Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ephrem on Christ's Refutation of Death

Take note therefore how the Living One sought to refute death in every kind of way. He was an embryo, and while in the womb [death] was not able to destroy him. [He was] an infant and while growing up, it was not able to disfigure him. [He was] a child and during his education it was not able to confuse him. [He was] a young man, and with its lustful desires it was not able to lead him into error. [He was] instructed, and with its wiles, it was not able to overpower him. [He was] a teacher, and because of his intelligence, it was not able to refute him. [He was] vigilant, and with its commands, it was not able to turn him aside [from his purpose]. [He was] strong, and in killing him, it was not able to frighten him. [He was] a corpse and in the custody of the tomb, it was not able to hold him. He was not ill, because he was a healer. He did not go astray, because he was a shepherd. He did not commit error, because he was a teacher. He did not stumble, because he was the light. This is the perfect way that the Messiah opened up for his Church, from the beginning through conception until the completion of the resurrection.

Saint Ephrem's Commentary on Tatian's Diatessaron IV:14
Translated by Carmel McCarthy

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Staniloae on the Light of Revelation

I thought this passage from the article “Revelation and Promise,” by 20th century Romanian theologian Dumitru Staniloae, was appropriate for Advent. (If you have to read it two or three times before you get it, don’t worry – everyone has that experience when reading Staniloae.)

The acts of the Old Testament revelation prepare and condition the act of the coming of Christ, and this in turn crowns the former. The acts of the Old Testament revelation lay history open for Christ who descends and enters into it. They constitute all the different preparations for the realization of the promise of a Messiah to come. They constitute that history which prepares for the entry into history of one who himself transcends all history. They succeed one another on the path leading towards the gleam of that heavenly light which shone when God came to dwell among men and history was fulfilled by what lies beyond it.

In this sense the Old Testament revelation as a whole is also a gift and not simply a promise, for it throws open the shining light of the fulfillment in Christ. It does not leave the people in total darkness, nor does it move in darkness to the very end. This also is a gift, not simply a promise, although the gift is more like a light shining at the very end of a road. The Old Testament revelation moves toward this light until it reaches the end of the road and comes up along side it, but this gift is not the same as the very light itself illuminating the road from above. It is more like an oasis; we see it from afar and we move towards it until we come right up beside it – but we never finally reach it.