St-Basil-the-Great(On Psalm 44/45).

‘Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows’ (Psalm 44:8).

Since it was necessary to give form to the typical anointing, and the typical high priests and kings, the flesh of the Lord was anointed with the true anointing, by the coming of the Holy Spirit into it, which was called ‘the oil of gladness’.

And He was anointed above His fellows; that is to say, all men who are members of Christ.

Therefore, a certain partial sharing of the Spirit was given to them, but the Holy Spirit descending upon the Son of God, as John says, ‘abode upon him’ (John 1:32).

Rightly is the Spirit called the ‘oil of gladness’, inasmuch as one of the fruits produced by the Holy Spirit is joy.

[…] ‘Myrrh and aloes and cassia perfume thy garments, from the ivory houses: out of which the daughters of Kings have delighted thee in thy glory’ (Psalm 44:9).

The…prophet, descending gradually and consistently and mentioning first all those things which pertain to the dispensation of the Incarnation, by a strong breath of the Spirit which reveals to him hidden things comes to the passion: ‘Myrrh’,  he says, ‘and aloes and cassia perfume thy garments’.

Now, the fact that myrrh is a symbol of burial even the evangelist John taught us when he said that He was prepared for burial by Joseph of Arimathea with myrrh and aloes (cf. John 19:38-39).

Aloes itself is also a very refined form of myrrh. When the aromatic herb is squeezed, whatever part of it is liquid is separated as aloes, but the denser part which is left is called myrrh.

Surely, then, the sweet odor of Christ gives forth the fragrance of myrrh because of His passion and of aloes because He did not remain motionless and inactive for three days and three nights but descended to the lower world to distribute the graces of the Resurrection, in order that He might fulfill all things which have reference to Him.

And it breathes forth the fragrance of cassia because cassia is a certain very delicate and fragrant bark which is tightly stretched around a woody stalk. Perhaps, Scripture profoundly and wisely intimated to us through the name of cassia the suffering of the cross undertaken in kindness to every creature.

Therefore, you have myrrh because of burial; aloes, because of the passage down to the lower world (since every drop is borne downward); and cassia, because of the dispensation of the flesh upon the wood.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 17 (on Psalm 44[45]), 8-9,  from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 289-290.

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