Day 2/50 of Eastertide (Holy Fifty Days) – Celebrate the Feast with actions, not just words – St. Athanasius the Apostolic

The gladness of our feast, my brethren, is always near at hand, and never fails those who wish to celebrate it. For the Word is near, Who is all things on our behalf, even our Lord Jesus Christ, Who, having promised that His habitation with us should be perpetual, in virtue thereof cried, saying, ‘Lo, I am with you all the days of the world’ (Mat 28:20). For as He is the Shepherd, and the High Priest, and the Way and the Door, and everything at once to us, so again, He is shown to us as the Feast, and the Holy day, according to the blessed Apostle; ‘Our Passover, Christ, is sacrificed’ (1 Cor 5:7).  He it was who was expected, He caused a light to shine at the prayer of the Psalmist, who said, ‘My Joy, deliver me from those who surround me’ (Ps 31:7 LXX); this being indeed true rejoicing, this being a true feast, even deliverance from wickedness, whereto a man attains by thoroughly adopting an upright conversation, and being approved in his mind of godly submission towards God.

For thus the saints all their lives long were like men rejoicing at a feast. One found rest in prayer to God, as blessed David (Ps 119:62, 164), who rose in the night, not once but seven times. Another gave glory in songs of praise, as great Moses, who sang a song of praise for the victory over Pharaoh, and those task-masters (Ex 15). Others performed worship with unceasing diligence, like great Samuel and blessed Elijah; who have ceased from their course, and now keep the feast in heaven, and rejoice in what they formerly learnt through shadows, and from the types recognise the truth.

But what sprinklings shall we now employ, while we celebrate the feast? Who will be our guide, as we haste to this festival? None can do this, my beloved, but Him Whom you will name with me, even our Lord Jesus Christ Who said, ‘I am the Way.’ For it is He Who, according to the blessed John, ‘taketh away the sin of the world’ (Jn 14:6, 1:29). He purifies our souls, as Jeremiah the prophet says in a certain place, ‘Stand in the ways and see, and enquire, and look which is the good path, and you shall find in it cleansing for your souls’ (Jer 6:16).

Of old time, the blood of he-goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkled upon those who were unclean, were fit only to purify the flesh (Heb 9:13); but now, through the grace of God the Word, every man is thoroughly cleansed. Following Him, we may, even here, as on the threshold of the Jerusalem which is above, meditate beforehand on the feast which is eternal, as also the blessed Apostles, together following the Saviour Who was their Leader, have now become teachers of a like grace, saying, ‘Behold, we have left all, and followed You (Mk 10:28).’

For the following of the Lord, and the feast which is of the Lord, is not accomplished by words only, but by deeds, every enactment of laws and every command involving a distinct performance. For as great Moses, when administering the holy laws, exacted a promise from the people (Ex19:8), respecting the practice of them, so that having promised, they might not neglect them, and be accused as liars, thus also, the celebration of the least of the Passover raises no question, and demands no reply; but when the word is given, the performance of it follows, for He saith, ‘And the children of Israel shall keep the Passover’ (Ex 12:47); intending that there should be a ready performance of the commandment, while the command should aid its execution. But respecting these matters, I have confidence in your wisdom, and your care for instruction. Such points as these have been touched upon by us often and in various Letters.

[St. Athanasius I of Alexandria, Festal Letter XIV, 342AD]

 

Some points of contemplation and prayer from the above:

+ Lord, thank You for always being there for me, and granting that the Feast of Your Resurrection always be a time of joy +

+ Lord, grant me to live the joy of Your Resurrection not just now, but all throughout my life +

+ Lord, purify me and teach me to keep your commandments, to keep the Feast of Your Resurrection in the way you want me to, which is in good works with purity of heart. Let it not be a superficial celebration, but one I celebrate truly with my actions that will please You +

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