Melito of Sardis: What is the Pascha?

Bright Monday and Feast of Martin the Confessor

Melito_Square.jpgWHAT IS THE Pascha? It is called by its name because of what constitutes it: from “suffer” comes “suffering.” Therefore learn who is the suffering one, and who shares in the suffering of one’s suffering, and why the Lord is present on the earth to surround himself with the suffering one, and take him to the heights of heaven.

God, in the beginning, having made the heaven and the earth and all in them through the Word, formed humanity from the earth and shared his own breath. He set him in the garden in the east, in Eden, there to rejoice. There he laid down for him the law, through his commandment: “Eat food and all the trees in the garden yet eat not from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; on the day that you eat you shall die.” The man was susceptible by nature of good and evil, as a clod of earth my receive seed of either kind, and he consented to the wicked and seductive counselor, and stretched out for the tree and broke the commandment and disobeyed God. For this was he thrown out into this world, condemned as though to prison. This man became fecund and long-lived, yet through tasting of the tree he was destroyed, and was dissolved into the earth. He left an inheritance to his children, and as an inheritance he left his children: not purity but lust; not incorruption but decay; not honor but dishonor; not freedom but bondage; not sovereignty but tyranny; not life but death; not salvation but destruction. […]

Sin rejoiced in all of this, working together with death, making forays into human souls and preparing the bodies of the dead as his food. Sin set his sign on every one and those on whom he etched his mark were doomed to death. All flesh fell under sin, and every body under death, and every soul was plucked from its dwelling of flesh, and that which was taken from the dust was reduced to dust, and the gift of God was locked away in Hades. What was marvelously knit together was unraveled, and the beautiful body divided. Humanity was doled out by death, for a strange disaster and captivity surrounded him; he was dragged off a captive under the shadow of death, and the father’s image was left desolate. For this reason in the body of the Lord is the paschal mystery completed.

—Melito of Sardis, On Pascha

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