Words of the Saints: St. Leo on the Passion

“O wondrous power of the Cross! O ineffable glory of the Passion, in which is contained the Lord’s tribunal, the world’s judgment, and the power of the Crucified! For you drew all things unto You, Lord and when You had stretched out Your hands all the day, long to an unbelieving people that gainsaid You (Isaiah 65:2), the whole world at last was brought to confess Your majesty. You drew all things unto You, Lord, when all the elements combined to pronounce judgment in execration of the Jews’ crime, when the lights of heaven were darkened, and the day turned into night, and the earth also was shaken with unwonted shocks, and all creation refused to serve those wicked men. You drew all things unto You, Lord, for the veil of the temple was rent, and the Holy of Holies existed no more for those unworthy high-priests: so that type was turned into Truth, prophecy into Revelation, law into Gospel. You drew all things unto You, Lord, so that what before was done in the one temple of the Jews in dark signs, was now to be celebrated everywhere by the piety of all the nations in full and open rite. For now there is a nobler rank of Levites, there are elders of greater dignity and priests of holier anointing: because Your cross is the fount of all blessings, the source of all graces, and through it the believers receive strength for weakness, glory for shame, life for death. Now, too, the variety of fleshly sacrifices has ceased, and the one offering of Your Body and Blood fulfills all those different victims: for You are ‘the true Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world’ (John 1:29), and in Yourself so accomplished all mysteries, that as there is but one sacrifice instead of many victims, so there is but one kingdom instead of many nations.

“Let us, then, dearly-beloved, confess what the blessed teacher of the nations, the Apostle Paul, confessed, saying, ‘Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Timothy 1:15). For God’s mercy towards us is the more wonderful that Christ died not for the righteous nor for the holy, but for the unrighteous and wicked; and though the nature of the Godhead could not sustain the sting of death, yet at His birth He took from us that which He might offer for us. For of old He threatened our death with the power of His death, saying by the mouth of Hosea the prophet, ‘O death, I will be your death, and I will be your destruction, O hell’ (Hosea 13:14). For by dying He underwent the laws of hell, but by rising again He broke them, and so destroyed the continuity of death as to make it temporal instead of eternal. ‘For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive’ (1 Corinthians 15:22). And so, dearly-beloved, let that come to pass of which S. Paul speaks, ‘that they that live, should henceforth not live to themselves but to Him who died for all and rose again’ (2 Corinthians 5:15). And because the old things have passed away and all things have become new, let none remain in his old carnal life, but let us all be renewed by daily progress and growth in piety. For however much a man be justified, yet so long as he remains in this life, he can always be more approved and better. And he that is not advancing is going back, and he that is gaining nothing is losing something. Let us run, then, with the steps of faith, by the works of mercy, in the love of righteousness, that keeping the day of our redemption spiritually, ‘not in the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but in the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’ (1 Corinthians 5:8), we may deserve to be partakers of Christ’s resurrection, Who with the Father and the Holy Ghost lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.”
-St. Leo the Great, Sermon 59

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