All you who have been baptized into Christ / Have put on Christ.
Saint Melito of Sardis writes, “In Abel he was slain, in Isaac bound, in Jacob exiled, in Joseph sold, in Moses exposed to die.” Christ was in all the Old Testament types. If we are in Christ by baptism, then we are in all the Old Testament types. In Abel we were slain, in Isaac bound, in Jacob exiled, in Joseph sold, in Moses exposed to die. Our pilgrimage, our suffering, our cross have meaning when we join them to Christ’s fasting, praying, sweating blood, and being scourged.
The Passion has brought about our atonement, our at-one-ment with Christ. Through His passion and cross we hope to be brought to the joy of his resurrection. He is “the priest through whom we have been reconciled, the sacrifice by which we have been reconciled, the temple in which we have been reconciled, the God with whom we have been reconciled” (Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe). He is at once priest and sacrifice, God and temple.
Since Christ is the author and perfecter of our faith and the first fruits of the resurrection, our participation in his divine life comes about through His action. His incarnation makes our salvation possible. God loves us as He loves His own son.
This theosis is made possible by the incarnation. Tertullian calls the flesh the “hinge of salvation.” As we offer our bodies a living sacrifice, God offers his flesh to us the in the Eucharist. Saint Catherine of Sienna writes, “We image your divinity, but you image our humanity in that union of the two which you have worked in man. You have veiled the Godhead in a cloud, in the clay of our humanity.” The clay of Christ, His body, is the source of our hope. Because He sits at the right hand of the Father as a divine person, we know that our frail flesh can enter heaven.
If the body of Christ in heaven assures us of our salvation, the body on Christ on earth is our sanctification. J. R. R. Tolkien told his son, “Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: The Blessed Sacrament…There you will find romance, glory, honor, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth.” All goodness flows from Christ as from an ocean. All beauty looks to Him as its Maker. All truth springs from Him as from a well of living water.
He is the fulfillment of all desire, the end of all our searching, our first cause and our final cause. When Saint Augustine was baptized, he prayed, “Too late have I known Thee, O Thou Ancient Truth; too late have I found Thee, First and only Fair.” We repent for the wasted time, the days of idleness, the years of complacency. Yet He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.
Saint Ambrose: “I ardently desire to have Him as my Savior whom I am unable to withstand as my judge.” We face a paradox: He Who is Justice is also Mercy. The greatest love and greatest wrath spring from the same source: the infinity of God’s goodness. Struck to the heart with awe, we pray with Ignatius of Antioch: “Let our striving for your kingdom not fall short through selfishness or fear: may the universe be alive with the Spirit, and our homes be the pledge of a world redeemed.” Our lives and homes image the world to come. The Old Testament is the shadow, the New Testament the icon, and the eschaton the reality. We know not yet what we shall be.
Through the liturgy we gain a foretaste of heaven while yet on earth. Liturgy derives from the Greek for “public service.” God has made our communal work acceptable to Him. He has deigned to accept our offerings. In the Divine Liturgy we pray, “through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Savior save us.” Christ came through Mary, He comes through Mary, and He will come through Mary. St. Louis de Montfort reads the story of Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Esau as a Marian image. He identifies Esau with the world, that sold its birthright for food and desires the approval of both God and man. Esau works outside, pursuing the things of the world and not caring for his mother. Isaac works inside and represents the contemplative, cultivating the interior life. When Isaac tells Esau to kill game and make soup for him so his father can bless him, Rebekah overhears and tells Jacob to bring her two kids from the flock. These two kids that we bring to Mother Mary are our body and our soul. She skins them, mortifies them, and makes them acceptable for God. Since Christ has given His body and soul for us through Mary, we offer our souls and bodies back to Him through the same vessel of mercy.