Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Sermon for Holy Saturday, by St. Ephiphanius, Part 4

(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.)

When these things Joseph spake to Pilate on this wise, Pilate commanded that the all-holy body of Jesus be given him. And he went to the place called Golgotha and took God in the flesh down from the Cross and laid Him on the earth, naked God in the flesh, Him that was not merely a man.

Lo, He is beheld lying low Who drew all men on high. And He for a brief time is bereft of breath Who is the Life and Breath of all. He is seen bereft of eyes Who created the many-eyed beings. He lies prostrate Who is the resurrection of all. And God is slain in the flesh Who raised up the dead. The thunder of God the Word is now silent for an instant, and He is borne in the arms of men Who holds the earth in His hand.

Dost thou really, O Joseph, know Whom thou wast given when thou didst ask and receive? Dost thou truly know Whom thou didst carry when thou camest to the Cross and didst bring down Jesus? If in truth thou knowest Whom thou didst carry, thou art now verily become rich.

And how is it that thou givest burial to this most awesome body of God? Praiseworthy is thine ardour, but even more praiseworthy the disposition of thy soul. For dost thou not tremble, bearing in thine arms Him before Whom the Cherubim tremble? With what fear dost thou strip that Divine flesh of the loin cloth? And how dost thou reverently restrain thine eye? Art thou not fearful when gazing upon and shrouding the nature of God's flesh, He that surpasses nature?

Tell me, O Joseph, dost thou really bury towards the East a dead man that is the Dayspring of the East? And with thy fingers dost thou close the eyes of Jesus as befits the dead, nay, of Him that with His immaculate finger opened the eyes of the blind? And dost thou bind the mough of Him that opened the mouth of the stammerer? Dost thou lay out with thy hands Him that extended the withered hands? Or dost thou bind the feet, as befits the dead, of Him that made motionless feet to walk? Dost thou place upon a bed Him that commanded the paralytic, "Take up they bed and walk"?6

Dost thou empty out myrrh upon the celestial Myrrh Who emptied Himself and sanctified the world? Dost thou dare to wipe that Divine side of Jesus bleeding still, the side of God who healed the woman of an issue of blood? Dost thou wash with water God's body which cleanses all and bestows purification? But what lamps dost thou light for the "true Light which enlighteneth every man"?7

What funeral odes dost thou chant for Him that is hymned unceasingly by all the Heavenly hosts? And dost thou weep as thou He were dead that wept and raised up Lazarus, the four days dead? And dost thou bewail Him that gave joy to all and banished the sorrow of Eve?
Albeit, I bless thy hands, O Joseph, which ministered and clasped the bleeding hands and feet of Jesus' Divine body. I bless thy hands which drew nigh to God's bleeding side before Thomas, the believing disbeliever, the acclaimed inquisitive. I bless thy mouth filled insatiably, and united to the mouth of Jesus, whence it was filled with the Holy Spirit. I bless thine eyes which thou didst press against the eyes of Jesus, whence they partook of the true light. I bless thy countenance which drew nigh to the countenance of God. I bless thy shoulders which bore the Bearer of all. I bless thy head against which Jesus, the Head of all, reclined. I bless thy hands wherewith thou didst carry Him that carries all.

I bless Joseph and Nicodemus, for they replaced the Cherubim by uplifting and carrying God and, as God's ministers, the six-winged Seraphim also, for not with wings but with a winding sheet they covered and rendered honour to the Lord. Him that the Seraphim hold in dread, the Same Joseph and Nicodemus carry upon their shoulders, and all the bodiless orders stand in awe.

When Joseph and Nicodemus came, the entire divine populace of angels swiftly gathered. The Cherubim run before them, the Seraphim hasten with them, the Thrones help them to carry, the Six-winged cover Him, and the Many-eyed are struck with dread, seeing Jesus in the flesh bereft of vision; the Powers aid in shrouding, the Principalities offer hymns, the order of Angels tremble, and all the hosts of the celestial ranks are stupified [sic].

And marvelling [sic] they question and say one to another, "What fearsome thing is this? What this dread? What this trembling? What manner of deed? What is this great, strange and incomprehensible spectacle? He that as naked God on high we cannot see, the Same on earth is easily seen naked by men!"
Him before Whom the Cherubim stand with reverent fear, Joseph and Nicodemus bury fearlessly. When did He descend that never left [the regions] on high? How did He go forth that remains within? How did He that fills all things come upon earth?

In what manner did He slip away that eludes [the sight of] all? He that is on high with His Father as perfect God, is below with His Mother as perfect man. How is He that never appeared to us now manifest to men as both man and the man-befriending God? How was the Invisible One beheld? How was the Unmaterial One incarnate? How did the Impassible One suffer?

How did the Judge stand before a tribunal? How did Life taste of death? How is the Uncontainable One contained in a tomb? How does He sojourn in a sepulchre [sic] Who never left the Father's bosom? How does He enter the gates of a cave Who opened the gates of Paradise, Who broke not the gates of the Virgin, but burst the gates of Hades?

Nay, He Who [entering] for Thomas, opened not the gates, but Who to all men opened the gates of the Kingdom, and kept unopened the gates and seals of the tomb? How is He reckoned among the dead Who is free among the dead?8 How does the unwaning Light come to the regions of darkness and the shadow of death?

Once again, there is not a paragraph break in the original here, but the transition of subject starts here, so I break here.

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