Every year Moore Theological College in Australia has the Annual Moore College Lectures where they have someone give a series of lectures, open to the public, on “some aspect of the Reformed and Evangelical faith either by way of biblical exposition or systematic theology.” In 2016 they had Dr. Paul Williamson, who I believe is on their faculty, speak on the subject of death and eschatology, and here is his initial lecture.
Here again is perhaps my favorite Easter hymn from the Fathers, the Peri Pascha of Melito of Sardis. It always takes my breath away both for its beauty and for its being unsurpassed as a homily for this joyous day, though it may be the earliest we still have:
66. When this one came from heaven to earth for the sake of the one who suffers, and had clothed himself with that very one through the womb of a virgin, and having come forth as man, he accepted the sufferings of the sufferer through his body which was capable of suffering. And he destroyed those human sufferings by his spirit which was incapable of dying. He killed death which had put man to. For this one, who was led away as a lamb, and who was sacrificed as a sheep, by himself delivered us from servitude to the world as from the land of Egypt, and released us from bondage to the devil as from the hand of Pharaoh, and sealed our souls by his own spirit and the members of our bodies by his own blood.
68. This is the one who covered death with shame and who plunged the devil into mourning as Moses did Pharaoh. This is the one who smote lawlessness and deprived injustice of its offspring, as Moses deprived Egypt. This is the one who delivered us from slavery into freedom, from darkness into light, from death into life, from tyranny into an eternal kingdom, and who made us a new priesthood, and a special people forever.
69. This one is the passover of our salvation. This is the one who patiently endured many things in many people: This is the one who was murdered in Abel, and bound as a sacrifice in Isaac, and exiled in Jacob, and sold in Joseph, and exposed in Moses, and sacrificed in the lamb, and hunted down in David, and dishonored in the prophets.
70. This is the one who became human in a virgin, who was hanged on the tree, who was buried in the earth, who was resurrected from among the dead, and who raised mankind up out of the grave below to the heights of heaven.
71. This is the lamb that was slain. This is the lamb that was silent. This is the one who was born of Mary, that beautiful ewe-lamb. This is the one who was taken from the flock, and was dragged to sacrifice, and was killed in the evening, and was buried at night; the one who was not broken while on the tree, who did not see dissolution while in the earth, who rose up from the dead, and who raised up mankind from the grave below.
I wish all of you another joyous Resurrection Day–may He live in your hearts as surely as He lives today at the right hand of the Father, and may we be at peace, knowing we will live with Him in the world to come.
If you like the hymn Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?, this is a remarkable performance of it by The Annie Moses Band. I guess I’d call it something of a fusion of chamber music and pop – but it is very much worth hearing. In fact I may go hear them when they come to my area.
From Faith and Life, here is a reading from Augustine of Hippo for the eve of Easter:
When it has been said in the Creed, “Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary,” what comes next, on our behalf? There follows, “Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was Crucified, dead, and buried.” God’s Only Son, our Lord, who was crucified, is God’s Only Son, our Lord, who was buried. As Man, He was crucified; as Man, buried; God was not changed, God was not yet slain, and yet He was slain as to His Manhood. “For,” says the Apostle, “had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” He both showed Him to be the Lord of glory, and confessed Him to have been crucified. He is our Lord, He is the Father’s Only Son, He is our Saviour, He is the Lord of glory; yet He was crucified; but it was in the flesh, and in the flesh alone was He buried. For where He was buried, and when He was buried, then and there His soul was not. In flesh alone He lay in the sepulchre; yet thou confessest that He was “conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary,” who is “Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord:” He was “crucified under Pontius Pilate,” who is “Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord:” and He was “buried,” who is “Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord.” Only the Flesh lies there, and sayest thou, “Our Lord?” Yes, certainly I say it; for I see the garment, and I adore the Wearer. That flesh was His garment. Let us not despise the mere flesh. When it lay there, then it bought us.
–St. Augustine, Sermon ccxiii.
Such a profound mystery is the Incarnation, but we do not have to comprehend or fully understand it; we simply have to accept the wondrous Gift of our salvation.
From Faith and Life: readings complied from ancient writers, here is an excerpt from Alexander of Alexandria, who was Patriarch of Alexandria in the fourth century, and mentor to Athanasius. (I mentioned this one in previous years.) Like him, Alexander was a strong proponent of the orthodox faith against Arius.
Behold what a return Israel made for benefits! They slew their Benefactor, rendering evil for good, affliction for joy, death for life. Him who had raised their dead, healed their lame, cleansed their lepers, opened the eyes of their blind, they nailed on the wood; they hung up on the tree Him who spread out the earth; they pierced with nails Him who laid the foundations of the world; they bound Him who absolved sinners; they gave Him vinegar and gall to taste, who offered the food and drink of life and righteousness; they marred His hands and feet, who had brought healing to theirs; they closed His eyes, who had opened theirs; they committed Him to the sepulchre, who raised up the dead, not only before His Passion, but even while hanging on the Cross. Creation, in amazement, said, “What is this new mystery? The Judge is judged, and is silent; the Invisible is beheld, and is not confounded; the Infinite is seized, and is not wrathful; the Immeasurable is circumscribed, and resists not; the Impassible suffers, and avenges not Himself; the Immortal dies, and complains not; the Celestial is buried, and calmly bears it.” For the Lord Incarnate was condemned, in order to bestow mercy on us; bound, in order to loose us; seized, in order to free us; He suffered, to heal our sufferings; He died, to restore life to us; He was buried, to raise us up again. One, in truth, was condemned, thousands were set free; One was buried, thousands rose again. This is the Mediator between God and men; this is the Resurrection and Salvation of all; this is the Guide of the erring, the Shepherd of rescued men, the Life of the dead, the Rider on the cherub-car, the Leader of Angels, and the King of kings; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
–St. Alexander of Alexandria
This Good Friday, let us remember that He suffered that we might be healed.
For Maundy Thursday, here is a reading from Faith and Life, from Irenaeus of Lyon:
He took the creature of bread, and gave thanks, saying, “This is My Body.” And likewise the Cup, which belongs to this our creation, He declared to be His Blood; and taught the new oblation of the New Testament, which the Church, receiving from the Apostles, offers throughout the whole world to God, to Him who bestows food on us, the first-fruits of His gifts, in the New Testament. Of which oblation Malachi, among the twelve prophets, thus gave intimation beforehand, “I have no pleasure in you, neither will I receive an offering at your hand, saith the Lord of hosts. For from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof My Name shall be great among the Gentiles, and in every place incense shall be offered unto My Name, and a pure offering.” We offer unto Him His own, proclaiming in due accord the fellowship and union, and confessing the resurrection of the flesh and spirit . For as the bread from the earth, receiving the Divine invocation, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two things, an earthly and a heavenly, so also our bodies, receiving the Eucharist, are no longer perishable, having the hope of the Resurrection unto life everlasting.
–St. Irenaeus against Heresies, iv. 17, 18.
A very fitting reading for Maundy Thursday!
For Holy Week: “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” guitar and cello duet by Jack Marti and Elisabeth Montague
For Holy Week, this is a wonderful rendition of O Sacred Head Now Wounded by Jack Marti on guitar and Elisabeth Montague on cello. I have posted it in years past and have found none better than this performance.
Again from Faith and Life, here is a reading for Palm Sunday from the great Athanasius of Alexandria:
It was not to save Himself, but to save those who were condemned to death, that the immortal God came; and it was not for Himself, but for us, that He suffered: so that it was for this end that He took on Himself our meanness and our poverty, that He might bestow on us His own riches. For His Passion is our relief from suffering, and His Death is our immortality, and His tears are our joy, and His burial is our resurrection, and His baptism is our sanctification, and His stripes are our healing, and His chastisement is our peace, and His ignominy is our glory.
–St. Athanasius on the Incarnation and against the Arians, c. 5.
In His death we gain our new life.
Here is another reading for Palm Sunday from Faith and Life, this one from St. Basil:
Seek not to have thy brother for thy redeemer, but to have One who transcends thine own nature; neither a mere man, but the God-Man, Jesus Christ, who alone can offer to God a propitiatory Sacrifice for all of us, because “God appointed Him as a propitiation through faith in His Blood.” For what can a man find that is so valuable as that he can offer it for the redemption of his soul? But there was found one thing, equal in value to all men put together, which was given as the price of redemption of our soul,—even the holy and most precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He shed for us all; therefore were we “bought with a price.” “If then a brother redeems not, shall a man redeem?” And if a man cannot redeem us, He who redeemed us is not a man. Do not then, because of His having sojourned with us “in the likeness of sinful flesh,” suppose our Lord to be a mere man, ignoring the power of His Godhead. For He had no need to offer to God an atonement for Himself, nor to redeem His own soul, seeing that “He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.” No man, then, is able to redeem himself, unless He comes who turns again the people’s captivity, not with ransom-money nor with gifts, as is written in Isaiah, but by His own Blood. And whereas we were no brethren of His, but had become His enemies by our offences, He, not being a mere man, but God, after freely bestowing on us liberty, calls us even His own brethren. For, says He, “I will declare Thy Name unto My brethren.” He, then, who redeemed us, if you look at His (original) nature, is not our; brother, nor man; but if you look at that condescension to us which is the result of His grace, He calls us brethren, and stoops to Manhood,—He who will not give to God an atonement for Himself, but for the whole world. For He needs no propitiation: He is a Propitiation Himself. “For such a High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, then for the errors of the people.
–St. Basil, Homily on Psalm xlviii.
He needed no salvation for Himself, but died and rose again to save us. For us, there is no greater love than this.
From Faith and Life, here is another reading for Palm Sunday, this one being from Cyril of Jerusalem:
We were enemies of God by means of Sin; and God ordained that the sinner should die. Of two things, then, one must needs have happened; either that God should adhere to His word, and destroy all men, or that by giving scope to His benignity He should annul His sentence. But see the wisdom of God. He secured, at once, reality for His sentence, and active operation for His benignity. Christ “took on Himself our sins in His body, on the Tree, that we, being dead to sins” through His death, “should live unto righteousness.” He that died for our sakes was not of small account. He was not a literal sheep, He was not a mere man, He was not simply an Angel, but He was God Incarnate. The iniquity of the sinners was not so great as was the righteousness of Him that died for them. Our sins did not equal the amount of His righteousness, who laid down His life for us, who laid it down when He pleased, and when He pleased resumed it.
–St Cyril of Jerusalem, Lecture xiii. 53.
Because He is God, and infinitely holy, all our iniquity, though great indeed it is, cannot outweigh His righteousness.