Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Sermon for Holy Saturday, by St. Ephiphanius, Part 3

(Part 1Part 2Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8)

(Note: This sermon reproduced from it's translation as found on page 33 of "The Lamentations of Matins of Holy and Great Saturday", translated from the Greek and published by the Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 
Boston, Massachusetts, 1981 
© Copyright Holy Transfiguration MonasteryBrookline, MA, used by permission. All rights reserved.)

But as to how Christ, our Life, was placed in the tomb, and when, and by whom, let us listen to the sacred words.
"When even was come," he says, "there came a rich man of Arimathaea named Joseph, and went boldly unto Pilate and begged from him the body of Jesus."4 A mortal went in before a mortal, asking to receive God; the God of mortals he begs; clay stands before clay so as to receive the Fashioner of all! Grass asks to receive from grass the Heavenly Fire; the miserable drop seeks to receive from a drop the whole Abyss!
Who ever saw, who ever heard such a thing? A man grants to a man the Creator of men; a lawless man undertakes to surrender the Definition of the Law of [sic — I think they meant "to"] lawless men; a judge deprived of judgment permits the burial of the Judge of judges Who has been judged to death.
"When even was come," he says, "there came a rich man named Joseph." Truly was this man rich who carried away the entire compound hypostasis of the Lord. Verily was he rich, because he received the twofold nature of Christ form Pilate. He was rich indeed, because he was accounted worthy to carry off the priceless Pearl. Truly was he rich, for he bore away the Pouch overflowing with the treasure of Divinity. And how should that man not be rich who acquired the Life and Salvation of the world? How should Joseph not be rich, who received as a gift Him that sustains and rules all things?
"When even was come," for the Sun of Righteousness had then set into Hades. Wherefore, "There came a rich man named Joseph of Arimathaea, who was a secret [disciple] for fear of the Jews. And there came also Nicodemus, which at first came to Jesus by night."5 O hidden mystery of mysteries! Two secret disciples came to conceal Jesus in a tomb, thus teaching by His concealment the mystery concealed in Hades of the God concealed in the flesh.
Each one of these men surpassed the other in their affection for Christ. For Nicodemus proved his magnanimity by the myrrh and aloes, and Joseph proved worthy of praise by his daring and boldness before Pilate. For he, casting off all fear, went in unto Pilate and begged the body of Jesus.
Now when he went in he acted very shrewdly, so as to obtain his longed-for aim. Wherefore, he did not employ high-sounding and pompous words, lest Pilate be moved to wrath and he fail in his request. Nor did he say to him, "Give me the body of Jesus, Who but a short time ago darkened the sun, split the rocks asunder, shook the earth, opened the sepulchres [sic], and rent the veil of the temple!" Nothing of the kind said he to Pilate.
But what, then? A certain pitiful plea, in every wise lowly. "O judge, I have come to make of thee a trifling of Him that was by thee condemned, Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the poor, Jesus the homeless, Jesus the crucified, the bound, the shelterless, the Stranger, Who in a strange land is unknown, Jesus the contemptible, Who fore all was suspended [on the Cross]."
"Give me this Stranger, for what profit to thee is the body of this Stranger? Give me this Stranger, for from afar He came to this place to save a stranger, to a dark region He descended to draw up a stranger. Give me this Stranger, for He alone is a stranger. Give me this Stranger, whose country we know not, the strangers. Give me this Stranger, whose place and birth and ways we know not, the strangers. Give me this Stranger, Who lived in a strange land a strange life and existence. Give me this Stranger, whose generation and disposition we know not, the strangers. Give me this Stranger, Who had not where to lay His head. Give me this Stranger, Who as a homeless stranger in a strange land was born in a manger. Give me this Stranger, Who from the very manger fled Herod as a stranger. Give me this Stranger, Who from His very swaddling bands was a stranger in Egypt, Who has not city, no village, no home, no abode, no kindred, for this Stranger is found in foreign lands with His Mother.
Give me, O prince, this naked man on the Cross that I may cover Him that covered my nature's nakedness. Give me Him that is both a dead man and God, that I may shroud Him that has hidden mine iniquities. Give me, O prince, this dead man Who buried my sin in Jordan. I entreat thee for a dead man Who suffered injustice from all, Who by a friend was sold, Who by a disciple was betrayed, Who by brethren was persecuted, Who by a slave was smitten.
For a dead man I interceded, Who was condemned by them that He freed fro slavery, Who by them was given vinegar to drink. Who by them that He healed was wounded, Who by His own disciples was forsaken, Who of His own Mother was bereaved. For a dead man, O prince, I beseech, that homeless One Who was suspended on the Cross, for He has no father near Him upon the earth, no friend, no disciple, no kindred, no burier. Nay, He is alone, the Only-begotten of the Unique, God in the world, and none else save He."

(Next, about the burial itself, then the descent into Hades. Stay tuned!)

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