Friday, May 10, 2019

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Albrecht Durer
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev 7:9-17)

They will no longer hunger or thirst, as the Lord says: “I am the bread of life. One who comes to Me will not hunger, and one who believes in Me will never thirst”; and again: “One who drinks from the water I shall give him will never thirst, but there will be in him a fountain of water springing up unto eternal life.” Neither will the sun or any heat beat down upon them. This is what God says through Isaiah about the church: “There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat, and protection from the storm and rain”; and again: “Throughout the day the sun will not smite you, nor will the moon throughout the night.” He says that the power of the sacraments is effectual in His own, and is in no way extinguished by the heat of temptation.

He had said that the Lamb took the book from the one sitting “on the throne.” Now he says the Lamb is sitting in the midst of the throne, that is, Christ in the midst of the church. This is His throne, with which He rose again on the throne. And he will lead them to the springs of the waters of life, that is, to the pasture of the spiritual sacraments, as the church herself says: “The Lord shepherds me and I shall have need of nothing. He has established me there in a place of pasture. He has led me beside water of refreshment”; again through Isaiah: “They will be fed on all roads, and their pastures will be on all pathways. They will neither hunger nor thirst nor will the heat or sun beat down upon them. But He shows mercy upon them and will encourage them and will lead them through springs of water, and will make every mountain into a level road and every pathway into a pasture for them.”

All these things happen spiritually to the church when, having our sins forgiven, we rise again, and, having disarmed the old man of our former life, we put on Christ and are filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit. For in this way the Lord promises this life to His church: “Behold, I am making Jerusalem cheerful and my people a delight. And I will be joyful over Jerusalem, and I will be glad over my people. And neither will the voice of weeping nor the sound of crying be heard in her any longer. And in that place there will no longer be an infant and elderly person who does not fulfill his time. For a young person will be a hundred years old, and a sinner who dies at a hundred years old will be accursed. They will build houses, and they will live in them. And they will plant vineyards, and they and their descendants will eat their fruit.” All these things concern spiritual worshipers, not those of the world whose works frequently [are shown] in their courses [to have been performed] in vain. For a young person will be a hundred years old because although someone may be a hundred years old, nevertheless a young person is brought forth. For every gender and age, when baptized, rises again unto the age of Christ, as the Apostle says: “Unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the full age of Christ.”

Tychonius, Exposition of the Apocalypse 7.16–17

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