Tradition Thursday- #35

And here we are again on a Thursday, continuing the Catechetical lectures of St. Cyril of Jerusalem. This post features his fourteenth letter. As before, it examines the Nicene Creed. The first part of the lecture is featured today:

1 Corinthians 15:1-4

Now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel which I preached unto you…. that He has been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, etc.

Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and keep high festival, all you that love Jesus; for He is risen. Rejoice, all you that mourned before Isaiah 66:10, when you heard of the daring and wicked deeds of the Jews: for He who was spitefully entreated of them in this place is risen again. And as the discourse concerning the Cross was a sorrowful one, so let the good tidings of the Resurrection bring joy to the hearers. Let mourning be turned into gladness, and lamentation to joy: and let our mouth be filled with joy and gladness, because of Him, who after His resurrection, said Rejoice. For I know the sorrow of Christ’s friends in these past days; because, as our discourse stopped short at the Death and the Burial, and did not tell the good tidings of the Resurrection, your mind was in suspense, to hear what you were longing for.

Now, therefore, the Dead is risen, He who was free among the dead , and the deliverer of the dead. He who in dishonour wore patiently the crown of thorns, even He arose, and crowned Himself with the diadem of His victory over death.

2. As then we set forth the testimonies concerning His Cross, so come let us now verify the proofs of His Resurrection also: since the Apostle before us affirms, He was buried, and has been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. As an Apostle, therefore, has sent us back to the testimonies of the Scriptures, it is good that we should get full knowledge of the hope of our salvation; and that we should learn first whether the divine Scriptures tell us the season of His resurrection, whether it comes in summer or in autumn, or after winter; and from what kind of place the Saviour has risen, and what has been announced in the admirable Prophets as the name of the place of the Resurrection, and whether the women, who sought and found Him not, afterwards rejoice at finding Him; in order that when the Gospels are read, the narratives of these holy Scriptures may not be thought fables nor rhapsodies.

3. That the Saviour then was buried, you have heard distinctly in the preceding discourse, as Isaiah says, His burial shall be in peace : for in His burial He made peace between heaven and earth, bringing sinners unto God: and, that the righteous is taken out of the way of unrighteousness : and, His burial shall be in peace: and, I will give the wicked for His burial. There is also the prophecy of Jacob saying in the Scriptures, He lay down and couched as a lion, and as a lion’s cub: who shall rouse Him up Genesis 49:9? And the similar passage in Numbers, He couched, He lay down as a lion, and as a lion’s whelp. Numbers 24:9 The Psalm also you have often heard, which says, And You have brought me down into the dust of death. Moreover we took note of the spot, when we quoted the words, Look unto the rock, which you have hewn. But now let the testimonies concerning His resurrection itself go with us on our way.

4. First, then, in the 11th Psalm He says, For the misery of the poor, and the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, says the Lord. But this passage still remains doubtful with some: for He often rises up also in anger , to take vengeance upon His enemies.

Come then to the 15th Psalm, which says distinctly: Preserve Me, O Lord, for in You have I put my trust : and after this, their assemblies of blood will I not join, nor make mention of their names between my lips ; since they have refused me, and chosen Cæsar as their king : and also the next words, I foresaw the Lord alway before Me, because He is at My right hand, that I may not be moved : and soon after Yea and even until night my reins chastened me. And after this He says most plainly, For You will not leave My soul in hell ; neither will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. He said not, neither will You allow Your Holy One to see death, since then He would not have died; but corruption, says He, I see not, and shall not abide in death. You have made known to Me the ways of life. Behold here is plainly preached a life after death. Come also to the 29th Psalm, I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted Me up, and hast not made My foes to rejoice over Me. What is it that took place? Were you rescued from enemies, or were you released when about to be smitten? He says himself most plainly, O Lord, You have brought up My soul from hell. There he says, You will not leave, prophetically: and here he speaks of that which is to take place as having taken place, You have brought up. You have saved Me from them that go down into the pit. At what time shall the event occur? Weeping shall continue for the evening, and joy comes in the morning : for in the evening was the sorrow of the disciplines, and in the morning the joy of the resurrection.

5. But would you know the place also? Again He says in Canticles, I went down into the garden of nuts Song of Songs 4:11; for it was a garden where He was crucified. For though it has now been most highly adorned with royal gifts, yet formerly it was a garden, and the signs and the remnants of this remain. A garden enclosed, a fountain sealed Song of Songs 4:12, by the Jews who said, We remember that that deceiver said while He was yet alive, After three days, I will rise: command, therefore, that the sepulchre be made sure; and further on, So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone with the guard. Matthew 27:63, 65 And aiming well at these, one says, and in rest You shall judge them. But who is the fountain that is sealed, or who is interpreted as being a well-spring of living water Song of Songs 4:15? It is the Saviour Himself, concerning whom it is written, For with You is the fountain of life.

6. But what says Zephaniah in the person of Christ to the disciples? Prepare yourself, be rising at the dawn: all their gleaning is destroyed : the gleaning, that is, of the Jews, with whom there is not a cluster, nay not even a gleaning of salvation left; for their vine is cut down. See how He says to the disciples, Prepare yourself, rise up at dawn: at dawn expect the Resurrection.

And farther on in the same context of Scripture He says, Therefore wait thou for Me, says the Lord, until the day of My Resurrection at the Testimony. You see that the Prophet foresaw the place also of the Resurrection, which was to be surnamed the Testimony. For what is the reason that this spot of Golgotha and of the Resurrection is not called, like the rest of the Churches, a Church, but a Testimony? Why, perhaps, it was because of the Prophet, who had said, until the day of My Resurrection at the Testimony.

7. And who then is this, and what is the sign of Him that rises? In the words of the Prophet that follow in the same context, He says plainly, For then will I turn to the peoples a language : since, after the Resurrection, when the Holy Ghost was sent forth the gift of tongues was granted, that they might serve the Lord under one yoke. And what other token is set forth in the same Prophet, that they should serve the Lord under one yoke? From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia they shall bring me offerings. You know what is written in the Acts, when the Ethiopian eunuch came from beyond the rivers of Ethiopia. Acts 8:27 When therefore the Scriptures tell both the time and the peculiarity of the place, when they tell also the signs which followed the Resurrection, have thou henceforward a firm faith in the Resurrection, and let no one stir you from confessing Christ risen from the dead 2 Timothy 2:8 .

8. Now take also another testimony in the 87th Psalm, where Christ speaks in the Prophets, (for He who then spoke came afterwards among us): O Lord, God of My salvation, I have cried day and night before You, and a little, farther on, I became as it were a man without help, free among the dead. He said not, I became a man without help; but, as it were a man without help. For indeed He was crucified not from weakness, but willingly and His Death was not from involuntary weakness. I was counted with them that go down into the pit. And what is the token? You have put away Mine acquaintance far from Me (for the disciples have fled). Will You show wonders to the dead ? Then a little while afterwards: And unto You have I cried, O Lord ; and in the morning shall my prayer come before You. Do you see how they show the exact point of the Hour, and of the Passion and of the Resurrection?

9. And whence has the Saviour risen? He says in the Song of Songs: Rise up, come, My neighbour : and in what follows, in a cave of the rock! A cave of the rock He called the cave which was erewhile before the door of the Saviour’s sepulchre, and had been hewn out of the rock itself, as is wont to be done here in front of the sepulchres. For now it is not to be seen, since the outer cave was cut away at that time for the sake of the present adornment. For before the decoration of the sepulchre by the royal munificence, there was a cave in the front of the rock. But where is the rock that had in it the cave? Does it lie near the middle of the city, or near the walls and the outskirts? And whether is it within the ancient walls, or within the outer walls which were built afterwards? He says then in the Canticles: in a cave of the rock, close to the outer wall.

10. At what season does the Saviour rise? Is it the season of summer, or some other? In the same Canticles immediately before the words quoted He says, The winter is past, the rain is past and gone ; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the pruning has come. Is not then the earth full of flowers now, and are they not pruning the vines? You see how he said also that the winter is now past. For when this month Xanthicus has come, it is already spring. And this is the season, the first month with the Hebrews, in which occurs the festival of the Passover, the typical formerly, but now the true. This is the season of the creation of the world: for then God said, Let the earth bring forth herbage of grass, yielding seed after his kind and after his likeness. And now, as you see, already every herb is yielding seed. And as at that time God made the sun and moon and gave them courses of equal day (and night), so also a few days since was the season of the equinox.

At that time God said, let us make man after our image and after our likeness. And the image he received, but the likeness through his disobedience he obscured. At the same season then in which he lost this the restoration also took place. At the same season as the created man through disobedience was cast out of Paradise, he who believed was through obedience brought in. Our Salvation then took place at the same season as the Fall: when the flowers appeared, and the pruning had come.

11. A garden was the place of His Burial, and a vine that which was planted there: and He has said, I am the vine! He was planted therefore in the earth in order that the curse which came because of Adam might be rooted out. The earth was condemned to thorns and thistles: the true Vine sprang up out of the earth, that the saying might be fulfilled, Truth sprang up out of the earth, and righteousness looked down from heaven. And what will He that is buried in the garden say? I have gathered My myrrh with My spices: and again, Myrrh and aloes, with all chief spices. Now these are the symbols of the burying; and in the Gospels it is said, The women came unto the sepulchre bringing the spices which they had prepared Luke 24:1 : Nicodemus also bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes. John 19:39 And farther on it is written, I did eat My bread with My honey : the bitter before the Passion, and the sweet after the Resurrection. Then after He had risen He entered through closed doors: but they believed not that it was He: for they supposed that they beheld a spirit. Luke 24:37 But He said, Handle Me and see. Put your fingers into the print of the nails, as Thomas required. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, He said to them, Have you anything to eat here? And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and honeycomb. Luke 24:41 Do you see how that is fulfilled, I ate My bread with My honey.

12. But before He entered through the closed doors, the Bridegroom and Suitor of souls was sought by those noble and brave women. They came, those blessed ones, to the sepulchre, and sought Him Who had been raised, and the tears were still dropping from their eyes, when they ought rather to have been dancing with joy for Him that had risen. Mary came seeking Him, according to the Gospel, and found Him not: and presently she heard from the Angels, and afterwards saw the Christ. Are then these things also written? He says in the Song of Songs, On my bed I sought Him whom my soul loved. At what season? By night on my bed I sought Him Whom my soul loved: Mary, it says, came while it was yet dark. On my bed I sought Him by night, I sought Him, and I found Him not. And in the Gospels Mary says, They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him. John 20:13 But the Angels being then present cure their want of knowledge; for they said, Why do you seek the living among the dead Luke 24:5? He not only rose, but had also the dead with Him when He rose. Matthew 27:52 But she knew not, and in her person the Song of Songs said to the Angels, Saw ye Him Whom my soul loved? It was but a little that I passed from them (that is, from the two Angels), until I found Him Whom my soul loved. I held Him, and would not let Him go Song of Songs 3:3-4 .

13. For after the vision of the Angels, Jesus came as His own Herald; and the Gospel says, And behold Jesus met them, saying, All hail! And they came and took hold of His feet. Matthew 28:9 They took hold of Him, that it might be fulfilled, I will hold Him, and will not let Him go. Though the woman was weak in body, her spirit was manful. Many waters quench not love, neither do rivers drown it Song of Songs 8:7; He was dead whom they sought, yet was not the hope of the Resurrection quenched. And the Angel says to them again, Fear not ye; I say not to the soldiers, fear not, but to you ; as for them, let them be afraid, that, taught by experience, they may bear witness and say, Truly this was the Son of God Matthew 27:54; but you ought not to be afraid, for perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18 Go, tell His disciples that He is risen Matthew 28:7; and the rest. And they depart with joy, yet full of fear; is this also written? yes, the second Psalm, which relates the Passion of Christ, says, Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice unto Him with tremblingrejoice, because of the risen Lord; but with trembling, because of the earthquake, and the Angel who appeared as lightning.

14. Though, therefore, Chief Priests and Pharisees through Pilate’s means sealed the tomb; yet the women beheld Him who was risen. And Esaias knowing the feebleness of the Chief Priests, and the women’s strength of faith, says, You women, who come from beholding, come hither ; for the people has no understanding;— the Chief Priests want understanding, while women are eye-witnesses. And when the soldiers came into the city to them, and told them all that had come to pass, they said to them, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole Him away while we slept Matthew 28:13? Well therefore did Esaias foretell this also, as in their persons, But tell us, and relate to us another deceit. Isaiah 30:10 He who rose again, is up, and for a gift of money they persuade the soldiers; but they persuade not the kings of our time. The soldiers then surrendered the truth for silver; but the kings of this day have, in their piety, built this holy Church of the Resurrection of God our Saviour, inlaid with silver and wrought with gold, in which we are assembled ; and embellished it with the treasures of silver and gold and precious stones. And if this come to the governor’s ears, they say, we will persuade him Peter’s guards were condemned when he escaped out of the prison, were not they also who watched Jesus Christ condemned? Upon the former, sentence was pronounced by Herod, for they were ignorant and had nothing to say for themselves; while the latter, who had seen the truth, and concealed it for money, were protected by the Chief Priests. Nevertheless, though but a few of the Jews were persuaded at the time, the world became obedient. They who hid the truth were themselves hidden; but they who received it were made manifest by the power of the Saviour, who not only rose from the dead, but also raised the dead with Himself. And in the person of these the Prophet Osee says plainly, After two days will He revive us, and in the third day we shall rise again, and shall live in His sight Hosea 6:2 .

15. But since the disobedient Jews will not be persuaded by the Divine Scriptures, but forgetting all that is written gainsay the Resurrection of Jesus, it were good to answer them thus: On what ground, while you say that Eliseus and Elias raised the dead, do you gainsay the Resurrection of our Saviour? Is it that we have no living witnesses now out of that generation to what we say? Well, do you also bring forward witnesses of the history of that time. But that is written—so is this also written: why then do you receive the one, and reject the other? They were Hebrews who wrote that history; so were all the Apostles Hebrews: why then do you disbelieve the Jews ? Matthew who wrote the Gospel wrote it in the Hebrew tongue ; and Paul the preacher was a Hebrew of the Hebrews; and the twelve Apostles were all of Hebrew race: then fifteen Bishops of Jerusalem were appointed in succession from among the Hebrews. What then is your reason for allowing your own accounts, and rejecting ours, though these also are written by Hebrews from among yourselves.

(Source)

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