After a brief hiatus, the series on St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Lectures continues. Today’s post finishes up the 18th lecture.
22. The Faith which we rehearse contains in order the following,And in one Baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; and in one Holy Catholic Church; and in the resurrection of the flesh; and in eternal life.Now of Baptism and repentance I have spoken in the earliest Lectures; and my present remarks concerning the resurrection of the dead have been made with reference to the ArticleIn the resurrection of the flesh.Now then let me finish what still remains to be said for the Article,In one Holy Catholic Church,on which, though one might say many things, we will speak but briefly.
23. It is called Catholic then because it extends over all the world, from one end of the earth to the other; and because it teaches universally and completely one and all the doctrines which ought to come to men’s knowledge, concerning things both visible and invisible, heavenly and earthly ; and because it brings into subjection to godliness the whole race of mankind, governors and governed, learned and unlearned; and because it universally treats and heals the whole class of sins, which are committed by soul or body, and possesses in itself every form of virtue which is named, both in deeds and words, and in every kind of spiritual gifts.
24. And it is rightly named (Ecclesia) because it calls forth and assembles together all men; according as the Lord says in Leviticus, And make an assembly for all the congregation at the door of the tabernacle of witness. And it is to be noted, that the word assemble, is used for the first time in the Scriptures here, at the time when the Lord puts Aaron into the High-priesthood. And in Deuteronomy also the Lord says to Moses, Assemble the people unto Me, and let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me. Deuteronomy 4:10 And he again mentions the name of the Church, when he says concerning the Tables, And on them were written all the words which the Lord spoke with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the Assembly ; as if he had said more plainly, in the day in which you were called and gathered together by God. The Psalmist also says, I will give thanks unto You, O Lord, in the great Congregation; I will praise You among much people.
25. Of old the Psalmist sang, Bless ye God in the congregations, even the Lord, (ye that are) from the fountains of Israel. But after the Jews for the plots which they made against the Saviour were cast away from His grace, the Saviour built out of the Gentiles a second Holy Church, the Church of us Christians, concerning which he said to Peter, And upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18 And David prophesying of both these, said plainly of the first which was rejected, I have hated the Congregation of evil doers ; but of the second which is built up he says in the same Psalm, Lord, I have loved the beauty of Your house ; and immediately afterwards, In the Congregations will I bless you, O Lord. For now that the one Church in Judæa is cast off, the Churches of Christ are increased over all the world; and of them it is said in the Psalms, Sing unto the Lord a new song, His praise in the Congregation of Saints. Agreeably to which the prophet also said to the Jews, I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord Almighty Malachi 1:10; and immediately afterwards, For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, My name is glorified among the Gentiles. Concerning this Holy Catholic Church Paul writes to Timothy, That you may know how you ought to behave yourself in the House of God, which is the Church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth 1 Timothy 3:15 .
26. But since the word Ecclesia is applied to different things (as also it is written of the multitude in the theatre of the Ephesians, And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the Assembly Acts 19:14), and since one might properly and truly say that there is a Church of evil doers, I mean the meetings of the heretics, the Marcionists and Manichees, and the rest, for this cause the Faith has securely delivered to you now the Article,And in one Holy Catholic Church;that you may avoid their wretched meetings, and ever abide with the Holy Church Catholic in which you were regenerated. And if ever you are sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord’s House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Church, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God (for it is written, As Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it Ephesians 5:25, and all the rest,) and is a figure and copy of Jerusalem which is above, which is free, and the mother of us all Galatians 4:26; which before was barren, but now has many children.
27. For when the first Church was cast off, in the second, which is the Catholic Church, God has set, as Paul says, first Apostles, secondly Prophets, thirdly teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, various kinds of tongues 1 Corinthians 12:28, and every sort of virtue, I mean wisdom and understanding, temperance and justice, mercy and loving-kindness, and patience unconquerable in persecutions. She, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honour and dishonour 2 Corinthians 6:7-8, in former days amid persecutions and tribulations crowned the holy martyrs with the varied and blooming chaplets of patience, and now in times of peace by God’s grace receives her due honours from kings and those who are in high place 1 Timothy 2:2, and from every sort and kindred of men. And while the kings of particular nations have bounds set to their authority, the Holy Church Catholic alone extends her power without limit over the whole world; for God, as it is written, has made her border peace. But I should need many more hours for my discourse, if I wished to speak of all things which concern her.
28. In this Holy Catholic Church receiving instruction and behaving ourselves virtuously, we shall attain the kingdom of heaven, and inherit eternal life; for which also we endure all toils, that we may be made partakers thereof from the Lord. For ours is no trifling aim, but our endeavour is for eternal life. Wherefore in the profession of the Faith, after the words,And in the resurrection of the flesh,that is, of the dead (of which we have discoursed), we are taught to believe alsoin the life eternal,for which as Christians we are striving.
29. The real and true life then is the Father, who through the Son in the Holy Spirit pours forth as from a fountain His heavenly gifts to all; and through His love to man, the blessings of the life eternal are promised without fail to us men also. We must not disbelieve the possibility of this, but having an eye not to our own weakness but to His power, we must believe; for with God all things are possible. And that this is possible, and that we may look for eternal life, Daniel declares, And of the many righteous shall they shine as the stars for ever and ever. And Paul says, And so shall we be ever with the Lord 1 Thessalonians 4:17: for the being for ever with the Lord implies the life eternal. But most plainly of all the Saviour Himself says in the Gospel, And these shall go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into life eternal Matthew 25:46 .
30. And many are the proofs concerning the life eternal. And when we desire to gain this eternal life, the sacred Scriptures suggest to us the ways of gaining it; of which, because of the length of our discourse, the texts we now set before you shall be but few, the rest being left to the search of the diligent. They declare at one time that it is by faith; for it is written, He that believes in the Son has eternal life John 3:36, and what follows; and again He says Himself, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hears My word, and believes Him that sent Me, has eternal life , and the rest. At another time, it is by the preaching of the Gospel; for He says, that He that reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit unto life eternal. At another time, by martyrdom and confession in Christ’s name; for He says, And he that hates his life in this world, shall keep it unto life eternal. And again, by preferring Christ to riches or kindred; And every one that has forsaken brethren, or sisters Matthew 19:29, and the rest, shall inherit eternal life. Moreover it is by keeping the commandments, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill , and the rest which follow; as He answered to him that came to Him, and said, Good Master, what shall I do that I may have eternal life Mark 10:17? But further, it is by departing from evil works, and henceforth serving God; for Paul says, But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end eternal life Romans 6:22 .
31. And the ways of finding eternal life are many, though I have passed over them by reason of their number. For the Lord in His loving-kindness has opened, not one or two only, but many doors, by which to enter into the life eternal, that, as far as lay in Him, all might enjoy it without hindrance. Thus much have we for the present spoken within compass concerning the life eternal, which is the last doctrine of those professed in the Faith, and its termination; which life may we all, both teachers and hearers, by God’s grace enjoy!
32. And now, brethren beloved, the word of instruction exhorts you all, to prepare your souls for the reception of the heavenly gifts. As regards the Holy and Apostolic Faith delivered to you to profess, we have spoken through the grace of the Lord as many Lectures, as was possible, in these past days of Lent; not that this is all we ought to have said, for many are the points omitted; and these perchance are thought out better by more excellent teachers. But now the holy day of the Passover is at hand, and you, beloved in Christ, are to be enlightened by the Laver of regeneration. You shall therefore again be taught what is requisite, if God so will; with how great devotion and order you must enter in when summoned, for what purpose each of the holy mysteries of Baptism is performed, and with what reverence and order you must go from Baptism to the Holy Altar of God, and enjoy its spiritual and heavenly mysteries; that your souls being previously enlightened by the word of doctrine, you may discover in each particular the greatness of the gifts bestowed on you by God.
33. And after Easter’s Holy Day of salvation, you shall come on each successive day, beginning from the second day of the week, after the assembly into the Holy Place of the Resurrection , and there, if God permit, you shall hear other Lectures; in which you shall again be taught the reasons of every thing which has been done, and shall receive the proofs thereof from the Old and New Testaments,— first, of the things done just before Baptism,— next, how you were cleansed from your sins by the Lord, by the washing of water with the word Ephesians 5:26—and how like Priests you have become partakers of the Name of Christ—and how the Seal of the fellowship of the Holy Ghost was given to you—and concerning the mysteries at the Altar of the New Testament, which have taken their beginning from this place, both what the Divine Scriptures have delivered to us, and what is the power of these mysteries, and how ye must approach them, and when and how receive them—and at the end of all, how for the time to come ye must behave yourselves worthily of this grace both in words and deeds, that you may all be enabled to enjoy the life everlasting. And these things shall be spoken, if it be God’s pleasure.
34. Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice: for your redemption has drawn near , and the heavenly host of the Angels is waiting for your salvation. And there is now the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord Isaiah 40:3; and the Prophet cries, Ho, you that thirst, come ye to the water ; and immediately afterwards, Hearken unto me, and you shall eat that which is good, and your soul shall delight itself in good things. And within a little while you shall hear that excellent lesson which says, Shine, shine, O thou new Jerusalem; for your light has come. Isaiah 60:1 Of this Jerusalem the prophet has said, And afterwards you shall be called the city of righteousness, Zion, the faithful mother of cities ; because of the law which went forth out of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem , which word has from hence been showered forth on the whole world. To her the Prophet also says concerning you, Lift up your eyes round about, and behold your children gathered together ; and she answers, saying, Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as doves with their young ones to me ? (clouds because of their spiritual nature, and doves, from their purity). And again, she says, Who knows such things? Or who has seen it thus? Did ever a land bring forth in one day? Or was ever a nation born all at once? For as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. And all things shall be filled with joy unspeakable because of the Lord who said, Behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.
35. And may these words be spoken now again over you also, Sing, O heavens, and be joyful, O earth; and then; for the Lord has had mercy on His people, and comforted the lowly of His people. And this shall come to pass through the loving-kindness of God, who says to you, Behold, I will blot out as a cloud your transgressions, and as a thick cloud your sins. Isaiah 44:22 But ye who have been counted worthy of the name of Faithful (of whom it is written, Upon My servants shall be called a new name which shall be blessed on the earth ,) you shall say with gladness, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Ephesians 1:3 : in whom we have our redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of His grace, wherein He abounded towards us , and what follows; and again, But God being rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, when we were dead through our trespasses, quickened us together with Christ , and the rest. And again in like manner praise ye the Lord of all good things, saying, But when the kindness of God our Saviour, and His love towards man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we had done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, that being justified by His grace, we might be made heirs, according to hope, of eternal life. Titus 3:4 And may God Himself the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Himself, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened Ephesians 1:17-18, and may He ever keep you in good works, and words, and thoughts; to Whom be glory, honour, and power, through our Lord Jesus Christ, with the Holy Ghost, now and ever, and unto all the endless ages of eternity. Amen.