16 June 2006

"Without Christ, No One Possessed Salvation"

In preparing for Mass this coming Sunday, I searched (as I always do) for sermons from the fathers. This site has great resources. But alas, one of my favorite patristric is missing. So I reached for the proper volume in my library and discovered, much to my joy, that he has not one but three sermons on the appointed Gospel. And near the end of the third, I happened upon this jewel that must be displayed.

This is why the Lord himself came on the scene, he who had banished the first man, that is, the insubordinate servant; the Lord himself, who had bolted paradise, who had locked up the netherworld, descended in the fullness of his power to the earth and below the earth, in order to extinguish the flames and to destroy in an instant what had been kept secure. This is why he carries his cross as a battering ram as he is about to enter the netherworld, in order to crush and shatter the very gates of Tartarus which were fortified with bronze and iron. From his side he poured water out in order to mark the way to paradise, to extinguish the fire of the underworld on the saints’ side, to wash away and completely dissolve the ancient bond of debt, and to remit by suffering what he had imposed by his command.

Recognize this, brothers: be glad, brothers, that after the triumph of Christ the prison of the saints has been broken open, and the netherworld no longer exercises any jurisdiction over the saints, since Christ penetrated all the way to the netherworld in order to free the just, not the unjust. Let us realize how great a benefit Christ has provided, or rather, how without Christ no one possessed salvation, since, besides the wretched dissolution of their bodies, the souls, too, of the saints were being held in confinement in the underworld. Therefore, Lazarus was blessed who owed everything to God, in order not to owe anything to sin! He was blessed who here received so many evils, in order to possess there every good thing! (St Peter Chrysologus, The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation, Vol 110)

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