whence are there none found who returned to give glory to God, but this stranger12 ?’ And there was more given to him than to the rest; for being cleansed from his leprosy, he heard from the Lord, ‘Arise, go thy way, thy faith hath saved thee13 .’ For he who gives thanks, and he who glorifies, have kindred feelings, in that they bless their Helper for the benefits they have received. So the Apostle exhorts all men to this, saying, ‘Glorify God with your body;’ and the prophet commands, saying, ‘Give glory to God.’ Although testimony was borne by Caiaphas14 against our Redeemer, and He was set at nought by the Jews, and was condemned by Pilate in those days, yet exalted exceedingly and most mighty was the voice of the Father which came to Him; ‘I have glorified, and will glorify again15 .’ For those things which He suffered for our sake have passed away; but those which belong to Him as the Saviour remain for ever.
4. But in our commemoration of these things, my brethren, let us not be occupied with meats, but let us glorify the Lord, let us become fools for Him who died for us, even as Paul said; ‘For if we are foolish, it is to God; or if we are sober-minded, it is to you; since because one died for all men, therefore all were dead to Him; and He died for all, that we who live should not henceforth live to ourselves, but to Him who died for us, and rose again16 .’ No longer then ought we to live to ourselves, but, as servants to the Lord. And not in vain should we receive the grace, as the time is especially an acceptable one17 , and the day of salvation hath dawned, even the death of our Redeemer18 . For even for our sakes the Word came down, and being incorruptible, put on a corruptible body for the salvation of all of us. Of which Paul was confident, saying, ‘This corruptible must put on incorruption19 .’ The Lord too was sacrificed, that by His blood He might abolish death. Full well did He once, in a certain place, blame those who participated vainly in the shedding of His blood, while they did not delight themselves in the flesh of the Word, saying, ‘What profit is there in my blood, that I go down to corruption20 ?’ This does not mean that the descent of the Lord was without profit, for it gained the whole world; but rather that after He had thus suffered, sinners would prefer to suffer loss than to profit by it. For He regarded our salvation as a delight and a peculiar gain; while on the contrary He looked upon our destruction as loss.
5. Also in the Gospel, He praises those who increased the grace twofold, both him who made ten talents of five, and him who made four talents of two, as those who had profited, and turned them to good account; but him who hid the talent He cast out as wanting, saying to him, ‘Thou wicked servant! oughtest thou not to have put My money to the exchangers? then at My coming I should have received Mine own with interest. Take, therefore, from him the talent, and give it to him that hath ten talents. For to every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have more abundantly; but from him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth21 .’ For it is not His will that the grace we have received should be unprofitable; but He requires us to take pains to render Him His own fruits, as the blessed Paul saith; ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, and, peace22 .’ Having therefore this right resolution, and owing no man anything, but rather giving everything to every man, he was a teacher of the like rightness of principle, saying, ‘Render to all their dues23 .’ He was like those sent by the householder to receive the fruits of the vineyard from the husbandmen24 ; for he exhorted all men to render a return. But Israel despised and would not render, for their will was not right, nay moreover they killed those that were sent, and not even before the Lord of the vineyard were they ashamed, but even He was slain by them. Verily, when He came and found no fruit in them, He cursed them through the fig-tree, saying, ‘Let there be henceforth no fruit from thee25 ;’ and the fig-tree was dead and fruitless so that even the disciples wondered when it withered away.
6. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by the prophet; ‘I will take away from them the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the scent of myrrh, and the light of a lamp, and the whole land shall be destroyed26 .’ For the whole service of the law has been abolished from them, and henceforth and for ever they remain without a feast. And they observe not the Passover; for how can they? They have no abiding place, but they wander everywhere. And they eat unleavened bread contrary to the law, since they are unable first to sacrifice the lamb, as they were commanded to do when eating unleavened bread. But in every place they transgress the law, and as the judgments of God require, they keep days of grief instead of gladness. Now the cause of this to them was the slaying of the Lord, and that they did not reverence the Only-Begotten. At this time the altogether wicked heretics and ignorant schismatics are in the same case; the one in that they slay the Word, the other in that they rend the coat. They too remain expelled from the feast, because they live without godliness and knowledge, and emulate the conduct shewn in the matter of Bar-Abbas the robber, whom the Jews desired instead of the Saviour. Therefore the Lord cursed them under the figure of the fig-tree. Yet even thus He spared them in His loving-kindness, not destroying them root and all. For He did not curse the root, but [said], that no man should eat fruit of it thenceforth. When He did this, He abolished the shadow, causing it to wither; but preserved the root, so that we might [not]27 be grafted upon it; ‘they too, if they abide not in unbelief, may attain to be grafted into their own olive tree28 .’ Now when the Lord had cursed them because of their negligence, He removed from them the new moons, the true lamb, and that which is truly the Passover.
7. But to us it came: there came too the solemn day, in which we ought to call to the feast with a trumpet29 , and separate ourselves to the Lord with thanksgiving, considering it as our own festival30 . For we are bound to celebrate it, not to ourselves but to the Lord; and to rejoice, not in ourselves but in the Lord, who bore our griefs and said, ‘My soul is sorrowful unto death31 .’ For the heathen, and all those who are strangers to our faith, keep feasts according to their own wills, and have no peace, since they commit evil against God. But the saints, as they live to the Lord also keep the feast to Him, saying, ‘I will rejoice in Thy salvation,’ and, ‘my soul shall be joyful in the Lord.’ The commandment is common to them, ‘Rejoice, ye righteous, in the Lord32 ’—so that they also may be gathered together, to sing that common and festal Psalm, ‘Come, let us rejoice33 ,’ not in ourselves, but, ‘in the Lord.’
8. For thus the patriarch Abraham rejoiced not to see his own day, but that of the Lord; and thus looking forward ‘he saw it, and was glad34 .’ And when he was tried, by faith he offered up Isaac, and sacrificed his only-begotten son—he who had received the promises. And, in offering his son, he worshipped the Son of God. And, being restrained from sacrificing Isaac, he saw the Messiah in the ram35 , which was offered up instead as a sacrifice to God. The patriarch was tried, through Isaac, not however that he was sacrificed, but He who was pointed out in Isaiah; ‘He shall be led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers he shall be speechless36 ;’ but He took away the sin of the world. And on this account [Abraham] was restrained from laying his hand on the lad, lest the Jews, taking occasion from the sacrifice of Isaac, should reject the prophetic declarations concerning our Saviour, even all of them, but more especially those uttered by the Psalmist; ‘Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not; a body Thou hast prepared Me37 ;’ and should refer all such things as these to the son of Abraham.
9. For the sacrifice was not properly the setting to rights38 of Isaac, but of Abraham who also offered, and by that was tried. Thus God accepted the will of the offerer, but prevented that which was offered from being sacrificed. For the death of Isaac did not procure freedom to the world, but that of our Saviour alone, by whose stripes we all are healed39 . For He raised up the falling, healed the sick, satisfied those who were hungry, and filled the poor, and, what is more wonderful raised us all from the dead; having abolished death, He has brought us from affliction and sighing to the rest and gladness of this feast, a joy which reacheth even to heaven. For not we alone are affected by this, but because of it, even the heavens rejoice with us, and the whole church of the firstborn, written in heaven40 , is made glad together, as the prophet proclaims, saying, ‘Rejoice, ye heavens, for the Lord hath had mercy upon Israel. Shout, ye foundations of the earth. Cry out with joy, ye mountains, ye high places, and all the trees which are in them, for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and Israel hath been glorified41 .’ And again; ‘Rejoice, and be glad, ye heavens; let the hills melt into gladness, for the Lord hath had mercy on His people, and comforted the oppressed of the people42 .’
10. The whole creation keeps a feast, my brethren, and everything that hath breath praises the Lord43 , as the Psalmist [says], on account of the destruction of the enemies, and our salvation. And justly indeed; for if there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth44 , what should there not be over the abolition of sin, and the resurrection of the dead? Oh what a feast and how great the gladness in heaven! how must all its hosts joy and exult, as they rejoice and watch in our assemblies, those that are held continually, and especially those at Easter? For they look on sinners while they repent; on those who have turned away their faces, when they become converted; on those who formerly persisted in lusts and excess, but who now humble themselves by fastings and temperance; and, finally, on the enemy who lies weakened, lifeless, bound hand and foot, so that we may mock at him; ‘Where is thy victory, O Death? where is thy sting, O Grave45 ?’ Let us then sing unto the Lord a song of victory.
11. Who then will lead us to such a company of angels as this? Who, coming with a desire for the heavenly feast, and the angelic holiday, will say like the prophet, ‘I will pass to the place of the wondrous tabernacle, unto the house of God; with the voice of joy and praise, with the shouting of those who keep festival46 ?’ To this course the saints also encourage us, saying, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob47 .’ But not for the impure is this feast, nor is the ascent thereto for sinners; but it is for the virtuous and diligent; and for those who live according to the aim of the saints; for, ‘Who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in His holy place, but he that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not devoted his soul to vanity, nor sworn deceitfully to his neighbour. For he,’ as the Psalmist adds, when he goes up, ‘shall receive a blessing from the Lord48 .’ Now this clearly also refers to what the Lord gives to them at the right hand, saying, ‘Come, ye blessed, inherit the kingdom prepared for you49 .’ But the deceitful, and he that is not pure of heart, and possesses nothing that is pure (as the Proverb saith, ‘To a deceitful man there is nothing good50 ’), shall assuredly, being a stranger, and of a different race from the saints, be accounted unworthy to eat the Passover, for ‘a foreigner shall not eat of it51 .’ Thus Judas, when he thought he kept the Passover, because he plotted deceit against the Saviour, was estranged from the city which is above, and from the apostolic company. For the law commanded the Passover to be eaten with due observance; but he, while eating it, was sifted of the devil52 , who had entered his soul.
12. Wherefore let us not celebrate the feast after an earthly manner, but as keeping festival in heaven with the angels. Let us glorify the Lord, by chastity, by righteousness, and other virtues. And let us rejoice, not in ourselves, but in the Lord, that we may be inheritors with the saints. Let us keep the feast then, as Moses. Let us watch like David who rose seven times, and in the middle of the night gave thanks for the righteous judgments of God. Let us be early, as be said, ‘In the morning I will stand before Thee, and Thou wilt look upon me: in the morning Thou wilt hear my voice53 .’ Let us fast like Daniel let us pray without ceasing, as Paul commanded; all of us recognising the season of prayer, but especially those who are honourably married; so that having borne witness to these things, and thus having kept the feast, we may be able to enter into the joy of Christ in the kingdom of heaven54 . But as Israel, when going up to Jerusalem, was first purified in the wilderness, being trained to forget the customs of Egypt, the Word by this typifying to us the holy fast of forty days, let us first be purified and freed from defilement55 , so that when we depart hence, having been careful of fasting, we may be able to ascend to the upper chamber56 with the Lord, to sup with Him; and may be partakers of the joy which is in heaven. In no other manner is it possible to go up to Jerusalem, and to eat the Passover, except by observing the fast of forty days.
13. We begin the fast of forty days on the first day of the month Phamenoth (Feb. 25); and having prolonged it till the fifth of Pharmuthi (Mar. 31), suspending it upon the Sundays and the Saturdays57 preceding them, we then begin again on the holy days of Easter, on the sixth of Pharmuthi (Apr, 1), and cease on the eleventh of the same month (Apr. 6), late in the evening58 of the Saturday, whence dawns on us the holy Sunday, on the twelfth of Pharmuthi (Apr. 7), which extends its beams, with unobscured grace, to all the seven weeks of the holy Pentecost. Resting on that day, let us ever keep Easter joy in Christ Jesus our Lord, through Whom, to the Father, be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. All the brethren who are with me salute you. Salute one another with a holy kiss.
Here endeth the sixth Festal Letter of the holy and God-clad Athanasius.
1 The index gives still Paternus for Letters 6 and 7. On Philorius, see p. 93, note 2.
2 Cf. 1,9, n. 12.
3 (Dt 16,1.
4 (Na 1,13).
5 (Lc 22,15-16,
6 (1Co 5,8,
7 (Ga 4,10-11,
8 (1Co 5,7,
9 (Ex 12,11,
10 Cf. Jn 6,4. ’And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. Cf Origenis Comment. in Ioannem, tom. x. §11. p. 172. ed. 1759.
11 (Is 1,14,
12 (Lc 17,15, &c.
13 Lc 17,19.
14 (1Co 6,20 Is 42,12 Mt 26,65.
15 (Jn 12,28,
16 (2Co 5,13 2Co 5,15.
17 2Co 6,1-2.
18 Cf. S. Cyril). Hom. Pasch. xxiv. sub init.
19 (1Co 15,53,
20 (Ps 30,9).
22 (Ga 5,22,
23 (Rm 13,7,
24 (Mt 21,33,
25 Mt 21,19.
26 (Jr 25,10,
27 The negative (which is here placed within brackets) is found in the Syriac text; but there is little doubt that it is an error.
28 (Rm 11,23,
29 Cf). Letter 1,S. Cyril, Hom. i de Festis Pasck. vol. 5,2, p. 6.
30 The passover is longer to be a teast ox the Jews : it is to be celebrated by Christians as a festival of the Lord. Vid. §2. n. 10.
31 Mt 26,38.
32 (Ps 9,14 Ps 35,9 Ps 33,1.
33 (Ps 95,1).
34 (Jn 8,56 He 11,17,
35 (Gn 22,15, Syriac, here rendered by ‘ram,’ is the usual word for sheep, common gender. It is the same word that is used directly after in the quotation from Isaiah, and rendered ‘lamb.’
36 (Is 53,7,
37 (Ps 40,6,
38 The phrase ‘setting to rights’ is used for want of one that would better express the meaning. The Syriac noun is that used to render diopQwsi` in He 9,10, from n verb ‘to make straight, set upright, or right.’
39 (Is 53,5,
40 (He 12,23,
41 (Is 44,23,
42 (Is 49,13,
43 (Ps 150,6.
44 (Lc 15,7,
45 (1Co 15,55, Incarn. 27
46 (Ps 42,4,
47 (Is 2,3,
48 (Ps 24,3,
49 (Mt 25,34,
50 (Pr 13,13, LXX).
51 (Ex 12,43,
52 Cf. Lc 22,31.
53 (Ps 5,3,
54 A line or two is preserved here in the original Greek in Cosmas Topog. Christ. p. 316.
55 Gregory Nazianzen speaks of the Lenten fast as kaqarsi" proetio", vol. 1,p. 715. §30. ed. Ben. fol. Par. 1778.
56 Cf. Lc 14,15.
57 The Saturdays and Sundays during Lent were not observed as fasts, with the exception of the day before Easter-day S. Ambrose says,. Quadragesima tot’s praeter Sabbatum et Dominicam jejunatur diebus. vol. 1,p. 545, §34. ed Par. 1686nd;90.
58 Cf. Dionys Alex). ad Basilid, in Routh Rell). Sac. 3,226.
Easter-day iv Pharmuthi, iii Kal. April; xx Moon; Aer. Dioclet. 51; Coss. Julius Constantius, the brother of Augustus, Rufinus Albinus; Praefect, the same Philagrius; viii Indict.
The blessed Paul1 wrote to the Corinthians2 that he always bore in his body the dying of Jesus, not as though he alone should make that boast, but also they and we too, and in this let us be followers of him, my brethren. And let this be the customary boast of all of us at all times. In this David participated, saying in the Psalms, ‘For thy sake we die all the day; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughters3 .’ Now this is becoming in us, especially in the days of the feast, when a commemoration of the death of our Saviour is held. For he who is made like Him in His death, is also diligent in virtuous practices, having mortified his members which are upon the earth4 , and crucifying the flesh with the affections and lusts, he lives in the Spirit, and is conformed to the Spirit5 . He is always mindful of God, and forgets Him not, and never does the deeds of death. Now, in order that we may bear in our body the dying of Jesus, he immediately adds the way of such fellowship, saying, ‘we having the same spirit of faith, as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak6 .’ He adds also, speaking of the grace that arises from knowledge; ‘For He that raised up Jesus, will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us before Him with you7 .’
2. When by such faith and knowledge the saints have embraced this true life, they receive, doubtless, the joy which is in heaven; lot which the wicked not caring, are deservedly deprived of the blessedness arising from it. For, ‘let the wicked be taken away, so that he shall not see the glory of the Lord8 .’ For although, when they shall hear the universal proclamation of the promise, ‘Awake, thou that steepest, and arise from the dead9 ,’ they shall rise and shall come even to heaven, knocking and saying, ‘Open to us10 ;’ nevertheless the Lord will reprove them, as those who put the knowledge of Himself far from them, saying, ‘I know you not.’ But the holy Spirit cries against them, ‘The wicked shall be turned into hell, even all the nations that forget God.11 .’ Now we say that the wicked are dead, but not in an ascetic life opposed to sin; nor do they, like the saints, bear about dying in their bodies. But it is the soul which they bury in sins and follies, drawing near to the dead, and satisfying it with dead nourishment; like young eagles which, from high places, fly upon the carcases of the dead, and which the law prohibited, commanding figuratively, ‘Thou shalt not eat the eagle, nor any other bird that feedeth on a dead carcass12 ;’ and it pronounced unclean whatsoever eateth the dead. But these kill the soul with lusts, and say nothing but, ‘let us eat and drink, for to morrow we die13 .’ And the kind of fruit those have who thus love pleasures, he immediately describes, adding, ‘And these things are revealed in the ears of the Lord of Hosts, that this sin shall not be forgiven you until ye die14 .’ Yea, even while they live they shall be ashamed, because they consider their belly their lord; and when dead, they shall be tormented, because they have made a boast of such a death. To this effect also Paul bears witness, saying, ‘Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats; but God shall destroy both it and them15 .’ And the divine word declared before concerning them; ‘The death of sinners is evil, and those who hate the righteous commit sin16 .’ For bitter is the worm, and grievous the darkness, which wicked men inherit.
3. But the saints, and they who truly practise virtue, ‘mortify their members which are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanness passions, evil concupiscence17 ;’ and, as the result of this, are pure and without spot, confiding in the promise of our Saviour, who said, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God18 .’ These, having become dead to the world, and renounced the merchandise of the world, gain an honourable death; for, ‘precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints19 .’ They are also able, preserving the Apostolic likeness, to say, ‘I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me20 .’ For that is the true life, which a man lives in Christ; for although they are dead to the world, yet they dwell as it were in heaven, minding those things which are above, as he who was a lover of such a habitation said, ‘While we walk on earth, our dwelling is in heaven21 .’ Now those who thus live, and are partakers in such virtue, are alone able to give glory to God, and this it is which essentially constitutes a feast and a holiday22 . For the feast does not consist in pleasant intercourse at meals, nor splendour23 of clothing, nor days of leisure, but in the acknowledgment of God, and the offering of thanksgiving and of praise to Him24 . Now this belongs to the saints alone, who live in Christ; for it is written, ‘The dead shall not praise Thee, O Lord, neither all those who go down into silence; but we who live will bless the Lord, from henceforth even for ever25 .’ So was it with Hezekiah, who was delivered from death, and therefore praised God, saying, ‘Those who are in hades cannot praise Thee I the dead cannot bless Thee; but the living shall bless Thee, as I also do26 .’ For to praise and bless God belongs to those only who live in Christ, and by means of this they go up to the feast; for the Passover is not of the Gentiles, nor of those who are yet Jews in the flesh; but of those who acknowledge the truth in Christ27 , as he declares who was sent to proclaim such a feast; ‘Our Passover, Christ, is sacrificed28 .’
4. Therefore, although wicked men press forward to keep the feast, and as at a feast praise God, and intrude into the Church of the saints, yet God expostulates, saying to the sinner, ‘Why dost thou talk of My ordinances?’ And the gentle Spirit rebukes them, saying, ‘Praise is not comely in the mouth of a sinners29 .’Neither hath sin any place in common with the praise of God; for the sinner has a mouth speaking perverse things, as the Proverb saith, ‘The mouth of the wicked answereth evil things30 .’ For how is it possible for us to praise God with an impure mouth? since things which are contrary to each other cannot coexist. For what communion has righteousness with iniquity? or, what fellowship is there between light and darkness? So exclaims Paul, a minister of the Gospel31 ).
Thus it is that sinners, and all those who are aliens from the Catholic Church, heretics, and schismatics, since they are excluded from glorifying (God) with the saints, cannot properly even continue observers of the feast. But the righteous man, although he appears dying to the world, uses boldness of speech, saying, ‘I shall not die, but live, and narrate all Thy marvelous deeds32 .’ For even God is not ashamed to be called the God33 of those who truly mortify their members which are upon the earth34 , but live in Christ; for He is the God of the living, not of the dead. And He by His living Word quickeneth all men, and gives Him to be food and life to the saints; as the Lord declares, ‘I am the bread of life35 .’ The Jews, because they were weak in perception, and had not exercised the senses of the soul in virtue, and did not comprehend this discourse about bread, murmured against Him, because He said, ‘I am the bread which came down from heaven, and giveth life unto men36 .’
5. For sin has her own special bread, of her death, and calling to those who are lovers of pleasure and lack understanding, she saith, ‘Touch with delight secret bread, and sweet waters which are stolen37 ;’ for he who merely touches them knows not that that which is born from the earth perishes with her. For even when the sinner thinks to find pleasure, the end of that food is not pleasant, as the Wisdom of God saith again, ‘Bread of deceit is pleasant to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel38 .’ And, ‘Honey droppeth from the lips of a whorish woman, which for a time is sweet to thy palate; but at the last thou shalt find it more bitter than gall, and sharper than a two-edged sword39 .’ Thus then he eats and rejoices for a little time; afterwards he spurneth it when he hath removed his soul afar. For the fool knoweth not that those who depart far from God shall perish. And besides, there is the restraint of the prophetic admonition which says, ‘What hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Gihon? And what hast thou to do in the way of Asshur, to drink the waters of the rivers40 ?’ And the Wisdom of God which loves mankind forbids these things, crying, ‘But depart quickly, tarry not in the place, neither fix thine eye upon it; for thus thou shalt pass over strange waters, and depart quickly from the strange river41 .’ She also calls them to herself, ‘For wisdom hath builded her house, and supported it on seven pillars; she hath killed her sacrifices, and mingled her wine in the goblets, and prepared her table; she hath sent forth her servants, inviting to the goblet with a loud proclamation, and saying, Whoso is foolish, let him turn in to me; and to them that lack understanding she saith, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine I have mingled for you42 .’ And what hope is there instead of these things? ‘Forsake folly that ye may live, and seek understanding that ye may abide43 .’ For the bread of Wisdom is living fruit, as the Lord said; ‘I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever44 .’ For when Israel ate of the manna, which was indeed pleasant and wonderful, yet he died, and he who ate it did not in consequence live for ever, but all that multitude died in the wilderness. The Lord teaches, saying, ‘I am the bread of life: your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which came down from heaven, that a man should eat thereof, and not die45 .’
6. Now wicked men hunger for bread like this, for effeminate souls will hunger; but the righteous alone, being prepared, shall be satisfied, saying, ‘I shall behold Thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when Thy glory is seen by me46 .’ For he who partakes of divine bread always hungers with desire; and he who thus hungers has a never-failing gift, as Wisdom promises, saying, ‘The Lord will not slay the righteous soul with famine.’ He promises too in the Psalms, ‘I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her poor with bread.’ We may also hear our Saviour saying, ‘Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled47 .’ Well then do the saints and those who love the life which is in Christ raise themselves to a longing after this food. And one earnestly implores, saying, ‘As the hart panteth after the fountains of waters, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God! My soul thirsteth for the living God, when shall I come and see the face of God?’ And another; ‘My God, my God, I seek Thee early; my soul thirsteth for Thee; often does my flesh, in a dry and pathless land, and without water. So did I appear before Thee in holiness to see Thy power and Thy glory48 .’
7. Since these things are so, my brethren, let us mortify our members which are on the earth49 , and be nourished with living bread, by faith and love to God, knowing that without faith it is impossible to be partakers of such bread as this. For our Saviour, when He called all men to him, and said, ‘If any man thirst, let him [come] to Me and drink50 ,’ immediately spoke of the faith without which a man cannot receive such food; ‘He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture saith, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water51 .’ To this end He continually nourished His believing disciples with His words, and gave them life by the nearness of His divinity, but to the Canaanitish woman, because she was not yet a believer, He deigned not even a reply, although she stood greatly in need of food from Him. He did this not from scorn, far from it (for the Lord is loving to men and good, and on that account He went into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon); but because of her unbelief, and because she was of those who had not the word. And He did it righteously, my brethren; for there would have been nothing gained by her offering her supplication before believing, but by her faith she would support her petition; ‘For He that cometh to God, must first believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that seek Him;’ and that ‘without faith it is impossible for a man to please Him52 .’ This Paul teaches. Now that she was hitherto an unbeliever, one of the profane, He shews, saying, ‘It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs53 .’ She then, being convinced by the power of the word, and having changed her ways, also gained faith; for the Lord no longer spoke to her as a dog, but conversed with her as a human being, saying, ‘O woman, great is thy faith54 !’ As therefore she believed, He forthwith granted to her the fruit of faith, and said, ‘Be it to thee as thou desirest. And her daughter was healed in the self-same hour.’
8. For the righteous man, being nurtured in faith and knowledge, and the observance of divine precepts, has his soul always in health. Wherefore it is commanded to ‘receive to ourselves him who is weak in the faith55 ,’ and to nourish him, even if he is not yet able to eat bread, but herbs, ‘for he that is weak eateth herbs.’ For even the Corinthians were not able to partake of such bread, being yet babes, and like babes they drank milk. ‘For every one that partaketh of milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness56 ,’ according to the words of that divine man. The Apostle exhorts his beloved son Timothy, in his first Epistle, ‘to be nourished with the word of faith, and the good doctrine whereto he had attained.’ And in the second, ‘Preserve thou the form of sound words which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus57 .’ And not only here, my brethren, is this bread the food of the righteous, neither are the saints on earth alone nourished by such bread and such blood; but we also eat them in heaven, for the Lord is the food even of the exalted spirits, and the angels, and He is the joy of all the heavenly host58 . And to all He is everything, and He has pity upon all according to His loving-kindness. Already hath the Lord given us angels’ food59 , and He promises to those who continue with Him in His trials, saying, ‘And I promise to you a kingdom, as My Father hath promised to Me; that ye shall eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel60 .’ O what a banquet is this, my brethren, and how great is the harmony and gladness of those who eat at this heavenly table! For they delight themselves not with that food which is cast out, but with that which produces life everlasting. Who then shall be deemed worthy of that assembly? Who is so blessed as to be called, and accounted worthy of that divine feast? Truly, ‘blessed is he who shall eat bread in Thy kingdom61 .’
9. Now he who has been counted worthy of the heavenly calling, and by this calling has been sanctified, if he grow negligent in it, although washed becomes defiled: ‘counting the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a profane thing, and despising the Spirit of grace,’ he hears the words, ‘Friend, bow camest thou in hither, not having wedding garments?’ For the banquet of the saints is spotless and pure; ‘for many are called, but few chosen62 .’ Judas to wit, though he came to the supper, because he despised it went out from the presence of the Lord, and having abandoned his Life63 , hanged himself. But the disciples who continued with the Redeemer shared in the happiness of the feast. And that young man who went into a far country, and there wasted his substance, living in dissipation, if he receive a desire for this divine feast, and, coming to himself, shall say, ‘How many hired servants of my father have bread to spare, while I perish here with hunger!’ and shall next arise and come to his father, and confess to him, saying, ‘I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am not worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants64 ;’—when he shall thus confess, then he shall be counted worthy of more than he prayed for. For the father does not receive him as a hired servant, neither does he look upon him as a stranger, but he kisses him as a son, he brings him back to life as from the dead, and counts him worthy of the divine feast, and gives him his former and precious robe. So that, on this account, there is singing and gladness in the paternal home.
10. For this is the work of the Father’s loving-kindness and goodness, that not only should He make him alive from the dead, but that He should render His grace illustrious through the Spirit. Therefore, instead of corruption, He clothes him with an incorruptible garment; instead of hunger, He kills the fatted calf; instead of far journeys, [the Father] watched for his return, providing shoes for his feet; and, what is most wonderful, placed a divine signet-ring upon his hand; whilst by all these things He begot him afresh in the image of the glory of Christ. These are the gracious gifts of the Father, by which the Lord honours and nourishes those who abide with Him, and also those who return to Him and repent. For He promises, saying, ‘I am the bread of life; he that cometh unto Me shall not hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst65 .’ We too shall be counted worthy of these things, if at all times we cleave to our Saviour, and if we are pure, not only in these six days of Easter66 , but consider the whole course of our life as a feast67 , and continue near and do not go far off, saying to Him, ‘Thou hast the words of eternal life, and whither shall we go68 ?’ Let those of us who are far off return, confessing our iniquities, and having nothing against any man, but by the spirit mortifying the deeds of the body69 . For thus, having first nourished the soul here, we shall partake with angels at that heavenly and spiritual table; not knocking and being repulsed like those five foolish virgins70 , but entering with the Lord, like those who were wise and loved the bridegroom; and shewing the dying of Jesus in our bodies71 , we shall receive life and the kingdom from Him.
11. We begin the fast of forty days on the twenty-third of Mechir (Feb. 17), and the holy fast of the blessed feast on the twenty-eighth of Phamenoth (Mar. 24); and having joined to these six days after them, in fastings and watchings, as each one is able, let us rest on the third of the month Pharmuthi (Mar. 29), on the evening of the seventh day. Also that day which is holy and blessed in everything, which possesses the name of Christ, namely the Lord’s day72 , having risen upon us on the fourth of Pharmuthi (Mar. 30), let us afterwards keep the holy feast of Pentecost. Let us at all times worship the Father in Christ, through Whom to Him and with Him be glory and dominion by the Holy Ghost for ever and ever. Amen. All the brethren who are with me salute you: salute one another with a holy kiss.
There is no eighth or ninth, for he did not send them, for the reason before mentioned73 .
Here endeth the seventh Festal Letter of holy Athanasius the Patriarch.
1 The twentieth Letter, as far as it is extant, bears a great resemblance with this. In both, the comparison between natural and spiritual food is enlarged upon, and several of the same quotations are adduced tn them, to illustrate the character of sinners and their food, as contrasted with righteous, and the nourishment they derive from God.
2 (2Co 4,10,
3 (Ps 44,22,
4 (Col 3,5,
5 (Ga 5,25,
6 (2Co 4,13,
7 2Co 4,14, reading with R.V. marg. and Vulg. against Text. Rec. and Pesh).
8 (Is 26,10,
9 (Ep 5,14,
10 (Mt 25,11,
11 (Lc 13,25 Ps 9,17,
12 (Lv 11,13,
13 (Is 22,13,
14 Is 22,14.
15 (1Co 6,13,
16 (Ps 34,21,
17 (Col 3,5,
18 (Mt 5,8,
19 (Ps 116,15,
20 (Ga 2,20,
21 The quotation is uncertain, but see ad Diognet. 5,9; cf. also Ph 3,20, with which the passage in the text is coupled, and ascribed to ‘the Apostle,’ in the probably spurious Homily on Mt 21,2 (Migne 28,p. 177).
22 Cf). Letter 3,‘What else is the feast, but the service of God?’
23 Cf. 1Tm 2,9 sub fin.
24 Cf). Letter 6,3, note 14.
25 (Ps 115,17-18,
26 (Is 38,18,
27 Vid. Letter 6,2, note 10.
28 (1Co 5,7,
29 (Ps 1,16 Si 15,9, two texts are also quoted in juxta position, supr. p. 224.
30 (Pr 15,28,
31 1Co 6,14.
32 (Ps 118,17.
33 Cf. He 11,16.
34 Cf. Col 3,5.
35 (Jn 6,48,
36 Jn 6,51.
37 (Pr 9,17,
38 Pr 20,17.
39 Pr 5,3.
40 (Jr 2,18,
41 (Pr 9,18, LXX.
43 Pr 9,6.
44 (Jn 6,51,
45 Jn 6,48 Jn 6,51.
46 (Ps 17,15,
47 (Pr 10,3 Mt 5,6 Ps 132,15, he notices the various reading of the LXX, on the latter, Exp. in Ps in loc.
48 (Ps 42,1 Ps 62,1-2,
49 (Col 3,5).
50 (Jn 7,37,
51 Jn 7,38.
52 (He 11,6,
53 (Mt 15,26,
54 Mt 15,28.
55 (Rm 14,1,
56 (1Co 3,1 He 5,13,
57 (1Tm 4,6 2Tm 1,13,
58 Cf). Letter 1,6.
59 Cf. Ps 78,25.
60 (Lc 22,29-30,
61 Lc 14,15.
62 (He 10,29 Mt 22,12 Mt 22,14
63 Cf. Col 3,4.
64 (Lc 15,17).
65 (Jn 6,35,
66 Vid. Suicer. Thes. in. voc). apokew`, and the notes of Valesius on Euseb). Orat. in laud. Constant. ch. 9,With us Easter-week includes the six days following Easter-Sunday; with the Greeks, the ebdoma` twscwn was applied to the preceding six days, as here.
67 Vid. supr. Letters 5. 1, 7, 3. init.
68 (Jn 6,68,
69 (Rm 8,13,
70 Mt 25,1nd;12.
71 (2Co 4,10.
72 kuriwnumo"—kuriakh L. Vid. Suicer Thes. sub. voc. kuriakh. Expos. in Psalm. xcvii. 24.
73 See the Index. This notice suggests that the present collection of letters has undergone a recension since its union with the Index.