AthanasiusIn old time feasts were appointed when an enemy was slain, or a conspiracy against the people broken up, and Israel delivered.

Therefore blessed Moses of old time ordained the great feast of the Passover, and our celebration of it, because, namely, Pharaoh was killed, and the people were delivered from bondage.

For in those times it was especially, when those who tyrannized over the people had been slain, that temporal feasts and holidays were observed in Judæa (cf. Esther 9:20-28).

Now, however, that the devil, that tyrant against the whole world, is slain, we do not approach a temporal feast, my beloved, but an eternal and heavenly.

Not in shadows do we shew it forth, but we come to it in truth.

For they being filled with the flesh of a dumb lamb, accomplished the feast, and having anointed their door-posts with the blood, implored aid against the destroyer.

But now we, eating of the Word of the Father, and having the lintels of our hearts sealed with the blood of the New Testament (Matt. 26:28), acknowledge the grace given us from the Saviour, who said, ‘Behold, I have given unto you to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy’ (Luke 10:19).

For no more does death reign; but instead of death henceforth is life, since our Lord said, ‘I am the life’ (John 14:6); so that everything is filled with joy and gladness; as it is written, ‘The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice’ (Ps. 96:1).

For when death reigned, ‘sitting down by the rivers of Babylon, we wept’ (Ps. 136:1), and mourned, because we felt the bitterness of captivity; but now that death and the kingdom of the devil is abolished, everything is entirely filled with joy and gladness.

And God is no longer known only in Judæa, but in all the earth, ‘their voice hath gone forth, and the knowledge of Him hath filled all the earth’ (Ps. 75:2; 18:5).

What follows, my beloved, is obvious; that we should approach such a feast, not with filthy raiment, but having clothed our minds with pure garments. For we need in this to put on our Lord Jesus (cf. Rom. 13:14), that we may be able to celebrate the feast with Him.

[…] The Saviour, since He was changing the typical for the spiritual, promised the disciples that they should no longer eat the flesh of a lamb, but His own, saying, ‘Take, eat and drink; this is My body, and My blood’ (Matt. 26:26-28).

When we are thus nourished by these things, we also, my beloved, shall truly keep the feast of the Passover.

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): Fourth Festal Letter, 2-4.

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