Sunset - Larnaca

Sunset - Larnaca

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Melito of Sardis - on his Paschal Homily

Melito of Sardis, in his Paschal Homily (170AD) , highlights that the mystery of salvation has been revealed and clarified by Christ’s manifestation on earth. The Old Testament Scriptures were a preparation, and a model of the joy to come. The Incarnate Logos fulfilled and renewed the Jewish Scriptures, the nation of Israel and the whole world through His Resurrection. For this reason Melito tells us that the Law is somewhat useless to us now, as we have the full reality of the Gospel, and the mystery of Pasch is truly revealed in its fullness. The sacrifices of the animals, the Jewish worship in the temple, and the Law are now without value - as Christ is the sacrifice and salvation; ‘the Son without blemish.’ 

Melito then discusses the consequences of the fall - ancestral sin. ‘He left an inheritance to his children..’ Several examples are given, showing the bitter consequences of fallen humanity, and the separation between God and man:

‘ Not sexual purity, but sexual license;
not imperishability, but corruption;
not worth, but worthlessness,
not freedom, but slavery;
not kingship, but tyranny;
not salvation, but destruction.’

Humanity had been ‘taken captive by the tyranny of sin’, and this had led to a complete separation between God and man; with the evil and self-centred desires and pleasures of humanity, contrasting with the holy will of the Creator. 

‘The image of the Father was lying abandoned.’

Melito then describes the process of renewal - building the bridge between God, and His fallen humanity. It was an ongoing process, working through the Law and the Prophets, through to the Incarnation of the Logos, and Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 

‘Through the words of the prophets too the mystery of the Lord is being proclaimed.’ 

Melito quotes from Isaiah, emphasising the revelation of Christ in the Old Testament Scriptures - and this process leading to the Resurrection of the Lord. In this moving paragraph, he then explains that Jesus is indeed the Christ, Who came down to us on earth in order to bring salvation and a renewed communion and relationship with ‘Our Father in Heaven’ :

‘And He wrapped Himself in that suffering one in a virgin’s womb and came forth a human being. Through a body which is able to suffer He received the sufferings of the suffering one and loosed the sufferings of the flesh. And with the Spirit which cannot die he put to death death, the killer of humankind.’ 

This sums up the mystery of Pasch beautifully; the Pasch that has been unfolding through the Old Testament, its Prophets and its law - and is finally fulfilled in Christ, the Lamb of God.

The homily is concluded with the death of Christ, with much emphasis on how the people of Israel had killed their very God, Saviour and Master. ‘’You have killed your Lord in the midst of Jerusalem.’ Furthermore, Melito ends this piece with glorification to ‘the alpha and the omega’, the One who is the true Pasch, the Resurrection and the Life. 

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