AthanasiusThe patriarch [Abraham] was tried, through Isaac.

However it was not Isaac who was sacrificed (Gen. 22), but He who was pointed out in Isaiah:

‘He shall be led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers he shall be speechless’ (Is. 53:7).

[…] The death of Isaac did not procure freedom to the world, but that of our Saviour alone, by whose stripes we all are healed’ (Is. 53:5).

For He raised up the falling, healed the sick, satisfied those who were hungry, and filled the poor, and, what is more wonderful, raised us all from the dead.

Having abolished death, He has brought us from affliction and sighing to the rest and gladness of this feast, a joy which reaches even to heaven.

For not we alone are affected by this, but because of it, even the heavens rejoice with us, and the whole church of the firstborn, written in heaven (Heb. 12:23), is made glad together, as the prophet proclaims, saying:

‘Rejoice, ye heavens, for the Lord hath had mercy upon Israel. Shout, ye foundations of the earth. Cry out with joy, ye mountains, ye high places, and all the trees which are in them, for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and Israel hath been glorified’ (Is. 44:23).

And again; ‘Rejoice, and be glad, ye heavens; let the hills melt into gladness, for the Lord hath had mercy on His people, and comforted the oppressed of the people’ (Is. 49:13).

The whole creation keeps a feast, my brethren, and everything that hath breath praises the Lord’ (Ps. 150:6), as the Psalmist says, on account of the destruction of the enemies, and on account of our salvation.

And justly indeed; for if there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth (Luke 15:7), what should there not be over the abolition of sin, and the resurrection of the dead?

Oh what a feast and how great the gladness in heaven! how must all its hosts joy and exult, as they rejoice and watch in our assemblies, those that are held continually, and especially those at Easter?

For they look on sinners while they repent; on those who have turned away their faces, when they become converted; on those who formerly persisted in lusts and excess, but who now humble themselves by fastings and temperance; and, finally, on the enemy who lies weakened, lifeless, bound hand and foot, so that we may mock at him:

‘Where is thy victory, O Death? where is thy sting, O Grave’ (1 Cor. 15:55). Let us then sing unto the Lord a song of victory.

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): Sixth Festal Letter, 8-10 (slightly adapted).

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