The Sacred Night

From the Second Easter Oration (ca. 385)

God too, who in still older times gave oracles to Moses, said when giving laws concerning these things, “See you make all things according to the pattern showed you in the mount” (Exod. 25:40) when he showed him the visible things as an adumbration of and design for the things that are invisible.

And I am persuaded that none of these things has been ordered in vain, none without a reason, none in a groveling manner or unworthy of the legislation of God and the ministry of Moses, even though it be difficult in each type to find a theory descending to the most delicate details, to every point about the tabernacle itself, and its measures and materials, and the Levites and Priests who carried them, and all the particulars which were enacted about the sacrifices and the purifications and the offerings…

The first month is introduced, or rather the beginning of months, whether it was so among the Hebrews from the beginning, or was made so later on this account, and became the first in consequence of the mystery…

Then comes the sacred night, the anniversary of the confused darkness of the present life, into which the primeval darkness is dissolved, and all things come into life and rank and form, and that which was chaos is reduced to order. Then we flee from Egypt, that is from sullen persecuting sin, and from Pharaoh the unseen tyrant, and the bitter taskmasters…

Thus it has pleased him that you should come forth out of Egypt, the iron furnace; that you should leave behind the idolatry of that country… Let us sacrifice ourselves to God; or rather let us go on sacrificing throughout every day and at every moment. Let us accept anything for the Word’s sake. By sufferings let us imitate his passion: by our blood let us reverence his Blood: let us gladly mount upon the Cross. Sweet are the nails, though they be very painful. For to suffer with Christ and for Christ is better than a life of ease with others.

St. Gregory Nazianzus (329-390) was among the most influential theologians and orators of the early church, and is ranked among the four great doctors of the Eastern Church. An uncompromising champion of the Nicene Faith, he went to Constantinople in 379, aiming to reconvert the city to orthodoxy, and was made its archbishop. He led the Second Ecumenical Council in 381, which affirmed the full divinity of the Holy Spirit. The Second Easter Homily is the very last of Gregory’s homilies, preached at the Church of Azianzus, near his hometown, where Gregory retired after resigning the see of Constantinople. Gregory is commemorated on January 2 by most Anglican churches and the Roman Catholic Church, and on January 25 by the Orthodox churches.


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